FCC prohibits Wi-Fi hotspot interference

in legal on (#2WT6)

A few months after fining a Marriott hotel for interfering with customer Wi-Fi hotspots in order to force customers to pay $250 to $1,000 for access to their own WiFi network, the FCC made its stance on the practice inescapably clear:
No hotel, convention center, or other commercial establishment or the network operator providing services at such establishments may intentionally block or disrupt personal Wi-Fi hot spots on such premises, including as part of an effort to force consumers to purchase access to the property owner's Wi-Fi network. Such action is illegal and violations could lead to the assessment of substantial monetary penalties.
Marriott and several other organizations claimed their actions were valid security measures, protecting their customers "from rogue wireless hotspots that can cause degraded service, insidious cyber-attacks and identity theft," and requested clarification from the FCC on just how much WiFi interference they were allowed to get away with; now they have their answer. Of course the FCC ruling could still be challenged in court, but is likely to have an immediate effect reducing how widespread this practice is. The public is urged to visit http://www.fcc.gov/complaints or call 1-888-CALL-FCC if you have reason to believe your personal Wi-Fi hot spot has been blocked.

Microsoft admits Windows 10 preview has a keylogger

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in security on (#2WSZ)

Microsoft has admitted that the new Windows 10 operating system tracks keystrokes and examines audio input. The new operating system, currently a free download for users with Windows 7 and Windows 8 licences, not only tracks how long it takes to open different types of files, the make and model of device you're using, but it's also logging keystrokes and collecting voice recordings. Microsoft will not delete data already collected from Windows 10 users.

Using laser-etching, scientists design intensely hydrophobic, self-cleaning material

in science on (#2WSX)

Scientists have created a new water-hating material by laser-etching a microscopic pattern on a metal surface. The surface could be used for everything from preventing ice from developing on airplane wings to creating self-cleaning toilets. And unlike traditional chemical coatings, the new material will not wear off, the researchers say.

It's much more repellent than typical chemical coatings, like the Teflon in nonstick frying pans. Teflon-coated surfaces need to be tilted at nearly a 70-degree angle before a water droplet will slide off, whereas the new material only needs to be tilted at less than 5 degrees, the researchers reported in the Journal of Applied Physics. To create the new material, Guo and his colleagues used powerful, but very short, laser pulses to etch a platinum, titanium or brass surface. Currently, it takes an hour to etch a 1 inch by 1 inch (2.5 by 2.5 centimeters) piece of metal, so this process needs to be sped up.

China begins major crackdown on VPN access to the internet

in internet on (#2WSK)

The Chinese government has begun cracking down on one of the few avenues its citizens and foreigners have to accessing the full internet. China announced it is "upgrading" its internet censorship to disrupt VPN services inside the nation of 1.3 billion people, the People's Daily Newspaper in Beijing reported.

The Great Firewall of China has long blocked those within the country from reaching popular international sites such as Google, Twitter, Facebook and YouTube, as well as a great many other sites which include any information deemed unflattering to the single-party Chinese government. One common way to get around the censorship is to purchase access to a virtual private network (VPN). These services allow a user to create a private pipeline to the internet, bypassing China's online censors. It is also a common means for foreign companies to connect to and communicate with their China-based offices and employees.

Under Chinese law, companies and individuals that use VPN services are required to register with the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, though few do. One of the more popular VPN providers in China, Astrill, tweeted that "due to increased censorship in China," VPN usage on Apple devices was being blocked "in almost real-time." The blockage "is just a way for China to say 'we don't want you here." The Chinese blockage of VPNs this week "is more sophisticated than what we've seen in the past."

Solar Powered Tetroon Generates Enough Lift to Fly

in environment on (#2WSF)

Quelab has created a balloon shaped as a tetrahedron with transparent top and black bottom which lifts with just solar power. They begun this project "to enable us to know that flight is possible without using either the scarce and non-renewable gas Helium, the possibly-dangerous Hydrogen, or even the fossil-fuel Propane".

As a funny side-note: The Tetroon escaped and got reported as UFO.

New app lets you rent a toilet

in mobile on (#2WRV)

story imageNew Yorkers are now renting out their toilets via an Airbnb-inspired app called “Airpnp” that shows the closest available commode and the price to use it, and instantly contacts the owner. Currently a handful of private addresses in the city offer their johns to any Johnny-come-lately.

The Post located one porcelain throne that bills itself as a “charming Carroll Gardens commode” in a “cozy loft-style bathroom” on Smith Street, Brooklyn, at the OrangeYouGlad graphic-design studio. “You’re our first!” yelled art director Connie Leonard excitedly when The Post walked in and asked to use the advertised WC. The OrangeYouGlad crew doesn’t charge latrine users — unlike a toilet shark in Little Italy who was charging $20 for people who “really need to go and this will have to do!” The bathroom doesn’t even have a sink. A toilet in Woodside, Queens, is more affordable at just $1.

Tongan volcano creates new island

in science on (#2WRR)

story imageA Tongan volcano has created a substantial new island since it began erupting last month, spewing out huge volumes of rock and dense ash that has killed nearby vegetation. Tonga is almost 2,000 kilometers (1,243 miles) northeast of New Zealand. It lies on the so-called Pacific "Ring of Fire", where continental plates collide causing frequent volcanic and seismic activity.

The new island is more than one kilometer (0.6 mile) wide, two kilometers (1.2 miles) long and about 100 meters (328 feet) high. During observations the volcano was erupting about every five minutes to a height of about 400 meters (1,312 feet), accompanied by some large rocks...

The volcano rumbled to life on December 20 for the first time in five years, erupting from two vents, one on the uninhabited island of Hunga Ha'apai and the other underwater about 100 meters (328 feet) offshore. A number of international flights were cancelled earlier this week amid concerns about the volcano's ash plume but they resumed on Wednesday, with authorities saying debris from the eruption was not being thrown high into the atmosphere.

Mysterious "blitzar" cosmic radio burst observed

in space on (#2WRQ)

story imageA team of scientists from Swinburne University in Melbourne, Australia, has identified the first ever fast radio burst, sometimes known as a blitzar, as it happened. These bursts last around one millisecond and give off as much energy as the sun does in a million years.

This blitzar's origin is a mystery, but whatever caused it "must be huge, cataclysmic and up to 5.5 billion light years away," according to researcher Emily Petroff when she spoke to New Scientist. It could be a flare from a giant magnetized neutron star, the collapse of an oversized neutron star, or something else altogether. The data we have reveals that the radiation produced by the blitzar is circularly, not linearly, polaris—which means the waves vibrate in two planes as opposed to one. Which is great! Though nobody knows what on Earth it might mean just yet.

Toxic snail puts fish in a sugar coma, then eats them

in science on (#2WRP)

Cone snails are notorious for stinging scuba divers tempted to pick up their beautiful shells. But the geographic cone snail (Conus geographus)—the most venomous cone snail of all, with several human deaths under its belt—takes its practice of poisoning to a whole new level. The tropical sluggard kills by overdosing fish with a toxic cloud containing insulin. Plummeting blood sugar levels throw the victims into a stupor.

Once the fish are in a sugar coma, the cone snail reaches out with what's called a false mouth—it looks like it's throwing a cape over its prey—and drags a stupefied animal into its mouth. The snail then stings the fish with another set of toxins, just to make sure its victim is completely paralyzed. Other compounds in cone snail venom produce similar results, but no other animal that researchers know of—except perhaps people—uses insulin to kill like this.

Apple, Google, Intel and Adobe Settle Employee Poaching Lawsuit

in legal on (#2WR6)

Earlier this year tech giants Apple, Google, Intel and Adobe were hit with a class action lawsuit by 64,000 programmers and engineers employed by the companies, over secret agreements not to poach each other’s employees, spanning 2005 to 2009. The plaintiffs claim that this cost them mobility and higher paying jobs, estimated to be worth $3 billion in lost compensation.

Now the companies have agreed to a settlement, to the tune of $415 million, to be paid jointly by all four, while still denying any wrongdoing. A few hundreds of millions is a fairly small amount, and it may be worth paying this cost to settle quickly. All four companies have tried to cultivate an image as progressive and worker friendly. A long drawn out court case, where they are shown to conspire against the best interest of their employees would damage this reputation.