posted 3 days ago on ars technica
Mozilla in Europe On Monday, the Mozilla Corporation announced that its last-minute April hire for interim CEO, Chris Beard, has been permanently appointed to the position. Mozilla Executive Chairwoman Mitchell Baker confirmed the news in a blog post, stating that "the board has reviewed many internal and external candidates—and no one we met was a better fit." Beard's Mozilla tenure began in 2004 and saw him eventually rise to chief innovation and chief marketing officer. He left the company in 2013 to become an "executive in residence" at Greylock Partners, an investment firm with a heavy focus on tech companies. His return to Mozilla in April came on the heels of Brendan Eich's controversial hire to the CEO position, which ended with Eich's resignation that month. While both recent CEO hires came in the form of company veterans as opposed to outside hires, Beard's work included a wider spectrum of marketing and leadership roles, along with prior work with companies like Hewlett-Packard and Linuxcare. That's in contrast to Eich's engineer-first resume (lengthy and impressive as it is). Beard already has his hands full thanks to the company's increasing focus on Firefox OS as a viable smartphone alternative. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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The Brooklyn Bridge caper is nearly a week old, yet it's still a whodunit despite the New York Police Department invoking every digital age investigative technique in the book to crack what appears to be a low-tech prank that included kitchen cookware to pull off. The hunt continued Monday. Vandals performed a monster switcheroo of sorts last Tuesday and removed two giant American flags from atop the bridge's two locked 276-foot towers, replacing them with white flags. The bridge is one of the Big Apple's most heavily guarded landmarks. The culprits, who scaled cables in the wee hours of the night, did it all under the cover of darkness by employing tin cooking pans to blot out the lights while sparking terror fears in the process. Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 4 days ago on ars technica
DooFi Attackers have figured out a new way to get Amazon's cloud service to wage potent denial-of-service attacks on third-party websites—by exploiting security vulnerabilities in an open source search and analytics application known as Elasticsearch. The power of Backdoor.Linux.Ganiw.a was documented earlier this month by researchers from antivirus provider Kaspersky Lab. Among other things, the trojan employs DNS amplification, a technique that vastly increases the volume of junk traffic being directed at a victim by abusing poorly secured domain name system servers. By sending DNS queries that are malformed to appear as if they came from the victim domain, DNS amplification can boost attack volume by 10-fold or more. The technique can be especially hard to block when distributed among thousands or hundreds of thousands of compromised computers. Late last week, Kaspersky Lab expert Kurt Baumgartner reported that the DDoS bot is actively compromising Amazon Elastic Cloud Computing (EC2) hosts and very possibly those of competing cloud services. The foothold that allows the nodes to be hijacked is a vulnerability in 1.1.x versions of Elastisearch, he said. The attackers are modifying proof-of-concept attack code for the vulnerability, indexed as CVE-2014-3120 in the Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures database, that gives them the ability to remotely execute powerful Linux commands through a bash shell Window. The Gani backdoor, in turn, installs several other malicious scripts on compromised computers, including Backdoor.Perl.RShell.c and Backdoor.Linux.Mayday.g. The Mayday backdoor then floods sites with data packets based on the user datagram protocol. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 4 days ago on ars technica
Verizon Wireless One of the most common reactions to Verizon's announcement that it will throttle the heaviest users of its "unlimited" 4G plans went something like this: "That's the last straw—I'm switching to T-Mobile!" Unfortunately, switching to T-Mobile, AT&T, or Sprint won't protect you from getting throttled, even if the carrier is claiming to sell you "unlimited" data. Let's take a look at the relevant passages in each carrier's terms and conditions. We'll start with the Verizon Wireless announcement last week: Read 15 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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The Lumia 1520 is currently the biggest Windows Phone, but at a mere 6 inches it could be dwarfed by future devices. Before it has even delivered Windows Phone 8.1 to most users, Microsoft is readying its growing number of Windows Phone OEMs for the next release: Windows Phone 8.1 GDR 1. Documents intended for the OEMs were accidentally made available on Microsoft's developer site for a short time, revealing details of what the patch will include. Though Microsoft has rectified the error, Paul Thurrott has posted a summary of what we should expect. As with past platform updates, the release includes a mix of end-user features and behind-the-scenes improvements. The notable user-visible change is that the Start screen will support folders; drop one tile on top of another and it willl form a folder, in much the same way as iOS and Android do. The Windows Store tile will also become live. Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 4 days ago on ars technica
So far, Amazon's contribution to the great wide world of 3D printing, where you are limited only by your imagination and stash of printing filament, is bobbleheads. Amazon has opened a 3D-printing marketplace, offering customers the ability to buy customized products and trinkets like earrings or figurines. To enable customization, Amazon has built a new interface on top of its normal product pages that allows buyers to tweak the look of different 3D products. There are plenty of 3D print-to-order businesses already in existence, including Sculpteo, Shapeways, and iMakr. While some work just as an on-demand service for individual customers, others are marketplaces for artists' and designers' 3D-printed products that users can browse and buy, like an iPhone phonograph amplifier. Looking more closely at Amazon's implementation, it's more like the marketplace model, with partnerships from 3D printing services like Mixee Labs, which specializes in bobblehead figurines. 3DLT, a 3D printing design company, is also participating in the new venture, though it has sold its products through Amazon since March. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Meet GUSS, the little jeep that will follow you anywhere—if you happen to be a beacon-wearing Marine, that is. TORC Robotics The Marine Corps is testing a robotic version of its micro-truck, the Internally Transportable Vehicle (ITV), that can autonomously drive itself across rough terrain to carry supplies and ammunition for Marines in the field and evacuate the wounded. Called the Ground Unmanned Support Surrogate, or GUSS, the vehicle was developed in a collaboration between the US Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division, Virginia Tech University, and TORC Robotics. As part of the ongoing Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) international naval exercise, the Marine Corps tested GUSS on Oahu at the US Army’s Kahuku Training Area. The vehicle can follow someone wearing a beacon at a predetermined distance or be dispatched to a waypoint by remote control. If it gets stuck, a human can either use a robotic controller to take direct control of the vehicle or jump into its driver’s seat and throw a switch to take control. According to a report from Fox, the Naval Surface Warfare Center and Marine Corps both rated the vehicle’s performance as good, particularly in simulations of casualty evacuations, as demonstrated in the following video: The GUSS autonomous vehicle in action. This isn’t the GUSS system’s first RIMPAC appearance. A different version of the system, based on a six-wheeled off-road vehicle, was tested during the 2010 RIMPAC exercise. GUSS and the ITV it is based on are small enough to be carried on a Marine Corps Chinook helicopter or Osprey tilt-rotor. More development work is required on the GUSS robotics system, which could be used on other vehicle “platforms,” but the Navy and Marine Corps believe that a version of it could be deployed within the next five years. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 4 days ago on ars technica
Composite image of X-ray (pink) and weak gravitational lensing (blue) of the famous Bullet Cluster of galaxies. X-ray: NASA/CXC/CfA/ M.Markevitch et al.; Lensing Map: NASA/STScI; ESO WFI; Magellan/U.Arizona/ D.Clowe et al. Optical: NASA/STScI; Magellan/U.Arizona/D.Clowe et al. It’s in the room with you now. It’s more subtle than the surveillance state, more transparent than air, more pervasive than light. We may not be aware of the dark matter around us (at least without the ingestion of strong hallucinogens), but it’s there nevertheless. Although we can't see dark matter, we know a bit about how much there is and where it's located. Measurement of the cosmic microwave background shows that 80 percent of the total mass of the Universe is made of dark matter, but this can’t tell us exactly where that matter is distributed. From theoretical considerations, we expect some regions—the cosmic voids—to have little or none of the stuff, while the central regions of galaxies have high density. As with so many things involving dark matter, though, it’s hard to pin down the details. Unlike ordinary matter, we can’t see where dark matter is by using the light it emits or absorbs. Astronomers can only map dark matter's distribution using its gravitational effects. That’s especially complicated in the denser parts of galaxies, where the chaotic stew of gas, stars, and other forms of ordinary matter can mask or mimic the presence of dark matter. Even in the galactic suburbs or intergalactic space, dark matter’s transparency to all forms of light makes it hard to locate with precision. Read 30 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 4 days ago on ars technica
Two years ago, the acronyms FISC or FISA would require a majority to frantically hit the Google search. But thanks to Edward Snowden and his leaked information regarding the NSA, the general public is now aware of the domestic-based Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court's role: approving all government requests to engage in its various spying initiatives. This weekend, Vice discovered an unusual, additional role for two FISC judges—stakeholder. According to 2013 financial disclosures obtained by the website, FISC Judge Susan Wright and FISC Judge Dennis Saylor each owned Verizon stock. Wright purchased (Scribd) $15,000 or less on October 22 and Saylor collected (Scribd) less than $1,000 from his stock in 2013. (As Vice notes, "the precise amount and value of each investment is unclear—like many government ethics disclosures, including those for federal lawmakers, investments amounts are revealed within certain ranges of value.) There is an ethics law for federal judges that, among other things, requires judges to avoid cases where they have a financial stake or where they may act in bias. This scenario isn't quite that clear-cut. While FISC absolutely ruled on situations involving Verizon, Vice points out FISC proceedings are ex parte. Telecoms may absolutely have a stake in these FISC rulings, but they aren't an active party for the NSA requests FISC rules on. Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 4 days ago on ars technica
HBO Films The premise of Love Child, HBO’s latest feature-length documentary, doesn’t leave much room for moral questions or shades of grey. It opens with the 2010 story of a South Korean couple who met through an online video game, had a child, then neglected it in favor of playing said game. The baby girl died three months later of malnutrition; the couple found her the morning after they’d spent 10 hours (their typical session length) at a “PC Bang” gamer café. The aftermath of that story, especially as it’s presented in this film, is pretty cut and dry: babies good, game addiction bad. Thus, this documentary (named after the baby in question, whose name, Sarang, translates to “Love Child”) doesn’t offer many surprises in perspective. It casts a particularly negative light on the gaming world and the rapid expansion of Internet access throughout South Korea. As a result, the film’s attempts to humanize its subjects—Kim Jae-beom and his wife Kim Yun-jeong—are uneven and hard to swallow. To the filmmakers’ credit, that choice comes off as wholly intentional. Love Child paints the couple’s story in pity and sadness as it tries to make sense of how gaming, technology, and depression combined in a story that, tragically, has become a cornerstone in conversations about its nation. Read 14 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 4 days ago on ars technica
Bunch O Balloons is a new product that allows you to fill and tie dozens of water bombs at the same time, and is sure to revolutionize water fights across the land. On the face of it, it's a hose attachment with 37 pre-connected balloons that automatically tie themselves once filled with water. It looks a little like a bunch of deflated grapes. But the impact that this technological solution to a fiddly problem will have should not be underestimated: it's the water fight equivalent to the invention of the machine gun. Suddenly those who have this new munitions invention will have an enormous advantage over those who don't. The war will be one-sided, brutal and extremely soggy. The company behind Bunch O Balloons—Tinnus Enterprises—promises that it makes it possible to fill 100 balloons in just one minute. This compares to the six or so balloons that you could tie by hand per minute. It's devastating for your enemy. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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These are the jokes, folks... Those of us who have played Hearthstone since the closed beta was released have stared at the same basic collection of cards, play modes, and once-a-turn hero powers for nearly a year now. These features haven't limited play too much. There are tons of viable deck combinations to create out of the game's nearly 400 cards and the controlled randomness of the Arena mode has kept the game fresh after what must be hundreds of hours of play. Yet the metagame (i.e. the types of decks people pick to match up against other common decks) has stagnated around two or three viable deck types (with slight variations) in which players see the same ultra-powerful cards appear again and again (if I never have to hear Leeroy Jenkins famous war cry again, it will be too soon). At some point, even the best-designed collectible card game needs an infusion of new cards and gameplay ideas to prevent things from getting stale. Blizzard realizes this, of course. The newly released "Curse of Naxxramas" expansion allowed the company to expand the game's card selection and add new types of gameplay to the mix. The first of five "wings" of the expansion launched earlier this week as a free update and future wings will appear weekly for a small cost ($20 or 2800 in-game gold for the whole thing). While it's definitely nice to get some new content in the game, I came away from that first wing a little disappointed. Read 7 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Kristina Servant Animals have evolved to occupy almost all corners of the Earth. To survive, no matter the weather outside, the chemical reactions that run their bodies must adjust to the temperature. This is easy for warm-blooded animals like humans, because we have the ability to maintain our body temperature. But cold-blooded animals can’t do that. When the weather changes and the mercury swings, their cells get exposed to that change in temperature. Yet cold blooded animals survive just fine. Michael Welte, associate professor of biology at the University of Rochester, may have just discovered one way such animals compensate. His team’s findings have been published in the Journal of Cell Biology. One key to an organism’s survival at any temperature is to ensure that proteins are being made at the right time and in the right amount. But making proteins requires chemical reactions, and those reactions are sensitive to temperature. Read 10 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 5 days ago on ars technica
CBS Sci-fi drama Extant explores a world where human level artificial intelligence is a reality. Centred on the Woods family, it follows astronaut Molly (Halle Berry), who finds herself pregnant after a year alone in space, husband and genius roboticist John (Goran Visnjic) and their son Ethan, a robot and the most advanced AI ever created. Wired.co.uk caught up with creator Mickey Fisher and showrunner Greg Walker to discuss Extant's creation, how to build a realistic future, using tech to foster personal connections and partnering with Steven Spielberg. Wired.co.uk: How long had you been working on Extant before you got people like Halle Berry and Steven Spielberg involved? Read 29 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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These aren't our illustrious orbiting sex geckos, but they are the experiment's ground-based control sex geckos, and that's almost as good! imbp.ru Good news, everyone: according to a statement from the Russian space agency Roscosmos, positive control has been reestablished over the agency’s orbiting Foton-M4 satellite. Launched a week ago, Foton-M4 carries a primarily biological payload made up of geckos, flies, plant seeds, and various microorganisms. The satellite made headlines late last week when just a few days after launch, ground control lost communication with the satellite and could no longer send it commands. As of Saturday night, the crisis appears to be over, and Roscosmos can once again talk to Foton-M4. "The link is established, the prescribed commands have been conducted in accordance with the plan," confirmed Roscosmos chief official Oleg Nikolayevich Ostapenko. According to an additional quote from Ostapenko on RT.com, Roscosmos is sure that "90 percent" of the satellite’s experiments are still viable. Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Bose Corp. filed a lawsuit on Friday that accuses popular headphone maker Beats Electronics of infringing upon several of its patents. The suit claims that Bose lost sales because Beats—which Apple announced it would acquire for $3 billion in May—used patented noise-cancelling technology in its Studio and Studio Wireless headphone lines. Beats’ products that allegedly use the technology “can also be used for noise cancellation when no music is played, a feature that Beats also advertises,” the suit states. “Thus, Beats specifically encourages users to use the infringing functionality. Beats advertises no method to turn off features that cause end users to directly infringe.” Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Stack Exchange This Q&A is part of a weekly series of posts highlighting common questions encountered by technophiles and answered by users at Stack Exchange, a free, community-powered network of 100+ Q&A sites. theGreenCabbage asks: I am interested in implementing a free trial version to my existing software. I plan on having the trial last 14 days. Upon the 14th day, my software would prompt the user to either pay for the paid version, or have the consequence of not being able to use it. The free trial version is entirely unlocked, meaning all paid features are there. Read 20 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 6 days ago on ars technica
Beamsplitters like these are enough to confirm that single photons can be linearly polarized. Fermilab One of the joys of the arXiv is that anyone can submit anything to the website. Cranks and kooks can publish to their hearts' content in the theoretical physics section. Their work will remain there, read only by those searching for casual amusement. Yet somewhere between all the excellent science and slapstick comedy are scientists who just get stuff flat out wrong. This is the story of how two respected physicists failed to understand photon angular momentum. Don't worry, they're not alone. Every physicist who has given the subject any thought has lost sleep working it out (and has had nightmares involving Jackson's Classical Electrodynamics). Since I lost sleep over it, I figured I would ensure that you all lose some sleep too. Spinning photons and rotating electric fields The fundamental confusion arises from the fact that there are two equivalent ways of describing the angular momentum of a photon. A cursory inspection of nature, however, seems to reveal that one is more natural than the other. Read 19 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 6 days ago on ars technica
CN.dart.call("xrailTop", {sz:"300x250", kws:["top"], collapse: true});Chrome Beta for Android updated recently, and with the update came a Material Design makeover, the new design style Google introduced at I/O. It's easy to think of a browser as "just an address bar," but this new version of Chrome has a ton of changes, including a slick new incognito mode design, a flatter icon, and an overall cleaner and brighter look. Just click through the gallery below for an overview. In a blog post announcing the update, Google says the new version of Chrome "is starting to sport some of the elements of Material Design," indicating that the redesign isn't finished yet. While it looks like most of the immediate stuff is finished, like the new tab page, address bar, menu, and incognito mode, some areas, like the settings, haven't changed at all. In addition to the new look, Chrome Beta 37 will now support automatically signing in across multiple accounts. The changelog also lists "performance improvements," and on the Android L developer preview especially, this new version is fast, even when scrolling. The version also fixed a bug where Chrome 36 would identify Android L as "Android 4.3" (that's Jelly Bean), the beta corrects that and identifies L as "4.4.99." Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 6 days ago on ars technica
Artist's impression of the huge impact that deformed the protoplanetary asteroid Vesta, leaving the large impact basin we see today. Martin Jutzi A new study shows that the asteroid 4 Vesta may have a different internal structure than previously thought. Vesta, the second largest body in the asteroid belt after the dwarf planet Ceres, is notable for two gigantic craters, so big that they partly overlap despite being on opposite poles of the asteroid. The first, chronologically speaking, is called Venenia (Named for a priestess of the goddess Vesta in Roman mythology), the result of an impact some 2 billion years ago. The crater is 395 kilometers in diameter, but only penetrated about 25 kilometers deep into the surface of Vesta. And then there’s Rheasilvia. Also named for a priestess of Vesta, Rheasilvia is a whopping 505 km in diameter (Vesta is only 525km in diameter), and the rim of the crater is also one of the tallest mountains in the solar system. Rheasilvia was probably created about one billion years ago, and it obliterated part of Venenia where the two overlap. The impact penetrated so deep that it’s thought to reach down through the asteroid’s crust to its mantle. The new study, however, shows that, while it did reach about 60-100 km, it did not penetrate to the mantle, suggesting the mantle begins deeper than previously thought. Read 8 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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posted 6 days ago on ars technica
Brick-a-Pic lets you convert your photos into Lego artworks. Upload a picture, and the company will send you a brick mosaic picture with precisely the right pieces selected from the Lego color palette. You can then assemble the pictures according to a handy guide. Clearly it's already possible to create pictures from Lego if you have the brick skillz. But Brick-a-Pic automates the process. It has developed a piece of software that converts your image into appropriately sized pixels using only official Lego colors and those colors that Lego used to produce but has discontinued. It then sends you the correct number of bricks of the different colors you need to produce your artwork. Kits come in a range of sizes, from 16x16 pixels (up to 256 Lego bricks) through to 48x48 pixels (up to 2,304 bricks). If you are feeling really extravagant you can go all out with a custom mosaic which can be any size and comes with up to 5,000 bricks. Read 3 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Always on their phones, those teens. Channel 4 A new reality series airing on Channel 4 used rigged iPhones to monitor all the digital activities of its teen characters, wrote the Columbia Journalism Review on Thursday. The system, referred to as a "digital rig" by the studio that developed it, had feeds monitored by a production team 13 hours a day, seven days a week. The Secret Life of Students was a four-part documentary series meant to portray the lives of 12 freshmen as they navigated the first four months of college. In addition to filming the students, the production studio, Raw TV, also thought it would be a good idea to track the students' activity on their phones, including Internet search history, Twitter usage, texts, and phone calls. While the entire program, phone use included, seems to have fallen a little flat, it produced some interesting moments. "Is chlamydia permanent?" one subject searched on her phone after finding out during a phone call, which was also recorded on the rigged phones, that she might have contracted it from another subject . Read 1 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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David Dennis Google continues to expand its use of legal-but-questionable tax shenanigans as a way to minimize its overseas tax burden. According to Irish media reports Friday, in 2013 Google Ireland Limited paid an effective tax rate of just 0.16 percent on €17 billion ($22.8 billion) revenue, which came to a mere €27.7 million ($37.2 million). Google paid €11.7 billion in “administrative expenses,” which The Irish Times reports “largely refers to royalties paid to other Google entities, some of which are ultimately controlled from tax havens such as Bermuda.” David Wilson, a London-based Google spokesman, confirmed the Irish figures to Ars. Read 15 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Ecosystem engineer: a giant tortoise native to a different island creates wallows that trap rain water on a dry island in Mauritius. Zairabee Ahamud At various times in its past, the Earth has succeeded in killing off most of its inhabitants. Although the impact that killed the non-avian dinosaurs and many other species gets most of the attention, the majority of the mass extinctions we're aware of were driven by geological processes and the changes in climate that they triggered. Unfortunately, based on the current rate at which animals are vanishing for good, we're currently in the midst of another mass extinction, this one driven by a single species: humans. (And many of the extinctions occurred before we started getting serious about messing with the climate.) This week's edition of Science contains a series of articles tracking the pace of the extinction and examining our initial efforts to contain it. Extinction and “defaunation” Estimating the total number of animal species is a challenging task, but numbers range from roughly five to 10 million. Of those, we seem to be exterminating about 10,000 to 60,000 every year. Up to a third of the remaining vertebrate species are thought to be threatened or endangered. Amphibians have it even worse, with over 40 percent of species considered threatened. Read 13 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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The US House of Representatives has unanimously passed a bill called S517 that will make it legal to unlock one's cell phone in order to switch service providers. The House passed the Senate version of the bill without making any changes to it. That means that the controversial language banning "bulk" unlocking won't be in the final version of the bill. If that language had stayed in, the bill would have protected consumers while leaving phone resellers and recyclers open to copyright claims. "This is something that Americans have been asking for and I am pleased that we were able to work together to ensure the swift passage of legislation restoring the exemption that allowed consumers to unlock their cell phones," House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte said in a statement published by National Journal. Read 4 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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