posted 4 days ago on slashdot
I first heard of Consumer Energy Solutions from a non-profit's IT guy who was boasting about how he got them to lease him LED bulbs for their parking lot and the security lights at their equipment lot -- pretty much all their outdoor lighting -- for a lot less than their monthly savings on electricity from replacing most of their Halogen, fluorescent, and other less-efficient lights with LEDs. What made this a big deal to my friend was that no front money was required. It's one thing to tell a town council or non-profit board, "If we spend $180,000 on LEDs we'll save it all back in five years" (or whatever). It's another thing to say, "We can lease LEDs for all our outdoor lighting for $4,000 per month and save $8,000 on electricity right away." That gets officials to prick up their ears in a hurry.Then there are energy service contracts, essentially buying electricity one, two or three years in advance. This business got a bad name from Enron and their energy wholesaling business, but despite that single big blast of negative publicity, it grows a little each year. And the LED lease business? In many areas, governments and utility companies actually subsidize purchases of anything that cuts electricity use. Totally worth checking out. But why, you might ask, is this on Slashdot? Because some of our readers own stacks of servers (or work for companies that own stacks of servers) and need to know they don't have to pay whatever their local electric utility demands, but can shop for better electricity prices in today's deregulated electricity market. And while this conversation was with one person in this business, we are not pushing his company. As interviewee Patrick Clouden says at the end of the interview, it's a competitive business. So if you want the best deal, you'd better shop around. One more thing: the deregulated utility market, with its multitude of suppliers, peak and off-peak pricing, and (often) minute-by-minute price changes, takes excellent software (possibly written by someone like you) to negotiate, so this business niche might be one an entrepreneurial software developer should explore.

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posted 4 days ago on slashdot
ptorrone writes: Adafruit is now shipping the USA-made open-source Arduinos. In celebration Ladyada the engineer posted an Arduino rotating in front of an American flag with the public domain "America the Beautiful" by the United States Navy Band as background music. Adafruit immediately received notice from from YouTube stating that the song is owned by Rumblefish. Rumblefish previously claimed to own copyright to ambient birdsongs, too.

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posted 4 days ago on slashdot
ptorrone writes: Adafruit is now shipping the USA-made open-source Arduinos. In celebration Ladyada the engineer posted an Arduino rotating in front of an American flag with the public domain "America the Beautiful" by the United States Navy Band as background music. Adafruit immediately received notice from from YouTube stating that the song is owned by Rumblefish. Rumblefish previously claimed to own copyright to ambient birdsongs, too.

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posted 4 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes: Long before Sony and Nintendo were rivals, the two companies were partners for a brief time. In 1998 the duo started work on SNES-CD, a video game media format that was supposed to augment the cartridge-based SNES by adding support for higher-capacity CDs. In 1991 at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Sony introduced the "Play Station" (yes, with a space) but it never saw the light of day. Now, more than two decades later, Imgur user DanDiebold has uploaded images of the unreleased console. This particular model (about 200 Play Station prototypes were created) confirms that the system was supposed to be compatible with existing SNES titles as well as titles to be released in the SNES-CD format. In other words, it would have been the world's first hybrid console: game developers and gamers alike would be able to use both SNES cartridges and CDs. If you want to learn more about this particular prototype, check out the following thread on Assembler Games.

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posted 4 days ago on slashdot
sciencehabit sends news that two commonly-prescribed drugs have been shown to influence how the human brain makes moral decisions. Citalopram is an SSRI used to treat depression, and levodopa is often used to combat Parkinson's disease. A new study (abstract) asked subjects to set a monetary value on receiving painful electric shocks — for themselves and for others (e.g. "Would you rather endure seven shocks to earn $10 or 10 shocks to earn $15?"). The study found that subjects on citalopram (which affects serotonin levels) were willing to give up more money to reduce shocks, both for themselves and others. Those on levodopa (which affects dopamine levels) made people just as willing to shock others as they were to shock themselves, when those on a placebo tended to be more reluctant to shock others. [Neuroscientist Molly] Crockett says those effects could suggests multiple underlying mechanisms. For example, excess dopamine might make our brain's reward system more responsive to the prospect of avoiding personal harm. Or it could tamp down our sense of uncertainty about what another person is experiencing, making us less hesitant to dole out pain. Serotonin, meanwhile, appeared to have a more general effect on aversion to harm, not just a heightened concern for another person. Such knowledge could eventually develop drugs that address disorders of social behavior, she says.

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posted 4 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes: Today Mozilla announced the release of Firefox 39.0, which brings an number of minor improvements to the open source browser. (Full release notes.) They've integrated Firefox Share with Firefox Hello, which means that users will be able to open video calls through links sent over social media. Internally, the browser dropped support for the insecure SSLv3 and disabled use of RC4 except where explicitly whitelisted. The SafeBrowsing malware detection now works for downloads on OS X and Linux. (Full list of security changes.) The Mac OS X version of Firefox is now running Project Silk, which makes animations and scrolling noticeably smoother. Developers now have access to the powerful Fetch API, which should provide a better interface for grabbing things over a network.

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posted 4 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes: Samsung is being sued in China for installing too many apps onto its smartphones. The Shanghai Consumer Rights Protection Commission is also suing Chinese vendor Oppo, demanding that the industry do more to rein in bloatware. The group said complaints are on the rise from smartphone users who are frustrated that these apps take up too much storage and download data without the user being aware. Out of a study of 20 smartphones, Samsung and Oppo were found to be the worst culprits. A model of Samsung's Galaxy Note 3 contained 44 pre-installed apps that could not be removed from the device, while Oppo's X9007 phone had 71.

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posted 4 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes: Early this morning, a Russian Soyuz rocket successfully launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The rocket carried a Progress capsule containing 2,700kg of supplies for the International Space Station. It's a much-needed victory after a series of launch failures that saw ISS resupply missions from Orbital ATK, Russia, and SpaceX end in failure. "The station, a joint project involving 15 nations which is staffed by a crew of six astronauts and cosmonauts, currently has a four-month supply of food and water, NASA said. The arrival of the Russian cargo ship, and the planned launch of a Japanese HTV freighter in August, should replenish the station's pantries through the end of the year, NASA said. Friday's successful launch clears the way for three new crew members to fly to the station later this month."

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posted 4 days ago on slashdot
New submitter ste7en7 writes: A new Australian ISP is integrating geo-blocking circumvention into its broadband service, allowing customers to access streaming services like Hulu, Netflix USA, BBC iPlayer and Amazon Prime. When Yournet launches in August, customers will be able to sign up for broadband that allows users to instantly change the country they are supposedly surfing from.

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posted 4 days ago on slashdot
vivaoporto writes: As reported by CNET and TechCrunch, reddit moderators are locking up the site's most popular pages in protest against the dismissal of Victoria Taylor, a key member of the site's behind-the-scenes team. Taylor, who was the main facilitator for the site's question-and-answer community "Ask Me Anything" (graced by the presence of notables like Barack Obama, Jerry Seinfeld and regular folks like a line cook at Applebee's) was fired yesterday, causing all sorts of problems for Reddit's most mainstream offering. Taylor's reported departure, which has been dubbed AMAgeddon, led other moderators of the marquee IAmA subreddit to switch the page's settings to private, rendering the Reddit userbase unable to view the page. Since then, dozens of other subreddits including /r/askreddit, /r/videos, /r/gaming and /r/gadgets — each with several million subscribers — have also been made private, instead re-directing readers to a static landing page. Reddit's cofounder and executive chairman, Alexis Ohanian, said in a post, "we don't talk about specific employees. (...) We get that losing Victoria has a significant impact on the way you manage your community, (...) I'd really like to understand how we can help solve these problems, because I know r/IAMA thrived before her and will thrive after." He later apologized for how communication was handled. A full recap of the situation is available at the site itself, with insights from redditors about the whole situation. This comes in the wake of other highly controversial events like the response to what became known as The Fappening, and the more recent ban of the controversial but popular FatPeopleHate subreddit.

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posted 4 days ago on slashdot
StartsWithABang writes: There are few things as closely associated with American independence as our willingness and eagerness to celebrate with fiery explosions. I refer, of course, to the unique spectacle of fireworks, first developed nearly a millennium ago halfway across the world. But these displays don't happen by themselves; there's an intricate art and science required to deliver the shows we all expect. So what's the science behind fireworks? Here's the physics (and a little chemistry) behind their height, size, shape, color and sound, just in time for July 4th!

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posted 4 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes: There have been quite a few stories recently about corporations, or other people, wanting to take over a domain. This has me wondering what steps can I take to ensure that outsiders know that my domain is in use, and not up for sale. In my case, I registered a really short domain name(only 5 characters) for a word that I made up. The domain has been mine for a while, and Archive.org has snapshots going back to 2001 of my placeholder page. It could be close to other domain names by adding one more letter, so there is potential for accusations of typosquatting (none yet). I have no trademark on the word, because I saw no reason to get one. The domain is used mostly for personal email, with some old web content left out there for search engines to find. The hosting I pay for is a very basic plan, and I can't really afford to pay for a ton of new traffic. There is the option to set up a blog, but then it has to be maintained for security. What would other readers suggest to establish the domain as mine, without ramping up the amount of traffic on it?

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posted 5 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes: MasterCard is experimenting with a new program: approving online purchases with a facial scan. Once you’re done shopping online, instead of a password, the service will require you to snap a photo of your face, so you won’t have to worry about remembering a password. The Stack reports: "MasterCard will be joining forces with tech leaders Apple, BlackBerry, Google, Samsung and Microsoft as well as two major banks to help make the feature a reality. Currently the international group uses a SecureCode solution which requires a password from its customers at checkout. The system was used across 3 billion transactions last year, the company said. It is now exploring biometric alternatives to protect against unauthorized payment card transactions. Customers trialling the new technologies are required to download the MasterCard app onto their smart device. At checkout two authorization steps will be taken; fingerprint recognition and facial identification using the device's camera. The system will check for blinking to avoid criminals simply holding a photograph up to the lens."

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posted 5 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes: Legislation designed to prevent cyber-bullying has passed its final hurdle in the New Zealand Parliament, making it a crime to send harmful messages or put damaging images online. The Harmful Digital Communications Bill passed 116 to 5. The Register reports: "The bill creates a regime under which digital communications causing 'serious emotional distress' are subject to an escalating regime that starts as 'negotiation, mediation or persuasion' but reaches up to creating the offenses of not complying with an order, and 'causing harm by posting digital communication.' The bill covers posts that are racist, sexist, or show religious intolerance, along with hassling people over disability or sexual orientation. There's also a new offense of incitement to suicide (three years' jail).

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posted 5 days ago on slashdot
schwit1 writes: The small sat rocket company Rocket Labs has chosen a location in New Zealand as its future launch site. Bloomberg reports: "The company didn't specify how much it was investing in the site, which is due to be completed in the fourth quarter. New Zealand, which has been used in the past by the National Aeronautical and Space Administration, is considered a prime location because rockets launched from that deep in the Southern hemisphere can reach a wide range of Earth orbits. Rocket Lab's remote site on the Kaitorete Spit in the Canterbury region also means it has less air and sea traffic, which translates into more frequent launches and economies of scale, the company said. It also will no longer compete for airspace with the U.S. government." Rocket Labs will have to actually launch something to really make the competition heat up. This announcement, however, illustrates that in the long run, the United States has some significant disadvantages as a spaceport location.

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posted 5 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes: We're used to seeing instant replays, halftime analysis and in depth analytics in traditional sports, but now they're coming to eSports too. A new start-up, Dojo Madness, is hoping to bring the same techniques to games like League of Legends and Dota, in the hopes players can learn from their mistakes in a game when shown them. In a new interview, founder and former Electronic Sports League boss Jens Hilgers reveals that the company's main product, Dota training and replay site Bruce.GG, will use machine learning to teach itself what are good and bad plays — and he hopes to bring the tech to other games, like Counter-Strike, too. "The feedback of the users watching these videos, these input points, are allowing us to determine the relevancy of what we have done and the system will learn from that and get smarter," he says.

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posted 5 days ago on slashdot
coondoggie writes: The Navy this month will outline what it is looking for from additive manufacturing or 3D printing technology as way to bolster what it terms "fleet readiness." The Office of Naval Research will on July 15 detail its Quality Metal Additive Manufacturing (Quality MADE) program that will aim to "develop and integrate the suite of additive manufacturing software and hardware tools required to ensure that critical metallic components can be consistently produced and rapidly qualified in a cost effective manner."

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posted 5 days ago on slashdot
New submitter LunaticTippy writes: For those unfamiliar with Ingress, the game has GPS coordinate portals that correspond to real world locations, players then use smartphones to battle for control of these portals. Many public locations with historical or artistic interest are submitted by players. It turns out some of the sites were located within concentration camps such as Dachau and Sachsenhausen. NBC reports: "In a statement to The Associated Press, Niantic Labs' founder John Hanke said the company has begun removing the offending sites from the game. He said 'we apologize that this has happened.'"

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posted 5 days ago on slashdot
Mr D from 63 writes: Today, a new "cloud tax" takes effect in the city of Chicago, targeting online databases and streaming entertainment services. Residents who stream movies and music from companies like Netflix and Spotify will now need to pay an additional 9% tax. This also applies to Chicago businesses that pay to use databases online. Chicago expects to collect $12 million a year as a result of the new tax ruling. From the 24/7 Wall St. story: "Also worth noting is that the city’s tax ruling in both cases avoids the issue of whether there is a close-enough connection (nexus, in legalese) to require providers like Netflix or others to collect either tax. International law firm ReedSmith weighs in on this point as well: '[O]nce the Department begins to audit and assess customers located within the city, many of those customers are likely to demand that providers collect the tax going forward. As a result, many providers will likely feel the need to register to collect the taxes, despite lacking nexus, and despite having strong arguments against the Department’s expansive interpretation of its taxing ordinances.'"

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posted 5 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes: Seasoned Silicon Valley software executive and investor Domenic Merenda has written a love letter to Google, and it's filled with "tough" love. The main thesis is that Google, as a company, should stop making apps, and instead focus on using its enormous data assets to make meaningful connections between people and facilitate organic engagement within a rich ecosystem. Interestingly, the article cites Wikipedia's information that Google maintains over 70 apps on the Android platform alone.

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posted 5 days ago on slashdot
Mark Wilson writes with this excerpt from a story at Beta News: A court has revealed that the UK intelligence agency, GCHQ, illegally spied on human rights organization Amnesty International. It is an allegation that the agency had previously denied, but an email from the Investigatory Powers Tribunal backtracked on a judgement made in June which said no such spying had taken place. The email was sent to Amnesty International yesterday, and while it conceded that the organization was indeed the subject of surveillance, no explanation has been offered. It is now clear that, for some reason, communications by Amnesty International were illegally intercepted, stored, and examined. What is not clear is when the spying happened, what data was collected and, more importantly, why it happened.

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posted 5 days ago on slashdot
Android Headlines reports that a bug in the Google Hangouts app is causing confusion for users who would like to send and receive SMS messages. According to the article, [S]ome users are reporting an issue that is preventing the merging of SMS messages with Hangouts. The exact nature of what is causing this error is still unknown, as Google has not divulged any concrete information. They did state though that they are working on a fix and will have it ready for release as soon as they figure out what is going on. On this front, I wish there were a good roadmap for all the overlapping and sometimes circular-seeming options for Google's various flavors of VoiP and messaging. Between Google Voice, Google Plus, Messenger (not Facebook's Messenger), Gmail, and now Google Fi, it's hard to tell quite where the there begins. After setting up a new phone through Google Fi, I find that the very pleasant full-screen text-message window I used to like with Google Voice is now one I can't figure out how to reach, and the screen directs me to use Hangouts instead.

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posted 5 days ago on slashdot
kfogel writes: Microsoft Research has open sourced WorldWide Telescope, releasing it under the MIT license and donating the code to the .NET Foundation. The code is up on GitHub at github.com/WorldWideTelescope, and there are demos and more details at WorldWideTelescope.org. Go forth and explore!

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posted 5 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes with the story from Ars Technica that UK prime minister David Cameron "has re-iterated that the UK government does not intend to "'eave a safe space — a new means of communication — for terrorists to communicate with each other.'" That statement came Monday, as a response to Conservative MP David Bellingham, "who asked [Cameron, on the floor of the House of Commons] whether he agreed that the 'time has come for companies such as Google, Facebook and Twitter to accept and understand that their current privacy policies are completely unsustainable?' To which Cameron replied: 'we must look at all the new media being produced and ensure that, in every case, we are able, in extremis and on the signature of a warrant, to get to the bottom of what is going on.'" This sounds like the UK government is declaring a blustery war on encryption, and it might not need too much war: some companies can be persuaded (or would be eager) to cooperate with the government in handing over all kinds of information. However, the bluster part may leave even the fiercest surveillance mostly show: as Ars writer Glyn Moody asks, what about circumstances "where companies can't hand over keys, or where there is no company involved, as with GnuPG, the open source implementation of the OpenPGP encryption system?" Or Tor?

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posted 5 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes: My brother recently requested a transcript from his university and was given the option to receive the transcript electronically. When he had problems accessing the document, he called me in to help. What I found was that the transcript company had sent an e-mail with a URL (not a link) to where the document was located. What surprised me was that a second e-mail was also sent containing the password (in cleartext) to access the document. Not too long ago I had a similar experience when applying for a job online (ironically for an entry-level IT position). I was required to setup an account with a password and an associated e-mail address. While filling out the application, I paused the process to get some information I didn't have on hand and received an e-mail from the company that said I could continue the process by logging on with my account name and password, both shown in cleartext in the message. In my brother's case, it was an auto-generated password but still problematic. In my case, it showed that the company was storing my account information in cleartext to be able to e-mail it back to me. Needless to say, I e-mailed the head of their IT department explaining why this was unacceptable. My questions are: How frequently have people run into companies sending sensitive information (like passwords) in cleartext via e-mail? and What would you do if this type of situation happened to you?

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