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Updated: 5 years 43 weeks ago

Major Cache of Fossils Unearthed In Los Angeles

Wed, 02/18/2009 - 06:18
aedmunde sends along news from the LA Times: "A nearly intact mammoth, dubbed Zed, is among the remarkable discoveries near the La Brea Tar Pits. It's the largest known deposit of Pleistocene ice age fossils... in what might seem to be the unlikeliest of places — under an old May Co. parking lot in L.A.'s tony Miracle Mile shopping district. ...huge chunks of soil from the site have been removed intact and now sit in large wooden crates on the back lot... The 23 crates range... from the size of a desk to that of a small delivery truck... There were, in fact, 16 separate deposits on the site, an amount that, by her estimate, would have taken 20 years to excavate conventionally. ... Carefully identifying the edges of each deposit, her team dug trenches around them and underneath, isolating the deposits on dirt pedestals. After wrapping heavy plastic around the deposits, workers built wooden crates similar to tree boxes and lifted them out individually with a heavy crane. The biggest one weighed 123,000 pounds."

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Facebook Scrambles To Contain ToS Fallout

Wed, 02/18/2009 - 03:55
Ian Lamont writes "Anger over Facebook's ToS update has forced the company to scramble. Yesterday, a spokesman released a statement that said Facebook has never 'claimed ownership of material that users upload,' and is trying to be more open to users about how their data is being handled. Mark Zuckerberg has also weighed in, stating 'we wouldn't share your information in a way you wouldn't want.' Facebook members are skeptical, however — protests have sprung up on blogs, message boards, and a new Facebook group called 'People Against the new Terms of Service' that has added more than 10,000 members today."

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Researchers Hack Biometric Faces

Wed, 02/18/2009 - 01:35
yahoi sends in news from a week or so back: "Vietnamese researchers have cracked the facial recognition technology used for authentication in Lenovo, Asus, and Toshiba laptops in lieu of the standard logon/password. The researchers were able to easily bypass the biometric authentication system built into the laptops by using photos of an authorized user, as well as by presenting multiple phony facial images in brute-force attacks. One of the researchers will demonstrate the hack at Black Hat DC this week. He says the laptop makers should remove the facial biometrics feature from their products because the vulnerability of this technology can't be fixed."

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Map As Metaphor In a Location-Aware Mobile World

Tue, 02/17/2009 - 23:17
mattnyc99 writes "Two weeks after the launch of Google Latitude, your inbox is probably full of requests and privacy advocates probably have even more concerns than they did at first. But some tech pundits are already seeing the bigger picture of a digital lifestyle based around the always-on, GPS-based mobile map. The NYTimes's John Markoff has a great piece in today's Science Times about the map as metaphor for a time when 'future systems will probably begin to blur the boundaries between the display and the real world.' Over at Esquire.com's Tech Therapist, Erik Sofge talks to the geek behind Latitude and offers a similar reality check: 'Latitude will be precisely as annoying as e-mail and social networking sites and cell phones themselves — and just as useful. What won't stop Latitude, or the wider rollout of location-based tracking, is bitching about it. These are juggernauts of free, culture-reorienting technology. And you and me, we are but posts on the massive Facebook profile of history.'"

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Stimulus Could Kickstart US Battery Industry

Tue, 02/17/2009 - 22:32
Al sends along a Technology Review piece that begins "Provisions in the Congressional stimulus bill could help jump-start a new, multibillion-dollar industry in the US for manufacturing advanced batteries for hybrids and electric vehicles and for storing energy from the electrical grid to enable the widespread use of renewable energy. The nearly $790 billion economic stimulus legislation contains tens of billions of dollars in loans, grants, and tax incentives for advanced battery research and manufacturing, as well as incentives for plug-in hybrids and improvements to the electrical grid, which could help create a market for these batteries. Significant advances in battery materials, including the development of new lithium-ion batteries, have been made in the US in the past few years; but advanced battery manufacturing is almost entirely overseas, particularly in Asia."

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Confusion Reigns As Analog TV Begins Shutdown

Tue, 02/17/2009 - 21:46
As TV stations across the country switch off their analog signals, uncertainty reigns. Some 691 stations will have converted to digital broadcasting by midnight tonight (some interpreted the mandate as going digital by Feb. 17, not during Feb. 17, and shut down yesterday). This represents about a third of TV broadcasters nationwide. No one can say how many of the estimated 5.8 million households unready for the transition are in areas served by the stations that are switching now. The FCC added to the uncertainty by imposing extra conditions, making it unclear until last Friday exactly which stations would be switching at the beginning of the transition period. The article quotes a former analyst at Barclays Capital who said the whole process has been "botched politically."

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Verizon.net Finally Moving Email To Port 587

Tue, 02/17/2009 - 21:06
The Washington Post's Security Fix blog is reporting that Verizon, long identified as the largest ISP source of spam, is moving to require use of the submission port, 587, in outbound mail — and thus to require authentication. While spammers may still be able to relay spam through zombies in Verizon's network, if the victims let their mail clients remember their authentication credentials, at least the zombies will be easily identifiable. Verizon pledges to clean up their zombie problem quickly. We'll see.

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MS To Slip IE8 Into Vista and XP Through OEMs

Tue, 02/17/2009 - 20:26
crazyeyes writes "Microsoft says it's 'optional,' but they are already planning to slip Internet Explorer 8 into all Windows Vista/XP PCs by March. MS claims that IE8 will offer better performance and security. But what about unwanted stuff like 'Monetization opportunities (for OEMs)' and 'These services will be used (by OEMs) to deliver brand exposure... to the users?'"

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Will Obama's DOJ Intervene To Help RIAA?

Tue, 02/17/2009 - 19:43
NewYorkCountryLawyer writes "In SONY BMG Music Entertainment v. Cloud, a Pennsylvania case in which the RIAA's statutory damages theory — seeking from 2,200 to 450,000 times the amount of actual damages — is being tested, the US Department of Justice has just filed papers indicating that it is considering intervening in the case to defend the constitutionality of such awards, and requesting an extension of time (PDF) in which to decide whether such intervention 'is appropriate.' This is an early test of whether President Obama will make good on his promises (a) not to allow industry insiders to participate in cases affecting the industry they represented (the 2nd and 3rd highest DOJ officials are RIAA lawyers) and (b) to look out for ordinary citizens rather than big corporations."

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Repairing / Establishing Online Reputation?

Tue, 02/17/2009 - 19:02
illini1022 writes "I'm currently a senior nearing graduation from college. With studies focusing on power and energy I believe I have set myself up extremely well for post-graduation employment. I have one concern. The top search result on Google for my full name is a blog posting regarding an article about a pedophile that happens to bear the same name as myself. The blog also originates from a city I lived in during one summer (specified on my resume). Upon closer inspection, it would become quickly apparent that the subject in question is not me. The person of interest was in the military, and I have never been. However, I fear this unfortunate coincidence might cost me chances at employment with companies I'm now applying to. I have absolutely no issue with any employer finding anything I've put on the Internet; I have been careful to protect my reputation. My concern is with an employer mistaking me for someone else, and disqualifying me from recruitment. I've attempted to contact the blog owner to no avail. What are my options? Am I overreacting? Should I attempt to set up my own site that would steal the top Google search from this blog posting? I appreciate any insight/advice."

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CRTC Mulls Canadian Content On the Internet

Tue, 02/17/2009 - 18:19
PsiCTO writes "The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission is going to weigh Internet content regulation — this could mean requiring some amount of Canadian content coming across Canadian pipes. The CRTC is akin to the FCC. They get that they can't 'regulate' the Internet, but are proposing to promote additional Canadian content in some way, as is currently done with radio and TV content. Likely they will discuss tax credits, subsidies, grants, or other traditional mechanisms. What do people think about this? Are there similar efforts, existing or proposed, in other countries?"

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Hacking With Synthetic Biology

Tue, 02/17/2009 - 17:35
blackbearnh writes "If you've gotten tired of hacking firewalls or cloud computing, maybe it's time to try your hand with DNA. That's what Reshma Shetty is doing with her Doctorate in Biological Engineering from MIT. Apart from her crowning achievement of getting bacteria to smell like mint and bananas, she's also active in the developing field of synthetic biology and has recently helped found a company called Gingko BioWorks which is developing enabling technologies to allow for rapid prototyping of biological systems. She talked to O'Reilly Radar recently about the benefits and potential dangers of easy biological design, why students should be hacking wetware, and what's involved in setting up your own lab to slice genes."

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Handset Vendors Plug Micro-USB Charge Ports

Tue, 02/17/2009 - 16:47
ketan324 points to a Register story touting an agreement among several phone makers to settle on Micro USB for their phones' charging ports, writing "It's about time for these cellphone manufacturers to wise up and design a universal phone charger. Although many manufacturers have already 'standardized' to a mini-USB interface, there are many more out there who use proprietary adapters. I wonder how Apple will feel about this? Will they finally realize that their oh-so-special adapter is nothing more than a fudged USB interface?" No legislation required.

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Casinos Warn iPhone Card-Counting App is Illegal

Tue, 02/17/2009 - 16:03
An anonymous reader writes "Gaming commissions in Nevada are informing casinos that a new card counting program has made its way to the Apple iPhone, called Hi Lo. This program can be used in the Stealth Mode. When the program is used in the Stealth Mode the screen of the phone will remain shut off, and as long as the user knows where the keys are located the program can be run effortlessly without detection. Randall Sayre, of the Nevada Gaming Commission says 'Use of this type of program or possession of a device with this type of program on it (with the intent to use it), in a licensed gaming establishment, is a violation of NRS 465.075.'"

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Malware Threat To GNOME and KDE

Tue, 02/17/2009 - 15:42
commandlinegamer writes "foobar posted on his blog recently about 'How to write a Linux virus in 5 easy steps,' detailing potential malware infection risks in the .desktop file format used by GNOME and KDE. This is not a new threat, and it appears to still be a risk, as discussions in 2006 did not seem to come to any firm conclusion on how to deal with the problem." There's a followup on LWN.

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