Mark Wilson writes: The aim behind Facebook's Internet.org program is to bring internet access to the wider world. While an undeniably praise-worthy venture, it came in for criticism for going against the principles of net neutrality. Now, the company is launching the Internet.org Platform with a view to countering this criticism. The platform opens up Internet.org to more developers, giving them the chance to bring 'free basic services' to people around the world. There's also the promise of greater transparency.
jones_supa writes: Canonical released Ubuntu 15.04 a couple of weeks ago, and it seems that this release has been a success. The community is mostly reporting a nice experience, which is important since this is the first Ubuntu release that uses systemd instead of upstart. At Slashdot, people have been very nervous about systemd, and last year it was even asked to say something nice about it. To be fair, Ubuntu 15.04 hasn't changed all that much. Some minor visual changes have been implemented, along with a couple of new features, but the operating system has remained pretty much the same. Most importantly it is stable, fast, and it lacks the usual problems accompanied by new releases.
An anonymous reader writes: The U.S. Department of Justice has launched a major review of how law enforcement around the country uses cellphone tracking technology, and they will also begin sharing more information about how it works. So-called "Stingray" devices have been in the news a lot recently, as privacy activists try to piece together how they're used. Police and federal agencies have been notably resistant to sharing how they use this tool, even after we learned that they often don't bother with warrants and may have been drastically overusing it. Still, they're not going to reveal everything about the Stingrays: "Officials said they don't want to reveal so much that it gives criminals clues about how to defeat the devices. Law-enforcement officials also don't want to reveal information that would give new ammunition to defense lawyers in prosecutions where warrants weren't used, according to officials involved in the discussions."
albert555 writes: Uber's curse keeps on striking after Uber's office in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou was raided by authorities on the 30th of April 2015. Uber is accused of running an 'illegal' transport service, according to the Guangzhou Daily. Uber has been implanted in China since August 2013 and is suspected of not having the proper qualifications to run a private car business in the city. Following the recent German court ban two weeks ago, who will win the fight for private transportation? Long-term, established transportation companies with powerful lobbying arms or the newcomer making use of disruptive technology? Does Schumpeter's creative destruction also apply to the transportation sector?
Sparrowvsrevolution writes: On Friday, WikiLeaks announced that it has finally relaunched a beta version of its leak submission system after a 4.5 year hiatus. That file-upload site, which once served as a central tool in WIkiLeaks' leak-collecting mission, runs on the anonymity software Tor to allow uploaders to share documents and tips while protecting their identity from any network eavesdropper, and even from WikiLeaks itself. In 2010 the original submission system went down amid infighting between WikiLeaks' leaders and several of its disenchanted staffers, including several who left to create their own soon-to-fail project called OpenLeaks. WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange says that the new system, which was delayed by his legal troubles and the banking industry blockade against the group, is the final result of "four competing research projects" WikiLeaks launched in recent years. He adds that it has several less-visible submission systems in addition to the one it's now revealed. "Currently, we have one public-facing and several private-facing submission systems in operation, cryptographically, operationally and legally secured with national security sourcing in mind," Assange writes.
cosm writes: ABC news reports that two armed gunman were shot and killed outside a "Draw the Prophet" event hosted in Garland Texas. From the article: "The event, sponsored by the American Freedom Defense Initiative, featured cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, and scheduled speakers included Dutch MP Geert Wilders, who has campaigned to have the Quran banned in the Netherlands. The winner of the contest was to receive $10,000." In light of the Charlie Hebdo terrorist attacks, the Lars Vilks Muhammad drawing controversies, and the American show South Park's satirical depiction of the state of Muhammad phobia in the US and elsewhere, is there an end in sight to the madness associated with the representation of this religious figure?
ememisya writes: I wonder if I posted, "There will be another 12/7 tomorrow, just a warning." around December, would people associate it with Pearl Harbor and I would find myself arrested, or has enough time passed for people to not look at the numbers 12 and 7 and take a knee jerk reaction? A student was arrested for "Harassment by Computer" (a class 1 misdemeanor in the state of Virginia) due to his post on an "anonymous" website [Yik Yak]. Although the post in and of itself doesn't mean anything to most people in the nation, it managed to scare enough people locally for law enforcement agencies to issue a warrant for his arrest. "Moon, a 21-year-old senior majoring in business information technology, is being charged with Harassment by Computer, which is a class one misdemeanor. Tuesday night, April 28, a threat to the Virginia Tech community was posted on the anonymous social media app Yik Yak. Around 11:15 p.m., an unknown user posted 'Another 4.16 moment is going to happen tomorrow. Just a warning (sic).' The Virginia Tech Police Department released a crime alert statement Wednesday morning via email informing students that VTPD was conducting an investigation throughout the night in conjunction with the Blacksburg Police Department."
Technologist Ramez Naam (hat tip to Tyler Cowen's "Marginal Revolution" blog) has taken a look at the economics of Tesla's new wall-mounted household battery system, and concludes that it's "almost there," at least for many places in the world -- and seems to already make sense in some. From his analysis: For some parts of the US with time-of-use plans, this battery is right on the edge of being profitable. From a solar storage perspective, for most of the US, where Net Metering exists, this battery isn’t quite cheap enough. But it’s in the right ballpark. And that means a lot. Net Metering plans in the US are filling up. California’s may be full by the end of 2016 or 2017, modulo additional legal changes. That would severely impact the economics of solar. But the Tesla battery hedges against that. In the absence of Net Metering, in an expensive electricity state with lots of sun, the battery would allow solar owners to save power for the evening or night-time hours in a cost effective way. And with another factor of 2 price reduction, it would be a slam dunk economically for solar storage anywhere Net Metering was full, where rates were pushed down excessively, or where such laws didn’t exist. That is also a policy tool in debates with utilities. If they see Net Metering reductions as a tool to slow rooftop solar, they’ll be forced to confront the fact that solar owners with cheap batteries are less dependent on Net Metering. ... And the cost of batteries is plunging fast. Tesla will get that 2x price reduction within 3-5 years, if not faster.
The Wall Street Journal, in a report also cited by The Next Web and others, reports that Facebook is to soon begin acting not just as a conduit for news links pasted onto users' timelines (and leading to articles hosted elsewhere) but also as a host for the articles themselves. From the WSJ article: To woo publishers, Facebook is offering to change its traditional revenue-sharing model. In one of the models under consideration, publishers would keep all of the revenue from ads they sell on Facebook-hosted news sites, the people familiar with the matter said. If Facebook sells the advertisement, it would keep roughly 30% of the revenue, as it does in many other cases. Another motivation for Facebook to give up some revenue: It hopes the faster-loading content will encourage users to spend more time on its network. It is unclear what format the ads might take, or if publishers will be able to place or measure the ads they sell within Facebook. It seems likely Facebook would want publishers to use its own advertising-technology products, such as Atlas and LiveRail, as opposed to those offered by rivals such as Google Inc.
Science 2.0 reports that A team of high school students analyzed data from the National Science Foundation's (NSF) Robert C. Byrd Green Bank Telescope (GBT) and discovered a never-before-seen pulsar which has the widest orbit of any around a neutron star - one among only a handful of double neutron star systems. ... This pulsar, which received the official designation PSR J1930-1852, was discovered in 2012 by Cecilia McGough, who was a student at Strasburg High School in Virginia at the time, and De'Shang Ray, who was a student at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School in Baltimore, Maryland. These students were participating in a summer Pulsar Search Collaboratory (PSC) workshop, which is an NSF-funded educational outreach program that involves interested high school students in analyzing pulsar survey data collected by the GBT. Students often spend weeks and months poring over data plots, searching for the unique signature that identifies a pulsar. Those who identify strong pulsar candidates are invited to Green Bank to work with astronomers to confirm their discovery.
From the BBC comes this depressing excerpt: Populations of some of the world's largest wild animals are dwindling, raising the threat of an "empty landscape", say scientists. About 60% of giant herbivores - plant-eaters - including rhinos, elephants and gorillas, are at risk of extinction, according to research. Analysis of 74 herbivore species, published in Science Advances, blamed poaching and habitat loss. A previous study of large carnivores showed similar declines. Prof William Ripple, of Oregon State University, led the research looking at herbivores weighing over 100kg, from the reindeer up to the African elephant. "This is the first time anyone has analysed all of these species as a whole," he said. "The process of declining animals is causing an empty landscape in the forest, savannah, grasslands and desert." Here's the study, published in Science Advances, on which the BBC article is based.
McGruber writes: Dave Goldberg, the chief executive of SurveyMonkey and spouse of Facebook COO Sheryl K. Sandberg, died on Friday night. He was 47. 'We are heartbroken by this news,' Facebook said in a statement. Mark Zuckerberg, a friend of the family, said that Mr. Goldberg died while on vacation abroad with Ms. Sandberg. Goldberg built Surveymonkey into a provider of web surveys on almost every topic imaginable, with 500 employees and 25 million surveys created. News reports said it was valued at nearly $2 billion when it raised a round of funding last year.
Jalopnik reports that Tesla Motors Inc. has very quietly started to sell used cars online, following in the footsteps of larger car companies. Its new certified vehicle program brings down the staggering costs of one of their electric cars while still ensuring manufacturer maintenance and repairs. Most of the cars that are on Tesla’s website were previously owned by people who have since traded up to the AWD Model S. Soon, this stockpile will also include leased Teslas. Engadget adds You're limited to shopping in a handful of cities in the U.S. and Canada, but the cars come with a 4-year, 50,000-mile warranty to assuage fears that you've bought a lemon. No, the move doesn't make the company's luxury EVs much more attainable -- the best offer we've seen so far is for a $59,000 'entry' model.
mikejuk writes: A Microsoft Research project that lets users upload photos and estimates their age and gender has attracted more attention than expected — not all of it complimentary. The How-Old.net site demonstrates of some of the capabilities of the Face API included in Microsoft's Project Oxford that was announced at Build. It may have been expected to be a source of amusement but instead it backfired when people started to upload their own photos and discovered just how wrong its estimates could be. It demonstrates not only that machine learning has a long way to go before it's good at estimating age, but also that machine learning may not be the most politically correct way to go about answering the question 'How Old Do I look'. It might be better to employ and algorithm that built in all the rules of how to make a polite answer to that request — such as always knock a decade off the age of anyone over 28. Perhaps this particular neural network needs to learn some social skills before pronouncing how old people look. However it is capable of telling some truths — a photo of Barak Obama in 2005 gives an estimated age of 46, close to his real age of 44, but just 9 years later in 2014 the age guessing robot places him at 65. It seems that Mr President aged 20 years in less than 10 years of office.