An anonymous reader writes "During an exploratory dig to extend one of L.A.'s subway lines (yes! Los Angeles actually does have an underground), a host of fossils from the Ice Age were uncovered, including the skull of a sea lion. The dig site is close to the La Brea Tar Pits, where the preserved remains of various plants and animals were discovered in the early 1900s. The La Brea Tar Pit fossils are estimated to be between 11,000-55,000 years old, and the most common animals found were dire wolves."
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There's been some positive news in the last year (and the last few) for American cellphone customers: certainly there's more visible competition for their business among the largest players in the market. Nonetheless, the Wall Street Journal reports that while more competition may translate into some more attractive service bundles, flexibility in phone options, or smoother customer service, it doesn't actually mean that the customers are on average reaping one of the benefits that competition might be expected to provide: lower price. Instead, the bills for customers on the major wireless providers have actually gone up, if not dramatically, in recent months — which means U.S. cell service remains much more expensive than it is in many other countries. The article could stand a sidebar on MVNOs and other low-cost options, though -- I switched to one of these from AT&T, and now pay just under $40 for one version of the new normal of unlimited talk and text, plus quite limited (1GB) data, but still using AT&T towers. Has your own cost to talk gone up or down?
The Chicago Tribune reports that Yik Yak, a mobile app that can (among other things) be used for anonymous communications, has drawn complaints from several local schools, who are unhappy that students can use it to bully or pester others. "'The problem, as you might imagine, is that the anonymity is empowering certain individuals to post comments about others that are hurtful, harassing and sometimes quite disturbing,' Joseph Ruggiero, head of the Upper School at Francis W. Parker School in the Lincoln Park neighborhood, wrote in an email to parents last week. ... In light of the controversy, Yik Yak's co-founder said the company was disabling the app in the Chicago area and will attempt to specifically prevent it from being used on high school or middle school grounds."
An anonymous reader writes "Google is facing investigation by the Competition Commission of India and potentially faces fines up to 10% of its three-year average turnover. While Google has settled anti-trust cases in the U.S. and the European Union, India's competition regime does not have provisions for settlement process." From the Times of India article linked: "The complaint against Google, also one of the world's most valued company, was first filed by advocacy group CUTS International way back in late 2011. Later, matrimonial website matrimony.com also filed a complaint. Referring to Google's settlement with the European Commission, matrimony.com counsel Ferida Satarawala said: 'Google's unfair use of trademarks as well as its retaliatory conduct are not specifically addressed in the European settlement and are distinct theories of harm being pursued by the CCI. Therefore, this settlement is unlikely to address CCI's concerns in our case.'"
An anonymous reader writes to this article about a series of visualizations built from London bike rental data. "My favourite is the second map, it shows the main routes that exist between rental areas, coloured according to the local communities that exist in the network. So you can see the major flows of bike traffic within the city, which are mostly between major railway stations and work destinations. You can also see how the different local networks relate to each other — Hyde Park is its own little world, for example, while the networks around Kings Cross, Waterloo, and Liverpool Street are far more interconnected." (Several more just-as-interesting maps here, too. Wish every city had an interface to this kind of data, would make interesting reading for visitors as well as for locals.)
theodp writes "Android is free and open," reiterated Google Android Chief Andy Rubin in 2010 as Microsoft launched Windows Phone 7. Rubin added, 'Competition is good for the consumer and if somebody has an idea for a feature or a piece of functionality in their platform and Android doesn't do it, great. I think it's good to have the benefit of choice, but in the end I don't think the world needs another platform.' But now, CNET and Digitimes report that Google is holding up the Asus Transformer Book Duet TD300 (specs), a laptop-tablet hybrid that can instantly switch between Android and Windows 8.1. A source familiar with the Asus Duet told CNET that Google is the one that has not favored the idea, while Microsoft has not, to date, been actively opposed to the idea. 'If true,' reports Apple Insider, 'it may not be the first time Google has helped to quash such a product.' South Korean electronics giant Samsung quietly canceled plans for its hybrid Ativ Q tablet last year, and Digitimes notes that Asus may not be the only company to bow to Google's wishes."
Movie robots often look like (and are portrayed by) people in bulky, bipedal suits. Why aren't more robots built along these lines? It's not just the problem of balance. Reader concertina226 writes "'Building a robot that has legs and walks around is a very expensive proposition. Mother Nature has created many wonderful things but one thing we do have that nature doesn't is the wheel, a continuous rotating joint, and tracks, so we need to make use of inventions to make things simpler,' [iRobot CEO Colin] Angle tells IBTimes UK. 'The reason it has taken so long for the robotics industry to move forward is because people keep trying to make something that is cool but difficult to achieve, rather than trying to find solutions to actual human problems. Technology can be extremely expensive if you don't focus.'" [Beware the autoplaying video.]
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Marcus Stern and Sebastian Jones report on Bloomberg that as federal regulators continue investigating why tank cars on three trains carrying North Dakota crude oil have exploded in the past eight months, energy experts say part of the problem might be that some producers are deliberately leaving too much propane in their product, making the oil riskier to transport by rail. Sweet light crude from the Bakken Shale formation has long been known to be especially rich in volatile natural gas liquids like propane and while there's no way to completely eliminate natural gas liquids from crude, well operators are supposed to use separators at the wellhead to strip out gases before shipping the oil. The worry is that some producers are adjusting the pressure settings to leave in substantial amounts of natural gas liquids and purposefully selling their crude "fluffed up" with propane to maximize their profits." (Read more, below.)
Daniel_Stuckey writes with an excerpt from his story at Motherboard: "Yesterday, I got as close as any media physically can to Barrett Brown, the American journalist that was locked up in late 2012 for pasting a hyperlink in a chatroom, which federal prosecutors alleged contained leaked credit card data from the Statfor hacks. Due to a media gag order upheld by the US District Court in the Northern District of Texas, Brown isn't allowed to make "any statement to members of any television, radio, newspaper, magazine, internet (included, but not limited to bloggers)," with the exception of Kevin M. Gallagher, who heads his defense fund. ... Earlier this week, US Attorney Sarah Saldaña filed a motion to dismiss 11 of Brown's charges, namely those related to the pasted hyperlink (including trafficking in stolen authentication features, aggravated identity theft, and access device fraud). The motion came as both a victory for Brown's case, and a sigh of relief to supporters who have continuously cited the absurdity of his charges related to hyperlinking."
First time accepted submitter paddysteed writes "I go to secondary school in the UK. I went digging around the computers there and found that on the schools machines, there was a root CA from the school. I then suspected that the software they instruct windows users to install on their own hardware to gain access to the BYOD network installed the same certificate. I created a windows virtual machine and connected to the network the way that was recommended. Immediately afterwards I checked the list of root CA's, and found my school's. I thought the story posted a few days ago was bad, but what my school has done is install their certificate on people's own machines — which I think is far worse. This basically allows them to intercept and modify any HTTPS traffic on their network. Considering this is a boarding school, and our only method of communicating to the outside world is over their network, I feel this is particularly bad. We were not told about this policy and we have not signed anything which would excuse it. I confronted the IT department and they initially denied everything. I left and within five minutes, the WiFi network was down then as quickly as it had gone down, it was back up. I went back and they confirmed that there was a mistake and they had 'fixed' it. They also told me that the risk was very low and the head of networks told me he was willing to bet his job on it. I asked them to instruct people to remove the bad certificate from their own machines, but they claimed this was unnecessary due to the very low risk. I want to take this further but to get the school's management interested I will need to explain what has happened and why it is bad to non-technical people and provide evidence that what has been done is potentially illegal."
NeverVotedBush writes with news reported by CNN that a passenger manifest for the flight that went missing on its way from Malaysia to China indicates that "Twenty of the passengers aboard the flight work with Freescale Semiconductor, a company based in Austin, Texas. The company said that 12 of the employees are from Malaysia and eight are from China," and writes "Apparently, at least two passengers used stolen passports to board."
mknewman writes with an article at NASA SpaceFlight which lays out the details of a plan from SpaceX to send a craft to Mars, using an in-development engine ("Raptor") along with the company's Super Heavy Lift Launch Vehicle. "Additionally, Mr. Musk also introduced the mysterious MCT project, which he later revealed to be an acronym for Mars Colonial Transport. This system would be capable of transporting 100 colonists at a time to Mars, and would be fully reusable. Article is technically dense but he does seem to follow through on his promises!" This is an endeavor that's been on Elon Musk's mind for a while.
malachiorion writes with this report from Popular Science"Seventy-four years ago, Russia accomplished what no country had before, or has since: it sent armed ground robots into battle. These remote-controlled Teletanks took the field during one of WWII's earliest and most obscure clashes, as Soviet forces pushed into Eastern Finland for roughly three and a half months, from 1939 to 1940. The workings of those Teletanks were cool, though they were useless against Germany, and Russia proceeded to fall behind the developed world in military robotics."
SternisheFan writes to note that ArsTechnica's Peter Bright has reviewed the leaked Windows 8.1 update that was temporarily available from Microsoft's own servers. Here's how the article starts: "Leaks of upcoming versions of Microsoft's software are nothing new, but it's a little surprising when the source is Microsoft itself. The Spring update to Windows 8.1, known as Update 1, was briefly available from Windows Update earlier this week. The update wasn't a free-for-all. To get Windows Update to install it, you had to create a special (undocumented, secret) registry key to indicate that you were in a particular testing group; only then were the updates displayed and downloadable. After news of this spread, Microsoft removed the hefty—700MB—update from its servers, but not before it had spread across all manner of file-sharing sites... Just because it was distributed by Windows Update doesn't mean that this is, necessarily, the final build, but it does present a good opportunity to see what Microsoft is actually planning to deliver."
An anonymous reader writes "Autodesk has announced that after the 2015 version of Softimage, which is scheduled for release next April, it will no longer provide software support. The publisher has confirmed the rumors last month, according to which Autodesk intends to terminate its software for 3D modeling and animation. 'We regret to inform you that the next version of Softimage 2015 will be the last,' can be read on the Autodesk website. 'This latest version will be released around April 14, 2014. Autodesk will continue to provide support for up to 30 April 2016. '"
An anonymous reader writes "Google's Eric Schmidt and Jared Cohen were [part of a] wide-ranging session at SXSW today and they revealed that Google's data is now safely protected from the prying eyes of government organizations. In the last few days Google upgraded its security measure following revelations that Britain's GCHQ had intercepted data being transmitted between Google datacenters, Schmidt said that his company's upgrades following the incident left him 'pretty sure that information within Google is now safe from any government's prying eyes.'"
joe5 writes "Well, leave it the golden state. The Kings Canyon (near Squaw Valley) Unified School District recently launched the first all-electric school bus in the United States. The bus is a modified SST Trans Tech model based on a Ford E-Series van chassis — and Motiv Power Systems created the electric drive train. (The project was a collaboration between those two companies plus the California Air Resources Board.) The electric bus can carry 25 students with an estimated range of 80 to 100 miles— and while it costs more than a standard combustion engine version, is expected to save about 16 gallons of fuel per day. Thanks to a federal highway program, three more electric buses are on their way to the Kings Canyon district and similar programs are in the works in both Chicago and New York."
McGruber writes "Austin ranks number one in the nation when it comes to offering the largest tech salaries that have been adjusted for cost of living expenses, such as housing, groceries, utilities and other necessities. This is according to a study by TriNet, a company I had never heard off, that provides (buzzword alert!) cloud-based human resources services. The seven major tech hubs, ranked by cost of living adjusted average salaries: 1. Austin: $105,000; 2. Atlanta: $103,000; 3. Denver-Boulder: $98,000; 4. Boston: $79,000; 5. Silicon Valley: $78,000; 6. Los Angeles: $70,000; 7. New York: $56,000." It's true that Austin has cheaper real estate than Silicon Valley, or London, but what this kind of analysis can't capture well is the worth for an individual of living in a particular place. Some jobs are easier to do from Texas (or Timbuktu) than others, and opinions vary wildly about the importance of climate, culture, alternative job options, and other factors. New York living is expensive, Yes, but it comes with a free bonus if New York is where you want to be. Some people even like Los Angeles. Is there a place you'd rather be but forgo because of the cost of living, or a place you'd consider simply because it would amplify your salary?
It's not just graphics app Krita: user KDE Community writes "The Calligra team is proud and pleased to announce the release of version 2.8 of the Calligra Suite, Calligra Active and the Calligra Office Engine. Major new features in this release are comments support in Author and Words, improved Pivot tables in Sheets, improved stability and the ability to open hyperlinks in Kexi. Flow introduces SVG based stencils and as usual there are many new features in Krita including touch screens support and a wraparound painting mode for the creation of textures and tiles." KDE has also just announced the first beta of its Applications and Platform 4.13.
An anonymous reader writes "In a letter to Senator Grassley of the Senate Judiciary Committee, NASA 'admits the agency was selling jet fuel at below market rates to H2-11, a company owned by the founders of Google.' The agency has since raised its rates to reflect market prices but has informed the Senator that it would be impossible for NASA to recoup the money that tax payers have paid in order to subsidize Google's jet fuel discounts."