coondoggie writes "In its annual look at what challenges NASA faces in the coming year, the agency's Office of the Inspector General (OIG) this year outlined nine key areas it says will cause the most angina. Leading the way in pain is money. NASA's current money story starts off bad and just gets worse. From the article: '"Along with the rest of the Federal Government, NASA began FY 2013 under a 6-month continuing resolution that funded the Agency at FY 2012 levels. This was followed by a budget for the remainder of the fiscal year that reduced the Agency's enacted funding level of $17. 5 billion by $626.5 million, or approximately 4% due to sequestration. These financial pressures look to repeat themselves in FY 2014, with no annual budget in place at the beginning of the fiscal year and potential sequestration impacts that could reduce NASA's budget request of $17.7 billion by $1.5 billion to $16.2 billion. As the National Research Council noted in its 2012 report examining NASA's strategic direction and management, NASA's budget is 'mismatched to the current portfolio of missions, facilities, and staff,'" the OIG report stated.'"
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cartechboy writes "The state of California will give Tesla Motors a $34.7 million tax break to expand the company's production capacity for electric cars, state officials announced yesterday. Basically, Tesla won't have to pay sales taxes on new manufacturing equipment worth up to $415 million. The added equipment will help Tesla more than double the number of Model S sedans it builds, as well as assemble more electric powertrains for other car makers. In addition to continued Model S production, Tesla plans to introduce the Model X electric crossover in late 2014, as well as a sub-$40,000 car — tentatively called Model E — that could debut as soon as the 2015 Detroit Auto Show. It turns out California is one of the few states to tax the purchase of manufacturing equipment — but the state grants exemptions for 'clean-tech' companies."
DeviceGuru writes "Roku's popular Linux-based media players have long been criticized for their glaring omission of YouTube video support. As of Dec. 17, that is no longer the case, provided you have the high-end Roku 3 player and live in the U.S., Canada, Ireland, or the U.K. Google's YouTube channel is available immediately for the Roku 3 in resolutions up to 1080p, and will be supported on additional models (though probably just Roku 2) next year, according the company. Previously, the only way to run YouTube over a Roku box was to use the third-party, subscription based PlayOn service, which requires a connected PC or Mac running the PlayOn app. The YouTube update also adds a Send to TV feature, letting you send videos to the Roku for display on the TV with a single click."
theodp writes "Speaking at a memorial event for the legendary Douglas Engelbart at the Computer History Museum, Ted Nelson was pissed-with-a-capital-P. Nelson in effect gave two powerful eulogies — one for his friend Dr. Engelbart, who left this Earth in July, and a second for Engelbart's career, which essentially began 'dying' four decades earlier due to short-sighted organizations' failure to fund the brilliant guy who gave the world The Mother of All Demos in 1968. 'Let us never forget that Doug Engelbart was dumped by ARPA,' Nelson laments. 'Doug Engelbart was dumped by SRI, Doug Engelbart was snubbed by Xerox PARC, and for the rest of his working life he had no chance to take us further...Just as we can only guess what John Kennedy might have done, we can only guess what Doug Engelbart might have done had he not been cut down in his prime.' It's a very moving and passionate speech (despite some oddly inappropriate audience laughter). And, alas, a very sad one in a world that throws $4 billion at the likes of Snapchat and Pinterest."
Meshach writes "The FBI has caught the student who called in a bomb threat at Harvard University on December 16. The student used a temporary anonymous email account routed through Tor, but the FBI was able to trace it (PDF) because it originated from the Harvard wireless network. He could face as long as five years in prison, three years of supervised release and a $250,000 fine if convicted. He made the threat to get out of an exam."
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "The Guardian reports that while President Obama tried to portray a meeting with tech leaders as a wide-ranging discussion of broader priorities including ways of improving the functionality of the troubled health insurance website Healthcare.gov, senior executives from Apple, Yahoo, Google, Comcast, Facebook, Microsoft, Twitter, and Netflix said they were determined to keep the discussion focused on the NSA. 'We are there to talk about the NSA,' said one executive who was briefed on the company's agenda before the event. After meeting Obama and vice president Joe Biden for two-and-a-half hours, the companies issued a one-line statement. 'We appreciated the opportunity to share directly with the president our principles on government surveillance that we released last week and we urge him to move aggressively on reform.' Many of the senior tech leaders had already made public their demand for sweeping surveillance reforms in an open letter that specifically called for a ban on the kind of bulk data collection that a federal judge ruled on Monday was probably unlawful. Obama seemed sympathetic to the idea of allowing more disclosure of government surveillance requests by technology companies, according to a tech industry official who was briefed on the meeting. Marissa Mayer brought up concerns about the potentially negative impact that could be caused if countries, such as Brazil, move forward with legislation that would require service providers to ensure that data belonging to a citizen of a certain country remain in the country it originates, the official said. That would require technology companies to build data centers in each country — a costly problem for American Internet companies. The decision by the tech giants to press their case in such a public and unified way poses a problem for the White House. The industry is an increasingly influential voice in Washington, a vital part of the US economy and many of its most successful leaders are prominent Democratic political donors."
An anonymous reader writes "A 28-year-old man in Sweden has been fined 4.3 million SEK (~650,000 USD) for uploading one movie. 300,000 SEK of that was added because of the upload's low technical quality (Google translation of Swedish original). The court ruled that the viewer watching the pirated version of the movie had a worse experience than people watching it legally, thereby causing damage to the movie's reputation (full judgement in Swedish)."
Antipater writes "NBCNews reports that Kurt DelBene, former head of Microsoft's Office division, will take over operations of Healthcare.gov on Wednesday. DelBene will replace Jeffrey Zients, who stepped in to lead the team fixing the health insurance website when it crashed and burned on its Oct. 1 launch. Zients is set to take over next month as senior White House economic adviser from Gene Sperling.'"
mdsolar tips this report: "Teams of lawmakers are working hard on bills to cut corn-based ethanol out of the country's biofuel mandate entirely, according to National Journal. It's the latest twist in America's fraught relationship with biofuels, which started in 2005 when Congress first mandated that a certain amount of biofuel be mixed into the country's fuel supply. The Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) was then expanded in 2007, with separate requirements for standard biofuel on the one hand and cellulosic and advanced biofuels on the other. The latter are produced from non-food products like cornstalks, agricultural waste, and timber industry cuttings. The RFS originally called for 100 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol in 2010, 250 million in 2011, and 500 million in 2012. Instead, the cellulosic industry failed to get off the ground. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was forced to revise the mandate down to 6.5 million in 2010, and all the way down to zero in 2012. The cellulosic mandate has started to slowly creep back up, and 2014 may be the year when domestic production of cellulosic ethanol finally takes off. But then last month EPA did something else for the first time: it cut down the 2014 mandate for standard biofuel, produced mainly from corn. And now Sen. Diane Feinstein (D-CA) and Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK) have teamed up on legislation that would eliminate the standard biofuel mandate entirely."
mrspoonsi writes "Business Insider Reports: The National Security Agency described for the first time a cataclysmic cyber threat it claims to have stopped On Sunday's '60 Minutes.' Called a BIOS attack, the exploit would have ruined, or 'bricked,' computers across the country, causing untold damage to the national and even global economy. Even more shocking, CBS goes as far as to point a finger directly at China for the plot — 'While the NSA would not name the country behind it, cyber security experts briefed on the operation told us it was China.' The NSA says it closed this vulnerability by working with computer manufacturers. Debora Plunkett, director of cyber defense for the NSA: One of our analysts actually saw that the nation state had the intention to develop and to deliver — to actually use this capability — to destroy computers."
tsu doh nimh writes "Security experts have long opined that one way to make software more secure is to hold software makers liable for vulnerabilities in their products. This idea is often dismissed as unrealistic and one that would stifle innovation in an industry that has been a major driver of commercial growth and productivity over the years. But a new study released this week presents perhaps the clearest economic case yet for compelling companies to pay for information about security vulnerabilities in their products. Stefan Frei, director of research at NSS Labs, suggests compelling companies to purchase all available vulnerabilities at above black-market prices, arguing that even if vendors were required to pay $150,000 per bug, it would still come to less than two-tenths of one percent of these companies' annual revenue (PDF). To ensure that submitted bugs get addressed and not hijacked by regional interests, Frei also proposes building multi-tiered, multi-region vulnerability submission centers that would validate bugs and work with the vendor and researchers. The questions is, would this result in a reduction in cybercrime overall, or would it simply hamper innovation? As one person quoted in the article points out, a majority of data breaches that cost companies tens of millions of dollars have far more to do with other factors unrelated to software flaws, such as social engineering, weak and stolen credentials, and sloppy server configurations."
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "The Washington Post reports that in Germany, Amazon's second-biggest market behind the United States, hundreds of Amazon.com workers went on strike just as pre-Christmas sales were set to peak, in a dispute over pay and conditions that has raged for months. Amazon, which employs 9,000 warehouse staff members in Germany plus 14,000 seasonal workers at nine distribution centers, says that 1,115 employees joined the strike at three sites. 'Amazon must realize it cannot export its anti-union labor model to European shores. We call on the company to come to the table and sign a global agreement that guarantees the rights of workers,' says Philip Jennings of the global trade union UNI. Verdi organized several short stoppages this year to try to force Amazon to accept collective-bargaining agreements ... The union says Amazon workers receive lower wages than others in retail and mail-order jobs and that other retailers pay overtime, but Amazon does not. 'What Amazon is doing is taking this American race-to-the-bottom roadshow to Germany and trying it out on our German brothers and sisters,' says David Freiboth. Amazon has defended its wage policies, saying that employees earn toward the upper end of the pay scale of logistics companies in Germany. Amazon also says it prefers to address employment issues with worker councils at individual sites rather than through negotiations with the union. Amazon says that there have been no delays to deliveries ... adding that Amazon uses its whole European logistics network during the Christmas period to ensure delivery times. A delegation of German workers was set to rally at Amazon's headquarters in Seattle along with U.S. unions. 'We're standing in solidarity with them. We are asking that Amazon respect the union there in Germany and negotiate in a way that is acceptable to Verdi,' says Kathy Cummings of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, which was also attending the protest in Seattle."
PolygamousRanchKid writes with news that GM's outgoing CEO doesn't agree with the National Law and Policy Center's call for GM to repay the loss made by the Treasury from their bailout. From the article: "GM CEO Dan Akerson rejects any suggestion that the company should compensate for the losses. He says Treasury officials took the same risk assumed by anyone who purchases stock. Akerson said that GM repaid all the debt issued by the government beginning in December 2008 when George W. Bush was still president and extending into the first year of Barack Obama's presidency. He added that it was the Treasury's decision ... to take an ownership stake in the form of company shares."
judgecorp writes "In the latest twist to the saga of Google's tracking of Safari users, the tech giant has asked to have a U.K. lawsuit dismissed. Google says it is bound by California laws, so plaintiffs will have to come to the U.S. and sue there. Law firm Olswang is bringing the suit on behalf of British users whose Safari browser settings were overridden to help Google target ads; it argues that international organizations should respect the laws that apply where their customers live."
schwit1 writes in with the latest on an U.S. District Court ruling over NSA spying. "A federal judge ruled Monday that the National Security Agency's phone surveillance program is likely unconstitutional, Politico reports. U.S. District Court Judge Richard Leon said that the agency's controversial program, first unveiled by former government contractor Edward Snowden earlier this year, appears to violate the Constitution's Fourth Amendment, which states that the 'right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated.' 'I cannot imagine a more "indiscriminate" and "arbitrary invasion" than this systematic and high-tech collection and retention of personal data on virtually every single citizen for purposes of querying it and analyzing it without judicial approval,' Leon wrote in the ruling. The federal ruling came down after activist Larry Klayman filed a lawsuit in June over the program. The suit claimed that the NSA's surveillance 'violates the U.S. Constitution and also federal laws, including, but not limited to, the outrageous breach of privacy, freedom of speech, freedom of association, and the due process rights of American citizens.'"
Nerval's Lobster writes "Commercial package-delivery drones such as those revealed by Amazon and DHL could face danger from more than shotgun-toting, UAV-hunting yahoos following the successful test of a drone-killing laser by the U.S. Army. Though it's more likely to take aim at enemy observation drones than Amazon's package-deliver 'copters, the U.S. Army's High Energy Laser Mobile Demonstrator (HEL-MD) did prove itself in tests last week by shooting down 90 incoming mortars and a series of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV). The original goal during the test at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico was to burn out or blow up mortar rounds and blind the cameras or other sensors carried by drones. The laser proved capable enough to damage or slice off the tails of target drones, which brought them down, according to Terry Bauer, HEL MD program manager, as quoted in the Dec. 11 Army announcement of the test. The quarter-sized beam of super-focused light set off the explosives in the 60-millimeter mortars in mid-flight, leaving the rest to fall 'like a rock,' Bauer said. The laser could target only one mortar at a time, but could switch targets quickly enough to bring down several mortars fired in a single volley. The laser and its power source are contained in a single 500-horsepower, four-axle truck but was directed by a separate Enhanced Multi Mode Radar system. The next step is a move from New Mexico to a testing range in Florida early next year 'to test it in rain and fog and things like that,' according to Bauer."
First time accepted submitter cranky_chemist writes "MOOC provider edX plans to abandon a program that allowed companies to mine their massive open online courses for talent after a pilot program in which none of 868 students were hired failed. edX cited HR departments for the program's demise, stating 'Existing HR departments want to go for traditional degree programs and filter out nontraditional candidates.'"
Sockatume writes "Since 2011, Amazon Instant Video has sold a series of Christmas shorts from Disney called 'Prep and Landing'. Unfortunately this holiday season, Disney has had a change of heart and has decided to make the shorts exclusive to its own channels. The company went so far as to retroactively withdrawn the shows from Amazon, so that customers who have already paid for them no longer have access. Apparently this reverse-Santa ability is a feature Amazon provides all publishers, and customers have little recourse but to go cap-in-hand to a Disney outlet and pay for the shows again."
When he's not lecturing at Stanford or NASA, Alan Adler is working on brewing the perfect cup of coffee and engineering flying toys. His AeroPress is one of the most popular coffee brewing systems available and one of his Aerobie Pro Rings set the world record for the farthest thrown object at 1,333 feet. Alan has agreed to sit down and answer any questions you may have. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one question per post.