In an effort to step up its fight against astroturfers, Amazon has barred authors from reviewing books. It's not simply that authors can't review their own books — they can't review any book in a similar genre to something they've published. "This means that thriller writers are prevented from commenting on works by other authors who write similar books. Critics suggest this system is flawed because many authors are impartial and are experts on novels." British author Joanne Harris had a simpler solution in mind: "To be honest I would just rather Amazon delete all their reviews as it... has caused so much trouble. It is a pity. Originally it was a good idea but it is has become such an issue now. The star rating has become how people view if a book is a success and it has become inherently corrupt." How would you improve the online review system?
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Amazon and Google, both giants in the online business world, started out as separate entities with two very different agendas. As each has grown into an empire, the overlapping areas of business between the two companies has grown as well. But with both companies moving strongly into the electronic device market, cloud services, and Amazon now building out its advertising network, they find themselves increasingly at odds, and 2013 may bring more direct battles."Amazon wants to be the one place where you buy everything. Google wants to be the one place where you find everything, of which buying things is a subset. So when you marry those facts I think you're going to see a natural collision," said VC partner Chi-hua Chien. Adds Reuters, "Not long after Bezos learned of Google's catalog plans, Amazon began scanning books and providing searchable digital excerpts. Its Kindle e-reader, launched a few years later, owes much of its inspiration to the catalog news, the executive said. Now, Amazon is pushing its online ad efforts, threatening to siphon revenue and users from Google's main search website."
theodp writes "With all of the content that can be delivered electronically — e-books, music, apps, movies, e-gift cards, tickets — the percentage of Christmas gift giving that's digital is growing each year. However, the e-gift unwrapping user experience on Christmas morning leaves much to be desired. In addition to providing old-school mail delivery of gift cards, Amazon offers a variety of other options, including e-mailing a gift card on a specific day with or without a suggested gift, posting it on someone's Facebook Wall, or allowing you to print one for personal delivery. Another suggestion — using USB drives — harkens back to the days of burning CDs with custom playlists for last-minute gifts, but you'll be thwarted by DRM issues for lots of content. So, until Facebook introduces The Tree to save our e-gifts under until they're 'unwrapped' on Christmas morning with the other physical gifts, how do you plan on handling e-gift giving and getting?"
benrothke writes "When the IBM PC first came out 31 years ago, it supported a maximum of 256KB RAM. You can buy an equivalent computer today with substantially more CPU power at a fraction of the price. But in those 31 years, the information security functionality in which the PC operates has not progressed accordingly. In Burdens of Proof: Cryptographic Culture and Evidence Law in the Age of Electronic Documents, author Jean-François Blanchette observes that the move to a paperless society means that paper-based evidence needs to be recreated in the digital world. It also requires an underlying security functionality to flow seamlessly across organizations, government agencies and the like. While the computing power is there, the ability to create a seamless cryptographic culture is much slower in coming." Keep reading for the rest of Ben's review.
tgeller writes "It's hard to believe that today's nerdier children will one day bore their grandkids with stories of primitive mobile access, household robotics, and 3-D printers. Some will become rich and famous by latching onto tomorrow's winners; others will find themselves irrelevant as the objects of their obsessions fail in the marketplace. But all with the energy to remember will come away with stories from the dawn of creation. One such witness is Kevin Savetz, a 41-year-old technology journalist and entrepreneur whose new book Terrible Nerd recounts 'true tales of growing up geek' during the '80s computer revolution. It's a rich chronicle that deftly mixes details of his beloved technologies with the zeitgeist a particular time and space. As such, it's an entertaining read for technologists and non-techies alike." Keep reading for the rest of tgeller's review.
CanadianSchism writes "I've been in the public sector for the past 6 years. I started off doing my work study in web design and a bit of support, eventually going through the interview process to fill in a data processing technician post, and getting the job. The first four years of my work life were spent in various schools, fixing computers, implementing new hardware, rolling out updates/ghosting labs, troubleshooting basic network and printer problems, etc. I was eventually asked to work on the administrative information systems with an analyst, which I've been doing for the past 2 years. That's consisted of program support, installing updates to the pay/financial/purchasing/tax/energy systems, taking backups on SQL servers, etc. I've never had the opportunity to take time for myself, and jump back into my first love: programming. I've picked up Powershell books (have two here at the office), but haven't gotten anything down yet, as there are always other projects that come up and whittle my attention to learning a language down to zilch. This new year will see a change in that, however. I'll be setting aside an hour every day to devote to learning a new language, in the eventual hope that I can leave this company (take a sabbatical) and hop into the private sector for a few years. My question to you all is, what language should I start with, to learn and get back into the principles of programming, that will help me build a personal portfolio, but will also lend to learning other languages? At this point, I'm not sure if I'd like to make/maintain custom applications, or if back-end web programming would be more interesting, or any of the other niches out there."
astroengine writes "As the Cassini mission continues to orbit the ringed gas giant Saturn, it's hard to imagine what magnificent view the NASA spacecraft will show us next. Today, however, is one for the history books. As a very special Christmas holiday treat, the Cassini Imaging Central Laboratory for Operations (CICLOPS) team have processed a magnificent view of Saturn that is rarely seen — a portrait from the dark side of the planet."
Nerval's Lobster writes "Are e-readers doomed? A research note earlier this week from IHS iSuppli suggested that, after years of solid growth, the e-book reader market was 'on an alarmingly precipitous decline' thanks to the rise of tablets. The firm suggested that e-reader sales had declined from 23.2 million units in 2011 to 14.9 million this year — around 36 percent, in other words. The note blames tablets: 'Single-task devices like the ebook are being replaced without remorse in the lives of consumers by their multifunction equivalents, in this case by media tablets.' Even Amazon and Barnes & Noble, the reigning champs of the e-reader marketplace, have increasingly embraced full-color tablets as the best medium for selling their digital products. Backed by enormous cloud-based libraries that offer far more than just e-books, these devices are altogether more versatile than grayscale e-readers, provided their users want to do more than just read plain text."
angry tapir writes "As part of a $1 billion upgrade of its city campus, the University of Technology, Sydney is installing an underground automated storage and retrieval system (ASRS) for its library collection. The ASRS is in response to the need to house a growing collection and free up physical space for the new 'library of the future', which is to open in 2015 to 2016, so that people can be at the center of the library rather than the books. The ASRS, which will connect to the new library, consists of six 15-meter high robotic cranes that operate bins filled with books. When an item is being stored or retrieved, the bins will move up and down aisles as well as to and from the library. Items will be stored in bins based on their spine heights. About 900,000 items will be stored underground, starting with 60 per cent of the library's collection and rising to 80 per cent. About 250,000 items purchased from the last 10 years will be on open shelves in the library. As items age, they will be relegated to the underground storage facility. The University of Chicago has invested in a similar system."
First time accepted submitter Tastecicles writes "Patrick Moore, the monocled surveyor of the sky who awakened in millions of people an interest in galactic goings on, has died at 89. His love of astronomy began at the age of six, and that childhood curiosity developed into a lifelong passion. It was a passion he shared through his program, The Sky at Night, which he presented for more than 50 years, only ever missing one episode due to illness. Patrick Alfred Caldwell-Moore was born at Pinner, Middlesex on 4 Mar 1923. Heart problems meant he spent much of his childhood being educated at home and he became an avid reader. His mother gave him a copy of GF Chambers' book The Story of the Solar System, and this sparked his lifelong passion for astronomy. He was soon publishing papers about the moon's surface, based on observations made with his first three-inch telescope. His 1908 vintage typewriter enabled him to publish more than a thousand books on subjects ranging from astronomy, his first love, to cricket, golf, and music."
Nikola Tesla, and has been collecting antique electric devices of a particular kind: ones that send electricity through the human body to effect medical benefits, many of which do so with the aid of Tesla coils. Tesla's not the only inventor involved, of course, but his influence overlapped and widely influenced the golden age of electrotherapy. Behary's day job as a machinist means he has the skills to rehabilitate and restore these aging beasts, too, along with a growing family of related devices. He's assembled them now, in West Palm Beach, Florida, into the Turn of the Century Electrotherapy Museum. This is a museum of my favorite kind: home-based and intimate, but with serious depth. Though it's open only by appointment, arranging a visit there is worth it, whether you're otherwise part of the Tesla community or not. Behary knows his collection inside and out, with the kind of deep knowledge it takes to fabricate replacement parts and revamp the internal wiring. The devices themselves are accessible, with original and restored pieces up close and personal — you need to be mindful about which ones are humming and crackling at any given moment. (There's also an archive with books, papers, and other effects relating to Tesla and other electric pioneers, not to mention glowing tubes that predate the modern vacuum tube, and the oldest known surviving Tesla coils, recovered from beneath their maker's Boston mansion. Electrotherapy is the organizing principle, but not the extent of this assembly.) And while Behary isn't fooled by all the therapeutic claims made by some machines' makers about running current through your limbs or around your body, he also doesn't discount them all, either, and points out that some of them really do affect the body as claimed. Yes, he's tried most of the machines himself, though he admits he's never dared taking the juice of his personal Tesla-powered electric chair. View the first video for a tour of part of this astounding collection; the second video is an interview with Jeff Behary.
benrothke writes "It is well known that the password, while the most widespread information security mechanism, is also one of the most insecure. It comes down to the fact that the average person can't create and maintain secure passwords. When it comes to physical locks, the average lock on your home and in your office is equally insecure. How insecure it in? In two fascinating books on the topic, Deviant Ollam writes in Practical Lock Picking, Second Edition: A Physical Penetration Testers Training Guide and Keys to the Kingdom: Impressioning, Privilege Escalation, Bumping, and Other Key-Based Attacks Against Physical Locks that it is really not that difficult. When it comes to information security penetration tests done on the client site, the testers will most often have permission to be inside the facility. On rare occasions, the testers need to find alternative means to gain entrance. Sometimes that means picking the locks." Keep reading to learn if you'll be picking locks soon.
Nate the greatest writes "One of the stranger ereader/smartphone hybrid devices ever to grace the pages of a tech blog is now officially never dead. Polymer Vision, creator of the Readius ereader, has been shut down by its parent company. This company launched in 2004 with the goal of bring an ereader with a foldable 5" E-ink screen to market. They shipped an initial production run of about 100 thousand units before going bankrupt in 2009. Wistron bought the company out of receivership and has been paying to develop the screen tech. PV has made a number of prototypes over the past few years, but they never made it out of the lab. The closest we came to ever seeing one was a render of a smartphone design which could expand to the size of a tablet."
dryriver writes "Russia Today's correspondents have visited Julian Assange in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London, where Assange has been holed up for nearly 6 months now. In the 12 minute long interview with RT, Assange has many interesting things to say about privacy, and government data interception in particular. A small excerpt: 'The people who control the interception of the Internet and, to some degree also, physically control the big data warehouses and the international fiber-optic lines. We all think of the Internet as some kind of Platonic Realm where we can throw out ideas and communications and web pages and books and they exist somewhere out there. Actually, they exist on web servers in New York or Nairobi or Beijing, and information comes to us through satellite connections or through fiber-optic cables. So whoever physically controls this controls the realm of our ideas and communications. And whoever is able to sit on those communications channels, can intercept entire nations, and that's the new game in town, as far as state spying is concerned — intercepting entire nations, not individuals. ... So what's happened over the last 10 years is the ever-decreasing cost of intercepting each individual now to the degree where it is cheaper to intercept every individual rather that it is to pick particular people to spy upon.'"