jfruh writes "When tech geeks debate the state of the smartphone world, they usually focus on the iPhone and its high-end Android rivals from the major carriers. But Android is rapidly entering the lower-end world of contractless prepaid phones that you can buy at 7-11 or Wal-Mart. 63 percent of prepaid phones sold in 2011 were smartphones, and while they might not offer cutting-edge hardware or easy customization, they do provide a smartphone experience without an onerous contract."
zacharye writes "Using nothing more than a few common tools, hackers can reportedly recover credit card numbers and other personal information from used Xbox 360 consoles even after they have been restored to factory settings. Researchers at Drexel University say they have successfully recovered sensitive personal data from a used Xbox console, and they claim Microsoft is doing a disservice to users by not taking precautions to secure their data. 'Microsoft does a great job of protecting their proprietary information,' researcher Ashley Podhradsky said."
MatthewVD writes "Brazil is on a massive fingerprinting spree, with the goal of collecting biometric information from each of its 190 million citizens and identifying all voters by their biological signatures by 2018. The country already has a fully electronic voting system and now officials are trying to end fraud, which was rampant after the military dictatorship ended. Dissenters complain that recounts could be impossible and this opens the door for new kinds of fraud. Imagine this happening in the U.S."
Fluffeh writes "A nice summary at TechDirt brings word that Bruce Schneier has been debating Kip Hawley, former boss of the TSA, over at the Economist. Bruce has been providing facts, analysis and some amazing statistics throughout the debate, and it makes for very educational reading. Because of the format, the former TSA administrator is compelled to respond. Quoting: 'He wants us to trust that a 400-ml bottle of liquid is dangerous, but transferring it to four 100-ml bottles magically makes it safe. He wants us to trust that the butter knives given to first-class passengers are nevertheless too dangerous to be taken through a security checkpoint. He wants us to trust that there's a reason to confiscate a cupcake (Las Vegas), a 3-inch plastic toy gun (London Gatwick), a purse with an embroidered gun on it (Norfolk, VA), a T-shirt with a picture of a gun on it (London Heathrow) and a plastic lightsaber that's really a flashlight with a long cone on top (Dallas/Fort Worth).""
scubamage writes "Six weeks ago, my home was broken into while my fiance and I were at work. Two laptops were stolen, an iPad, a power brick, a safe (complete with several years worth of taxes, my birth certificate, and old copies of my driver's license), a digital SLR, and several other costly items. We are now dealing with an attorney because the homeowner's insurance is fighting us on a number of items and we're not backing down. It has been a nightmare. However, we've now noticed that someone has been visiting our house during the day. There has been garbage left sitting on our back porch table, so its unlikely to have blown there. We've also seen footprints in our garden that are not there in the morning. Our neighborhood is essentially empty during the day, and we want to know who is on our property while we're not. If we're really lucky, reporting it to the police could recover some of our property. My fiance has asked me to assemble a home security system that is motion activated, and both notifies us of an entry, as well as records video or rapid HD stillframes when sensing motion. The goal is to do this cheaply and more effectively than going with a private security company like ADT (who, consequently, our police department told us to ignore due to the incredibly high rate of false alarms). We've already gotten the dog and the gun, so we have those bases covered. What suggestions do you have on setting up home security systems, and what have you done to build one in the past?"
fishmike writes with this excerpt from a Reuters report: "American high school students are terrible writers, and one education reform group thinks it has an answer: robots. Or, more accurately, robo-readers — computers programmed to scan student essays and spit out a grade. The theory is that teachers would assign more writing if they didn't have to read it. And the more writing students do, the better at it they'll become — even if the primary audience for their prose is a string of algorithms. ... Take, for instance, the Intelligent Essay Assessor, a web-based tool marketed by Pearson Education, Inc. Within seconds, it can analyze an essay for spelling, grammar, organization and other traits and prompt students to make revisions. The program scans for key words and analyzes semantic patterns, and Pearson boasts it 'can "understand" the meaning of text much the same as a human reader.' Jehn, the Harvard writing instructor, isn't so sure. He argues that the best way to teach good writing is to help students wrestle with ideas; misspellings and syntax errors in early drafts should be ignored in favor of talking through the thesis."
MrSeb writes "Late last week, Jen-Hsun Huang sent a letter to Nvidia employees congratulating them on successfully launching the highly acclaimed GeForce GTX 680. After discussing how Nvidia changed its entire approach to GPU design to create the new GK104, Jen-Hsun writes: 'Today is just the beginning of Kepler. Because of its super energy-efficient architecture, we will extend GPUs into datacenters, to super thin notebooks, to superphones.' (Nvidia calls Tegra-powered products 'super,' as in super phones, super tablets, etc, presumably because it believes you'll be more inclined to buy one if you associate it with a red-booted man in blue spandex.) This has touched off quite a bit of speculation concerning Nvidia's Tegra 4, codenamed Wayne, including assertions that Nvidia's next-gen SoC will use a Kepler-derived graphics core. That's probably true, but the implications are considerably wider than a simple boost to the chip's graphics performance." Nvidia's CEO is also predicting this summer will see the rise of $200 Android tablets.
kodiaktau writes "An interesting article from the BBC News Magazine explores the reasons why most fantasy worlds use British as their primary accent. Citing specific examples from recent and upcoming shows and movies like Lord of The Rings, The Hobbit and Game of Thrones, the article concludes British accents are 'sufficiently exotic,' 'comprehensible' and have a 'splash of otherness.' It would be odd to think of a fantasy world having a New Jersey accent, or even a Mid-West accent, which tends to be the default for TV and movies in the U.S., but how do UK viewers feel about having British as a default? More specifically, what about the range of UK accents, like Scottish, Welsh, Cockney? The International Dialects of English Archive shows at least nine regional sounds, with dozens of sub-regional pronunciations in England alone. In the U.S., there have always been many regional accents that might be used in interesting ways. Filmmakers should consider looking at speech accents from other areas of the world to create more interesting dialects."
An anonymous reader tips news that electronics retailer Best Buy will be closing 50 of its big-box stores across the U.S. this year, and laying off hundreds of corporate workers besides. The company plans to start testing new types of outlets as it tries to adapt to the changing face of retail sales. From the article: "Best Buy shares were off 7.7% at $24.56 on Thursday afternoon on the New York Stock Exchange. Also Thursday, Best Buy reported a $1.7 billion loss for its fourth quarter ended March 3. ... Consumers armed with mobile phones are increasingly using stores as showrooms to check out merchandise they later purchase for less online, a trend greatly benefiting Internet retailers such as Amazon.com Inc. that aren't encumbered by the costs of running physical locations and in many cases don't have to collect sales tax. Meanwhile Apple Inc.'s phones and tablets, showcased in its own namesake stores, have eroded the status of specialty chains as the one-stop shop for the latest in gadgetry. In response, Best Buy said it will launch large-scale tests of what it calls new 'connected store' formats in the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minn., as well as San Antonio. The stores, which will emphasize services such as technology support and wireless connections, will feature large new hubs at their center to assist shoppers, as well as reconfigured checkout lanes and new areas to accelerate the pickup of items purchased earlier online."
silentbrad writes "Kotaku reports some 'details' about Sony's next console given to them by a 'reliable source.' They say that the console's codename is Orbis, and it is planned for release by the 2013 holiday season. Developers are reportedly being told to plan for an AMD x64 CPU and AMD Southern Islands GPU. Further on, they mention that there will be no PS3 backwards compatibility and, like rumors about the next Xbox, will have anti-used game DRM. Specifically, 'new games for the system will be available one of two ways, either on a Blu-Ray disc or as a PSN download (yes, even full retail titles). If you buy the disc, it must be locked to a single PSN account. ... If you then decide to trade that disc in, the pre-owned customer picking it up will be limited in what they can do. ... it's believed used games will be limited to a trial mode or some other form of content restriction, with consumers having to pay a fee to unlock/register the full game.'"
New submitter butilikethecookie writes with news that the 2012 federal budget for Canada calls for the Royal Canadian Mint to stop producing pennies. "The budget calls the lowly penny a 'burden to the economy.' 'It costs the government 1.6 cents to produce each new penny,' the budget says, adding the government will save about $11 million a year with its elimination (PDF). Some Canadians, it says, consider the penny more of a nuisance than a useful coin. ... Rounding prices will become the norm as the penny is gradually removed from circulation, the budget says. If consumers find themselves without pennies, cash transactions should be rounded to the nearest five-cent increment 'in a fair and transparent manner,' it says. Noncash payments such as checks and credit cards will continue to be settled by the cent, however."
Fluffeh writes "While it is a bit disappointing that companies might need a law to avoid providing tools that censor free speech to overseas regimes, an updated version of a bill that's been floating around for a few years — the Global Online Freedom Act — has passed out of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health and Human Rights. The version that made it out of committee took out some controversial earlier provisions that had potential criminal penalties for those who failed to report information to the Justice Department. However, the Center for Democracy and Technology has raised some concerns: 'While some companies – such as GNI members Google, Microsoft, Websense, and Yahoo! – have stepped up and acknowledged these responsibilities in an accountable way, other companies have not been so forthright. GOFA, however, is a complex bill. While it presents a number of sensible and innovative mechanisms for mitigating the negative impact of surveillance and censorship technologies, it also raises some difficult questions: can export controls be meaningfully extended in ways that reduce the spread of (to borrow words from Chairman Smith) "weapons of mass surveillance" without diminishing the ability of dissidents to connect and communicate? How can – and should – U.S. companies engage with so-called "Internet-restricting" countries?'"
New submitter Big Hairy Ian writes with this news from the BBC: "The head of an experiment that appeared to show subatomic particles traveling faster than the speed of light has resigned from his post. Prof Antonio Ereditato oversaw results that appeared to challenge Einstein's theory that nothing could travel faster than the speed of light. Reports said some members of his group, called OPERA, had wanted him to resign. Earlier in March, a repeat experiment found that the particles, known as neutrinos, did not exceed light speed."
McGruber writes "The NY Times ('Cookies Set to Cleared, Captain!') is reporting that CBS is blocking fan-generated internet series 'Star Trek New Voyages: Phase II' from making an episode using an unproduced script from the original series. In a statement, CBS said, 'We fully appreciate and respect the passion and creativity of the "Star Trek" fan and creative communities. This is simply a case of protecting our copyrighted material and the situation has been amicably resolved.'" The original writer of the episode, sci-fi author Norman Spinrad, was enthusiastic about the production, and planned to direct it himself.
T Murphy writes "Neonicotinoid pesticides, designed to attack insects such as beetles and aphids, have been shown to harm bees' ability to navigate back to the hive. While initially assumed safe in low enough, non-fatal doses for bees, two papers have shown that may not be the case. Although the studies don't directly study the Colony Collapse Disorder, the scientists believe these pesticides are likely a contributing factor."