Qedward writes "Internet access is as crucial to everyday life as having a phone connection and the loss of connectivity is deserving of financial compensation, the German Federal Court of Justice has ruled. Because having an internet connection is so significant for a large part of the German population, a customer whose service provider failed to provide connectivity between December 2008 and February 2009 is entitled to compensation, the court ruled today. 'It is the first time the court ruled that an internet connection is as important a commodity as having a phone,' said court spokeswoman Dietlind Weinland. The court, however, denied the plaintiff's request of €50 a day for his fax machine not working."
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Nerval's Lobster writes "Twitter has rolled out Vine, a free app for iOS devices that allows users to shoot and post short videos. Twitter's strategic focus on brevity—the company has long resisted calls to lengthen Tweets beyond the current 140-character limit—extends to Vine videos, which can only be six seconds in length. 'Posts on Vine are about abbreviation — the shortened form of something larger,' Dom Hoffman, Vine's co-founder and general manager, wrote in a blog posting. 'They're little windows into the people, settings, ideas and objects that make up your life.' It's easy to see the Vine acquisition as part of Twitter's larger push into multimedia. The company launched a muscled-up photo service Dec. 10, complete with Instagram-style filters and editing tools. That photo launch came on the heels of an escalating battle with Instagram, the Facebook subsidiary, which decided to disable photo integration with Twitter; that same month, Yahoo also decided to jump into the fray with a new Flickr app for iPhone, complete with special filters and the ability to post images to various social networks."
azzkicker writes "It looks like J.J. Abrams will direct Star Wars VII. From the article: 'Sources have confirmed the Star Trek Into Darkness filmmaker will helm the next Star Wars movie, the highly anticipated installment in the landmark franchise scheduled to reach theaters in 2015."
Krystalo writes "Belkin on Thursday announced plans to acquire Cisco's Home Networking Business Unit, including its products, technology, employees, and even the well-known Linksys brand. Belkin says it plans to maintain the Linksys brand and will offer support for Linksys products as part of the transaction, financial details for which were not disclosed. This should be a relatively smooth transition that won't affect current customers: Belkin says it will honor all valid warranties for current and future Linksys products. After the transaction closes, Belkin will account for approximately 30 percent of the U.S. retail home and small business networking market."
tsamsoniw writes "Dozens of privacy advocates, Internet activists, and journalists have issued an open letter to Skype and Microsoft, calling on the companies to finally get around to being clear and transparent as to who has access to Skype user data and how that data is secured. 'Since Skype was acquired by Microsoft, both entities have refused to answer questions about exactly what kinds of user data can be intercepted, what user data is retained, or whether eavesdropping on Skype conversations may take place,' reads the letter, signed by such groups as the Digital Rights Foundation and the Electronic Frontier Foundation."
waderoush writes "Engineers and hackers don't think much about tax policy, but there's a bizarre development in California that they should know about, since it could reduce the pool of angel-investment money available for tech startups. Under a tax break available since the 1990s, startup founders and other investors in California were allowed to exclude or defer their gains when they sold stock in California-based small businesses. Last year, a California appeals court ruled that the tax break was unconstitutional, since it discriminated against investors in out-of-state companies. Now the Franchise Tax Board, California's version of the IRS, has issued a notice saying how it intends to implement the ruling — and it's a doozie. Not only is the tax break gone, but anyone who claimed an exclusion or deferral on the sale of small-business stock since 2008 is about to get a big retroactive tax bill. Investors, entrepreneurs, and even the plaintiffs in the original lawsuit are up in arms about the FTB's notice, saying that it goes beyond the court's intent and that it will drive investors out of the state. This Xconomy article takes an in-depth look at the history of the court case, the FTB's ruling, and the reaction in the technology and investing communities."
An anonymous reader writes "The Government of Antigua is planning to launch a website selling movies, music and software, without paying U.S. copyright holders. The Caribbean island is taking the unprecedented step because the United States refuses to lift a trade 'blockade' preventing the island from offering Internet gambling services, despite several WTO decisions in Antigua's favor. The country now hopes to recoup some of the lost income through a WTO approved 'warez' site."
twoheadedboy writes "Two members of the Anonymous hacking collective have been handed a total of 25 months in prison. Christopher Weatherhead, a 22-year-old who went under the pseudonym Nerdo, received the most severe punishment — 18 months in prison. Another member, Ashley Rhodes, was handed seven months, whilst Peter Gibson was given a six-month suspended sentence. They were convicted for hitting a variety of websites, including those belonging to PayPal and MasterCard."
Snirt writes "Symbian is now officially dead, Nokia confirmed today. In the company's earnings announcement that came out a little while ago, Nokia confirmed that the 808 PureView, released last year, was the very last device that the company would make on the Symbian platform: 'During our transition to Windows Phone through 2012, we continued to ship devices based on Symbian,' the company wrote. 'The Nokia 808 PureView, a device which showcases our imaging capabilities and which came to market in mid-2012, was the last Symbian device from Nokia.'"
DeviceGuru writes "New multiwindow, multitasking features in Samsung's recent Jellybean update to the Galaxy Note 10.1 have pushed the user interface of Android tablets into new territory, adding MS Windows-like capabilities that are sure to delight many users — and aggravate others. Although some observers have warned of the dangers of forking Android, Samsung's efforts to extend Android and its ecosystem can be defended as being consistent with Google's master plan for the Android system, most of which is released under ASLv2. And remember: unlike Apple, Android device makers, and the wireless carriers who offer Android smartphones to their customers, need ways to differentiate their products."
Timothy Lord starts this video with these words: "Sensors are a big deal at CES this year. They are small devices that track everything from the location of your pets to how many steps you have taken today." And so he chatted with Phillip Bolliger, founder of Swiss company Koubachi AG, which makes Wi-Fi sensors that help you give your plants the right amount of water and light and to keep them at the right temperature. As of this writing, the prices on their online store are in Euros, not dollars, but the sensors are now available through Amazon with U.S. pricing. Koubachi also has a free app for your iOS device, and a Facebook app for your computer or Android device, that will help you give your plants the right amount of fertilizer and other love even if you don't buy a Koubachi sensor.
alphadogg writes "Mobile devices like the iPhone 5 are embracing the 5GHz band, and that trend will expand as 802.11ac radios become prevalent even on smartphones starting in 2013. The FCC announced a New Year's Wi-Fi gift during the International CES show earlier this month: a proposal to dramatically expand the unlicensed spectrum in the 5GHz frequency band for use by Wi-Fi devices. The announcement comes as a growing number of vendors are announcing products that will support the "Gigabit Wi-Fi" 802.11ac standard in 2013. To find out the implications of the FCC's plan, Network World talked with Matthew Gast, director of product management for Aerohive Networks (author of "802.11n: A Survival Guide"). Gast blogged enthusiastically after FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski announced the spectrum move, even admitting he had an 'engineer-crush' on the chairman as a result."
Orome1 writes "Barracuda Networks has released firmware updates that remove SSH backdoors in a number of their products and resolve a vulnerability in Barracuda SSL VPN that allows attackers to bypass access restrictions to download potentially insecure files, set new admins passwords, or even shut down the device. The backdoor accounts are present on in all available versions of Barracuda Spam and Virus Firewall, Web Filter, Message Archiver, Web Application Firewall, Link Balancer, Load Balancer, and SSL VPN appliances." Here's Barracuda's tech note about the exploitable holes.
As reported by Reuters, The New York Times, and Fox News, among others, North Korea's nuclear saber-rattling has reached a new peak. North Korean officials have made clear their intent to conduct a third nuclear test (earlier tests were in 2006 and 2009), as well as further rocket launches specifically designed to demonstrate missile reach extending to the U.S. From Reuters' story: "North Korea is not believed to have the technology to deliver a nuclear warhead capable of hitting the continental United States, although its December launch showed it had the capacity to deliver a rocket that could travel 10,000 km (6,200 miles), potentially putting San Francisco in range, according to an intelligence assessment by South Korea. 'We are not disguising the fact that the various satellites and long-range rockets that we will fire and the high-level nuclear test we will carry out are targeted at the United States,' North Korea's National Defence Commission said, according to state news agency KCNA."
John "Jack" R. Horner is the Curator of Paleontology at the Museum of the Rockies, adjunct curator at the National Museum of Natural History, and one of the most famous paleontologists in the world. Known in the scientific community for his research on dinosaur growth and whether or not some species lived in social groups, he is most famous for his work on Jurassic Park and being the inspiration for the character of Alan Grant. Horner caused quite a stir with the publication of his book, How to Build a Dinosaur: Extinction Doesn't Have to Be Forever, in which he proposes creating a "chickensaurus" by genetically "nudging" the DNA of a chicken. Jack has agreed to step away from the genetics lab and put down the bones in order to answer your questions. As usual, you're invited to ask as many questions as you'd like, but please divide them, one question per post.