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An anonymous reader writes When you pay the tax on a road vehicle in the UK, you used to get a paper "tax disk" to affix to the inside of your car windshield. However the relevant records are documented electronically anyway, inspiring the government to replace the paper system with a purely online one. Unfortunately said system was still in beta when it launched today and predictably, it has broken under user demand. No alternative system is available. (The licensing agency actually ran out of the paper disks more than a month ago, and has been printing them out on normal office paper and asking vehicle owners to cut out the circle themselves.) The initiative is part of a larger "digital-first", restructuring of how the government provides services aimed at "meeting user needs".
44 comments | 3 hours ago
00_NOP writes: Children in the U.K. have been taught in metric measures in school since (at least) 1972, but yesterday British Prime Minister David Cameron suggested that they should actually be taught in Imperial measures (which are still in use officially to measure road distances and speeds, but not really anywhere else). Is this because he hasn't a clue about science or because he is catering to a particular political base?
826 comments | yesterday
An anonymous reader writes The City of London Police's Intellectual Property Crime Unit (PIPCU) is determined to continue its anti-piracy efforts in the years to come. However, the unit's head, Andy Fyfe, also believes that the government may have to tighten the rules on the Internet to stop people from breaking the law. PIPCU's chief believes the public has to be protected from criminals, including pirate site operators who take advantage of their trust. If that doesn't happen, then the Internet may descend into anarchy, he says, suggesting that the government may have to intervene to prevent this. The Police chief believes tighter rules may be needed to prevent people from breaking the law in the future. This could mean not everyone is allowed to launch a website, but that a license would be required, for example.
298 comments | 3 days ago
HughPickens.com writes: Markus Krajewski reports that today, with many countries phasing out incandescent lighting in favor of more-efficient and pricier LEDs, it's worth revisiting the history of the Phoebus cartel — not simply as a quirky anecdote from the annals of technology, but as a cautionary tale about the strange and unexpected pitfalls that can arise when a new technology vanquishes an old one. Prior to the Phoebus cartel's formation in 1924, household light bulbs typically burned for a total of 1,500 to 2,500 hours; cartel members agreed to shorten that life span to a standard 1,000 hours.
Each factory regularly sent lightbulb samples to the cartel's central laboratory in Switzerland for verification. If any factory submitted bulbs lasting longer or shorter than the regulated life span for its type, the factory was obliged to pay a fine. Though long gone, the Phoebus cartel still casts a shadow today because it reduced competition in the light bulb industry for almost twenty years, and has been accused of preventing technological advances that would have produced longer-lasting light bulbs. Will history repeat itself as the lighting industry is now going through its most tumultuous period of technological change since the invention of the incandescent bulb?
"Consumers are expected to pay more money for bulbs that are up to 10 times as efficient and that are touted to last a fantastically long time—up to 50,000 hours in the case of LED lights. In normal usage, these lamps will last so long that their owners will probably sell the house they're in before having to change the bulbs," writes Krajewski. "Whether or not these pricier bulbs will actually last that long is still an open question, and not one that the average consumer is likely to investigate." There are already reports of CFLs and LED lamps burning out long before their rated lifetimes are reached. "Such incidents may well have resulted from nothing more sinister than careless manufacturing. But there is no denying that these far more technologically sophisticated products offer tempting opportunities for the inclusion of purposefully engineered life-shortening defects.""
596 comments | 5 days ago
concertina226 writes Engineering students from the University of Toronto have developed a 3D bioprinter that can rapidly create artificial skin grafts from a patient's cells to help treat burn victims. In severe burn injuries, both the epidermis (outer layer of the skin) and the dermis (inner layer) are severely damaged, and it usually takes at least two weeks for skin cells to be grown in a laboratory to be grafted onto a patient. As both layers of skin are made from completely different cells that have different structures, it is very difficult for the body to regenerate itself and burn victims can die if their wounds cannot be closed quickly enough. So instead of trying to replicate a real human skin graft, the PrintAlive Bioprinter creates a type of "living bandage" from hydrogel.
26 comments | about a week ago
An anonymous reader writes It seems that switching between laptop, smart phone and tablet may be shrinking our brains and leaving us prone to higher levels of anxiety and stress reports new research from the University of Sussex in the UK. The researchers point out that the link is currently a correlation rather than a proof of causation, but they do suggest that people who used a higher number of media devices concurrently also had smaller grey matter density — in other words they have smaller brains.
87 comments | about a week ago
Tailhook (98486) writes "The Argentine government has used drones to reveal 200 homes and 100 pools in an upper class area about ten miles south of Buenos Aires that had not been detailed on tax returns. Tax officials said the drones took pictures of luxury houses standing on lots registered as empty. The evasions found by the drones amounted to missing tax payments of more than $2 million and owners of the properties have been warned they now face large fines."
208 comments | about a week ago
Bismillah writes AWS is currently emailing EC2 customers that it will need to reboot their instances for maintenance over the next few days. The email doesn't explain why the reboots are being done, but it is most likely to patch for the embargoed XSA-108 bug in Xen. ZDNet takes this as a spur to remind everyone that the cloud is not magical. Also at The Register.
94 comments | about a week ago
ideonexus writes: After Emma Watson gave a speech on the need for feminism (video) to the United Nations, 4chan users threatened to release nude photos of the Harry Potter star in retaliation, setting up the emmayouarenext.com website with a countdown clock. Now it has been revealed that the site was an elaborate hoax intended publicize a movement to shut down 4chan.
590 comments | about a week ago
Oculus Rift revealed today its new 'Crescent Bay' prototype wearable display, at its inaugural Oculus Connect conference. (You can find more in the company's blog too.) From Gamasutra's coverage: The new headset has 360 degree tracking and integrated audio, as well as improved performance that allows better presence, says Iribe. It has higher resolution and a better refresh rate than even its recent DK2 headset. It's also much lighter than earlier prototypes. The company has also licensed technology from RealSpace 3-D for improved 3D audio on Oculus moving forward. Audio is becoming a priority for the company, [CEO Brendan] ]Iribe said. Road to VR has a gushing hands-on review: One of the stand-out demos put me in front of an alien on some sort of Moon-like world. The alien was looking at me and speaking in an unfamiliar tongue. When I moved my head, its gaze followed me. Its big and detailed eyes, combined with reaction to me as I moved, imbued it with a sense of living that was really cool. Spaceships flew over head and drew my gaze behind me, leading me to look at some incredibly detailed scenery.
65 comments | about two weeks ago
sfcrazy writes: Native support for Netflix is coming to Linux, thanks to their move from Silverlight to HTML5, Mozilla and Google Chrome. Paul Adolph from Netflix proposed a solution to Ubuntu developers: "Netflix will play with Chrome stable in 14.02 if NSS version 3.16.2 or greater is installed. If this version is generally installed across 14.02, Netflix would be able to make a change so users would no longer have to hack their User-Agent to play." The newer version of NSS is set to go out with the next security update.
178 comments | about two weeks ago
An anonymous reader sends this news from the BBC: Scotland voters decided to remain part of the United Kingdom on Friday, rejecting independence in a historic referendum. The decision prevented a rupture of a 307-year union with England, bringing a huge sigh of relief to the British political establishment. Scots voted 55.3 percent to 44.7 percent against independence in a vote that saw an unprecedented turnout. "Like millions of other people, I am delighted," Prime Minister David Cameron said in a speech outside 10 Downing Street on Friday morning. "It would have broken my heart to see our United Kingdom come to an end." Cameron promised new powers for Scotland in the wake of the vote, but also warned that millions of voices in England must also be heard, calling for a "balanced settlement" that would deliver more power to England, Wales and Northern Ireland. (Somewhat related: according to a Reuters poll, one in four Americans want their state to secede from the union.)
474 comments | about two weeks ago
concertina226 writes Scientists from three international universities have succeeded in twisting radio beams in order to transfer data at the speed of 32 gigabits per second, which is 30 times faster than 4G LTE wireless technology in use today. The researchers, led by Alan Willner, an electrical engineering professor with the University of Southern California Viterbi School of Engineering, successfully demonstrated data transmission rates of 32 gigabits per second across 2.5m of free space in a basement laboratory.
122 comments | about two weeks ago
mrspoonsi points out this BBC story about an eBay breach that was directing users to a spoof site. "eBay has been compromised so that people who clicked on some of its links were automatically diverted to a site designed to steal their credentials. The spoof site had been set up to look like the online marketplace's welcome page. The firm was alerted to the hack on Wednesday night but removed the listings only after a follow-up call from the BBC more than 12 hours later. One security expert said he was surprised by the length of time taken. 'EBay is a large company and it should have a 24/7 response team to deal with this — and this case is unambiguously bad,' said Dr Steven Murdoch from University College London's Information Security Research Group. The security researcher was able to analyze the listing involved before eBay removed it. He said that the technique used was known as a cross-site scripting (XSS) attack."
37 comments | about two weeks ago
dcblogs writes: Scotland is not a major high-tech employment center, but it has good universities and entrepreneurial energy. About 70,000 people work in tech out of a total workforce of about 2.5 million, or about 3%. By contrast, financial services accounts for about 15% of employment in Scotland. But passions are high. "Honest, I've never been so scared in my life," said Euan Mackenzie about the prospect of separating from the U.K. He runs a 16-employee start-up, 1partCarbon, in Edinburgh, a platform that builds medical systems. "For tech start-ups, funding will be tougher to find and more expensive, there will be no local banks, access to EU markets and the freedom of movement will be curtailed," said Mackenzie. "As someone who enjoys risk and new opportunities, my company will remain in Scotland and make the best of whichever side prevails on Thursday, but the effect of independence on tech start-ups and the whole Scottish economy will be cataclysmic," he said.
494 comments | about two weeks ago
Daniel_Stuckey writes: Friday night in Southern California's Silverado Valley, relief flew in on an old airliner. In this summer of drought and fire, the DC-10, an airplane phased out of passenger service in February, has been spotted from Idaho to Arizona delivering up to 12,000 gallons of fire retardant in a single acrobatic swoop.
The three-engine DC-10 entered service in 1970 as a passenger jet, and the last airplane working in that capacity, operated by Biman Bangladesh Airlines, made its final flight on February 24. But some designs defy obsolescence. The DC-10 had already been converted to function as a mid-air refueling airplane for the Air Force, and in 2006, the first fire-fighting DC-10 was unleashed on the Sawtooth fire in San Bernardino County, California.
112 comments | about two weeks ago
Reuters reports that plans for a major rewriting of international tax rules have been unveiled by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) that could eliminate structures that have allowed companies like Google and Amazon to shave billions of dollars off their tax bills. For more than 50 years, the OECD's work on international taxation has been focused on ensuring companies are not taxed twice on the same profits (and thereby hampering trade and limit global growth). But companies have been using such treaties to ensure profits are not taxed anywhere. A Reuters investigation last year found that three quarters of the 50 biggest U.S. technology companies channeled revenues from European sales into low tax jurisdictions like Ireland and Switzerland, rather than reporting them nationally.
For example, search giant Google takes advantage of tax treaties to channel more than $8 billion in untaxed profits out of Europe and Asia each year and into a subsidiary that is tax resident in Bermuda, which has no income tax. "We are putting an end to double non-taxation," says OECD head of tax Pascal Saint-Amans.For the recommendations to actually become binding, countries will have to encode them in their domestic laws or amend their bilateral tax treaties. Even if they do pass, these changes are likely 5-10 years away from going into effect. Speaking of international corporate business: U.K. mainframe company Micro Focus announced it will buy Attachmate, which includes Novell and SUSE.
324 comments | about two weeks ago
ashshy writes 200,000 Australian residents reportedly use Netflix today, tunneling their video traffic to the US, UK, and other Netflix markets via VPN connections. A proper Netflix Down Under service isn't expected to launch until 2015. Last week, Aussie video streaming company Quickflix told Netflix to stop this practice, so Australian viewers can return to Quickflix and other local alternatives. But Quickflix CEO Stephen Langsford didn't explain how Netflix could restrict Australian VPN users, beyond the IP geolocating and credit card billing address checks it already runs. Today, ZDNet's Josh Taylor ripped into the absurdity of Quickflix's demands. From the article: "If Netflix cuts those people off, they're going to know that it was at the behest of Foxtel and Quickflix, and would likely boycott those services instead of flocking to them. If nothing else, it would encourage those who have tried to do the right thing by subscribing and paying for content on Netflix to return to copyright infringement."
172 comments | about two weeks ago
concertina226 writes Harvard scientists have invented a new artificial spleen that is able to clear toxins, fungi and deadly pathogens such as Ebola from human blood, which could potentially save millions of lives. When antibiotics are used to kill them, dying viruses release toxins in the blood that begin to multiply quickly, causing sepsis, a life-threatening condition whereby the immune system overreacts, causing blood clotting, organ damage and inflammation. To overcome this, researchers have invented a "biospleen", a device similar to a dialysis machine that makes use of magnetic nanobeads measuring 128 nanometres in diameter (one-five hundredths the width of a single human hair) coated with mannose-binding lectin (MBL), a type of genetically engineered human blood protein.
106 comments | about two weeks ago
An anonymous reader writes Google has unveiled its first set of Android One low-cost smartphones in the Indian market, partnering with Indian hardware vendors Spice, Micromax and Karbonn. The three phones will be available online on Flipkart, Amazon and Snapdeal and via Reliance Digital, Croma and The Mobile Store, offline. The phones provide a minimum set of features determined by Google, which has sourced several of the components to help cut manufacturing costs. The company has also teamed up with a local network to make it cheaper to download Android updates and new apps.
50 comments | about two weeks ago