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Patents

Cisco Developing Royalty Free Video Codec: Thor 145

An anonymous reader writes: Video codec licensing has never been great, and it's gotten even more complicated and expensive in recent years. While H.264 had a single license pool and an upper bound on yearly licensing costs, successor H.265 has two pools (so far) and no limit. Cisco has decided that this precludes the use of H.265 in open source or other free-as-in-beer software, so they've struck out on their own to create a new, royalty-free codec called Thor. They've already open-sourced the code and invited contributions.

Cisco says, "The effort is being staffed by some of the world's most foremost codec experts, including the legendary Gisle Bjøntegaard and Arild Fuldseth, both of whom have been heavy contributors to prior video codecs. We also hired patent lawyers and consultants familiar with this technology area. We created a new codec development process which would allow us to work through the long list of patents in this space, and continually evolve our codec to work around or avoid those patents."
ISS

Video Urthecast Brings You Earth Images and Videos from the ISS (Video) 16

Most of us probably won't ever visit the International Space Station (ISS) and look down at the Earth (motto: "The only planet we know has beer, so let's not ruin it"). Looking at pictures and videos made by cameras mounted on the ISS is about as close as we're going to get. There's already an ISS HD Earth Viewing Experiment on Ustream, but Urthecast is putting out higher-definition images than what you see on Ustream, and has plans to put out even clearer images and video before long. While Urthecast is likely to accumulate plenty of "oohs" and "aahhs" as it rolls along, according to CEO Scott Larson their real objective is to sell imagery -- and not necessarily just from the visible light band of the overall spectrum -- to industrial and government users. People like us are still invited to look at (and marvel at) lovely images of our planetary home.

NOTE: Today's video is about 4:30 long. If you want to watch and listen to more of Mr. Larson, we have a second "bonus" (Flash) video for you. Or you can read the transcript, which covers both videos.
KDE

KDE Community Announces Fully Open Source Plasma Mobile 44

sfcrazy writes: Today, during the Akademy event, the KDE Community announced Plasma Mobile project. It's a Free (as in Freedom and beer), user-friendly, privacy-enabling and customizable platform for mobile devices. Plasma Mobile claims to be developed in an open process, and considering the community behind it, I don't doubt it. A great line: "Plasma Mobile is designed as an ‘inclusive’ platform and will support all kinds of apps. In addition to native apps written in Qt, it also supports GTK apps, Android apps, Ubuntu apps, and many others." And if you have a Nexus 5, you can download and play with a prototype now.
Open Source

Ask Slashdot: Building an Open Source Community For a Proprietary Software Product? 85

An anonymous reader writes: I run a company that develops scientific computing software. Our core product is a traditional proprietary application — we develop the software and deliver the "binaries" to our customers. We're considering changing our deployment to include all of the source code and giving our customers some additional rights to explore and extend it. The codebase is HTML/JavaScript/Python/SQL, so a lot of the code is available in some form already, albeit minified or byte compiled.

Because we are in a scientific domain, most of our customers use Open Source software alongside our product. We also maintain Open Source projects and directly support others. We're strong supporters of Open Source and understand the value of having access to the source code.

We also support a free (as in beer) version of the software with a smaller feature set (production and enterprise elements that individual users don't need are removed). We'd like that version to use the same model as well to give users that don't need the full commercial version the ability to extend the software and submit patches back to us for inclusion in future releases.

Overall, we'd really like to find a model that allows our core product to work more like an Open Source product while maintaining control over the distribution rights. We'd like to foster a community around the product but still generate revenue to fund it. In our space, the "give the product away but pay for support" model has never really worked. The market is too small and, importantly, most customers understand our value proposition and have no problem with our annual license model.

We've looked at traditional dual licensing approaches, but don't think they're really right fit, either. A single license that gives users access to the code but limits the ability to redistribute the code and distribute patches to the "core" is what we'd prefer. My questions for the Slashdot community: Does anyone have direct experience with models like this? Are there existing licenses that we should look at? What companies have succeeded doing this? Who has failed?
Education

Clinton Foundation: Kids' Lack of CS Savvy Threatens the US Economy 208

theodp writes: As the press digs for details on Clinton Foundation donations, including a reported $26+ million from Microsoft and Bill Gates, it's probably worth noting the interest the Clintons have developed in computer science and the role they have played — and continue to play — in the national K-12 CS and tech immigration crisis that materialized after Microsoft proposed creating such a crisis to advance its 'two-pronged' National Talent Strategy, which aims to increase K-12 CS education and the number of H-1B visas. Next thing you know, Bill is the face of CS at the launch of Code.org. Then Hillary uses the Clinton Global Initiative (CGI) conference to launch a Facebook, Microsoft, and Google initiative to boost the ranks of female and students of color in CS, and starts decrying woeful CS enrollment. Not to be left out, Chelsea keynotes the NCWIT Summit and launches Google's $50M girls-only Made With Code initiative with now-U.S. CTO Megan Smith. And last December, the Clinton Foundation touted its initiatives to engage middle school girls in CS, revamp the nation's AP CS program, and retrain out-of-work Americans as coders. At next month's CGI America 2015, the conference will kick off with a Beer Bust that CGI says "will also provide an opportunity to learn about Tech Girls Rock, a CGI Commitment to Action launched by CA Technologies in partnership with the Boys & Girls Clubs of America that helps girls discover an interest in tech-related educational opportunities and careers." On the following days, CGI sessions will discuss tech's need for a strong and diverse talent pipeline for computer and information technology jobs, which it says is threatened by "the persistent poor performance of American students in science, technology, engineering, and math," presenting "serious implications for the long-term competitiveness of the U.S. economy." So what's the long-term solution? Expanding CS education, of course!
Image

Broken Beer Bottle Battle In Debate Over Merits of Android Over iPhone Screenshot-sm 134

HughPickens.com writes Lee Hutchinson writes at Ars Technica that platform loyalty is a powerful thing, as two roommates in Tulsa, Oklahoma stabbed each other with broken beer bottles in a debate over the relative merits of Android versus iPhones. Tulsa police were called to Evergreen Apartments at 1 a.m after a woman found a man covered in blood, stumbling around the parking lot and found that two roommates had been drinking and arguing over their mobile phones. The two men broke beer bottles and stabbed each other with them and one of the men smashed a bottle over the back of the other man's head. "In over 35 years as a cop, this is one of the oddest reasons I've seen for assault," says Maj. Rod Hummel. According to Channel 8 News, police had no comment when asked which phone was in fact better.
Earth

Pull-Top Can Tabs, At 50, Reach Historic Archaeological Status 120

New submitter kuhnto writes A simple relic of 20th century life has taken on new meaning for archaeologists: The ring-tab beer can — first introduced 50 years ago — is now considered an historic-era artifact, a designation that bestows new significance on the old aluminum cans and their distinctive tabs that are still found across the country.
Education

Cannabis Smoking Makes Students Less Likely To Pass University Courses 291

Bruce66423 writes: A large scale European study shows that students who were unable to buy cannabis legally were 5% more likely to pass their University courses. Below-average students with no legal access to pot were 7.6% more likely to pass their courses, and the effect was five times more pronounced when dealing with courses involving math. One of the study's authors said, "We think this newfound effect on productivity from a change in legal access to cannabis is not negligible and should be, at least in the short run, politically relevant for any societal drug legalization and prohibition decision-making. In the bigger picture, our findings also indicate that soft drug consumption behavior is affected by their legal accessibility, which has not been causally demonstrated before. ... Considering the massive impact on cognitive performance high levels of THC have, I think it is reasonable to at least inform young users much more on consequences of consuming such products as compared with that of having a beer or pure vodka."
NASA

Sierra Nevada's Dream Chaser Could Land At Ellington Space Port Near Houston 24

MarkWhittington writes Despite having been rejected in NASA's commercial crew program, Sierra Nevada has been very busy trying to develop its lift body spacecraft, the Dream Chaser. Having rolled out a smaller, cargo version of the spacecraft for the second round for contracts for commercial cargo to the International Space Station, the company has amended the unfunded Space Act Agreement with NASA to add a closeout review milestone that would help transition the Dream Chaser from the preliminary design review to the critical design review step. Finally, Sierra Nevada announced a new agreement on Tuesday with the Houston Airport System to use Ellington Spaceport as a landing site for the cargo version of the Dream Chaser.
United Kingdom

UK Police and PRS Shut Down Karaoke Torrent Site 75

An anonymous reader writes with this news from Torrent Freak, from which he quotes: The City of London's Police Intellectual Property Crime Unit and copyright and royalty group PRS for Music have teamed up for what appears to be a first-of-its-kind action. Arresting a 46-year-old man, this week police shut down one of the Internet's few karaoke-focused BitTorrent trackers. While at some stages wildly popular in the East, to most in the West a night at a karaoke bar is probably more closely associated with too many beers and individuals belting out classics wearing the aural equivalent of beer goggles. The pastime is considered by some as a bit of a joke but karaoke is big business. According to the people behind the web-based Playstation software SingOn, the global karaoke market could be worth as much as $10 billion.
Medicine

Researchers: Alcohol Health Risks Underestimated, Marijuana Relatively Safe 398

schwit1 writes Compared to other recreational drugs — including alcohol — marijuana may be even safer than previously thought. And researchers may be systematically underestimating risks associated with alcohol use. They found that at the level of individual use, alcohol was the deadliest substance (abstract), followed by heroin and cocaine.
Transportation

Federal Study: Marijuana Use Doesn't Increase Auto Crash Rates 328

An anonymous reader writes: After the legalization of marijuana in multiple states around the U.S., many are worried about a corresponding uptick in car crashes as people drive while under the influence of pot. But according to a new federal study (PDF) commissioned by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, those fears seem unfounded. They report that after adjusting for other factors (people who tend to drive after using marijuana also tend to be more crash-prone in general), there was no statistically significant increase in crash rates by drivers who tested positive for the drug. It's still a bad idea to drive high, but driving drunk is far, far worse: "One substance was shown to have a major influence on crashes: alcohol. The study confirmed the enormous danger of drinking and driving, even after age and sex adjustment: drivers with a 0.05% blood-alcohol level were found to be twice as likely to be in a crash. For a person weighing 180 to 190 pounds, that could be a single can of beer, glass of wine, or shot of liquor. At 0.08% (two drinks), the likelihood is quadrupled, and at .20% (four drinks or more), the risk is higher by 23 times."
Government

Free-As-In-Beer Electricity In Greece? 690

PolygamousRanchKid writes New Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras will lay out his radical left-wing government's policies in a speech later on Sunday, firmly rejecting any more austerity forced on his debt-strapped country by its euro zone partners. In his first major speech to parliament as premier, Tsipras is expected to say that Greece wants no more bailout money, plans to renegotiate its debt deal and wants a "bridge agreement" to tide the country over until a new pact is sealed. A second part of the speech will touch on his government's social and fiscal policy over the longer term and is likely to repeat pledges for such things as a rise in the minimum wage and free electricity for poorer Greeks. Which gets me to thinking: with free electricity, wouldn't that be a great business opportunity, to build a cloud of servers in poorer Greeks' basements? Maybe that is the real plan behind the free electricity idea.
Beer

Study: Birds Slur Their Songs When Drunk, Just Like Humans 63

An anonymous reader sends word of researchers getting zebra finches drunk for science. "In the latest example of strange science, researchers at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland got some finches drunk and watched what happened. Their main finding? Like drunk humans, boozed-up birds slur their 'speech.' For the study, the researchers gave grape juice to one group of zebra finches and an alcoholic juice cocktail to another group. The cocktail-quaffing finches became somewhat inebriated, with blood alcohol levels of 0.05 percent to 0.08 percent, according to NPR. 'At first we were thinking that they wouldn't drink on their own because, you know, a lot of animals just won't touch the stuff,' Christopher Olson, a researcher at the university, told NPR. 'But they seem to tolerate it pretty well and be somewhat willing to consume it.'"
Technology

Ask Slashdot: What Tech Companies Won't Be Around In 10 Years? 332

An anonymous reader writes: It's interesting to look back a decade and see how the tech industry has changed. The mobile phone giants of 10 years ago have all struggled to compete with the smartphone newcomers. Meanwhile, the game console landscape is almost exactly the same. I'm sure few of us predicted Apple's rebirth over the past decade, and many of us thought Microsoft would have fallen a lot further by now. With that in mind, let's make some predictions. What companies aren't going to make it another 10 years? Are Facebook, Twitter, and the other social networking behemoths going to fade as quickly as they arose? What about the heralds of the so-called 'sharing economy,' like Uber? Are IBM and Oracle going to hang on? Along the same lines, what companies do you think will definitely stick around for another decade or more? Post your predictions for all to see. I'll buy you a beer in 10 years if you're right.
Beer

Problem Solver Beer Tells How Much To Drink To Boost Your Creativity 73

mrspoonsi writes When you've been stuck on a problem or that creative spark just won't come, the chances are you've turned to a cup of coffee to get things moving. A quick java infusion can certainly help, but studies also suggest that alcohol can also have a positive impact on your creative cognition. University of Illinois Professor Jennifer Wiley determined that a person's "creative peak" comes when their blood alcohol level reaches 0.075, lowering their ability to overthink during a task. Medical Daily reports that marketing agency CP+B Copenhagen and Danish brewery Rocket Brewing wanted to help drinkers reach their imaginative prime, so they decided to create their own beer to do just that. The result is The Problem Solver. It's a 7.1 percent craft IPA that its makers say offers a "refined bitterness with a refreshing finish." To ensure you reach the optimum creative level, the bottle includes a scale, which determines how much of the beer you need to drink based on your body weight. The agency does offer a word of warning though: "Enjoying the right amount will enhance your creative thinking. Drinking more will probably do exactly the opposite."
Electronic Frontier Foundation

Federal Court Nixes Weeks of Warrantless Video Surveillance 440

An anonymous reader writes with this news from the EFF's Deep Links: The public got an early holiday gift today when a federal court agreed with us that six weeks of continually video recording the front yard of someone's home without a search warrant violates the Fourth Amendment. In United States v. Vargas local police in rural Washington suspected Vargas of drug trafficking. In April 2013, police installed a camera on top of a utility pole overlooking his home. Even though police did not have a warrant, they nonetheless pointed the camera at his front door and driveway and began watching every day. A month later, police observed Vargas shoot some beer bottles with a gun and because Vargas was an undocumented immigrant, they had probable cause to believe he was illegally possessing a firearm. They used the video surveillance to obtain a warrant to search his home, which uncovered drugs and guns, leading to a federal indictment against Vargas.
Beer

No More Foamy Beer, Thanks To Magnets 130

sciencehabit writes Few sights at a bar are more deflating than a bottle of beer overflowing with foam. This overfoaming, called gushing, arises when fungi infect the barley grains in beer's malt base. The microorganisms latch onto barley with surface proteins called hydrophobins. During the brewing process, these hydrophobins can attract carbon dioxide molecules produced by the mashed barley as it ferments, making the beer far too bubbly. Brewers try to tamp down the gushing by adding hops extract, an antifoaming agent that binds to the proteins first. Now, food scientists in Belgium have hit upon a technological solution: magnets. When the team applied a magnetic field to a malt infused with hops extract, the magnets dispersed the antifoaming agent into tinier particles. Those smaller particles were much more effective at binding to more hydrophobins, blocking carbon dioxide and decreasing gushing. During tests in a real brewery, the magnets decreased excess foaming so effectively that brewers needed much lower amounts of hops extract—a potential cost-saving measure. Future studies could explore whether magnetic fields alone could reduce foaming on an industrial scale, the team says.
Beer

Open Source Craft Brewery Shares More Than Recipes 50

Jason Hibbets writes An open source craft brewery in Saint Paul, Minnesota is taking open source beyond sharing recipes. The goal for Tin Whiskers Brewing Company is to "engage and give back to the community by sharing an inside look at opening and operating a craft brewery." In this interview with co-founder George Kellerman, we learn a little more about why the trio of hobbyists who started the brewing company took the path to becoming professional brewers and why they decided to be more open. "The brewery community was extremely helpful and open, so being open ourselves seemed like a great way to honor that," Kellerman said.
Programming

New Book Argues Automation Is Making Software Developers Less Capable 212

dcblogs writes: Nicholas Carr, who stirred up the tech world with his 2003 essay, IT Doesn't Matter in the Harvard Business Review, has published a new book, The Glass Cage, Automation and Us, that looks at the impact of automation of higher-level jobs. It examines the possibility that businesses are moving too quickly to automate white collar jobs. It also argues that the software profession's push to "to ease the strain of thinking is taking a toll on their own [developer] skills." In an interview, Carr was asked if software developers are becoming less capable. He said, "I think in many cases they are. Not in all cases. We see concerns — this is the kind of tricky balancing act that we always have to engage in when we automate — and the question is: Is the automation pushing people up to higher level of skills or is it turning them into machine operators or computer operators — people who end up de-skilled by the process and have less interesting work?

I certainly think we see it in software programming itself. If you can look to integrated development environments, other automated tools, to automate tasks that you have already mastered, and that have thus become routine to you that can free up your time, [that] frees up your mental energy to think about harder problems. On the other hand, if we use automation to simply replace hard work, and therefore prevent you from fully mastering various levels of skills, it can actually have the opposite effect. Instead of lifting you up, it can establish a ceiling above which your mastery can't go because you're simply not practicing the fundamental skills that are required as kind of a baseline to jump to the next level."