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Rooftop Solar Could Reach Price Parity In the US By 2016

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Lucas123 writes: The cost of rooftop solar-powered electricity will be on par with prices of coal-powered energy and other conventional sources in all 50 U.S. states in just two years, a leap from today where PV energy has price parity in only 10 states, according to Deutsche Bank's leading solar industry analyst. The sharp decline in solar energy costs is the result of increased economies of scale leading to cheaper photovoltaic panels, new leasing models and declining installation costs, Deutsche Bank's Vishal Shah stated in a recent report. The cost of solar-generated electricity in the top 10 states for capacity ranges from 11-15 cents per kilowatt hour (c/kWh), compared to the retail electricity price of 11-37 c/kWh. Amit Ronen, a former Congressional staffer behind legislation that created an investment tax credit for solar installations, said one of the only impediments to decreasing solar electricity prices are fees proposed by utilities on customers who install solar and take advantage of net metering, or the ability to sell excess power back to utilities.

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Elusive Dark Matter May Be Detected With GPS Satellites

Slashdot -

An anonymous reader writes: Two researchers say time disparities identified through the network of satellites that make up our modern GPS infrastructure can help detect dark matter. In a paper in the online version of the scientific journal Nature Physics, they write that dark matter may be organized as a large gas-like collection of topological defects, or energy cracks. "We propose to detect the defects, the dark matter, as they sweep through us with a network of sensitive atomic clocks. The idea is, where the clocks go out of synchronization, we would know that dark matter, the topological defect, has passed by." Another reader adds this article about research into dark energy: The particles of the standard model, some type of dark matter and dark energy, and the four fundamental forces. That's all there is, right? But that might not be the case at all. Dark energy may not simply be the energy inherent to space itself, but rather a dynamical property that emerges from the Universe: a sort of fifth force. This is speculation that's been around for over a decade, but there hasn't been a way to test it until now. If this is the case, it may be accessible and testable by simply using presently existing vacuum chamber technology

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ACLU of California’s Smart About Surveillance Report: A Smart Way to Fight Local Spying

EFF's Deeplinks -

Think you know how your local cops are spying on you? The ACLU of California’s “Making Smart Decisions About Surveillance: A Guide for Communities” is a new resource that can help you figure out what surveillance technology is being deployed in your community—and what you can do about it. And as we’ve pointed out, while we hope everyone continues to let Congress know that it’s time for real changes to spying by federal agencies, the use of surveillance techniques and technology by local law enforcement is an area ripe for  grassroots organizing.

Although the guide is specifically directed at California, it contains a wealth of information and ideas that are helpful for grassroots activists across the country who are concerned about the proliferation of drones, automated license plate readers, facial recognition, and more in their community. From Washington state to Washington D.C., the model ordinance and tips are useful for any concerned residents.  

The guide focuses on the need for community engagement, noting: “[T]he time to engage with your community is at the very beginning of the process, before any funding is sought, technology is acquired or system is used.”

Fortunately, ACLU provides a step by step process activists can take to ensure this happens, explaining how to do a “surveillance impact report.” The process includes an assessment of all costs—including potential costs to civil liberties:

Surveillance can easily intrude upon the rights of residents and visitors if it is used, or creates the perception that it may be used, to monitor individuals and groups exercising their rights to freedom of expression, association, and religion — freedoms that public officials are sworn to protect. In addition, surveillance can erode trust in law enforcement, making it harder for officers and community members to work together to keep the community safe.

We were especially pleased to see the focus on understanding technology. The guide recommends that a surveillance impact report include “information describing the technology, how it works, and what it collects, including technology specification sheets from manufacturers.”

This is an issue that we repeatedly emphasized during the fight around Oakland’s Domain Awareness Center, a surveillance system that could enable ubiquitous privacy and civil liberties violations against Oakland residents. The DAC was pushed through Oakland’s City Council with little review until activists put serious pressure on the Council.

In two letters, EFF pointed out that the Council didn’t appear to have a clear understanding of how the system would work and certainly hadn’t provided that information to the community. After a long battle, the DAC was reduced in scale—but not until after the cash-strapped city of Oakland was forced to spend money removing components of the system due to the community backlash.

The DAC fight is among the valuable case studies ACLU includes in the guide. These case studies provide inspiration and experience for anyone who wants to use the resources included. We hope that activists will use this guide as a way to ensure that, when it comes to local use of surveillance equipment, everyone knows: the community is watching the watchers.


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EFF Fights Government's Effort to Get Cell Location Records Without a Warrant

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Once again, a federal court will decide whether police can track your movements over an extended period of time without a search warrant. Federal and state courts have divided over whether the Fourth Amendment requires police seek a search warrant to obtain historical cell site location information (CSLI)—the records of which cell phone towers your phone has connected to in the past. We’ve weighed in, filing a new amicus brief in one of the most important legal cases to watch in 2015. 

In United States v. Davis, police obtained 67 days of cell site location information about Quartavious Davis without a search warrant and used it to pinpoint him at various robberies in Florida. When Davis’ case was on appeal before a three-judge panel of the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals, we joined a number of organizations and filed an amicus brief arguing that, because location information like CSLI reveals sensitive information about where a person has been, the Fourth Amendment requires a warrant. In June, the three judge panel agreed with us, finding Davis had a Fourth Amendment expectation of privacy in the location information generated by his cell phone and held police needed to get a warrant to access this information from the cell phone company.

The government was naturally unhappy with this ruling, as it conflicted with a 2013 decision from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, which held police didn’t need a warrant to access this data. Additionally, the Davis panel decision got other federal judges questioning the government’s practices, so the government convinced all of the judges of the Eleventh Circuit to rehear the case en banc. With the full court now looking at the issue again, we filed a new amicus brief explaining why it’s reasonable for Americans generally and Floridians specifically to expect this sensitive location information is private and worthy of warrant protection.

A Pew Research Center study published last week showed that 82% of Americans consider the details of their physical location over time to be sensitive information—more sensitive than their relationship history, religious or political views, or the content of their text messages. It’s no surprise then that the last few months have seen a number of state courts and legislatures take steps to safeguard this data with warrant protection. That includes the Florida Supreme Court, which held last month police needed a warrant to track a person in real time via their cell phone.

As our brief in Davis makes clear, the fact that Florida has specifically promised its residents that their cell phone location records are private, and the fact that more and more Americans live in places that also protect this sensitive information, show it’s reasonable for people to expect CSLI is private, and it's unreasonable for the government to argue otherwise.

Interestingly, immediately after the Davis panel issued its opinion, we wondered whether telephone providers would begin to demand law enforcement use a warrant to get location information. And while we don’t know if providers are demanding warrants, AT&T did file an amicus brief in this case suggesting that the “third party doctrine”—the idea that there’s no Fourth Amendment protection for information disclosed to third parties, like a cell phone provider—should not control the court’s analysis. We’ve been saying the same thing for years.

The fact that one of the largest cell phone companies in the U.S. decided to weigh in only bolsters our point about the need to protect this sensitive data with a warrant. Even the phone companies recognize that cell phones are an integral part of modern life, capable of revealing detailed sensitive information about where we go and with whom. If state courts, legislatures, and the phone companies can all see why this information is sensitive and worthy of legal protection, why can’t the government?

We expect oral argument before the Eleventh Circuit sometime in the spring of 2015.

Files:  US v. Davis EFF En Banc Amicus BriefRelated Issues: PrivacyCell TrackingLocational PrivacyRelated Cases: United States v. Davis
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NYT: Privacy Concerns For ClassDojo, Other Tracking Apps For Schoolchildren

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theodp writes: The NY Times' Natasha Singer files a report on popular and controversial behavior tracking app ClassDojo, which teachers use to keep a running tally of each student's score, award virtual badges for obedience, and to communicate with parents about their child's progress. "I like it because you get rewarded for your good behavior — like a dog does when it gets a treat," was one third grader's testimonial. Some parents, teachers and privacy law scholars say ClassDojo (investors) — along with other unproven technologies that record sensitive information about students — is being adopted without sufficiently considering the ramifications for data privacy and fairness. "ClassDojo," writes Singer, "does not seek explicit parental consent for teachers to log detailed information about a child's conduct. Although the app's terms of service state that teachers who sign up guarantee that their schools have authorized them to do so, many teachers can download ClassDojo, and other free apps, without vetting by school supervisors. Neither the New York City nor Los Angeles school districts, for example, keep track of teachers independently using apps." A high school teacher interviewed for the article confessed to having not read ClassDojo's policies on handling student data, saying: "I'm one of those people who, when the terms of service are 18 pages, I just click agree." And, if all this doesn't make you parents just a tad nervous, check out this response to the "Has anyone ran a data analysis on their CD data?" question posed to the Class Dojo Community: "I needed to analyze data in regards to a student being placed on ADHD medicine to see whether or not he made any improvements. I have also used it to determine any behavioral changes depending on if a student was with mom/dad for a custody review. I use dojo consistently, so I LOVE getting to use the data to evaluate and share with parents, or even administrators."

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Player-Run MMORPG By Former Ultima Online Devs Finding Kickstarter Success

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An anonymous reader writes: Shards Online has returned to Kickstarter with a refocused plan and a promise to match pledges dollar-for-dollar up to their goal. With just a week gone by, they have already reached 75% of their goal. Project Lead Derek Brinkmann says, "If Ultima Online and Neverwinter Nights had a love child, Shards Online would be the result. By combining the persistent virtual world of Ultima Online with the freedom of community run servers and the ability to act as a dungeonmaster in Neverwinter Nights, we are creating a paradise for roleplayers where you are no longer constrained by the rules handed to you by the development team." The team now has their sights set on their stretch goals like more animations for roleplayers and an extra game world to be released at Alpha.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








Appeals Court Rules in Favor of Anonymous Speech in California Prop. 35 Case

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ACLU of Northern California, EFF Prevail in Appeal Over Internet Restrictions for Registered Sex Offenders

San Francisco - The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled today that Proposition 35, a 2012 California ballot initiative that would have restricted the rights of registered sex offenders to communicate on the Internet, is likely unconstitutional. The opinion affirms an earlier district court ruling in Doe v. Harris, a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Northern California and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) in 2012.

Proposition 35, also known as the Californians Against Sexual Exploitation Act (CASE Act), requires anyone who is a registered sex offender—even people with decades-old, low-level offenses whose offenses were not related to the Internet—to turn over a list of all their Internet user names and online service providers to law enforcement. Under the law, more than 73,000 Californians would have been forced to provide this information to the government, and report any new account or screen name within 24 hours of setting it up, even if the new screen name is their own real name. Violations would have potentially resulted in years in prison.

"The Ninth Circuit has agreed that the onerous online speech restrictions required by Prop. 35 violate the First Amendment," said Linda Lye, senior staff attorney at the ACLU of Northern California. "The portions of Prop. 35 that unconstitutionally limit what people say online won't help us end human trafficking. Anonymity is key to protecting speech by unpopular or controversial groups and allowing robust political debate."

The ACLU of Northern California and EFF filed a lawsuit the day after the law was passed in 2012, challenging these reporting requirements as a burden on the First Amendment right to free and anonymous speech. A lower court agreed with the groups in January 2013 and issued a preliminary injunction, halting enforcement of the law. Today, the Ninth Circuit upheld that lower court ruling.

"[T]he CASE Act directly and exclusively burdens speech, and a substantial amount of that speech is clearly protected under the First Amendment," Ninth Circuit Judge Jay Bybee wrote in the opinion.

The court noted that the law was overly broad, affecting speech unrelated to sexual offenses, such as "blogging about political topics and posting comments to online news articles. " This creates the "inevitable effect of burdening sex offenders' ability to engage in anonymous online speech," Bybee wrote. The court also found that there was no evidence that throwing out this part of Proposition 35 would hamper the state's ability to investigate online sex offenses.

"We're pleased the court recognized important First Amendment principles of free and anonymous speech apply to everyone, regardless of what crimes they may have committed in the past," EFF Staff Attorney Hanni Fakhoury said. "While the law may be well-intentioned, its broad language opened the door for the government to chill free speech. Restrictions targeting sex offenders are often a stepping stone for the expansion of law enforcement power against other classes of unpopular people."

The court's ruling means the preliminary injunction prohibiting enforcement of the reporting requirements of the CASE Act remains in effect.

Contact:

Dave Maass
   Media Relations Coordinator
   Electronic Frontier Foundation
   press@eff.org


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Collin Graver and his Wooden Bicycle (Video)

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This is not a practical bike. "Even on smooth pavement, your vision goes blurry because you're vibrating so hard," Collin said to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter back in 2012 when he was only 15 -- and already building wooden bicycles. Collin's wooden bikes are far from the first ones. Wikipedia says, "The first bicycles recorded, known variously as velocipedes, dandy horses, or hobby horses, were constructed from wood, starting in 1817." And not all wooden bicycles made today are as crude as Collin's. A Portland (OR) company called Renovo makes competition-quality hardwood bicycle frames -- for as little as $2200, and a bunch more for a complete bike with all its hardware fitted and ready to roll. Of course, while it might be sensible to buy a Renovo product if you want a wood-framed bike to Race Across America, you won't improve your woodworking skills the way Collin's projects have improved his to the point where he's made a nice-looking pair of wood-framed sunglasses described in his WOOD YOU? SHOULD YOU? blog. (Alternate Video Link)

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Amazon’s Android app now supports Lollipop, Android Wear

Liliputing -

Amazon may be busy developing its own version of Android for its Fire tablets, phones, and TV boxes. But the company wants you to use its apps and services whether you’ve got Amazon hardware or not — which is why it seemed a little strange that the Amazon Mobile app for Android didn’t yet support […]

Amazon’s Android app now supports Lollipop, Android Wear is a post from: Liliputing

Chrome 39 Launches With 64-bit Version For Mac OS X and New Developer Features

Slashdot -

An anonymous reader writes "Google today released Chrome 39 for Windows, Mac, and Linux. The biggest addition in this release is 64-bit support for OS X, which first arrived in Chrome 38 beta. Unlike on Windows, where 32-bit and 64-bit versions will both continue to be available (users currently have to opt-in to use the 64-bit release), Chrome for Mac is now only available in 64-bit. There are also a number of security fixes and developer features. Here's the full changelog.

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Ask Slashdot: Professionally Packaged Tools For Teaching Kids To Program?

Slashdot -

Binestar writes: I've been doing IT consulting for years, but I'm not a programmer beyond bash scripting, perl scripts to make administration easier, and batch files to make Windows easier. I recently found an online course for modding Minecraft that my 9-year-old daughter is really enjoying (she built a custom sword that shoots lightning). Does anyone have any recommendations on online courses that would be age appropriate and worth the investment? It's been easy to get her interested in the Minecraft modding course because, as any parent with young children knows, Minecraft is kinda popular... The course she's taking now is teaching her Eclipse and Gimp, and I'm sure there are other tools installed that they haven't had her open yet. What other vendors have stuff worth introducing her to? I've also started looking at things like the Kano and Learn to Mod, but as a non-programmer, I'm not really sure which are most useful for introduction and which are accomplishing what they claim vs. being a waste of money/time. Anyone have experience or suggestions to help sort this out?

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Laser Creates Quantum Whirlpool

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Quantus347 writes: Physicists at The Australian National Univ. (ANU) have engineered a spiral laser beam and used it to create a whirlpool of hybrid light-matter particles called polaritons. Polaritons are hybrid particles that have properties of both matter and light. The ability to control polariton flows in this way could aid the development of completely novel technology to link conventional electronics with new laser- and fiber-based technologies. Polaritons form in semiconductors when laser light interacts with electrons and holes (positively charged vacancies) so strongly that it is no longer possible to distinguish light from matter.

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Apple Watch, Android Auto apps on the way thanks to new dev tools

Liliputing -

Apple and Google are both inviting developers to create new kinds of apps today. Google has released the first APIs for Android Auto, enabling developers to create Android apps that can work with supported in-vehicle systems. Apple, meanwhile, has released WatchKit, a new set of tools that let developers create apps for the upcoming Apple […]

Apple Watch, Android Auto apps on the way thanks to new dev tools is a post from: Liliputing

Launching 2015: a New Certificate Authority To Encrypt the Entire Web

Slashdot -

Peter Eckersley writes: Today EFF, Mozilla, Cisco, and Akamai announced a forthcoming project called Let's Encrypt. Let's Encrypt will be a certificate authority that issues free certificates to any website, using automated protocols (demo video here). Launching in summer 2015, we believe this will be the missing piece that deprecates the woefully insecure HTTP protocol in favor of HTTPS.

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Ramos launches i9s gaming tablet with Bluetooth controller

Liliputing -

Once upon a time tablets aimed at gamers had touchscreen displays surrounded by gaming buttons so you could hold the tablet in two hands while playing it like a giant Gameboy or PlayStation Portable. These days companies are taking a different approach. The NVIDIA Shield Tablet is aimed at gamers… but the 8 inch tablet […]

Ramos launches i9s gaming tablet with Bluetooth controller is a post from: Liliputing

US Marshals Auctioning $20M Worth of Silk Road's Bitcoins

Slashdot -

coondoggie writes: The U.S. Marshals office says it will auction off almost 50,000 bitcoins (about $20 million worth) seized from alleged Silk Road creator Ross Ulbricht. The auction, which is the second sale of Silk Road's bitcoin collection, will take place during a 6-hour period on Dec. 4 from 8:00 a.m. until 2:00 p.m. EST. Bids will be accepted by email from pre-registered bidders only, the U.S. Marshals office said. In June more than $17 million in bitcoins seized from the Silk Road take-down were auctioned off.

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Major Brain Pathway Rediscovered After Century-old Confusion, Controversy

Slashdot -

vinces99 writes A couple of years ago a scientist looking at dozens of MRI scans of human brains noticed something surprising: A large fiber pathway that seemed to be part of the network of connections that process visual information that wasn't mentioned in any modern-day anatomy textbooks. "It was this massive bundle of fibers, visible in every brain I examined," said Jason Yeatman, a research scientist at the University of Washington's Institute for Learning & Brain Sciences. "... As far as I could tell, it was absent from the literature and from all major neuroanatomy textbooks.'"With colleagues at Stanford University, Yeatman started some detective work to figure out the identity of that mysterious fiber bundle. The researchers found an early 20th century atlas that depicted the structure, now known as the vertical occipital fasciculus. But the last time that atlas had been checked out was 1912, meaning the researchers were the first to view the images in the last century. They describes the history and controversy of the elusive pathway in a paper published Nov. 17 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. You'd think that we'd have found all the parts of the human body by now, but not necessarily.

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Marvell introduces 2 new ARM Cortex-A53 chips for phones, tablets

Liliputing -

Chip maker Marvell launched its first processor based on an ARM Cortex-A53 design earlier this year. Now the company has two more chips on the way. Both are based on ARMv8, 64-bit architecture, feature support for 4G LTE networks, and are aimed at smartphones and tablets. The Marvell Armada Mobile PXA1908 quad-core and PXA1936 octa-core chips […]

Marvell introduces 2 new ARM Cortex-A53 chips for phones, tablets is a post from: Liliputing

Interviews: Ask Malcolm Gladwell a Question

Slashdot -

Malcolm Gladwell is a speaker, author, and staff writer for The New Yorker since 1996. Gladwell's writing often focuses on research in the social sciences and the unexpected connections or theories made from such research. His books: The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference, Outliers: The Story of Success, and David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants are all New York Times best sellers. Malcolm has agreed to give us some of his time to answer any question you may have. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one per post.

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