Web tech geek and philosophical book worm
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Survey adds detail to patterns of sexism and harassment in the tech industry

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 The problem of sexism is front and center in the technology industry right now, but for those not directly affected (read: men like me) the problem can languish in the middle: too close to see the scale of it, but not close enough to see the details. A new survey of tech workers fills out this picture nicely, and identifies interesting — and depressing — contrasts in… Read More







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erezny
1818 days ago
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Utility-scale solar costs down by half in last five years alone

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Earlier this week, Lawrence Berkeley National Labs released a report on the state of utility-scale solar installations in the US. Just about everything in the report is remarkable for anyone who's followed the solar market closely. Over the past five years, prices have dropped by half, while the capacity factors are approaching that of wind. As a result, the most recent installations are offering power at prices that are competitive with natural gas—not the cost of the plant and fuel, but the fuel alone.

In 2014, utility-scale solar projects added about 4GW of capacity to the US grid. Slightly more than 6GW of solar capacity was added in total, with the remainder split between commercial and residential installs. Due to the rapid drop in prices, the majority of this capacity is in the form of photovoltaic panels.

One of the issues with utility-scale solar has been that some of the earlier plants were built outside the Southwest. This has meant less overall generation and a lower capacity factor, meaning that the panels are only producing power at a fraction of their maximal rate. Both of these raise the cost of the electricity generated. But installations in the Southwest have boomed to over 90 percent of the total installed hardware. This has capacity factors up and costs down. More recently, large projects have been getting more popular in the Southeast, which may change this dynamic in the future.

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erezny
2502 days ago
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California Lawmakers Propose Task Force to Review Computer Crime Laws—Guess Who’s Not Invited to the Table

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Whenever lawmakers congregate to discuss computer crime, you can reliably predict that the debate will gravitate toward expanding police powers, leaving the realistic concerns of everyday Internet users by the wayside. After all, fearmongering around the film War Games helped fuel the passage of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, one of the most egregious laws the digital world has ever faced.

This legislative session, California lawmakers have proposed creating the California High Technology Crimes Task Force, which would be assigned to reevaluate the laws governing prosecution of identity theft, credit card fraud, and unspecificed “Internet crimes” that would presumably include copyright infringement. The body would issue recommendations for future legislation, as well as identify funding opportunities for law enforcement and victim assistance. 

Reforming computer crime statutes isn’t necessarily a bad idea, as long as the group were to take a balanced approach. Unfortunately, the make-up of the proposed task force is anything but balanced.

Under Assemblymember Jim Cooper's A.B. 1493, the 11-member body would include:

(1) A designee of the California District Attorneys Association.

(2) A designee of the California State Sheriffs’ Association.

(3) A designee of the California Police Chiefs Association.

(4) A designee of the Department of the California Highway Patrol.

(5) A designee of the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

(6) A designee of the Attorney General.

(7) A representative of the California cellular telephone industry.

(8) A representative of the California Internet industry.

(9) A representative of the California cable industry.

(10) A representative of the California movie industry.

(11) A representative of the California banking industry.

Notice anyone missing from the list? How about representatives from privacy and civil liberties organizations? How about someone from the victim’s rights community? How about a law professor? Not even a single computer scientist or technologist is included in the mix.

Instead, the California High Technology Crimes Task Force will be made of three law enforcement officials, three law enforcement interests groups, and five members representing corporations.  As we wrote in our letter opposing the bill [PDF], this would create a biased entity that will generate flawed policy recommendations that favor business and police interests, but not those of the general public. For example, there is little incentive for the banking industry to propose policies that would require more accountability on their part when it comes to lax security measures.

If the corporate lobby and the law enforcement lobby want to get together to hammer out a unified legislative agenda, that’s their right, but they should do it on their own time and on their own dime and without the imprimatur of the California government.

A.B. 1439 is currently before the California Assembly Appropriations Committee, which must act on the bill by May 29. 

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erezny
2643 days ago
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Spectroscopy

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Although right now I'm more excited about ESPRESSO's radial velocity measurements, so I'm listening to This Kiss, her song about measuring "centrifugal motion" on "a rooftop under the sky".
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erezny
2661 days ago
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2 public comments
jantdm
2657 days ago
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Watch Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey Episode 5 "Hiding in the Light"!
Munich, Germany
alt_text_bot
2662 days ago
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Although right now I'm more excited about ESPRESSO's radial velocity measurements, so I'm listening to This Kiss, her song about measuring "centrifugal motion" on "a rooftop under the sky".

13-year-old Minecraft player confesses to swatting, police say

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A 13-year-old Southern California boy has confessed to three different swattings, one in which he threatened to blow up a house with hostages in a suburban neighborhood, police said Friday.

"The Camarillo incident there were 20-plus officers there. I was at that call. We basically surrounded the house. The caller reported there were 10 hostages in the house and demanded $30,000 in cash or he would blow up the house," Det. Gene Martinez of the Ventura County Sheriff's Department said in a telephone interview with Ars. "Whenever there is a hostage situation, we activate specialized units to respond."

The boy has been released to the custody of his parents pending a juvenile court hearing scheduled next month. Because of his age, his name was not released. He is likely to get a probation term as punishment.

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erezny
2679 days ago
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Swatting, the militarized world equivalent of fake bomb threats.
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AT&T’s plan to watch your Web browsing—and what you can do about it

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If you have AT&T’s gigabit Internet service and wonder why it seems so affordable, here's the reason—AT&T is boosting profits by rerouting all your Web browsing to an in-house traffic scanning platform, analyzing your Internet habits, then using the results to deliver personalized ads to the websites you visit, e-mail to your inbox, and junk mail to your front door.

In a few select areas including Austin, Texas, and Kansas City, Missouri—places where AT&T competes against the $70-per-month Google Fiber—Ma Bell offers its own $70-per-month "GigaPower" fiber-to-the-home Internet access. But signing up for the deal also opts customers in to AT&T’s “Internet Preferences” program, which gives the company permission to examine each customer’s Web traffic in exchange for a price that matches Google's.

AT&T charges at least another $29 a month ($99 total) to provide standalone Internet service that doesn’t perform this extra scanning of your Web traffic. The privacy fee can balloon to more than $60 for bundles including TV or phone service. Certain modem rental and installation fees also apply only to service plans without Internet Preferences.

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erezny
2679 days ago
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Solution: Buy a VPN
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