Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Bloomberg reports that the oil industry is pressuring President Barack Obama to end the 41-year-old ban on most crude exports but British Petroleum (BP) isn't waiting for a decision. The British oil giant has signed on to take at least 80 percent of the capacity of a new $360 million mini-refinery in Houston that will process crude just enough to escape restrictions on sales outside the country. 'It's a relatively inexpensive way around the export prohibition,' says Judith Dwarkin 'You can lightly ruffle the hydrocarbons and they are considered processed and then they aren't subject to the ban.' Amid a flood of new US oil, the demand for simple, one-step plants capable of transforming raw crude into exportable products such as propane is feeding a construction boom along the Gulf Coast. The first such mini-refinery, built for 1/10 the cost of a complex, full-scale refinery, is scheduled to open the first phase of its 100,000 barrel-a-day crude processing plant in July, The mini-refineries take advantage of the law that allows products refined from oil to be sold overseas, though not the raw crude itself. 'The international buyers of these products will likely need to refine them further, so this is basically a veiled form of condensate exports,' says Leo Mariani."
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Jim_Austin writes "Academic science labs are generally far less safe than labs in industry; one estimate says that people working in academic labs are 11x more likely to be hurt than their industrial counterparts. A group of grad students and postdocs in Minnesota decided to address the issue had-on. With encouragement and funding from DOW, and some leadership from their department chairs, they're in the process of totally remaking their departments' safety cultures."
kc123 writes "In an effort to deal with copyright infringement Getty Images is launching a new embedding feature that will make more than 35 million images freely available to anyone for non-commercial usage. Anyone will be able to visit Getty Images' library of content, select an image and copy an embed HTML code to use that image on their own websites. Getty Images will serve the image in an embedded player – very much like YouTube currently does with its videos – which will include the full copyright information and a link back to the image's dedicated licensing page on the Getty Images website."
An anonymous reader writes with this excerpt: "The CEO of a virtual-currency exchange was found dead near her home in Singapore. A police spokesman said Thursday that initial investigations indicated there was no suspicion of 'foul play' in the Feb. 26 death, meaning officers do not suspect murder. The spokesman said police found 28-year-old Autumn Radtke, an American, lying motionless near the apartment tower where she lived. Police have so far classified the death as 'unnatural,' which can mean an accident, misadventure, or suicide." Hat tip to Jamie McCarthy for Slate's thoughtful take on Radtke's death, and the way it's been reported (notably, several sources have speculated that her death was a suicide, with little support).
An anonymous reader writes "Dell is charging customers £16.25 ($27.18) to install Firefox on a newly purchased computer. We contacted Mozilla to find out more. The company told us it is investigating the issue and denied it has any such a deal in place. 'There is no agreement between Dell and Mozilla which allows Dell or anyone else to charge for installing Firefox using that brand name,' Mozilla's Vice President and General Counsel Denelle Dixon-Thayer told TNW. 'Our trademark policy makes clear that this is not permitted and we are investigating this specific report.' Dell has responded by saying that this practice is okay because the company is charging for the service and not the product."
itwbennett writes "Oregon is holding back $25.6 million in payments from Oracle (out of some $69.5 million Oracle claims it is owed) over work the vendor did on the state's troubled health care exchange website. The site was supposed to go live on Oct. 1 but its launch has been marred by a slew of bugs and it is not yet fully functional. This week, Cover Oregon said it had reached an agreement with Oracle laying out 'an orderly transition of technology development services, and protects current and future Cover Oregon enrollees,' according to a statement. Oregon officials reached the deal with Oracle after the company reportedly threatened to pull all of its workers off the project and essentially walk away."
mrspoonsi writes with this excerpt from Business Insider on Steve Ballmer's final months as Microsoft CEO: "Ballmer decided to announce his retirement a few years before anyone expected him to. It all came to a head in one board meeting with Ballmer in June 2013. According to Businessweek, Ballmer got into a shouting match with Microsoft's board when directors said they didn't want to buy Nokia and start making smartphones. Ballmer told the board last June that if he didn't get what he wanted, he wouldn't be CEO any more. Businessweek said Ballmer's shouts could be heard in the hall outside the conference room. In the end, the board compromised with Ballmer. Ballmer wanted to buy both Nokia's handset business and its mapping platform called HERE. Instead, Microsoft ended up buying just the handset business for $7.2 billion and licensed HERE maps from Nokia." Ballmer seems to be regretting not getting into hardware sooner (although given that not making hardware propelled them to success in the 90s...)
An anonymous reader writes "Last week Valve made an interesting but seemingly innocuous announcement: they're giving game developers control of their own pricing on Steam. Nicholas Lovell now claims that this has effectively kicked off a race to zero for PC game pricing. He says what's starting to happen now will mirror what's happened to mobile gaming over the past several years. Quoting: 'Free is the dominant price point on mobile platforms. Why? Because the two main players don't care much about making money from the sale of software, or even In-App Purchases. The AppStore is less than 1% of Apple's revenue. Apple has become one of the most valuable companies in the world on the strength of making high-margin, well-designed, highly-desirable hardware. ... Google didn't create Android to sell software. It built Android to create an economic moat. ... In the case of both iOS and Android, keeping prices high for software would have been in direct opposition to the core businesses of Apple (hardware) and Google (search-related advertising). The only reason that ebooks are not yet free is that Amazon's core business is retail, not hardware. ... Which brings me to Steam. The Steambox is a competitor to consoles, created by Valve. It is supposed to provide an out-of-the-box PC gaming experience, although it struggles to compete on either price or on marketing with the consoles. It doesn't seem as if Steam is keen to subsidize the costs of the box, not to the level that Microsoft and Sony are. But what if Steam's [unique selling point] was thousands or tens of thousands of games for free?'"
sandbagger writes "It looks like technical writers won't be unemployed any time soon. According to a recent study reported on by the LA Times, 11% of Americans thought HTML was a sexually-transmitted disease. The study, by coupon site VoucherCloud, involved 2,392 men and women 18 years of age or older. 27% thought 'gigabyte' was a South American insect, and 23% thought MP3 was a Star Wars robot. The participants were not told that the study was specifically looking into their knowledge of tech terms. They were presented with both tech and non-tech terms and were asked to choose from three possible definitions. 18% identified 'Blu-ray' as a marine animal, and 15% thought 'software' was comfortable clothing."
BUL2294 writes "The Chicago Tribune is reporting that, over the next few months in Chicago, Comcast is turning on a feature that turns customer networks into public Wi-Fi hotspots. After a firmware upgrade is installed, 'visitors will use their own Xfinity credentials to sign on, and will not need the homeowner's permission or password to tap into their Wi-Fi signal. The homegrown network will also be available to non-subscribers free for several hours each month, or on a pay-per-use basis. Any outside usage should not affect the speed or security of the home subscriber's private network. [...] Home internet subscribers will automatically participate in the network's growing infrastructure, although a small number have chosen to opt out in other test markets.' The article specifically mentions that this capability is opt-out, so Comcast is relying on home users' property, electricity, and lack of tech-savvy to increase their network footprint." Comcast tried this in the Twin Cities area, and was apparently satisfied with the results, though subscribers are starting to notice.
wjcofkc writes "The decline of RadioShack has been painful to watch, and now CNN Money reports that they will be closing 1,100 of their stores, totaling 20% of their brick and mortar presence. RadioShack has also publicly admitted its current stores are out of date and in need of a massive overhaul. But the number-one culprit has been a continuous slide in sales down a steep slope in the area of mobile device sales. A few years ago, in a bid to expand its customer base, RadioShack made a bid to return to its roots as a hobbyist electronic components retailer. Apparently the extra traffic hasn't been enough to make up for their failings. The article mentions that some of their stiffest competition is coming from online retailers. The big question is, in order to ensure their survival, would RadioShack be better off continuing to phase out their brick and mortar presence while making substantial efforts to expand as an exclusively online retailer?"
A while ago you had a chance to ask composer George Sanger about making music and sound effects for games, television, and film. Below you'll find "The Fat Man's" answers to those questions.
Nerval's Lobster writes "As founder and CEO of the Ouya (pronounced "OOO-yah") game company, Julie Uhrman's mission has been to lure gamers back to their living room televisions. Touch-screen gaming on a smartphone or tablet is nice, she suggests, but a big screen, coupled with the precision of a controller with buttons and analog sticks, offers the best platform for immersive, emotionally engaging experiences. Soon enough, though, you shouldn't need an Ouya console to play Ouya games. Later this week, Uhrman plans to announce 'Ouya Everywhere,' an initiative to bring Ouya games to television sets that aren't connected to Ouya hardware. As a company, Ouya remains vague about just how Ouya Everywhere will work; but in an interview with Slashdot, Uhrman provided a rough idea of what to expect: 'It could be another set-top [box],' she said. 'It could be the TV itself. There's a number of different ways that games can be played on the television, and we're actively exploring all of them.' To be clear, Ouya isn't getting out of the hardware business. The company has promised relatively frequent hardware refreshes, and already upgraded the original Ouya's controller to address early complaints. The next version of the Ouya hardware 'at a minimum will have a higher performing chipset,' she said. 'We have done a lot of work on our controller and we feel like there is even more work to do. Those are the two big things we're focused on.' But while her company builds hardware, Uhrman insists that Ouya is 'really a software company. The largest team inside Ouya is software engineers.' (Ouya has 49 employees, 19 of them engineers.) Ouya arrived with great fanfare in 2012, after a $950,000 Kickstarter campaign met its goal in just eight hours. The fundraiser ended up raising $8.6 million, and Kickstarter backers received their consoles in March 2013."
An anonymous reader writes "Did you lose bitcoins in the MtGox debacle and are worried that you'll never get them back? Fear not, a call center has been set up in Japan to help allay your fears. From the article: 'Bitcoin investors left hanging by the sudden shuttering of the MtGox electronic market will soon have a way to learn more about the fate of their cryptocurrency holdings—a Japanese phone hotline. In an announcement on the company's website, MtGox said that a call center had been set up to handle inquiries about the company. The call center will go live on the morning of March 3, Japan time.'"
An anonymous reader writes "Here's an inside look at the personal successes of the elite hacking group "w00w00". From the article: 'For this group of old friends, assembled for an impromptu reunion, the venue would feel familiar: an online chat room running on a secure private server. Each were former members of the elite hacking group "w00w00" and they had reconvened that afternoon to celebrate and share in the success of one of their own. In some ways it was just like old times. But rather than success being the discovery of a new software exploit or penetration of a computer network, this was something more extraordinary. One of the group's former members had just sold their company for $19 billion dollars."
theodp writes "The LA Times reports that Google will fund free bus passes for low- and middle-income kids in a move to quiet the controversy surrounding tech-driven gentrification in San Francisco. In a statement, Google said, 'San Francisco residents are rightly frustrated that we don't pay more to use city bus stops. So we'll continue to work with the city on these fees, and in the meantime will fund MUNI passes for low income students [an existing program] for the next two years.' SF Mayor Ed Lee said, 'I want to thank Google for this enormous gift to the SFMTA, and I look forward to continuing to work with this great San Francisco employer towards improving our City for everyone.' But not all were impressed. 'It's a last-minute PR move on their part, and they're trying to use youth unfairly to create a better brand image in the city,' said Erin McElroy of the SF Anti-Eviction Mapping Project."
An anonymous reader writes "Columnist Jon Evans points out that the tech industry has been slowly getting stranger over the past several years. When you look at the headlines individually, they all seem to make sense, but putting them together and trying to imagine them popping up a decade ago really illustrates how odd it has become. Quoting: 'In Japan, some half-billion dollars' worth of cryptocurrency vanished from a site founded to trade Magic: The Gathering cards. In New Zealand, the world's greatest Call of Duty player has launched a political party to revenge himself on those who had him arrested and seized his sports cars. In Britain, the secret service is busy collecting and watching homegrown porn. Here in Silicon Valley, mighty Apple just revealed that a flagrant, basic programming error gutted the security of all its devices for years. Google, "more wood behind fewer arrows" Google, now has its own navy, to go with its air force and robot army.'"
An anonymous reader writes "Time reports that American students and grads were carrying $1.08 trillion in student loan debt at the end of 2013. This compares to just $253 billion a decade earlier. Aggregate debt grew 10% in the past year alone. 'By comparison, overall debt grew just 43% in the last decade and 1.6% over the past year.' About 70% of students graduate with some amount of debt, and the average amount owed is $29,400. 'Delinquencies on student loans have risen dramatically over the past decade: 11.5 percent of graduates were at least 90 days late on paying back their loans at the end of 2013, compared with 6.2 percent delinquencies on student loans in 2003. Moreover, the Fed's figures on delinquencies hide more stark data: nearly half of all students with debt aren't currently in repayment thanks to deferments and forbearances and the fact that students are not expected to pay while they're in school.' An attached graph shows an alarming spike in delinquent loans that looks a bit like mortgage delinquencies did at the beginning of the sub-prime crisis."
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Nick Statt reports at Cnet that at Apple's annual shareholder meeting Friday, Apple CEO Tim Cook shot down the suggestion from a conservative, Washington, DC-based think tank that Apple give up on environmental initiatives that don't contribute to the company's bottom line. The National Center for Public Policy Research (NCPPR), hasn't taken kindly to Apple's increasing reliance on green energy and said so in a statement issued to Apple ahead of the meeting. 'We object to increased government control over company products and operations, and likewise mandatory environmental standards,' said NCPPR General Counsel Justin Danhof demanding that the pledge be voted on at the meeting. 'This is something [Apple] should be actively fighting, not preparing surrender.' Cook responded that there are many things Apple does because they are right and just, and that a return on investment (ROI) was not the primary consideration on such issues. 'When we work on making our devices accessible by the blind. I don't consider the bloody ROI,' said Cook. 'We do a lot of things for reasons besides profit motive, We want to leave the world better than we found it.' Danhof's proposal was voted down and to any who found the company's environmental dedication either ideologically or economically distasteful, Cook advised 'if you want me to do things only for ROI reasons, you should get out of this stock.'"
sciencehabit writes "700-year-old human feces, preserved in sealed barrels under a town square from the Middle Ages, are shedding new light on the evolution of the bacteria in our guts. Viruses isolated from the ancient poop reveal a growing arms race between our native bacteria and microbial invaders. Such viruses may have been instrumental in helping us digest food, temper inflammation, and fight obesity." Less frightening news that touches on the same domain: European cities (notably Britain) decided to go with sewers instead of barrels, and now, writes reader DW100 "An ISP in the UK has come up with an innovative way to deliver broadband around London: its Victorian sewer network. Geo Networks runs the cables along the roof of the sewers, avoiding any 'waste' issues and providing fast, low-latency, high-fibre services to business and other providers."