From Engadget: Microsoft confirms Office 2013 licenses can’t be transferred to other computers

Microsoft confirms Office 2013 licenses can't be transferred to other computers

It’s no secret that copies of Office 2013 bind themselves to a single computer, but Microsoft has now confirmed to Computerworld that the software’s license can’t be reassigned to another PC, as is possible with Office 2010. When asked whether a license could be transferred to another machine if the original rig was destroyed, lost or stolen, Microsoft replied with a frosty, “No comment.” However, Redmond did mention that the productivity suite could be reinstalled on the same PC after a crash. Just how Ballmer and Co. will enforce the policy remains a bit murky, but it’s pretty clear they hope folks who have a penchant for switching up computing environments will be enticed by an Office 365 subscription.

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Source: Computerworld

from Engadget

From Popular Science – New Technology, Science News, The Future Now: Videos: Space Rock Explodes Over Russia, Slams Into Building

Incoming! A fireball streaks across the sky on February 15, 2013, as seen from the vantage of a Russian driver’s dash-mounted video camera. NEproskochil/YouTube
A space rock detonated into flames and smoke over western Russia Friday during the region’s morning commute, ultimately smashing into a factory.

The same day that an asteroid half the size of a football field will narrowly miss Earth, a different space rock exploded over three cities in western Russia. The fireball went down during the region’s morning commute today, sending drivers scrambling to upload their in-dash videos to the web.

Fireballs bursting over the Earth is nothing unusual. What is rare is to catch them on camera — from perhaps hundreds of vantage points.

Here’s why there are so many videos of the Russian meteorite. Crooks in that country will do anything for a ruble, including throw themselves into a moving car to extort money from drivers. Russian traffic laws make it practically impossible for drivers to defend themselves in court without video evidence, however, which is why most Russian drivers today have wide-angle video cameras on the dash.

So, when this morning’s meteorite exploded 12 miles above the ground, users flooded Twitter and YouTube with footage of the astronomical event. (See below.)

Russia Today’s news report suggests that the space rock ultimately crashed through the wall of a zinc factory in Chelyabinsk, spraying bricks onto a road. One image in that story, taken from Twitter, shows a smoldering, gaping hole in the factory’s roof. Other images show shattered windows and contrails left by the speeding meteorite. Reports of injuries also abound — roughly 400, according to one news source.

But the details and numbers could change, as news of the meteorite is still breaking. Early reports from panicked citizens alleged that the meteorite was a UFO, a crashing military aircraft, or even a missile intercepting the asteroid en route to the ground. (The most recently updated Russia Today news story discounts these tales.)

It’s worth pointing out the comically coincidental timing of this fireball. It occurred within the same 24 hours that a 160-foot-wide asteroid, called 2012DA14, is scheduled to swing within 14,913 miles of Earth — thousands of miles closer than any geosynchronous communications satellite. Now is also a time when asteroid hunting is ramping up and about to become a privatized affair.

But enough with the words. Watch these videos and be amazed.

Legit fireball Yes, this video looks like a scene out of a blockbuster movie. But unless the fireball is a truly cosmic joke by Russia on the rest of the world, no, it’s not fake. (There are simply too many videos of this thing from countless vantage points circulating on the web at one time.) Video: Андрей Борисович Королев/YouTube

Crazy commute Another stunning view of the Russian meteorite from a driver’s dash-mounted HD camera. Video: NEproskochil/YouTube

KABOOM! Listen to this one. We detect not one, not two, but at least three loud concussions from the fireball, plus the shimmer of breaking glass (and, of course, the blare of car alarms). Video: Григорий Ченцов/YouTube

Space rock yonder Men working in a yard seem oblivious to the fireball in the distance. Video: NEproskochil/YouTube

Blinding flash Skip about 40 seconds into this video of an intersection. The fireball bursts, coloring the scene orange and red, and then blinds the camera with intense light.
Video: NEproskochil/YouTube

from Popular Science – New Technology, Science News, The Future Now

From Ars Technica: Ice-type attacks give enemies access to your Android phone’s data

Researchers put a Galaxy Nexus on ice to demonstrate how low temperatures give access to data in the phone’s memory.

An Android phone’s passcode or pattern lock screen may be no match for a freezer, according to new research from scientists at Erlangen University in Germany released Thursday. After chilling a Galaxy Nexus in a freezer, the researchers were able to bypass security settings and read from the phone’s memory by using a “cold boot” attack.

Cold boot attacks, first demonstrated on PCs in 2008, rely on data remanence, wherein the RAM inside a computer retains some residual information after the computer is shut down for a short amount of time. If the computer is cold-booted (turned on and off quickly enough such that the shutdown isn’t complete), attackers can reboot with an alternate operating system (via a USB drive, for instance) that instructs the computer to dump the remnants of information still stored in the memory.

As it turns out, phones are vulnerable to the same kind of attack, but they require a different approach. Smartphones also retain information in memory after shutdown, but only for a second or two. It’s also more difficult to shortchange the shutdown process in a phone because it power-cycles too slowly by default for a two-second memory access window to be useful. The researchers in Germany found that if they chilled the phone down to freezing temperatures, information will linger in the memory for five or six seconds—long enough to pull data out with a computer.

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from Ars Technica

From Ars Technica: Who needs HP and Dell? Facebook now designs all its own servers

Facebook’s Open Vault storage server, codenamed “Knox.”

Nearly two years ago, Facebook unveiled what it called the Open Compute Project. The idea was to share designs for data center hardware like servers, storage, and racks so that companies could build their own equipment instead of relying on the narrow options provided by hardware vendors.

While anyone could benefit, Facebook led the way in deploying the custom-made hardware in its own data centers. The project has now advanced to the point where all new servers deployed by Facebook have been designed by Facebook itself or designed by others to Facebook’s demanding specifications. Custom gear today takes up more than half of the equipment in Facebook data centers. Next up, Facebook will open a 290,000-square-foot data center in Sweden stocked entirely with servers of its own design, a first for the company.

“It’s the first one where we’re going to have 100 percent Open Compute servers inside,” Frank Frankovsky, VP of hardware design and supply chain operations at Facebook, told Ars in a phone interview this week.

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from Ars Technica

From Popular Science – New Technology, Science News, The Future Now: Even Hobby Drones Could Be Made Illegal In Texas

An Unmanned Aerial Vehicle This remote-controlled aircraft, equipped with a point-and-shoot digital camera, cost drone hobbyist and advocate Patrick Egan about $300, camera included. The airplane cost him $29 several years ago; now the same kit costs $39. Courtesy Patrick Egan
A bill sponsored by a Dallas legislator would make it a crime to take photos of private land using a remote-controlled drone.

On a hazy day last January, an unmanned aircraft enthusiast piloted his camera-equipped drone in the vicinity of a Dallas meatpacking plant, cruising around 400 feet in the air. To test his equipment, he took some photos of the Trinity River with a point-and-shoot camera mounted to his $75 foam airframe. When he retrieved the remote-controlled aircraft, he noticed something odd in the photos: A crimson stream, which appeared to be blood, leaking into a river tributary.

The pilot, whose name has not been released, notified Texas environmental authorities, who launched an investigation. On Dec. 26, a grand jury handed down several indictments against the owners of the Columbia Packing Company for dumping pig blood into a creek. They now face hefty fines and even prison time stemming from the water pollution, and the plant has since been shuttered. Neighbors had complained about noxious fumes and other issues for a while, according to the local news. But investigators didn’t get involved until this drone pilot took his pictures.

Under a new law proposed in the Texas legislature, sponsored by a lawmaker from the Dallas suburbs, this type of activity could soon be criminal. Not the pollution–the drone.

Texas House Bill 912–and similar laws under debate right now in Oregon and elsewhere–are driving a burgeoning debate about how to use and control unmanned air systems, from an AR.Drone to a quadcopter. The Federal Aviation Administration is in the process of drafting new rules governing unmanned aircraft in civilian airspace, including military-style aircraft. But in the meantime, plenty of cheap, easy-to-use aircraft are already popular among hobbyists and, increasingly, activists and law enforcement.

Drones don’t have to be Predators to cause privacy concerns, in other words. In recent months, they’ve led to new legislative action in California, Florida, Missouri, North Dakota, Oregon and Virginia.

Texas state Rep. Lance Gooden, a Republican, is the sponsor of the latest bill, which would make it a misdemeanor to take photos with an unmanned aircraft. It’s unique because it criminalizes taking any data–photos, sound, temperature, even odor–of private property using an unmanned aircraft without the permission of the property owner. Law enforcement officers could only use drones while executing a search warrant or if they had probable cause to believe someone is committing a felony, and firefighters can only use drones for fighting fire or to rescue a person whose life is “in imminent danger.” Texas’ border-patrolling Predator drones are exempt within 25 miles of the Mexican border. There are additional penalties for possession, display or distribution of data captured by an illegally flown drone. Gooden said the goal is to protect Texans’ privacy.

For most people, when you say unmanned aerial vehicle, they think the Department of Defense–‘Oh man, the Predator, that one with the missile on it.’ That’s the disconnect.

“We’re not trying to get rid of drones; drones can be used for great purposes. We’re not trying to interfere with hobbyists’ use of drones. But you have a right to privacy on your property,” he said in an interview.

Ben Gielow, general counsel and government relations manager for the Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International, countered that limiting privacy concerns to unmanned aircraft makes little sense. “The response would be, what about manned aircraft doing the same type of mission, taking the same pictures? What about satellites and Google Earth?” he said. “What’s the difference if you have a picture from a manned aircraft or an unmanned aircraft? This is really a data issue; it’s about how the data is going to be used. So let’s have a conversation about that.”

He and other drone experts said the bill demonstrates how much drones are misunderstood in this country, and underscores why hobbyists and aircraft makers should be taking a more active role in explaining the technology’s potential benefits. Gielow and others described unmanned aircraft as simply another tool, easily, cheaply and legally used by law enforcement and civilians for a host of reasons.

“Just like any tool, yes it could be abused and used to do wrong. We need to ensure that there is transparency and accountability with the folks that use this technology,” Gielow said. “An outright ban, I think, would be a shame–not only for this new industry, but also for all the potential applications to do good.”

Those applications are numerous, according to Patrick Egan, an editor at the unmanned systems news site SUAS News and a civilian researcher for the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command. Organic farms could use aerial surveillance to monitor crop health and target insect or weed infestations, he said. Ecologists and animal welfare agencies could use them to hunt down poachers and monitor savannah wildlife. The U.S. Geological Survey, which has a vibrant drone program, uses unmanned aircraft to look at fault zones, woodlands, wildfires, invasive species and more. Ranchers could use it to monitor rangeland; environmental agencies could use it for air sampling; and developing countries could use it to check crop health. The drone industry just has an image problem, Egan said.

“For most people, when you say unmanned aerial vehicle, they think the Department of Defense–‘Oh man, the Predator, that one with the missile on it,'” Egan said. “The public has a perception of the military spying and taking out al Qaeda, and to me that’s the disconnect. People don’t understand that you can feed a hungry world with this technology, you can do public and private asset management, you can do a myriad of good things with this technology that don’t get press.”

Gooden said he doesn’t want to limit beneficial drone uses, from law enforcement pursuing criminal suspects to power companies checking downed lines. “But under no circumstances, ever, should people lose their right to privacy just because people want to take pictures,” he said.

These are bipartisan concerns, evidenced by the involvement of Gooden’s Senate cosponsor, Democratic state Sen. John Whitmire, and in Oregon anyway, the American Civil Liberties Union. “We are not and should not be a surveillance state. Drones should never be used for mass surveillance,” Becky Straus, legislative director of the ACLU’s Oregon office, told U.S. News & World Report.

Todd Humphreys, director of the Radionavigation Laboratory at the University of Texas at Austin and a hobbyist who uses quadcopter drones for research, said he can sympathize with that worry, especially as drones become more ubiquitous. But it’s complicated.

“If there are folks operating on private land, flying over it and taking pictures, that would bother me, if it were my backyard or my barbecue or whatnot. So I sympathize with people who would find that intrusive,” he said in an interview. “But the legislation doesn’t discriminate between ill intent and intent to surveil, and incidental surveillance. If I am doing research on university lands, and I pitch my quadcopter in a banking maneuver, there’s definitely private land out there in the field of view of my camera right now. And it’s this incidental byproduct of my fairly innocent mission that is getting me crosswise with the law.”

That’s interesting because that type of incidental surveillance is exactly what led to the bloody river discovery. Had the Dallas hobbyist not been taking pictures of the river–which, as Gooden pointed out, is a public waterway–he never would have seen the illegal activity.

“The idea of slaughterhouse waste going out in the drinking water, that’s not cool,” said Egan. “What is cool is that these people are being indicted on these charges because of that picture. He was just out there tooling around with his equipment.”

Gooden maintains that the hobbyist could have deleted any pictures showing private property and notified authorities, who would have then had probable cause for a search. “But if he decides he wants to move his drone over private property, that is not something that would be admissible under this bill,” Gooden said.

Laws governing airspace are already complex, and adding new layers specific to drones are unlikely to clarify matters. In its 1946 decision in United States v. Causby, the U.S. Supreme Court declared navigable airspace to be “a public highway” and within the public domain. Because of this, there’s no reason why a privately owned human-occupied aircraft can’t fly over private property. What’s more, federal laws and court doctrines hold that Americans should have no expectation of privacy in publicly viewable spaces, as Gielow put it. They do in homes and covered areas, but not open land.

Gooden countered that drones expand access–you’d hear a manned airplane or helicopter–and they glimpse areas and activities that would otherwise be invisible from a public vantage point. “If you have a ranch, you can pretty much expect that there are areas of your property that are not going to be visible to anyone. In a city, there are areas of maybe your back porch or windows that people can’t peer into,” he said. “But with these drones, you can come into someone’s back yard, turn on a camera and film their every move. This bill would simply say that’s not acceptable.”

While the FAA and state lawmakers continue to tackle the problem, drone operators and private landowners seem to have reached at least one possible solution. About two weeks after the bloody river discovery, an animal rights group flew a microdrone above private property in South Carolina, aiming to film what they said was a live pigeon shoot. The shoot never took place, but a low-caliber gunshot did take down the drone.

Humphrey said that’s a “Texas solution.”

“I say go ahead and fly drones over private property, and those who own it are legally entitled, if they wish, to try to shoot down your drone,” he said, only half kidding. “Let the market decide.”

from Popular Science – New Technology, Science News, The Future Now