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24 Apr 19:37

Can a tiny Pacific island nation stop nuclear powers?

by Jacob Kastrenakes

The tiny Pacific republic of the Marshall Islands has filed suit against the United States and the eight other nuclear-armed countries, alleging that they haven't met their obligations in working toward global nuclear disarmament. The lawsuits were filed in US federal court and the International Court of Justice and aim to compel the nine nations to begin making a "good faith" effort toward disarmament, as many of them have agreed to do under the international Non-Proliferation Treaty. "The failure of these nuclear-armed countries to uphold important commitments and respect the law makes the world a more dangerous place," Nobel Peace Prize-winner archbishop Desmond Tutu says in a statement supporting the lawsuits.

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23 Apr 19:20

Check Out The Fantastic Videos Made By The Vice Reporter Who Was Kidnapped In Ukraine

by Brett LoGiurato

Simon Ostrovsky

Vice reporter Simon Ostrovsky, who was detained and held by pro-Russian forces in eastern Ukraine, has been responsible for a compelling video narrative series that has provided invaluable insight into the on-the-ground situation in the Ukrainian crisis.

His dispatches are perhaps the main reason the pro-Russian forces in the town of Slavyansk have detained him. The spokespeople for the pro-Russian militia holding him captive say he's not a hostage, but they refuse to let him leave the spot at which they're holding him. They have made it clear they are not happy with his reporting on the crisis.

Vyacheslav Ponomaryov, the separatist, self-declared "People's mayor" of the town, said he is being held for reporting false information. Stella Khorosheva, a spokeswoman for the pro-Russia insurgents in the town, told The Associated Press he is suspected of spying for the Right Sector, an ultranationalist pro-Ukraine group.

Ostrovsky's recent reporting in eastern Ukraine has only been the latest example of his feather-ruffling dispatches, which are part of a 28-part video series, "Russian Roulette: The Invasion of Ukraine." He garnered mainstream attention from his first video, when he witnessed a standoff between Ukrainian and Russian soldiers outside of a military base in Crimea:  

One of his most trafficked reports came with his third dispatch, when he openly challenged members of the so-called "Crimean defense force" who told him and Vice's cameraman they could not shoot at the location. Throughout the video, Ostrovsky encountered people openly hostile to journalists, from the pro-Russian forces to ordinary civilians.

"Why can't we film? Just because you don't want us to?" Ostrovsky asked the soldier outside of a naval base in Crimea. 

"Show me a document," he continued. "Your only document is your gun." 

But perhaps his most harrowing dispatch comes when he was confronted by members of the Berkut, the riot police force disbanded by authorities in Kiev, at a Russian checkpoint. During one interaction, one member says he'll "shoot to kill," before attacking Ostrovsky and his cameraman. Later in the video, Ostrovsky said the forces searched both him and his cameraman, and he speculated he was saved solely because he was an American and his cameraman was from Britain, and they "didn't want to create an international incident."

This scene shows the relieved aftermath from the chaotic scene:

Simon Ostrovsky

Here's the whole dispatch: 

Ostrovsky's final dispatch came on Sunday, when he began detailing the events in Slavyansk. It ended with the same final credits as the other 27 that came before it: "TO BE CONTINUED." 

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22 Apr 21:46

iPhones and Macs get fix for extremely critical “triple handshake” crypto bug

by Dan Goodin

Apple has patched versions of its iOS and OS X operating systems to fix yet another extremely critical cryptography vulnerability that leaves some users open to surreptitious eavesdropping. Readers are urged to install the updates immediately.

The flaw resides in the secure transport mechanism of iOS version 7.1 and earlier for iPhones and iPads and the Mountain Lion 10.8.5 and Mavericks 10.9.2 versions of Mac OS X, according to advisories here and here. The bug makes it possible to bypass HTTPS encryption protections that are designed to prevent eavesdropping and data tampering by attackers with the capability to monitor traffic sent by and received from vulnerable devices. Such "man-in-the-middle" attackers could exploit the bug by abusing the "triple handshake" carried out when secure connections are established by applications that use client certificates to authenticate end users.

"In a 'triple handshake' attack, it was possible for an attacker to establish two connections which had the same encryption keys and handshake, insert the attacker's data in one connection, and renegotiate so that the connections may be forwarded to each other," Apple's warning explained. "To prevent attacks based on this scenario, Secure Transport was changed so that, by default, a renegotiation must present the same server certificate as was presented in the original connection."

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22 Apr 19:29

This Bizarre Structure Could Provide Drinking Water Even In A Desert

by Leslie Baehr

WarkaWater

The tower in the image above might look like art, but the strange 30-foot gourd shape is an incredibly practical device that can pull water out of the air — up to 25 gallons a day.

The tower, called the Warka Water, works even in the desert and costs less than $700 for materials.

The beauty of the structure is its low-tech simplicity.

The Warka Water, a product from Architecture and Vision, is biodegradable and can be set up without mechanical tools in less than a week. The primary ingredients are bamboo — which can be bought or harvested where local conditions allow — and mesh, Architecture and Vision Director Arturo Vittori told Business Insider.

WarkaWater

"Once locals have the necessary know-how, they will be able to teach other villages and communities to build the Warka," Vittori told Tuan C. Nguyen on Smithsonian.com. Vittori created the Warka with Andreas Vogler.

How It Works

Each piece of the structure has a purpose. The exoskeleton of each Warka is made of bamboo and is designed for stability and ease of airflow. Inside the exoskeleton is a mesh net, designed to attract water condensation. Once collected, the droplets of water make their way down the mesh to a container at the bottom.

The water that is collected is drinkable as is, as long as the local air conditions are not too polluted, said Vittori. Exactly how much water is produced depends on seasonal and climatic conditions such as humidity, wind, and temperature difference.

The Warka Water is not the first mesh device designed to harvest water from the air, but it may be the most economical. It creates more water at a lower cost than its predecessors, according to Nguyen.

WarkaWater Providing Needed Water

In certain parts of rural Ethiopia, obtaining drinking water means a six-hour journey. Constructing a well close by often requires drilling a 1,600-foot hole — an expensive undertaking.

WarkaWater

"We can say a Warka could provide drinking water for a small rural community of 40 inhabitants," Vittori said, pointing out that that number would vary based on climate.

Vittori hopes each one will last four to eight years with regular maintenance, but they're still doing tests.

The Warka has held its own in field tests, providing more than 25 gallons of water in a day. Because it relies on temperature differences between day and night, it can collect water in the desert, where that difference can be extreme.

It should get even cheaper as components are mass produced, Vittori said. Maintenance requires only that the mesh and container are cleaned regularly and broken parts are fixed.

The towers aren't available yet. They're still in the testing phase. "We are looking for funding to complete the design phase and built three or four test structures in different parts of central Africa," said Vittori.

The testing phase should cost less than $280,000 to complete, he said.

SEE ALSO: With This Robotics Program Thriving In Public Schools, It's 'Cool To Make Mistakes Again'

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20 Apr 21:41

Powdered alcohol may be coming to a liquor store near you

by Dante D'Orazio

Putting a can of beer in a brown paper bag is about to look like child's play. A new product that's somehow been approved by US regulators makes booze as discreet as a packet of sugar. It's called Palcohol, and it transforms a shot of vodka or rum into a pocketable pouch of powder. Tear it open, add some water, mix, and you've got hard liquor. Considering the age group that Palcohol is going to appeal to, however, the sweet, pre-mixed powders are probably going to be far more popular. To start off, the company plans to make margarita, mojito, cosmopolitan, and lemon drop flavors.

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19 Apr 21:01

SOE president says H1Z1 makers are 'fans and contributors' of DayZ

by Owen S. Good

In an AMA on Reddit yesterday, John Smedley, the president of Sony Online Entertainment, was asked about similarities that SOE's upcoming MMO H1Z1 shares with DayZ, the tremendously successful ArmA 2 mod from 2012 set in a post-apocalyptic open world. Smedley acknowledged that he, and "most of the people on our team" are 'fans and contributors' of DayZ.

"Not going to give some politically correct dodgy b.s. answer," he wrote. "H1Z1 is a survival in a Zombie Apocalypse game. So is DayZ. They have made a brilliant game (first I might add). So sure. We're another Zombie Apocalypse game. Call it what it is. But our goal is to make ours fun, accessible, hard core and super, super deep.

"This is our take on the Zombie Apocalypse with a lot...

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18 Apr 18:29

SpaceX's third supply mission takes off for the ISS

by Adi Robertson

Update April 18th, 2014 3:30pm: The Falcon 9 has successfully launched, and the capsule is headed towards the ISS for a Sunday docking.

After weeks of delays, SpaceX is preparing to launch its third supply mission to the International Space Station. The Falcon 9 rocket and accompanying Dragon capsule are expected to blast off from Cape Canaveral at 3:25 EDT, and the craft is set to rendezvous with the space station on the morning of Sunday, April 20th. A video feed of the takeoff will go live around 2:45PM. The CRS-3 mission, carried out through a partnership with NASA, comes almost two years after the Dragon capsule became the first commercial craft to ever dock with the ISS. This time, SpaceX is using the flight to test the next steps...

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17 Apr 22:03

Pope Francis Washes Feet Of Disabled, Including An Elderly Muslim

by Agence France Presse

pope kisses and washes feet

Pope Francis washed the feet of a dozen elderly and disabled people including a Libyan Muslim during an Easter ritual in Rome on Thursday imitating Jesus Christ's humility.

The 77-year-old bent down with difficulty to wash and kiss the feet of the nine Italians and three foreigners aged between 16 and 86 years old at the Don Carlo Gnocchi foundation's Santa Maria della Provvidenza centre.

Francis arrived in a Ford Focus to cheers from crowds and stopped to speak with elderly and disabled people gathered at the centre's modern Church in Rome's suburbs, before picking up a silver urn of water and a white towel, and kneeling in front of the chosen 12.

"It was the slaves, the servants who washed the dirt from the street off the feet of arriving guests. Jesus did a slave's job. He is God and became our servant," the pope said.

The youngest to have his feet washed at the ceremony, which is part of the run-up to Easter Sunday, was 16-year-old Osvaldinho from Cape Verde, who is wheelchair bound after damaging his spine diving into the sea last summer.

Angelica, 86, who fell and broke her hip last year, was the oldest -- along with artisan Pietro, who suffers from muscular problems and poor balance.

Among the others was 75-year-old Hamed, a Libyan Muslim who worked for years for the Italian-Arab chamber of commerce, before a road accident left him with serious neurological damage.

Francis has often shown particular attention to disabled people and the elderly, condemning a "hidden euthanasia" in modern societies against the old.

Shortly after his election last year, Francis visited a youth detention centre where he performed the washing of feet ritual on a group of young inmates -- including two Muslims, the first Catholic leader ever to do so.

Copyright (2014) AFP. All rights reserved.

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17 Apr 00:43

Infants Are Unable To Play With Building Blocks Because They're Too Addicted To iPads

by Karyne Levy

children Steve Jobs netherlands classroom

According to the British Association of Teachers and Lecturers, children who are 3 and 4 don't have dexterity in their fingers because they're too addicted to swiping tablet screens. 

The children know how to use the devices, but they barely know how to play with actual toys.

"I have spoken to a number of nursery teachers who have concerns over the increasing numbers of young pupils who can swipe a screen but have little or no manipulative skills to play with building blocks or the like, or the pupils who cannot socialise with other pupils but whose parents talk proudly of their ability to use a tablet or smartphone," said teacher Colin Kinney at the association's annual conference, according to The Telegraph.

The Telegraph reports that in addition to this, the memory of some older children is deteriorating because of over-exposure to computers. According to one teacher, these children couldn't finish traditional tests using pen and paper. 

Pew Research shows that one-third of Americans owned a tablet in 2013. And "among parents with minor children living at home, tablet ownership rose from 26% in April 2012 to 50% in May 2013."

The National Association for the Education of Young Children says that "when used intentionally and appropriately, technology and interactive media are effective tools to support learning and development." But it also warns that exposure to interactive media should be limited, especially for young children.

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12 Apr 20:45

A Dutchman's fight to change how America keeps its cities above water

by Dante D'Orazio

Many see Hurricane Sandy as merely a taste of what's to come for coastal regions like the New York tri-state area as sea levels rise, and it's led to a call for action. But there are two approaches to tackling the water: either try to forcefully block it with walls and similar devices, or work around the water and give it a place to go. The latter approach has recently been championed in the Netherlands (which is no stranger to water), and last year one of the top minds in charge of keeping the Dutch dry came to work for the Obama administration. His name is Henk Ovink, and a New York Times profile looks into some of the work he's doing in the States. According to Ovink, the challenge is changing how we deal with water: it's not a matter...

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10 Apr 11:43

Thank XP: Desktop PC sales take off again in Western Europe

by Mikael Ricknäs
PC sales in Western Europe have risen after 13 consecutive quarters of decline, according to market research company Gartner. The market research company said government spending and the replacement of machines running Windows XP contributed to the growth.






10 Apr 11:44

'Gospel of Jesus's Wife' likely isn't a modern forgery, scientists claim

by Amar Toor

A controversial document that suggests that Jesus of Nazareth had a wife is most likely ancient and not a modern forgery, according to a paper published today in the Harvard Theological Review. The papyrus fragment, known as the "Gospel of Jesus's Wife," has been the subject of widespread debate since it was discovered in 2012 because it includes the phrase "Jesus said to them, 'My wife...'." It also mentions that "she will be able to be my disciple," which led some to question whether women should be allowed to become Catholic priests.

The Vatican has previously said that the document is most likely a modern forgery, but scientists from Columbia University, Harvard, and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology say their analysis...

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09 Apr 18:44

Whitehat hacker goes too far, gets raided by FBI, tells all

by Sean Gallagher

A whitehat hacker from the Baltimore suburbs went too far in his effort to drive home a point about a security vulnerability he reported to a client. Now he’s unemployed and telling all on reddit.

David Helkowski was working for Canton Group, a Baltimore-based software consulting firm on a project for the University of Maryland (UMD), when he claims he found malware on the university’s servers that could be used to gain access to personal data of students and faculty. But he says his employer and the university failed to take action on the report, and the vulnerability remained in place even after a data breach exposed more than 300,000 students’ and former students’ Social Security numbers.

As Helkowski said to a co-worker in Steam chat, “I got tired of being ignored, so I forced their hand.” He penetrated the university’s network from home, working over multiple VPNs, and downloaded the personal data of members of the university’s security task force. He then posted the data to Pastebin and e-mailed the members of the task force anonymously on March 15.

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09 Apr 00:49

Dear readers, please change your Ars account passwords ASAP

by Dan Goodin

For more than two years, the Internet's most popular implementation of the Transport Layer Security (TLS) protocol has contained a critical defect that allowed attackers to pluck passwords, authentication cookies, and other sensitive data out of the private server memory of websites. Ars was among the millions of sites using the OpenSSL library, and that means we too were bitten by this extraordinarily nasty bug.

By mid-morning Tuesday, Ars engineers already updated OpenSSL and revoked and replaced our site's old TLS certificate. That effectively plugged the hole created by the vulnerability. By installing the OpenSSL update, attackers could no longer siphon sensitive data out of our server memory. And although there's no evidence the private encryption key for Ars' previous TLS certificate was compromised, the replacement ensured no one could impersonate the site in the event hackers obtained the key.

With Ars servers fully updated, it's time to turn our attention to the next phase of recovery. In the hours immediately following the public disclosure of the so-called Heartbleed vulnerability, several readers reported their Ars accounts were hijacked by people who exploited the bug and obtained other readers' account passwords. There's no way of knowing if compromises happened earlier than that. Ars has no evidence such hacks did occur, but two years is a long time. There's simply no way of ruling out the possibility.

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06 Apr 23:31

St. Louis Fed Vice President: Bitcoin Could Be A Good Threat To Central Banks

by Rob Wile

Screen Shot 2014 04 06 at 7.33.50 PM

Last week, St. Louis Fed Vice President and Director of Research David Andolfatto released a presentation on Bitcoin, becoming one of the most prominent central bank officials to study the cryptocurrency.

We caught up with Andolfatto to ask him about why he put this deck together, where he thinks Bitcoin is going, and whether he personally has anything invested in it.

Business Insider: What was the genesis for this presentation?

David Andolfatto: Its genesis was a blog post I'd started, addressing arguments that gold bugs frequently put forth, that gold is superior money. Of course, Bitcoin was in the news — I read about the algorithm that fixes the supply of bitcoins at least at some limit. It struck me that despite their tremendous disparity in physical properties, they share the quality that they have a relatively fixed supply — which is why gold and bitcoin make lousy money.

I blogged some more on Bitcoin, and I brought to bear conventional theories of money and whether or not, just because it was virtual currency, whether it was good or bad.

Then Marcela Williams (the St. Louis Fed's [assistant vice president of strategic communications] for the Bank) came and asked whether I'd be interested in presenting a talk on Bitcoin.

BI: How have your opinions on Bitcoin evolved since that first post?

DA: Early on, I thought, 'This was kind of silly,' and I kind of questioned the role of the miners, these miners who are mining bitcoin. And it led to the analogy of people mining for gold. I recall reading a blog post by Paul Krugman, who criticized Bitcoin. He was saying exactly what I was thinking: that this intensive effort to mine for gold ...We don't need more physical commodities. All that has to happen is the price level has to adjust. Economic theory says that kind of mining is inefficient.

I shared in that opinion, but I continued to read about it, and it struck me that that analogy was incorrect — that in fact what these miners were, was mislabeled. They were performing a communal service, a record-keeping service which is critical to any money system. Mining was a red herring, it's just one way to reward record keepers for their service, and that protocol could function even with constant supply.

BI: What were the main things you wanted readers to come away with from your presentation?

DA: I was trying to describe how things function today. When you think about Bitcoin as a potential rival to the U.S. dollar, it might have some trouble competing, because despite the fact that a computer algorithm governs its supply, like nature determines the supply of gold, that benefit of a theoretically stabilized price level is not necessarily something you want when there’s demand volatility. So takeaway No. 1 is that Bitcoin suffers from the same defect as gold — the standard volatility was very much like gold.

One thing that people have not thought too much, in this new world of competing cryptocurrencies, is that we’ve got a lot of experience in history of multiple competing currencies, and there's a nominal exchange-rate problem. Economic theory says there's nothing fundamental to pin down the exchange rate between two intrinsically useless objects. If history is any guide, we're going to see multiple currencies circulating with extreme exchange-rate volatility. So I asked, How do we think things are going to work out? Do we think merchants are going to accept several different virtual currencies? The relative prices remain stable? Really? What makes you think that? History shows these things are going to fluctuate like crazy.

So what does this mean? I just don't see bitcoin replacing the U.S. dollar. The traditional way of controlling for [exchange rate] risk is to impose fixed exchange rates. The $5 bill trades at a 5:1 ratio to the $1 because we say so. But that goes counter to the whole spirit of these cryptocurrencies.

The U.S. dollar has already passed the market test. Some responded to me by saying, 'Yeah because, it's a monopoly.' But there are several competing currencies out there in the world. The U.S. dollar is still the go-to currency, but there's nothing domestically that prevents us from getting paid in pesos — Americans do have an opportunity to get paid in any currency they want.

But because the Fed has been manging the supply of dollars — which hasn't always been perfect — these bugs have been patched, which the Bitcoin protocol is still working through. Inflation (of the dollar) has been low and stable for the past 30 years; most people are happy.

BI: You said Bitcoin could pose a threat to central banks. What did you mean?

DA: I do think its existence as a threat is very good: It will discipline the Fed and other central banks to continue to run responsible policies — if they don’t, people could switch to something else.

The idea of currency competition: Many countries impose currency controls. In Albania, you would suffer severe consequences if you were caught with U.S. dollars in your pocket. The purpose of currency controls is to stimulate demand for domestic currency, because the central bank and the central government want to exploit the people by inflating excessively, so the threat of currency competition — if a central bank, a government, knew people could stop using domestic currency and flock to an alternative, that would force the government to behave more responsibly.

In the past, because of paper notes, a ban on foreign currencies was much easier. But now everybody's got a cellphone, a PC — how do you enforce those currency controls? There's no central authority — people are just trading these things using their telephones, so a government would have to take draconian measures to prevent that from happening.

So that’s not gonna happen in the U.S., but to the extent there are other technologies looming out there, that threat might discipline central banks.

Business Insider: How is Bitcoin viewed within the Fed community?

DA: We support each other in our research, but much of the Fed is concerned with the size of our balance sheet — our efforts are more focused on that. But I haven’t had any pushback. There are some people within the system keeping an eye out — Francois Velde in Chicago also had a note on it.

BI: What about Bitcoin's underlying technology?

DA: I made a distinction between Bitcon and Ripple. Bitcoin lives on its idea as a currency provider, but there are other protocols that employ the same cryptology that cryptocurrencies employ to concentrate on the payment side. Bitcoin does two things: It creates and manages a money supply, and works as a payment processor.

Ripple is currency agnostic: It's currently happy to let the U.S. Fed manage the U.S. dollar — with Ripple you'll be able to send money across the globe with Federal Reserve-backed money.

I'm not entirely sure what units [mobile banking service] M-Pesa uses, but these people are quite sophisticated, so what’s to stop them from downloading Ripple or Bitcoin, and start using them? They seem very receptive to this kind of thing. Especially in Africa and the undeveloped world — that’s where you see excessive inflation.

I don't see the same demand in the U.S., despite the criticisms of the Fed and the U.S. dollar.

Business Insider: Do you own any bitcoin? Should people be buying it?

DA: No. It’s highly speculative — I don't think the average person wants to get in there. If you want to put $10 in to experiment ... but I would not want to put in my life savings. It's usually volatile. You could get lucky, but you'd have to be careful. Let’s see how it evolves.

SEE ALSO: Check Out Andolfatto's Full Presentation

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03 Apr 23:28

Microsoft's New Plan To Make People Love Windows 8 Is Starting To Work (MSFT)

by Julie Bort

Satya Nadella Microsoft CEO

When it comes to Windows 8 and Windows Phone, Microsoft has been caught in a Catch-22. People buy devices for the apps. Developers only want to write apps for devices that already have a lot of users.

Microsoft has to convince app developers to write for Windows, not just iOS and Android, in order to sell more devices.

This week during its developer conference, the company unveiled a grand strategy to break the stalemate. It announced a plan to deliver what's known as the "Holy Grail" of app development: write the app once and it runs on everything, Windows 8 devices, Windows Phone 8, Xbox, iOS and Android.

Microsoft's plan consisted of lots of new development software, updates to existing software and new features in its app-hosting cloud Azure. Plus, Microsoft also launched a new software foundation that will bring even more "Holy Grail" tools to app developers, for free.

Many people who attended the conference liked what they heard. A lot. Business Insider talked to a handful of developer attendees at the show who shared these thoughts with us:

  • Thanks to the new tools, a programmer who only writes iOS apps is "going to look at" writing Windows Phone 8 apps.
  • Another told us, "This was a very strategic move. Microsoft is offering a lot of support, making it easy to work with them."
  • One enterprise software developer said that his company is still in the process of upgrading 25,000 people to new PCs running Windows 7. He'll be exploring a new feature in Windows 8.1 that will let him easily add the Windows 8 Modern interface to older, non-touch Windows apps. If it works, his company will buy Windows 8 PCs. "We'll definitely be heading that route when it makes sense."
  • Some developers were hopeful about Cortana, Microsoft's voice-command feature for Windows Phone 8.1, a competitor to Siri. Their apps will be able to tap into Cortana. They will start exploring that when Microsoft releases it to them on April 14.

Only one developer we talked to was feeling cautious, unsure if the Holy Grail was even possible. He told us, "If you are designing an iOS app, you want it to feel like an iOS app, not a Windows app that was converted."

Still, there's no question that Microsoft has piqued the interest of the developer community, and that's the first crucial step toward getting consumers and businesses to want Windows devices.

SEE ALSO: Microsoft's new CEO faces a critical test: Winning over Microsoft's most powerful allies

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03 Apr 22:51

Microsoft's XBox Has A Secret Weapon In Its Battle Against The Playstation (MSFT)

by Kyle Russell

build 2014 titanfall

In its war to control tech in the living room, Microsoft's Xbox One is fighting on multiple fronts.

From the low end of the market, it's fighting against Apple, Amazon and Roku, which stream video content from the Internet to your TV through inexpensive set-stop boxes, ranging from $99, a far cry from the Xbox One's $449 price tag.

Then there's the PlayStation 4, Sony's flagship game console that offers similar gaming and video-streaming capabilities for $399.

Since most blockbuster games come to both the PS4 and the Xbox One, the key to a console's success this generation is differentiating the experience and offering exclusive games that you can't get anywhere else.

The most obvious way Microsoft made the Xbox One's user experience unique was the inclusion of the Kinect, which lets you control your console with voice and gestures alone. If you plug a cable box into the Xbox One, you can even use those same commands to control your television set as well.

Getting exclusive games is a bit trickier than introducing a new interface. While Microsoft Games Studios makes a number of very successful game series for the Xbox platform, people don't just want "Halo." They want big, new games, too.

Developers and publishers of those games invest years and tens or hundreds of millions of dollars to bring blockbuster games to the market. That means that they want to release their games to as many potential customers as they can — which is why most games now target the PlayStation, Xbox and PC platforms.

To get exclusive games, Microsoft has to either pay publishers to bring their games only to the Xbox, or offer services for developers that you can't get anywhere else.

The original Xbox, for instance, was the best console for online gaming until the Xbox 360's release in 2005. With Xbox Live, it was the first console to make online gaming easily accessible. Neither Sony nor Nintendo offered anything comparable, so if you wanted your customers to have fun playing online, you built for Microsoft's console.

Sony pretty much caught up to Microsoft with its PlayStation Network on the PS3, so Microsoft had to come up with something new for the Xbox One. From today's keynote at the company's developer conference, Build, in San Francisco, it's clear that Microsoft thinks its Azure cloud can be that differentiator.

One of the first points brought up today at the conference was that "Titanfall," the single biggest exclusive released for the Xbox One so far, is built on top of its cloud infrastructure.

build 2014 titanfallHosting multiplayer video games on massive servers is nothing new. What is new is the fact that Microsoft's infrastructure can massively scale up and down based on a developer's needs, all while doing far more complex operations than what was previously available.

Microsoft has invested far more into its cloud architecture than either Sony or Nintendo have for their platforms — after all, it's trying to compete with Amazon and Google in the space.

That means it can do more with its servers than anyone else, including advanced simulations that make graphics and in-game AI better. Last month, Respawn Entertainment — the company behind "Titanfall" — co-founder Vince Campella told Business Insider that "all the AI and physics [in "Titanfall"] are done on the cloud."

In "Titanfall," you aren't just fighting against other people: there are also a number of AI combatants to deal with throughout the game's matches. You can't run those AI simulations on an individual's console because lag on their end could affect everyone. That means for every match, there has to be a new AI simulation being performed. Azure let Respawn do that without having to buy its own expensive server infrastructure.

Physics simulation is another huge computer-power hog that can be handled on the cloud. After the "Titanfall" presentation, Microsoft showed off a demo comparing a game running on a high-end PC and one running with assistance from Azure.

In the demo, the player could fire rockets at buildings and watch them realistically crumble. On the PC, the game slowed to a crawl as soon as the first rocket hit, becoming unplayable. The version with Cloud Assist didn't slow down once, even with multiple structures collapsing and the player wandering through the environment.

build 2014 cloud assist game demo azure

It'll be interesting to see whether Microsoft can convince game developers to take advantage of its cloud to make for more physics- and AI-intensive games. While the PlayStation 4 is technically a bit more powerful than the Xbox One, Sony doesn't offer anything like Microsoft's Cloud Assist. That could be enough to win over developers looking to provide high-quality, blockbuster experiences.

SEE ALSO: How Microsoft is positioning the Xbox to take on Amazon, Roku and the Apple TV

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03 Apr 22:35

Microsoft open sources a big chunk of .NET

by Peter Bright

SAN FRANCISCO—At its Build developer conference today, Microsoft announced that it was open sourcing a wide array of its .NET libraries and related technologies and creating a group, the .NET Foundation, to oversee the development and stewardship of the open source components.

Perhaps the highlight of the announcement today was that the company will be releasing its Roslyn compiler stack as open source under the Apache 2.0 license. Roslyn includes a C# and Visual Basic.NET compiler, offering what Microsoft calls a "compiler as a service."

Many—though not all—compilers operate essentially as black boxes. They slurp in source code at the front, and spew out executable code at the back. With Roslyn, Microsoft is taking a different approach. The Roslyn compiler can be used as a library. When it reads a piece of source code, it produces an internal representation that third-party code can then manipulate and examine.

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03 Apr 20:44

GameSpy Technology shutting down May 31

by Samit Sarkar

GameSpy Technology, the Glu Mobile-owned service that provides multiplayer functionality for dozens of games on consoles, computers and mobile devices, will shut down as of May 31, according to the company's website.

"Effective May 31, 2014, GameSpy will cease providing all hosting services for all games still using GameSpy," the statement reads. "Thanks for a great ride!" The company had already stopped licensing out its services to publishers as of Jan. 1, 2013.

GameSpy Technology has existed in some form since 1997, when it debuted as a listing service for Quake server IP addresses. It is a separate entity from the gaming site GameSpy, which was shut down by parent company Ziff Davis in February 2013.

The service offers features...

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02 Apr 16:00

How Grey Goo hopes to revolutionize real-time strategy

by Brian Crecente

It's all about the goo.

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01 Apr 19:25

These Are The Only 3 Interview Questions You Need To Prepare For

by Jacquelyn Smith

job interview resume career talking

Because job interviews are so nerve-wracking, we often spend days or weeks preparing. But it's almost impossible to predict which questions you'll be asked or how things will go.  

Bernard Marr, a global enterprise performance expert and a best-selling business author, says in a recent LinkedIn post that preparing for an interview is difficult. “In most cases we practice the answers to a long list of possible questions. The problem is that this can leave you over-prepared, and as a consequence your pre-conceived answers can come across a bit robotic.”

Luckily, there are only three interview questions that really matter, Marr says. Preparing for these queries will allow you to answer almost any question more naturally because “you can link most interview questions back to these.”

“The interviewer might use many different questions and angles to get to the answers,” he adds. But these are the three questions they ultimately want answered:

1. Have you got the skills, expertise, and experience to perform the job?

Marr says to answer this one, you need to think about the key skills you might need for the job, and assess your own level of expertise and experience in that context. “It makes sense to identify the more specific or technical skills that your potential employer might expect as well as some more generic skills such as being a good communicator, having good IT skills, being a team player, etc.”

He says preparing for this question will help you answer many other interview questions (without getting “sidetracked into talking about things that are not relevant”), such as:

Tell me about yourself?

What are your greatest strengths / weaknesses?

What can you do for us that other candidates can’t?

Why do you think you are right for this job?

What do you think the main challenges will be?

2. Are you enthusiastic and interested in the job and the company?

All hiring managers want to know that you are interested in the company and excited about the prospect of working there, Marr explains. “You therefore want to demonstrate that you have researched the company, understand its strategy, current performance, structure, market position, and products and that you can’t wait to join them.” Show the potential employer you’ve done your homework, and demonstrate your enthusiasm for the job and company.

Here are other ways they’ll ask this question:

What do you know about our company?

What do you think our company is aiming to achieve?

What do you know about our products and services?

Why do you want to work for this company?

Why do you think this job is right for you?

What motivates you?

3. Will you fit into the team, culture, and company?

“This final key question is about your personality and your style and how you as a person fit into the team and culture of the company,” Marr says. Every company has its own unique culture, and it’s important to both you and the employer that you fit in.

Other questions that are essentially asking the same thing:

How would you describe your work style?

How would you describe yourself?

How would your colleagues describe you?

What makes you fit into our company?

What makes you a good team member?

If you were an animal, what animal would you be?

Read the full LinkedIn post here.

Want your business advice featured in Instant MBA? Submit your tips to tipoftheday@businessinsider.com. Be sure to include your name, your job title, and a photo of yourself in your email. 

SEE ALSO: Here’s How To Explain An Employment Gap On Your Resume

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30 Mar 21:09

An ancient virus may be the reason human stem cells can transform

by Casey Newton

The embryonic stem cells responsible for producing every other type of cell in the human body gained their power from an ancient virus that copied itself into our DNA millions of years ago, according to new research. National Geographic reports that the discovery could lead to more effective stem-cell treatments for diabetes, multiple sclerosis, and Parkinson's disease, among other ailments.

The new research, published today in Nature Structural & Molecular Biology, offers new insights on pluripotency, the ability of stem cells to transform into other types of cell. The study's authors say their research demonstrates that an ancient virus known as human endogenous retrovirus subfamily H, or HERV-H, plays a key role in pluripotency.

H...

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27 Mar 10:51

Piloot bewusteloos, passagier neemt over

SYDNEY - De passagier van een Australische Piper PA-28 Cherokee moest onlangs de stuurknuppel zelf ter hand nemen toen de piloot tien minuten na vertrek het bewustzijn verloor. Dit staat in een donderdag gepubliceerd rapport van het Australische Bureau voor Verkeersveiligheid.

21 Mar 21:00

Apple Might Launch iTunes For Android Because Music Downloads Are Down

by Megan Rose Dickey

tim cook eddy cue

Apple is thinking about launching an iTunes app for Android, as well as an on-demand streaming service similar to Spotify, Billboard reports

This is likely because downloads of music from iTunes are in decline as more and more people transitioning to streaming music services like Pandora, Spotify, Beats Music, and Rdio.

Thanks to those streaming services, the music industry was able to sustain revenues of $7 billion, nearly the same as it has been since 2009, the RIAA says. It's neither growing nor shrinking at this point.

Digital downloads still brought in the most revenue to the music industry, but a 1% decline to $2.4 billion suggests that people are moving away from purchasing music and moving toward streaming services.

That's why it's no wonder Apple launched iTunes Radio, a streaming version of iTunes that competes directly with Pandora. Apple is reportedly working on a standalone app for iTunes Radio so that it can better target Pandora.

With an iTunes app for Android, Apple could even further compete with Pandora, and also potentially increase music downloads. 

SEE ALSO: It Looks Like Pandora Has Actually Stolen Business From iTunes

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20 Mar 21:16

The First Publicly Traded Company In History Used To Control All This Territory

by Rob Wile

On this date in 1602, the Dutch East India Company, known around the world as the VOC (for Verenigde Oost-Indische Compagnie, United East-India Company referring to the country's union after driving out the Spanish) was formed. It was the first public company to issue negotiable shares, and by some measures is considered the most successful company of all time. 

The company lived for nearly 200 years, before being quasi-nationalized by Napoleon Bonaparte's client state in what became known as the Batavian Republic.  

Wikipedia user Red4Tribe has uploaded a map showing the extent of the VOC's holdings, in light green, over its lifetime. This is as if Apple or GE owned entire countries. We've previously documented how the British East India Company, born two years earlier, likewise ended up holding large amounts of land in India, not to mention paying their own armies. The map also shows the holdings of the Dutch West India Company, created 19 years later, in dark green. In yellow are territories held later, during the 19th century. 

Dutch Empire

 

SEE ALSO: The American Colonies Began As Private Plantations

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18 Mar 13:55

A Guy Who Owns A Bitcoin-Only Electronics Store Is Revealing Everything On Reddit

by Dylan Love

Reddit user "Leeburg" has written a post on his nine months and counting of experience in running a Bitcoin-only storefront online. The site is called CoinsForTech, and it deals in smartphones, computers, and all order of electronic gadgets wanted by people all over the world.

Leeburg is able to serve these people because Bitcoin is a geographically agnostic digital currency. Rather than get a bank involved in converting obscure currencies, CoinsForTech simply waits for confirmation that a customer's payment has arrived at the appropriate Bitcoin wallet. At that point, it can convert to U.S. dollars or do whatever else it would like with the Bitcoins — the payment's arrived and the irreversible nature of Bitcoin transactions means it's here to stay.

Here's a visual for just how international the site's reach is, which nine months' worth of orders denoted by Bitcoin logos over their destinations (you can view an interactive version here):

Screen Shot 2014 03 18 at 9.25.21 AM

Other relevant details from Leeburg's post:

  • Since launching nine months ago, CoinsForTech has sold $300,000 worth of merchandise to "nearly 40" countries, and if business remains steady, it will clear $500,000 before the end of its first year.
  • Bitcoin enables the site to serve many countries that would normally be deemed high-risk markets. Leeburg writes that "customers in areas such as India, Israel, and Pakistan are some of our best. We could never ship to these countries using a system other than Bitcoin."
  • The fact that Bitcoin transactions are irreversible means that the business has been defrauded "a total of zero times." Just as Overstock CEO Patrick Byrne recently told Business Insider, Bitcoin effectively makes customer fraud a thing of the past.

"If you are an international merchant you should be accepting Bitcoin. I cannot stress this enough," Leeburg writes. "Incredibly low start-up and ongoing costs, clear market from Bitcoiners wanting to spend, irreversible and instant payments worldwide — what have you got to lose?"

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19 Mar 22:00

Why the death of a game should be part of the planning process

by Megan Farokhmanesh

Games that run as services will inevitably shut down — and developers need to have a plan ready to go well before that point, according to a talk given by Microsoft executive producer Kevin Perry at Game Developers Conference 2014.

"I have bad news for you," Perry said. "Whatever game you're currently working on or dreaming up, it's going to pass at some point."

Titled "The Inevitable Sunset," the talk brought up the financial, legal and community-related questions developers need to ask themselves while considering their game's end. It starts with the trigger point, or the cause that will ultimately force the game to end.

"Death is different for games," Perry said. "Your players live on, hopefully. Your company hopefully lives on...

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15 Mar 16:52

See Chernobyl's legacy up close with this haunting photo book

by Carl Franzen

Gerd Ludwig, a National Geographic photojournalist, has spent the past 20 years capturing images of the desolate, dangerously radioactive "exclusion zone" surrounding the defunct Chernobyl nuclear plant in Ukraine. His work captures apocalyptic abandoned structures and local residents still suffering health effects from the 1986 nuclear plant meltdown. Ludwig says he's even risked his own health by entering deeper into the plant than any Western journalist, into areas of such high radiation, he had only seconds to take a picture. Although he's already shared many of the resulting images with the public through his website, exhibits, and an iPad app, he's now seeking to compile over 100 of them into a gorgeous hardcover book, and he's...

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14 Mar 09:33

Would Sanctions Against Russia Even Work?

by Sam Ro

Russia trade

Tensions remain escalated on the Russia-Ukraine border. On Sunday, Crimean voters will be asked whether they want to join Russia.

Meanwhile, western leaders are considering policy actions like sanctions against Russia if the country ends up annexing Crimea post-referendum.

"We are cautious about the effectiveness of sanctions on Russia," say Morgan Stanley's Russia economics and strategy team. "Russia is a large country, with extensive resources, accounting in 2012 for 2.8% of global GDP, 4.7% of international merchandise trade and 13% of internationally traded oil. Typically, sanctions have been applied against much smaller countries, such as Iran, Iraq, Libya and North Korea, with significantly fewer resources."

The analysts point to Russia's diversified trade partners. From Morgan Stanley:

"Russian trade and investment are spread across multiple jurisdictions, which points to a lack of dependence on any one country. Moreover, commodities – for which it is generally easy to find an alternative buyer – dominate exports: energy exports alone account for 66% of the total. Moreover, most Russian investment abroad ($406bn USD, end 2012) and foreign investment in Russia ($496bn USD, end 2012) is structured through offshore financial centers, which may make imposition of sanctions more challenging, although we suspect that most of the assets owned by Russian foreign investors, and most of the ultimate beneficiaries of foreign investment in Russia, are in OECD countries."

That being said, sanctions won't be ineffective.

"We see two main reasons [why sanctions might have some impact]," they add. "First, Russian economic performance has weakened in recent years, with growth slowing from 4.3% in 2011 to 1.3% in 2013, and is set to weaken further in 2014, partly as a result of the higher rates and higher risk premia driven by the security crisis. Against this background, the authorities will want to minimize any negative impact on the economy. Second, measures targeted at influential Russians, such as visa bans and asset freezes, may be effective in increasing pressure on the authorities for a negotiated settlement."

Economists seem to agree that Russia has done itself more harm than good with its aggression in the region. The ruble and stock market have been tumbling and GDP forecasts have been slashed.

SEE ALSO: Russia's Stock Market Is Getting Smoked

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13 Mar 22:13

Hollywood-stem Douglas overleden

Miljoenen mensen kenden zijn werk, maar Hal Douglas kon ongestoord over straat lopen. Met zijn sonore stemgeluid sprak hij duizenden filmtrailers in, wat hem legendarisch maakte in Hollywood. Douglas overleed vorige week vrijdag, maakte zijn familie vandaag bekend.

Douglas was bijzonder veelzijdig. Zijn stem was te horen onder de trailer van het aids-drama Philadelphia, maar werd ook gebruikt voor de komedies Forrest Gump en Meet the Parents. Bovendien deed hij de voice-over van Kevin Costners scienceficiton-flop Waterworld.

Acteren

Na de Tweede Wereldoorlog deed Douglas de toneelschool, "omdat daar de meiden zaten". Daarna werkte hij in eerste instantie als televisiepresentator, maar hij stapte over naar de reclamewereld. Vanwege zijn acteerlessen mocht hij de trailers inspreken.

Douglas groeide zo, samen met Don LaFontaine, uit tot een van de belangrijkste stemmen in de Amerikaanse showbusiness. Voor een filmclipje van 15 minuten werk kon hij 2000 dollar vragen. Hoewel hij beroemd was in LA, bleef Douglas zijn hele carrière het liefst werken vanuit zijn studio in New York.

Zelf was hij niet onder de indruk van zijn stemgeluid. "Ik vond het zelf nooit zo'n geweldige stem. Het klinkt een beetje alsof ik mijn keel moet schrapen."

Voor de camera

In 2002 kwam Douglas voor het eerst vóór de camera te staan, voor de trailer van Jerry Seinfelds film Comedian. Daarin nam hij zijn eigen werk op de hak, door constant in filmtrailerclichés te spreken, zoals "In een wereld waarin..." en "Als alles wat je weet verkeerd is...".

Douglas leed de afgelopen jaren aan schildklierkanker. Oktober vorig jaar kreeg hij bovendien een beroerte, waardoor hij opnieuw moest leren spreken. Hij werd 89 jaar oud.