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Elon Musk's Extracurricular Antics Reportedly Spark a NASA Safety Probe At SpaceX

The recent interview Elon Musk conducted with Joe Rogan, where Musk took one puff from a marijuana cigarette after a lengthy conversation around AI, social media and space, is prompting a NASA safety probe at SpaceX. The Washington Post reports that NASA was not amused with Musk's antics and has "ordered a safety review of SpaceX and Boeing as a response to the colorful chief executive's shenanigans," reports TechCrunch. From the report: In an interview, NASA associate administrator for human exploration, William Gerstenmaier, told the Post that the review will begin next year and would examine the "safety culture" of both Boeing and SpaceX. Rather than focus on the safety of the actual rockets, the Post said that the review would look at the hours employees work, drug policies, leadership and management styles, and the responsiveness of both companies to safety concerns from employees. The review is going to be led by the Office of Safety and Mission Assurance within NASA, which has conducted similar probes before, according to the Post report. According to the NASA official, the process could be "pretty invasive," with the potential for hundreds of interviews with employees at every level and across all locations where the companies operate. At stake is the potential $6.8 billion in contracts the two companies received in 2014 to revive crewed missions to space. SpaceX grabbed $2.6 billion from NASA for the program, while the remainder went to Boeing. In a statement given to the Post, SpaceX said, "We couldn't be more proud of all that we have already accomplished together with NASA, and we look forward to returning human spaceflight capabilities to the United States."

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US Wireless Data Prices Are Among the Most Expensive On Earth

A new study from Finnish research firm Rewheel has found that U.S. wireless consumers pay some of the highest prices for mobile data in the developed world. The mobile data market in the U.S. has the fifth most expensive price per gigabyte smartphone plans among developed nations, and was the most expensive for mobile data overall. Motherboard reports: While the report notes that mobile data prices have dropped 11 percent during the last six months in the States, U.S. mobile data pricing remained significantly higher than 41 countries in the European Union and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. Normally, having four major wireless carriers helps boost competition, in turn lowering prices. But the Rewheel report was quick to note that the often stunted level of competition seen in U.S. wireless is more akin to countries where there's just three major players. Meanwhile, a monopoly over business data connectivity generally keeps consumer mobile prices high. According to the FCC's own data, 73 percent of the special access market (which feeds everything from ATMs to cellular towers) is controlled by one ISP. This varies depending on the market, but it's usually AT&T, Verizon, or CenturyLink. These high prices to connect to cellular towers then impact pricing for the end user and smaller competitors, those same competitors and consumer groups have long argued. Another area where prices were high: mobile hotspots. The report found that Verizon charges users $710 per month for its 100 gigabyte mobile hotspot plan. That same plan costs between $11 and $23 per month in several European countries.

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Ajit Pai Wants To Raise Rural Broadband Speeds From 10Mbps To 25Mbps

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: The Federal Communications Commission is planning to raise the rural broadband standard from 10Mbps to 25Mbps in a move that would require faster Internet speeds in certain government-subsidized networks. The FCC's Connect America Fund (CAF) distributes more than $1.5 billion a year to AT&T, CenturyLink, and other carriers to bring broadband to sparsely populated areas. Carriers that use CAF money to build networks must provide speeds of at least 10Mbps for downloads and 1Mbps for uploads. The minimum speed requirement was last raised in December 2014. Today, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai said he's proposing raising that standard from 10Mbps/1Mbps to 25Mbps/3Mbps. "[W]'re recognizing that rural Americans need and deserve high-quality services by increasing the target speeds for subsidized deployments from 10/1 Mbps to 25/3 Mbps," Pai wrote in a blog post that describes agenda items for the FCC's December 12 meeting. "[T]he program should support high-quality services; rural Americans deserve services that are comparable to those in urban areas," Pai also wrote. The new speeds "will apply to future projects but won't necessarily apply to broadband projects that are already receiving funding," Ars notes. "For ongoing projects, the FCC will use incentives to try to raise speeds. More money will be offered to carriers that agree to upgrade speeds to 25Mbps/3Mbps, a senior FCC official said in a conference call with reporters."

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Ford Eyes Use of Customers' Personal Data To Boost Profits

According to industry-watchers, Ford is looking to profit off the data it can collect from its 100 million customers. In addition to the data collected from its infotainment systems and mobile apps, "Ford's CEO recently suggested that the data collected by the company's financial services arm also represents a valuable, low-overhead asset," reports Threatpost. From the report: "We have 100 million people in vehicles today that are sitting in Ford blue-oval vehicles," said Ford CEO Jim Hackett during a Freakonomics Radio podcast. "The issue in the vehicle, see, is: We already know and have data on our customers. By the way, we protect this securely; they trust us. We know what people make. How do we know that? It's because they borrow money from us. And when you ask somebody what they make, we know where they work, you know. We know if they're married. We know how long they've lived in their house because these are all on the credit applications. We've never ever been challenged on how we use that. And that's the leverage we got here with the data." The comments, which were amplified by several auto-industry sources and the Detroit Free Press, sparked alarm in the Twitterverse. Against the backdrop of privacy disasters at Facebook and other stalwarts of the internet economy, the fear for many is that Ford sees selling access to consumers based on their lifestyle as a way forward. Is Ford considering selling consumer data as a revenue stream? Hackett stopped short of saying that -- and indeed, the data could instead simply be useful to the company internally, as a way to increase the value (and profit) of its other businesses.

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Tumblr Removed From Apple's App Store Over Child Porn Issues

Tumblr has reportedly been removed from Apple's App Store due to child pornography issues. "The app has been missing from the store since November 16th, but until now the reason for its absence was unclear -- initially Tumblr simply said it was 'working to resolve the issue with the iOS app,'" reports The Verge. "However, after Download.com approached Tumblr with sources claiming that the reason was related to the discovery of child pornography on the service, the Yahoo-owned social media network issued a new statement confirming the matter." From the report: In its updated statement, Tumblr said that while every image uploaded to the platform is "scanned against an industry database of child sexual abuse material" to filter out explicit images, a "routine audit" discovered content that was absent from the database, allowing it to slip through the filter. Although Tumblr says the content was immediately removed, its app continues to be unavailable on the App Store. It's still available in the Google Play store for Android users, however.

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