Nick Bilton, Lead Technology writer for The New York Times Bits Blog, called the FAA to complain about its gadget policies on flights and got an unexpected reply. Laura J. Brown, deputy assistant administrator for public affairs, said that it might be time to change some of those policies and promised they'd take a “fresh look” at the use of personal electronics on planes. From the article: "Yes, you read that correctly. The F.A.A., which in the past has essentially said, 'No, because I said so,' is going to explore testing e-readers, tablets and certain other gadgets on planes. The last time this testing was done was 2006, long before iPads and most e-readers existed. (The bad, or good, news: The F.A.A. doesn’t yet want to include the 150 million smartphones in this revision.)"
Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive
SonicSpike writes in with a story about the latest state contemplating raising revenues by taxing the net. "Downloading music, movies, e-books and Apps could soon cost Connecticut residents more as lawmakers consider a tax on digital downloads. The bill, proposed by the General Assembly's Finance, Review and Bonding Committee, would have consumers pay the 6.35% sales tax on any electronic transfer. Supporters say the bill would level the playing field for brick-and-mortar retailers in the state who are already required to charge Connecticut sales tax to consumers who purchase these products in their stores. About 25 states around the country have already begun taxing digital downloads."
pinguin-geek writes "Computer science researchers at Northwestern University have developed a way to exert limited control on how people move, pushing them out of their regular travel patterns. The key: tapping into some of their cell phone applications. The findings could elicit a broader range of user-collected data by driving foot traffic to under-utilized areas."
theodp writes "English comedian Russell Brand could be facing a felony conviction for snatching an iPhone from a would-be paparazzi and tossing it through a window. Singer/parolee Chris Brown also found himself in iPhone hot water after being charged with 'robbery by snatching' in a similar DIY-paparazzi-thwarting incident, which could be a misdemeanor or felony depending on the value placed on an iPhone. But in the world-of-crazy-pricing created by phone makers and wireless providers ($899 Nokia Windows Phone, anyone?), where the quoted price of an iPhone varies by a factor of 376 from the same company, should one really be charged with a felony for snatching an iPhone, especially when an iPad 2 can be had for $399 retail?"
An anonymous reader writes "Security firm Elcomsoft analyzed 17 iOS and BlackBerry password-keeping apps and found their actual security levels well below their claimed level of protection. With additional digging, however, Glenn Fleishman at TidBITS found that Elcomsoft's criticisms rely on physical access to the apps' data stores, and, for some of the more common apps, on the user employing a short (6 characters or fewer) or numeric password. In other words, there really isn't much risk here."
New submitter Hartree writes "This American Life aired an episode in January about visiting Foxconn's factory in Shenzhen China that supplies Apple with iPhones and iPads. It was the most downloaded of all of its episodes. That show helped prompt Apple to release, for the first time, a list of its suppliers and allow outside audits of working conditions at its suppliers. This American Life has now retracted the episode after finding out that Mike Daisey, whose visit to the factory the show was based on, fabricated portions of the story. This included a number of minor items, but also major ones such as his saying that he personally met underage workers and those poisoned by hexane exposure. To set the record straight, this weekend's episode of This American Life will present how they were mislead into airing a flawed story (PDF)."
angry tapir writes "PayPal is targeting small businesses, service providers, and casual sellers on the move with its new PayPal Here service, which allows vendors to process a variety of payments including checks and cards using their mobile phones. The new service includes a free app and encrypted thumb-sized card reader, which allows merchants with an iPhone, and later Android smartphones, to process payments."
volts writes "Troubled LightSquared's primary Skyterra 1 satellite has been out of service since the solar storm on March 7. The company says it is 'working through the rebuild of the satellite tapping into the resources that were involved in the original program.' This development follows a stream of bad news including layoffs, default on payments, the resignation of CEO Sanjiv Ahuja and FCC rejection of a scheme to repurpose satellite frequencies for cellular data due to interference with GPS. Another kick in the teeth as company struggles to avoid bankruptcy."
snydeq writes "Dan Bricklin, the co-creator of the PC revolution's killer app, weighs in on the opportunities and oversights of the tablet revolution. 'In some sense, for tablets the browser is a killer app. Maps is a killer app to some extent. Being able to share the screen with other people — that it's a social device — also might fit the bill. I think that for tablets, there isn't and won't be one killer app for everyone. It's more that there are apps that are killers for individual people. It's the sum of all those that is the killer app. This has been true since the original Palm Pilot.'"
suraj.sun writes in about the recent small claims case against AT&T's throttling of 'unlimited' plans. From the article: "AT&T has about 17 million smartphone customers on 'unlimited' plans, and has started slowing down service for users who hit certain traffic thresholds. Spaccarelli maintained at his February 24 small-claims hearing that AT&T broke its promise to provide 'unlimited' service, and the judge agreed. In a letter dated Friday, a law firm retained by AT&T Inc. is threatening to shut off Matthew Spaccarelli's phone service if he doesn't sit down to talk. Spaccarelli has posted online the documents he used to argue his case and encourages other AT&T customers copy his suit."
hypnosec writes "While you might have often heard that PC gaming is dying — detractors have been claiming this for over a decade — one developer has a different take: that consoles are the ones on the way out. In a 26-minute presentation at GDC — available now as a slideshow with a voice-over — Ben Cousins, who heads mobile/tablet game maker ngmoco, uses statistics of electronic and gaming purchases, along with market shares of developers and publishers from just a few years ago, to come to some surprising conclusions. The old guard, including the three big console manufacturers — Sony, Nintendo and Microsoft — are losing out when compared with the new generation of gaming platform developers: Facebook, Apple and Google. With the new companies, the size of the audience is vastly increased because of their focus on tablets, mobile and browser-based gaming."
New submitter derchris writes "We will be on vacation in the U.S. next month for about 3 weeks. We are going to do a road trip between San Francisco, Las Vegas and Los Angeles. To not use roaming for data, and get a heart attack once back home looking at the mobile bill, I was looking at so called 'MiFi' devices, portable 3G Wi-Fi hotspots. As far as I know, more or less all of the U.S. carriers have such devices available. But as I'm not from the U.S., I have no idea what would give me the best 3G coverage in the areas we are travelling. Another question would be whether I can buy one of these devices off eBay, and use it with any SIM card. Let's hope there are users available who could give some advice on this topic."
alphadogg writes "San Jose is casting a vote of confidence in municipal Wi-Fi from the heart of Silicon Valley, planning a new, free network just a few years after such networks were declared all but dead. The California city of about 1 million intends to offer high-speed Wi-Fi throughout its downtown, covering an area of 1.5 square miles in the middle of this year. But unlike earlier municipal Wi-Fi initiatives, such as a Google-sponsored network that would have covered San Francisco, the San Jose system will be able to pay for itself entirely by helping the government do its job. In the middle of the past decade, ambitious projects in several cities, including parts of San Jose, promised to blanket outdoor areas with Wi-Fi and provide built-in sources of revenue. Home broadband subscriptions, browser-based advertising or small-business use would help to pay for equipment and operations. But those complicated business models depended on assumptions that often proved unfounded."
silentbrad writes "Canada's largest mobile service provider is urging the federal telecom regulator to implement a mandatory national consumer protection code (PDF; actual filing with the CRTC) in order to defuse the threat posed by a growing hotchpotch of provincial regulations for wireless services. Rogers Communications Inc. submitted that proposal to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission in an application late Thursday. In doing so, Rogers becomes the second major carrier to ask the CRTC to resume active regulation of the terms and conditions for wireless service contracts, a practice it largely abandoned during the 1990s. Nonetheless, those regulatory powers, while latent, remain in the Telecommunications Act, meaning the CRTC can still exercise its authority over those matters."
wiredmikey writes with a quote from an article at Secury Week: "In order to get a look at what happens when a smartphone is lost, Symantec conducted an experiment, called the Honey Stick Project, where 50 fully-charged mobile devices were loaded with fake personal and corporate data and then dropped in publicly accessible spots in five different cities ...Tracking showed that 96-percent of the devices were accessed once found (PDF), and 70-percent of them were accessed for personal and business related applications and information. Less than half of the people who located the intentionally lost devices attempted to locate the owner. Interestingly enough, only two phones were left unaccounted for; the others were all found."