Cpurtesy Michelle Coffey, blog.marketwtch.com
If you like Cheerios, you may want to keep it to yourself.
The Fortune 500 powerhouse notes a change in legal terms, warning on its website:
So consumers who follow General Mills brands on social networks, subscribe to newsletters, enter sweepstakes, print coupons or benefit in any way using the site also enter a contract with the company, waiving all rights to future lawsuits.
General Mills even hinted that consumers who buy the products could be bound by those terms, according to the New York Times, who reached out to the company about its changes.
Food companies are increasingly facing more class-action lawsuits over labeling and ingredients. Last year, General Mills shelled out $8.5 million to settle a suit over how it labeled its Yoplait Yo-Plus yogurt. In 2012, two women sued the company over claims its Nature Valley products were 100% natural, alleging highly processed ingredients were used. That same year, it settled another suit over Strawberry Fruit Roll-Ups, agreeing to remove the word “strawberry” from its packaging.
Credit-card and mobile-phone companies are known for placing airtight restrictions in contracts, but this may be the first instance of a major food manufacturer attempting to block lawsuits.
Lawyers told the New York Times that General Mills’s new language will raise legal questions. And the next time it faces legal action, General Mills will likely need to prove the consumer had prior knowledge of the policy before a court can weigh in about whether the company can be sued, arbitration experts told the Times.
Courtesy Jerin Mathew, InternationalBusinessTimes.com
HM Revenue & Customs is preparing to sell UK taxpayers’ personal data to private firms.
HMRC officials are examining "charging options" to release anonymised tax data to third parties including companies, researchers and public bodies, the Guardian reported.
The plans are likely to raise serious concerns among privacy campaigners and MPs in the wake of the Care.data scheme, which shares "anonymised" medical records with third parties, the newspaper said.
The Care.data initiative was previously suspended for six months due to concerns that people could be identified easily from the given information, such as postcodes, dates of birth, NHS numbers, ethnicity and gender.
Likewise, the sharing of taxpayer information despite the government’s assurance of suitable safeguards would be risky and could break trust between HMRC and taxpayers, according to experts.
Under the data sharing scheme, details about income, tax arrangements and payment history are expected to be traded. Such information would be useful to credit rating agencies, advertisers and retailers who want to practise price discrimination, Ross Anderson, a professor of security engineering at Cambridge University, told the Guardian.
"If they were to make HMRC information more available, there’s an awful lot of people who would like to get their hands on it. Anonymisation is something about which they lied to us over medical data … If the same thing is about to be done by HMRC, there should be a much greater public debate about this," he said.
Former Conservative minister David Davis told the newspaper that the proposal is "borderline insane".
"The Treasury lists no credible benefits and offers a justification based on an international agreement that does not lead other governments to open up their tax database," he said.
"It defies logic that we would remove those restraints at a time when data can be collected by the gigabyte, processed in milliseconds and transported around the world almost instantaneously."
"The ongoing claims about anonymous data overlook the serious risks to privacy of individual level data being vulnerable to re-identification," said Emma Carr, deputy director of campaign group Big Brother Watch.
Courtesy Brad Stone, BusinessWeek.com
I recently wrote about Oculus, which is developing the Rift virtual reality system for PCs. It’s racing against Sony (SNE), which also has its own prototype VR technology, called Project Morpheus, for the PlayStation 4. The Rift, which looks like a thick pair of darkened goggles, lets gamers immerse themselves in a rich, computer-generated 3D world. It’s not yet for sale in stores, but the company just unveiled a kit for developers, which sells for $350. The startup, based in Irvine, Calif., was founded by the excellently named 21-year-old Palmer Lucky. It has one of the most famous game developers in the world as its chief technology officer—John Carmack, the maker of iconic shoot-’em-ups Doom and Quake.
So imagine chatting with your Facebook friends not just via instant messages or VoIP calls, but by settling into a virtual café with them for an imaginary cup of coffee. Or visiting a doctor halfway across the world and explaining your symptoms in a virtual examination room. Remember Second Life? Like that, but with electronic headwear.
For now, the Rift is aimed at gamers. But Zuckerberg seems to be paying more attention to the Rift’s other potential uses. He writes:
After games, we’re going to make Oculus a platform for many other experiences. Imagine enjoying a court side seat at a game, studying in a classroom of students and teachers all over the world or consulting with a doctor face-to-face—just by putting on goggles in your home.
This is really a new communication platform. By feeling truly present, you can share unbounded spaces and experiences with the people in your life. Imagine sharing not just moments with your friends online, but entire experiences and adventures.
Facebook stock dropped slightly in after-hours trading on the announcement. It recently announced an acquisition of text-messaging company WhatsApp for $16 billion.
Oculus raised $91 million from investors such as Andreessen Horowitz. Chris Dixon, a partner at the venture capital firm, said he didn’t quite believe in the Rift until he visited the company’s headquarters and tried it on for the first time. He says he was instantly sold and compared previous attempts at VR to the ill-fated Apple Newton in the 1990s: “People in tech knew we would have handheld computers. The only question was when.” In VR, he added, “The reality is that the technology—like screens, sensors, and software—hasn’t been good enough until now.” (Bloomberg LP, the parent of Bloomberg Businessweek, is an investor in Andreessen Horowitz.)
Dixon’s bet, and now Facebook’s, is that the Rift is the iPhone for virtual reality. And the acquisition gives Facebook a way to combat Google (GOOG), Amazon(AMZN), and others in the hardware business.
It should be noted, though, that while the Rift can unlock new kinds of online social experiences, it also isolates its users in the boring ol’ real world. (I played a few games on a prototype and posted a video of my experience.) While you can presumably interact with other people’s avatars, the Rift also blots out absolutely everything around you—like any friends who might be sitting in the same room. There’s nothing social about that.
Photo : Aurich Lawson
Courtesy Cyrus Farivar, Ars Technica
Recently, I became the first person in the history of Ars Technica to have a gold—rather than black—user name.
How did I get this blinged-out honor? I bought it for the low, low price of 500 Arscoins—the latest digital cryptocurrency to hit the Internet. Arscoin is one of around 100 or so “altcoins,” or alternative bitcoins, derived from the same source code as the original cryptocurrency.
Everything you need to know to mine Arscoins with your CPU or GPU.
The existing Bitcoin community has an inherent distrust of many altcoins. Bitcoin forums are replete with discussions of “pump and dump” scams, where the originators of a new altcoin might “pre-mine” coins, release their currency to the general public, and market their hot new cryptocurrency hard in order to drive the price up. Then the creators simply sell off their coins at a profit and walk away. It’s one of the oldest financial tricks in the book.
But other altcoin creators are true believers in anarcho-capitalism, or they simply find Bitcoin and its derivatives new and interesting. And not all altcoins are quite as ridiculous as they may seem; evenDogecoin, which was jokingly based on an image meme, has an on-paper market capitalization ofmore than $60 million.
As the new year began, I found myself writing about several new (and often ridiculous) altcoins: Coinye, Norris Coin, and yes, Koindashian. It got me thinking: if anyone can just up and create a new altcoin, how hard can it be? Arscoin is our attempt to find out. Here’s how we created our own digital currency, how you can do it too, and what it all means.
The Arscoin project is for those who want to experiment with digital currencies—and buy some fun hats and colored usernames along the way. In other words, it is for educational use only; we have centralized the system in order to prevent it from developing into a real-money economy.
Jesuscoin and Snoochyboochy
While the creator of Bitcoin
remains a mystery is reluctant to talk about his creation, the currency’s digital underpinnings are open to anyone to learn about; it’s famously open source. One of its first major competitors, Litecoin, used the Bitcoin source code in late 2011, changing a few key parameters before releasing its own source code. That, in turn, has spawned more recent clones like BBQCoin and Dogecoin. According to Coinmarketcap.com, 75 mineable altcoins currently exist, with market capitalizations ranging from $38,000 (FedoraCoin) to $10.3 billion (Bitcoin). Even other journalists have started their own altcoins (see Joe Weisenthal’s Stalwartbucks).
To create an altcoin, enterprising developers generally take the Bitcoin (or Litecoin) source code found on Github, tweak it as they see fit, and then compile it into the files necessary to generate the blockchain and start mining. Not surprisingly, there’s an entire subreddit devoted to the practice, and helpful altcoin users have written up extensive guides with titles like “The altcoin explosion… and how to profit from it,” “Complete Guide on How to Create a New Alt Coin,” and “How To Clone Scrypt Based Altcoins for Fun and Profit.”
However, for non-coders, this approach often includes daunting instructions like:
Once all of the dependencies are built and installed, the next step is to clone the source from git. In this example, I will be cloning foocoin, rename it, re-git initialize it, and push the initial copy out to Github to ensure git is working:%git clone https://github.com/foocoin/foocoin.git cloning in to foocoin %mv foocoin barcoin %cd barcoin %rm -rf .git %git init initializing git repository in ~/barcoin %git add -A * %git commit -m "first commit" %git remote add origin https://github.com/barcoin/barcoin.git %git push -u origin master username for email@example.com: barcoin password for firstname.lastname@example.org: **********
But for programming newbies (like me), altcoin creation is still possible. University of North Carolina student Matt Corallo’s Coingen.io debuted in early January 2014, and many sources told me that it is the easiest way to craft a new altcoin. It has already been used to create coins with names like “jesuscoin,” “snoochyboochy,” “supercalifragilisticexpialidociouscoin,” and my personal favorite, “wake_up_sheeples_banker_owned_federal_reserve_notes_equals_more_debt.”
Courtesy Ryan Neal, International Business Times
Courtesy ERIC LIMER, Gizmodo
Fiber internet is great no matter who’s laying it down. Gigabit connection speeds? Hell yes. But if you thought that was fast, researchers in the UK have something better that will not only blow your hair back, but blow it right off: a 1.4 terabit connection, and all with commercial-grade hardware.
Developed by a joint research team from French telecoms company Alcatel-Lucent and BT, the magic of this incredible connection isn’t in fancy hardware. Instead, it’s in a new protocol named Flexigrid that lets you lay multiple signals over the top of each other in a a single cable, which lets data race from point A to point B in parallel. When layered all together, seven 200 Gbps channels form one, mega "Alien Super Channel" that offers the 1.4 Tbps speeds across a 255 miles stretch of fiber that already exists between the BT Tower in London and a BT research campus in Suffolk.
How fast is 1.4 Tbps? Fast enough to stream any one of the following in one second:
- 64 hours of HD Netflix
- 38 hours in 3D or 4K
- 36,409 songs from Spotify
Everybody hates wires, but if you want crazy speed, they’re the way to go. But maybe not anymore. A team of German scientists have developed… Read…
We’ve seen some other impressive advances in connectivity recently too, like 200 Gb wireless connections through a combination of hardware and a software advancements. But 1.4 Tbps through pure protocol is especially exciting because it doesn’t require any infrastructure changes. This could theoretically run on the fiber (much of which is lying useless) in the ground right now.
But laying new fiber is a rough process, and not many people (aside from Google) are actively pursuing it in the US. Still if we could get 1.4 Tbps out it, that’s all the reason in the world to bring dark fiber back to life, and start laying more new stuff to boot. A whole 1,433 reasons to hurry it up already. [The Independent]