Five things you need to know about the FAA’s new rules for flying drones

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The Federal Aviation Agency just introduced its long awaited proposal for new drone regulations. Right now it’s illegal for companies to operate drones over the U.S. To fly commercially, companies must get a specific exemption, and only a handful have obtained them so far. The goal of these new rules is to open up the skies to any company with a qualified operator that is willing to follow some basic guidelines.

Nothing will become official until after a period of public comment, but the industry is hailing the FAA’s approach as a sensible update that would allow the industry to finally move forward with everyday use of drones. Here are the five big takeaways from yesterday’s news.


  1. 7,000 new companies flying…

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Microsoft will support biometric password-killers on Windows 10

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Soon, you may be able to log in to Outlook with a fingerprint or an eyescan. At the Stanford Cybersecurity Summit on Friday, Microsoft announced that Windows 10 would support the next version of the Fast Identification Online (FIDO) spec, allowing devices to work with a wealth of third-party biometric readers and providing an easy framework for any hardware makers that want to build extra security into a laptop or phone. Unlike existing fingerprint readers, FIDO is designed to entirely replace passwords, moving towards faster and more localized authentication methods. In a blog post accompanying the announcement, Microsoft’s Dustin Ingalls said moving beyond the password was, “one of the top priorities for us here at Microsoft.”

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Fifty Shades of Grey made a bunch of money, and that’s OK

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This is a tweet written by News Corp CEO Rupert Murdoch about the motion picture Fifty Shades of Grey. Because tweets are limited to 140 characters, I will do Mr. Murdoch the favor of unpacking his cultural observation/joke.

  • Fifty Shades of Grey has made a lot of money.
  • Fifty Shades of Grey‘s appeal is limited to a specific demographic (“middle aged women’s groups.”)
  • Subtext: this demographic has questionable legitimacy.
  • Fifty Shades of Grey was not critically well-received by this demographic (and, it goes without saying, actual film critics.)
  • S…

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Interstellar’s fake black holes are helping actual scientific research

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Whether Interstellar was a good movie or not is still up for debate, but what seems certain now is that it led to some good science. Last year, Wired magazine explained how the visual effects team behind the space blockbuster worked with theoretical physicist Kip Thorne to create a new computer simulation to model how light would be dragged into the black hole Gargantua. Now, the calculations underpinning this code have been published in a scientific journal, with astrophysicists saying the software could help them model other celestial objects in the future.

existing software just couldn’t handle the size of the IMAX screen

When the Interstellar team began working on simulations for the film, they realized that current technology…

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Penguins love eating fish but probably can’t taste them

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You’d think that penguins would love the meaty taste of fish, but it turns out that they may not be able to taste their food much at all. A new genetic study out of the University of Michigan finds that penguins appear to have long ago lost the ability to taste sweet and bitter flavors, as well as the savory, meaty flavor known as umami. Together, sweet, bitter, and umami make up three of the five basic tastes. The other two, sour and salty, may still be present in penguins. The findings are being published today in Current Biology.

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Will the Apple car be self-driving or not?

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It’s only been a few days since multiple publications started pointing us toward the possibility of an Apple car. (It’s so fresh that the phrase “Apple car” still feels a little odd to write.) In all likelihood, an actual car is years away from introduction — if Tim Cook and company decide to release it at all. Yet there’s already a rift growing in this young rumor mill: will Cupertino’s take on the future of transportation be capable of driving itself? The Wall Street Journal says no; Reuters says yes.

The truth is they’re both likely right.

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15 things we learned from The New Yorker’s Jony Ive profile

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It’s not very often that Apple welcomes reporters through its doors, let alone allows them to spend a significant amount of time with some of its chief employees. But last year, The New Yorker had a chance to visit and speak with Jony Ive, Apple’s design chief, and the magazine has just published a long profile of him. You can read the entire piece over at The New Yorker‘s website, but we’ve pulled out a few of the more interesting bits of information that we learned about Jony Ive, the Apple Watch, and more while reading through it:

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John Oliver asks how the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue is still a thing

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Between SNL 40, the NBA All-Star game, and a three-hour episode of The Bachelor, it’s possible you missed last night’s episode of Last Week Tonight with John Oliver. That’s a shame, because season two is continuing the hot streak that began in season one.

You were too busy watching The Bachelor The show’s recurring segment, “How Is This Still a Thing,” tackled the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, the anachronistic compilation of sexy model photos that fall somewhere between Victoria’s Secret and Playboy — themselves relics of a time long past.

Who is the Swimsuit Issue for? My guess: teenage boys who can’t purchase a smutty mag, but have some guilt complex about Googling “nudes” on their family’s Dell.

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Game of Thrones characters still alive in the books will die in Season Five

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Just because a character is alive in the Game of Thrones books, which are currently chronologically ahead of the TV series, doesn’t mean they will survive the upcoming fifth season on HBO. This news comes from author George R.R. Martin, who had this to say in an interview with Showbiz 411: “People are going to die who don’t die in the books, so even the book readers will be unhappy,” he said. “So everybody better be on their toes. [Showrunners] David [Benioff] and D.B. [Weiss] are even bloodier than I am.”

Of course, killing off characters on the show at different times than they occurred in the books has a precedent. Who can forget the deaths of REDACTED, REDACTED, and REDACTED.

Martin didn’t provide further clarification about what…

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Valve is letting money spoil the fun of Dota 2

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By this point, Dota 2 should need no introduction. Valve’s most popular game now attracts 10 million players every month and this past weekend it became the first Steam title to surpass the milestone of having over a million concurrent users. Just as it reaches this new peak in popularity, however, Dota 2 is hitting a new low with its most ardent fans as server issues have plagued Valve’s introduction of the New Bloom Festival update. But server issues come and go; what’s much worse is the addition of a new Year Beast Brawl game mode that lets players purchase a competitive advantage in the game.

One of the sacrosanct principles of Dota 2 is that the whole game is free to play. Unlike some mobile games that are free to download but then…

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Jony Ive gave JJ Abrams ‘very specific’ input on lightsaber designs

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The new lightsaber that appeared in the trailer for Star Wars: The Force Awakens provoked some strong reactions last year, but how much more would people care if it transpires that Apple’s Jony Ive had a hand in its creation? In an extensive profile on the superstar British designer for the New Yorker, journalist Ian Parker describes how Ive and crossed paths with Star Wars director J.J. Abrams in what might be one of the greatest nerd-crossovers of all time:

Ive once sat next to J. J. Abrams at a boozy dinner party in New York, and made what Abrams recalled as “very specific” suggestions about the design of lightsabres. Abrams told me that “Star Wars: The Force Awakens” would reflect those thoughts, but he wouldn’t say how.

“less…

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Transparency is coming to those attack ads on cable TV

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The FCC is proposing new laws that would force cable TV operators and radio broadcasters to publish information online about who buys political ad time and for how much. The legislation would make it much easier for media watchdogs, concerned citizens, and journalists to track political spending across the country and would be an important tool for political transparency — especially as campaigns begin using more and more targeted ads to win over voters.

more than 650,000 reports have been viewed nearly 6 million times

Although broadcasters in the US have had to maintain files on this sort of information for years, until 2012 it was only available in person, with members of the public forced to drive to a station’s headquarters to…

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VAIO’s first post-Sony laptops transform into tablets

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Sony jettisoned VAIO more than a year ago now, but the iconic PC brand isn’t dead. Sold to investment fund Japan Industrial Partners, VAIO is back with two new PCs, announced today in Tokyo. The VAIO Z and the VAIO Z Canvas are the first devices designed and put out by VAIO itself — the former is the company’s new flagship, a $1,600 ultrabook with a hinged back that lets users transform it from laptop to pseudo-tablet, while the latter is a cheaper, smaller, and lighter option with a detachable keyboard.

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Google gives developers more time to fix security flaws before revealing them

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Google’s Project Zero, announced last year as a way to bolster internet security, had Google engineers identifying “zero day” vulnerabilities in software and services — previously unknown security flaws that developers have had no time to patch or fix. When its engineers found such vulnerabilities, Google would originally give the developers a strict 90-day window to issue a fix, before making an exploit or security hole public. At the time of launch, the search giant believed the timeframe would give developers enough time to cook up a fix, but in the face of criticism, it’s now extended that 90-day period.

If developers contact Google and indicate that a fix is being put together, but won’t be ready in time for the 90-day window, then…

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Apple makes iWork apps available to users without any Apple devices

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Apple is taking its iWork for iCloud apps multi-platform, turning it into a product accessible to internet users on any device, similar to Google Docs. Where previously to use Apple Pages, Numbers, and Keynote, you needed to own at least one Apple device, you’re now able to get an Apple ID and access the apps without needing your own Mac, iPhone, or iPad.

Users need an Apple ID before they can use word processor Pages, spreadsheet app Numbers, and Powerpoint-a-like Keynote. Those who do sign up to use iWork for iCloud apps get 1GB of free storage so they can save files in Apple’s apps and access them across different devices even if they only have access to Windows, Android, or Linux machines. For now, the option to use the apps only…

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The LG Watch Urbane is an all-metal ‘luxury’ Android Wear smartwatch

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LG has announced the first details of the LG Watch Urbane. It’s an Android Wear smartwatch with a circular display, like the G Watch R, but this time the 1.3-inch screen is encased in a “luxury” all-metal body. It’ll be available in gold and silver finishes, and comes with a 22mm natural leather strap. The watch uses a Qualcomm Snapdragon 400 processor and includes a heart rate sensor.

“The LG Watch Urbane’s classic design and smart features make it the perfect smartwatch to complement our G Watch and G Watch R, which were designed as more casual and active devices,” says LG mobile president and CEO Juno Cho in a statement. That’s about it for details so far, but the LG Watch Urbane will be at Mobile World Congress in a couple of weeks…

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Here’s what Jurassic World’s new super dinosaur looks like in Lego

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Toy Fair is ever the weird, wild affair, and 2015 is no different. Thousands of industry folks descended on the Javits Center in New York City this weekend to show of the coming year’s big toys. As usual, Lego managed to stand out with its ware, but this year is a little bit different for the block company. Unlike recent years, when fans couldn’t expect boatloads of nostalgic homages to the likes ofGhostbusters or The Simpsons. Instead, many of Lego’s wares were tailor made for the upcoming blockbuster season. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

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A Kickstarter project wants to make immersive virtual reality for groups

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A recently funded Kickstarter project wants to create technology that can beam virtual reality into an entire room. The project, called Immersis, plans to make virtual reality something that a group of people can experience all at the same time — without wearing anything on their faces.

The company behind the project, Catopsys, calls Immeris an “innovative, disruptive technology” and says it can change the social aspects of virtual reality. The projector, which Wired points out looks like a sinister Pixar lamp, can connect to your computer and beam any content in 180 degrees.

“An immersive, disruptive technology”

The technology can adapt an image to fit the size and shape of any room it’s in, but Immersis users must first create…

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The FAA just took a huge step towards legalizing commercial drone flights

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The FAA’s long awaited rules for flying small drones have arrived. Up until today it was illegal to fly drones for commercial purposes unless you had a specific exemption from the FAA for testing. The new rules explain a framework that would allow any company to fly so long as they abide by some FAA guidlines.

For the most part the agency chose to avoid adding any new restrictions, preferring to incorporate drones into the existing framework in an attempt to minimize complexity and costs. Most importantly, the agency said it believes that drones can save lives, boost the economy, and be integrated safely into the national airspace.

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