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FCC Plan for Internet Fast Lanes Leaves Net Neutrality Behind

Open Internet rules that have preserved equal treatment for all Web traffic could undergo a radical shift in the coming days. U.S. federal regulators plan to propose new rules today that would allow broadband providers such as Comcast, Verizon and Time Warner Cable to charge extra fees to companies for access to faster Internet lanes—perhaps signaling the death knell for net neutrality.

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Error-Free Quantum Computing Made Possible in New Experiment

For quantum computing to ever fulfill its promise, it will have to deal with errors. That's been a real problem until now, because although scientists have come up with error correction codes, the quantum machines available couldn't make use of them. But researchers report today that they've created a small quantum computing array that for the first time performs with enough accuracy to allow for error correction—paving the way toward practical machines that could outperform ordinary computers.

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Supreme Court Debates Aereo's Fate, Future of TV and Cloud

Should scrappy, tech-savvy entrepreneurs be able to design their way around laws that regulate rebroadcasting? That was the underlying issue on 22 April as the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments in American Broadcasting Companies, Inc., et al. v. Aereo, Inc.

Aereo, which IEEE Spectrum profiled earlier this year, is a Brooklyn, N.Y.-based startup that lets subscribers stream TV shows from certain channels to their digital devices. Its tagline is “Watch live TV online. Save shows for later. No cable required.” Aereo does that by picking up free television broadcasts and storing them in a cloud-based DVR system.

But here's the key technological detail: Each Aereo subscriber is assigned an individual, postage-stamp-size antenna, which is attached to one of the company's servers and picks up TV signals for that user. Because customers rent their own antennas, Aereo argues that its service does not violate rebroadcasting laws.

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Many Americans Wary of Drones, Robot Caregivers and Google Glass

Many Americans who see technology as changing life for the better don't seem ready to embrace commercial drones, robot caregivers and wearable computing devices such as Google Glass. A new survey shows certain technologies remaining controversial despite a majority of respondents having an optimistic view of technology's long-term impact on life.

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Tiny Particles Can Deliver Three Cancer Drugs to Target Tumors

Tiny particles capable of precisely targeting cancerous tumors with fewer side effects have been limited in their ability to deliver more than one or two drugs. MIT researchers have overcome that limit for the first time by building new nanoparticles capable of carrying three or more chemotherapy drugs.

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FBI's Facial Recognition Database Will Include Non-Criminals

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) aims to collect up to 52 million facial images of both criminals and ordinary citizens by 2015. These will be stored in a single expanded biometrics database that will allow law enforcement to search both criminal and non-criminal faces at the same time—a capability that has some watchdog groups warning of possible privacy violations.

The FBI's growing collection of facial recognition data inside its Next Generation Identification (NGI) database already includes 16 million images as of the middle of 2013, according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF), a nonprofit group focused on digital rights. The agency's goal of expanding to 52 million images by 2015 also includes a possible 4.3 million images taken for non-criminal purposes such as applying for a job. For the first time, U.S. law enforcement could run searches on both criminal and non-criminal faces simultaneously in the hunt for suspects.

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Bitcoin is a Tax Nightmare, But LibraTax Has Got You Covered

Happy April, 15th! For U.S. citizens and residents, today is tax day. And if you're one of the many Americans who was pulled into the cryptocurrency fray last year—if you traded Bitcoin on online exchanges, if you bought a ticket to space with bitcoins, even if you just used it to buy your morning coffee—then filing your taxes just got a lot more complicated. Last month, the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) published its guidance for "virtual currency" holders, in which it defines Bitcoin and all other digital currencies as property rather than foreign currency. In order to comply with the rule, Bitcoin holders who are U.S. taxpayers must now calculate a capital gain or loss on every transaction they make. If you bought your Bitcoin at US $600, but it was valued at $800 when you used it to buy that coffee, then you owe taxes on the difference. 

With Bitcoin's crazy price swings—the exchange rate of Bitcoin soared past $1000 last December, went down to $800 in February, and it's around $500 today—that makes for a lot of messy calculations. Fortunately, the Bitcoin community doesn't tend to sit on its problems for very long, at least not when they are technical in nature. Companies are already emerging to offer simple, automated tax preparation for Bitcoin users. This will be the primary product of a company called LibraTax, which plans to officially launch this fall.

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A Cloud-Connected Car Is a Hackable Car, Worries Microsoft

Way back in the 1980s I watched my computer-geek friend manipulate the hot-rolling process of his client's steel mill in Cleveland in real time—from his home. I wondered whether millions of dollars and dozens of lives might be destroyed should this great power somehow fall into the wrong hands.

"Yes," he explained.

That's the difference between hacking a physical rather than a virtual entity.

Nowadays steel plants and other super-sensitive industrial machinery are (or should be) walled off from the Internet. That's why the worm Stuxnet, the only known cybersaboteur to derail physical processes, apparently had to wend its way to Iran's nuclear enrichment plant via memory sticks. Once inside it would seem to have spread on local networks. 

But tomorrow's autonomous cars will be far more vulnerable because they will be networked, says Michal Braverman-Blumenstyk, the general manager of cybersecurity at Azure, Microsoft’s cloud service. She was speaking today at a Tel Aviv conference, as reported in the Wall Street Journal.

“Some of the functionality of connected cars can be accessed remotely—velocity adjustment for example,” she said. “If police are chasing a criminal, you’d want the police to be able to slow the suspect’s car down. However, if a malicious entity gets hold of the car, the damage is limitless.” 

It's a sobering thought to entertain just as the cyberworld is scrambling to fix the OpenSSL vulnerability, aka "Heartbleed," which appears to have stripped connected devices naked the world over. 

Tomorrow's autonomous cars will need to access networks to augment their onboard sensors. But even today's semi- or non-autonomous cars are getting connected. Already governments are speaking of mandating a capability for "car2car" talk, as it's called, which would let cars learn through the grapevine about what may lie on the other side of a coming bend in the road. A similar "car2I" capability would let vehicles query infrastructure to learn about traffic routing and local rules of the road. 

Car companies, including GM, Chrysler and Audi, are already beginning to use wireless connections to update software. After battery fires in Tesla's Model S electric car, the company sent an "over-the-air software update" to the cars' active suspension systems that directed them to maintain a greater clearance with the ground. That way, debris kicked up would be less likely to damage the battery pack.

This could be big, according to Bill Fleming, senior editor of IEEE Vehicular Technology Magazine.  "Nearly 60 to 70 percent of vehicle recalls in major automotive markets in North America and Europe are due to software glitches," he writes in the March issue. The problem will only grow along with the software line-count.  

Face Aging Software Can Show Your Child's Future

Parents who want to know how their baby might look as an adult could eventually see their child's visual transformation from a toddler to an 80-year-old in less than a minute. The world's first automated aging software can make a set of predictions based on a photo of a child's face and then turn out a series of images illustrating those guesses—all in about 30 seconds on a standard computer.

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Electrical Spine Stimulation Helps Paralyzed Patients Regain Some Movement

Four individuals diagnosed as having complete paralysis of the legs were able to intentionally move their knees, ankles, and toes while undergoing electrical stimulation of the spinal cord, according to a study published yesterday in the journal Brain. The novel therapy has the potential to change the grim prognosis of people who have been paralyzed for years, say the researchers involved in the study based out of the University of Louisville in Kentucky.

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