Tech Today w/ Ken May

Archive for May 5th, 2017

New submitter evolutionary writes: Plutus Payroll, an Australian payroll company, is refusing to pay contractors due to a dispute with companies using their services. Around 1, 000 IT workers are unable to receive payment for services rendered. One may ask, “Where are the companies who actually hired the IT workers?” The Register reports: “This story starts with Australia’s employment laws, which see lots of contractors officially employed by recruitment companies or payroll companies. The company at which the contractor works likes this arrangement as it means they don’t have to put such people on their books. Recruitment companies and payroll companies charge for the service. Contractors generally like the convenience of having one employer even though they hop from gig to gig. The system requires fluid payments. Companies who hire contractors pay the recruiter, which either pays contractors direct or pays the payroll company contractors prefer. If the cash stops flowing, contractors get crunched. That’s what’s happened to around 1, 000 contractors who elected to use Plutus as their paymasters: the company says it is in the midst of a completely unexplained ‘dispute’ that leaves it unable to pay contractors, or receive money from recruitment companies, but is still solvent. The Register has checked with the bank that Plutus clients say sends them their money — the bank says it is aware of no dispute. One possible reason for the mess is that Plutus did not charge for its services. How it made money is therefore a mystery. Another scenario concerns the company’s recent acquisition: perhaps its new owners are being denied access to some service Plutus could access as a standalone company. Plutus is saying nothing of substance about the situation. A spokesperson tells us the company deeply regrets the situation but won’t divulge anything about the dispute and has offered no details about when contractors can expect resolution.” Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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Has AACS 2.0 encryption used to protect UHD Blu-ray discs been cracked? While the details are scarce, a cracked copy of a UHD Blu-ray disc surfaced on the HD-focused BitTorrent tracker UltraHDclub. TorrentFreak reports: The torrent in question is a copy of the Smurfs 2 film and is tagged “The Smurfs 2 (2013) 2160p UHD Blu-ray HEVC Atmos 7.1-THRONE.” This suggests that AACS 2.0 may have been “cracked” although there are no further technical details provided at this point. UltraHDclub is proud of the release, though, and boasts of having the “First Ultra HD Blu-ray Disc in the NET!” Those who want to get their hands on a copy of the file have to be patient though. Provided that they have access to the private tracker, it will take a while to download the entire 53.30 GB disk. TorrentFreak reached out to both the uploader of the torrent and an admin at the site hoping to find out more, but thus far we have yet to hear back. From the details provided, the copy appears to be the real deal although not everyone agrees. Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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The one thing that helped me combat my irritation at being at an airport was the knowledge that airports are the great social equalizer: generally, it doesn’t matter who you are—rich, poor, famous, normal, whatever—you still have to check-in, go through security and get on the moving sidewalks to your gate. It sucks… Read more…

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Ice Energy A Santa Barbara-based company called Ice Energy has partnered with NRG Energy to deliver 1,800 “ice batteries” to commercial and industrial buildings served by electric utility Southern California Edison (SCE). The units are expected to reduce air conditioning bills by up to 40 percent and eliminate 200,000 tons of CO 2 over the next 20 years. Ice Energy has been building ice-based cooling systems since the early 2000s. Much like pumped storage or compressed air “batteries,” Ice Energy essentially stores electricity by drawing power from the grid at non-peak times to freeze water in a special container. Then at peak times, when the cost of electricity is high and grid operators are struggling to keep up with demand, Ice Energy’s systems kick in and use that block of ice to cool the space that the air conditioning unit normally serves. Read 14 remaining paragraphs | Comments

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Scientists have been trying to replace retinas in otherwise healthy eyes to help people suffering from diseases like retinitis pigmentosa. Unfortunately, earlier efforts were only able to use rigid, hard materials , which are very different from the natural retina. A researcher at Oxford University, however, has created a synthetic retina made of biological materials to better match natural human tissues. The study, titled “Light-Patterned Current Generation in a Droplet Bilayer Array” was published this April in Scientific Reports . Your retina sits at the back of your eye collecting light and converting them to electrical signals for your brain. The research, led by 24-year-old Vanessa Restrepo-Schild, uses a retina made of soft water droplets called hydrogels and biological cell membrane proteins. These cells act like pixels to detect light and create a gray scale image. It can then generate electrical signals to stimulate the neurons at the back of your eye just like a natural retina does. The artificial tissues don’t contain anything other than natural, biodegradable materials, making it less likely that recipients’ bodies will reject the implant. It’s also far less invasive than devices that reproduce the system mechanically. While the new synthetic retina has only been tested in the laboratory, Restrepo-Schild hopes to continue her research to explore its potential with living tissues. That may still be a ways off, but it could surely become a more viable way than other efforts to restore sight to people with retinal issues. Via: MedicalXpress Source: Nature.com

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