Federal Communications Commission Set To Vote On Net Neutrality

The FCC's ruling on net neutrality yesterday was the agency's most significant action in decades -- but it didn't come easy. It's something that's been discussed ever since Columbia Law professor Tim Wu coined the term net neutrality 2003, which, at its most basic level, refers to treating all web traffic equally. But the idea goes back to the age of the telegram, when the US government committed to treating all of those messages the same. As broadband access became more commonplace and the internet economy recovered from the dot-com bust of the '90s, Wu's net neutrality paper was a warning against the increasing power of ISPs. Now that we finally have a decent set of net neutrality rules, it's worth taking a look back to see how we got here.

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Google's proposed new campus

Hey, Apple and NVIDIA: you aren't going to be the only Silicon Valley giants with outlandish office space. Google has revealed a proposed redesign of its Mountain View campuses (specifically, four sites) that not only doesn't resemble a traditional workplace, but mirrors the company's open, flexible approach to tech. Rather than house everyone in concrete, Google plans "lightweight, block-like" facilities that can shuffle around as workers shift their focus to projects like self-driving cars. The buildings should do a better job of blending into the environment, too. They'll use translucent canopies to let in more air and light, and the emphasis is on protecting nature and the community (by promoting bike paths, local businesses and wildlife) rather than creating a sea of offices and parking lots.

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Lenovo Yoga 3 Pro

Lenovo said it was rethinking its approach to pre-loaded software on PCs in the wake of the Superfish security fiasco, and it's now clear that the computer maker wasn't kidding around. It's promising that its home PC software bundles going forward will be limited to Windows, in-house apps and security software. The only exceptions will occur in certain countries, where some third-party apps are "customarily expected." That IdeaPad or Yoga won't be truly bloatware-free (that would limit you to Windows alone), but a lot of the annoying and potentially dangerous cruft will be gone. Just be prepared to wait a while before you see leaner, cleaner Lenovo computers. The system builder is starting to tidy things up right away, but its effort won't be in full swing until Windows 10 arrives.

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London, UK. 30/11/12.A gamer dressed up as a character from the Super Mario Bros who has been camping outside HMV since Saturday

It's easy to hate on Nintendo. With the Wii U, the company played right into negative consumer expectations by releasing a product derided for its kid-friendly appeal, Fisher-Price toy-like looks, less-than-bleeding-edge silicon, confusing branding and (initially) clunky operating system. The message to the market at the system's launch seemed clear: The gaming giant had fallen behind the times. But that's not quite the truth.

There's a well-reasoned and deeply entrenched philosophy behind the often baffling, public-facing decisions Nintendo makes and that's to deliver high-quality and accessible entertainment experiences on cheap-to-produce (often older), innovative hardware. It's the Nintendo recipe for success as concocted by the domineering former president Hiroshi Yamauchi. It's the reason why Nintendo sits on billions of dollars of cash; why its famed first-party studio -- the home of Mario and Zelda creator Shigeru Miyamoto -- is called Entertainment Analysis and Development, or EAD. The company quite literally agonizes over ways to innovate the concept of "fun."

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A close friend of mine returned home from vacation to discover his house sitter -- his brother-in-law -- had downed an entire bottle Pappy Van Winkle 20 year bourbon. A tragedy, really. However, if an alcohol tech duo in Europe has its way, keeping tabs on your stash while you're away could become much easier. Diageo (an alcohol company) and Thinfilm (a printed electronics maker) teamed up to create a "smart bottle" that serves up cocktail recipes and can detect when a bottle has been unsealed. Thinfilm's OpenSense label sensor tags pair with a smartphones NFC chops to run the system that's also capable of tracking supply chain, in-store stock and promotional offers for brands and retailers. The pair constructed a prototype Johnnie Walker Blue bottle that'll be on display at next week's Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, but there's no word on when a similar solution could make its way to your local liquor store. Maybe the final version will be able to determine how much is left in a bottle, keeping sneaky house quests at bay.

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In Masquerada: Songs and Shadows, the city of Ombre resembles a fantastical, medieval Venice: elegant stone towers are lined with heavy wood furniture and the people dress in lush fabrics, wielding swords and spears. But Ombre is not Venice; it's an entirely secular society whose citizens put no stock in the idea of an afterlife, and it's a land where powerful magic stems from a collection of rare masks. The Inspettore, Cicero Gavar, returns from exile to investigate an earth-shattering kidnapping, with the help of spells, weapons, his team -- and his sexuality.

"While having the main character be gay and allowing a romance, as BioWare does, is very empowering to a gay player, we hope to serve them in another way -- to show our audience the beauty and humanity of a gay character and how it would translate to real world situations," lead developer Ian Gregory says.

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Film Star Trek Portraits

The Star Trek and sci-fi world at large suffered a great loss today, as Leonard Nimoy has passed away at the age of 83. Best known for his role as human/alien Spock in the TV and movie series, he had been hospitalized two days ago for chest pains. His wife Susan Bay Nimoy told the New York Times her husband died of end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, which he attributed to an old smoking habit. In recent years, he'd returned to our TV sets on Fringe playing the scientist William Bell, and made a cameo appearance as Spock Prime in Star Trek Into Darkness in 2013.

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Swatch's first foray into the fitness-tracking business is the Touch Zero One, a touchscreen watch built with beach volleyball in mind. This is an upgrade to the barely readable Swatch Touch, introducing features that track the ferocity of your spikes and bumps, how many steps you take and the number of calories burned during those all-day volleyball matches. It even counts the number of times you clap, finally settling the debate about who is the best sport on your team. The Touch Zero One then sends all of this information to a smartphone app, which ranks your volleyball performance from 0 to 100, beginner to professional. There's no need to charge the Touch Zero One each night -- the standard Swatch battery lasts for "months and months," the company promises. This baby should cost around $160, according to A Blog to Watch. Swatch hasn't set a release date, but it would make sense for its spike-tracker to show up on beaches by summer.

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In this Thursday, Dec. 20, 2012, photo, Chet Kanojia, founder and CEO of Aereo, Inc., stands next to a server array of antennas as he holds an antenna between his fingers, in New York.  Aereo is one of several startups created to deliver traditional media over the Internet without licensing agreements. Past efforts have typically been rejected by courts as copyright violations. In Aereo’s case, the judge accepted the company’s legal reasoning, but with reluctance. (AP Photo/Bebeto Matthews)

Aereo was expecting to sell its assets for at least $4 million (and up to $31 million) at a bankruptcy auction, following its loss in a protracted legal battle against broadcasters. Sadly, luck wasn't on its side yet again: the company has managed to raise a mere $2 million from the auction, which has only attracted 10 bidders. "We are very disappointed with the results of the auction. This has been a very difficult sales process and the results reflect that," one of Aereo's lawyer's, William Baldiga, said in a statement. The company has long planned to use the amount it will raise from the event to pay its creditors, and $2 million might not be enough.

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Year of the Goat: 11 Chinese smartphone brands to watch

2014 had been a wonderful year for the ever-competitive Chinese smartphone market. We saw the birth of new brands, the record of world's thinnest phone broken three times, and a couple of companies entering India with great reception (although not without some struggle). So with MWC following right after Chinese New Year, what better way to celebrate both than to look at the top Chinese smartphone brands? Granted, not all of these companies will be on the show floor next week (not Xiaomi or Oppo, for instance), but there's no stopping us from saying "ni hao" to them, anyway.

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