|(The stuff up here is Network Mirror's)||
Science_afficionado writes: Vanderbilt chemists have shown that creating bacterial 'fight clubs' is an effective way to discover natural biomolecules with the properties required for new drugs. They have demonstrated the method by using it to discover a new class of antibiotic with anti-cancer properties. From the Vanderbilt website: "That is the conclusion of a team of Vanderbilt chemists who have been exploring ways to get bacteria to produce biologically active chemicals which they normally hold in reserve. These compounds are called secondary metabolites. They are designed to protect their bacterial host and attack its enemies, so they often have the right kind of activity to serve as the basis for effective new drugs. In fact, many antibiotics and anticancer compounds in clinical use are either secondary metabolites or their derivatives."
The Programmer's Path To Management - Tue Jun 30 04:39:57 2015
snydeq writes: The transition from command line to line-of-command requires a new mind-set — and a thick skin, writes InfoWorld's Paul Heltzel in a tips-based article aimed at programmers interested in breaking into management. "Talented engineers may see managing a team as the next step to growing their careers. So if you're moving in this direction, what tools do you need to make the transition? We'll look at some possible approaches, common pitfalls — and offer solutions."
How IKEA Patched Shellshock - Tue Jun 30 02:12:52 2015
jones_supa writes: Magnus Glantz, IT manager at IKEA, revealed that the Swedish furniture retailer has more than 3,500 Red Hat Enterprise Linux servers. With Shellshock, every single one of those servers needed to be patched to limit the risk of exploitation. So how did IKEA patch all those servers? Glantz showed a simple one-line Linux command and then jokingly walked away from the podium stating "That's it, thanks for coming." On a more serious note, he said that it took approximately two and half hours to upgrade their infrastructure to defend against Shellshock. The key was having a consistent approach to system management, which begins with a well-defined Standard Operating Environment (SOE). Additionally, Glantz has defined a lifecycle management plan that describes the lifecycle of how Linux will be used at Ikea for the next seven years.
Study Suggests That HUD Tech May Actually Reduce Driving Safety - Tue Jun 30 00:37:25 2015
Zothecula writes: Having a heads-up display constantly feed you information while cruising down the road may make you feel like a jet pilot ready to avoid any potential danger but recent findings suggest otherwise. Studies done at the University of Toronto show that the HUD multi-tasking method of driving a vehicle is dangerous. "Drivers need to divide their attention to deal with this added visual information," said Department of Psychology professor Ian Spence, who led the research. "Not only will drivers have to concentrate on what’s happening on the road around them as they’ve always done, they’ll also have to attend to whatever warning pops up on the windshield in front of them."
Ask Slashdot: Choosing the Right Open Source License - Mon Jun 29 23:45:15 2015
Uber France Leaders Arrested For Running Illegal Taxi Company - Mon Jun 29 23:02:46 2015
An anonymous reader writes: Two Uber executives were arrested by French authorities for running an illegal taxi company and concealing illegal documents. This is not the first time Uber has run into trouble in France. Recently, taxi drivers started a nation-wide protest, blocking access to Roissy airport and the nation's interior minister issued a ban on UberPop. A statement from an Uber spokesperson to TechCrunch reads: "Our CEO for France and General Manager for Western Europe were invited to a police hearing this afternoon; following this interview, they were taken into custody. We are always available to answer all the questions on our service, and available to the authorities to solve any problem that could come up. Talks are in progress. In the meantime, we keep working in order to make sure that both our customers and drivers are safe following last week’s turmoils."
Airplane Coatings Help Recoup Fuel Efficiency Lost To Bug Splatter - Mon Jun 29 22:19:21 2015
MTorrice writes: When bugs hit the wings of oncoming airplanes, they create a problem. Their blood, called hemolymph, sticks to an airplane's wings, disrupting the smooth airflow over them and reducing the aircraft's fuel efficiency. To fight the problem, NASA is working on developing a coating that could help aircraft repel bug remains during flight. After experimenting with almost 200 different formulations, researchers recently flight-tested a few promising candidates. Results showed that they could reduce the amount of stuck bug guts on the wings by up to 40%. With further optimization, NASA says such coatings could allow planes to use 5% less fuel.
Malwarebytes Offers Pirates Its Premium Antimalware Product For Free - Mon Jun 29 21:36:03 2015
An anonymous reader writes: If you have a cracked or pirated version of Malwarebytes Anti-Malware (MBAM) product the company has debuted an Amnesty program for you. Venturebeat reports: "If you pirated Malwarebytes Anti-Malware, purchased a counterfeit version of the software, or are having problems with your key in general, the company is offering a free replacement key." CEO Marcin Kleczynski explained the program and his statement reads in part: "When I started Malwarebytes, I absolutely had no idea how successful we would be today. I am extremely grateful for all of the support from everyone and how fast we’ve grown. That being said, I picked a very insecure license key algorithm and as such, generating a pirated key was, and is, very simple.
The problem with pirated keys is that they may collide with a legitimate key just by the sheer numbers. For example, Larry may generate a pirated key that matches the exact key that I already bought. Yes, this is silly, and yes, this is literally the first thing a professional software company thinks of when building license key generation, but when you think you’re building a product for just a few people you don’t hash out these details.
Now we’ve grown up, and we’ve got a new licensing system that we’ve rolled out in stages. The only problem is that we have millions of users that we’ve sold keys to, or a reseller has sold keys to, or we’ve given out keys to without keeping track. It is a mess, and you as a consumer have every right to be upset.
Avira Wins Case Upholding Its Right To Block Adware - Mon Jun 29 20:54:27 2015
Mark Wilson writes: Security firm Avira has won a court case that can not only be chalked up as a win for consumer rights, but could also set something of a precedent. Germany company Freemium.com took Avira to court for warning users about "potentially unwanted applications" that could be bundled along with a number of popular games and applications. Freemium.com downloads included a number of unwanted extras in the form of browser toolbars, free trial applications, adware, and other crapware. Avira's antivirus software warned users installing such applications; Freemium took objection to this and filed a cease and desist letter, claiming anti-competitive practices. But the court ruled in Avira's favor, saying it could continue to flag up and block questionable software.
To Learn (Or Not Learn) JQuery - Mon Jun 29 20:11:51 2015
Nerval's Lobster writes: jQuery isn't without its controversies, and some developers distrust its use in larger projects because (some say) it ultimately leads to breakage-prone code that's harder to maintain. But given its prevalence, jQuery is probably essential to know, but what are the most important elements to learn in order to become adept-enough at it? Chaining commands, understanding when the document is finished loading (and how to write code that safely accesses elements only after said loading), and learning CSS selectors are all key. The harder part is picking up jQuery's quirks and tricks, of which there are many... but is it worth studying to the point where you know every possible eccentricity?
The Real-Life Dangers of Augmented Reality - Mon Jun 29 19:29:03 2015
Tekla Perry writes: Today's augmented reality devices have yet to go through extensive tests of their impact on their wearers' health and safety. But by looking at existing research involving visual and motor impairments, two Kaiser Permanente researchers find they can draw conclusions about the promise and perils of augmented reality, and point to ways wearable developers can make these devices safer. The researchers write: "Peripheral vision is more important than you might think, because it provides a wealth of information about speed and distance from objects. Central vision, despite the great detail it offers, gives you only a rough estimate of movement toward or away from you, based on changes in size or in the parallax angle between your eyes. But objects moving within your peripheral vision stimulate photoreceptors from the center of the retina to the edge, providing much better information about the speed of motion. Your brain detects objects in your peripheral field and evaluates if and how they (or you) are moving. Interfering with this process can cause you to misjudge relative motion and could cause you to stumble; it might even get you hit by a car one day."
SCOTUS Denies Google's Request To Appeal Oracle API Case - Mon Jun 29 18:47:09 2015
New submitter Neil_Brown writes: The Supreme Court of the United States has today denied Google's request to appeal against the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit's ruling (PDF) that the structure, sequence and organization of 37 of Oracle's APIs (application program interfaces) was capable of copyright protection. The case is not over, as Google can now seek to argue that, despite the APIs being restricted by copyright, its handling amounts to "fair use". Professor Pamela Samuelson has previously commented (PDF) on the implications if SCOTUS declined to hear the appeal. The Verge reports: "A district court ruled in Google's favor back in 2012, calling the API "a utilitarian and functional set of symbols" that couldn't be tied up by copyrights. Last May, a federal appeals court overturned that ruling by calling the Java API copyrightable. However, the court said that Google could still have lawfully used the APIs under fair use, sending the case back to a lower court to argue the issue. That's where Google will have to go next, now that the Supreme Court has declined to hear the issue over copyright itself.
Interviews: Ask Steve Jackson About Designing Games - Mon Jun 29 18:04:45 2015
Since starting his own company in 1980, Steve Jackson, founder and editor-in-chief of Steve Jackson Games, has created a number of hits, starting with Car Wars . . . followed shortly by Illuminati, and later by GURPS, the "Generic Universal Roleplaying System." In 1983, he was elected to the Adventure Gaming Hall of Fame - the youngest person ever so honored. He has personally won 11 Origins Awards. In the early 90's, Steve got international press due to the Secret Service's invasion of his office. The EFF helped make it possible for SJ Games to bring suit against the Secret Service and the U.S. government and win more than $50,000 in damages. His Ogre kickstarter a couple of years ago brought in close to a million dollars. His current hits are Munchkin, a very silly card game about killing monsters and taking their stuff, and Zombie Dice, in which you eat brains and try not to get shotgunned. His current projects include a variety of Munchkin follow-ups, and the continuing quest to get his games translated into digital form. Steve has agreed to put down the dice and answer any questions you may have. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one per post.
When a Company Gets Sold, Your Data May Be Sold, Too - Mon Jun 29 17:21:14 2015
MIT System Fixes Software Bugs Without Access To Source Code - Mon Jun 29 16:38:01 2015
jan_jes writes: MIT researchers have presented a new system at the Association for Computing Machinery's Programming Language Design and Implementation conference that repairs software bugs by automatically importing functionality from other, more secure applications. According to MIT, "The system, dubbed CodePhage, doesn't require access to the source code of the applications. Instead, it analyzes the applications' execution and characterizes the types of security checks they perform. As a consequence, it can import checks from applications written in programming languages other than the one in which the program it's repairing was written."
Bill Gates Investing $2 Billion In Renewables - Mon Jun 29 15:50:58 2015
An anonymous reader writes: Bill Gates has dumped a billion dollars into renewables, and now he's ready to double down. Gates announced he will increase his investment in renewable energy technologies to $2 billion in an attempt to "bend the curve" on limiting climate change. He is focusing on risky investments that favor "breakthrough" technologies because he thinks incremental improvements to existing tech won't be enough to meet energy needs while avoiding a climate catastrophe. He says, "There's no battery technology that's even close to allowing us to take all of our energy from renewables and be able to use battery storage in order to deal not only with the 24-hour cycle but also with long periods of time where it's cloudy and you don't have sun or you don't have wind. Power is about reliability. We need to get something that works reliably." At the same time, Gates rejected calls to divest himself and his charitable foundation of investments in fossil fuel companies.
New Study Accuses Google of Anti-competitive Search Behavior - Mon Jun 29 15:08:01 2015
An anonymous reader writes: Columbia Law School professor Tim Wu — the man who coined the term "network neutrality" — has published a new study suggesting that Google's new method of putting answers to simple search queries at the top of the results page is anticompetitive and harmful to consumers. For subjective search queries — e.g. "What's the best [profession] in [city]?" — Google frequently figures out a best-guess answer to display first, favoring its own results to do so. The study did some A/B testing with a group of 2,690 internet users and found they were 45% more likely to click on merit-based results than on Google's listings. Wu writes, "Search engines are widely understood as key mediators of the web's speech environment, given that they have a powerful impact on who gets heard, what speech is neglected, and what information generally is reached. ... The more that Google directs users to its own content and its own properties, the more that speakers who write reviews, blogs and other materials become invisible to their desired audiences."
How Television Is Fighting Off the Internet - Mon Jun 29 14:25:21 2015
HughPickens.com writes: Michael Wolff writes in the NY Times that online-media revolutionaries once figured they could eat TV's lunch by stealing TV's business model with free content supported by advertising. But online media is now drowning in free, and internet traffic has glutted the ad market, forcing down rates. Digital publishers, from The Guardian to BuzzFeed, can stay ahead only by chasing more traffic — not loyal readers, but millions of passing eyeballs, so fleeting that advertisers naturally pay less and less for them. Meanwhile, the television industry has been steadily weaning itself off advertising — like an addict in recovery, starting a new life built on fees from cable providers and all those monthly credit-card debits from consumers. Today, half of broadcast and cable's income is non-advertising based. And since adult household members pay the cable bills, TV content has to be grown-up content: "The Sopranos," "Mad Men," "Breaking Bad," "The Wire," "The Good Wife."
So how did this tired, postwar technology seize back the crown? Television, not digital media, is mastering the model of the future: Make 'em pay. And the corollary: Make a product that they'll pay for. BuzzFeed has only its traffic to sell — and can only sell it once. Television shows can be sold again and again, with streaming now a third leg to broadcast and cable, offering a vast new market for licensing and syndication. Television is colonizing the Internet and people still spend more time watching television than they do on the Internet and more time on the Internet watching television. "The fundamental recipe for media success, in other words, is the same as it used to be," concludes Wolff, "a premium product that people pay attention to and pay money for. Credit cards, not eyeballs."
Greek Financial Crisis Is an Opportunity For Bitcoin - Mon Jun 29 13:42:41 2015
An anonymous reader writes: Greece's economy has been in trouble for several years, now, and a major vote next weekend will shake it up even further. The country can't pay its debts, and the upcoming referendum will decide whether they face increased austerity measures or start the process of exiting the Euro. One side effect of the crisis is that alternative currencies like Bitcoin suddenly look much more attractive as the "normal" currencies become unstable. "Tony Gallippi, the co-founder of bitcoin payment processor Bitpay, tweeted on Sunday night that he expected the price of bitcoin to rise to between $610 and $1,250 if Greece exits the Euro. The currency is currently worth $250. Part of the reason why the crisis is so tempting for proponents of the cryptocurrency is the echoes of a previous crisis in the Eurozone: the banking collapse in Cyprus in 2013, which saw that nation also impose capital controls to prevent massive outflows of currency from the panicking country. That collapse came at the same time as the first major boom in the price of bitcoin, which began the year at less than $20 and peaked at ten times that by early April – before it all came crashing down."
The Underfunded, Disorganized Plan To Save Earth From the Next Giant Asteroid - Mon Jun 29 12:59:39 2015
New submitter citadrianne sends a story about the beginnings of our asteroid defense efforts, and how initial concern over an asteroid strike wasn't sustained long enough to establish consistent funding: Until a few decades ago, the powers that be didn't take the threat of asteroids very seriously. This changed on March 23, 1989, when an asteroid 300 meters in diameter called 1989FC passed within half a million miles of Earth. As the New York Times put it, "In cosmic terms, it was a close call." After this arguably close brush with total annihilation, Congress asked NASA to prepare a report on the threat posed by asteroids. The 1992 document, "The Spaceguard Survey: Report of the NASA International Near-Earth-Object Detection Workshop," was, suffice it to say, rather bleak.
If a large NEO were to hit Earth, the report said, its denizens could look forward to acid rain, firestorms, and an impact winter induced by dust being thrown miles into the stratosphere. ... After reports from the National Research Council made it clear that meeting the discovery requirement outlined in the Congressional mandate was impossible given the lack of program funding, NEOO got a tenfold budget increase from 2009 to 2014. Yet it still faces a number of difficulties. A program audit released last September described the NEOO program as a one-man operation that is poorly integrated and lacking in objectives and oversight.
AP CS Test Takers and Pass Rates Up, Half of Kids Don't Get Sparse Arrays At All - Mon Jun 29 12:17:44 2015
theodp writes: Each June, the College Board tweets out teasers of the fuller breakouts of its Advanced Placement (AP) test results, which aren't made available until the fall. So, here's a roundup of this year's AP Computer Science tweetstorm: 1. "Wow — massive gains in AP Computer Science participation (25% growth) AND scores this year; big increase in % of students earning 4s & 5s!" 2. "2015 AP Computer Science scores: 5: 24.4%; 4: 24.6%; 3: 15.3%; 2: 7.1%; 1: 28.6%." [3 or above is passing] 3."Count them: a whopping 66 AP Computer Science students out of 50,000 worldwide earned all 80 pts possible on this year's exam." 4. "Remember that AP exam standards are equated from year to year, so when scores go up, it's a direct indication of increased student mastery." 5. "Many AP Computer Science students did very well on Q1 (2D array processing–diverse array); >20% earned all 9/9 pts" [2015 AP CS A Free-Response Questions] 6. "The major gap in this year's AP Computer Sci classrooms seems to be array list processing; Q3 (sparse array): 47% of students got 0/9 pts."
How Uber Takes Over a City - Mon Jun 29 11:46:10 2015
schwit1 suggests Bloomberg's story on one aspect of Uber's corporate behavior that may leave a sour taste in the mouth of anyone who'd like to believe the Uber-vs.-the-Cartels narrative. The company hired David Plouffe, known for managing Barack Obama's rise to fame, and many others as well, to help them navigate inevitable and ongoing moves for regulation. The scale is impressive; according to the article: Over the past year, Uber built one of the largest and most successful lobbying forces in the country, with a presence in almost every statehouse. It has 250 lobbyists and 29 lobbying firms registered in capitols around the nation, at least a third more than Wal-Mart Stores. That doesn't count municipal lobbyists. In Portland, the 28th-largest city in the U.S., 10 people would ultimately register to lobby on Uber's behalf. And while the article focuses mostly on the example of Portland, the effort is ongoing and nationwide.
How Uber Takes Over a City - Mon Jun 29 11:36:10 2015
schwit1 suggests Bloomberg's story on one aspect Uber's corporate behavior that may leave a sour taste in the mouth of anyone who'd like to believe the Uber-vs.-the-Cartels narrative. The company hired David Plouffe, known for managing Barack Obama's rise to fame, and many others as well, to help them navigate inevitable and ongoing moves for regulation. The scale is impressive; according to the article: Over the past year, Uber built one of the largest and most successful lobbying forces in the country, with a presence in almost every statehouse. It has 250 lobbyists and 29 lobbying firms registered in capitols around the nation, at least a third more than Wal-Mart Stores. That doesn't count municipal lobbyists. In Portland, the 28th-largest city in the U.S., 10 people would ultimately register to lobby on Uber's behalf. And while the article focuses mostly on the example of Portland, the effort is ongoing and nationwide.
New Leaked Build Is Evidence That Windows 10 Will Be Ready By July 29 - Mon Jun 29 09:10:47 2015
Ammalgam writes: A new pre-released build of Microsoft's latest Operating System Windows 10 leaked to the internet today. The build (10151) shows a more refined and significantly faster user interface than previous versions of the product. Microsoft seem to be focused on last minute refinements of the UI at this point and the product looks almost ready for prime time. A picture gallery of Windows 10 build 10151 can be found here.
Solar Impulse, Continuing World-Spanning Trip, Attempts To Cross The Pacific - Mon Jun 29 06:23:08 2015
The BBC reports that Solar Impulse has resumed its 'round-the-world attempt, having taken off today from Nagoya, Japan for what is intended to be a 120-hour voyage to Hawaii. [If pilot Andre Borschberg] succeeds, it will be the longest-duration solo flight in aviation history, as well as the furthest distance flown by a craft that is powered only by the Sun. The Pacific crossing is the eighth leg of Solar Impulse's journey around the world. But this stage has proven to be the most difficult, and has been hit by weeks of delays." The circumnavigation attempt began earlier this year.
Chromecast Update Bringing Grief For Many Users - Mon Jun 29 04:17:06 2015
An anonymous reader writes: Last week, many Chromecast users were automatically "upgraded" to build 32904. Among the issues seen with this update are placing some users on the 'beta' release track, issues with popular apps such as Plex, HBO GO, (more embarassingly) YouTube, and others. Google so far has been slow to respond or even acknowledge the issues brought by customers, save for the beta release mishap. If you're a Chromecast user, what's been your experience?
Pass the Doritos, Scientists Develop Computer Game Targeted At Healthy Choices - Mon Jun 29 00:17:59 2015
MojoKid writes: Psychologists at the University of Exeter and Cardiff University have published a study that demonstrates how a simple computer game can help people lose weight. Participants in the study who played the specialized game lost and average of 1.5 pounds in the first seven days, and 4.5 pounds after six months. They also reduced their daily caloric consumption by 220 calories. Dr. Natalia Lawrence led the team of researchers that developed the computer game for the study. It was designed to train people to resist unhealthy food snack foods through a "stop versus go" process. Participants sat in front of a Pentium 3 PC running Matlab software on a 17-inch monitor. They were then instructed to press certain keys when images of things like fruits and clothes would appear, indicating a "go." But for images of calorie-dense foods (chips and cake, for example) they were instructed not to do anything, indicating a "stop" action.
Ask Slashdot: For What Are You Using 3-D Printing? - Sun Jun 28 23:13:01 2015
An anonymous reader writes: I've been thinking about getting a 3-D printer for a while: the quality is rising, the software is better, STL files really do seem a sufficiently good standard ("sufficiently standard," that is — I'm not worried that printers are going to stop supporting it anytime soon), and prices have dropped quite a bit. Importantly to me, it also seems like less of a jumping-off-a-cliff decision, since I can get a completely assembled one from places as wild and crazy as ... the Home Depot (not that I plan to). However, even the stretchiest practical things I can think of to print can't truly actually justify the price, and that's OK — I hope not to require enough replacement knobs and chess pieces to necessarily *need* one, and playing around with it is the main likely upshot, which I'm OK with. But still, I'd like to hear what uses you have been putting your 3-D printer to, including printers that aren't yours but belong to a hackerspace, public library, eccentric neighbor, etc. What actually practical / useful tasks have you been using 3-D printing for, and with what printer technology? What playful purposes? It's OK if you just keep printing out those chess pieces and teapots, but I'm curious about less obvious reasons to have one around. (And I might just use the local Tech Shop's anyhow, but the question still applies.) If you've purchased a 3D printer, are you happy with the experience? If so, or if not, what kind did you get?
Samsung Nanotech Breakthrough Nearly Doubles Li-Ion Battery Capacity - Sun Jun 28 21:48:16 2015
The Korea Times reports that Samsung researchers have published in Nature Communications the results of research (here's the abstract) that could lead to vastly greater storage capacity for lithium-ion batteries. The researchers, by growing graphene on silicon anodes, were able to preserve the shape of the anodes, an outcome which has formerly eluded battery designers: silicon tends to deform over numerous charging cycles. From the linked abstract: Here we report direct graphene growth over silicon nanoparticles without silicon carbide formation. The graphene layers anchored onto the silicon surface accommodate the volume expansion of silicon via a sliding process between adjacent graphene layers. When paired with a commercial lithium cobalt oxide cathode, the silicon carbide-free graphene coating allows the full cell to reach volumetric energy densities of 972 and 700Whl1 at first and 200th cycle, respectively, 1.8 and 1.5 times higher than those of current commercial lithium-ion batteries. Also at ZDNet.
BBC Curates The "Right To Be Forgotten" Links That Google Can't - Sun Jun 28 20:13:01 2015
An anonymous reader writes, quoting the BBC's Internet Blog: "Since a European Court of Justice ruling last year, individuals have the right to request that search engines remove certain web pages from their search results. Those pages usually contain personal information about individuals." The BBC, however, is not obligated to completely censor the results, and so has taken an approach that other media outlets would do well to emulate: they're keeping a list of those pages delisted by the search engines, and making them easy to find through the BBC itself. Why? The BBC has decided to make clear to licence fee payers which pages have been removed from Google's search results by publishing this list of links. Each month, we'll republish this list with new removals added at the top. We are doing this primarily as a contribution to public policy. We think it is important that those with an interest in the “right to be forgotten” can ascertain which articles have been affected by the ruling. We hope it will contribute to the debate about this issue. We also think the integrity of the BBC's online archive is important and, although the pages concerned remain published on BBC Online, removal from Google searches makes parts of that archive harder to find.
Detecting Nudity With AI and OpenCV - Sun Jun 28 18:55:19 2015
mikejuk writes: AI gets put to some strange tasks. Not satisfied with the Turing test or inventing Skynet Algorithmia have put together a nudity detector. Take one face detector from OpenCV and use it to find a nose. Take the skin color from the nose and then see what parts of the body are skin colored in the photo. If there is lot of skin color shout NUDE! Actually the website lets you put in your ow photos and classifies them into Rude or Good and gives you a confidence estimate. Obama with his top off — no problem but the familiar image processing test photo of Lena the pin up girl rates a 'Rude'.
WSJ Overstates the Case Of the Testy A.I. - Sun Jun 28 18:00:45 2015
mbeckman writes: According to a WSJ article titled "Artificial Intelligence machine gets testy with programmer," a Google computer program using a database of movie scripts supposedly "lashed out" at a human researcher who was repeatedly asking it to explain morality. After several apparent attempts to politely fend off the researcher, the AI ends the conversation with "I'm not in the mood for a philosophical debate." This, says the WSJ, illustrates how Google scientists are "teaching computers to mimic some of the ways a human brain works."
As any AI researcher can tell you, this is utter nonsense. Humans have no idea how the human, or any other brain, works, so we can hardly teach a machine how brains work. At best, Google is programming (not teaching) a computer to mimic the conversation of humans under highly constrained circumstances. And the methods used have nothing to do with true cognition.
AI hype to the public has gotten progressively more strident in recent years, misleading lay people into believing researchers are much further along than they really are — by orders of magnitude. I'd love to see legitimate A.I. researchers condemn this kind of hucksterism.
Google Will Reduce Accidental Mobile Ad Clicks, With Mandatory Borders and More - Sun Jun 28 16:57:00 2015
Mark Wilson submits news that Google is throwing a bone to mobile users annoyed by ads that (accidentally, or accidentally-on-purpose) make it too easy to accidentally click, breaking your browsing flow, by making those ads a bit less clickable. Writes Beta News: The company is taking steps to make the 'user experience' of ads a little better. It recognizes that advertisements that get clicked accidentally don't benefit anybody. They end up irritating the clicker, and are unlikely to be of value to the company that placed the ad. With around half of ad clicks being made by mistake, Google is now taking steps to stop this from happening — great news for users advertisers alike. In all, Google is making three key changes to ads that appear on smartphones and tablets, starting off by adding an unclickable border to the outer edges of advertisements.
Scientists Overcome One of the Biggest Limits In Fiber Optic Networks - Sun Jun 28 15:54:33 2015
Mark.JUK writes: Researchers at the University of California in San Diego have demonstrated a way of boosting transmissions over long distance fiber optic cables and removing crosstalk interference, which would mean no more need for expensive electronic regenerators (repeaters) to keep the signal stable. The result could be faster and cheaper networks, especially on long-distance international subsea cables. The feat was achieved by employing a frequency comb, which acts a bit like a concert conductor; the person responsible for tuning multiple instruments in an orchestra to the same pitch at the beginning of a concert. The comb was used to synchronize the frequency variations of the different streams of optical information (optical carriers) and thus compensate in advance for the crosstalk interference, which could also then be removed.
As a result the team were able to boost the power of their transmission some 20 fold and push data over a "record-breaking" 12,000km (7,400 miles) long fiber optic cable. The data was still intact at the other end and all of this was achieved without using repeaters and by only needing standard amplifiers.
A Failure For SpaceX: Falcon 9 Explodes During Ascension - Sun Jun 28 15:18:37 2015
MouseR writes with bad news about this morning's SpaceX launch: About 2:40 into it's flight, Falcon 9 exploded along stage 2 and the Dragon capsule, before even the stage 1 separation. Telemetry and videos are inconclusive, without further analysis as to what went wrong. Everything was green lights. This is a catastrophe for SpaceX, which enjoyed, until now, a perfect launch record. TechCrunch has coverage of the failure, which of course also means that today's planned stage one return attempt has failed before it could start; watch this space for more links. Update: 06/28 15:06 GMT by T : See also stories at NBC News, The Washington Post, and the Associated Press (via ABC News). According to the Washington Post, what was a catastrophe for this morning's launch is only a setback for the ISS and its crew, rather than a disaster: A NASA slide from an April presentation said that with current food levels, the space station would reach what NASA calls “reserve level” on July 24 and run out by Sept. 5, according to SpaceNews. [NASA spokeswoman Stephanie] Schierholz said, however, that the supplies would last until the fall, although she could not provide a precise date. Even if something were to go wrong with the SpaceX flight, she said, there are eight more scheduled this year, including several this summer, “so there are plenty of ways to ensure the station continues to be well-supplied.” Of note: One bit of cargo that was aboard the SpaceX craft was a Microsoft Hololens; hopefully another will make it onto one of the upcoming supply runs instead.
Elon Musk has posted a note on the company's Twitter channel: "Falcon 9 experienced a problem shortly before first stage shutdown. Will provide more info as soon as we review the data."
A Failure For SpaceX: Falcon 9 Explodes During Ascension - Sun Jun 28 14:56:18 2015
MouseR writes with bad news about this morning's SpaceX launch: About 2:40 into it's flight, Falcon 9 exploded along stage 2 and the Dragon capsule, before even the stage 1 separation. Telemetry and videos are inconclusive, without further analysis as to what went wrong. Everything was green lights. This is a catastrophe for SpaceX, which enjoyed, until now, a perfect launch record. TechCrunch has coverage of the failure, which of course also means that today's planned stage one return attempt has failed before it could start; watch this space for more links.
Disney Bans Selfie Sticks - Sun Jun 28 13:53:01 2015
New submitter albimaturityr writes with a story from the Orlando Sentinel that Disney is banning selfie sticks from its parks, starting with Disney World (as of Tuesday) but continuing with its other parks in California, Paris, and Hong Kong. Says the report: The issue has been building at Disney. Previously, the sticks were prohibited from its rides, and "no selfie-sticks" signs were at select rides, such as Big Thunder Mountain Railroad at Magic Kingdom. Cast members have given verbal warnings to rule breakers. Several incidents preceded the change, but officials have been discussing the rules for some time, Disney said. This week at Disney California Adventure park, a roller coaster was halted after a passenger pulled out a selfie-stick. The ride was closed for an hour.
Despite Regulatory Nod, Cheap Ebola Test Still Uneployed - Sun Jun 28 12:38:33 2015
According to an article in Nature, the researchers who developed an inexpensive, reliable field test for the Ebola virus are frustrated by the delay they've seen in actually having that test deployed. Known as the Corgenix test after the company which developed it, this diagnostic tool "could not replace lab confirmation, but it would allow workers to identify infected people and isolate them faster, greatly reducing the spread of disease," according to infectious-diseases physician Nahid Bhadelia. However, though it's been approved both by the US FDA (for emergency use) and the World Health Organization, its practical use has been hampered by country-level regulations. Just why is unclear; the test seems to be at least as effective as other typical tests, and in some ways better. One concern was that the test might fail to detect the virus in some cases of Ebola. But the independent field-validation1 (in Sierra Leone) shows that the kit was as sensitive at catching cases as the gold-standard comparison — a real-time polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) test that amplifies and detects genetic sequences that are specific to Ebola in blood and other bodily fluids.
FB Reveals Woeful Diversity Numbers - Sun Jun 28 11:15:28 2015
theodp writes: There's more work to do," said Facebook's Global Director of Diversity Maxine Williams, who issued a straight-out-of-How-to-Lie-With-Statistics diversity update on Thursday that essentially consisted of a handful of bar charts labeled with only percentages for select measures of the social networking giant's current demographics. In search of real numbers, the Guardian turned to Facebook's most recent Equal Employment Opportunity report filing, which showed that the ranks of black employees swelled by a grand total of seven (7) (1 woman) in the year covered by the filing, during which time Facebook saw an overall headcount increase of 1,231. Comparing Facebook's new bar charts of US tech employees to those issued last year shows the proportion of Hispanic and Black employees remained flat at 3% and 1% respectively, while a decline in the proportion of white employees from 53% to 51% was offset by an increase in the proportion of Asian employees from 41% to 43%.
Genetic Rescue Efforts Could Help Coral Shrug Off Warmer Oceans - Sun Jun 28 08:26:15 2015
The Washington Post reports that research published last week in the journal Science indicates that coral reefs may be less vulnerable to ocean temperature changes than has been widely believed, especially given human intervention. A slice: Some corals already have the genes needed to adapt to higher ocean temperatures, and researchers expect those genes will naturally migrate and mix with corals under stress over time ... And that process could potentially be sped up artificially. ... Giving coral evolution a boost isn't an entirely new concept. Some scientists have already suggested genetically modifying corals through artificial breeding, or doing the same for the tiny microbes that live inside corals and are essential to reef growth.
Weather Promising for Sunday Morning SpaceX Launch - Sun Jun 28 05:47:29 2015
USA Today reports that the weather looks good for Sunday morning's planned launch at 10:21, Florida time (14:21 GMT) of SpaceX's Dragon cargo capsule, loaded with a docking adapter intended for future manned-crew access to the International Space Station. An excerpt: "The forecast calls for a 90% chance of weather good enough to permit SpaceX's 208-foot Falcon 9 rocket to blast off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station during an instantaneous launch window. ... "This is actually pretty cool, because it does play right into our next Crew Dragon program," [Hans] Koenigsmann, SpaceX's vice president for mission assurance, said of the docking adapter in a separate news briefing. "It's something that we bring up for our own future, and so we're really motivated to bring this up." Related: astroengine writes points out that as part of this launch, SpaceX will make another attempt at landing the first stage of its Falcon 9 rocket on a floating platform off the coast of Florida after sending the Dragon cargo vehicle to the International Space Station. Although SpaceX is hoping to achieve something the rocket industry has never done before (true usability of rocket engines, cutting costs), it's not the only game in town — Blue Origin, ULA and Airbus all have rocket return desires.
iPhone 6S New Feature: Force Touch - Sun Jun 28 02:58:01 2015
New submitter WarJolt writes: Apple is adding Force Touch to their iPhone 6S and iPhone 6S Plus. I'm not sure if Force Touch enough to convince an Android user like myself to switch, but there are definitely some interesting possibilities for app developers. A challenge for App developers will be to make apps compatible with both Force Touch iPhones and non-force touch iPhones. (Here's the Bloomberg report Forbes draws from.)
Aiming To Beat Tesla's "3", Chevy Tests and Teases a Cheaper 200-Mile Electric Car - Sat Jun 27 23:48:01 2015
PC Magazine is one of many to note Chevrolet's upcoming effort to beat Tesla's Model 3 to market with a car that is "affordable" (a lot more affordable than the Model S) but which tops the 200-mile range that right now only Tesla beats in a widely available pure electric car. The Model 3 is expected to feature many of the features of the currently Tesla S variants, but in a smaller package and with a much lower price tag. The linked article features GM-supplied video of Chevy's all-elecric bolt, about which it says The car maker doesn't reveal much beyond what we already know: 200-plus-mile range and a starting price tag of $30,000. The video shows various Chevy engineers putting the camouflage-wrapped Bolt EV through its paces—climbing hills, accelerating, and coming to a stop, as well as enduring extreme heat and charging.
AMD's Project Quantum Gaming PC Contains Intel CPU - Sat Jun 27 22:33:39 2015
nateman1352 links to an article at Tom's Hardware which makes the interesting point that chip-maker AMD will offer Intel -- rather than AMD -- CPUs in their upcoming high-end gaming PC. (High-end for being based on integrated components, at least.) From the article: Recently, AMD showed off its plans for its Fiji based graphics products, among which was Project Quantum – a small form factor PC that packs not one, but two Fiji graphics processors. Since the announcement, KitGuru picked up on something, noticing that the system packs an Intel Core i7-4790K "Devil's Canyon" CPU. We hardly need to point out that it is rather intriguing to see AMD use its largest competitor's CPU in its own product, when AMD is a CPU maker itself.
AMD's Project Quantum Gaming PC Contains Intel CPU - Sat Jun 27 22:12:54 2015
nateman1352 links to an article at Tom's Hardware which makes the interesting point that chip-make AMD will offer Intel -- rather than AMD -- CPUs in their upcoming high-end gaming PC. (High-end for being based on integrated components, at least.) From the article: Recently, AMD showed off its plans for its Fiji based graphics products, among which was Project Quantum – a small form factor PC that packs not one, but two Fiji graphics processors. Since the announcement, KitGuru picked up on something, noticing that the system packs an Intel Core i7-4790K "Devil's Canyon" CPU. We hardly need to point out that it is rather intriguing to see AMD use its largest competitor's CPU in its own product, when AMD is a CPU maker itself.
Why Didn't Voyager Visit Pluto? - Sat Jun 27 20:08:01 2015
Flash Modin writes: NASA built the twin Voyager spacecraft for a rare planetary alignment that put Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune within reach at once. Originally, Voyager 1 was programmed to see Pluto in 1986, but managers targeted Saturn's planet-like moon Titan instead. That choice made Pluto impossible by vaulting Voyager 1 from the orbital plane. Interestingly, Voyager 2, which couldn't reach Pluto, made the case for New Horizons by revealing Neptune's moon Triton as a kidnapped Pluto. "I'm very glad that they chose not to go to Pluto in 1986," says New Horizons head Alan Stern. "We'll do a better job at Pluto with modern instruments than they would have, and they did a much better job at Saturn..."
GA Tech Researchers Train Computer To Create New "Mario Brothers" Levels - Sat Jun 27 18:52:56 2015
An anonymous reader writes with a Georgia Institute of Technology report that researchers there have created a computing system that views gameplay video from streaming services like YouTube or Twitch, analyzes the footage and then is able to create original new sections of a game. The team tested their discovery, the first of its kind, with the original Super Mario Brothers, a well-known two-dimensional platformer game that will allow the new automatic-level designer to replicate results across similar games. Rather than the playable character himself, the Georgia Tech system focuses instead on the in-game terrain. "For example, pipes in the Mario games tend to stick out of the ground, so the system learns this and prevents any pipes from being flush with grassy surfaces. It also prevents "breaks" by using spatial analysis – e.g. no impossibly long jumps for the hero."
Ask Slashdot: Are Post-Install Windows Slowdowns Inevitable? - Sat Jun 27 17:28:33 2015
blackest_k writes: I recently reinstalled Windows 7 Home on a laptop. A factory restore (minus the shovelware), all the Windows updates, and it was reasonably snappy. Four weeks later it's running like a slug, and now 34 more updates to install. The system is clear of malware (there are very few additional programs other than chrome browser). It appears that Windows slows down Windows! Has anyone benchmarked Windows 7 as installed and then again as updated? Even better has anybody identified any Windows update that put the slug into sluggish? Related: an anonymous reader asks: Our organization's PCs are growing ever slower, with direct hard-drive encryption in place, and with anti-malware scans running ever more frequently. The security team says that SSDs are the only solution, but the org won't approve SSD purchases. It seems most disk scanning could take place after hours and/or under a lower CPU priority, but the security team doesn't care about optimization, summarily blaming sluggishness on lack of SSDs. Are they blowing smoke?
79% of Airbnb Listings In Barcelona Are Illegal - Sat Jun 27 16:36:24 2015
dkatana writes: Barcelona has more than 16,000 Airbnb listings and, according to reports on Cities of the Future, 79% could be illegal. "In April, Airbnb's European General Manager Jeroen Merchiers confirmed, during the Student Tourism Congress in Barcelona, that the platform has more than 85,000 listings in Spain alone." But most Airbnb hosts do not apply for a permit, fail to pay insurance and tourist tax, and ignore Catalonian law that forbids short-term rentals of rooms in private homes. "Residents," says the article, "had been complaining about the rising number of tourist apartments and the conduct of the mostly student-age renters. The majority from Italy, Germany and the UK were partying all night, some running around naked, and generally trashing their neighborhoods."
Are We Too Quick To Act On Social Media Outrage? - Sat Jun 27 15:33:01 2015
RedK writes: Connie St-Louis, on June 8th, reported on apparently sexist remarks made by Sir Tim Hunt, a nobel prize winning scientist, during an event organised for women in sciences. This lead to the man's dismissal from his stations, all in such urgency that he did not even have time to present his side, nor was his side ever offered any weight. A leaked report a few days later suggests that the remarks were taken out of context. Further digging shows that the accuser has distorted the truth in many cases it seems. This is not the first time that people may have jumped the gun too soon on petty issues and ruined great events or careers.
Samsung To Stop Blocking Automatic Windows Updates - Sat Jun 27 14:37:06 2015
A few days ago, we mentioned that a piece of (nominally) utility software from Samsung was blocking critical security updates. Understandably, this isn't what users typically want. The Register reports that Samsung has now back-pedaled, though, and will be issuing a patch in the next few days to fix the glitch. (Users were able to manually install the updates anyhow, but the expected, automatic updates were blocked.) However, as the Register notes: The thought of a computer manufacturer disabling Windows Update will have had the Microsoft security team on edge. But there's also Windows 10 to consider. When the new operating system comes out, Windows Update will feed in fixes continuously, and if you're not a business customer those updates are going to be coming over the wires constantly. Enterprise users get Windows Update for Business, which allows them to choose when to patch, presumably after the plebs have beta-tested them.
AppleCare+ Now Covers Batteries That Drop To 80% - Sat Jun 27 13:33:07 2015
Mark Wilson writes with news that Apple's AppleCare+ plan has been updated to address one of the biggest worries that people have about products with non-removeable batteries, and that become very expensive paperweights when the juice runs out. From BetaNews: "Previously, the extended warranty only covered batteries that would hold 50 percent charge or less. Now this has been updated so that you can request a free replacement within the coverage period if your device's battery is only able to hold 80 percent of full charge. The new terms to no apply to everyone — it all depends on when you bought your Apple device. If you bought your iPhone, iPad, iPod or Apple Watch before April 10, 2015, you're stuck with the old terms. I wish this change applied to my MacBook Air, with which I'm lucky to get 90 minutes of battery power.
Drone Diverts Firefighting Planes, Incurring $10,000 Cost - Sat Jun 27 12:30:02 2015
An anonymous reader writes: Fire is raging through thousands of acres of forest in California. A few days ago we discussed how a man's personal drone was shooed away from a fire site. Now, the drone situation has gotten worse. The U.S. Forest Service is helping to fight the fire by sending planes full of fire retardant to drop on the surrounding area. Unfortunately, one of the missions had to be diverted because a private drone had encroached upon the planes's airspace. The mission involved three planes, all loaded with retardant. One was large enough to find another target on which to drop its payload, but the other two simply had to jettison and return to base. Officials say the failed mission wasted at least $10,000. They're now having to spend extra time keeping an eye out for these drones and trying to educate operators on the temporary restrictions in place around forest fires.
Philanthropy For Hackers - Sat Jun 27 11:36:59 2015
An anonymous reader writes: Sean Parker, co-founder of Napster and the first president of Facebook, was part of a generation of geeks who rode the dot-com boom to financial success. Over the past two decades, that population has dramatically increased, and former hackers are carving out spots as leaders of industry. In the Wall Street Journal, Parker has posted advice for how the hacker elite can approach philanthropy. He points out that they're already bringing a level of strategy and efficacy to charity work that hasn't been seen before. "These budding philanthropists want metrics and analytic tools comparable to the dashboards, like Mixpanel, that power their software products. They want to interact directly with the scientists, field workers and academics whose ideas power the philanthropic world but who have traditionally been hidden away in a backroom somewhere, shielded from their beneficiaries by so-called development officers." One thing he advises is keeping away from large charity organizations, which largely exist to keep themselves going. He also suggests getting actively involved with the political process, even if such organizations are often distasteful.
The Physics of Lexus's Hoverboard - Sat Jun 27 10:13:18 2015
benonemusic writes: Lexus' hoverboard may never become commercially available, but is it scientifically feasible? You'd need to place a superconducting material in a magnetic field powerful enough to support the board and the rider. Steve Gourlay of Lawrence Berkeley Lab's Superconductor Magnet Group provides insights, including the possibility that Lexus put some very strong rare-earth magnets underneath the sidewalk in the video.
Why Is Google Opening a New Data Center In a Former Coal-Fired Power Plant? - Sat Jun 27 07:46:35 2015
HughPickens.com writes: Quentin Hardy reports at the NY Times that Google has announced it is opening its 14th data center inside a former coal-fired power plant in Stevenson, Alabama. While there is considerable irony in taking over a coal-burning plant and promoting alternative power, there are pragmatic reasons Google would want to put a $600 million data center in such a facility. These power facilities are typically large and solid structures with good power lines. The Alabama plant is next to a reservoir on the Tennessee River with access to lots of water, which Google uses for cooling its computers. There are also rail lines into the facility, which makes it likely Google can access buried conduits along the tracks to run fiber-optic cable. In Finland, Google rehabilitated a paper mill, and uses seawater for cooling. Salt water is corrosive for standard metal pipes, of course, so Google created a singular cooling system using plastic pipes.
NIST Updates Random Number Generation Guidelines - Sat Jun 27 05:37:45 2015
An anonymous reader writes: Encryption weighs heavily on the public consciousness these days, as we've learned that government agencies are keeping an eye on us and a lot of our security tools aren't as foolproof as we've thought. In response to this, the National Institute of Standards and Technology has issued a formal update to its document on how to properly generate a random number — crucial in many types of encryption. The update (as expected) removes a recommendation for the Dual_EC_DRBG algorithm. It also adds extra options for CTR_DRBG and points out examples for implementing SP 800-90A generators. The full document (PDF) is available online.