posted 5 days ago on slashdot
sciencehabit writes: If Jupiter and Saturn hadn't formed where they did—and at the sizes they did—as the disk of dust and gas around our sun coalesced, then our solar system would be a very different and possibly more hostile place, new research suggests (abstract). Computer models reveal that in the solar system's first 3 million years or so, gravitational interactions with Jupiter, Saturn, and the gas in the protoplanetary disk would have driven super-Earth–sized planets closer to the sun and into increasingly elliptical orbits. In such paths, a cascade of collisions would have blasted any orbs present there into ever smaller bits, which in turn would have been slowed by the interplanetary equivalent of atmospheric drag and eventually plunged into the sun. As Jupiter retreated from its closest approach to the sun, it left behind the mostly rocky remnants that later coalesced into our solar system's inner planets, including Earth.

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An aerospace engineer and Mississippi native named Michael McDaniel "watched helplessly as Hurricane Katrina forced thousands of people out of their homes and into crowded, poorly equipped 'shelters.'" This scenario led to Michael founding Reaction Housing and the creation of its first product, the Exo (as in exoskeleton) shelter. This company isn't holding its hand out for crowdfunding. It got $1.5 million in seed capital in March, 2014, later got another $10 million, and is now going into mass production of its Exo housing units. Reaction Housing is not the only attempt to make post-disaster housing better, or at least less expensive, than the infamous FEMA trailers. A charity called ShelterBox in Lakewood Ranch, FL, fills boxes with everything a family or group of up to 10 people needs, including a heavy-duty tent, bedding, and kitchen supplies, in order to survive after a natural disaster. (Here's an interview video I shot in 2010 about ShelterBox.) Exo, ShelterBox or any one of dozens of other emergency housing alternatives are good to have around, ready to go, for the next Katrina, Sandy or Tsunami. High tech? Not necessarily, but technology has obviously made emergency housing faster and easier to erect than the "earthquake shacks" that were built in San Francisco to house people made homeless by the 1906 earthquake.

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New submitter MarcAuslander sends this Associated Press report: Eneco, a Dutch-based energy company with more than 2 million customers, said Tuesday it is installing 'e-Radiators' — computer servers that generate heat while crunching numbers — in five homes across the Netherlands in a trial to see if their warmth could be a commercially viable alternative for traditional radiators. The technology is the brainchild of the Dutch startup company Nerdalize, whose founders claim to have developed the idea after huddling near a laptop to keep warm after their home's thermostat broke and jokingly suggesting buying 100 laptops. Nerdalize says its e-Radiators offer companies or research institutes a cheaper alternative to housing servers in data centers. And because Nerdalize foots the power bill for the radiators, Eneco customers get the warmth they generate for free. The companies said the environment wins, too, because energy is effectively used twice in the new system - to power the servers and to heat rooms.

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An anonymous reader writes: Fox announced today that The X-Files will return with six new episodes. David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson will both reprise their roles as Mulder and Scully, respectively, and show creator Chris Carter will return as well. Production begins this summer, but air dates are not yet known. The X-Files originally started in 1993 and ran for 9 seasons, spawning two feature films and a short-lived spinoff called The Lone Gunmen. It won 16 Emmy awards and 5 Golden Globe awards before critical reception soured over the last few seasons. Carter said, "I think of it as a 13-year commercial break. The good news is the world has only gotten that much stranger, a perfect time to tell these six stories."

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Trailrunner7 writes: Google security engineers, investigating fraudulent certificates issued for several of the company's domains, discovered that a Chinese certificate authority was using an intermediate CA, MCS Holdings, that issued the unauthorized Google certificates, and could have issued certificates for virtually any domain. Google's engineers were able to block the fraudulent certificates in the company's Chrome browser by pushing an update to the CRLset, which tracks revoked certificates. The company also alerted other browser vendors to the problem, which was discovered on March 20. Google contacted officials at CNNIC, the Chinese registrar who authorized the intermediate CA, and the officials said that they were working with MCS to issue certificates for domains that it registered. But, instead of simply doing that, and storing the private key for the registrar in a hardware security module, MCS put the key in a proxy device designed to intercept secure traffic.

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An anonymous reader writes There has always been a demand for semantically enriched content, even long before the digital era. Take a look at the New York Times Index, which has been continuously published since 1913. Nowadays, technology can meet the high demands for "clever" content, and big publishers like the BBC and the NY Times are opening their data and also making a good use of it. In this post, the author argues that Semantic Publishing is the future and talks about articles enriched with relevant facts and infoboxes with related content. Yet his example dates back to 2010, and today arguably every news website suggests related articles and provides links to external sources. This raises several questions: Why is there not much noise on this topic lately? Does this mean that we are already in the future of Online (Semantic) Publishing? Do we have all the tools now (e.g. Linked Data, fast NoSQL/Graph/RDF datastores, etc.) and what remains to be done is simply refinement and evolution? What is the difference in "cleverness" of content from different providers?

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Nerval's Lobster writes In order for a movie or television show to pass the Bechdel Test (named after cartoonist and MacArthur genius Alison Bechdel), it must feature two female characters, have those two characters talk to one another, and have those characters talk to one another about something other than a man. A lot of movies and shows don't pass. How would programming culture fare if subjected to a similar test? One tech firm, 18F, decided to find out after seeing a tweet from Laurie Voss, CTO of npm, which explained the parameters of a modified Bechdel Test. According to Voss, a project that passes the test must feature at least one function written by a woman developer, that calls a function written by another woman developer. 'The conversation started with us quickly listing the projects that passed the Bechdel coding test, but then shifted after one of our devs then raised a good point,' read 18F's blog posting on the experiment. 'She said some of our projects had lots of female devs, but did not pass the test as defined.' For example, some custom languages don't have functions, which means a project built using those languages would fail even if written by women. Nonetheless, both startups and larger companies could find the modified Bechdel Test a useful tool for opening up a discussion about gender balance within engineering and development teams.

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quax writes Steve Wozniak maintained for a long time that true AI is relegated to the realm of science fiction. But recent advances in quantum computing have him reconsidering his stance. Just like Elon Musk, he is now worried about what this development will mean for humanity. Will this kind of fear actually engender the dangers that these titans of industry fear? Will Steve Wozniak draw the same conclusion and invest in quantum comuting to keep an eye on the development? One of the bloggers in the field thinks that would be a logical step to take. If you can't beat'em, and the quantum AI is coming, you should at least try to steer the outcome. Woz actually seems more ambivalent than afraid, though: in the interview linked, he says "I hope [AI-enabling quantum computing] does come, and we should pursue it because it is about scientific exploring." "But in the end we just may have created the species that is above us."

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reifman writes The CDC reports that 69% of adult Americans are overweight or obese. Techies like us are at increased risk because of our sedentary lifestyles. Perhaps you even scoffed at Neilsen's recent finding that some Americans spend only 11 hours daily of screen time. Over the last nine months, I've lost 30 pounds and learned a lot about hacking weight loss and I did it without fad diets, step trackers, running or going paleo. No such discussion is complete without a link to the Hacker Diet.

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Lucas123 writes Rooftop solar distributor SolarCity announced a new service where it will build a centrally-controllable power grid for cities, business campuses and even islands. Marketing its GridLogic service by calling attention to the recent uptick in natural disasters and the extended power outages that resulted from them, SolarCity said its "microgrids" are fully independent power infrastructures fed by solar panels with lithium-ion backup batteries (courtesy of Tesla). SolarCity claims its GridLogic program can provide electricity to communities and businesses for less than they pay for utility power and the facilities can still be connected to their area's utility power grid as an added backup.

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An anonymous reader writes Ben-Gurion University of the Negev (BGU) researchers have discovered a new method to breach air-gapped computer systems called "BitWhisper," which enables two-way communications between adjacent, unconnected PC computers using heat. BitWhisper bridges the air-gap between the two computers, approximately 15 inches apart that are infected with malware by using their heat emissions and built-in thermal sensors to communicate. It establishes a covert, bi-directional channel by emitting heat from one PC to the other in a controlled manner. Also at Wired.

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schwit1 writes The Transportation Security Administration has been accused of spending a billion dollars on a passenger-screening program that's based on junk science. The claim arose in a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union, which has tried unsuccessfully to get the TSA to release documents on its SPOT (Screening Passengers by Observation Techniques) program through the Freedom of Information Act. SPOT, whose techniques were first used in 2003 and formalized in 2007, uses "highly questionable" screening techniques, according to the ACLU complaint, while being "discriminatory, ineffective, pseudo-scientific, and wasteful of taxpayer money." TSA has spent at least $1 billion on SPOT. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported in 2010 that "TSA deployed SPOT nationwide before first determining whether there was a scientifically valid basis for using behavior detection and appearance indicators as a means for reliably identifying passengers as potential threats in airports," according to the ACLU. And in 2013, GAO recommended that the agency spend less money on the program, which uses 3,000 "behavior detection officers" whose jobs is to identify terrorists before they board jetliners.

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itwbennett writes: Facebook has released an open source application called Augmented Traffic Control that can simulate the connectivity of a cell phone accessing an app over a 2G, Edge, 3G, or LTE network. It can also simulate weak and erratic WiFi connections. The simulations can give engineers an estimate of how long it would take a user to download a file, for instance, given varying network connections. It can help engineers re-create problems that crop up only on very slow networks.

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An anonymous reader sends this report from Reuters: IBM Corp will share technology with Chinese firms and will actively help build China's industry, CEO Virginia Rometty said in Beijing as she set out a strategy for one of the foreign firms hardest hit by China's shifting technology policies. IBM must help China build its IT industry rather than viewing the country solely as a sales destination or manufacturing base, Rometty said. ... [Her] remarks were among the clearest acknowledgements to date by a high-ranking foreign technology executive that companies must adopt a different tack if they are to continue in China amid growing political pressure. A number of U.S. technology companies operating in China are forming alliances with domestic operators, hoping a local partner will make it easier to operate in the increasingly tough environment for foreign businesses.

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jones_supa writes: A year ago, animation studio Pixar promised its RenderMan animation and rendering suite would eventually become free for non-commercial use. This was originally scheduled to happen in the SIGGRAPH 2014 computer graphics conference, but things got delayed. Nevertheless, today Pixar is releasing the free version into the wild. Free, non-commercial RenderMan can be used for research, education, evaluation, plug-in development, and any personal projects that do not generate commercial profits. This version is fully featured, without a watermark or any kind of artificial limits. Featuring Pixar's new RIS technology, RenderMan delivers extremely fast global illumination and interactive shading and lighting for artists. The software is available for Mac, Linux, and Windows. In conjunction with the release, Pixar has also launched a new RenderMan Community site where users can exchange knowledge and resources, showcase their own work, share assets such as shaders and scripts, and learn about RenderMan from tutorials.

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New submitter FalleStar writes: Today, the world's largest video game livestreaming website, Twitch.tv, posted the following blog entry: "We are writing to let you know that there may have been unauthorized access to some Twitch user account information. For your protection, we have expired passwords and stream keys and have disconnected accounts from Twitter and YouTube. As a result, you will be prompted to create a new password the next time you attempt to log into your Twitch account. We also recommend that you change your password at any website where you use the same or a similar password." The full details of the breach have yet to be released. Back in a 2013 blog post, Twitch reported that one of their CDNs had mistakenly exposed user account information, and they mentioned that their user passwords are hashed, but did not indicate whether or not they are salted. In addition to the blog post, Twitch users are being notified of the intrusion by email. According to one such email, compromised data may include the last IP address a user logged in from, as well as some credit card information — but not full card numbers, since Twitch doesn't store those.

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malachiorion writes: After a successful 6-month pilot, Savioke's 'butler bots' are heading to hotels around the country. These are not sexy, scary, or even technically impressive machines. But they were useful enough, over the course of their 2,000 or so deliveries, to warrant a redesign, and a larger deployment starting in April. Savioke's CEO had some interesting things to say about the pilot, including the fact that some 95 percent of guests gave the robot a 5-star review, and only the drunks seemed to take issue with it. Plus, as you might expect, everyone seemed to want to take a damn selfie with it. But as small as the stakes might appear, highly specialized bots like this one, which can only do one thing (in this case, bring up to 10 pounds of stuff from the lobby to someone's door) are a better glimpse of our future than any talk of hyper-competent humanoids or similarly versatile machines.

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An anonymous reader writes: A small ISP based in Texas and an industry trade group have become the first to file lawsuits challenging the FCC's recent net neutrality rules. The trade group, USTelecom, argues that the regulations are not "legally sustainable." Alamo Broadband claims it is facing "onerous requirements" by operating under Title II of the Communications Act. Such legal challenges were expected, and are doubtless the first of many — but few expected them to arrive so soon. While some of the new rules were considered "final" once the FCC released them on March 12, others don't go into effect until they're officially published in the Federal Register, which hasn't happened yet.

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An anonymous reader writes: Microsoft today launched developer tools for the Windows 10 Technical Preview, including a software development kit (SDK). Developers can use the new tools, currently in preview, to start building universal Windows apps for Microsoft's upcoming operating system. A universal Windows app is Microsoft's verbiage for an app that can run across different form factors, including PCs, tablets, and phones. Developers can publish these apps in the Windows Store, which will be available across all types of Windows 10 devices.

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chicksdaddy writes: Despite a lot of attention to the problem of cyber attacks against the nation's critical infrastructure, The Christian Science Monitor notes that there is still a lot of confusion about what, exactly, constitutes a "cyber incident" in critical infrastructure circles. The result: many incidents in which software failures affect critical infrastructure may go unreported. Passcode speaks to security experts like Joe Weiss, who claims to have a list of around 400 incidents in which failures in software and electronic communications lead to a failure of confidentiality, integrity or availability (CIA) — the official definition of a cyber incident. Few of them are considered cyber incidents within critical infrastructure circles, however. His list includes some of the most deadly and destructive public sector accidents of the last two decades. Among them: a 2006 emergency shutdown of Unit 3 at the Browns Ferry nuclear plant in Alabama, the 1999 Olympic Gas pipeline rupture and explosion in Bellingham Washington that killed three people and the 2010 Pacific Gas & Electric gas pipe explosion in San Bruno, Calif., that killed eight people and destroyed a suburban neighborhood. While official reports like this one about the San Bruno pipeline explosion (PDF) duly note the role software failure played in each incident, they fail to characterize them as 'cyber incidents' or note the cyber-physical aspects of the adverse event. Weiss says he has found many other, similar omissions that continue even today. He argues that applying an IT mindset to critical infrastructure results in operators overlooking weaknesses in their systems. "San Bruno wasn't malicious, but it easily could have been," Weiss notes. "It's a nonmalicious event that killed 8 people and destroyed a neighborhood."

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Lucas123 writes Benchmark tests performed on the 2015 MacBook Pro revealed it does have twice the read/write performance as the mid-2014 model. Tests performed with the Blackmagic benchmark tool revealed read/write speeds of more than 1,300MBps/1,400MBps, respectively. So what's changed? The new MacBook Pro does have a faster Intel dual-core i7 2.9GHz processor and 1866MHz LPDDR3) RAM, but the real performance gain is in the latest PCIe M.2 flash module. The 2014 model used a PCIe 2.0 x2 card and the 2015 model uses a PCIe 3.0 x4 (four I/O lanes) card. Twice the lanes, twice the speed. While Apple uses a proprietary flash card made by Samsung, Intel, Micron and SanDisk are all working on similar technology, so it's likely to soon wind up in high-end PCs.

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the_newsbeagle writes The $10 million Tricorder X-prize is getting to the "put up or shut up" stage: The 10 finalists must turn in their working devices on June 1st for consumer testing. At SXSW last week, the finalist team Cloud DX showed off its prototype, which includes a wearable collar, a base station, a blood-testing stick, and a scanning wand. From the article: "The XPrize is partnering with the medical center at the University of California, San Diego on that consumer testing, since it requires recruiting more than 400 people with a variety of medical conditions. Grant Campany, director of the Tricorder XPrize, said he’s looking forward to getting those devices into real patients hands. 'This will be a practical demonstration of what the future of medicine will be like,' said Campany at that same SXSW talk, 'so we can scale it up after competition.'"

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posted 6 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader was one of many to point out that Boeing doesn't want to rely on a sad devotion to an ancient religion to protect aircraft and conjure up the stolen data tapes, but plans on using force fields instead. "Boeing's new patent may let the force be with you even in real life. The aircraft and defense company has taken a cue from science fiction with its plan to develop a Star Wars style force field that would use energy to deflect any potential damage. Just liking the luminescent shields seen in the film, Boeing's "Method and system for shock wave attenuation via electromagnetic arc" could provide a real-life layer of protection from nearby impacts to targets. The downside: It won't protect from direct hits."

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schwit1 writes Scientists doing geothermal research in Australia have discovered evidence of what they think is the largest known impact zone from an meteorite on Earth. The zone is thought to be about 250 miles across, and suggests the bolide split in two pieces each about 6 miles across before impact. The uncertainty is that the evidence for this impact is quite tentative: "The exact date of the impacts remains unclear. The surrounding rocks are 300 to 600 million years old, but evidence of the type left by other meteorite strikes is lacking. For example, a large meteorite strike 66 million years ago sent up a plume of ash which is found as a layer of sediment in rocks around the world. The plume is thought to have led to the extinction of a large proportion of the life on the planet, including many dinosaur species. However, a similar layer has not been found in sediments around 300 million years old, Dr Glikson said. 'It's a mystery – we can't find an extinction event that matches these collisions. I have a suspicion the impact could be older than 300 million years,' he said."

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Michael Ross writes In recent years, JavaScript has enjoyed a dramatic renaissance as it has been transformed from a browser scripting tool primarily used for special effects and form validation on web pages, to a substantial client-side programming language. Similarly, on the server side, after years as the target of criticism, the PHP computer programming language is seeing a revival, partly due to the addition of new capabilities, such as namespaces, traits, generators, closures, and components, among other improvements. PHP enthusiasts and detractors alike can learn more about these changes from the book Modern PHP: New Features and Good Practices, authored by Josh Lockhart. Keep reading for the rest of Michael's review.

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