posted 7 days ago on slashdot
New submitter engineerguy writes We discovered a 100 year old 19th century computer that does Fourier analysis with just gears spring and levers. It was locked in a glass case at the University of Illinois Department of Mathematics. We rebuilt a small part of the machine and then for two years thoroughly photographed and filmed every part part of the machine and its operation. The results of this labor of love are in the video series (short documentary), which is 22 minutes long and contains stunning footage of the machine in action — including detailed descriptions of how it operates. The photos are collected in a free book (pdf) . The computer was designed by Albert Michelson, who was famous for the Michelson-Morley experiment; he was also the first American to win a Nobel Prize in physics.

Read More...
posted 8 days ago on slashdot
danspalding writes I'm transitioning into full time tech work after 10 years in education. To that end, after years of tooling around with command line and vim, I'm starting a programming bootcamp in early December. I used to think I wanted to go into ed tech. But the more I think about it, the more I just want to contribute to the most important work I can using my new skills — mostly JavaScript (with a strong interest in graph databases). Ideally an organization that does bold, direct humanitarian work for the people who need it most. So where should I apply to work when I finish bootcamp next March? Who's the MSF of the tech world?

Read More...
posted 8 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes Japan has now put 100 passengers on a Maglev train doing over 500kph. That's well over twice as fast as the fastest U.S. train can manage, and that only manages 240kph on small sections of its route. The Japanese Shinkansen is now running over 7 times times as fast as the average U.S. express passenger train. 500kph is moving towards the average speed of an airliner. Add the convenience of no boarding issues, and city-centre to city-centre travel, and the case for trains as mass-transport begins to look stronger.

Read More...
posted 8 days ago on slashdot
Ars Technica reports that Microsoft has begun giving some users a taste of a new version of Skype, with a big difference compared to previous ones: the new one (tested by users on an invitation basis) is browser based. Rather than using the existing WebRTC standard, though (eschewed as too complex), Microsoft has developed a separate spec called ORTC (Object RTC), which is designed to offer similar capabilities but without mandating this same call setup system. Both Microsoft and Google are contributing to this spec, as are representatives from companies with video conferencing, telephony, and related products. ORTC isn't currently blessed as a W3C project, though the ORTC group has proposed integrating ORTC into WebRTC to create WebRTC 1.1 and including parts of ORTC into WebRTC 1.0. For now at least, video or audio chat therefore requires a plug-in, and requires Internet Explorer 10, or recent Firefox or Chrome browsers, and a current Safari on Mac OS X. Also at TechCrunch, among others, which notes that text chat (though as mentioned, not video or audio) will work with the new Skype under ChromeOS, too.

Read More...
posted 8 days ago on slashdot
MojoKid writes Comcast is one of two companies to have earned Consumerist's "Worst Company in America" title on more than one occasion and it looks like they're lobbying for a third title. That is, unless there's another explanation as to how the cable giant can claim (with straight face) that it's in agreement with President Barack Obama for a free and open Internet. Comcast issued a statement of its own saying they back the exact same things, it just doesn't want to go the utility route. Comcast went on to list specific bullet points that they're supposedly in wholehearted agreement with, such as: Free and open Internet. We agree — and that is our practice. No blocking. We agree — and that is our practice. No throttling. We agree — and that is our practice. Increased transparency. We agree — and that is our practice. No paid prioritization. We agree — and that is our practice. Really? Comcast conveniently fails to address the giant elephant in the room whose name is Netflix. Earlier this year, Netflix begrudgingly inked a multi-year deal with Comcast in which the streaming service agreed to pay a toll to ensure faster delivery into the homes of Comcast subscribers, who prior to the deal had been complaining of frequent buffering and video degradation when watching content on Netflix. Comcast would undoubtedly argue that it's not a paid fast lane, but it's hard to see the deal as anything other than that.

Read More...
posted 8 days ago on slashdot
HughPickens.com writes Pat Garofalo writes in an op-ed in US News & World Report that with the recent drop in oil prices, there's something policymakers can do that will offset at least some of the negative effects of the currently low prices, while also removing a constant thorn in the side of American transportation and infrastructure policy: Raise the gas tax. The current 18.4 cent per gallon gas tax has not been raised since 1993, making it about 11 cents per gallon today, in constant dollars. Plus, as fuel efficiency has gotten better and Americans have started driving less, the tax has naturally raised less revenue anyway. And that's a problem because the tax fills the Highway Trust Fund, which is, not to put too fine a point on it, broke so that in recent years Congress has had to patch it time and time again to fill the gap. According to the Tax Policy Center's Howard Gleckman, if Congress doesn't make a move, "it will fumble one of those rare opportunities when the economic and policy stars align almost perfectly." The increase can be phased in slowly, a few cents per month, perhaps, so that the price of gas doesn't jump overnight. When prices eventually do creep back up thanks to economic factors, hopefully the tax will hardly be noticed. Consumers are already starting to buy the sort of gas-guzzling vehicles, including Hummers, that had been going out of style as gas prices rose; that's bad for both the environment and consumers, because gas prices are inevitably going to increase again. According to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, taxes last year, even before the current drop in prices, made up 12 percent of the cost of a gallon of gasoline, down from 28 percent in 2000. And compared to other developed countries, US gas taxes are pretty much a joke. While we're at it, an even better idea, as a recent report from the Urban Institute makes clear, would be indexing the gas tax to inflation, so this problem doesn't consistently arise. "The status quo simply isn't sustainable, from an infrastructure or environmental perspective," concludes Garofalo. "So raise the gas tax now; someday down the line, it will look like a brilliant move."

Read More...
posted 8 days ago on slashdot
wiredmikey writes A Dutch entrepreneur has had two microchips containing Bitcoin injected into his hands to help him make contactless payments. The chips, enclosed in a 2mm by 12mm capsule of "biocompatible" glass, were injected using a special syringe and can communicate with devices such as Android smartphones or tablets via NFC. "What's stored on the microchips should be seen as a savings account rather than a current account," Martijn Wismeijer, co-founder of MrBitcoin said. "The payment device remains the smartphone, but you transfer funds from the chips." The chips are available on the Internet, sold with a syringe for $99, but Wismeijer suggested individuals should find a specialist to handle the injection to avoid infections.

Read More...
posted 8 days ago on slashdot
astroengine (1577233) writes "In the final hours, Philae's science team hurried to squeeze as much science out of the small lander as possible. But the deep sleep was inevitable, Rosetta's lander has slipped into hibernation after running its batteries dry. This may be the end of Philae's short and trailblazing mission on the surface of Comet 67P, but a huge amount of data — including data from a drilling operation that, apparently, was carried out despite concerns that Philae wasn't positioned correctly — was streamed to Rosetta mission control. "Prior to falling silent, the lander was able to transmit all science data gathered during the First Science Sequence," said Stephan Ulamec, Philae Lander Manager. "This machine performed magnificently under tough conditions, and we can be fully proud of the incredible scientific success Philae has delivered.""

Read More...
posted 8 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes Version 10.1 of the venerable FreeBSD operating system has been released. The new version of FreeBSD offers support for booting from UEFI, automated generation of OpenSSH keys, ZFS performance improvements, updated (and more secure) versions of OpenSSH and OpenSSL and hypervisor enhancements. FreeBSD 10.1 is an extended support release and will be supported through until January 1, 2017. Adds reader aojensen: As this is the second release of the stable/10 branch, it focuses on improving the stability and security of the 10.0-RELEASE, but also introduces a set of new features including: vt(4) a new console driver, support for FreeBSD/i386 guests on the bhyve hypervisor, support for SMP on armv6 kernels, UEFI boot support for amd64 architectures, support for the UDP-Lite protocol (RFC 3828) support on both IPv4 and IPv6, and much more. For a complete list of changes and new features, the release notes are also available.

Read More...
posted 8 days ago on slashdot
rossgneumann writes Soon, it's very possible that when you say something like "you have better odds of being struck by lightning," that won't necessarily mean it's all that rare. And there's a good chance that you'll be able to tell that person (roughly) what the odds of that happening are. Research published this week in Nature provides an equation that is reasonably accurate at mathematically predicting lightning strikes. From the article: "There's not a whole lot of noise in Romps's estimates: CAPE [Convective Available Potential Energy] is something that can be predicted out fairly easily: "All [models] in our ensemble predict that [the United State's] mean CAPE will increase over the 21st century, with a mean increase of 11.2 percent per degree Celsius of global warming," he wrote. "Overall, the [models] predict a ~50 percent increase in the rate of lightning strikes in the United States over the 21st century."

Read More...
posted 8 days ago on slashdot
Dishwasha (125561) writes I recently purchased a couple 128GB MicroSDXC card from a Chinese supplier via Alibaba at 1/5th the price of what is available in the US. I will be putting one in my phone and another in my laptop. A few days after purchased, it occurred to me there may be a potential risk with non-USB flash devices similar to USB firmware issues. Does anybody know if there are any known firmware issues with SD or other non-USB flash cards that could effectively allow a foreign seller/distributor to place malicious software on my Android phone or laptop simply on insertion of the device with autoplay turned off?

Read More...
posted 8 days ago on slashdot
Joe Gilmore was showing some of his work at Maker Faire Atlanta when Timothy Lord pointed his camera at him. Joe may never create a Mars colony or build the tallest skyscraper in North America, but what he does is fun to the point of whimsy, and seems to bring smiles to a lot of faces. (Alternate Video Link)

Read More...
posted 8 days ago on slashdot
jones_supa writes We all are aware of various chirping and whining sounds that electronics can produce. Modern graphics cards often suffer from these kind of problems in form of coil whine. But how widespread is it really? Hardware Canucks put 50 new graphics cards side-by-side to compare them solely from the perspective of subjective acoustic disturbance. NVIDIA's reference platforms tended to be quite well behaved, just like their board partners' custom designs. The same can't be said about AMD since their reference R9 290X and R9 290 should be avoided if you're at all concerned about squealing or any other odd noise a GPU can make. However the custom Radeon-branded SKUs should usually be a safe choice. While the amount and intensity of coil whine largely seems to boil down to luck of the draw, at least most board partners are quite friendly regarding their return policies concerning it.

Read More...
posted 8 days ago on slashdot
itwbennett writes Facebook has just started testing lithium-ion batteries as the backup power source for its server racks and plans to roll them out widely next year. Lithium-ion has been too expensive until now, says Matt Corddry, Facebook's director of hardware engineering, but its use in electric cars has changed the economics. It's now more cost effective than the bulky, lead-acid batteries widely used in data centers today.

Read More...
posted 9 days ago on slashdot
Zothecula writes Boeing has successfully joined two of its 702SP satellites in a stacked configuration in preparation for a launch scheduled for early 2015. Aside from being the first involving conjoined satellites, the launch will also put the first satellites to enter service boasting an all-electric propulsion system into orbit. "Designed by Boeing Network & Space Systems and its defense and security advanced prototyping arm, Phantom Works, the 702SP (small platform) satellites are an evolution of the company's 702 satellite. Operating in the low- to mid-power ranges of 3 to 9 kW, instead of chemical propulsion, the satellites boast an all-electric propulsion system that Boeing says minimizes the mass of the spacecraft and maximizes payload capacity."

Read More...
posted 9 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes Alexander Grothendieck, one of the great eccentric geniuses of 20th century mathematics, has died in France at the age of 86. Grothendieck was leading mind behind algebraic geometry. He was awarded the Fields Medal in 1966. He reached the very pinnacle of his profession before abandoning the discipline, taking up anti-war activism, retreating into the life of a recluse and refusing to share his research. He died on Thursday in a hospital in Saint-Girons in southwestern France.

Read More...
posted 9 days ago on slashdot
HughPickens.com writes "Patrick McGeehan writes in the NYT that the image of a pair of window washers clinging to a scaffold dangling outside the 68th floor of 1 World Trade Center have left many wondering why robots can't rub soapy water on glass and wipe it off with a squeegee relieving humans of the risk of injury, or death, from a plunge to the sidewalk? The simple answer, several experts say, is that washing windows is something that machines still cannot do as well as people can. "Building are starting to look like huge sculptures in the sky," says Craig Caulkins. "A robot can't maneuver to get around those curves to get into the facets of the building." According to Caulkins robotic cleaning systems tend to leave dirt in the corners of the glass walls that are designed to provide panoramic views from high floors. "If you are a fastidious owner wanting clean, clean windows so you can take advantage of that very expensive view that you bought, the last thing you want to see is that gray area around the rim of the window." Another reason for the sparse use of robots is that buildings require a lot more maintenance than just window cleaning. Equipment is needed to lower people to repair facades and broken windows, like the one that rescue workers had to cut through with diamond cutters to rescue the window washers. For many years, being a window cleaner in Manhattan was regarded as one of the most dangerous occupations in the world: by 1932, an average of one in every two hundred window cleaners in New York was killed each year. Now all new union window cleaners now take two hundred and sixteen hours of classroom instruction, three thousand hours of accredited time with an employer and their union makes sure workers follow rigorous safety protocols. In all, there are about 700 scaffolds for window washing on buildings in New York City, says union representative Gerard McEneaney. His members are willing to do the work because it pays well: as much $26.89 an hour plus benefits. Many of the window cleaners are immigrants from South America. "They're fearless guys, fearless workers."

Read More...
posted 9 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes With less than a day of battery life left, The European Space Agency's Philae probe will begin to drill for samples even though the drilling may dislodge it. From the article: "Philae is sitting in the shadow of a cliff, and will not get enough sunlight to work beyond Saturday. Friday night's radio contact with the orbiting Rosetta satellite will be the last that engineers have a reasonable confidence will work. The team is still not sure where on the surface the probe came to rest after bouncing upon landing on Wednesday. Scientists have been examining radio transmissions between the orbiter and the lander to see if they can triangulate a position. This work has now produced a 'circle of uncertainty' within which Philae almost certainly lies."

Read More...
posted 9 days ago on slashdot
stephendavion writes "Sony is planning to launch PlayStation Vue, a TV service for PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 consoles providing on demand programs and live content. The company will roll out the service to selected customers in New York, Chicago, and Los Angeles, and is expected to feature content from CBS, Fox, NBC Universal, Discovery Communications and 75 other channels. The service is expected to allow users to save their programs for up to 28 days."

Read More...
posted 9 days ago on slashdot
Tyketto writes The US Department of Justice has been using fake communications towers installed in airplanes to acquire cellular phone data for tracking down criminals, reports The Wall Street Journal. Using fix-wing Cessnas outfitted with DRT boxes produced by Boeing, the devices mimic cellular towers, fooling cellphones into reporting "unique registration information" to track down "individuals under investigation." The program, used by the U.S. Marshals Service, has been in use since 2007 and deployed around at least five major metropolitan areas, with a flying range that can cover most of the US population. As cellphones are designed to connect to the strongest cell tower signal available, the devices identify themselves as the strongest signal, allowing for the gathering of information on thousands of phones during a single flight. Not even having encryption on one's phone, like found in Apple's iPhone 6, prevents this interception. While the Justice Department would not confirm or deny the existence of such a program, Verizon denies any involvement in this program, and DRT (a subsidiary of Boeing), AT&T, and Sprint have all declined to comment.

Read More...
posted 9 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes Scientists from Los Alamos National Laboratory have used Wikipedia logs as a data source for forecasting disease spread. The team was able to successfully monitor influenza in the United States, Poland, Japan, and Thailand, dengue fever in Brazil and Thailand, and tuberculosis in China and Thailand. The team was also able to forecast all but one of these, tuberculosis in China, at least 28 days in advance.

Read More...
posted 9 days ago on slashdot
alphadogg writes The Association for Computing Machinery has announced that its annual A.M. Turing Award, sometimes called the Nobel Prize in Computing, will now come with a $1M award courtesy of Google. Previously, the award came with a $250K prize funded by Google and Intel. The award, which goes to "an individual selected for contributions of a technical nature made to the computing community," is generally doled out in February or March. This past March, the winner was Microsoft Research principal Leslie Lambert. The ACM says the bigger prize should raise the award's visibility.

Read More...
posted 9 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes Lyft and Uber have already undercut the price of a taxi in most markets, but with this new service, both are now taking aim at public transit systems. By attempting to offer a viable alternative to the bus and metro, Lyft and Uber are offering new options to consumers in a space where few existed before. As Timothy Lee writes at Vox, "Until recently, there weren't many services in this 'in between' category. If you were going to the airport, you could get a shared-ride van. And some urban areas had dollar vans. But these were limited services in niche markets." If you're traveling with multiple people over short distances, Lyft Line and UberPool can be quite affordable, but it's still not cheap enough.

Read More...
posted 9 days ago on slashdot
sciencehabit writes If cells could talk, they'd have quite a story to tell: Their life history would include what molecules they'd seen passing by, which signals they'd sent to neighbors, and how they'd grown and changed. Researchers haven't quite given cells a voice, but they have now furnished them with a memory of sorts—one that's designed to record bits of their life history over the span of several weeks. The new method uses strands of DNA to store the data in a way that scientists can then read. Eventually, it could turn cells into environmental sensors, enabling them to report on their exposure to particular chemicals, among other applications.

Read More...
posted 9 days ago on slashdot
alphadogg writes Three days after security company FireEye warned of an iPhone/iPad threat dubbed "Masque Attack", the U.S. government has issued a warning of its own about this new risk by malicious third-party apps to Apple iOS devices. US-CERT warned: "This attack works by luring users to install an app from a source other than the iOS App Store or their organizations' provisioning system. In order for the attack to succeed, a user must install an untrusted app, such as one delivered through a phishing link." Revelations of Masque came on the heels of a related exploit (that also threatens Macs) called WireLurker.

Read More...