posted 9 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes: Speech recognition has gotten pretty good over the past several years. it's reliable enough to be ubiquitous in our mobile devices. But now we have an interesting, related dilemma: should we develop algorithms that can lip read? It's a more challenging problem, to be sure. Sounds can be translated directly into words, but deriving meaning out of the movement of a person's face is much more complex. "During speech, the mouth forms between 10 and 14 different shapes, known as visemes. By contrast, speech contains around 50 individual sounds known as phonemes. So a single viseme can represent several different phonemes. And therein lies the problem. A sequence of visemes cannot usually be associated with a unique word or sequence of words. Instead, a sequence of visemes can have several different solutions." Beyond the computational aspect, we also need to decide, as a society, if this is a technology that should exist. The privacy implications extend beyond that of simple voice recognition.

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posted 9 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes: Dan Friedman at TechCrunch is ready to call Massive Open Online Courses a failure. Originally hailed as a revolution in learning, MOOCs have seen disappointing course completion numbers. Coursera and Udacity, two of the most prominent online learning hubs, have seen about 8 million enrollments in the past few years. Unfortunately, half of those students didn't even watch a single lecture, and only a few hundred thousand completed the course they signed up for. Friedman says, "[N]ew technologies enable methods of "learn by doing" that just weren't possible before we could deliver immersive experiences to people's laptops and phones. In the 1960's, Jerome Bruner expanded an educational theory known as constructivism with the idea that students should learn through inquiry under the guidance of a teacher to grasp complex ideas intuitively. That process of trial, failure, and then being shown the correct path has been proven to drive student motivation and retention of learning. What we don't yet know is if that process of trial and failure can become 10x more engaging when delivered through a new medium such as Minecraft or Oculus. ... These new immersive worlds promise to hold the attention of students in ways textbooks never could."

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posted 9 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes: As small drones become affordable, and as clever people come up with ideas on how to use them, we've been hearing about more and more plans for drone-based business. In the U.S., the Federal Aviation Administration was quick to shut down such ideas in order to give themselves time to regulate the nascent industry. Not so, in Canada. Thanks to a simple permit system, anyone wanting to use a drone for commercial purposes can do so in Canada by simply applying and waiting a few weeks. Around 1,500 of these permits have been granted already, and Canada's private drone industry is flourishing as a result. Drones have been used for agriculture analysis, TV production, real estate photography, law enforcement, and many other tasks.

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posted 9 days ago on slashdot
Destiny is a first-person shooter set in a persistent, online world. It was released on Tuesday by Bungie, the development studio behind Halo, and billed as a blending of console shooters and progression-based MMOs. Reviews for the game are finally trickling out, and most publications say it's merely average. (Though it's worth noting that the social and multiplayer portions of the game are difficult to evaluate in such a short timeframe, and like many MMOs, Destiny will continue to see active development.) Polygon's Arthur Gies reports, "Destiny doesn't look real, but rather, it looks like painted concept art, meticulously assembled and presented to you at all times. Instead, it's the suggestion, through Destiny's concept, its soundtrack and its visual presentation, that Destiny is big. That there's a whole universe out there to explore, a reality worth discovering. There isn't, though." Jeff Gerstmann at Giant Bomb had a similar reaction: "There are cool little flashes of brilliance in Destiny, but a lot of it feels like a game designed by people who weren't sure what sort of game they were designing. Is it a loot shooter? Sort of, but the loot isn't very good. Is it an MMO? No, but you'll occasionally encounter other players out in the field. A story-driven shooter like the Halo franchise? Sure, if you don't mind digging through the developer's website to find those little bits of lore." The Escapist's Jim Sterling concludes, "Destiny exists in the shadow of multiple games, taking a little from each, and doing nothing truly remarkable with any of it. It's a prime example of how the nebulous concept of 'content' can be used to puff up a game without adding anything to it."

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posted 10 days ago on slashdot
SternisheFan sends news that researchers from the University of Cambridge have made a breakthrough in the production of human pluripotent stem cells. The goal when developing this kind of stem cell is to have them as early in the cell's lifecycle as possible, so that they're more like true embryonic stem cells and can fulfill whatever role is needed. But all of them made so far are advanced slightly down their developmental pathway. The new work, published in the journal Cell (abstract), has found a way to "reset" the cells by introducing two genes that induce a developmental "ground state."

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posted 10 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes: Ride-share companies like Uber, Lyft, and Sidecar got letters from the California Public Utilities Commission this week telling them that carpool features for their services are illegal. "Basically, the CPUC says that under California law it's illegal for these ride-sharing services to charge passengers an individual fare when carrying multiple people in one vehicle. If the companies would like to add a carpool feature, they first have to request an adjustment to their existing permits with the CPUC or petition the state legislature to modify the law. Uber, Lyft and Sidecar all unveiled carpool features last month. The three companies say the feature lets strangers in multiple locations, but heading the same direction, share rides and split fares — saving passengers up to 50 percent per ride." This news arrives just as Uber gave in to the demands of striking drivers who claim the company is undermining their ability to earn a livable wage.

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posted 10 days ago on slashdot
When NASA's Curiosity rover landed on Mars, the mission team had a particular destination in mind: Mount Sharp. Just over two years and about nine kilometers of driving later, Curiosity has arrived at Mount Sharp. It will now begin its ascent of the mountain (PDF), first analyzing basal rocks with a "paintbrush" texture, then moving further to observe hematite-bearing rocks further up the slope. It will then proceed into an area laden with clay-bearing rocks, and finally to the upper reaches of the foothills, which contain rocks with magnesium sulfate in them. The team has selected routes and driving modes that they hope will slow the steadily accumulating damage to the rover's wheels.

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posted 10 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes: One of the reasons people have been fleeing cable TV in droves is the idea that they're paying for hundreds of channels but only using a handful. Even though that's not really true, Verizon is now working on an internet TV service that lets people pick and pay for only the channels they want. Verizon CEO Lowell McAdam said, "I think everyone understands it will go to a la carte. The question is what is that transition look like ... I don't think there is anyone that would stand up here and say the only way it's going to be offered five years from now is linear and it's going to be tied to your TV set because frankly they will miss the market and they will be the ones left behind."

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posted 10 days ago on slashdot
Lucas123 writes: SanDisk has announced the world's highest capacity SD card, a 512GB model that represents a 1,000-fold increase over the company's first 512MB card that it shipped a decade ago. The SanDisk Extreme PRO SDXC UHS-I memory card has a max read/write rate of 95MB/s and 90MB/s, respectively. The card is rated to function in temperatures from -13 to 185 degrees Fahrenheit. The 512GB model retails for $800. The card also comes in 128GB and 256GB capacities.

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posted 10 days ago on slashdot
walterbyrd writes: In June, when the U.S. Supreme Court invalidated a software patent, many in the tech industry hoped it would be the beginning of sweeping changes to how the patent system handles software. Just a few months later, lower courts are making it happen. Quoting Vox: "By my count there have been 10 court rulings on the patentability of software since the Supreme Court's decision — including six that were decided this month. Every single one of them has led to the patent being invalidated. This doesn't necessarily mean that all software patents are in danger — these are mostly patents that are particularly vulnerable to challenge under the new Alice precedent. But it does mean that the pendulum of patent law is now clearly swinging in an anti-patent direction. Every time a patent gets invalidated, it strengthens the bargaining position of every defendant facing a lawsuit from a patent troll." Meanwhile, the Washington Post reports on alleged corruption in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

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posted 10 days ago on slashdot
New submitter gaelfx writes: Researchers at Glasglow University have an interesting method for separating the hydrogen out of water: Liquid Sponges. Most methods of extracting the hydrogen involve some form electrolysis, but these generally require some pretty expensive materials. The researchers claim that they can accomplish this using less electricity, cheaper materials and 30 times faster to boot. With both Honda and Toyota promising hydrogen fuel cell cars in Japan within the next few years (other manufacturers must be considering it as well, if not as publicly), does this spell a new future for transportation technology?

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posted 10 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes Italy's High Court has struck a blow to the practice of forcing non-free software on buyers of PCs and laptops. According to La Repubblica, the court ruled on Thursday that a laptop buyer was entitled to receive a refund for the price of the Microsoft Windows license on his computer. The judges sharply criticised the practice of selling PCs only together with a non-free operating system as "a commercial policy of forced distribution". The court slammed this practice as "monopolistic in tendency." It also highlighted that the practice of bundling means that end users are forced into using additional non-free applications due to compatibility and interoperability issues, whether they wanted these programs or not. "This decision is both welcome and long overdue", said Karsten Gerloff, President of the Free Software Foundation Europe. "No vendor should be allowed to cram non-free software down the throats of users."

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posted 10 days ago on slashdot
mask.of.sanity writes A security pro has released a Metasploit module that can take over computers running the Ammyy Admin remote control software popular among "Hi this is Microsoft, there's a problem with your computer" tech support scammers. The hack detailed in Matthew Weeks' technical post works from the end-user, meaning victims can send scammers the hijacking exploit when they request access to their machines. Victims should provide scammers with their external IP addresses rather than their Ammyy identity numbers as the exploit was not yet built to run over the Ammyy cloud, according to the exploit readme. This is much more efficient than just playing along but "accidentally" being unable to follow their instructions.

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posted 11 days ago on slashdot
jfruh writes "f you send an email to support-de@google.com, Google's German support address, you'll receive an automatic reply informing you that Google will not respond to or even read your message, due to the large number of emails received at that address. Now a German court has ruled that this is an unacceptable response, based on a German law saying that companies must provide a means for customers to communicate with them.

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posted 11 days ago on slashdot
Jason Koebler writes Researchers at Columbia University and Sweden's Chalmers University of Technology say that they have, for the first time, "captured" the sound a single atom makes when it is excited—a single "phonon," as it were. So, why do this? For one, the team wanted to simply see if it could capture the softest sound ever made, which is certainly a noble goal. But, secondly, the researchers wanted to explore the quantum nature of sound. Photons have always been used in quantum experiments, but they're pretty hard to manipulate because they're so fast. Phonons move 10^5 slower and thus could make quantum communication easier.

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posted 11 days ago on slashdot
Advocatus Diaboli writes The U.S. government threatened to fine Yahoo $250,000 a day in 2008 if it failed to comply with a broad demand to hand over user data that the company believed was unconstitutional, according to court documents unsealed Thursday that illuminate how federal officials forced American tech companies to participate in the NSA's controversial PRISM program. The documents, roughly 1,500 pages worth, outline a secret and ultimately unsuccessful legal battle by Yahoo to resist the government's demands. The company's loss required Yahoo to become one of the first to begin providing information to PRISM, a program that gave the National Security Agency extensive access to records of online communications by users of Yahoo and other U.S.-based technology firms.

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posted 11 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes Information wants to be free? During the Second World War, it actually was. Publishers took advantage of new printing technologies to sell crates of cheap, paperback books to the military for just six cents a copy, at a time when almost all the other books they printed cost more than two dollars. The army and the navy shipped them to soldiers and sailors around the world, giving away nearly 123 million books for free. Many publishers feared the program would destroy their industry, by flooding the market with free books and destroying the willingness of consumers to pay for content. Instead, it fueled a postwar publishing boom, as millions of GIs got hooked on good books, and proved willing to pay for more. It's a freemium model, more than 70 years ago.

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posted 11 days ago on slashdot
First time accepted submitter i kan reed writes in with some good news from the ozone report of the United Nations. The Earth’s protective ozone layer is on track to recover by the middle of the century, the United Nations today reported, urging unified action to tackle climate change and curb continued fluctuations to the composition of the atmosphere. That is according to the assessment of 300 scientists in the summary document of the Scientific Assessment of Ozone Depletion 2014, published by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the UN World Meteorological Organization (WMO). “International action on the ozone layer is a major environmental success story,” WMO Secretary-General Michel Jarraud said in a news release. “This should encourage us to display the same level of urgency and unity to tackle the even greater challenge of climate change.”

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posted 11 days ago on slashdot
Brent Bushnell, CEO of Two Bit Circus, is today's interview victim. Two Bit Circus is an amalgamation of technology, play, entertainment, and "immersive social amusements." They develop games like the ones shown in their Great Forest Challenge demo reel video. Their big push right now is preparing for STEAM Carnival – Los Angeles, which will be held October 25 and October 26 at CRAFTED, a permanent craft market at the Port of Los Angeles. The STEAM Carnival is also available as a traveling event; if you'd like to host it in your town, Two Bit Circus just might be able to accommodate you. (Alternate Video Link)

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posted 11 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes Researchers at Princeton University have begun crystallizing light as part of an effort to answer fundamental questions about the physics of matter. The researchers are not shining light through crystal – they are transforming light into crystal. As part of an effort to develop exotic materials such as room-temperature superconductors, the researchers have locked together photons, the basic element of light, so that they become fixed in place. "It's something that we have never seen before," said Andrew Houck, one of the researchers. "This is a new behavior for light."

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posted 11 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes "IEEE Spectrum contributor Mark Harris obtained a copy of the DMV test Google's autonomous car passed in Nevada in 2012 and associated documents. What has not been revealed until now, is that Google chose the test route; that it set limits on the road and weather conditions that the vehicle could encounter; and that its engineers had to take control of the car twice during the drive.

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posted 11 days ago on slashdot
Freshly Exhumed writes The day Robert James Campbell quit his job, he went home and started plotting revenge against everyone he felt had wronged him in life. He says he didn't leave his Ottawa apartment for seven months. The online campaign of harassment and hatred he's accused of launching spanned more than a decade. He is accused of creating fake online profiles to destroy reputations in short order, presenting his targets to the world as child predators, members of a Nazi party, exotic dancers and prostitutes. Police roused Campbell on the morning of July 31 and arrested him on 181 charges of criminal harassment, identity theft and defamatory libel. Campbell publicly apologized to his alleged victims and says he has instructed his lawyer to file a guilty plea.

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posted 11 days ago on slashdot
SternisheFan points out an article that walks us through the process of using forensic tools to grab data from iPhones and iCloud using forensic tools thought to have been employed in the recent celebrity photo leak. There are a number of ways to break into these devices and services depending on what kind of weakness an attacker has found. For example, if the attacked has possession of a target's iPhone, a simple command-line toolkit from Elcomsoft uses a jailbreak to bypass the iPhone's security. A different tool can extract iCloud data with access to a computer that has a local backup of a phone's data, or access to a computer that simply has stored credentials. The discusses also details a method for spoofing device identification to convince iCloud to restore data to a device mimicking the target's phone. The author concludes, "Apple could go a long way toward protecting customer privacy just by adding a second credential to encrypt stored iCloud data. An encryption password could be used to decrypt the backup when downloaded to iTunes or to the device, or it could be used to decrypt the data as it is read by iCloud to stream down to the device."

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posted 11 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes: Diagnosed with high blood pressure? If so, you were probably told to moderate or avoid the use salt in your food. Well, a new study (abstract found that salt is not associated with systolic blood pressure after controlling for other factors. The study found that BMI, age, and alcohol consumption all strongly influenced blood pressure, and concluded that maintaining a healthy body weight was the best way to counteract it. The publication of this research follows a CDC report from Tuesday decrying the amount of salt in children's diets — a report that lists high blood pressure as one of its main concerns. The debate on this issue is far from over, and it'll take years to sort out all the contradictory evidence.

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posted 11 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes: Richard Yao, one of the most prolific contributors to the ZFSOnLinux project, has put up a post explaining why he thinks the filesystem is definitely production-ready. He says, "ZFS provides strong guarantees for the integrity of [data] from the moment that fsync() returns on a file, an operation on a synchronous file handle is returned or dirty writeback occurs (by default every 5 seconds). These guarantees are enabled by ZFS' disk format, which places all data into a Merkle tree that stores 256-bit checksums and is changed atomically via a two-stage transaction commit.. ... Sharing a common code base with other Open ZFS platforms has given ZFS on Linux the opportunity to rapidly implement features available on other Open ZFS platforms. At present, Illumos is the reference platform in the Open ZFS community and despite its ZFS driver having hundreds of features, ZoL is only behind on about 18 of them."

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