posted 11 days ago on slashdot
sciencehabit writes: Blind from infancy, Daniel Kish learned as a young boy to judge his height while climbing trees by making rapid clicking noises and listening for their echoes off the ground. No one taught him the technique, which is now recognized as a human form of echolocation. Like Kish, a handful of blind echolocators worldwide have taught themselves to use clicks and echoes to navigate their surroundings with impressive ease — Kish can even ride his bike down the street. A study of sighted people newly trained to echolocate now suggests that the secret to Kish's skill isn't just supersensitive ears. Instead, the entire body, neck, and head are key to 'seeing' with sound — an insight that could assist blind people learning the skill.

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posted 11 days ago on slashdot
The European Space Agency has confirmed that the Philae probe has successfully landed on the comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko and established contact with headquarters. The harpoons have deployed and reeled in the slack, and the landing gear has retracted. (Edit: They're now saying the harpoons didn't fire after all.) There are no photos from the surface yet, but the Rosetta probe snapped this picture of Philae after initial separation, and Philae took this picture of Rosetta. Emily Lakdawalla has a timeline of the operation (cached). She notes that there was a problem with the gas thruster mounted on top of the lander. The purpose of the thruster was to keep the lander on the comet after landing, since there was a very real possibility that it could bounce off. (The comet's local gravity is only about 10^-3 m/s^2.) The pins that were supposed to puncture the wax seal on the jet were unable to do so for reasons unknown. Still, the jet did not seem to be necessary. The official ESA Rosetta site will be continually updating as more data comes back.

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posted 11 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes: Microsoft today announced plans to open source .NET, the company's software framework that primarily runs on Windows, and release it on GitHub. Furthermore, Microsoft also unveiled plans to take .NET cross-platform by targeting both Mac OS X and Linux. In the next release, Microsoft plans to open source the entire .NET server stack, from ASP.NET 5 down to the Common Language Runtime and Base Class Libraries. The company will let developers build .NET cloud applications on multiple platforms; it is promising future support of the .NET Core server runtime and framework for Mac and Linux. Microsoft is also making Visual Studio free for small teams.

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posted 11 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes: A school in Methuen, Massachusetts has demonstrated the first installation of an automated detection system for active gunmen. Sensors placed throughout the building are activated by the sounds of gunfire. The sensors relay data on the shooter's real-time location directly to police, who can then track and subdue their target. The system was developed for the military to detect the location of enemy fire. It will cost school districts between $20,000 and $100,000 to equip each school with the gunfire-detecting sensors. Methuen's police chief said, "It's amazing, the short, split-second amount of time from identification of the shot to transmission of the message. It changes the whole game. Without that shot detection system, we wouldn't know what was going on in the school ... Valuable, valuable time can be lost. Unfortunately, with school crisis situations, it's about mitigating loss."

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posted 11 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes: After extended talks on the issue of climate change, the U.S. and China have reached a landmark accord to curb emissions in the near future. The two countries are the top carbon polluters, so their actions are likely to have a major effect on world pollution levels and also set the standard for other countries. The agreement includes China's first-ever commitment to stop the growth of its emissions by 2030. They plan on shifting a big chunk of their energy production to renewables in that time. The U.S. agreed to emit 26-28% less carbon in 2025 than it did in 2005. Their efforts could spur greater enthusiasm for a new global climate agreement in 2015. Reader jones_supa adds details of another interesting part of the U.S.-China talks: Technology products look likely to gain more access to international markets as a result of upgrade between the U.S. and China on a 1996 tariff-eliminating trade agreement that President Obama announced Tuesday in Beijing. The agreement is expected to lower prices on a raft of new technology products by eliminating border tariffs — a price impact that's expected to be larger outside the United States, since U.S. tariffs on high-tech goods are generally lower than those overseas. "This is a win-win-win agreement for information and communication technology industries in the U.S., Europe, Japan and China, for businesses and consumers who purchase IT products and for the global economy."

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posted 12 days ago on slashdot
mpicpp sends news of research at the University of Michigan in which a self-assembling chain of particles can be used as tiny, electrically-activated muscles. The team started with particles similar to those found in paint, with diameters of about a hundredth the width of a strand of hair. They stretched these particles into football shapes and coated one side of each football with gold. The gilded halves attracted one another in slightly salty water—ideally about half the salt concentration in the sports drink Powerade. The more salt in the water, the stronger the attraction. Left to their own devices, the particles formed short chains of overlapping pairs, averaging around 50 or 60 particles to a chain. When exposed to an alternating electric field, the chains seemed to add new particles indefinitely. But the real excitement was in the way that the chains stretched. ... While the force generated by the fibers is about 1,000 times weaker than human muscle tissue per unit area, it may be enough for microbots.

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posted 12 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes: Drafts are drafts for a reason. Not only do they tend to contain unpolished writing and unfinished thoughts, they're often filled with little notes we leave ourselves to fill in later. Slate reports on a paper recently published in the journal Ethology that contained an unfortunate self-note that made it into the final, published article, despite layers upon layers of editing, peer review, and proofreading. In the middle of a sentence about shoaling preferences, the note asks, "should we cite the crappy Gabor paper here?" When notified of the mistake, the publisher quickly took it down and said they would "investigate" how the line wasn't caught. One of the authors said it wasn't intentional and apologized for the impolite error.

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posted 12 days ago on slashdot
Rambo Tribble writes: Groupon has announced it will abandon the 'Gnome' name for their product, ending the recent naming controversy that had the open source community up in arms. They said, "After additional conversations with the open source community and the Gnome Foundation, we have decided to abandon our pending trademark applications for 'Gnome.' We will choose a new name for our product going forward." The GNOME Foundation has thanked everyone who helped. My question... does this represent Gnu thinking on the part of Groupon?

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posted 12 days ago on slashdot
Presto Vivace points out this troubling new report from the Electronic Frontier Foundation: Recently, Verizon was caught tampering with its customer's web requests to inject a tracking super-cookie. Another network-tampering threat to user safety has come to light from other providers: email encryption downgrade attacks. In recent months, researchers have reported ISPs in the U.S. and Thailand intercepting their customers' data to strip a security flag — called STARTTLS — from email traffic. The STARTTLS flag is an essential security and privacy protection used by an email server to request encryption when talking to another server or client. By stripping out this flag, these ISPs prevent the email servers from successfully encrypting their conversation, and by default the servers will proceed to send email unencrypted. Some firewalls, including Cisco's PIX/ASA firewall do this in order to monitor for spam originating from within their network and prevent it from being sent. Unfortunately, this causes collateral damage: the sending server will proceed to transmit plaintext email over the public Internet, where it is subject to eavesdropping and interception.

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posted 12 days ago on slashdot
blottsie writes: The Federal Communications Commission will abandon its earlier promise to make a decision on new net neutrality rules this year. Instead, FCC Press Secretary Kim Hart said, "there will not be a vote on open internet rules on the December meeting agenda. That would mean rules would now be finalized in 2015." The FCC's confirmation of the delay came just as President Barack Obama launched a campaign to persuade the agency to reclassify broadband Internet service as a public utility. Opensource.com is also running an interview with a legal advisor at the FCC. He says, "There will be a burden on providers. The question is, 'Is that burden justified?' And I think our answer is 'Yes.'"

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posted 12 days ago on slashdot
msm1267 writes: Microsoft today released a patch for a zero-day vulnerability under active exploit in the wild. The vulnerability in OLE, or Microsoft Windows Object Linking and Embedding, enables a hacker to remotely execute code on an infected machine, and has been linked to attacks by the Sandworm APT group against government agencies and energy utilities. Microsoft also issued a massive Internet Explorer patch, but warned organizations that have deployed version 5.0 of its Enhanced Mitigation Experience Toolkit (EMET) to upgrade to version 5.1 before applying the IE patches. Version 5.1 resolves some compatibility issues, in addition to several mitigation enhancements.

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posted 12 days ago on slashdot
sciencehabit writes: The magma fueling the volcanoes of Hawaii and Yellowstone National Park pipes up from deep inside the planet. Scientists have struggled to understand why there are hot spots there, so far from the grinding tectonic plate boundaries at which volcanoes normally appear. New research chalks the mystery up to 'dark magma': deep underground pockets of red-hot molten rock that siphon energy from Earth's core. If the team is right, its work could illuminate a key part of Earth's geology. These plumes are one of the most important things to understand because the movement of heat powers many processes on the planet. For one, Earth's magnetic field depends on how the core spins and flows inside the planet. As a result, the way heat flows from the core to the mantle could potentially affect the way Earth's magnetic field evolves over time.

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posted 12 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes: Analyzing more than 2,000 Stuxnet files collected over a two-year period, Kaspersky Lab can identify the first victims of the Stuxnet worm. Initially security researchers had no doubt that the whole attack had a targeted nature. The code of the Stuxnet worm looked professional and exclusive; there was evidence that extremely expensive zero-day vulnerabilities were used. However, it wasn't yet known what kind of organizations were attacked first and how the malware ultimately made it right through to the uranium enrichment centrifuges in the particular top secret facilities. Kaspersky Lab analysis sheds light on these questions.

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posted 12 days ago on slashdot
blindbat writes: A new YouTube account is pushing local police agencies to reconsider their use of body-mounted cameras. Poulsbo Police have been wearing body cameras for about a year, and the department says the results have been good. But last month reality hit, in the form of a new YouTube user website, set up by someone under the name, "Police Video Requests." The profile says it posts dash and body cam videos received after public records requests to Washington state police departments. "They're just using it to post on the internet," said Chief Townsend, "and I suspect it's for commercial purposes." In September, "Police Video Requests" anonymously asked Poulsbo PD for every second of body cam video it has ever recorded. The department figures it will take three years to fill that request. And Chief Townsend believes it is a huge privacy concern, as officers often see people on their worst days. "People with mental illness, people in domestic violence situations; do we really want to have to put that video out on YouTube for people? I think that's pushing it a little bit," he said.

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posted 12 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes: After more than 10 years travelling, the Rosetta mission will take its next, momentous step by landing the Philae probe on comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko tomorrow. How f!@#$%ing cool is that?! Follow the landing live using the webcast, blog, or Twitter feed. (Keep in mind there's a 28-minute delay due to the time it takes the radio signals to reach Earth). Here's the scheduling info: "For the primary landing scenario, targeting Site J, Rosetta will release Philae at 08:35 GMT/09:35 CET at a distance of 22.5 km from the center of the comet, landing about seven hours later. The one-way signal travel time between Rosetta and Earth on 12 November is 28 minutes 20 seconds, meaning that confirmation of the landing will arrive at Earth ground stations at around 16:00 GMT/17:00 CET. If a decision is made to use the backup Site C, separation will occur at 13:04 GMT/14:04 CET, 12.5 km from the center of the comet. Landing will occur about four hours later, with confirmation on Earth at around 17:30 GMT/18:30 CET. The timings are subject to uncertainties of several minutes."

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posted 12 days ago on slashdot
Presto Vivace sends a report from the Australian Financial Review on how Apple uses a holding company based in Luxembourg to avoid taxes on its iTunes revenue. Quoting: The 2011 accounts for iTunes Sàrl [the holding company] give the first inside view of how Apple accounts for its growing earnings from digital content. They are part of a massive leak of Luxembourg tax documents uncovered in an investigation led by the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. Remarkably, the accounts show Luxembourg has been more effective in extracting tax from iTunes than Ireland has with much larger Apple sales. Turnover for iTunes Sàrl exploded from €353 million ($508 million) in 2009 to €2.05 billion in 2013. Secret appendices to the 2011 accounts break down some of Apple’s costs. It shows that Apple takes a third of iTunes’ revenues as its gross profit margin. The 2011 figures showed that a flat 50 per cent of this gross profit was paid in intercompany charges. (Followup on a similar strategy from Amazon we discussed last week.)

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posted 12 days ago on slashdot
wired_parrot writes: Jonathan Nolan, writer of Interstellar and The Dark Knight, and producer of the TV show "Person of Interest," is teaming up with HBO to bring to screen a new series based on Isaac Asimov's Foundation series of books. This would be the first adaptation of the Hugo-award-winning series of novels to the screen.

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posted 12 days ago on slashdot
sciencehabit writes After a two-and-a-half year ocean journey, radioactive contamination from the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan has drifted to within 160 kilometers of the California coast, according to a new study. But the radiation levels are minuscule and do not pose a threat, researchers say. The team found a high of just 8 becquerels of radiation per cubic meter in ocean samples off the coast. U.S. Environmental Protection Agency guidelines for drinking water allow up to 7400 becquerels per cubic meter.

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posted 12 days ago on slashdot
judgecorp writes The idea of re-using waste server heat is not new, but German firm Cloud&Heat seems to have developed it further than most. For a flat installation fee, the company will install a rack of servers in your office, with its own power and Internet connection. Cloud&Heat then pays the bills and you get the heat. As well as Heat customers, the firm wants Cloud customers, who can buy a standard OpenStack-based cloud compute and storage service on the web. The company guarantees that data is encrypted and held within Germany — at any one of its Heat customers' premises. In principle, it's a way to build a data center with no real estate, by turning its waste heat into an asset. A similar deal is promised by French firm Qarnot.

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posted 12 days ago on slashdot
Nerval's Lobster writes While pundits and analysts debate about diversity in Silicon Valley, one thing is very clear: Black Americans make up a very small percentage of tech workers. At Facebook, Google, and Yahoo, that number is a bit less than 2 percent of their respective U.S. workforces; at Apple, it's closer to 7 percent. Many executives and pundits have argued that the educational pipeline remains one of the chief impediments to hiring a more diverse workforce, and that as long as universities aren't recruiting a broader mix of students for STEM degrees, the corporate landscape will suffer accordingly. But black IT entrepreneurs and professionals tell Dice that the problem goes much deeper than simply widening the pipeline; they argue that racial bias, along with lingering impressions of what a 'techie' should look like, loom much larger than any pipeline issue.

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posted 12 days ago on slashdot
jfruh writes In-flight Wi-Fi services tend to be expensive and disappointingly slow. So when AT&T announced a few months ago that it was planning on getting into the business, with customer airlines being able to connect to AT&T's LTE network instead of slow satellite services, the industry shook. But now AT&T has announced that, upon further review, they're not going to bother.

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posted 12 days ago on slashdot
Dave Knott writes François Gissy of France has claimed a new bicycle speed record. As you might guess, he was not pedalling – he was seated atop a hydrogen peroxide-powered rocket with three thrusters fastened to the frame of an elongated, but otherwise ordinary-looking bicycle. In a video posted on YouTube that announces the record, a Ferrari racing the bike is left far behind within seconds of leaving the starting line. The bike, designed by Gissy's friend, Arnold Neracher, reached its top speed of 333 km/h (207mph) in just 4.8 seconds and 250 metres. According to Guinness World Records, the fastest speed ever for a bicycle that wasn't rocket powered was 268.831 km/h by Fred Rompelberg of the Netherlands, riding behind a wind-shield fitted dragster in 1995 and assisted by the slipstream of the car. The current unassisted bicycle speed record is 133.8 km/h — a record that a team in Toronto is trying to break.

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posted 12 days ago on slashdot
Drinking Bleach writes Groupon has released a tablet-based point of sale system called Gnome, despite the well-known desktop environment's existence and trademark status. This is also not without Groupon's internal knowledge of the GNOME project; they were contacted about the infringement and flatly refused to change the name of their own product, in addition to filing many new trademark applications for theirs. The GNOME project is seeking donations to help them in a legal battle against these trademark applications, and to get Groupon to stop using their name. They are seeking at least $80,000 to challenge a first set of ten trademark applications from Groupon, out of 28 applications that have been filed.

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posted 13 days ago on slashdot
Presto Vivace sends this excerpt from an article at the Kernel, titled 'With Gamergate, it's not enough to ignore the trolls.' Gendered bigotry against women is widely considered to be "in bounds" by Internet commenters (whether they openly acknowledge it or not), and subsequently a demographic that comprises half of the total human population has to worry about receiving rape threats, death threats, and the harassment of angry mobs simply for expressing their opinions. This needs to stop, and while it's impossible to prevent all forms of harassment from occurring online, we can start by creating a culture that shames individuals who cross the bounds of decency. We can start by stating the obvious: It is never appropriate to use slurs, metaphors, graphic negative imagery, or any other kind of language that plays on someone's gender, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, or religion. Not only is such language inappropriate regardless of one's passion on a given subject, but any valid arguments that existed independently of such rhetoric should have been initially presented without it. Once a poster crosses this line, they should lose all credibility. Similarly, it is never acceptable to dox, harass, post nude pictures, or in any other way violate someone's privacy due to disagreement with their opinions. While most people would probably agree with this in theory, far too many are willing to access and distribute this humiliating (and often illegal) content. Instead of simply viewing stories of doxing, slut-shaming, and other forms of online intimidation as an unfortunate by-product of the digital age, we should boycott all sites that publish these materials.

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posted 13 days ago on slashdot
itwbennett writes: Germany's foreign intelligence agency reportedly wants to spend €300 million (about $375 million) in the next five years on technology that would let it spy in real time on social networks outside of Germany, and decrypt and monitor encrypted Internet traffic. The agency, which already spent €6.22 million in preparation for this online surveillance push, also wants to use the money to set up an early warning system for cyber attacks, the report said (Google translation of German original). A prototype is expected to be launched next June with the aim of monitoring publicly available data on Twitter and blogs.

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