posted 7 days ago on slashdot
Lasrick writes: MIT's Subrata Ghoshroy deconstructs the Navy's recent claim of successful testing with the Laser Weapon System. It seems the test videos released to the press in December were nothing more than a dog-and-pony show with scaled-down expectations so as to appear successful: "When they couldn't get a laser lightweight enough to fit on a ship while still being powerful enough to burn through the metal skin of an incoming nuclear missile, they simply changed their goal to something akin to puncturing the side of an Iranian rubber dinghy." Ghoshroy is an entertaining writer and an old hand in the laser research industry. He gives a explanation here of the history of laser weapons, and how the search for combat-ready tech continues: 'At the end of the day, good beam quality and good SWAP—size, weight and power—still determine the success or failure of a given laser weapon, and we're just not anywhere near meeting all those requirements simultaneously.'

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posted 7 days ago on slashdot
New submitter Hokan writes: Paul Hansmeier and John Steele, formerly of Prenda, are suing again. Each have started nonprofits, in Minnesota and Illinois, claiming to defend disabled people, and they are suing small businesses for ADA violations. You may recall that a District Court judge issued sanctions against Prenda for their attempts to file copyright suits against a broad swath of internet users. Their new practices take a similar tack: sue a small business and generously offer to collect a settlement somewhat lower than the amount it would cost to to make changes to their establishment. A new group is fighting back by creating "an access audit for local businesses, allowing them to develop a plan to fix ADA issues and potentially to ward off litigation."

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posted 7 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes: James Tobin, a Nobel Prize-winning economist, developed a concept called "Q-value" — it's the ratio between two numbers: 1) the sum of all publicly-traded companies' stock valuations and 2) the value of all these companies' actual assets, if they were sold. Bloomberg reports that the continued strength of the stock market has now caused that ratio to go over 1 — in other words, the market values companies about 10% higher than the sum of their actual assets. The Q value is now at its highest point since the Dot-com bubble. Similar peaks in the past hundred years have all been quickly followed by crashes. Now, that's not to say a crash is imminent — experts disagree on the Q-value's reliability. One said, "the ratio's doubling since 2009 to 1.10 is a symptom of companies diverting money from their businesses to the stock market, choosing buybacks over capital spending. Six years of zero-percent interest rates have similarly driven investors into riskier things like equities, elevating the paper value of assets over their tangible worth." Others point out that as the digital economy grows, a greater portion of publicly traded companies lack the tangible assets that were the hallmark of the manufacturing boom.

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posted 7 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes: In an upcoming paper (PDF) for the Michigan Law Review, scholar Cass Sunstein draws on Star Wars to make a couple key points about how constitutional law evolves. He writes, "Human beings often see coherence and planned design when neither exists. This is so in movies, literature, history, economics, and psychoanalysis—and constitutional law. Contrary to the repeated claims of George Lucas, its principal author, the Star Wars series was hardly planned in advance; it involved a great deal of improvisation and surprise, even to Lucas himself. Serendipity and happenstance, sometimes in the forms of eruptions of new thinking, play a pervasive and overlooked role in the creative imagination, certainly in single-authored works, and even more in multi-authored ones extending over time. ... The misdescription appears to respond to a serious human need for sense-making and pattern-finding, but it is a significant obstacle to understanding and critical reflection. Whether Jedi or Sith, many authors of constitutional law are a lot like the author of Star Wars, disguising the essential nature of their own creative processes."

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posted 7 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes: Apple is still sprinting to catch up with Google with its navigation software — the company just acquired Coherent Navigation, a startup focused on GPS tech. Its navigation services are reportedly more precise than most commercial-grade systems. Their system "combines signals from the traditional mid-earth orbit GPS satellites with those from the low-earth satellites of voice and data provider Iridium to offer greater accuracy and precision, higher signal integrity, and greater jam resistance." They've already worked with Boeing and the U.S. Department of Defense. Apple didn't disclose the terms of the deal or explain any specific plans for the GPS technology.

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posted 8 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes: An article at TechCrunch looks at some interesting parallels between the current automobile industry and the PC industry of the 1980s. IBM was dominant in 1985, employing four times as many people as its nearest competitor. But as soon as Windows was released, the platform became more important for most end users than the manufacturer. Over the next decade, IBM lost its throne. In 2015, we're on the cusp of a similar change: the computerized car. Automakers, though large and well-established, haven't put much effort into building the platform on which their cars run. Meanwhile, Google's Android Auto and Apple CarPlay are constantly improving. As soon as those hit a breakthrough point where it's more important for a customer to have the platform than the manufacturer's logo on the side, the industry is likely to resemble a replay of the PC industry in the 1980s.

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posted 8 days ago on slashdot
HughPickens.com writes: For the past year Nathaniel Popper has been working on a book about the history of Bitcoin and writes in the NYT that it is hard to avoid being drawn in by the almost mystical riddle of Satoshi Nakamoto's identity. Popper has his own candidate for founder of Bitcoin, a reclusive American man of Hungarian descent named Nick Szabo. Szabo worked in a loosely organized group of digital privacy activists who over decades laid the foundation for Bitcoin and created many parts that later went into the virtual currency. Bitcoin was not a bolt out of the blue, as is sometimes assumed, but was instead built on the ideas of multiple people over several decades. Several experiments in digital cash circulated on the Cypherpunk lists in the 1990s. Adam Back, a British researcher, created an algorithm called hashcash that later became a central component of Bitcoin. Another, called b money, was designed by an intensely private computer engineer named Wei Dai. It may be impossible to prove Satoshi's identity until the person or people behind Bitcoin's curtain decide to come forward and prove ownership of Satoshi's old electronic accounts and at this point, the creator's identity is no longer important to Bitcoin's future. Since Satoshi stopped contributing to the project in 2011, most of the open-source code has been rewritten by a group of programmers whose identities are known. According to Popper whoever it is, the real Satoshi Nakamoto has many good reasons for wanting to stay anonymous. Perhaps the most obvious is potential danger. Satoshi Nakamoto most likely collected nearly a million Bitcoins during the system's first year. Given that each Bitcoin is now worth about $240, the stash could be worth more than $200 million. That could make Satoshi a target. "With his modest clothes and unassuming manner, Mr. Szabo could be the kind of person who could have a fortune and not spend any of it," concludes Popper, "or even throw away the keys to the bank."

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posted 8 days ago on slashdot
McGruber writes: Last Tuesday evening, northbound Amtrak Northeast Regional train No. 188 derailed on a curve in Philadelphia, killing eight passengers. The train was traveling in excess of 100 mph, while the curve had a passenger-train speed limit of 50 mph. In response, the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA) is issuing formal emergency orders that will require Amtrak to make sure automatic train control systems work Northbound through Philadelphia at and near the site of the derailment. The FRA is also requiring that Amtrak assess the risk of all curves along the NEC and increase the amount and frequency of speed limit signs along the railroad. FRA's emergency order is newsworthy because Amtrak's existing signal system could have been configured to prevent a train from exceeding speed limits, according to the Wall Street Journal.

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posted 8 days ago on slashdot
StartsWithABang writes: When it comes to the farthest thing we can see in the Universe, that's the Cosmic Microwave Background, or the leftover glow from the Big Bang, emitted when the Universe was a mere 380,000 years old. But what, exactly, does this mean? Does it mean that we're seeing the "edge" of the Universe? Does it mean that there's nothing to see, farther back beyond it? Does it mean that, as time goes on, we're going to be able to see farther back in time and space? The answers are no, no, and yes, respectively. If we want to see farther than ever before, we've got two options: either wait for more time to pass, or get moving and build that cosmic neutrino background detector.

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posted 8 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes: The first smart TVs powered by Firefox OS have gone on sale in Europe. Panasonic's line of Viera smart TVs includes six that are powered by Firefox OS — CR850, CR730, CX800, CX750, CX700 and CX680 — including their first curved LED LCD TV. The full global launch of the TVs is expected “in the coming months.” From the Mozilla blog: "We’re happy to partner with Panasonic to bring the first Smart TVs powered by Firefox OS to the world,” said Andreas Gal, Mozilla CTO. “With Firefox and Firefox OS powered devices, users can enjoy a custom and connected Web experience and take their favorite content (apps, videos, photos, websites) across devices without being locked into one proprietary ecosystem or brand.”

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posted 8 days ago on slashdot
MojoKid writes: Like many MMORPGs, World of Warcraft can be a grind. To sidestep the time commitment required to continually level up a character, gather resources, improve skills, or whatever else is desired, some gamers turn to bots, software that automates the process. The only problem is, Activision Blizzard isn't so keen on this behavior and has dropped the ban hammer hard on gamers who've been using them. Activision Blizzard didn't specify exactly how many people it booted, saying only that it was a "large number of World of Warcraft accounts." However, a screenshot of a conversation between a player, Game Master, and Activision Blizzard employee suggests that over 100,000 World of Warcraft accounts were identified and booted.

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posted 8 days ago on slashdot
McGruber writes: After arresting him during a June 2013 street performance, Atlanta Police Officers forced costumed street performer "Baton Bob" to make a pro-police statement on his Facebook page before they would allow him to be released on bond. Social media coverage of the incident triggered a six-month internal police investigation into the arrest. Atlanta Police Officer H.J. Davis was given a one-day suspension, then resigned from the Atlanta Police department a few weeks later. Atlanta Police Lt. Jeffrey Cantin received a five-day suspension for "violating responsibilities of a supervisor". Baton Bob also filed a federal lawsuit against the city, arguing that officers made a wrongful arrest that violated, well, nearly every constitutional right you can name. Those included Jamerson's "right to free speech, his right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, his right to remain silent while in custody, his right to be free from compelled speech, his right to counsel, and his right to privacy." The City of Atlanta's legal department reviewed the case and determined that a $20,000 settlement would "be in the best interest of the city" rather than fighting the claims in court.

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posted 8 days ago on slashdot
jones_supa writes: Conducting both surveys and EEG scans, Microsoft has published a study suggesting that the average attention span has fallen precipitously since the start of the century. While people could focus on a task for 12 seconds back in 2000, that figure dropped to 8 seconds in 2013 (about one second less than a goldfish). Reportedly, a lot of that reduction stems from a combination of smartphones and an avalanche of content. The study found also a sunny side: while presence of technology is hurting attention spans overall, it also appears to improve person's abilities to both multitask and concentrate in short bursts.

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posted 8 days ago on slashdot
hypnosec writes: A novel technique of detecting cocaine abuse through a simple fingerprint has been developed by researchers from the UK and the Netherlands, paving the way for a secure, non-invasive drug detection method. The research, led by University of Surrey and published in the journal Analyst, demonstrates for the first time that cocaine can be detected by the excreted metabolites – benzoylecgonine and methylecgonine – resulting from abuse of the drug. These chemicals are found in fingerprint residue, which the researchers detect using analytical chemistry technique known as ambient mass spectrometry.

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posted 8 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes: CNET reports that Kim Dotcom views Hillary Clinton as "an enemy of online freedom." Hilary's candidacy came up when Kim was asked about a tweet he made in which he called himself "Hillary's worse nightmare in 2016." He says now that Wikileaks founder Julian Assange would probably be a bigger headache for Clinton. "I'm aware of some of the things that are going to be roadblocks for her," he added. Dotcom said he hoped to expand the influence of the Internet Party and provide some transparency. Brietbart adds that a conflict between Assange and Clinton may have personal motivations, but it also seems inevitable. Hillary is obsessive about maintaining control of information. She created a personal server in her home to handle her emails as Secretary of State and then deleted all the contents after self-selecting the emails she believed were work-related. Assange is famous for parceling out secret information."

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posted 8 days ago on slashdot
HughPickens.com writes: Jamie Doward reports at The Guardian that according to a recent study in the UK, the effect of banning mobile phones from school premises adds up to the equivalent of an extra week's schooling over a pupil's academic year with the test scores of students aged 16 improved by 6.4% after schools banned mobile phones, "We found that not only did student achievement improve, but also that low-achieving and low-income students gained the most. We found the impact of banning phones for these students was equivalent to an additional hour a week in school, or to increasing the school year by five days." In the UK, more than 90% of teenagers own a mobile phone; in the US, just under three quarters have one. In a survey conducted in 2001, no school banned mobiles. By 2007, this had risen to 50%, and by 2012 some 98% of schools either did not allow phones on school premises or required them to be handed in at the beginning of the day. But some schools are starting to allow limited use of the devices. New York mayor Bill de Blasio has lifted a 10-year ban on phones on school premises, with the city's chancellor of schools stating that it would reduce inequality. The research was carried out at Birmingham, London, Leicester and Manchester schools before and after bans were introduced. (PDF) It factored in characteristics such as gender, eligibility for free school meals, special educational needs status and prior educational attainment. "Technological advancements are commonly viewed as increasing productivity," write Louis-Philippe Beland and Richard Murphy. "Modern technology is used in the classroom to engage students and improve performance. There are, however, potential drawbacks as well, as they could lead to distractions."

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posted 8 days ago on slashdot
catchblue22 writes: At the Embedded Vision Summit, a company called Synopsys, showed off a new image-processor core tailored for deep learning. It is expected to be added to chips that power smartphones, cameras, and cars. Synopsys showed a demo in which the new design recognized speed-limit signs in footage from a car. The company also presented results from using the chip to run a deep-learning network trained to recognize faces. A spokesperson said that it didn't hit the accuracy levels of the best research results, which have been achieved on powerful computers, but it came pretty close. "For applications like video surveillance it performs very well," he said. Being able to use deep learning on mobile chips will be vital to helping robots navigate and interact with the world, he said, and to efforts to develop autonomous cars.

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posted 8 days ago on slashdot
theodp writes: Over at the Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg-bankrolled Code.org, they're using the number of open computing jobs in each state to convince parents of the need to expand K-12 CS offerings so their kids can fill those jobs. Sounds good, right? But at the same time, the Gates and Zuckerberg-bankrolled FWD.org PAC has taken to Twitter, using the number of open "STEM" jobs in each state to convince politicians of the need to expand the number of H-1B visas so foreign workers can fill those jobs. While the goal of Microsoft's 'two-pronged' National Talent Strategy is to kill two birds [K-12 CS education and H-1B visas] with one crisis, is it fair for organizations backed by many of the same wealthy individuals to essentially promise the same jobs to U.S. kids and foreign H-1B workers?

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posted 8 days ago on slashdot
ideonexus writes: Aaron Clarey, author of the blog Return of Kings and prominent figure in the Men's Rights Movement, is calling for a boycott of George Miller's new edition to the Mad Max franchise "Mad Max: Fury Road," calling the film a "Trojan Horse feminists and Hollywood leftists will use to (vainly) insist on the trope women are equal to men in all things..." and citing the fact that "Vagina Monologues" author Eve Ensler was brought in to coach the actresses on playing sex slaves who escape a warlord's possession. Critics have been applauding the film, which currently scores 98% on RottenTomatoes.

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posted 8 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes: Space policy experts are still arguing where American astronauts should go once they venture into deep space. However, there is widespread agreement that once they get there they should be prepared to stay for longer than just a few hours or days, as was the case during the Apollo missions to the moon. Taking all the material to set up habitats, the astronauts' homes away from home, would tend to be expensive. Toward the end of lowering the cost of long duration space travel, NASA has announced the 3D Printed Habitat Challenge, in partnership with America Makes, as part of the ongoing Centennial Challenge program.

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posted 8 days ago on slashdot
lemur3 writes: Hot on the heels of the recent implementation of Canvas Ads (allowing advertisers to use the full page) Martin Bryant, the Editor-in-Chief of The Next Web, wrote a piece that, ostensibly, calls out mobile carriers in Europe for offering ad blocking as a service. He writes: "Display ads are still an important bread-and-butter income stream. Taking delight in denying publishers that revenue shows either sociopathic tendencies or ignorance of economic realities." While referring to those using ad blocking as sociopathic is likely not to win many fans, this mindset seems to be prevalent in certain circles, as discussed previously on Slashdot. Martin closes his piece with a warning: "For all their sins, ads fuel much of the Web. Cut them out and you're strangling the diversity of online voices and publishers – and I don't think consumers really want that."

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posted 8 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes: Under contract from NASA, Rockwell Collins is developing equipment to let pilots of supersonic craft know where a sonic boom will be produced. The hope is to make supersonic flight over land practical. Flying higher widens impacts but lessens intensity. “In order for supersonic travel over land to happen, pilots will need an intuitive display interface that tells them where the aircraft’s sonic boom is occurring,” said John Borghese, vice president, Advanced Technology Center for Rockwell Collins. “Our team of experts will investigate how best to show this to pilots in the cockpit and develop guidance to most effectively modify the aircraft’s flight path to avoid populated areas or prevent sonic booms.”

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posted 9 days ago on slashdot
SpankiMonki sends word that the United Arab Emirates has announced plans to launch a Mars mission in July, 2020. They want to send a probe (named "al-Amal",or "Hope") that will orbit the Red Planet for several years. It will analyze the Martian atmosphere, observing clouds and dust storms to help scientists figure out how water gradually escaped from Mars over a long time scale. [A]fter being inserted into an elliptical 55-hour orbit in the first quarter of 2021, Hope will carry out its nominal two-year science mission at altitudes ranging between 22,000 to 44,000 kilometers. From there, the mission will investigate how the lower and upper levels of the Martian atmosphere are connected. One goal is to create the first global picture of how the Martian atmosphere changes throughout the day and between seasons.

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posted 9 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes: Those of us who fiddle with electronics are probably familiar with this scenario: you've just finished assembling a project using your Arduino/Raspberry Pi/whatever, and it works! You'd like to set it up for long-term use, but... it's just a mass of wires and LEDs and switches. Alexis Matelin has written up a brief but handy guide for turning that mess into a self-contained prototype. He goes from planning out your circuit to designing your schematic to making your board, then working on an enclosure and a battery holder. Matelin also links to a variety of resources for the individual steps involved. It's a straightforward guide written for amateurs. Those of you who have experience with building permanent micro-controller projects: what would you add?

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posted 9 days ago on slashdot
sfcrazy writes: Jos Poortliet, former openSUSE community manager, wrote in a blog post, "At the time of writing this, the openQA servers were busily running tests and, by the time we publish this article, they should be done. What was being tested? A massive amount of changes, bringing not only the latest Plasma 5.3 and Applications 15.04.1 to Tumbleweed, but also marking the switch to Plasma 5 as the default desktop!" The switch to P5 will also have a massive impact in Plasma 5 development because now there will be more users finding bugs and filing reports to make it even better.

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