posted 14 days ago on slashdot
New submitter hmcd31 writes: In a new paper for Brookings' series on the future of civilian robotics, University of Washington Law Professor Ryan Calo argues the need for a Federal Robotics Commission. With advancements such as driverless cars and drones taking to the roads and skies, Calo sees a need for a government agency to monitor these changes. His paper details many benefits a robotics commission could bring, from funding to assisting in law and policy issues. The policies developed by this FRC are argued to be particularly important, as their impact in creating an early infrastructure for robotics could create an environment that lets the technology grow even more.

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posted 14 days ago on slashdot
DeviceGuru writes: Following through on an announcement from August, Digia has spun off a subsidiary called The Qt Company to unify Qt's commercial and open source efforts, and debuted a low-cost plan for mobile developers. The Linux-oriented Qt cross-platform development framework has had a tumultuous career, having been passed around Scandinavia over the years from Trolltech to Nokia and then from Nokia to Digia. Yet, Qt keeps rolling along in both commercial and open source community versions, continually adding support for new platforms and technologies, and gaining extensive support from mobile developers. Now Qt is its own company, or at least a wholly owned subsidiary under Digia. Finland-based Digia has largely been involved with the commercial versions of Qt since it acquired the platform from Nokia in 2012, but it has also sponsored the community Qt Project as a relatively separate project. Now, both efforts are being unified under one roof at The Qt Company and the new QT.io website, says Digia. Meanwhile, Digia will focus on its larger enterprise software business.

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posted 14 days ago on slashdot
Advocatus Diaboli writes: According to a report from Gizmodo, "After six years and over one billion dollars in development, the FBI has just announced that its new biometric facial recognition software system is finally complete. Meaning that, starting soon, photos of tens of millions of U.S. citizen's faces will be captured by the national system on a daily basis. The Next Generation Identification (NGI) program will logs all of those faces, and will reference them against its growing database in the event of a crime. It's not just faces, though. Thanks to the shared database dubbed the Interstate Photo System (IPS), everything from tattoos to scars to a person's irises could be enough to secure an ID. What's more, the FBI is estimating that NGI will include as many as 52 million individual faces by next year, collecting identified faces from mug shots and some job applications." Techdirt points out that an assessment of how this system affects privacy was supposed to have preceded the actual rollout. Unfortunately, that assessment is nowhere to be found. Two recent news items are related. First, at a music festival in Boston last year, face recognition software was tested on festival-goers. Boston police denied involvement, but were seen using the software, and much of the data was carelessly made available online. Second, both Ford and GM are working on bringing face recognition software to cars. It's intended for safety and security — it can act as authentication and to make sure the driver is paying attention to the road.

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posted 14 days ago on slashdot
HughPickens.com writes: Reuters reports that plans for a major rewriting of international tax rules have been unveiled by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) that could eliminate structures that have allowed companies like Google and Amazon to shave billions of dollars off their tax bills. For more than 50 years, the OECD's work on international taxation has been focused on ensuring companies are not taxed twice on the same profits (and thereby hampering trade and limit global growth). But companies have been using such treaties to ensure profits are not taxed anywhere. A Reuters investigation last year found that three quarters of the 50 biggest U.S. technology companies channeled revenues from European sales into low tax jurisdictions like Ireland and Switzerland, rather than reporting them nationally. For example, search giant Google takes advantage of tax treaties to channel more than $8 billion in untaxed profits out of Europe and Asia each year and into a subsidiary that is tax resident in Bermuda, which has no income tax. "We are putting an end to double non-taxation," says OECD head of tax Pascal Saint-Amans.For the recommendations to actually become binding, countries will have to encode them in their domestic laws or amend their bilateral tax treaties. Even if they do pass, these changes are likely 5-10 years away from going into effect. Speaking of international corporate business: U.K. mainframe company Micro Focus announced it will buy Attachmate, which includes Novell and SUSE.

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posted 14 days ago on slashdot
wabrandsma sends this article from New Scientist: In an experiment, Alan Winfield and his colleagues programmed a robot to prevent other automatons – acting as proxies for humans – from falling into a hole. This is a simplified version of Isaac Asimov's fictional First Law of Robotics – a robot must not allow a human being to come to harm. At first, the robot was successful in its task. As a human proxy moved towards the hole, the robot rushed in to push it out of the path of danger. But when the team added a second human proxy rolling toward the hole at the same time, the robot was forced to choose. Sometimes, it managed to save one human while letting the other perish; a few times it even managed to save both. But in 14 out of 33 trials, the robot wasted so much time fretting over its decision that both humans fell into the hole. Winfield describes his robot as an "ethical zombie" that has no choice but to behave as it does. Though it may save others according to a programmed code of conduct, it doesn't understand the reasoning behind its actions.

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posted 14 days ago on slashdot
Nerval's Lobster (2598977) writes A new article in Fast Company suggests tech CEOs want employees with liberal arts degrees, because those graduates have critical thinking skills. Meanwhile, a new article on Dice (yes, yes, we know) posits that STEM degrees such as data science, IT admin, and electrical engineering are what science-and-tech companies are going to want for the foreseeable future. What do you think? What place do those with liberal arts degrees have in companies such as, say, Tesla or a biomedical engineering firm?

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posted 15 days ago on slashdot
ashshy writes 200,000 Australian residents reportedly use Netflix today, tunneling their video traffic to the US, UK, and other Netflix markets via VPN connections. A proper Netflix Down Under service isn't expected to launch until 2015. Last week, Aussie video streaming company Quickflix told Netflix to stop this practice, so Australian viewers can return to Quickflix and other local alternatives. But Quickflix CEO Stephen Langsford didn't explain how Netflix could restrict Australian VPN users, beyond the IP geolocating and credit card billing address checks it already runs. Today, ZDNet's Josh Taylor ripped into the absurdity of Quickflix's demands. From the article: "If Netflix cuts those people off, they're going to know that it was at the behest of Foxtel and Quickflix, and would likely boycott those services instead of flocking to them. If nothing else, it would encourage those who have tried to do the right thing by subscribing and paying for content on Netflix to return to copyright infringement."

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posted 15 days ago on slashdot
Ronin Developer writes Apple has listened to the complaints of those who object to having received a pushed copy of U2's latest album as part of their recent campaign. While nobody has been charged for the download, some objected to having it show up in their purchases and, in some cases, pushed down to their devices. While it is possible to remove the album from your iTunes library, it takes more steps than most would like to take. Apple has responded and released a tool to make it possible to remove the album from your iTunes library in a single step.

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posted 15 days ago on slashdot
Rambo Tribble (1273454) writes "Programmers at Fast Company are developing the Cosmos browser to allow text browsing from Android phones when networks are buckling under the load of local disasters. A common phenomenon when disaster strikes is the overloading of cell and data networks by massively increased traffic. The Cosmos browser is intended to facilitate using SMS text messages, which often still get through in such circumstances. To quote one developer, "We want this to be a way for people to get information when they're in dire need of it." Sort of a Lynx comes to Android affair. The Smithsonian contemplates the possibilities, here."

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posted 15 days ago on slashdot
PvtVoid writes The Wall Street Journal reports (paywalled) that NASA is poised to award a key contract for manned transport to the International Space Station to Boeing over rival SpaceX: "Recent signals from the Obama administration, according to the officials, indicate that the National Aeronautics and Space Administration's leadership has concluded on a preliminary basis that Boeing's proposed capsule offers the least risky option, as well as the one most likely to be ready to transport U.S. crews to the international space station within three years. The officials cautioned that a last-minute shift by NASA chief Charles Bolden, who must vet the decision, could change the result of the closely watched competition." Here is a non-paywalled link to an article at CNET.

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posted 15 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes: The net neutrality debate has been pretty binary: ISPs want the ability to create so-called "fast lanes," and consumers want all traffic to be treated equally. Now, AT&T is proposing an alternative: fast lanes under consumer control. Their idea would "allow individual consumers to ask that some applications, such as Netflix, receive priority treatment over other services, such as e-mail or online video games. That's different from the FCC's current proposal, which tacitly allows Internet providers to charge content companies for priority access to consumers but doesn't give the consumers a choice in the matter." AT&T said, "Such an approach would preserve the ability of Internet service providers to engage in individualized negotiations with [content companies] for a host of services, while prohibiting the precise practice that has raised 'fast lane' concerns." It's not perfect, but it's probably the first earnest attempt at a compromise we've seen from either side, and it suggests the discussion can move forward without completely rejecting one group's wishes.

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posted 15 days ago on slashdot
Bismillah writes Wikileaks' latest release of documents shows that the Australian New South Wales police force has spent millions on licenses for the FinFisher set of law enforcement spy- and malware tools — and still has active licenses. What it uses FinFisher, which has been deployed against dissidents by oppressive regimes, for is yet to be revealed. NSW Police spokesperson John Thompson said it would not be appropriate to comment "given this technology relates to operational capability".

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posted 15 days ago on slashdot
snydeq writes: Faster innovation, better security, new markets — the case for opening Swift might be more compelling than Apple will admit, writes Peter Wayner. "In recent years, creators of programming languages have gone out of their way to get their code running on as many different computers as possible. This has meant open-sourcing their tools and doing everything they could to evangelize their work. Apple has never followed the same path as everyone else. The best course may be to open up Swift to everyone, but that doesn't mean Apple will. Nor should we assume that giving us something for free is in Apple's or (gasp) our best interests. The question of open-sourcing a language like Swift is trickier than it looks."

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posted 15 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes: It's easy to make a robot walk, but hard to keep it from falling over. We've seen a number of crazy robot prototypes, but they're usually tethered and/or stuck on a treadmill. Now, researchers from MIT have developed an algorithm that allows their giant robot cheetah to run around outdoors at up to 10mph. They expect the robot to eventually hit speeds of 30mph. "The key to the bounding algorithm is in programming each of the robot's legs to exert a certain amount of force in the split second during which it hits the ground, in order to maintain a given speed: In general, the faster the desired speed, the more force must be applied to propel the robot forward. ... Kim says that by adapting a force-based approach, the cheetah-bot is able to handle rougher terrain, such as bounding across a grassy field." The MIT cheetah-bot also runs on a custom electric motor, which makes it significantly quieter than gas-powered robots. "Our robot can be silent and as efficient as animals. The only things you hear are the feet hitting the ground."

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posted 15 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes: Multiplayer modes used to be an extra part of most games — an optional addition that the developers could build (or not) as they saw fit. These days, it's different: many games are marketed under the illusion of being single-player, when their focus has shifted to an almost mandatory multiplayer mode. (Think always-online DRM, and games as services.) It's not that this is necessarily bad for gameplay — it's that design patterns are shifting, and if you don't like multiplayer, you're going to have a harder time finding games you do like. The article's author uses a couple recent major titles as backdrop for the discussion: "With both Diablo III and Destiny, I'm not sure where and how to attribute my enjoyment. Yes, the mechanics of both are sound, but given the resounding emptiness felt when played solo, perhaps the co-op element is compensating. I'd go so far as to argue games can be less mechanically compelling, so long as the multiplayer element is engaging. The thrill of barking orders at friends can, in a way, cover design flaws. I hem and haw on the quality of each game's mechanics because the co-op aspect literally distracted me from engaging with them to some degree."

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posted 15 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes: New research from Washington University has found that the condition known as schizophrenia is not just a single disease, but instead a collection of eight different disorders. For years, researchers struggled to understand the genetic basis of schizophrenia. This new method was able to isolate and identify the different conditions (each with its own symptoms) currently classified under the same heading (abstract, full text). "In some patients with hallucinations or delusions, for example, the researchers matched distinct genetic features to patients' symptoms, demonstrating that specific genetic variations interacted to create a 95 percent certainty of schizophrenia. In another group, they found that disorganized speech and behavior were specifically associated with a set of DNA variations that carried a 100 percent risk of schizophrenia." According to one of the study's authors, "By identifying groups of genetic variations and matching them to symptoms in individual patients, it soon may be possible to target treatments to specific pathways that cause problems."

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posted 15 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes: If you're a creative engineer looking to build a product, you're probably going to end up starting your own business or joining an established. That's where ideas get funding, and that's where products make a difference (not to mention money). Unfortunately, it also siphons a lot of the tech-related talent away from government (and by extension, everybody else), who could really benefit from this creative brilliance. That's why investor Ron Bouganim just started a $23 million fund for investment in tech companies that develop ideas for the U.S. government. Not only is he hoping to transfer some of the $74 billion spent annually by the government on technology to more efficient targets, but also to change the perception that the best tech comes from giant, entrenched government contractors.

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posted 15 days ago on slashdot
ericgoldman writes Even though "googling" and "Google it" are now common phrases, a federal court ruled that the "Google" trademark is still a valid trademark instead of a generic term (unlike former trademarks such as escalator, aspirin or yo-yo). The court distinguished between consumers using Google as a verb (such as "google it"), which didn't automatically make the term generic, and consumers using Google to describe one player in the market, which 90%+ of consumers still do.

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posted 15 days ago on slashdot
Edison is an Intel creation aimed squarely at the maker and prototype markets. It's smaller than an Arduino, has built-in wi-fi, and is designed to be used in embedded applications. SparkFun is "an online retail store that sells the bits and pieces to make your electronics projects possible." They're partnering with Intel to sell the Edison and all kinds of add-ons for it. Open source? Sure. Right down to the schematics. David Stillman, star of today's video, works for SparkFun. He talks about "a gajillion" things you can do with an Edison, up to and including the creation of an image-recognition system for your next homemade drone. (Alternate Video Link)

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posted 15 days ago on slashdot
mpicpp writes with Uber's latest plans for expansion. The future of Uber is about pharmacies and rickshaws. So says CEO Travis Kalanick. One of several avenues for expansion is in a category of delivery that's about running errands. "In Los Angeles, we're doing something called Uber Fresh, which is you push a button and you get a lunch in five minutes," Kalanick told CNN's Fareed Zakaria. "In DC, we're doing Uber Corner Store. So imagine all the things you get at a corner store...FedEx isn't going to your nearest pharmacy and delivering something to you in five minutes," he continued. Another is in emerging markets, where the company may focus on rickshaws, rather than high-end black cars, Kalanick said.

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posted 15 days ago on slashdot
stephendavion writes A 16-year-old from India has designed a device that converts breath into speech. High-school student Arsh Shah Dilbagi invented TALK as a portable and affordable way to aid people suffering from ALS, locked-in syndrome, and anyone else speech-impaired or paralyzed. Prototyped using a basic $25 Arduino microcontroller, Dilbagi's invention costs only $80, or about a hundred times less than the sort of Augmentative and Alternative Communication device used by Stephen Hawking. TALK works by translating breath into electric signals using a MEMS Microphone, an advanced form of listening tech that uses a diaphragm etched directly onto a silicon microchip. The user is expected to be able to give two distinguishable exhales, varying in intensity or time, so that they can spell words out using Morse code.

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posted 15 days ago on slashdot
blottsie writes After months of heated debate, viral campaigns, deliberate "slowdowns" and record-breaking public responses, the Federal Communications Commission is finally set to decide how "net neutrality"—the principle that all data must be treated equally by Internet service providers (ISPs)—should look in the U.S., or if it should exist at all. Today, Sept. 15, the FCC officially closes its public comment period on its latest net neutrality proposal. The plan enables ISPs to discriminate against certain types of data, in certain circumstances, by charging extra for broadband “fast lanes” between content providers—like Netflix or YouTube—and users.

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posted 15 days ago on slashdot
wiredog writes Security researcher Michael Jordon has hacked a Canon's Pixma printer to run Doom. He did so by reverse engineering the firmware encryption and uploading via the update interface. From the BBC: "Like many modern printers, Canon's Pixma range can be accessed via the net, so owners can check the device's status. However, Mr Jordon, who works for Context Information Security, found Canon had done a poor job of securing this method of interrogating the device. 'The web interface has no user name or password on it,' he said. That meant anyone could look at the status of any device once they found it, he said. A check via the Shodan search engine suggests there are thousands of potentially vulnerable Pixma printers already discoverable online. There is no evidence that anyone is attacking printers via the route Mr Jordon found."

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posted 15 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes Now that I've spent close to a month digitizing a desk drawer's worth of VHS tapes, deinterlacing and postprocessing the originals to minimize years of tape decay, and compressing everything down to H.264, I've found myself with a hard drive full of loosely organized videos. They'll get picked up by my existing monthly backup, but I feel like I haven't gained much in the way of redundancy, as I thought I would. Instead of having tapes slowly degrade, I'm now open to losing entire movies at once, should both of my drives go bad. Does anyone maintain a library, and if so, what would they recommend? Is having them duplicated on two drives (one of which is spun down for all but one day of the month) a good-enough long term strategy? Should I look into additionally backing up to optical discs or flash drives, building out a better (RAIDed) backup machine, or even keeping the original tapes around despite them having been digitized?

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posted 15 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes The Chinese city of Chongqing has created a smartphone sidewalk lane, offering a path for those too caught up in messaging and tweeting to watch where they're going. "There are lots of elderly people and children in our street, and walking with your cell phone may cause unnecessary collisions here," said Nong Cheng, a spokeswoman for the district's property management company. However, she clarified that the initiative was meant to be a satirical way to highlight the dangers of texting and walking.

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