posted 14 days ago on slashdot
sciencehabit writes Two years ago, scientists showed that dolphins imitate the sounds of whales. Now, it seems, whales have returned the favor. Researchers analyzed the vocal repertoires of 10 captive orcas, three of which lived with bottlenose dolphins and the rest with their own kind. Of the 1551 vocalizations these seven latter orcas made, more than 95% were the typical pulsed calls of killer whales. In contrast, the three orcas that had only dolphins as pals busily whistled and emitted dolphinlike click trains and terminal buzzes, the scientists report in the October issue of The Journal of the Acoustical Society of America. The findings make orcas one of the few species of animals that, like humans, is capable of vocal learning (video)—a talent considered a key underpinning of language."

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posted 14 days ago on slashdot
vinces99 writes Fusion energy almost sounds too good to be true – zero greenhouse gas emissions, no long-lived radioactive waste, a nearly unlimited fuel supply. Perhaps the biggest roadblock to adopting fusion energy is that the economics haven't penciled out. Fusion power designs aren't cheap enough to outperform systems that use fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas. University of Washington engineers hope to change that. They have designed a concept for a fusion reactor that, when scaled up to the size of a large electrical power plant, would rival costs for a new coal-fired plant with similar electrical output. The team published its reactor design and cost-analysis findings last spring and will present results Oct. 17 at the International Atomic Energy Agency's Fusion Energy Conference in St. Petersburg, Russia.

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posted 14 days ago on slashdot
HughPickens.com writes Adi Robertson argues that IBM's Model M keyboard, soon to turn 30 is still the only keyboard worth using for many people. Introduced in 1985 as part of the IBM 3161 terminal, the Model M was initially called the "IBM Enhanced Keyboard." A PC-compatible version appeared the following spring, and it officially became standard with the IBM Personal System / 2 in 1987. The layout of the Model M has been around so long that today it's simply taken for granted, but the keyboard's descendants have jettisoned one of the Model M's most iconic features — "buckling springs," designed to provide auditory and tactile feedback to the keyboard operator. "Model M owners sometimes ruefully post stories of spouses and coworkers who can't stand the incessant chatter. But fans say the springs' resistance and their audible "click" make it clear when a keypress is registered, reducing errors," writes Robertson. "Maybe more importantly, typing on the Model M is a special, tangible experience. Much like on a typewriter, the sharp click gives every letter a physical presence." According to Robertson, the Model M is an artifact from a time when high-end computing was still the province of industry, not pleasure. But while today's manufacturers have long since abandoned the concept of durability and longevity, refurbished Model Ms are still available from aficionados like Brandon Ermita, a Princeton University IT manager who recovers them from supply depots and recycling centers and sells them through his site, ClickyKeyboards. "For the very few that still appreciate the tactile feel of a typewriter-based computer keyboard and can still appreciate the simplicity of black letters on white keys, one can still seek out and own an original IBM model M keyboard — a little piece of early computing history," says Ermita. As one Reddit user recently commented, "Those bastards are the ORIGINAL gaming keyboards. No matter how much you abuse it, you'll die before it does.""

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posted 14 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes: Medical researchers hope an experimental vaccine for Ebola can help protect against infection and slow the spread of the disease. Efficacy trials for the vaccine begin in a few months, and it's forcing some difficult decisions for health care officials. The first test will involve front line health care workers, who, as a group, are at the gravest risk of infection. But every trial needs a control group, and scientists are bitterly divided over whether the vaccine should be withheld from a portion of those putting their lives on the line to protect the rest of us. Development of the vaccine has been vastly accelerated already, due to the virus's spread and its mortality rate. "The leading alternative is a design known as step-wedge, which essentially uses time to create a control group. In this design, researchers take advantage of the inescapable reality that large-scale trials can't give everyone the vaccine on the exact same date; they compare the rates of infection in people already vaccinated with those who have yet to receive the shots. Barney Graham, a virologist ... says "people are more comfortable" with the step-wedge design, because everyone in such a study would get the Ebola vaccine. But statistically speaking, this design makes it more difficult to determine the vaccine's worth, and it takes longer." NY Mag has a related story summarizing the treatments currently being used to fight Ebola.

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posted 14 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes: The next version of systemd is poised to introduce an experimental "systemd-consoled" that serves as a user-space console daemon. The consoled furthers the Linux developers' goal of eventually deprecating the VT subsystem found within the Linux kernel in favor of a user-space driven terminal that supports better localization, increased security, and greater robustness of the kernel's seldom touched and hairy CONFIG_VT'ed code.

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posted 14 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes: In addition to updating Chrome for iOS, Google has released Chrome 38 for Windows, Mac, and Linux. While Chrome 38 beta brought a slew of new features, the stable release is pretty much just a massive security update. This means that, with Chrome 38, Google isn't adding any features to the stable channel (full changelog). That said, Chrome 38 does address 159 security issues (including 113 "relatively minor ones"). Google spent $75,633.70 in bug bounties for this release.

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posted 15 days ago on slashdot
Advocatus Diaboli tips news that the U.S. government is now arguing it doesn't need warrants to hack servers hosted on foreign soil. At issue is the current court case against Silk Road operator Ross Ulbricht. We recently discussed how the FBI's account of how they obtained evidence from Silk Road servers didn't seem to mesh with reality. Now, government lawyers have responded in a new court filing (PDF). They say that even if the FBI had to hack those servers without a warrant, it doesn't matter, because the Fourth Amendment does not confer protection to servers hosted outside the U.S. They said, "Given that the SR Server was hosting a blatantly criminal website, it would have been reasonable for the FBI to 'hack' into it in order to search it, as any such 'hack' would simply have constituted a search of foreign property known to contain criminal evidence, for which a warrant was not necessary."

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posted 15 days ago on slashdot
Mcusanelli writes: GNOME 3, the open source desktop environment for Linux systems that once earned a lot of ire, is receiving newfound praise for the maturity of GNOME Shell and other improvements. The recent release of version 3.14 capped off a series of updates that have gone a long way toward resolving users' problems and addressing complaints. One of the big pieces was the addition of "Classic mode" in 3.8, which got it into RHEL 7, and Debian is switching back as well.

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posted 15 days ago on slashdot
submitter bigwheel sends this excerpt from a NASA news release: The cold waters of Earth's deep ocean have not warmed measurably since 2005, according to a new NASA study, leaving unsolved the mystery of why global warming appears to have slowed in recent years. Scientists at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) in Pasadena, California, analyzed satellite and direct ocean temperature data from 2005 to 2013 and found the ocean abyss below 1.24 miles (1,995 meters) has not warmed measurably. Study coauthor Josh Willis of JPL said these findings do not throw suspicion on climate change itself. "The sea level is still rising," Willis noted. "We're just trying to understand the nitty-gritty details."

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posted 15 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader sends this story from The Stack: The world's first "online murder" over an internet-connected device could happen by the end of this year, Europol has warned. Research carried out by the European Union's law enforcement agency has found that governments are not equipped to fight the growing threat of "online murder," as cyber criminals start to exploit internet technologies to target victims physically. The study, which was published last week, analyzed the possible physical dangers linked to cyber criminality and found that a rise in "injury and possible deaths" could be expected as computer hackers launch attacks on critical connected equipment. The assessment particularly referred to a report by IID, a U.S. security firm, which forecast that the world's first murder via a "hacked internet-connected device" would happen by the end of 2014.

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posted 15 days ago on slashdot
judgecorp writes: Surprisingly, critical applications still rely on old platforms, although legacy hardware is on its last legs. Swiss emulation expert Stromasys is offering emulation in the cloud for old hardware using a tool cheekily named after Charon, the ferryman to the afterlife. Systems covered include the Vax and PDP/11 platforms from Digital Equipment (which was swallowed by Compaq and then HP) as well as Digital's Alpha RISC systems, and HP's HP3000. It also offers Sparc emulation, although Oracle might dispute the need for this.

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posted 15 days ago on slashdot
HughPickens.com writes: Carolyn Johnson reports in the Boston Globe that in recent years, the position of postdoctoral researcher has become less a stepping stone and more of a holding tank. Postdocs are caught up in an all-but-invisible crisis, mired in an underclass as federal funding for research has leveled off, leaving the supply of well-trained scientists outstripping demand. "It's sunk in that it's by no means guaranteed — for anyone, really — that an academic position is possible," says Gary McDowell, a 29-year old biologist doing his second postdoc. "There's this huge labor force here to do the bench work, the grunt work of science. But then there's nowhere for them to go; this massive pool of postdocs that accumulates and keeps growing." The problem is that any researcher running a lab today is training far more people than there will ever be labs to run. Often these supremely well-educated trainees are simply cheap laborers, not learning skills for the careers where they are more likely to find jobs. This wasn't such an issue decades ago, but universities have expanded the number of PhD students they train from about 30,000 biomedical graduate students in 1979 to 56,800 in 2009, flooding the system with trainees and drawing out the training period. Possible solutions span a wide gamut, from halving the number of postdocs over time, to creating a new tier of staff scientists that would be better paid. One thing people seem to agree on is that simply adding more money to the pot will not by itself solve the oversupply. Facing these stark statistics, postdocs are taking matters into their own hands, recently organizing a Future of Research conference in Boston that they hoped would give voice to their frustrations and hopes and help shape change. They ask, "How can we, as the next generation, run the system?"

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posted 15 days ago on slashdot
jfruh writes: Traditional LCD panels are rectangular because the tiny chips that drive each pixel of the display are fitted along the edge of the glass panel on which the screen is made. But in a new breed of screens from Sharp, the chips are embedded between the pixels so that means a lot more freedom in screen shape: only one edge of the screen needs to be a straight line, which could give rise to a host of new applications.

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posted 15 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader sends news that the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency impersonated a young woman on Facebook to communicate with suspected criminals, and the Department of Justice argued that they had the right to do so. The woman was charged with being part of a drug ring and sentenced to probation, after which a DEA agent set up a Facebook page in her name, uploaded images to it (including pictures of her son and niece), and used it without her consent. She recently sued the agent in federal district court, and the government argued that she "implicitly consented by granting access to the information stored in her cell phone and by consenting to the use of that information to aid in an ongoing criminal investigations [sic]." Facebook has now removed the account, and the DoJ is "reviewing" the case.

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posted 15 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes: ISPs around the country are being kept busy today answering calls from frustrated customers with Belkin routers. Overnight, a firmware issue left many of the Belkin devices with no access to the customer's broadband connection. Initial speculation was that a faulty firmware upgrade caused the devices to lose connectivity, but even users with automatic updates disabled are running into trouble. The problem seems to be that the routers "occasionally ping heartbeat.belkin.com to detect network connectivity," but are suddenly unable to get a response. Belkin has acknowledged the issue and posted a workaround while they work on a fix.

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posted 15 days ago on slashdot
cartechboy writes Most luxury automakers have a Certified Previously Owned (CPO) program. Tesla isn't like a normal luxury automakers, in fact, it's not really like any automaker out there. It doesn't have franchises and it sells its own vehicles through its network of galleries. Now, it plans to create its own CPO program. There are a great deal of Model S sedans out there currently under lease contracts. When those cars are ready to come back, Tesla has guaranteed that it will purchase them for a figure that falls somewhere between 43 and 50 percent of the original purchase price. This is exactly how Tesla's going to create its CPO fleet. Tesla seems to do everything in an unconventional manner, so we'll have to see if its CPO program behaves like every other automaker's, or if it's different somehow as well.

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posted 15 days ago on slashdot
New submitter stasike writes: Nate at the-digital-reader.com reports that Adobe is spying on any computer that runs Digital Editions 4, the newest version of Adobe's Epub app. They are collecting data about what users are reading, and they're also searching users' computers for e-book files and sending that information too. That includes books not indexed in DE4. All of the data is sent in clear text. This is just another example of DRM going south.

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posted 15 days ago on slashdot
First time accepted submitter Big Jim Taters (1490261) writes "I have been tasked with helping move our config center from one location to our Headquarters. I have a small budget and no choice in location. I do, however, have an opportunity to design the space fresh (well, kinda.) What we will be configuring is routers, switches, firewalls, and other telecom related devices. What I cannot find is any "Best Practices" or "Lessons Learned" out there. So I ask you fine folks: What are some of the best and worst designs, practices, procedures, and work flows that you have encountered in sitting down to stage anywhere from 2 to 200 devices at once to get configured?"

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posted 15 days ago on slashdot
ub3r n3u7r4l1st writes When you complain to your cable company, you certainly don't expect that the cable company will then contact your employer and discuss your complaint. But that's exactly what happened to one former Comcast customer who says he was fired after the cable company called a partner at his accounting firm. Be careful next time when you exercise your first amendment rights. From the article: At some point shortly after that call, someone from Comcast contacted a partner at the firm to discuss Conal. This led to an ethics investigation and Conal’s subsequent dismissal from his job; a job where he says he’d only received positive feedback and reviews for his work. Comcast maintained that Conal used the name of his employer in an attempt to get leverage. Conal insists that he never mentioned his employer by name, but believes that someone in the Comcast Controller’s office looked him up online and figured out where he worked. When he was fired, Conal’s employer explained that the reason for the dismissal was an e-mail from Comcast that summarized conversations between Conal and Comcast employees. But Conal has never seen this e-mail in order to say whether it’s accurate and Comcast has thus far refused to release any tapes of the phone calls related to this matter.

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posted 15 days ago on slashdot
vrml (3027321) writes Biofeedback is well-known as a relaxation technique, but the HCI Lab of the University of Udine has tried to use it for the opposite purpose: making people anxious. The technique, described by a paper in the November 2014 issue of the Interacting with Computers journal, exploits heartbeat detection. While users navigated a 3D world, the computer detected and played their actual heartbeat (users were not told it was theirs) in the audio background of the virtual world. At a couple of times during the experience, the application artificially increased the frequency of the played heartbeat and then reverted it to the actual one after some seconds. The study described in the paper contrasts the technique with aversive stimuli frequently used in video games when the character gets hurt such as decreasing health bars or increasing the frequency of an heartbeat sound that is not related to the user's actual heartbeat. The biofeedback-based technique produced much larger (subjective as well as physiological) levels of user anxiety than those classic aversive stimuli.

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posted 15 days ago on slashdot
minstrelmike writes If we give up all our privacy on-line for contextual ads, then how come so many of them are so far off the mark? Personal data harvesting for contextual ads and content should be a beautiful thing. They do it privately and securely, and it's all automated so that no human being actually learns anything about you. And then the online world becomes customized, just for you. The real problem with this scenario is that is we're paying for contextual ads and content with our personal data, but we're not getting what we pay for. Facebook advertising is off target and almost completely irrelevant. The question is: Why? Facebook has a database of our explicitly stated interests, which many users fill out voluntarily. Facebook sees what we post about. It knows who we interact with. It counts our likes, monitors our comments and even follows us around the Web. Yet, while the degree of personal data collection is extreme, the advertising seems totally random.

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posted 16 days ago on slashdot
HughPickens.com writes Highway driving, which is less complex than city driving, has proved easy enough for self-driving cars, but busy downtown streets—where cars and pedestrians jockey for space and behave in confusing and surprising ways—are more problematic. Now Will Knight reports that Michigan's Department of Transportation and 13 companies involved with developing automated driving technology are constructing a 30-acre, $6.5 million driverless town near Ann Arbor to test self-driving cars in an urban environment. Complex intersections, confusing lane markings, and busy construction crews will be used to gauge the aptitude of the latest automotive sensors and driving algorithms and mechanical pedestrians will even leap into the road from between parked cars so researchers can see if they trip up onboard safety systems. "I think it's a great idea," says John Leonard, a professor at MIT who led the development of a self-driving vehicle for a challenge run by DARPA in 2007. "It is important for us to try to collect statistically meaningful data about the performance of self-driving cars. Repeated operations—even in a small-scale environment—can yield valuable data sets for testing and evaluating new algorithms." The testing facility is part of broader work by the University of Michigan's Mobility Transformation Facility that will include putting up to 20,000 vehicles on southeastern Michigan roads. By 2021, Ann Arbor could become the first American city with a shared fleet of networked, driverless vehicles. "Ann Arbor will be seen as the leader in 21st century mobility," says Peter Sweatman, director of the U-M Transportation Research Institute. "We want to demonstrate fully driverless vehicles operating within the whole infrastructure of the city within an eight-year timeline and to show that these can be safe, effective and commercially successful."

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posted 16 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes: Ars Technica got its hands on one of the extremely low-cost smart phones running Firefox OS. The Intex Cloud FX retails for about $35 in India, and its intent is to bring smartphones to people who traditionally can't afford them. So, what do you have to sacrifice to bring a smartphone's costs down that far? Well, it has a 3.5" 480x320 display, a 1Ghz A5 CPU, 128MB of RAM, and 256 MB of storage. (Those a megabytes.) There's no GPS, no notification LED, and not even 3G support. They say the build quality is as poor as you'd expect, and if you aren't at a 90 degree angle with the screen, colors are distorted. But, again: it's $35 — this is to be expected. How well does the phone work? Well, the UI works well enough, but multitasking is rough. Everything's functional, but slow, sometimes taking several seconds to register touch input. The real killer, according to the article, is the on-screen keyboard, which is unbearable. The article concludes, "Sure, we're spoiled, "rich" people compared to the target market, but it's hard to believe that this is a "best attempt" at a cheap smartphone. ... The problem is that Firefox OS just isn't the right choice of operating system for this device—it's trying to do way too much with the limited hardware. It isn't configurable enough." They say the phone doesn't even make sense for a $35 budget.

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posted 16 days ago on slashdot
lars_doucet writes: Steam's new search page lets you sort by "user rating," but the algorithm they're using is broken. For instance, a DLC pack with a single positive review appears above a major game with a 74% score and 15,000+ ratings. The current "user rating" ranking system seems to divide everything into big semantic buckets ("Overwhelmingly Positive", "Positive", "Mixed", etc.), stack those in order, then sort each bucket's contents by the total number of reviews per game. Given that Steam reviews skew massively positive, (about half are "very positive" or higher), this is virtually indistinguishable from a standard "most popular" chart. Luckily, there's a known solution to this problem — use statistical sampling to account for disparate numbers of user reviews, which gives "hidden gems" with statistically significant high positive ratings, but less popularity, a fighting chance against games that are already dominating the charts.

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posted 16 days ago on slashdot
cartechboy writes It's 2014. Where the heck are our flying cars? We were promised flying cars. We should be living like The Jetsons, right? Well, we aren't, but we are about to take one step closer: a production-ready flying car is debuting this month. Slovakia's Aeromobil has planning to unveil its "Flying Roadster" at the Pioneers Festival in Vianna, Austria on October 29. The latest iteration is called the Aeromobil 3.0, and work on it dates back to 1990. The Aeromobil 2.5 prototype made its first flight about a year ago. The Aeromobil transforms from plane to car by folding its wings behind the cockpit. Supposedly, the Aerobmoil will fit in a standard parking spot and run on pump gas. In less than a month, our dreams could become a reality."

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