posted 14 days ago on slashdot
blottsie (3618811) writes "On Thursday, the Guardian reported that secret-sharing app Whisper was tracking users' locations even when they opt-out of sharing their location. [See also this earlier, related story.] Whisper has denied the accusations—but this may be a matter of semantics. Whisper allegedly uses an outdated version of GeoIP by MaxMind, which uses your IP address to estimate your location on a map. Whisper's Chad DePue said in a comment on Hacker News that the tool is "so inaccurate as to be laughable," suggesting that determining something as broad as your country or state won't bother the basic user (and he could be right, but what is and isn't an upsetting degree of user information is another argument entirely)."

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posted 14 days ago on slashdot
StartsWithABang writes If you can reach the fabled "breakeven point" of nuclear fusion, you'll have opened up an entire new source of clean, reliable, safe, renewable and abundant energy. You will change the world. At present, fusion is one of those things we can make happen through a variety of methods, but — unless you're the Sun — we don't have a way to ignite and sustain that reaction without needing to input more energy than we can extract in a usable fashion from the fusion that occurs. One alternative approach to the norm is, rather than try and up the energy released in a sustained, hot fusion reaction, to instead lower the energy inputted, and try to make fusion happen under "cold" conditions. If you listen in the right (wrong?) places, you'll hear periodic reports that cold fusion is happening, even though those reports have always crumbled under scrutiny. Here's why, most likely, they always will.

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posted 14 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes: On Friday, the controversy surrounding Anonabox reached its zenith with Kickstarter officially canceling the project's funding campaign. Anonabox began with a modest goal of $7,500, but quickly reached its goal 82 times over. Then funders and interested parties began to scrutinize the project's claims, and that's when the project ran into trouble. From hardware that wasn't actually custom-made to software that didn't actually fulfill promises of privacy-focused routing on the internet, the facts regarding Anonabox proved that it was in blatant violation of Kickstarter's rules against false advertising. This project clearly failed, but if the support it initially garnered is any indication, the public is hungry for easy-to-use technology that encrypts and anonymizes all personal internet traffic.

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posted 14 days ago on slashdot
jfruh writes: You may have heard that Japan will deal with its aging population by relying more on robots. Osaka startup RT Works is showing what that might mean in practice: not humanoid robotic caregivers, but tech-enhanced versions of traditional tools like walkers. RT Works's walker automatically adjusts to help its user deal with hilly terrain, and can call for help if it moves outside an predefined range.

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posted 15 days ago on slashdot
TheRealHocusLocus writes: Disaster preppers have a saying, "two is one and one is none," which might also apply to 24x7 base load energy sources that could sustain us beyond the age of fossil fuel. I too was happy to see Skunkworks' Feb 2013 announcement and the recent "we're still making progress" reminder. I was moved by the reaction on Slashdot: a groundswell of "Finally!" and "We're saved!" However, fusion doesn't need to be the only solution, and it's not entirely without drawbacks. All nuclear reactors will generate waste via activation as the materials of which they are constructed erode and become unstable under high neutron flux. I'm not pointing this out because I think it's a big deal — a few fusion advocates disingenuously tend to sell the process as if it were "100% clean." A low volume of non-recyclable waste from fusion reactors that is walk-away safe in ~100 years is doable. Let's do it. And likewise, the best comparable waste profile for fission is a two-fluid LFTR, a low volume of waste that is walk-away safe in ~300 years. Let's do it. Why pursue both, with at least the same level of urgency? Because both could carry us indefinitely. LFTR is less complicated in theory and practice. It is closer to market. There is plenty of cross-over: LFTR's materials challenges and heat engine interface — and the necessity for waste management — are the same as they will be for commercial-scale fusion reactors. To get up to speed please see the 2006 fusion lecture by Dr. Robert Bussard on the Wiffle ball 6 plasma containment, likely the precursor to the Skunkworks approach. And see Thorium Remix 2011 which presents the case for LFTR.

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posted 15 days ago on slashdot
lkcl writes: In an open letter to the core developers behind OpenLDAP (Howard Chu) and Python-LMDB (David Wilson) is a story of a successful creation of a high-performance task scheduling engine written (perplexingly) in Python. With only partial optimization allowing tasks to be executed in parallel at a phenomenal rate of 240,000 per second, the choice to use Python-LMDB for the per-task database store based on its benchmarks, as well as its well-researched design criteria, turned out to be the right decision. Part of the success was also due to earlier architectural advice gratefully received here on Slashdot. What is puzzling, though, is that LMDB on Wikipedia is being constantly deleted, despite its "notability" by way of being used in a seriously-long list of prominent software libre projects, which has been, in part, motivated by the Oracle-driven BerkeleyDB license change. It would appear that the original complaint about notability came from an Oracle employee as well.

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posted 15 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes: A couple of months ago the technical committee for Debian decided in favor of systemd. This is now a subject for discussion once again, and Ian Jackson says he wants a general resolution, so every developer within the Debian project can decide. After a short time, the required amount of supporters was reached, and the discussion can start once again.

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posted 15 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes: With the release of OS X 10.10 Yosemite, Ars Technica has posted one of their extremely thorough reviews of the OS's new features and design changes. John Siracusa writes that Yosemite is particularly notable because it's the biggest step yet in Apple's efforts to bring OS X and iOS together — new technologies are now being added to Apple's two operating systems simultaneously. "The political and technical battles inherent in the former two-track development strategy for OS X and iOS left both products with uncomfortable feature disparities. Apple now correctly views this as damage and has set forth to repair it." Yosemite's look and feel has undergone significant changes as well, generally moving toward the flat and compact design present in iOS 7 & 8. Spotlight and the Notifications Center have gotten some needed improvements, as did many tab and toolbar interfaces. Siracusa also takes a look a Swift, Apple's new programming language: "Swift is an attempt to create a low-level language with high-level syntax and semantics. It tackles the myth of the Sufficiently Smart Compiler by signing up to create that compiler as part of the language design process." He concludes: "Viewed in isolation, Yosemite provides a graphical refresh accompanied by a few interesting features and several new technologies whose benefits are mostly speculative, depending heavily on how eagerly they're adopted by third-party developers. But Apple no longer views the Mac in isolation, and neither should you. OS X is finally a full-fledged peer to iOS; all aspects of sibling rivalry have been banished."

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posted 15 days ago on slashdot
jones_supa writes: The 2014 CAST Research on Application Software Health (CRASH) report states that enterprise software built using a mixture of agile and waterfall methods will result in more robust and secure applications than those built using either agile or waterfall methods alone. Data from CAST's Appmarq benchmarking repository was analyzed to discover global trends in the structural quality of business application software. The report explores the impact of factors such as development method, CMMI maturity level, outsourcing, and other practices on software quality characteristics that are based upon good architectural and coding practices. InfoQ interviewed Bill Curtis, Senior Vice President and Chief Scientist at CAST, about the research done by CAST, structural quality factors, and mixing agile and waterfall methods.

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posted 15 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes: Personal drones are become more popular, and many companies are trying to figure out ways to incorporate them into their business. So what do we do in 10 years, when the skies are full of small, autonomous vehicles? NASA and a startup called Airware are working on a solution: air traffic control for drones. "The first prototype to be developed under NASA's project will be an Internet-based system. Drone operators will file flight plans for approval. The system will use what it knows about other drone flights, weather forecasts, and physical obstacles such as radio masts to give the go-ahead. Later phases of the project will build more sophisticated systems that can actively manage drone traffic by sending out commands to drones in flight. That could mean directing them to spread out when craft from multiple operators are flying in the same area, or taking action when something goes wrong, such as a drone losing contact with its operator, says Jonathan Downey, CEO of Airware. If a drone strayed out of its approved area, for example, the system might automatically send a command that made it return to its assigned area, or land immediately."

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posted 15 days ago on slashdot
HughPickens.com writes After rising rapidly for decades, the number of people behind bars peaked at 1.62 Million in 2009, has been mostly falling ever since down, and many justice experts believe the incarceration rate will continue on a downward trajectory for many years. New York, for example, saw an 8.8% decline in federal and state inmates, and California, saw a 20.6% drop. Now the WSJ reports on an awkward byproduct of the declining U.S. inmate population: empty or under-utilized prisons and jails that must be cared for but can't be easily sold or repurposed. New York state has closed 17 prisons and juvenile-justice facilities since 2011, following the rollback of the 1970s-era Rockefeller drug laws, which mandated lengthy sentences for low-level offenders. So far, the state has found buyers for 10 of them, at prices that range from less than $250,000 to about $8 million for a facility in Staten Island, often a fraction of what they cost to build. "There's a prisoner shortage," says Mike Arismendez, city manager for Littlefield, Texas, home of an empty five-building complex that sleeps 383 inmates and comes with a gym, maintenence shed, armory, and parking lot . "Everybody finds it hard to believe." The incarceration rate is declining largely because crime has fallen significantly in the past generation. In addition, many states have relaxed harsh sentencing laws passed during the tough-on-crime 1980s and 1990s, and have backed rehabilitation programs, resulting in fewer low-level offenders being locked up. States from Michigan to New Jersey have changed parole processes, leading more prisoners to leave earlier. On a federal level, the Justice Department under Attorney General Eric Holder has pushed to reduce sentences for nonviolent drug offenders. Before 2010, the U.S. prison population increased every year for 30 years, from 307,276 in 1978 to a high of 1,615,487 in 2009. "This is the beginning of the end of mass incarceration," says Natasha Frost. "People don't care so much about crime, and it's less of a political focus."

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posted 15 days ago on slashdot
New submitter qqod writes this story at The Guardian that raises privacy concerns over the Whisper app. "The company behind Whisper, the social media app that promises users anonymity and claims to be the “the safest place on the internet”, is tracking the location of its users, including some who have specifically asked not to be followed. The practice of monitoring the whereabouts of Whisper users – including those who have expressly opted out of geolocation services – will alarm users, who are encouraged to disclose intimate details about their private and professional lives. Whisper is also sharing information with the US Department of Defense gleaned from smartphones it knows are used from military bases, and developing a version of its app to conform with Chinese censorship laws."

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posted 15 days ago on slashdot
darthcamaro writes The OpenStack Juno release is now generally available. This the 10th major release for the open-source cloud platform and introduces the Sahara Data Processing Service as the major new project. That's not the only new feature in Juno though, with 310 new features in total. The new features include cloud storage policy, improved IPv6 support, a rescue mode and improved multi-cloud federation capabilities."

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posted 15 days ago on slashdot
retroworks writes WSJ blog reports on Austin, the third city to get fiber-optic high speed internet networks laid down by Google (Kansas City and Provo, UT were the first and second). The service averages 1 gigabit per second, about 100X the average US household speed, and costs $70-120 per month (depending on television). Google promotes the roll-outs by holding "rallies" in small neighborhoods. The sign-up process starts in December, focusing on south and southeastern parts of Austin, a Google spokeswoman said Wednesday. It was announced that fiber was coming to Austin back in April.

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posted 15 days ago on slashdot
jfruh writes As it looks more likely that the U.S. will impose net neutrality rules on landline ISPs, big Web companies are aiming to get wireless data providers under the same regulatory umbrella. The Internet Association, a trade group that includes Google, Facebook, Amazon.com, and eBay, wants the FCC to "harmonize" the treatment of mobile and wired broadband providers in its net neutrality rules. Wireless providers are fighting back, claiming their networks are fundamentally different.

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posted 15 days ago on slashdot
electronic convict writes In a Q&A at LinuxCon Europe, Linux creator Linus Torvalds — no stranger to strong language and blunt opinions — acknowledged a "metric sh*#load" of interpersonal mistakes that unnecessarily antagonized others within the Linux community. In response to Intel's Dirk Hohndel, who asked him which decision he regretted most over the past 23 years, Torvalds replied: "From a technical standpoint, no single decision has ever been that important... The problems tend to be around alienating users or developers and I'm pretty good at that. I use strong language. But again there's not a single instance I'd like to fix. There's a metric sh*#load of those." It's probably not a coincidence that Torvalds said this just a few weeks after critics like Lennart Poettering started drawing attention to the abusive nature of some commentary within the open-source community. Poettering explicitly called out Torvalds for some of his most intemperate remarks and described open source as "quite a sick place to be in." Still, Torvalds doesn't sound like he's about to start making an apology tour. "One of the reasons we have this culture of strong language, that admittedly many people find off-putting, is that when it comes to technical people with strong opinions and with a strong drive to do something technically superior, you end up having these opinions show up as sometimes pretty strong language," he said. "On the Internet, nobody can hear you being subtle."

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posted 15 days ago on slashdot
wired_parrot writes After being criticized for being slow to respond to Marvel's string of blockbuster superhero movies, Warner Brothers finally announced their plan for DC comic universe movie franchise. Yesterday at their annual shareholder meeting, WB announced 10 DC comics movies. The studio has unveiled an ambitious schedule that features two Justice League films, plus standalone titles for Wonder Woman, Flash, Shazam (Captain Marvel), Green Lantern, Cyborg and even Aquaman. Also announced were plans for 3 Lego movies and a three-part Harry Potter spinoff.

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posted 15 days ago on slashdot
apexcp writes Following the announcements that Apple and Google would make full disk encryption the default option on their smartphones, FBI director James Comey has made encryption a key issue of his tenure. His blitz continues today with a speech that says encryption will hurt public safety.

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posted 15 days ago on slashdot
astroengine writes With its heavily cratered, geologically dead surface, Saturn's moon Mimas was considered to be scientifically boring. But appearances can be deceiving. Using data from NASA's Cassini spacecraft, new research shows something strange inside Mimas that is causing the moon to sway as it orbits around the ringed gas giant. Computer models point to two possibilities. First is that Mimas, which is about 250 miles in diameter, has an oblong or football-shaped core, a clue that the moon may have formed inside Saturn's ice rings. The second option is that Mimas has a global ocean located 16 miles to 19 miles beneath its icy crust.

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posted 15 days ago on slashdot
cartechboy writes It's a story we've come to see quite often: a state trying to ban Tesla's direct sales model. It seems something sneaky just happened in Michigan where Tesla sales are about to be banned. Bill HB 5606 originally intended to offer added protection to franchised dealers and consumers from price gouging by carmakers, and was passed by the Michigan House in September without any anti-Tesla language. However, once it hit the Senate wording was changed that might imply the legality of a manufacturer-owned dealership was removed. The modified bill was passed unanimously by the Senate on October 2, and then sent back to the House that day where it passed with only a single dissenting vote. The bill was modified without any opportunity for public comment. Michigan Governor Rick Snyder has less than a week to sign the bill into law. Of course, Tesla's already fighting this legislation.

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posted 16 days ago on slashdot
Nerval's Lobster writes With "GamerGate" and all the debates over who counts as a "gamer," it's easy to forget that games are created by people with a genuine love of the craft. Journalist Jon Brodkin sat down with Armin Ibrisagic, game designer & PR manager for Coffee Stain Studios, the Swedish studio that made Goat Simulator, to talk about why they built that game and how it turned into such a success. Brodkin also talked to Leszek Lisowski, founder of Wastelands Interactive, about the same topic. While these developers might debate with themselves (and others) over whether to develop games for hardcore gamers, or jump on the mobile "casual gaming" bandwagon, they'll ultimately in it because they love games — a small but crucial detail that seems too easy to forget these days.

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posted 16 days ago on slashdot
daten writes The FBI on Wednesday issued a private warning to industry that a group of highly skilled Chinese government hackers was in the midst of a long-running campaign to steal valuable data from U.S. companies and government agencies. "These state-sponsored hackers are exceedingly stealthy and agile by comparison with the People's Liberation Army Unit 61398 ... whose activity was publicly disclosed and attributed by security researchers in February 2013," said the FBI in its alert, which referred to a Chinese military hacker unit exposed in a widely publicized report by the security firm Mandiant.

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posted 16 days ago on slashdot
New submitter rvw sends word that Bill Gates has posted a review Capital in the Twenty-First Century, an acclaimed book by economist Thomas Piketty about how income equality is a necessary result of unchecked capitalism. Gates, one of the most successful capitalists of our time, agrees with Piketty's most important conclusions. That said, he also finds parts of the book to be flawed and incomplete, but says Piketty has started vital debate on these issues. Gates writes, Yes, some level of inequality is built in to capitalism. As Piketty argues, it is inherent to the system. The question is, what level of inequality is acceptable? And when does inequality start doing more harm than good? That’s something we should have a public discussion about, and it’s great that Piketty helped advance that discussion in such a serious way. ... I agree that taxation should shift away from taxing labor. It doesn’t make any sense that labor in the United States is taxed so heavily relative to capital. It will make even less sense in the coming years, as robots and other forms of automation come to perform more and more of the skills that human laborers do today. But rather than move to a progressive tax on capital, as Piketty would like, I think we’d be best off with a progressive tax on consumption.

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posted 16 days ago on slashdot
jones_supa writes: The Internet Explorer team at Microsoft recently detailed changes to the JavaScript engine coming in Windows 10. A significant change is the addition of a new tier in the Just-in-Time (JIT) compiler. In Windows 10, the Chakra JS engine now includes a second JIT compiler that bridges the gap between slow, interpreted code and fast, optimized code. It uses this middle-tier compiler, called Simple JIT, as a "good enough" layer that can move execution away from the interpreter quicker than the Full JIT can. Microsoft claims that the changes will allow certain workloads to "run up to 30% faster". The move to a two-tiered JIT compiler structure mirrors what other browsers have done. SpiderMonkey, the JavaScript engine in Firefox, has an interpreter and two compilers: Baseline and IonMonkey. In Google Chrome, the V8 JavaScript engine is also a two-tiered system. It does not use an interpreter, but compiles on a discrete background thread.

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posted 16 days ago on slashdot
Tailhook writes Pool reports written by White House correspondents are distributed to news organizations via the White House Press Office. Reporters have alleged that the Obama White House exploits its role as distributor to "demand changes in pool reports" and has used this power to "steer coverage in a more favorable direction." Now a group of 90 print journalists has begun privately distributing their work through Google Groups, independent of the Press Office. Their intent is to "create an independent pool-reporting system for print and online recipients."

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