posted 15 days ago on slashdot
mikejuk writes The Amazon Picking Challenge at ICRA (IEEE Robotics and Automation) 2015 is about getting a robot to perform the picking task. All the robot has to do is pick a list of items from the automated shelves that Amazon uses and place the items into another automated tray ready for delivery. The prizes are $20,000 for the winner, $5000 for second place and $1000 for third place. In addition each team can be awarded up to $6000 to get them and their robot to the conference so that they can participate in the challenge. Amazon is even offering to try to act as matchmaker between robot companies and teams not having the robot hardware they need. A Baxter Research Robot will be made available at the contest.

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posted 15 days ago on slashdot
jones_supa writes Since 1960s, we have been seeing the oil company Shell logo being featured in some Lego sets, and Legos being distributed at petrol stations in 26 countries. This marketing partnership is coming to an end, after coming under sustained pressure from Greenpeace. The environmental campaign, protesting about the oil giant's plans to drill in the Arctic, came with a YouTube video that depicted pristine Arctic, built from 120 kg of Lego, being covered in oil. CEO of Lego, Jørgen Vig Knudstorp, wants to leave the dispute between Greenpeace and Shell, and the toy company is getting out of the way.

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posted 15 days ago on slashdot
jones_supa writes Since 1960s, we have been seeing the oil company Shell logo being featured in some Lego sets, and Legos being distributed at petrol stations in 26 countries. This marketing partnership is coming to an end, after coming under sustained pressure from Greenpeace. The environmental campaign, protesting about the oil giant's plans to drill in the Arctic, came with a YouTube video that depicted pristine Arctic, built from 120 kg of Lego, being covered in oil. CEO of Lego, Jørgen Vig Knudstorp, wants to leave the dispute between Greenpeace and Shell, and the toy company is getting out of the way.

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posted 15 days ago on slashdot
New submitter Colin Castro writes with an exceprt from the San Francisco Chronicle that reveals a different side of Carl Sagan: MarijuanaMajority.com founder Tom Angell spent a few days this summer in the Library of Congress researching the iconic American astronomer, astrophysicist, cosmologist and author and has come away with a bounty. Angell says he found some never-before-released writings on marijuana policy from the author of classics such as 'Contact' and the TV show 'Cosmos', which is the most widely watched series in the history of American public television. ... I am convinced that there are genuine and valid levels of perception available with cannabis (and probably with other drugs) which are, through the defects of our society and our educational system, unavailable to us without such drugs,' Sagan wrote in 1971, under the name Mr. X.

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posted 15 days ago on slashdot
1729 (581437) writes Back in August, there was speculation that the "real life" Walter O'Brien (alleged inspiration for CBS's new drama Scorpion) might be a fraud. Mike Masnick from Techdirt follows up on the story: "The more you dig, the more of the same you find. Former co-workers of O'Brien's have shown up in comments or reached out to me and others directly — and they all say the same thing. Walter is a nice enough guy, works hard, does a decent job (though it didn't stop him from getting laid off from The Capital Group), but has a penchant for telling absolutely unbelievable stories about his life. It appears that in just repeating those stories enough, some gullible Hollywood folks took him at his word (and the press did too), and now there's a mediocre TV show about those made up stories." Masnick's article is a fascinating look at a man who appears to have conned both TV executives and journalists into believing his far-fetched Walter Mitty fantasies.

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posted 15 days ago on slashdot
First time accepted submitter kyrcant writes Is there a way to accurately really test my "broadband" connection? I don't trust the usual sites, the first ones I found via Google. I suspect (and found) that at least some of them are directly affiliated with ISPs, and I further suspect that traffic to those addresses is probably prioritized, so people will think they're getting a good deal. The speeds I experience are much, much slower than the speed tests show I'm capable of. For a while I thought it might be the sites themselves, but they load faster on my T-Mobile HTC One via 4G than on my laptop via WiFi through a cable modem connection. Is there a speed test site that has a variable or untraceable IP address, so that the traffic can't be prioritized by my ISP (call them "ConCazt")? If not, which sites are not in any way affiliated with ISPs? Is there a way to test it using YouTube or downloading a set file which can be compared to other users' results?

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posted 15 days ago on slashdot
sciencehabit writes The world's oldest cave art may not lie in Europe but rather halfway around the globe in Indonesia, according to a new study. The images date to around 40,000 years ago, making them a similar age to cave paintings from Western Europe that represent the world's oldest known cave art. The findings suggest that humans were producing figurative art by around 40,000 years ago at opposite ends of the Pleistocene Eurasian world. Further research is needed to investigate whether rock art was an integral part of the cultural repertoire of the first modern human populations to reach Southeast Asia from Africa, or whether these practices developed independently in different regions.

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posted 15 days ago on slashdot
szotz writes Nick Holonyak Jr. doesn't want to go gently into that good night. Widely regarded as the father of the LED (for his work on early visible-light devices), he's been making strongly-worded comments about being passed over for the Nobel Prize. His wife said he'd given up on getting it. But, he says, this year's physics award, to inventors of the blue LED, was just plain 'insulting'. The history the LED goes beyond and back further than Holonyak (all the way to the beginning of the 20th century), but a number of his colleagues are disappointed and/or surprised by the snub.

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posted 15 days ago on slashdot
Jason Koebler writes Yahoo announced [Tuesday] it would be laying off at least 400 workers in its Indian office, and back in February, IBM cut roughly 2,000 jobs there. Meanwhile, tech companies are beginning to see that many of the jobs it has outsourced can be automated, instead. Labor in India and China is still cheaper than it is in the United States, but it's not the obvious economic move that it was just a few years ago: "The labor costs are becoming significant enough in China and India that there are very real discussions about automating jobs there now," Mark Muro, an economist at Brookings, said. "Companies are seeing that automated replacements are getting to be 'good enough.'"

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posted 15 days ago on slashdot
MarkWhittington writes The Mars One project created a great deal of fanfare when it was first announced in 2012. The project, based in Holland, aspires to build a colony on Mars with the first uncrewed flight taking place in 2018 and the first colonists setting forth around 2024. The idea is that the colonists would go to Mars to stay, slowly building up the colony in four-person increments every 26-month launch window. However, Space Policy Online on Tuesday reported that an independent study conducted by MIT has poured cold water on the Mars colony idea. The MIT team consisting of engineering students had to make a number of assumptions based on public sources since the Mars One concept lacks a great many technical details. The study made the bottom line conclusion that the Mars One project is overly optimistic at best and unworkable at worst. The concept is "unsustainable" given the current state of technology and the aggressive schedule that the Mars One project has presented.

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posted 15 days ago on slashdot
jfruh writes Oregon Senator Ron Wyden gathered a group of tech luminaries to discuss the implications of U.S. surveillance programs, and Google Chairman Eric Schmidt didn't mince words. He said that worries over U.S. surveillance would result in servers with different sets of data for users from different countries multiplying across the world. "The simplest outcome is that we're going to end up breaking the Internet."

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posted 15 days ago on slashdot
snydeq writes Membership in the Open Invention Network, a software community set up to protect Linux against patent aggressors, has grown dramatically in the past year just as the tide seems to be turning on patent trolls. "Why all this interest in OIN? It offers little protection against nonpracticing entities — patent trolls who are organizationally small companies, even if the threat they pose is expensive and large. But it does offer protection against an equally insidious threat: big trolls," writes Simon Phipps. "The big corporations show up with their giant patent portfolios, threatening legal doom if royalties aren't paid. Attaching royalties to product or service delivery is a serious issue for companies, reducing margins long-term — especially in business models where the monetization is separated from the product. But OIN neutralizes that strategy for those building with open source, as the big corporations in the network both license their patent portfolios in and commit not to litigate against the open source software in the Linux System Definition. The bigger it gets, the better it protects."

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posted 15 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes "Research by Prof. Giovanni Vigna of the University of California leads him to believe that the malware of the future will come in a friendly form, be genuinely useful and may not reveal its intentions for a protracted period of time. Prof. Vigna, speaking at IP Expo in London, outlined a fearful future of 'mimicry' in evolved strains of malware. In the current stage of the war between malware and security researchers, the emphasis is almost entirely on the attempt to convince increasingly intelligent — and increasingly suspicious — malware that it is operating in a bare-metal environment when it is in fact in a sandbox or VM environment. For the malware, the stakes are tremendously high — if it has reached the point of OS-level execution without its hash being indexed and red-flagged by online security databases, it cannot afford to reveal its intentions in a test environment. This article outlines the extraordinary game of cat-and-mouse being played between researchers and hackers, and how future malware exploits are likely to abandon a rush for the buffer overflow in favor of 'the long game' — and to make themselves useful in the process.

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posted 16 days ago on slashdot
sciencehabit writes Chimpanzees are back in court. Judges in New York State heard the first in a series of appeals attempting to grant "legal personhood" to the animals. The case is part of a larger effort by an animal rights group known as the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP) to free a variety of creatures—from research chimps to aquarium dolphins—from captivity. If the case is successful, it could grant personhood to chimps throughout the state.

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posted 16 days ago on slashdot
An anonymous reader writes With 23% of the year remaining, Linux Voice has donned flameproof clothing to subjectively examine what it feels have been the best distros of the year so far, including choices for beginners, desktop fashionistas and performance fetishists, before revealing a surprising overall winner.

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posted 16 days ago on slashdot
Nerval's Lobster writes The Boston Consulting Group and The Network recently surveyed 200,000 people in 189 countries to figure out the global willingness to work abroad. Their conclusion? People will indeed set down professional roots in another country—although younger workers seem far more willing to expatriate than their older peers. Where do the majority of global workers want to head? The United States, which 42 percent of respondents listed as their top potential work destination, followed by the U.K. (37 percent), Canada (35 percent), Germany (33 percent), Switzerland (29 percent), and France (29 percent). But citizens in the United States seemed a bit more reluctant to return the favor—less than 50 percent said they either lived abroad or would consider doing so for work. That's in sharp contrast to countries such as France, where a significant majority of citizens seemed willing to explore jobs in other nations. Of course, those who work in tech already know that globalization is a huge issue.

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posted 16 days ago on slashdot
First time accepted submitter dibdublin writes The Federal Trade Commission announced today that AT&T will pay $105 million for hiding extra charges in cellphone bills. The best part of the news? $80 million of it will go back into the pockets of people bilked by AT&T. The FTC announcement reads in part: "As part of a $105 million settlement with federal and state law enforcement officials, AT&T Mobility LLC will pay $80 million to the Federal Trade Commission to provide refunds to consumers the company unlawfully billed for unauthorized third-party charges, a practice known as mobile cramming. The refunds are part of a multi-agency settlement that also includes $20 million in penalties and fees paid to 50 states and the District of Columbia, as well as a $5 million penalty to the Federal Communications Commission."

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posted 16 days ago on slashdot
If you're in a wheelchair, wouldn't it be nice to have your chair automatically alert a caregiver if changes in your heart rate or another vital sign showed that you might be having a problem? And how about helping you rate sidewalks and handicapped parking spaces to help fellow wheelchair users get around more comfortably? Steven Hawking endorses the idea, and the Connected Wheelchair Project, in this short video. (You can see our interviewee, David Hughes, at 0:58 and again at 1:38.) This is an Intel project, in conjunction with Wake Forest University, run by student interns. | Besides helping wheelchair-dependent people live a better life, the Connected Wheelchair Project may help prevent Medicare fraud, says Hughes in our video interview with him. Falsified requests for durable medical goods are a huge drain on Medicare's budget. What if a connected wheelchair spent all of its time far from the home of the person to whom it was assigned? That would be a red flag, and investigators could follow up to see if that wheelchair was in legitimate hands or was part of a scam. | The Connected Wheelchair is still proof-of-concept, not a commercial product. Will it see production? Hard to say. This may never be a profitable product, but Intel CEO Brian Krzanich has said that that this project is an example of how “the Internet of Things can help change lives.” (Alternate Video Link)

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posted 16 days ago on slashdot
BarbaraHudson writes Thomas Duncan, the ebola patient being treated in Texas, has died. "It is with profound sadness and heartfelt disappointment that we must inform you of the death of Thomas Eric Duncan this morning at 7:51 am," hospital spokesman Wendell Watson said in an emailed statement. If he had survived, he could have faced criminal charges in both the US and Liberia for saying on an airport screening questionnaire that he had had no contact with an Ebola patient.

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posted 16 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 16 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 16 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 16 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 16 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 16 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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