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Software Upgrade At 655 Million Kilometers
Posted by News Fetcher on March 29 '14 at 01:00 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's not-the-time-to-test-in-production department:
An anonymous reader writes "The Rosetta probe was launched in 2004 with a mission that required incredible planning and precision: land on a comet. After a decade in space, the probe woke from hibernation in January. Now, Rosetta has spotted its target. 'Rosetta is currently around 5 million kilometers from the comet, and at this distance it is still too far away to resolve – its light is seen in less than a pixel and required a series of 60–300 second exposures taken with the wide-angle and narrow-angle camera. The data then traveled 37 minutes through space to reach Earth, with the download taking about an hour per image.' Now it's time to upgrade the probe's software. Since it's currently 655,000,000 kilometers from Earth, the operation needs to be flawless. 'When MIDAS is first powered up, it boots into "kernel mode" – the kernel manages a very robust set of basic operations for communicating with the spacecraft and the ground and for managing the more complex main program. From kernel mode we can upload patches to the main software, verify the current contents, or even load an entirely new version.' The Rosetta blog is continually being updated with progress on the mission, and the Planetary Society has more information as well. The probe will arrive at the comet in August, and will attempt landing in November."

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UK To Finally Legalize Ripping CDs and DVDs
Posted by News Fetcher on March 29 '14 at 12:00 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's only-20-years-too-late department:
An anonymous reader writes with news that the U.K. government will finally legalize the copying of data from CDs, DVDs, and other types of media for personal use. This will allow U.K. citizens to legally make backups and digital copies of their media, which has been forbidden by copyright law previously. The changes will go into effect this June. It also grants permission for people to upload the ripped media to a remote host, though sharing of course remains illegal.
"The mismatch between the law and public opinion became apparent through a Government-commissioned survey, which found that 85% of consumers already thought that DVD and CD ripping was legal. More than one-third of all consumers admitted that they’d already made copies of media they purchased. Besides the new private copying rights, the upcoming amendments will also broaden people’s fair use rights. For example, people no longer have to ask permission to quote from or parody the work of others, such as a news report or a book, as long as it’s “fair dealing” and the source is recognized."

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The 3D Economy — What Happens When Everyone Prints Their Own Shoes?
Posted by News Fetcher on March 29 '14 at 11:00 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's anarchy-and-chaos-and-sore-feet department:
cold fjord writes: "According to Reason, 'Last May, Cody Wilson produced an ingeniously brief but nuanced manifesto about individual liberty in the age of the ever-encroaching techno-state-a single shot fired by a plastic pistol fabricated on a leased 3D printer. While Wilson dubbed his gun The Liberator, his interests and concerns are broader than merely protecting the Second Amendment. ... Wilson is ultimately aiming for the 'transcendence of the state.' And yet because of the nature of his invention, many observers reacted to his message as reductively as can be: 'OMG, guns!'... But if armies of Davids really want to transcend the state, there are even stronger weapons at their disposal: toothbrush holders, wall vases, bottle openers, shower caddies, and tape dispensers. ... In many ways, it's even harder to imagine a city of, say, 50,000 without big-box retailers than it is to imagine it without a daily newspaper. So perhaps 3D printing won't alter our old habits that substantially. We'll demand locally made kitchen mops, but we'll still get them at Target. We'll acquire a taste for craft automobile tires, but we'll obtain them from some third party that specializes in their production. Commercial transactions will still occur. But if history is any guide, more and more of us will soon be engaging in all sorts of other behaviors too. Making our own goods. Sharing, swapping, and engaging in peer-to-peer commerce. Appropriating the ideas and designs of others and applying them to our own ends.'"

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Crows Complete Basic Aesop's Fable Task
Posted by News Fetcher on March 29 '14 at 10:00 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's just-so-science department:
jones_supa writes: "New Caledonian crows — already known to be smart — may also understand how to displace water to receive a reward, with the causal understanding level of a 5-7 year-old child, according to results published in the open access journal PLOS ONE by Sarah Jelbert from University of Auckland and colleagues. As demonstrated in the included video, 'Scientists used the Aesop's fable riddle — in which subjects drop stones into water to raise the water level and obtain an out-of reach-reward — to assess New Caledonian crows' causal understanding of water displacement. ... Crows completed 4 of 6 water displacement tasks, including preferentially dropping stones into a water-filled tube instead of a sand-filled tube, dropping sinking objects rather than floating objects, using solid objects rather than hollow objects, and dropping objects into a tube with a high water level rather than a low one. However, they failed two more challenging tasks, one that required understanding of the width of the tube, and one that required understanding of counterintuitive cues for a U-shaped displacement task.' The authors note that these tasks did not test insightful problem solving, but were directed at the birds' understanding of volume displacement."

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GCHQ and NSA Targeted World Leaders, Private German Companies
Posted by News Fetcher on March 29 '14 at 08:45 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's caught-with-your-hand-in-the-cookie-jar department:
Advocatus Diaboli sends this news from Der Spiegel:
"Documents show that Britain's GCHQ intelligence service infiltrated German Internet firms and America's NSA obtained a court order to spy on Germany and collected information about the chancellor in a special database. Is it time for the country to open a formal espionage investigation? ... A secret NSA document dealing with high-ranking targets has provided further indications that Merkel was a target. The document is a presentation from the NSA's Center for Content Extraction, whose multiple tasks include the automated analysis of all types of text data. The lists appear to contain 122 country leaders. Twelve names are listed as an example, including Merkel's."

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Charter Challenges Comcast/Time Warner Merger
Posted by News Fetcher on March 29 '14 at 08:30 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's until-they-get-bought-by-comcast-too department:
An anonymous reader writes "Regional ISP Charter Communications is fighting back against the potential merger between Time Warner Cable and Comcast. Charter had been bidding for TWC before Comcast got involved, and now they're urging shareholders to reject the deal. 'From the regulatory perspective, it is difficult to imagine a transaction that could concentrate the industry more than the proposed Comcast merger,' they said in an SEC filing. James Stewart with the NY Times explains what Comcast would look like if the merger continues — when you add the TWC deal to the NBCUniversal pickup a few years ago, Comcast is starting to resemble a global tech company. He also explains why the deal isn't setting off antitrust alarm bells: 'Time Warner Cable operates in 29 states, but thanks to the old system of regional and municipal cable monopolies, Comcast and Time Warner Cable don't compete anywhere. Justice Department merger guidelines define geographical markets, which is why regulators weighing airline mergers examine competition on individual routes, not national market share. ... Under conventional antitrust standards, it's pretty much an open-and-shut case.'"

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Yahoo May Build Its Own YouTube
Posted by News Fetcher on March 29 '14 at 07:00 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's nine-years-and-billions-of-videos-late department:
An anonymous reader writes "Re/code reports that Yahoo will soon be stepping into the realm of internet video. They're seeking to take advantage of complaints from users who make videos for YouTube that they don't make enough money for their efforts. Yahoo has told content producers it can get them a bigger slice of the pie. 'For now, at least, Yahoo isn't talking about replicating YouTube's open platform, which lets users upload 100 hours of content every minute to the site. Instead, it is interested in cherry-picking particularly popular, more professional YouTube fare. Yahoo has also told some video owners that it can use its well-trafficked home page and other high-profile real estate to promote their clips on a non-exclusive basis. After a year, one source inside Yahoo said, it might open the platform up further.'"

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5.1 Earthquake Hits California
Posted by News Fetcher on March 29 '14 at 05:45 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's shake-rattle-and-roll department:
An anonymous reader writes "A 5.1 earthquake hit Southern California at 9:09PM local time on Friday. It was preceded by a 3.6 earthquake, then followed by 3.4 and 3.6 quakes, as well as 100+ smaller aftershocks. The United States Geological Survey has a map showing the epicenter. There have been no reported deaths, though roughly 50 people have been displaced from their homes. 'The shake caused a rock slide in Carbon Canyon, causing a car to overturn, according to the Brea Police Department. Fullerton police received reports of water main breaks and windows shattering, but primarily had residents calling about burglar alarms being set off by the quake.'"

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Geologists Warned of Washington State Mudslides For Decades
Posted by News Fetcher on March 29 '14 at 04:30 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's always-better-in-retrospect department:
Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "The Seattle Times reports that since the 1950s, geological reports on the hill that buckled last weekend, killing at least 17 residents in Snohomish County in Washington State, have included pessimistic analyses and the occasional dire prediction. But no language seems more prescient than what appears in a 1999 report filed warning of 'the potential for a large catastrophic failure.' Daniel Miller, a geomorphologist, documented the hill's landslide conditions in a report written in 1997 for the Washington Department of Ecology and the Tulalip Tribes. Miller knows the hill's history, having collected reports and memos from the 1950s, 1960s, 1980s and 1990s and has a half-dozen manila folders stuffed with maps, slides, models and drawings, all telling the story of an unstable hillside that has defied efforts to shore it up. That's why he could not believe what he saw in 2006, when he returned to the hill within weeks of a landslide that crashed into and plugged the North Fork of the Stillaguamish River, creating a new channel that threatened homes on a street called Steelhead Drive. Instead of seeing homes being vacated, he saw carpenters building new ones. 'Frankly, I was shocked that the county permitted any building across from the river,' says Miller. 'We've known that it's been failing. It's not unknown that this hazard exists.'" (More, below.)

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Classified X-37B Space Plane Breaks Space Longevity Record
Posted by News Fetcher on March 28 '14 at 11:30 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's staying-power department:
itwbennett (1594911) writes "A little-known U.S. space plane quietly broke its own space endurance record this week as its current unmanned mission surpassed 469 days in space. What it was doing up there for so long is a secret closely held by the Air Force, but Jonathan McDowell, an astrophysicist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and an authority on satellites and launches, thinks it's serving a similar role as the space shuttle by carrying a science or intelligence payload. 'I believe it's testing some kind of experimental sensor for the National Reconnaissance Office; for example, a hyperspectral imager, or some new kind of signals intelligence package,' said McDowell. 'The sensor was more successful than expected, so the payload customer asked the X-37 folks to keep the spacecraft in orbit longer.'"

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oVirt 3.4 Means Management, VMs Can Live On the Same Machine
Posted by News Fetcher on March 28 '14 at 11:15 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's right-there-in-the-open department:
darthcamaro (735685) writes "Red Hat's open source oVirt project hit a major milestone this week with the release of version 3.4. It's got improved storage handling so users can mix and match different resource types, though the big new feature is one that seems painfully obvious. For the first time oVirt users can have the oVirt Manager and oVirt VMs on the same physical machine. 'So, typically, customers deployed the oVirt engine on a physical machine or on a virtual machine that wasn't managed or monitored,' Scott Herold, principal product manager for Red Hat Enterprise Virtualization said. 'The oVirt 3.4 release adds the ability for oVirt to self-host its engine, including monitoring and recovery of the virtual machine.'"

(Wikipedia describes oVirt as "a free platform virtualization management web application community project.")

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Judge OKs Class Action Suit Against Apple For E-Book Price Fixing
Posted by News Fetcher on March 28 '14 at 08:30 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's opening-the-books department:
An anonymous reader writes "Reuters reports: 'A federal judge in New York granted class certification on Friday to a group of consumers who sued Apple Inc for conspiring with five major publishers to fix e-book prices in violation of antitrust law....The plaintiffs are seeking more than $800 million in damages.' The trial will probably be in July or September. The judge who granted class certification, Denise Cote, ruled in 2013 that Apple was guilty of colluding with other publishers to raise the price of e-books and to force Amazon.com to do the same."

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Ask Slashdot: How To Handle Unfixed Linux Accessibility Bugs?
Posted by News Fetcher on March 28 '14 at 05:45 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's linux-on-the-desktop department:
dotancohen (1015143) writes "It is commonly said that open source software is preferable because if you need something changed, you can change it yourself. Well, I am not an Xorg developer and I cannot maintain a separate Xorg fork. Xorg version 1.13.1 introduced a bug which breaks the "Sticky Keys" accessibility option. Thus, handicapped users who rely on the feature cannot use Xorg-based systems with the affected versions and are stuck on older software versions. Though all pre-bug Linux distros are soon scheduled for retirement, there seems to be no fix in sight. Should disabled users stick with outdated, vulnerable, and unsupported Linux distros or should we move to OS-X / Windows?

The prospect of changing my OS, applications, and practices due to such an ostensibly small issue is frightening. Note that we are not discussing 'I don't like change' but rather 'this unintentional change is incompatible with my physical disability.' Thus this is not a case of every change breaks someone's workflow."


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Technocrat James Schlesinger Is Dead At 85
Posted by News Fetcher on March 28 '14 at 04:01 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's and-so-shall-he-remain department:
mdsolar (1045926) writes "James Schlesinger, who served as Secretary of Defense under Presidents Nixon and Ford and as the first Secretary of Energy under President Carter, passed away on Thursday in Baltimore at the age of 85. Schlesinger is perhaps the most technocratic person to reach such high office. He had a keen awareness of the connection between energy supply and national defense and as Administrator of the Economic Regulatory Administration, brought our Standby Gasoline Rationing Plan into existence. The existence of such a plan along with our Strategic Petroleum Reserve, which Schlesinger also brought into being, have been a bulwark against further oil embargoes and essentially broke OPEC for a period of more than a decade. The NYT has an obituary that covers more of his career."

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FTC Settles With Sites Over SSL Lies
Posted by News Fetcher on March 28 '14 at 03:15 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's like-fake-security-cameras department:
An anonymous reader writes "The makers of two major mobile apps, Fandango and Credit Karma, have settled with the Federal Trade Commission after the commission charged that they deliberately misrepresented the security of their apps and failed to validate SSL certificates. The apps promised users that their data was being sent over secure SSL connections, but the apps had disabled the validation process. The settlements with the FTC don't include any monetary penalties, but both companies have been ordered to submit to independent security audits every other year for the next 20 years and to put together comprehensive security programs."

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Toward Better Programming
Posted by News Fetcher on March 28 '14 at 02:30 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's forest-for-the-binary-trees department:
An anonymous reader writes "Chris Granger, creator of the flexible, open source LightTable IDE, has written a thoughtful article about the nature of programming. For years, he's been trying to answer the question: What's wrong with programming? After working on his own IDE and discussing it with hundreds of other developers, here are his thoughts: 'If you look at much of the advances that have made it to the mainstream over the past 50 years, it turns out they largely increased our efficiency without really changing the act of programming. I think the reason why is something I hinted at in the very beginning of this post: it's all been reactionary and as a result we tend to only apply tactical fixes. As a matter of fact, almost every step we've taken fits cleanly into one of these buckets. We've made things better but we keep reaching local maxima because we assume that these things can somehow be addressed independently. ... The other day, I came to the conclusion that the act of writing software is actually antagonistic all on its own. Arcane languages, cryptic errors, mostly missing (or at best, scattered) documentation — it's like someone is deliberately trying to screw with you, sitting in some Truman Show-like control room pointing and laughing behind the scenes. At some level, it's masochistic, but we do it because it gives us an incredible opportunity to shape our world.'"

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Used IT Equipment Can Be Worth a Fortune (Video)
Posted by News Fetcher on March 28 '14 at 01:45 PM
By Roblimo from Slashdot's how-much-is-that-mainframe-in-the-window? department:
This is a conversation with Frank Muscarello, CEO and co-founder of MarkiTx, a company that brokers used and rehabbed IT equipment. We're not talking about an iPhone 3 you might sell on craigslist, but enterprise-level items. Cisco. Oracle. IBM mainframes. Racks full of HP or Dell servers. That kind of thing. In 2013 IDC pegged the value of the used IT equipment market at $70 billion, so this is a substantial business. MarkiTx has three main bullet points: *Know what your gear is worth; *Sell with ease at a fair price; and *Buy reliable, refurbished gear. Pricing is the big deal, Frank says. With cars you have Cars.com and Kelley Blue Book. There are similar pricing services for commercial trucks, construction equipment, and nearly anything else a business or government agency might buy or sell used. For computers? Not so much. Worth Monkey calls itself "The blue book for used electronics and more," but it only seems to list popular consumer equipment. I tried looking up several popular Dell PowerEdge servers. No joy. An HTC Sensation phone or an Acer Aspire notebook? Sure. With price ranges based on condition, same as Kelley Blue Book does with cars. Now back to the big iron. A New York bank wants to buy new servers. Their old ones are fully depreciated in the tax sense, and their CTO can show stats saying they are going to suffer from decreasing reliability. So they send out for bids on new hardware. Meanwhile, there's a bank in Goa, India, that is building a server farm on a tight budget. If they can buy used servers from the New York bank, rehabbed and with a warranty, for one-third what they'd cost new, they are going to jump on this deal the same way a small earthmoving operation buys used dump trucks a multinational construction company no longer wants.

< article continued at Slashdot >

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Microsoft Promises Not To Snoop Through Email
Posted by News Fetcher on March 28 '14 at 01:00 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's we-apologize-for-getting-caught department:
An anonymous reader writes "Microsoft took some much-deserved flack last week for admitting they examined the emails of a Hotmail user who received some leaked Windows 8 code. The company defended their actions at the time. Now, after hearing the backlash, Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith says they will not do so in the future. Instead, they'll refer it to law enforcement. He wrote, 'It's always uncomfortable to listen to criticism. But if one can step back a bit, it's often thought-provoking and even helpful. That was definitely the case for us over the past week. Although our terms of service, like those of others in our industry, allowed us to access lawfully the account in this case, the circumstances raised legitimate questions about the privacy interests of our customers. ...As a company we've participated actively in the public discussions about the proper balance between the privacy rights of citizens and the powers of government. We've advocated that governments should rely on formal legal processes and the rule of law for surveillance activities. While our own search was clearly within our legal rights, it seems apparent that we should apply a similar principle and rely on formal legal processes for our own investigations involving people who we suspect are stealing from us.'"

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Michael Abrash Joins Oculus, Calls Facebook 'Final Piece of the Puzzle'
Posted by News Fetcher on March 28 '14 at 12:15 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's go-big-or-go-home department:
trawg writes: "Programming legend Michael Abrash has announced that he has joined the Oculus team to work on the Rift VR headset as Chief Scientist, and will be once again working with John Carmack to bring VR to life. His post covers a lot of ground, including the history of his quest for VR, and ends with his explanation of why he thinks the Facebook acquisition is ultimately a good thing — they have the engineering, resources and long-term commitment 'to solve the hard problems of VR.'"
Abrash has long maintained a blog about VR tech — it's worth reading if the subject matter interests you.

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CISPA's Author Has Another Privacy-Killing Bill To Pass Before He Retires
Posted by News Fetcher on March 28 '14 at 11:15 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's get-while-the-gettin's-good department:
Daniel_Stuckey writes: "You might remember House Intelligence Chair Mike Rogers, a Republican from Michigan, from his lovely, universally-hated CISPA cybersecurity bill that would have allowed nearly seamless information sharing between companies and the federal government. You might also remember him from his c'est la vie attitude towards civil liberties in general. Well, we've got some good news and some bad news: Rogers announced today that he won't seek re-election and is instead retiring from politics to start a conservative talk radio show on Cumulus. The bad news? He's got at least one terrible, civil liberties-killing bill to try to push through Congress before he goes. Like CISPA, the newly introduced 'FISA Transparency and Modernization Act,' seeks to make it easier for the federal government to get your information from companies."

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