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Really, Why Are Smartphones Still Tied To Contracts?
Posted by News Fetcher on May 01 '14 at 10:00 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's be-the-change-you-want-to-see-in-the-world department:
Bennett Haselton writes: "It's not trivial to explain why cell phone companies find it profitable to sell phones at a deep up-front discount and make it back over a two-year contract.
Why don't other companies sell similarly-priced goods the same way? (And why, for that matter, has T-Mobile found it more profitable to do the opposite, selling the phone and the service separately?) I'm trying to come up with an explanation that
makes realistic and consistent assumptions about the stupidity of the
buying public, and still makes sense."
Read on for the rest of Bennett's thoughts.

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OpenBSD 5.5 Released
Posted by News Fetcher on May 01 '14 at 09:15 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's always-just-in-time department:
ConstantineM (965345) writes "Just as per the schedule, OpenBSD 5.5 was released today, May 1, 2014. The theme of the 5.5 release is Wrap in Time, which represents a significant achievement of changing <tt>time_t</tt> to <tt>int64_t</tt> on all platforms, as well as ensuring that all of the 8k+ OpenBSD ports still continue to build and work properly, thus doing all the heavy lifting and paving the way for all other operating systems to make the transition to 64-bit time an easier task down the line. Signed releases and packages and the new signify utility are another big selling point of 5.5, as well as OpenSSH 6.6, which includes lots of DJB crypto like chacha20-poly1305, plus lots of other goodies."

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SpaceX Wins Injunction Against Russian Rocket Purchases
Posted by News Fetcher on May 01 '14 at 08:30 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's oh-elon-please-don't-do-this department:
Rambo Tribble (1273454) writes "Reuters is reporting that Space Exploration Technologies, aka SpaceX, has won a Federal Claims Court temporary injunction against the purchase by United Launch Alliance of Russian-made rocket boosters, intended for use by the United States Air Force. In her ruling Judge Susan Braden prohibited ULA and the USAF, 'from making any purchases from or payment of money to [Russian firm] NPO Energomash.' United Launch Alliance is a joint venture of Boeing and Lockheed Martin."

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"Smart" Gun Seller Gets the Wrong Kind of Online Attention
Posted by News Fetcher on May 01 '14 at 08:30 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's or-maybe-that's-exactly-the-right-kind department:
R3d M3rcury (871886) writes "How's this for a good idea? A gun that won't fire unless it's within 10 inches of a watch? That's the iP1 from Armatrix. Of course, don't try to sell it here in the United States." From the NY Times article linked: "[Armatrix employee] Belinda Padilla does not pick up unknown calls anymore, not since someone posted her cellphone number on an online forum for gun enthusiasts. Then someone snapped pictures of the address where she has a P.O. box and put those online, too. In a crude, cartoonish scrawl, this person drew an arrow to the blurred image of a woman passing through the photo frame. 'Belinda?" the person wrote. "Is that you?" ... "I have no qualms with the idea of personally and professionally leveling the life of someone who has attempted to profit from disarming me and my fellow Americans," one commenter wrote." The article paints a fairly rosy picture of the particular technology that Armatrix is pushing, but their ID-checking gun seems to default to an unfireable state, which might not always be an attractive feature. And given that at least one state — New Jersey — has hinged a gun law on the commercial availability of these ID-linked guns, it's not surprising that some gun owners dislike a company that advertises this kind of system as "the future of the firearm."

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High-School Star League Brings Gaming As Sport to Teenagers
Posted by News Fetcher on May 01 '14 at 08:00 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's buncha-jocks department:
An anonymous reader points to this "This is an interesting interview with the creators of the High School Star League, an organization dedicated to furthering eSports as a viable hobby and even a career for children and young adults. The HSL has been active in the U.S. for a while but is now making a headway into Europe, where it's finding Counter-Strike is proving much more popular than RTS and MOBA games. There are a significant number of girls getting involved as well — as many as seven percent of competitors. It's a start, right?"

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Drone Camera Tornado Coverage Raises Press Freedom Questions
Posted by News Fetcher on May 01 '14 at 06:30 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's you-may-only-look-toward-the-horizon department:
retroworks (652802) writes "In the latest tornado and storm tragedy to hit the U.S.'s south and midwest, small drone cameras steered by storm-tracker and videographer Brian Emfinger gathered stunning bird's-eye footage of the wreckage. Forbes magazine covers the [paywalled] Arkansas Democrat-Gazette's speculation that Emfinger has violated FAA rules which prohibit commercial use of small drones. The laws, designed years ago to restrict hobbyists use of model airplanes, may conflict with U.S. First Amendment free press use. So far, nothing in the article says that the FAA is enforcing the rule on the media outlets that may pay Emfinger for his video coverage, but interest in the footage will probably create a business economy for future commercial drone use if the FAA does not act."

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Google Halts Gmail Scanning for Education Apps Users
Posted by News Fetcher on May 01 '14 at 05:30 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's but-we-were-only-peeking department:
itwbennett (1594911) writes "Google will no longer scan the email messages of students and other school staff who use its Google Apps for Education suite, exempting about 30 million users from the chronically controversial practice for Gmail advertising. In addition, Google is removing the option for Apps for Education administrators to allow ads to be shown to their users. Until now, ads were turned off by default, but admins could turn on this feature at their discretion. A Google spokesperson called the move part of a 'continued evolution of our efforts to provide the best experience for our users, including students' and not a response to a recent lawsuit alleging that by scanning Gmail messages Google violated wiretapping laws and breached users' privacy."

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WSJ Reports AT&T May Be Eying a $40B DirecTV Acquisition
Posted by News Fetcher on May 01 '14 at 05:00 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's you-are-my-eyeballs-my-only-eyeballs department:
New submitter rcht148 (2872453) writes with this excerpt from The Verge:"If the idea of Comcast buying out Time Warner Cable to become the largest cable company in America wasn't enough to make you worry about media consolidation, news [Wednesday] from the Wall Street Journal just might. Reportedly, AT&T has approached DirecTV to begin 'possible acquisition' talks, a deal that the WSJ says could be worth over $40 billion. If it were to happen, it would give the combined company something on the order of 26 million TV subscribers, making it second only to the hypothetical Comcast/TWC combination of 30 million."

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US Should Use Trampolines To Get Astronauts To the ISS Suggests Russian Official
Posted by News Fetcher on May 01 '14 at 04:45 AM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's space-men-can't-jump department:
Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "The Washington Post reports that Russia's Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin has lashed out again, this time at newly announced US ban on high-tech exports to Russia suggesting that 'after analyzing the sanctions against our space industry, I propose the US delivers its astronauts to the ISS with a trampoline.' Rogozin does actually have a point, although his threats carry much less weight than he may hope. Russia is due to get a $457.9 million payment for its services soon and few believe that Russia would actually give it up. Plus, as Jeffrey Kluger noted at Time Magazine, Russia may not want to push the United States into the hands of SpaceX and Orbital Sciences, two private American companies that hope to be able to send passengers to the station soon. SpaceX and Orbital Sciences have already made successful unmanned resupply runs to the ISS and both are also working on upgrading their cargo vehicles to carry people. SpaceX is currently in the lead and expects to launch US astronauts, employed by SpaceX itself, into orbit by 2016. NASA is building its own heavy-lift rocket for carrying astronauts beyond low-Earth orbit, but it won't be ready for anything but test flights until after 2020. 'That schedule, of course, could be accelerated considerably if Washington gave NASA the green light and the cash,' says Kluger. 'America's manned space program went from a standing start in 1961 to the surface of the moon in 1969—eight years from Al Shepard to Tranquility Base. The Soviet Union got us moving then. Perhaps Russia will do the same now.'"

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Graphene Could Be Dangerous To Humans and the Environment
Posted by News Fetcher on May 01 '14 at 02:00 AM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's keep-out-of-eyes-and-mouth department:
Zothecula (1870348) writes "It's easy to get carried away when you start talking about graphene. Its properties hold the promise of outright technological revolution in so many fields that it has been called a wonder material. Two recent studies, however, give us a less than rosy angle. In the first, a team of biologists, engineers and material scientists at Brown University examined graphene's potential toxicity in human cells. Another study by a team from University of California, Riverside's Bourns College of Engineering examined how graphene oxide nanoparticles might interact with the environment if they found their way into surface or ground water sources."

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Understanding the 2 Billion-Year-Old Natural Nuclear Reactor In W Africa
Posted by News Fetcher on April 30 '14 at 11:16 PM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's it's-getting-hot-in-here department:
KentuckyFC (1144503) writes "In June 1972, nuclear scientists at the Pierrelatte uranium enrichment plant in south-east France noticed a strange deficit in the amount of uranium-235 they were processing. That's a serious problem in a uranium enrichment plant where every gram of fissionable material has to be carefully accounted for. The ensuing investigation found that the anomaly originated in the ore from the Oklo uranium mine in Gabon, which contained only 0.600% uranium-235 compared to 0.7202% for all other ore on the planet. It turned out that this ore was depleted because it had gone critical some 2 billion years earlier, creating a self-sustaining nuclear reaction that lasted for 300,000 years and using up the missing uranium-235 in the process. Since then, scientists have studied this natural reactor to better understand how buried nuclear waste spreads through the environment and also to discover whether the laws of physics that govern nuclear reactions may have changed in the 1.5 billion years since the reactor switched off. Now a review of the science that has come out of Oklo shows how important this work has become but also reveals that there is limited potential to gather more data. After an initial flurry of interest in Oklo, mining continued and the natural reactors--surely among the most extraordinary natural phenomena on the planet-- have all been mined out."

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British Spy Chiefs Secretly Begged To Play In NSA's Data Pools
Posted by News Fetcher on April 30 '14 at 09:02 PM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's please-sir-I-want-some-data department:
Advocatus Diaboli (1627651) writes "Britain's electronic surveillance agency, Government Communications Headquarters, has long presented its collaboration with the National Security Agency's massive electronic spying efforts as proportionate, carefully monitored, and well within the bounds of privacy laws. But according to a top-secret document in the archive of material provided to The Intercept by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, GCHQ secretly coveted the NSA's vast troves of private communications and sought 'unsupervised access' to its data as recently as last year – essentially begging to feast at the NSA's table while insisting that it only nibbles on the occasional crumb."

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Coding Bootcamps Already 1/8th the Size of CS Undergraduates
Posted by News Fetcher on April 30 '14 at 07:31 PM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's everybody-code department:
First time accepted submitter Valejo (689967) writes "According to a study released today by Course Report, programming bootcamps are expected to grow by 2.8x in 2014, meaning that bootcamps will graduate a student for every 8 CS undergraduates. The survey (PDF) also found that 57% of the schools teach in Ruby and that the average tuition is $9,900. The authors collected responses from 95% of US schools, including General Assembly, Dev Bootcamp, and Flatiron School."

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What It's Like To Be the Scientific Consultant For The Big Bang Theory
Posted by News Fetcher on April 30 '14 at 06:31 PM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's it's-a-tough-gig department:
sciencehabit (1205606) writes "Science sits down with David Saltzberg, who's been The Big Bang Theory's one and only science consultant since it premiered. Saltzberg is an astrophysicist at the University of California, Los Angeles. He chats about how the portrayal of science on the show has changed over the years, whether it turns kids away from science, and how you can get your own job as a scientific consultant in Hollywood."

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Grading Software Fooled By Nonsense Essay Generator
Posted by News Fetcher on April 30 '14 at 05:16 PM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's it-is-good-report department:
An anonymous reader writes "A former MIT instructor and students have come up with software that can write an entire essay in less than one second; just feed it up to three keywords.The essays, though grammatically correct and structurally sound, have no coherent meaning and have proved to be graded highly by automated essay-grading software. From The Chronicle of Higher Education article: 'Critics of automated essay scoring are a small but lively band, and Mr. Perelman is perhaps the most theatrical. He has claimed to be able to guess, from across a room, the scores awarded to SAT essays, judging solely on the basis of length. (It’s a skill he happily demonstrated to a New York Times reporter in 2005.) In presentations, he likes to show how the Gettysburg Address would have scored poorly on the SAT writing test. (That test is graded by human readers, but Mr. Perelman says the rubric is so rigid, and time so short, that they may as well be robots.).'"

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Researchers Find Easy To Exploit Bugs In Traffic Control Systems
Posted by News Fetcher on April 30 '14 at 04:16 PM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's red-light-green-light department:
Trailrunner7 (1100399) writes "It has been a running joke in the tech industry for years that the hacking scenes in movies are, well, a joke. Hackers in hoodies pushing a few keys and taking down the power grid or causing massive traffic pileups by turning all the stoplights green at once. While those scenes provide endless entertainment for security folks, it turns out some of those attacks aren't so far-fetched. Cesar Cerrudo, a researcher and CTO at IOActive, decided to take a look at the security of some of the devices that control traffic lights and electronic signs in many cites around the world, and found that not only were the devices vulnerable to a number of attacks, but they could be exploited quite easily and perhaps could be used to spread malware from device to device. Cerrudo said that the vulnerabilities he identified can be exploited from up to a mile or two away with the right equipment."

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SpaceX Looking For Help With "Landing" Video
Posted by News Fetcher on April 30 '14 at 03:31 PM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's clean-it-up department:
Maddog Batty (112434) writes "SpaceX recently made the news by managing to soft land at sea the first stage of rocket used to launch its third supply mission to the International Space Station. Telemetry reported that it was able to hover for eight seconds above the sea before running out of fuel and falling horizontal. Unfortunately, due to stormy weather at the time, their support ship wasn't able to get to the "landing" spot at the time and the first stage wasn't recovered and is likely now on the sea bed. Video of the landing was produced and transmitted to an aeroplane but unfortunately it is rather corrupted. SpaceX have attempted to improve it but it isn't much better. They are now looking for help to improve it further."

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Toyota Describes Combustion Engine That Generates Electricity Directly
Posted by News Fetcher on April 30 '14 at 03:01 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's you-got-your-electric-in-my-dinosaur-burner department:
cartechboy writes: "While electric cars are now more available than ever, combustion engines will remain for decades to come. Now auto engineers are working to refine combustion power as part of cars that are increasingly electrified, including plug-in hybrids. Toyota's new 'Free Piston Engine Linear Generator' (or FPEG) shows us one potential way. Linear engines eliminate the rotating crankshaft of conventional engines in favor of a single chamber, in which a piston moves forward and backward. A linear engine has no crankshaft, nor connecting rods. In their place is a gas-filled chamber, the compression of which functions like a spring — returning the piston after the expansion / combustion phases of a typical combustion cycle. This back-and-forth motion can be turned into energy, when you haven't got a crankshaft and the mechanically-useful rotation it produces. While linear engines are far from new, and Toyota's test units are only 10 kW (13 horsepower), a pair of them can still produce enough electricity for a Yaris- or Corolla-sized vehicle to cruise on the highway at 75 mph."

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Report: 99 Percent of New Mobile Threats Target Android
Posted by News Fetcher on April 30 '14 at 02:01 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's not-the-market-share-you-want department:
MojoKid writes: "Google's open source Android platform has the distinction of being the most popular mobile operating system in the world. That's great in terms of dominating the market and reaping the rewards that come with it, but it's also for that very reason that Android finds itself the target of virtually every new mobile malware threat that emerges. According to data published in F-Secure's latest Mobile Threat Report (PDF), over 99 percent of the new mobile threats it discovered in the first quarter of 2014 targeted Android users. To be fair, we're not taking about hundreds of thousands, tens of thousands, or thousands of malware threats — F-Secure detected 277 new threat families, of which 275 honed in on Android."

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The Million-Dollar Business of Video Game Cheating
Posted by News Fetcher on April 30 '14 at 01:31 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's why-those-birds-are-so-angry department:
An anonymous reader writes "If you play games online against other people, chances are you've come up against somebody who's obviously cheating. Wall hacks, aimbots, map hacks, item dupes — you name it, and there will always be a small (but annoying) segment of the gaming population who does it. Many of these cheating methods are bought and sold online, and PCGamer has done some investigative reporting to show us rule-abiding types how it all works. A single cheat-selling website manages to pull in $300,000 a year, and it's one of many. The people running the site aren't worried about their business drying up, either — game developers quickly catch 'rage cheaters,' and players cheating to be seen, but they have a much harder time detecting the 'closet cheaters' who hide it well. Countermeasures like PunkBuster and VAC are sidestepped quickly and easily."

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