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Physicist Unveils a 'Turing Test' For Free Will
Posted by News Fetcher on October 21 '13 at 01:15 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's whoa-man-that's-deep department:
KentuckyFC writes "The problem of free will is one of the great unsolved puzzles in science, not to mention philosophy, theology, jurisprudence and so on. The basic question is whether we are able to make decisions for ourselves or whether the outcomes are predetermined and the notion of choice is merely an illusion. Now a leading theoretical physicist has outlined a 'Turing Test' for free will and says that while simple devices such as thermostats cannot pass, more complex ones like iPhones might. The test is based on an extension of Turing's halting problem in computer science. This states that there is no general way of knowing how an algorithm will finish, other than to run it. This means that when a human has to make a decision, there is no way of knowing in advance how it will end up. In other words, the familiar feeling of not knowing the final decision until it is thought through is a necessary feature of the decision-making process and why we have the impression of free will. This leads to a simple set of questions that forms a kind of Turing test for free will. These show how simple decision-making devices such as thermostats cannot believe they have free will while humans can. A more interesting question relates to decision-makers of intermediate complexity, such as a smartphone. As the author puts it, this 'seems to possess all the criteria required for free will, and behaves as if it has it.'"

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Why Does Windows Have Terrible Battery Life?
Posted by News Fetcher on October 21 '13 at 12:30 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's optimized-for-profit department:
An anonymous reader writes "Jeff Atwood at Coding Horror is trying to figure out why the battery life for devices running Windows is so much worse than similar (or identical) devices running other operating systems. For example, the Surface Pro 2 made great strides over the original Surface Pro, increasing web-browsing battery life by 42%, but it still lags far behind Android and iOS tablets. The deficit doesn't get any better when Windows is run on Apple hardware. Atwood says, 'Microsoft positions Windows 8 as an operating system that's great for tablets, which are designed for casual web browsing and light app use – but how can that possibly be true when Windows idle power management is so much worse than the competition's desktop operating system in OS X – much less their tablet and phone operating system, iOS?' Anand Lal Shimpi is perplexed, too. Atwood is now reaching out to the community for answers: 'None of the PC vendors he spoke to could justify it, or produce a Windows box that managed similar battery life to OS X. And that battery life gap is worse today – even when using Microsoft's own hardware, designed in Microsoft's labs, running Microsoft's latest operating system released this week. Microsoft can no longer hand wave this vast difference away based on vague references to "poorly optimized third party drivers." ... I just wish somebody could explain to me and Anand why Windows is so awful at managing idle power.'"

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New York City To Get Manhole Covers That Wirelessly Charge Electric Vehicles
Posted by News Fetcher on October 21 '13 at 12:00 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's sending-power-through-the-ether department:
Lucas123 writes "A new project between NYU and start-up HEVO Power will disguise wireless charging stations in manhole covers. The wireless charging stations are aimed at providing fleets of delivery vehicles with power in parking spaces around the city. Next year, Toyota plans to test a wireless charging Prius in Japan, Europe. And, U.S. Auto electronics giant Delphi is developing technology for electric vehicles that could be used industrywide. The charging stations could be embedded in asphalt or pads that lay on garage floors. Wireless charging, however, still has many obstacles to overcome, including the time it takes to recharge a vehicle, cost to deploy the technology and power loss during electrical transfer."

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Biological Clock Discovered That Measures Ages of Most Human Tissues
Posted by News Fetcher on October 21 '13 at 11:15 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's you-have-the-genes-of-a-97-year-old-man department:
starr802 writes "A biological clock capable of determining how old different human tissues and cells are has been discovered by a team of researchers from the University of California Los Angeles (abstract). 'To fight aging, we first need an objective way of measuring it. Pinpointing a set of biomarkers that keeps time throughout the body has been a four-year challenge,' Steve Horvath, a professor of human genetics at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA and of biostatistics at the UCLA Fielding School of Public Health said in a statement. 'My goal in inventing this clock is to help scientists improve their understanding of what speeds up and slows down the human aging process.'"

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Most IT Workers Don't Have STEM (Science, Tech, Engineering, Math) Degrees
Posted by News Fetcher on October 21 '13 at 10:30 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's contrast-this-support-ticket-with-john-donne's-early-elegies department:
McGruber writes "The Wall Street Journal's Michael Totty shares some stereotype-shattering statistics about IT workers: Most of them don't have college degrees in computer science, technology, engineering or math. About a third come to IT with degrees in business, social sciences or other nontechnical fields, while more than 40% of computer support specialists and a third of computer systems administrators don't have a college degree at all! The analysis is based upon two job categories as defined by the federal Bureau of Labor Statistics: network and computer systems administrator, and computer support specialist."

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Connecting To Unsecured Bluetooth Car Systems To Monitor Traffic Flow
Posted by News Fetcher on October 21 '13 at 09:45 AM
By Unknown Lamer from Slashdot's drive-slowly-for-maximum-confusion department:
New submitter TheTerseOne writes "The Columbian, the local newspaper of Vancouver (not BC), Washington (not DC) is reporting that local county traffic officials plan on spending $540k of government money to monitor traffic by connecting to vehicles' Bluetooth systems (whose owners/drivers have left them discoverable). The county claims that, although this sounds 'creepy' and 'like Big Brother,' there is no cause for concern. The specific brand of the system is not mentioned, but similar systems have already been the subject of security alerts."

County officials note that they are stripping out part of the MAC, and the system is intentionally designed not to be useful for law enforcement to locate specific devices.

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Experian Sold Social Security Numbers To ID Theft Service
Posted by News Fetcher on October 21 '13 at 09:00 AM
By Unknown Lamer from Slashdot's you-can-totally-trust-us department:
realized writes "Experian — one of the three national U.S. credit bureaus — reportedly sold SSNs through its subsidiary, Court Ventures, to the operators of SuperGet.info who then offered all of the information online for a price. The website would advertise having '99% to 100% of all USA' in their database on websites frequented by carders. Hieu Minh Ngo, the website owner, was recently been indicted for 15-counts filed under seal in November 2012, charging him with conspiracy to commit wire fraud, substantive wire fraud, conspiracy to commit identity fraud, substantive identity fraud, aggravated identity theft, conspiracy to commit access device fraud, and substantive access device fraud."

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Freedreno Graphics Driver Gets PRIME, Render Node Support
Posted by News Fetcher on October 21 '13 at 08:45 AM
By Unknown Lamer from Slashdot's reverse-engineering-better-than-forward-engineering department:
Via Phoronix comes news that the new DRM driver for the Freedreno driver for Qualcomm Snapdragon Adreno graphics is gaining a few new features in Linux 3.13: "After a year of working on the 'Freedreno' Gallium3D user-space driver and getting that up to speed for Qualcomm Adreno/Snapdragon support, for the past few months he's been working on a complementary kernel driver rather than relying upon Qualcomm's Android-focused kernel layer. ... The work that Rob has ready for Linux 3.13 with this Qualcomm DRM graphics driver is DRI PRIME support, support for render nodes, updated header files, plane support, and a couple of other changes."

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DHHS Preparing 'Tech Surge' To Fix Remaining Healthcare.gov Issues
Posted by News Fetcher on October 21 '13 at 08:30 AM
By Unknown Lamer from Slashdot's operation-aca-freedom-eagle department:
itwbennett writes "It's no secret that the healthcare.gov website has been plagued by problems since its launch 3 weeks ago. On Sunday, the Department of Health and Human Services said that it's now bringing in the big guns: 'Our team is bringing in some of the best and brightest from both inside and outside government to scrub in with the [HHS] team and help improve HealthCare.gov,' the blog post reads. 'We're also putting in place tools and processes to aggressively monitor and identify parts of HealthCare.gov where individuals are encountering errors or having difficulty using the site, so we can prioritize and fix them.' Other emergency measures being taken as part of what HHS calls a 'tech surge' include defining new test processes to prevent new problems and regularly patching bugs during off-peak hours. Still unclear is how long it will take to fix the site. As recently reported on Slashdot, that could be anywhere from 2 weeks to 2 months."

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NSA Intercepted French Telephone Calls "On a Massive Scale"
Posted by News Fetcher on October 21 '13 at 07:45 AM
By Unknown Lamer from Slashdot's french-people-don't-deserve-privacy department:
rtoz writes "The US National Security Agency (NSA) has been intercepting French telephone calls 'on a massive scale,' according to a report published in Le Monde. According to Le Monde, the NSA recorded millions of telephone calls placed by French citizens over a 30-day period last year, including some placed by people with no connections to terrorist organizations. France called in the U.S. ambassador to protest the alleged large-scale spying on French citizens by NSA."

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BT To Test Huawei 1Gbps Broadband Over Copper
Posted by News Fetcher on October 21 '13 at 07:15 AM
By Unknown Lamer from Slashdot's dream-of-dsl department:
judgecorp writes "BT is testing a different fiber broadband topology FTTdp (Fiber to the distribution point) and G.FAST, which could give 1Gbps broadband speeds at its research site Adastral Park in Britain. FTTdp pushes the network fiber closer to the user's premises than FTTC (Fiber to the Cabinet). In many cases this is less than 250m, a distance at which it's possible to get 1Gbps over the copper phone network using G.FAST, a new variation of VDSL broadband ."

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The Dark Mod 2.0 Standalone: Id Tech 4 GPL Yields a Free Thief-a-Like Game
Posted by News Fetcher on October 21 '13 at 06:30 AM
By Unknown Lamer from Slashdot's almost-free department:
An anonymous reader writes "After nine years of development, The Dark Mod is now a standalone game. Thief fans can now enjoy over 60 fan made missions which capture the essence of the Thief 1 / 2 games. Originally created as a reaction to Thief 3; with the upcoming release of Thief 4, many are comparing what was done here (a faithful extension of the old gameplay) to what Eidos has shown thus far. Can a little Doom 3 mod compete against a blockbuster AAA title? Should we even compare them?"

All code in the The Dark Mod is GPLv3+, and the art assets are all CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 Unported which means it, unfortunately, cannot be distributed by even Debian. Still, an impressive feat!

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New York City Considers Articulated Subway Cars
Posted by News Fetcher on October 21 '13 at 05:45 AM
By Unknown Lamer from Slashdot's and-one-train-car-to-bind-them-all department:
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Many of New York City's subway cars are well past their prime and due for fleet replacement, most strikingly those on the C line, known by their model number, R32, and for the tin-can siding that will continue rolling beneath Eighth Avenue for at least a few more years. Now the NYT reports that transit planners have urged the Metropolitan Transportation Authority to consider articulated subway cars for any future fleet upgrades. Articulated cars, already adopted in cities like Berlin, Paris, and Toronto, have no doors between cars, allowing unrestricted flow throughout the length of the train that could increase capacity by 8 percent to 10 percent. Adam Lisberg, the authority's chief spokesman, says that increased capacity could also improve 'dwell time' — the period during which a train is stopped in a station, often because of overcrowding — and allow more trains to run. 'We're one of the largest systems in the world that doesn't do it,' says Richard Barone, the director of transportation programs at the Regional Plan Association. 'Our trains don't function right now to allow people to circulate.' Articulation also has the benefit of making empty trains feel safer. By allowing passengers the ability to move between cars easily and to see passengers throughout the train, the isolation that can sometimes feel dangerous on a late-night subway is less of an issue, simply because the whole train is joined together like one huge car. But not everyone embraces the idea. Elizabeth Kubany who works in the Flatiron district, expressed a fondness for the current configuration, suggesting that the separated cars were more 'intimate' binding passenger to passenger in an increasingly antisocial age. Then she reconsidered. 'You don't really want to be intimate with people on the train.'"

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Facebook Isn't Accepting New Posts, Likes, Comments...
Posted by News Fetcher on October 21 '13 at 05:15 AM
By Unknown Lamer from Slashdot's someone's-getting-fired department:
An anonymous reader writes "Some of the functionality is missing from Facebook this morning. You can't post, comment or like anything today."

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Ocean Currents Explain Why Northern Hemisphere Is Soggier
Posted by News Fetcher on October 21 '13 at 05:00 AM
By Unknown Lamer from Slashdot's stealing-the-rain department:
vinces99 writes "A quick glance at a world precipitation map shows that most tropical rain falls in the Northern Hemisphere. The Palmyra Atoll, at 6 degrees north, gets 175 inches of rain a year, while an equal distance on the opposite side of the equator gets only 45 inches. Scientists long believed that this was a quirk of the Earth's geometry – that the ocean basins tilting diagonally while the planet spins pushed tropical rain bands north of the equator. But a new University of Washington study shows that the pattern arises from ocean currents originating from the poles, thousands of miles away. The findings, published (paywalled) Oct. 20 in Nature Geoscience, explain a fundamental feature of the planet's climate, and show that icy waters affect seasonal rains that are crucial for growing crops in such places as Africa's Sahel region and southern India."

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What Employee Lock-In Means At Facebook
Posted by News Fetcher on October 21 '13 at 04:45 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's anytime-you-want department:
theodp writes "In the early days of Facebook, the company would go into what CEO Mark Zuckerberg called lockdown, where no one is supposed to leave until the task at hand is done. Speaking on Saturday at Startup School 2013, CNET reports, Mark Zuckerberg remarked that the practice persists to this day. Facebook doesn't lock people in the office, but it comes "as close to that as we can legally get," Zuckerberg said to an eruption from the crowd. The lockdown isn't the first at-home-in-a-Bangladesh-garment-factory management technique Zuck's touted at Startup School. Back in 2007, Zuckerberg drew fire for advising company founders "you should only hire young people with technical expertise" if they want to be successful. And while there are no reports of Facebook hiring 9-year-old bosses yet, the LA Times reports that only young undocumented immigrants are welcome at the hackathon hosted by Zuckerberg's FWD.us next month where "tech CEO's like Mark Zuckerberg, Reid Hoffman, Drew Houston and Andrew Mason will be sitting side-by-side with undocumented youth [with technical expertise] creating tech products to help the immigration reform movement" (invitation to 'day (and night) of working')."

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Open Rights Group International Says Virgin, Sky Blocking Innocent Sites
Posted by News Fetcher on October 21 '13 at 01:45 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's no-brush-is-quite-broad-enough department:
New submitter stewartrob70 writes with an explanation of the inadvertent (or at least unwarranted) blocking of innocuous sites that UK ISPs Virgin and Sky are engaged in, as reported by PC Pro. The ISPs' filtering systems "appear to be blocking innocent third-party sites with apparently little or no human oversight." stewartrob70 excerpts from a blog posting with an explanation of why:
"In order to understand why this specific issue happened, you need to be familiar with a quirk in how DNS is commonly used in third-party load-balanced site deployments. Many third-party load balanced systems, for example those using Amazon's AWS infrastructure, are enabled by pointing CNAME records at names controlled by those third-party systems. For example www.example.com may be pointed at loadbalancer.example.net. However, 'example.com' usually cannot be directly given a CNAME record (CNAME records cannot be mixed with the other record types needed such as those pointing to nameservers and mailservers). A common approach is to point "example.com" to a server that merely redirects all requests to 'www.example.com.' From forum posts we can see that it's this redirection system, in this specific case an A record used for 'http-redirection-a.dnsmadeeasy.com,' that has been blocked by the ISPs — probably a court-order-blocked site is also using the service — making numerous sites unavailable for any request made without the ''www' prefix."

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IE 11 Breaks Rendering For Google Products, and Outlook Too
Posted by News Fetcher on October 20 '13 at 10:15 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's when-bugs-escape department:
An anonymous reader writes with this excerpt from The Register: "The Windows 8.1 rollout has hit more hurdles: the new version 11 of Internet Explorer that ships with the operating system does not render Google products well and is also making life difficult for users of Microsoft's own Outlook Web Access webmail product. The latter issue is well known: Microsoft popped out some advice about the fact that only the most basic interface to the webmail tool will work back in July. It seems not every sysadmin got the memo and implemented Redmond's preferred workarounds, but there are only scattered complaints out there, likely because few organisations have bothered implementing Windows 8.1 yet."
Also from the article: "Numerous reports suggest that IE 11 users can once again enjoy access to all things Google if they un-tick the IE 11 option to 'Use Microsoft Compatibility lists.'" And here's Microsoft KB work around.

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NSA App Ideas To Popularize Spying and Big Data
Posted by News Fetcher on October 20 '13 at 07:45 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's please-don't department:
reifman writes "Perhaps the reason the NSA's surveillance programs are so unpopular with Americans is that we haven't seen any of the potential consumer benefits that spying and big data can provide. Here are ten ideas for the productization and monetization of the NSA's spying infrastructure to inspire Americans to consider the bright side of the dark arts." In case anyone doesn't notice, these suggestions (at least most of them) are presented tongue-in-cheek; a truly secure email system, though, is another story.

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Your Next Network Operating System Is Linux
Posted by News Fetcher on October 20 '13 at 04:45 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's it-even-runs-on-computers department:
jrepin writes "Everywhere you look, change is afoot in computer networking. As data centers grow in size and complexity, traditional tools are proving too slow or too cumbersome to handle that expansion. Dinesh Dutt is Chief Scientist at Cumulus Networks. Cumulus has been working to change the way we think about networks altogether by dispensing with the usual software/hardware lockstep, and instead using Linux as the operating system on network hardware. In this week's New Tech Forum, Dinesh details the reasons and the means by which we may see Linux take over yet another aspect of computing: the network itself."

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