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How Ford's Virtual Reality Lab Helps Engineers
Posted by News Fetcher on March 30 '14 at 07:45 AM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's is-this-real? department:
cartechboy (2660665) writes "Facebook bought OculusVR and the world tilted a little on its axis. But good old Ford has been using VR all along without much fanfare. VR tech effectively gives Ford engineers X-ray vision, so they can — virtually — see through a vehicle's structure, which helps to design mechanical hardware, and spot issues with designs that might interfere with vehicle 'hard points.' Ford's engineers also use VR headsets to check out exterior and interior designs of cars that don't exist in the physical world — at least not yet. Team members walk around virtual cars to preview designs, or "get in" to check if interior layouts will work in the real world."

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Famous Paintings Help Study the Earth's Past Atmosphere
Posted by News Fetcher on March 30 '14 at 06:45 AM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's color-of-things department:
houghi (78078) writes "From European Geosciences Union: 'A team of Greek and German researchers has shown that the colours of sunsets painted by famous artists can be used to estimate pollution levels in the Earth's past atmosphere. In particular, the paintings reveal that ash and gas released during major volcanic eruptions scatter the different colours of sunlight, making sunsets appear more red.' The original paper can be found here. In the last 150 years, the sunsets have become redder, likely reflecting increased man-made pollution."

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Researchers: Rats Didn't Spread Black Death, Humans Did
Posted by News Fetcher on March 30 '14 at 05:45 AM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's won't-somebody-please-think-of-the-rats? department:
concertina226 (2447056) writes "Scientists studying the human remains of plague victims found during excavations for London's new Crossrail train line have concluded that humans spread the Black Death rather than rats, a fact that could rewrite history books. University of Keele scientists, working together with Crossrail's lead archaeologist Jay Carver and osteologists from the Museum of London, analyzed the bones and teeth of 25 skeletons dug up by Crossrail. They found DNA of Yersinia pestis, which is responsible for the Black Death, on the teeth of some of the victims."

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How Facebook and Oculus Could Be a Great Combination
Posted by News Fetcher on March 30 '14 at 05:15 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's goes-together-like-peanut-butter-and-facebook department:
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes: "Nate Swammer writes at Slashgear that with Facebook's purchase of Oculus for a cool $2 billion, the fervor surrounding virtual reality headwear quickly turned to disdain. Betrayal, confusion, and anger became the order of the day for contributors who gave Oculus $2.4 million through its Kickstarter campaign. But now that passions have cooled and looking at the issues dispassionately, the Facebook acquisition may turn out much better than anticipated for users. While many may have a fervent distrust for Facebook, this deal bodes well for Oculus, and by virtue, us.

First Oculus wasn't flush, and although Oculus may have had some hustle behind it, it may not have been enough. John Carmack, Oculus CTO, said via Twitter, 'I expect the FB deal will avoid several embarrassing scaling crisis for VR.' The headwear already famously suffered from a supply chain issue not long ago, which actually stopped it dead in its tracks. Next, in their official announcement of the Facebook deal, gaming was barely a blip on the radar. It wasn't until the very end that gaming was even mentioned, with the bulk of the post discussing 'culture' and driving virtual reality forward. There was little to indicate any big titles were coming for Oculus.

< article continued at Slashdot >

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Ultima Online Devs Building Player-Run MMORPG
Posted by News Fetcher on March 30 '14 at 03:00 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's what-could-possibly-go-wrong department:
An anonymous reader writes: "A group of former developers for Ultima Online has created a game company called Citadel Studios, and they're working on a new MMORPG called Shards Online. '[CEO Derek] Brinkmann described the game as a player-run MMO, which means at the highest level they can run their own servers and change the settings of that world, altering how long nighttime lasts or how quickly players can gain skills. On the next level down, server administrators can take the form of god characters, who can spawn monsters in the world, create items and launch live events. And in the level below that, players can modify the gameplay code. ... The game is set in a multiverse, where players can travel through different worlds. While all the worlds are unified by the same rule-set, Cotten told Polygon that they are each themed differently, and these themes will offer players a different experience. There's a world inspired by high fantasy. There's a world that is coming out of a steampunk industrial revolution. There's a world that consists of a coliseum in which players can fight each other in player-versus-player battles.'"

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Aaron Swartz and MIT: The Inside Story
Posted by News Fetcher on March 30 '14 at 01:45 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's shades-of-gray department:
An anonymous reader writes: "The Boston Globe has reviewed over 7,000 pages of documents from Aaron Swartz's court case, shedding light on the activities that got him in trouble and how MIT reacted to his case. Quoting: 'Most vividly, the e-mails underscore the dissonant instincts the university grappled with. There was the eagerness of some MIT employees to help investigators and prosecutors with the case, and then there was, by contrast, the glacial pace of the institution's early reaction to the intruder's provocation. MIT, for example, knew for 2½ months which campus building the downloader had operated out of before anyone searched it for him or his laptop — even as the university told JSTOR they had no way to identify the interloper.

And once Swartz was unmasked, the ambivalence continued. MIT never encouraged Swartz's prosecution, and once told his prosecutor they had no interest in jail time. However, e-mails illustrate how MIT energetically assisted authorities in capturing him and gathering evidence — even prodding JSTOR to get answers for prosecutors more quickly — before a subpoena had been issued. ... But a number of JSTOR's internal e-mails show a much angrier face in the months that Swartz eluded capture, with employees sharing frustration about MIT's "rather tepid level of concern." JSTOR officials repeatedly raised the prospect, among themselves, of going to the police, e-mails show."


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WSJ: Prepare To Hang Up the Phone — Forever
Posted by News Fetcher on March 29 '14 at 10:15 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's rotary-phones-won't-breed-in-captivity department:
retroworks writes: "Telecom giants AT&T and Verizon Communications are lobbying states, one by one, to hang up the plain, old telephone system, what the industry now calls POTS — the copper-wired landline phone system whose reliability and reach made the U.S. a communications powerhouse for more than 100 years. Is landline obsolete, and should be immune from grandparents-era social protection? The article continues, 'Last week, Michigan joined more than 30 other states that have passed or are considering laws that restrict state-government oversight and eliminate "carrier of last resort" mandates, effectively ending the universal-service guarantee that gives every U.S. resident access to local-exchange wireline telephone service, the POTS. (There are no federal regulations guaranteeing Internet access.) ... In Mantoloking, N.J., Verizon wants to replace the landline system, which Hurricane Sandy wiped out, with its wireless Voice Link. That would make it the first entire town to go landline-less, a move that isn't sitting well with all residents."

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China Prosecuted Internet Policeman In Paid Deletion Cases
Posted by News Fetcher on March 29 '14 at 07:15 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's who-censors-the-censors department:
hackingbear writes: "In China, censorship is not just about politics; it's also a vibrant business. Police in Beijing have detained at least ten people, including employees at web giant Baidu and a web censor working at the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau (cached version), over allegations that they deleted defamatory online posts about companies and government enterprises in return for money, the Beijing News reports. The case was first surfaced when Baidu noticed and reported several of its workers' illegal activities. From 2010 to 2012, Gu, an ex-Baidu employee, is believed to have deleted over 2,000 posts on Baidu, 500 on news site Sohu and 20 posts on qianlong.com, with over 2 million yuan ($322,000) reportedly changing hands. While Gu can delete negative Internet posts for topics ranging from environmental issues to product quality problems on behalf of companies, he could not delete posts relating to his government clients. So he paid and asked Liu, a Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau web censor, to issue official orders to the web sites to remove the posts (Google translation of Chinese original). Liu was found to have accepted 770,000 yuan ($124,000) from Gu for deleting posts. He also received 150,000 yuan ($24,000) from other sources."

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Apple, Google Go On Trial For Wage Fixing On May 27
Posted by News Fetcher on March 29 '14 at 04:45 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's get-your-tickets-now department:
theodp writes: "PandoDaily's Mark Ames reports that U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh has denied the final attempt by Apple, Google, Intel, and Adobe to have the class action lawsuit over hiring collusion practices tossed. The wage fixing trial is slated to begin on May 27. 'It's clearly in the defendants' interests to have this case shut down before more damaging revelations come out,' writes Ames. (Pixar, Intuit and LucasFilm have already settled.) The wage fixing cartel, which allegedly involved dozens of companies and affected one million employees, also reportedly affected innovation. 'One the most interesting misconceptions I've heard about the "Techtopus" conspiracy,' writes Ames of Google's agreement to cancel plans for an engineering center in Paris after Jobs expressed disapproval, 'is that, while these secret deals to fix recruiting were bad (and illegal), they were also needed to protect innovation by keeping teams together while avoiding spiraling costs.' Ames adds, 'In a field as critical and competitive as smartphones, Google's R&D strategy was being dictated, not by the company's board, or by its shareholders, but by a desire not to anger the CEO of a rival company.'"

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Security Evaluation of the Tesla Model S
Posted by News Fetcher on March 29 '14 at 03:15 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's fob-it-off-on-somebody-else department:
An anonymous reader writes: "Nitesh Dhanjani has written a paper outlining the security mechanisms surrounding the Tesla Model S, as well as its shortcomings, titled 'Cursory Evaluation of the Tesla Model S: We Can't Protect Our Cars Like We Protect Our Workstations.' Dhanjani says users are required to set up an account secured by a six-character password when they order the car. This password is used to unlock a mobile phone app and to gain access to the user's online Tesla account. The freely available mobile app can locate and unlock the car remotely, as well as control and monitor other functions.

The password is vulnerable to several kinds of attacks similar to those used to gain access to a computer or online account. An attacker might guess the password via a Tesla website, which Dhanjani says does not restrict the number of incorrect login attempts. Dhanjani said there is also evidence that Tesla support staff can unlock cars remotely, leaving car owners vulnerable to attackers impersonating them, and raising questions about the apparent power of such employees to locate and unlock any car with or without the owner's knowledge or permission. In his paper, Dhanjani also describes the issue of Tesla's REST APIs being used by third parties without Tesla's permission, causing Tesla owners' credentials to be sent to those third parties, who could misuse the information to locate and unlock cars."


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Why Darmok Is a Good Star Trek: TNG Episode
Posted by News Fetcher on March 29 '14 at 02:15 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's i-always-wanted-to-see-a-Tamarian-Borg department:
An anonymous reader writes: "Last week, the Ars Technica ran an article listing their staff's least favorite Star Trek: the Next Generation episodes. They hit a few of the predictable ones, like Angel One — wherein Riker's chest hair takes center stage — and Up the Long Ladder — featuring space-Irish. But a surprising suggestion came from Peter Bright, who denounced Darmok, a fan favorite. (You remember: 'Darmok and Jalad, at Tanagra.') Now, Ars's Lee Hutchinson has (jokingly) taken Bright to task, showing how IMDB ratings mark Darmok (5x02) as one of the best episodes of season 5, and among the strongest in the series. He also points out a trend in some of the bad episodes they didn't pick: 'According to the data, the worst episode of TNG by a significant margin is the season 2 finale Shades of Gray, a clipshow episode famously hobbled by the 1988 Writers Guild of America strike. We also managed to not pick season 6's Man of the People (the one where Troi falls in love with a brain vampire and gets really old) or season 4's The Loss (the one where Troi loses her empathic abilities and gets really whiny) or season 2's The Child (the one where Troi has dream sex with a space anomaly and gets really pregnant).' What are your picks for best and worst TNG episode?"

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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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