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Tremors Mean Antarctic Volcanism May Be Heating Up
Posted by News Fetcher on November 17 '13 at 02:45 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's slip-slidin'-away department:
The L.A. Times reports on the discovery of seismic events (nearly 1400 tremors were recorded by researchers in 2010-2011) which seem to indicate the presence of volcanic activity 15 to 20 miles beneath the surface of western Antarctica. According to the article, "The area of activity lies close to the youngest in a chain of volcanoes that formed over several million years, and the characteristics and depth of the seismic events are consistent with those found in volcanic areas of Alaska’a Aleutian Islands, the Pacific Northwest, Hawaii and Mt. Pinatubo in the Philippines, the study concludes." Volcanism isn't a new discovery (Mt. Waesche, a volcanic mountain, is the believed origin of some ash mentioned in the article), but the newly detected seismic activity may be a harbinger for local melting from below of the Antarctic ice sheet, and possibly have long-term effects on the flow patterns of the overlying ice.

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NJ Gamblers May Be Locked Out By Flaws In Virtual Fence
Posted by News Fetcher on November 17 '13 at 12:45 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's idiocracy-meets-1984-meets-mother-may-I department:
According to an Associated Press story (as carried by the Washington Post), regulations meant to selectively allow some forms of internet gambling to take place within New Jersey (with a cut to the state, of course) are being enforced by means of "virtual fences" that fall short of the state's borders. An excerpt: "'Unfortunately for some people, there may not be sufficient verification that they are in New Jersey — even if they are — and they’ll be denied,' said David Rebuck, director of the state Division of Gaming Enforcement. 'It’s an unavoidable consequence.'" For some values of unavoidable, maybe.

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How MOOC Faculty Exploit People's Desire To Learn
Posted by News Fetcher on November 17 '13 at 12:45 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's not-exactly-the-stanford-prison-experiment department:
RichDiesal writes "Just as businesses try to make something off of massively online open courses (MOOCs), so do the faculty running them. But instead of seeking money, MOOC faculty seek something far more valuable: a cheap source of data for social science research. Unfortunately, the rights of research participants are sometimes ignored in MOOCs, and successful completion of courses are sometimes held hostage in exchange for mandatory participation in research, as in this case study of a Coursera MOOC. Such behavior is not tolerated in "real" college courses, so why is it tolerated in MOOCs taught by the same faculty?"

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Raspberry Pi Hits the 2 Million Mark
Posted by News Fetcher on November 17 '13 at 11:45 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's chicken-in-every-pot department:
The Raspberry Pi project that we've been fans of for quite a while now has hit a new milestone: Today, they announced that as of the last week in October, the project has sold more than two million boards. Raspberry Pi is anything but alone in the tiny, hackable computer world (all kinds of other options, from Arduino to the x86-based Minnowboard, are out there, and all have their selling points), but the low price, open-source emphasis, and focus on education have all helped the Pi catch on. If yours is one of these 2 million, what are you using it for? (And if you favor some other small system for your own experiments, what factors matter?)

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Rigging Up Baby
Posted by News Fetcher on November 17 '13 at 11:15 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's your-papoosilometer-is-nearly-out-of-battery department:
theodp writes "Over at Fast Company, Rebecca Greenfield explores the rise of extreme baby monitoring. 'In the imminent future,' writes Greenfield, 'any curious parent with an iPhone will have access to helpful analytics, thanks to the rise of wearable gadgets for babies. Following the success of self-trackers for grown-ups, like Jawbone and Fitbit, companies like Sproutling, Owlet, and Mimo want to quantify your infants.' Devices connect to a baby via boot, anklet, or onesie, and record heart rate, breathing patterns, temperature, body position, and the ambient conditions of the room. While the breathing and sleeping alerts will calm a lot of parents, Greenfield reports the real holy grail is the data garnered from tracking, which some companies plan to share with researchers.
'We're creating the largest data set of infant health data,' says Owlet co-founder Jordan Monroe."


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Blue Light of Death Plagues PlayStation 4
Posted by News Fetcher on November 17 '13 at 09:45 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's lights-of-death-always-with-the-lights-of-death department:
jones_supa writes "A classic game console freezing problem seems to affect the newest generation too. It has been found out that a bunch of Sony PlayStation 4s suffer of a problem which has been christened 'Blue Light of Death'. When a PS4 is turned on with a press of the power button, the light that runs along the side of the console should first pulse blue and then switch to white. At this point the console turns on the picture signal to the display device. Those who have a unit with the glitch are instead finding that their PS4 pulses blue, never goes to white and never outputs an image. We do not have accurate statistics of how widespread the issue is, but reports are popping up in Amazon reviews, Twitter, YouTube and other websites. PlayStation support is still in midst of investigating the issue, but has already posted a bunch of magic tricks you can try to get the console past the initial startup stage."

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12-Lead Clinical ECG Design Open Sourced; Supports Tablets, Too
Posted by News Fetcher on November 17 '13 at 09:45 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's every-home-could-have-one department:
New submitter isza writes "MobilECG is probably the first open source clinical-grade electrocardiograph with simultaneous 12-lead recording and Android support. It has been designed to meet all the relevant medical standards (ISO 60601-1, etc.). Manufacturing cost @ 1000 pieces: ~$110. I had worked at a medical device company designing clinical electrocardiographs for three years. Fed up with the unreasonably high price, cumbersome design, and dishonest distribution practices of clinical ECG machines, I started working on a high-quality ECG that is different. After a couple of failed attempts to get funding for the expensive certification process and completely running out of funds, I decided to publish everything under a license that allows others to finalize and manufacture it or reuse parts of it in other projects." From the project page linked: "The software is licensed under WTFPL, the hardware under CERN OHL 1.2," and a few words of disclaimer: "Note: the design is functional but unfinished, it needs additional work before it can be certified. There are also some known bugs in it. Most of the software is unimplemented." Conventional crowdfunding may have fallen short, but Isza has proposed an interesting bargain for working on the project again himself: that will happen if he raises via donation half the amount of his original $22,000 investment.

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Time For a Warrant Canary Metatag?
Posted by News Fetcher on November 17 '13 at 07:45 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's unless-double-secret-probation-prohibits-canaries department:
An anonymous reader writes "With the advent of national security letters and all the NSA issues of late perhaps the web needs to implement a warrant 'warrant canary' metatag. Something like this: <tt><meta name="canary" content="2013-11-17" /></tt>. With this it would be possible to build into browsers or browser extensions a means of alerting users when a company has in fact received such a secret warrant. (Similar to the actions taken by Apple recently.)
The advantage the metatag approach would have its that it would not require the user to search out a report by the company in question but would show the information upon loading of the page. Once the canary metatag was not found or when the date of the canary grows older than a given date a warning could be raised. Several others have proposed similar approaches including Conor Friedersdorf in The Atlantic and Cory Doctorow's Dead Man's Switch."
What problems do you see with this approach?

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Comet ISON Nears Date With Sun
Posted by News Fetcher on November 17 '13 at 07:00 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's it-is-your-destiny department:
riverat1 writes "Now visible in the morning sky comet ISON will swing around the Sun on November 28. ISON will pass 730,000 km above the surface of the Sun at closest approach (Mercury's perihelion distance is 46 million km). If it survives its near brush with the Sun it could provide a spectacular sky show from December into January. This NASA timeline shows that ISON will be the most observed comet ever as instruments ranging from a balloon carried telescope to the Hubble Space Telescope to the STEREO satellites will be brought into play. Lowell Observatory astronomer Matthew Knight lays out three possibilities for ISON: spontaneous disintegration before it gets to the Sun (less than 1% chance); disintegration as it rounds the Sun; or survival. If it survives, its closest approach to Earth will be on December 26 at about 1/3 of an AU."

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Your Phone Number Is Going To Get a Reputation Score
Posted by News Fetcher on November 17 '13 at 05:45 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's how's-my-driving-call-1-800 department:
Jah-Wren Ryel writes "Yes, there's yet another company out there with an inscrutable system making decisions about you that will affect the kinds of services you're offered. Based out of L.A.'s 'Silicon Beach,' Telesign helps companies verify that a mobile number belongs to a user (sending those oh-so-familiar 'verify that you received this code' texts) and takes care of the mobile part of two-factor authenticating or password changes. Among their over 300 clients are nine of the ten largest websites. Now Telesign wants to leverage the data — and billions of phone numbers — it deals with daily to provide a new service: a PhoneID Score, a reputation-based score for every number in the world that looks at the metadata Telesign has on those numbers to weed out the burner phones from the high-quality ones."

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Scientists Propose Satellite Early Warning System For Forest Fires
Posted by News Fetcher on November 17 '13 at 03:30 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's wickerman-division department:
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "As firefighters emerge from another record wildfire season in the Western United States, Robert Sanders reports at the UC Berkeley News Center that scientists have designed a satellite using state-of-the-art sensors, that could view the Western US almost continuously, snapping pictures of the ground every few seconds searching for small hot spots (12 m2) that could be newly ignited wildfires. Firefighting resources could then be directed to these spots in hopes of preventing the fires from growing out of control and threatening lives and property. "If we had information on the location of fires when they were smaller, then we could take appropriate actions quicker and more easily, including preparing for evacuation," says fire expert Scott Stephens. Fire detection today is much like it was 200 years ago, relying primarily on spotters in fire towers or on the ground and on reports from members of the public. This information is augmented by aerial reconnaissance and lightning detectors that steer firefighters to ground strikes, which are one of the most common wildfire sparks. But satellite technology, remote sensing and computing have advanced to the stage where it's now possible to orbit a geostationary satellite that can reliably distinguish small, but spreading, wildfires with few false alarms. Carl Pennypacker estimates that the satellite, which could be built and operated by the federal government, would cost several hundred million dollars – a fraction of the nation's $2.5 billion yearly firefighting budget. "With a satellite like this, we will have a good chance of seeing something from orbit before it becomes an Oakland fire," says Pennypacker. "It could pay for itself in one firefighting season.""

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Fukushima Disaster Leads Japan To Backpedal On Emissions Pledge
Posted by News Fetcher on November 17 '13 at 12:15 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's feeling-electricity's-pull department:
mdsolar writes with this excerpt from the New York Times: "Japan took a major step back on Friday from earlier pledges to slash its greenhouse gas emissions, saying a shutdown of its nuclear power plants in the wake of the Fukushima disaster had made previous targets unattainable. The announcement cast a shadow over international talks underway in Warsaw aimed at fashioning a new global pact to address the threats of a changing climate. Under its new goal, Japan, one of the world's top polluters, would still seek to reduce its current emissions. But it would release 3 percent more greenhouse gases in 2020 than it did in 1990, rather than the 6 percent cut it originally promised or the 25 percent reduction it promised two years before the 2011 nuclear disaster."

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Getting the Dirt On Ancient Life With Coprolites
Posted by News Fetcher on November 16 '13 at 09:45 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's unpampered-lifestyle department:
the_newsbeagle writes "Paleoscatologist Karen Chin knows you can learn a lot about ancient ecosystems by studying coprolites — fossilized feces. She has studied dino droppings from herbivores, and identified the types of plants those dinosaurs ate. She has identified T. rex turds, and found evidence that prehistoric dung beetles made use of those king-sized dino patties. This profile of Chin goes through her greatest hits, then focuses on her latest work, which sheds light on the reemergence of life after the K-Pg extinction event that brought down the dinosaurs... but left some surprising creatures unscathed."

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Ask Slashdot: Cheap Second Calculators For Tests?
Posted by News Fetcher on November 16 '13 at 07:45 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's do-the-beads-slide-smoothly? department:
Rich0 writes "I own an HP 48 calculator that I'm quite content with, but soon I'll need to take a certification exam where this calculator will not be welcome. I'm sure this is a common problem for those who own higher-end calculators. Sure, I could just buy a random $15 calculator with a few trig functions, but I was wondering who makes the best moderately-priced calculators for somebody who already has and appreciates a programmable calculator and just needs something simple. Bonus points if the calculator can handle polar vector arithmetic and unit conversions, but it has to be simple enough that virtually any exam would accept its use."

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Yearly FreeBSD Foundation Fundraising Campaign Is On
Posted by News Fetcher on November 16 '13 at 05:30 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's free-costs-money department:
An anonymous reader writes "The FreeBSD Foundation's annual year-end fundraising drive is currently running. Their goal this year is US$ 1M, and they're currently at US$ 427K. In 2013, the efforts that were funded were from the last drive were: Native iSCSI kernel stack, Updated Intel graphics chipset support, Integration of Newcons, UTF-8 console support, Superpages for ARM architecture, and Layer 2 networking updates. Also various conferences and summit sponsorships, as well as hardware purchases for the Project. The Foundation is a US 501(c)3 non-profit, so your donations (if in the US) are tax-deductible. Some of the larger 2013 (corporate?) sponsors so far are NetApp, LineRate, WhatsApp, and Tarsnap."

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Dell's New Sputnik 3 Mates Touchscreen With Ubuntu
Posted by News Fetcher on November 16 '13 at 04:15 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's chromebook-has-cooler-leds-though department:
ClaraBow writes "I find it interesting that Dell has started selling a thin and light touchscreen laptop called the XPS 13 Developer Edition, which will have Ubuntu Linux OS and Intel's fourth-generation Core processors, code-named Haswell. The laptop, code-named Sputnik, has a 13.3-inch touchscreen and will run on Ubuntu 12.04 OS. It is priced starting at $1,250 and is available in the U.S." One thing I wish was addressed in the blog post announcing this newest entry in the Sputnik line, or its listed specs (bad news beats not knowing, in this case), is battery life.

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How Big Companies Can Hamper the Surveillance Infrastructure
Posted by News Fetcher on November 16 '13 at 03:15 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's little-friction-here-little-friction-there department:
Trailrunner7 writes "Buried underneath the ever-growing pile of information about the mass surveillance methods of the NSA is a small but significant undercurrent of change that's being driven by the anger and resentment of the large tech companies that the agency has used as tools in its collection programs. The changes have been happening since almost the minute the first documents began leaking out of Fort Meade in June. When the NSA's PRISM program was revealed this summer, it implicated some of the larger companies in the industry as apparently willing partners in a system that gave the agency 'direct access' to their servers. Officials at Google, Yahoo and others quickly denied that this was the case, saying they knew of no such program and didn't provide access to their servers to anyone and only complied with court orders. More recent revelations have shown that the NSA has been tapping the links between the data centers run by Google and Yahoo, links that were unencrypted. That revelation led a pair of Google security engineers to post some rather emphatic thoughts on the NSA's infiltration of their networks. It also spurred Google to accelerate projects to encrypt the data flowing between its data centers. These are some of the clearer signs yet that these companies have reached a point where they're no longer willing to be participants, witting or otherwise, in the NSA's surveillance programs."

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Lead Contractor On Health-Care Web Site Led By Execs From Troubled IT Company
Posted by News Fetcher on November 16 '13 at 02:45 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's friends-in-high-places department:
thomst writes "The Washington Post's Jerry Markon and Alice Crites report that 'The lead contractor on the dysfunctional Web site for the Affordable Care Act is filled with executives from a company that mishandled at least 20 other government IT projects, including a flawed effort to automate retirement benefits for millions of federal workers, documents and interviews show. CGI Federal, the main Web site developer, entered the U.S. government market a decade ago when its parent company purchased American Management Systems, a Fairfax County contractor that was coming off a series of troubled projects. CGI moved into AMS's custom-made building off Interstate 66, changed the sign outside and kept the core of employees, who now populate the upper ranks of CGI Federal.'"

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Questions Raised By Education Dept's Road Show On College Value
Posted by News Fetcher on November 16 '13 at 12:45 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's it's-the-ineffables-stupid department:
lpress writes "Department of Education officials, led by Under Secretary of Education Martha Kanter, were on our campus last week, soliciting input on The President's College Value and Affordability plan. The discussion focused primarily on the design of a system for rating colleges and to a lesser extent on innovation and improvement. While the feedback was constructive, many attendees pointed out difficulties and limitations of any college rating system. One solution is to open the process by having the Department of Education gather and post data and provide a platform and tools for all interested parties to analyze, visualize and discuss it. Similarly, open innovation should be encouraged, for example, by providing a hosted version of the open source education platform MOOC.ORG."

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Nathan Myhrvold's $500 Cookbook Now an $80 iPhone App
Posted by News Fetcher on November 16 '13 at 11:45 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's you-can't-grep-a-dead-tree department:
Nathan Myhrvold's six-volume foodie encyclopedia, Modernist Cuisine, writes reader SmartAboutThings, is one of the most expensive cooking encyclopedias, the original six-volume version retailing for $500, with the two-volume addition that followed after that selling for $115. "Now, Nathan and his team have transformed their huge food encyclopedia into
an iPhone/iPad app
. It's not just a digital book, but rather an expensive $80 interactive app that can do more than just provide recipes. The interactive digital cookbook is the fruit of a development team of 10-15 people that have worked over nine months on the project. The app contains 37 technique videos, 416 recipes and 1,683 photos."


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