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Mind Control In Virtual Reality, Circa 2013
Posted by News Fetcher on November 03 '13 at 09:45 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's just-thinking-about-one-of-the-best-things-I've-ever-done department:
New submitter chrisjz writes "What happens when you combine a virtual reality headset and a brainwave reading device? Here's a simulation showing off what's possible with current technology, using the Emotiv EPOC to read a person's brainwaves for movement in a virtual environment. Along with the Oculus Rift, a VR headset, and the Razer Hydra for hand tracking, this demonstrates another alternative to using omni-directional treadmills or full body tracking for movement and interaction in virtual reality. Consumer level brain computer interfaces are still primitive these days, but it doesn't seem too far off that we'll have virtual reality similar to what William Gibson envisioned in his novels or movies such as The Matrix has shown us."

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4 Prominent Scientists Say Renewables Aren't Enough, Urge Support For Nuclear
Posted by News Fetcher on November 03 '13 at 09:00 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's which-dragon-to-tickle department:
First time accepted submitter Paddy_O'Furniture writes "Four prominent scientists have penned a letter urging those concerned about climate change to support nuclear energy, saying that renewables such as wind and solar will not be sufficient to meet the world's energy needs. Among the authors is James Hansen, a former top NASA scientist, whose 1988 testimony before the United States Congress helped launch discussions of global warming into the mainstream."

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Why Organic Chemistry Is So Difficult For Pre-Med Students
Posted by News Fetcher on November 03 '13 at 08:00 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's easy-for-the-rest-of-us-of-course department:
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Science writer and 42-year old pre-med student Barbara Moran writes in the NY Times that organic chemistry has been haunting pre-meds since 1910, when the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching released a landmark report calling for tougher admission standards to medical school and for medical training based on science. "The organic chemistry on the MCAT is chemistry that students need to know to succeed in medical school," says Karen Mitchell, senior director of the MCAT Program. Basically, orgo examines how molecules containing carbon interact, but it doesn't require equations or math, as in physics. Instead, you learn how electrons flow around and between molecules, and you draw little curved arrows showing where they go. This "arrow pushing" is the heart and soul of orgo. "Learning how to interpret the hieroglyphics is pretty easy. The hard part is learning where to draw the little arrows," writes Moran. "After you draw oxygen donating electrons to a positive carbon a zillion times, it becomes second nature." But the rules have many exceptions, which students find maddening. The same molecule will behave differently in acid or base, in dark or sunlight, in heat or cold, or "if you sprinkle magic orgo dust on it and turn around three times." You can't memorize all the possible answers — you have to rely on intuition, generalizing from specific examples. This skill, far more than the details of every reaction, may actually be useful for medicine. "It seems a lot like diagnosis," says Logan McCarty. "That cognitive skill — inductive generalization from specific cases to something you've never seen before — that's something you learn in orgo." This takes a huge amount of time, for me 20 to 30 hours a week writes Moran. This is one thing that orgo is testing: whether you have the time and desire to do the work. "Sometimes, if a student has really good math skills, they can slide through physics, but you can't do that in orgo," says McCarty ."

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River City Ransom: How an NES Classic Returned 20 Years On
Posted by News Fetcher on November 03 '13 at 07:00 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's if-courtesy-were-common department:
An anonymous reader writes "River City Ransom: Underground is the latest high profile game campaign on Kickstarter but as an interview with the title's creators this week highlights, it's not exactly a new game. Rather, it's an official sequel to a Nintendo Entertainment System/Famicom classic, belt-scroller River City Ransom. Remarkably, getting the license and the help of original River City creator Yoshihisa Kishimoto proved easy for the team, indie developers who were submitting game designs to Atari in crayon, aged six. 'I asked for the license and I asked Kishimoto-san if he had an interest in helping us make a better Kunio-kun game,' producer Daniel Crenna says. 'It's not particularly dramatic to say that, but I asked.' As the author points out, it's interesting to imagine what other games could be resurrected with a little bit of polite curiosity.""

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Amazon Botches Sales Tax, Overcharges NJ
Posted by News Fetcher on November 03 '13 at 06:15 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's insult-to-injury department:
Hodejo1 writes "On July 1 Amazon started to charge sales tax to NJ residents, which is 7% in the state. But something was not right when I attempted to buy a book for my daughter. Just as I was about to finalize the order I noticed the charges were way off. The book cost $8.09. The tax I was to be levied was $0.85. That's a 10.5% tax rate! Why am I being charged 10.5%? It turns out that Amazon is also charging me tax on the $3.99 cost of shipping and handling. That's a problem, because New Jersey does not tax shipping and handling as I confirmed on the state's web site. I then checked a purchase I made from Amazon on October 7th of this year. Guess what? I was taxed on the $13.50 shipping and handling charge for that order. Now it is very possible — probable most likely — that this is nothing more than a coding error on Amazon's site. But it's a whopper! Just consider the hundreds-of-millions of dollars in sales Amazon makes in New Jersey each year. These extra dimes add up very quickly. Has Amazon been overcharging NJ residents' sales tax since July? If so, why haven't they picked it up by now?"

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You're Only As Hirable As Your Google+ Circles
Posted by News Fetcher on November 03 '13 at 05:00 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's it's-coming-from-inside-the-house department:
theodp writes "A pending Google patent for Identifying Prospective Employee Candidates via Employee Connections lays out plans for data mining employees' social graphs to find top job candidates. According to the patent application, the system would consider factors including the performance of the employees at the company whose circles you are in — under the assumption that the friends of top performers are more likely to be top performers themselves. It's the invention of three Googlers, including an HR VP who was quoted recently in an article that questioned the wisdom of certain Google hiring practices said to encourage 'echo chamber' hiring."

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Microspotting: Inside the Microsoft Archives
Posted by News Fetcher on November 03 '13 at 03:45 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's sorta-like-the-muetter-museum department:
jones_supa writes to point out a video tour in which long-time company archivist Amy Stevenson takes us behind the scenes of the Microsoft Archives, a collection of artifacts that preserve the company's history and culture. "There, you'll find decades worth of Microsoft software, advertisements, documentation, memorabilia and...skulls? You'll just have to watch to understand. Some of the scariest items include a life-like Bill Gates doll (wearing a jogging suit), sent by a Russian doll artist, and a human-sized Clippy costume."

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Ask Slashdot: Which Encrypted Cloud Storage Provider?
Posted by News Fetcher on November 03 '13 at 01:15 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's all-I-hear-is-line-noise department:
An anonymous reader writes "Almost three years ago, I started looking for a cloud storage service. Encryption and the "zero-knowledge" concept were not concerns. Frankly, after two weeks testing services, it boiled down to one service I used for almost 2 years. It was perfect — in the technical sense — because it simply works as advertised and is one of the cheapest for 500GB. But this year, I decided changing that service for another one, that would encrypt my files before leaving my machine. Some of these services call themselves 'zero-knowledge' services, because (as they claim) clear text does not leave your host: they only receive encrypted data — keys or passwords are not sent. I did all testing I could, with the free bit of their services, and then, chose one of them. After a while, when the load got higher (more files, more folders, more GB...), my horror story began. I started experiencing sync problems of all sorts. In fact, I have paid for and tested another service and both had the same issues with sync. Worse, one of them could not even handle restoring files correctly. I had to restore from my local backup more than once and I ended up losing files for real.
In your experience, which service (or services) are really able to handle more than a hundred files, in sync within 5+ hosts, without messing up (deleting, renaming, duplicating) files and folders?"


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Thanks to Neutrino Detector, We Might Get a Good Look At the Next Supernova
Posted by News Fetcher on November 02 '13 at 10:15 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's let's-stay-out-of-the-actual-blast-radius department:
sciencehabit writes "The last star to go supernova in the Milky Way—that astronomers know of—exploded in 1604, before Galileo first turned a telescope to the heavens. But with a neutrino detector now being built within a Japanese mountain that could come online as early as 2016, researchers might be able to do something as yet undone: Make detailed observations of a supernova in our galaxy before it visibly explodes. First, astronomers would be alerted to the unfolding event by the flood of neutrinos generated when a supernova collapses. Within minutes, they could determine the general area of the sky where the explosion would occur, point their infrared telescopes in that direction, and wait for the fireworks. With the new sensor in place, instruments—especially infrared telescopes—would have an almost 100% chance of observing the next supernova in our galaxy, the researchers report."

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Dutch MEP Petitions To Ban Export of Surveillance Software
Posted by News Fetcher on November 02 '13 at 07:45 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's hey-we're-using-that department:
Trailrunner7 writes with this excerpt: "A Dutch member of the European parliament is supporting a grass-roots effort to restrict the export of surveillance software such as FinFisher and others, which are used by some governments and law-enforcement agencies to monitor their citizens' activities. The effort, dubbed Stop Digital Arms, is supported by Marietje Schaake, a member of the EU Parliament's International Trade committee. The petition itself is on the Change.org site, and it calls upon members of the European Union 'to give the European Commission the mandate to draft the laws and develop initiatives necessary to stop digital arms trade' ... In a report called 'For Their Eyes Only' released earlier this year, the Citizen Lab at the Munk School of Global Affairs at the university of Toronto detailed the spread of this software around the world and identified a slew of FinFisher command-and-control servers in countries such as Australia, Bahrain, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands and the United States, among many others."

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Exploiting Tomorrow's Solar Eclipse To Help Understand Sea Levels
Posted by News Fetcher on November 02 '13 at 04:45 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's world-in-miniature department:
mdsolar writes "Tomorrow at dawn on the U.S. East Coast, a partial solar eclipse will rise. Solar eclipses have many uses. They can confirm the Theory of Relativity, allow study of the solar corona, and this week, help prepare for global warming induced sea level rise. The tides induced in the oceans when the Sun and Moon are aligned are particularly high (and low) and give a foretaste of the effects of sea level rise in the coming decades. Maryland's Department of Natural Resources is asking for photos of these King Tides to help with preparation for the effect of sea level rise. Way to get out front, Maryland."

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EU Considering Sensors In Sewers To Detect Bomb-Makers
Posted by News Fetcher on November 02 '13 at 03:45 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's who-does-number-one-work-for? department:
Nerval's Lobster writes "Security agencies in Europe have found a whole new way to identify and approach bombmakers and other potentially dangerous radicals. The only problem with the approach is that it stinks. Literally. Researchers in a European-Union funded project called Emphasis are developing chemical sensors that can be embedded in networks of underground sewage tunnels to sniff the air and phone home at the first hint of chemical residue from the manufacture of bombs. Using remote sensors might be effective because the liquid- and gas byproducts of bomb production – and manufacture of many drugs as well – leak, seep or are poured into sinks and toilets to get rid of the evidence, according to Hans Onnerud, an analytical chemist with the Swedish Defense Research Agency. With such a catchall underneath the city streets, and the chemical wherewithal to identify which smells belong to bombs or drugs and which belong to other things, it should be possible to keep a close watch on development of dangerous materials in a city without invading the homes of residents, Onnerud added. In fact, if sewer-sniffing technology had been in place in 2005, British authorities might have had a much easier time tracing the location of the bombers, or even detecting them ahead of time and stopping the London subway bomb attack that killed 54 people. Fumes from the bombs used in those attacks, which were assembled in a house in Leeds that had been turned into a compact bomb factory, were strong enough to kill plants in the garden. It's extremely likely they would have been detectable from the sewer as well, Onnerud said in a statement announcing Emphasis. The sensors developed for Emphasis are designed to detect chemical reagents produced by the breakdown of chemicals in bombs. Each sensor is a 10-centimeter-long electrode that can be submersed in sewer wastewater to look for ions of the right configuration."

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SkyRunner Car Goes Off-Road and Off-Ground
Posted by News Fetcher on November 02 '13 at 02:45 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's here's-your-gol-danged-flying-car department:
Zothecula writes "Back in 2008, we heard about a parasail-equipped dune buggy, known as the Parajet Skycar. It could scramble over rough ground like a true off-roader, but then take to the skies when needed. One epic 6,000-km (3,728-mile) drive/flight from London to Tombouctou later, its creators got some ideas about how the design could be improved. The result is the lighter, better-flying and less-polluting SkyRunner – and you can order one now." Fans of American domestic parasail-equipped flying cars, don't forget that there's also the Florida-built Maverick.

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Surface Pro 2 Gets Significant Battery Boost
Posted by News Fetcher on November 02 '13 at 01:45 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's can't-beat-a-trs-80-model-100 department:
SmartAboutThings writes "The original Surface Pro didn't have quite a good battery life and that's why Microsoft tried to fix this with the Surface Pro. After the Surface Pro 2 has hit general availability, Microsoft has silently pushed out a firmware update which, according to some new battery benchmarks run by Anandtech, made significant improvements to the battery life of the Surface Pro 2. After the new web browsing battery life test it was discovered that the Surface Pro 2 now manages better battery life than the ARM Surface 2, which is pretty impressive. With the firmware update, Microsoft was targeting over 8 hours, and AnadTech's benchmarks show Microsoft has succeeded, registering a 25% increase in battery life over the no-firmware version. The unpatched Surface Pro 2 lasted for 6.68 hours while with the firmware update installed, its battery life increased to 8.33 hours. The video playback test involved playing a movie until the battery died, and here, albeit smaller, improvements with the battery life have also been noticed: 7.73 hours compared to 6.65 hours."

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HealthCare.gov: What Went Wrong?
Posted by News Fetcher on November 02 '13 at 01:00 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's other-people's-money department:
New submitter codeusirae writes "An initial round of criticism focused on how many files the browser was being forced to download just to access the site, per an article at Reuters. A thread at Reddit appeared and was filled with analyses of the code. But closer looks by others have teased out deeper, more systematic issues."

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GCHQ, European Spy Agencies Cooperate On Surveillance
Posted by News Fetcher on November 02 '13 at 11:45 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's albert-jay-nock-was-an-optimist department:
jones_supa writes "Edward Snowden papers unmask that the German, French, Spanish and Swedish intelligence services have all developed methods of mass surveillance of internet and phone traffic over the past five years in close partnership with Britain's GCHQ eavesdropping agency. The bulk monitoring is carried out through direct taps into fibre optic cables and the development of covert relationships with telecommunications companies. A loose but growing eavesdropping alliance has allowed intelligence agencies from one country to cultivate ties with corporations from another to facilitate the trawling of the web. The files also make clear that GCHQ played a leading role in advising its European counterparts how to work around national laws intended to restrict the surveillance power of intelligence agencies."

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CyanogenMod 10.2 M1 Released
Posted by News Fetcher on November 02 '13 at 11:00 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's crack-team-of-specialists department:
sfcrazy writes "CyanogenMod team has announced the release of version 10.2 M1, just after the release of Android 4.4 aka Kit Kat. In a post the team says, "With all the Android 4.4 hype, we haven't forgotten about CM 10.2. Tonight the buildbots will focus their efforts on building and shipping out CyanogenMod 10.2 M1. Builds are already hitting the servers (please be patient, this will take a while). We are targeting over 70 devices for this initial M-release.""

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Ask Slashdot: Easy, Open Source Desktop-Sharing Software?
Posted by News Fetcher on November 02 '13 at 10:00 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's what-do-we-see-here department:
N8F8 writes "Like many IT professionals, I provide a lot of free help desk-type support to friends and family. I've decided to expand my support work and create a site where veterans can receive free computer help. I'm using OSTicket for the ticket reporting. What I really need is an easy to use desktop-sharing system. In the past I've used TeamViewer because it is easy to use, but it is not really free for non-personal use. Recently I switched to Meraki Systems Manager because it is free — and it uses VNC — but unfortunately it isn't intended for the one-time-use type support I'll be offering. So I'm looking for a reliable, open source, easy to use desktop-sharing solution that I can set up on my site for people to join one-time-use help desk sessions."

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OpenPhoenux Neo900 Bills Itself As Successor To Nokia's N900
Posted by News Fetcher on November 02 '13 at 08:45 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's certainly-has-a-similar-name department:
An anonymous reader writes "The latest device in the OpenPhoenux open hardware family is the Neo900, the first true successor to the Nokia N900. The Neo900 is a joint project of the Openmoko veteran Jörg Reisenweber and the creators of the GTA04/Letux2804 open hardware smartphone at Golden Delicious Computers. Furthermore, it is supported by the N900 Maemo5/Fremantle community, the Openmoko community and the OpenPhoenux community, who are working together to get closer to their common goal of providing an open hardware smartphone, which is able to run 100% free and open source software, while being independet of any big hardware manufacturer." So far, their Indiegogo campaign has raised more than half of the €25,000 they're seeking.

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A Math Test That's Rotten To the Common Core
Posted by News Fetcher on November 02 '13 at 08:00 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's two-trains-leave-chicago-with-opposite-polarity department:
theodp writes " The Common Core State Standards Initiative," explains the project's website, ""is a state-led effort that established a single set of clear educational standards for kindergarten through 12th grade in English language arts and mathematics that states voluntarily adopt." Who could argue with such an effort? Not Bill Gates, who ponied up $150 million to help git-r-done. But the devil's in the details, notes Washington Post education reporter Valerie Strauss, who offers up a ridiculous Common Core math test for first graders as Exhibit A, which also helps to explain why the initiative is facing waning support. Explaining her frustration with the intended-for-5-and-6-year-olds test from Gates Foundation partner Pearson Education, Principal Carol Burris explains, "Take a look at question No. 1, which shows students five pennies, under which it says 'part I know,' and then a full coffee cup labeled with a '6' and, under it, the word, 'Whole.' Students are asked to find 'the missing part' from a list of four numbers. My assistant principal for mathematics was not sure what the question was asking. How could pennies be a part of a cup?" The 6-year-old first-grader who took the test didn't get it either, and took home a 45% math grade to her parents. And so the I'm-bad-at-math game begins!"

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