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Meet the Voice Behind Siri
Posted by News Fetcher on October 07 '13 at 06:15 AM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's you-sound-familiar department:
An anonymous reader writes in with a story about an actress who claims to be the voice behind Siri. "Own an iPhone or iPad? Since Siri was released on the iPhone 4S in 2011, I bet you, like me, have been wondering who the real voice behind Apple Virtual voice assistant Siri is. She has provided weather forecast, restaurants tips and has power announcements at airport around the world. Well, the real voice behind Siri has been revealed, and she is Atlanta-based Actress Susan Bennett. While her name might not ring a bell to you, her friends , those who have worked with her, her family and even forensics expert recognized her voice, and says she is the real Siri."

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US Now Produces More Oil and Gas Than Russia and Saudi Arabia
Posted by News Fetcher on October 07 '13 at 06:00 AM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's black-gold department:
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Claudia Assis writes that the US will end 2013 as the world's largest producer of petroleum and natural gas, surpassing Russia and Saudi Arabia with the Energy Information Administration estimating that combined US petroleum and gas production this year will hit 50 quadrillion British thermal units, or 25 million barrels of oil equivalent a day, outproducing Russia by 5 quadrillion Btu. Most of the new oil was coming from the western states. Oil production in Texas has more than doubled since 2010. In North Dakota, it has tripled, and Oklahoma, New Mexico, Wyoming, Colorado and Utah have also shown steep rises in oil production over the same three years, according to EIA data. Tapping shale rock for oil and gas has fueled the US boom, while Russia has struggled to keep up its output. 'This is a remarkable turn of events,' says Adam Sieminski, head of the US Energy Information Administration. 'This is a new era of thinking about market conditions, and opportunities created by these conditions, that you wouldn't in a million years have dreamed about.' But even optimists in the US concede that the shale boom's longevity could hinge on commodity prices, government regulations and public support, the last of which could be problematic. A poll last month by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found that opposition to increased use of fracking rose to 49% from 38% in the previous six months. 'It is not a supply question anymore,' says Ken Hersh. 'It is about demand and the cost of production. Those are the two drivers."'"

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Government To Build 4G Into UK Rural Broadband Plans
Posted by News Fetcher on October 07 '13 at 05:00 AM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's we-can-make-it-better department:
judgecorp writes "The British Government is discussing a role for 4G in the project to extend rural broadband coverage beyond the reach of fiber. There is £250 million of public money to fill in the gaps left by the £530 Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) program — BDUK's efforts to extend fiber have been criticized because despite promises of a competitive process, all the BDUK money has gone to BT. At a meeting with mobile operators today, the Department of Culture Media and Sport hopes to set up a more competitive 4G fill-in effort."

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All Your Child's Data Are Belong To InBloom
Posted by News Fetcher on October 07 '13 at 04:15 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's hello-mother-hello-father-I-am-unit-34908-23-N department:
theodp writes "Q. What do you get when Bill Gates and Rupert Murdoch put their heads together? A. inBloom (aka SLC), the Gates Foundation-bankrolled and News Corp. subsidiary-implemented collaboration whose stated mission is to 'inform and involve each student and teacher with data and tools designed to personalize learning.' It's noble enough sounding, but as the NY Times reports, the devil is in the details when it comes to deciding who sees students' academic and behavioral data. inBloom execs maintain their service has been unfairly maligned, saying it is entirely up to school districts or states to decide which details about students to store in the system and with whom to share them. However, a video on inBloom's Web site suggesting what this techno-utopia might look like may give readers of 1984 some pause. In one scene, a teacher with a tablet crouches next to a second-grader evaluating how many words per minute he can read: 55 words read; 43 correctly. Later, she moves to a student named Tyler and selects an e-book 'for at-risk students' for his further reading. The video follows Tyler home, where his mom logs into a parent portal for an update on his status — attendance, 86%; performance, 72% — and taps a button to send the e-book to play on the family TV. And another scene shows a geometry teacher reassigning students' seating assignments based on their 'character strengths', moving a green-coded female student ('actively participates: 98%') next to a red-and-yellow coded boy ('shows enthusiasm: 67%'). The NYT also mentions a parent's concern that school officials hoping to receive hefty Gates Foundation Grants may not think an agreement with the Gates-backed inBloom completely through."

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Chemical Experts Begin Destroying Syria's Chemical Arsenal
Posted by News Fetcher on October 07 '13 at 03:00 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's time-to-go department:
An anonymous reader writes "The joint team of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) and the UN said here that the process of destroying Syria's chemical weapons programme began on Sunday." Of note, this linked article on how to destroy the chemical agents safely.

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Leaked Manual Reveals Details On Google's Nexus 5
Posted by News Fetcher on October 06 '13 at 10:45 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's leaked-with-big-old-air-quotes department:
Features of Google's next Nexus phone have finally been outed, along with confirmation that the phone will be built by LG, as a result of a leaked service manual draft; here are some of the details as described at TechCrunch: "The new Nexus will likely be available in 16 or 32GB variants, and will feature an LTE radio and an 8-megapixel rear camera with optical image stabilization (there’s no mention of that crazy Nikon tech, though). NFC, wireless charging, and that lovely little notification light are back, too, but don’t expect a huge boost in longevity — it’s going to pack a sealed 2,300mAh battery, up slightly from the 2100mAh cell that powered last year’s Nexus 4. That spec sheet should sound familiar to people who took notice of what happened with the Nexus 4. Just as that device was built from the foundation laid by the LG Optimus G, the Nexus 5 (or whatever it’s going to be called) seems like a mildly revamped version of LG’s G2."

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Newly Discovered Meltwater Streams Flow Beneath the Antarctic Ice Sheet
Posted by News Fetcher on October 06 '13 at 08:45 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's streams-of-whiskey-they-are-flowing department:
The Telegraph reports that previously undetected streams of meltwater have been observed beneath the Antarctic ice sheet. "The streams of water, some of which are 250m in height and stretch for hundreds of kilometres, could be destabilising parts of the Antarctic ice shelf immediately around them and speeding up melting, researchers said.
However, they added that it remains unclear how the localised effects of the channels will impact on the future of the floating ice sheet as a whole. The British researchers used satellite images and radar data to measure variations in the height of the Filchner-Ronne Ice Shelf in West Antarctica, which reveal how thick the ice is."
The paper itself is paywalled, but the abstract is available online.

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Slashdot Asks: How Does the US Gov't Budget Crunch Affect You?
Posted by News Fetcher on October 06 '13 at 04:00 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's cold-turkey-is-delicious department:
The partial government shut-down that the U.S. is experiencing right now is about to enter its second week. Various government functions and services have been disrupted (including some web sites, whether it's a good idea or not), and lots of workers on the Federal payroll have been furloughed. But since the U.S. government is involved in so many aspects of modern American life, you don't have to work for the government to be affected by the budget politics at play. So, whether or not you work for the government in any capacity, the question we'd like to hear your answer to is this: What does the shutdown mean to you, in practical terms, whether the effects are good, bad, or indifferent?

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Why the FAA May Finally Relax In-Flight Device Rules
Posted by News Fetcher on October 06 '13 at 03:15 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's sanity-a-a-good-last-ditch-option department:
Nick Bilton at the New York Times has been writing skeptically for years about the FAA's ban on even the most benign electronic devices during takeoff and landing on commercial passenger flights. He writes in the NYT's Bits column about the gradual transformation that may (real soon now) result in slightly more sensible rules; a committee established to review some of those in-flight rules has recommended the FAA ease up, at least on devices with no plausible negative effect on navigation. From the article: "The New York Times employed EMT Labs, an independent testing facility in Mountain View, Calif., to see if a Kindle actually gave off enough electromagnetic emissions to affect a plane. The findings: An Amazon Kindle emitted less than 30 microvolts per meter when in use. That is only 0.00003 of a volt. A Boeing 747 must withstand 200 volts per square meter. That is millions of Kindles packed into each square meter of the plane. Still, the F.A.A. said “No.” ... But then something started to change: society." Of course, the rules that committees recommend aren't always the ones that prevail on the ground or in the sky.

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No Love From Ars For Samsung's New Smart Watch
Posted by News Fetcher on October 06 '13 at 01:45 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's too-little-too-early department:
Despite the number of companies shipping or promising them, smart watches aren't the easiest sell, and Ars Technica's review of Samsung's entry illustrates why. Despite all the processing power inside, the watch is "sluggish" even for the kind of at-a-glance convenience features that are touted as the reason to have a phone tethered to an (even smarter) phone, and for the most part seems to weakly imitate features already found on that phone. There are a few features called out as cool, like a media control app, but for the most part reviewer Rob Amadeo finds little compelling in the Galaxy Gear.

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Google Cracks Down On Mugshot Blackmail Sites
Posted by News Fetcher on October 06 '13 at 12:30 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's it'll-cost-ya department:
Google is apparently displeased with sites designed to extract money from arrestees in exchange for removing their mugshot pictures online, and is tweaking its algorithms to at least reduce their revenue stream. From the article at The New York Times: "It was only a matter of time before the Internet started to monetize humiliation. ... The sites are perfectly legal, and they get financial oxygen the same way as other online businesses — through credit card companies and PayPal. Some states, though, are looking for ways to curb them. The governor of Oregon signed a bill this summer that gives such sites 30 days to take down the image, free of charge, of anyone who can prove that he or she was exonerated or whose record has been expunged. Georgia passed a similar law in May. Utah prohibits county sheriffs from giving out booking photographs to a site that will charge to delete them. ... But as legislators draft laws, they are finding plenty of resistance, much of it from journalists who assert that public records should be just that: public."

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Space Camp: Not Just For Kids Any More
Posted by News Fetcher on October 06 '13 at 11:00 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's now-take-these-antigravity-pills department:
The L.A. Times features a description of what space camp is like, not for for its traditional demographic of teens and pre-teens interested in science (and possibly thinking of careers in space), but for adults. The Huntsville program where writer Jane Engle spent three days playing astronaut gives adults a chance to experience simulated low gravity and fighter jet simulation. "We also spent hours inside mock-ups of a space shuttle cockpit, NASA mission control and the International Space Station, the settings for simulated shuttle missions that formed the core of our training. Working in teams, we took turns crewing the space shuttle orbiter, monitoring the mission, conducting research experiments and doing extravehicular activities, a.k.a. spacewalks, to make repairs." The price strikes me as surprisingly reasonable, too: about $550.

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Microsoft Makes Another "Nearly Sold Out" Claim For the Surface Line
Posted by News Fetcher on October 06 '13 at 10:15 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's superficial-seems-about-right department:
Microsoft made some confident sounding claims about sales of its first-generation Surface tablets before it became clear that the tablets weren't actually selling very well. So make what you will of the company's claim that the second version is "close to selling out." As the linked article points out, the company has "fallen short of offering any real explanation as to just how “close” to selling out the Surface 2 and Pro 2 really are – nor have they indicated how many were on hand to order in the first place."

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Sorm: Russia Intends To Monitor "All Communications" At Sochi Olympics
Posted by News Fetcher on October 06 '13 at 09:30 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's step-lively-comrade department:
dryriver writes with this excerpt from The Guardian: "Athletes and spectators attending the Winter Olympics in Sochi in February will face some of the most invasive and systematic spying and surveillance in the history of the Games, documents shared with the Guardian show. Russia's powerful FSB security service plans to ensure that no communication by competitors or spectators goes unmonitored during the event, according to a dossier compiled by a team of Russian investigative journalists looking into preparations for the 2014 Games. The journalists ... found that major amendments have been made to telephone and Wi-Fi networks in the Black Sea resort to ensure extensive and all-permeating monitoring and filtering of all traffic, using Sorm, Russia's system for intercepting phone and internet communications. Ron Deibert, a professor at the University of Toronto and director of Citizen Lab, which co-operated with the Sochi research, describes the Sorm amendments as "Prism on steroids", referring to the programme used by the NSA in the US and revealed to the Guardian by the whistleblower Edward Snowden."

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US Forces Undertake Two African Raids, Capture Embassy Bombing Figure
Posted by News Fetcher on October 06 '13 at 08:00 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's target-rich department:
CNN reports that two separate U.S. military operations have taken place this weekend in Africa; the first in Tripoli, the second in Somalia. "In the earlier raid, U.S. forces captured Abu Anas al Libi, an al Qaeda operative wanted for his role in the deadly 1998 bombings of two U.S. embassies in Africa. In the second raid, a team of U.S. Navy SEALs in southern Somalia targeted the top leader of Al-Shabaab, a terrorist group linked with al Qaeda." According to the report, it's unclear for now whether the second of these attempts was successful. Unsurprisingly, the Libyan raid has raised the ire of the interim government there, which has objected to the U.S. arrest and removal of al Libi (to an undisclosed placed outside of Libya) as a kidnapping.

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Boston Dynamics Wildcat Can Gallop — No Strings Attached
Posted by News Fetcher on October 06 '13 at 07:45 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's if-you-hear-that-sound-run department:
Boston Dynamics has been making eye-catching (and sort of creepy) military-oriented robots for several years, and we've noted several times the Big Dog utility robot. The newest creation is the untethered, gas-powered Wildcat; this is definitely not something I want chasing after me. (Not as fast as the previous, tethered version — yet.)

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World Solar Challenge Underway
Posted by News Fetcher on October 06 '13 at 05:45 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's they-have-two-suns-I-believe department:
snowdon writes "The World Solar Challenge started today, and the top teams are now camped in the Australian outback more than 600km south of Darwin. You can follow the event live in real-time using satellite tracking at worldsolarchallenge.org."

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US Intelligence Chief Defends Attempts To Break Tor
Posted by News Fetcher on October 06 '13 at 04:45 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's we-want-to-have-torn department:
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Arik Hesseldahl writes that James Clapper, Director of National Intelligence, says that the NSA tried to penetrate and compromise Tor, but it was only because terrorists and criminals use it, too and our "interest in online anonymity services and other online communication and networking tools is based on the undeniable fact that these are the tools our adversaries use to communicate and coordinate attacks against the United States and our allies." It was all legal and appropriate, Clapper argues, because, "Within our lawful mission to collect foreign intelligence to protect the United States, we use every intelligence tool available to understand the intent of our foreign adversaries so that we can disrupt their plans and prevent them from bringing harm to innocent Americans. Our adversaries have the ability to hide their messages and discussions among those of innocent people around the world. They use the very same social networking sites, encryption tools and other security features that protect our daily online activities." Clapper concludes that "the reality is that the men and women at the National Security Agency and across the Intelligence Community are abiding by the law, respecting the rights of citizens and doing everything they can to help keep our nation safe.""

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Google Wants Patent On Splitting Restaurant Bills
Posted by News Fetcher on October 06 '13 at 04:30 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's steak-eater-picks-the-pocket-of-the-salad-man department:
theodp writes "In a classic example of parody coming to life," writes GeekWire's Todd Bishop, "a newly published patent filing reveals Google's ambitions to solve one of the most troublesome challenges known to humanity: Splitting the bill at the end of a meal." In its patent application for Tracking and Managing Group Expenditures, Google boasts that the invention of six Googlers addresses 'a need in the art for an efficient way to track group expenditures and settle balances between group members' by providing technology that thwarts 'group members [who] may not pay back their entire share of the bill or may forget and not pay back their share at all.'

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Over 100 Missing Episodes of Doctor Who Located
Posted by News Fetcher on October 06 '13 at 12:45 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's as-a-result-of-time-travel department:
MajikJon writes "The BBC junking policies of the '60s and '70s resulted in the loss of hundreds of episodes of the classic series in its earliest years. Through the work of ardent fans over the succeeding decades, dozens of these lost episodes have been painstaking recovered and added back into the BBC archives. Now, it seems, the searchers have struck the mother lode. According to the Wikipedia, there are currently 106 missing episodes of the serial. If reports are correct, we may finally get to see all the episodes."

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