By EditorDavid from Slashdot's robo-bees department
An anonymous reader writes:
An engineer in Japan has built a 1.6-inch "pollinator-bot" and successfully tested it in his lab. The drone's creator "has armed it with paintbrush hairs that are covered in a special gel sticky enough to pick pollen up, but not so sticky that it holds on to that pollen when it brushes up against something else," reports The Economist. They write that his experiments with the tiny drone "show that the drone can indeed carry pollen from flower to flower in the way an insect would -- though he has yet to confirm that seeds result from this pollination." While flown by a human pilot, next he hopes to equip the drones with their own flower-recognizing technology.
The Christian Science Monitor followed up with four experts, asking "Could a fleet of robo-pollinators replace, or at least supplement, the bees?" One said "There is no substitute for bees." Another pointed out that even if robo-bees are developed, some flowers will prove harder to pollinate than others. A third expert thought the technology could scale, though it would need to be mass-produced, and the engineers would need to develop a reusable pollen-collecting gel. But a fourth expert remained worried that it just couldn't scale without becoming too expensive. "I'm not sure that's going to be cheap enough to not make blueberries hundreds of dollars a pint."
Three of those experts also agreed that the best solution is just wild bees, because domesticated or not, "All they have to do is make sure to set aside enough land conducive to the bees' habitat."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's space-junk-fail department
New Scientist reports:
It's a rubbish start for the world's first space clean-up experiment. A cable designed to drag space junk out of orbit has failed to deploy from a Japanese spacecraft... A 700-metre-long metal cable was fitted to an unmanned spacecraft called Kounotori 6, which was on its way back to Earth after delivering supplies to the International Space Station. The cable was meant to unfurl from the spacecraft, at which point an electric current would pass along its length. The idea was that the current would interact with the Earth's magnetic field, creating a drag that pulled the spacecraft out of orbit. The spacecraft would then tumble into our atmosphere and become incinerated... However, Kounotori 6 was unable to release the cable to test its junk-removing potential, and JAXA could not fix the glitch before the spacecraft returned to Earth's atmosphere this morning... "Releasing a cable may seem simple, but nothing in space is simple," says Sean Tuttle at the University of New South Wales in Australia... The test's failure should be seen as a setback rather than a nail in the coffin for junk-removing cables, Tuttle says.
Because of the simplicity of this system, it is bound to be tested again -- hopefully sooner than later... This process is inherently safer than using rocket engines (to be attached to the junk), and is much less of a 'mass-to-orbit' cost, since it only requires a grappling system, and a spool of wire/cable. Hopefully, there will be a follow-up / re-try in the near future for this orbital debris clean-up process.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's augmenting-reality department
Saturday Business Insider claimed that augmented reality company Magic Leap was "scrambling to finish a working prototype before an important board meeting next week," publishing a photo described by their source as an early January prototype. An anonymous reader quotes Mashable:
The image depicts a man with a kit on his back that looks as if it's in the early stages of development, but [CEO Rony] Abovitz's tweet suggested it was not intended as consumer technology. "The photo you are all excited about is NOT what you think it is," he wrote. "The photo shows an @magicleap R&D test rig where we collect room/space data for our machine vision/machine learning work. We do this in order to understand lighting, texture, various surfaces."
As Mashable noted earlier, the leaked photo has done little to assuage fears the company's technology has been overhyped... A December report in The Information raised questions about whether Magic Leap was ready for primetime amid concerns that much of its work could not be commercialised or miniaturised. Two former employees also reportedly told the outlet a promotional video showing the technology in action was in fact created by the special effects company, Weta Workshop.
Magic Leap raised $1.39 billion from investors (including Google), and Abovitz's last tweet Saturday reassured fans that "We will not let you down." Mashable even suggested that "this might just be a bit of clever marketing spin by Magic Leap to greatly lower expectations before unveiling a polished product in the coming months... The worst case scenario is that this does represent the latest version of the company's prototype meant for consumers, in which case there's very little chance we will see a Magic Leap device available to consumers any time in 2017."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's California-controversies department
schwit1 quotes Norm Matloff, a CS professor at the University of California at Davis, on H-1B visa programs:
The Trump administration has drafted a new executive order that could actually mean higher wages for both foreign workers and Americans working in Silicon Valley. The Silicon Valley companies, of course, will not be happy if it goes into effect... Their lobbyists claim there is a "talent shortage" among Americans and thus that the industry needs more of such work visas. This is patently false. The truth is that they want an expansion of the H-1B work visa program because they want to hire cheap, immobile labor -- i.e., foreign workers.
To see how this works, note that most Silicon Valley firms sponsor their H-1B workers, who hold a temporary visa, for U.S. permanent residency (green card) under the employment-based program in immigration law. EB sponsorship renders the workers de facto indentured servants; though they have the right to move to another employer, they do not dare do so, as it would mean starting the lengthy green card process all over again.
Computerworld also argues this year's annual H-1B visa lottery "may be different, because of President Donald Trump," reporting that the lottery has historically favored the largest firms heavily. "In the 2015 fiscal year, for instance, the top 10 firms received 38% of all the H-1B visas in computer occupations alone. All these firms, except for Amazon and to a partial extent IBM, are outsourcers."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's target-acquired department
Mickeycaskill quotes Silicon:
Just to illustrate that you can never be too careful, cybersecurity specialist Trend Micro has confirmed that one of the blogs it uses to communicate with customers was itself the victim of a content spoofing attack. The culprits exploited a vulnerability in WordPress to inject fake content onto the blog before it was removed by Trend Micro and the bug fixed...
"Unfortunately there are many different URLs attackers can use to carry out the same attack, so a couple of fake 'articles' ended up posted on CounterMeasures," head of security research Rik Ferguson told Silicon. "We have responded and shut down the vulnerability completely to resolve the issue."
The chairman of Trend Micro claimed in 2011 that open source software was inherently less secure than closed source -- but instead of blaming Wordpress, Ferguson "said it goes to show how breaches are an unfortunate fact of life and that companies should be judged on how they respond... 'Of course technology and best practice can mitigate the vast majority of intrusion attempts, but when one is successful, even one as low-level as this, you are more defined by how you respond than you are by the fact that it happened.'"Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's fingerpointing-in-Finland department
An anonymous reader quotes Bloomberg:
Finland's basic income experiment is unworkable, uneconomical and ultimately useless. Plus, it will only encourage some people to work less. That's not the view of a hard core Thatcherite, but of the country's biggest trade union. The labor group says the results of the two-year pilot program will fail to sway its opposition to a welfare-policy idea that's gaining traction among those looking for an alternative in the post-industrial age. "We think it takes social policy in the wrong direction," said Ilkka Kaukoranta, chief economist of the Central Organization of Finnish Trade Unions, which has nearly one million members.
Since January, a group of unemployed Finns aged between 25 and 58 have been receiving a stipend of 560 euros ($600) per month. The amount isn't means-tested and is paid regardless of whether the recipient finds a job, starts a business or returns to school... Advocates say it eliminates poverty traps and redistributes income while empowering the individual and reducing paperwork... While limited in scope (it's conditional on the beneficiary having received some form of unemployment support in November 2016) and size (it's based on a randomly-selected sample of 2,000 jobless people), the Finnish trial may help answer questions like: "Does it work"? "Is it worth it"? And the most fundamental of all: "Does it incite laboriousness or laziness...?"
The trade union argues this UBI program would cost 5% of Finland's entire gross domestic product, making it "impossibly expensive."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's new-notifications department
Building on anti-harassment tools announced in November, Twitter is now "trying to shake its reputation as a haven for online harassment" with still more new internal algorithms and features, reports CNN. An anonymous reader quotes their report:
The changes include preventing serial abusers from creating new accounts, a new "safe search" function and blocking potentially abusive and "low-quality" tweets from appearing in conversations, Twitter's engineering chief Ed Ho said in a blog post. Twitter is working on identifying users that have been permanently suspended and prevent them from creating new accounts, Ho said. This new measure specifically targets "accounts that are created only to abuse and harass others," he said, a problem that has long plagued the platform.
The new safe search function prevents tweets that are abusive, or from blocked and muted accounts, from appearing in users' search results. Those tweets can still be found if people want to see them, but they "won't clutter search results any longer," Ho said. And Twitter will now collapse tweet replies that are potentially abusive or low quality -- like duplicate tweets or content that appears to be automated. But those tweets "will still be accessible to those who seek them out," Ho said.
The blog post announces Twitter's ultimate goal is "a significant impact that people can feel," arguing that freedom of speech for all viewpoints is "put in jeopardy when abuse and harassment stifle and silence those voices."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's Rust-never-sleeps department
An anonymous reader writes:
Google "developer advocate" Felipe Hoffa has determined the top "weekend programming languages," those which see the biggest spike in commit activity on the weekends. "Clearly 2016 was a year dedicated to play with functional languages, up and coming paradigms, and scripting 3d worlds," he writes, revealing that the top weekend programming languages are:
Rust, Glsl, D, Haskell, Common Lisp, Kicad, Emacs Lisp, Lua, Scheme, Julia, Elm, Eagle, Racket, Dart, Nsis, Clojure, Kotlin, Elixir, F#, Ocaml
Earlier this week another data scientist calculated ended up with an entirely different list by counting the frequency of each language's tag in StackOverflow questions. But Hoffa's analysis was performed using Google's BigQuery web service, and he's also compiled a list of 2016's least popular weekend languages -- the ones people seem to prefer using at the office rather than in their own free time.
Nginx, Matlab, Processing, Vue, Fortran, Visual Basic, Objective-C++, Plsql, Plpgsql, Web Ontology Language, Smarty, Groovy, Batchfile, Objective-C, Powershell, Xslt, Cucumber, Hcl, Puppet, Gcc Machine Description
What's most interesting is the changes over time. In the last year Perl has become more popular than Java, PHP, and ASP as a weekend programming language. And Rust "used to be a weekday language," Hoffa writes, but it soon also grew more popular for Saturdays and Sunday. Meanwhile, "The more popular Go grows, the more it settles as a weekday language," while Puppet "is the champion of weekday coders." Ruby on the other hand, is "slowly leaving the week and embracing the weekend."
Hoffa is also a long-time Slashdot reader who analyzed one billion files on GitHub last summer to determine whether they'd been indented with spaces or tabs. But does this new list resonate with anybody? What languages are you using for your weekend coding projects?Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's lots-of-lava department
Vulcanologists always watch Iceland carefully -- it's the one exposed place on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge, with 130 different volcanoes -- and something big may be brewing. Applehu Akbar writes: Now that four of Iceland's largest volcanoes are showing signs of impending eruption, the world may be in for another summer of ash. Katla, Hecla, Bárðarbunga and Grímsvötn have all had major activity in the past, including vast floods from melting glaciers, enough ash to ground aircraft over all of Europe, volumes of sulfur that have induced global nuclear winter for a decade at a time, and clouds of poisonous fluoride gas. When the mountains of Iceland speak, the whole world listens.
Eruptions are already overdue for both Hekla and Katla -- Hekla's magma chamber has filled up, and Katla last erupted in 1918. "The Katla eruption would lead to the melting of the Mýrdalsjökull glacier, resulting in a glacial flood," reports Tech Times, "likely to hit areas where large crowds are found at any given point of time, especially the black sand beaches of Sólheimasandur and the village of Vik in Southern Iceland."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's try-try-again department
An anonymous reader quotes the Wall Street Journal:
The seven-year legal battle between tech giants Google and Oracle just got new life. Oracle on Friday filed an appeal with the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit that seeks to overturn a federal jury's decision last year... The case has now gone through two federal trials and bounced around at appeals courts, including a brief stop at the U.S. Supreme Court. Oracle has sought as much as $9 billion in the case.
In the trial last year in San Francisco, the jury ruled Google's use of 11,000 lines of Java code was allowed under "fair use" provisions in federal copyright law. In Oracle's 155-page appeal on Friday, it called Google's "copying...classic unfair use" and said "Google reaped billions of dollars while leaving Oracle's Java business in tatters."
Oracle's brief also argues that "When a plagiarist takes the most recognizable portions of a novel and adapts them into a film, the plagiarist commits the 'classic' unfair use."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's German-politics department
"The prestigious FOSS project replacing the entire city's administration IT with FOSS based systems, is about to be cancelled and decommissioned," writes long-time Slashdot reader Qbertino. TechRepublic reports:
Politicians at open-source champion Munich will next week vote on whether to abandon Linux and return to Windows by 2021. The city authority, which made headlines for ditching Windows, will discuss proposals to replace the Linux-based OS used across the council with a Windows 10-based client. If the city leaders back the proposition it would be a notable U-turn by the council, which spent years migrating about 15,000 staff from Windows to LiMux, a custom version of the Ubuntu desktop OS, and only completed the move in 2013... The use of the open-source Thunderbird email client and LibreOffice suite across the council would also be phased out, in favor of using "market standard products" that offer the "highest possible compatibility" with external and internal software... The full council will vote on whether to back the plan next Wednesday. If all SPD and CSU councillors back the proposal put forward by their party officials, then this new proposal will pass, because the two parties hold the majority. The leader of the Munich Green Party says the city will lose "many millions of euros" if the change is implemented. The article also reports that Microsoft moved its German headquarters to Munich last year.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's send-requests department
"Buying and selling items on the internet is about to get a bit more expensive if you use PayPal to transfer money," reports MLive, noting that some of PayPal's fees will be increasing on March 29. Slashdot reader
turbotalon also complains PayPal is disguising news of the price hikes as a "policy update".
Roughly one quarter of the "policy changes" are rate hikes, yet their emailed summary glosses over the rate hike, focussing instead on a few of the "policy changes" with one sentence at the end about "changing some of the fees we charge". Additionally, they have added a "non-discouragement clause" for sellers that provides:
"In representations to your customers or in public communications, you agree not to mischaracterize PayPal as a payment method. At all of your points of sale (in whatever form), you agree not to try to dissuade or inhibit your customers from using PayPal; and, if you enable your customers to pay you with PayPal, you agree to treat PayPal's payment mark at least at par with other payment methods offered."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's car-wars department
An anonymous reader quote USA Today:
Ford Motor is betting $1 billion on the world's self-driving car future. The Detroit automaker announced Friday that it would allocate that sum over five years to a new autonomous car startup called Argo AI, which is headquartered in Pittsburgh, Pa., and will have offices in Michigan and California. Ford's financial outlay is part of a continuing investment strategy anchored to transforming the car and truck seller into a mobility company with a hand in ride-hailing, ride-sharing and even bicycle rentals.
Argo AI founders CEO Bryan Salesky, and COO Peter Rander are alumni of Carnegie Mellon National Robotics Engineering Center and former leaders on the self-driving car teams of Google and Uber, respectively. Argo AI's team will include roboticists and engineers from inside and outside of Ford working to develop a new software platform for Ford's fully autonomous vehicle, expected in 2021. Ford said it could also license the software to other carmakers.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's asking-for-clarification department
Trailrunner7 quotes a report from On the Wire: A group of influential lawmakers, including Sen. Ed Markey and Sen. Ron Wyden, are pressing the Trump administration for answers about how an executive order that includes changes to the Privacy Act will affect non-U.S. persons and whether the administration plans to release immigrants' private data. The letter comes from six senators who are concerned about the executive order that President Trump issued two weeks ago that excludes from privacy protections people who aren't U.S. citizens or permanent residents. The order is mostly about changes to immigration policy, but Trump also included a small section that requires federal government agencies to exclude immigrants from Privacy Act protections. On Thursday, Markey, Wyden, and four other senators sent a letter to Secretary of Homeland Security Jon Kelly, asking a series of 10 questions about how the exclusion would be implemented, what it would cost, and whether the government plans to release the private data of people affected by the order. "These Privacy Act exclusions could have a devastating impact on immigrant communities, and would be inconsistent with the commitments made when the government collected much of this information," the senators said in the letter to Kelly. In the letter, the lawmakers ask Kelly whether people affected by the order will be allowed full access to their own private data that has been collected by the government. They also ask how the government plans to identify U.S. persons in their databases and what policies DHS will apply to separate them from non-U.S persons. The letter also asks for clarification on how the executive order will affect the Privacy Shield pact between the U.S and the European Union. That agreement enables companies to move private data between countries under certain data protection laws.Read Replies (0)
By BeauHD from Slashdot's work-in-progress department
Valve's crowdsourced Greenlight submission program, which let the gaming community select which games get chosen for distribution via Steam, is shutting down after nearly five years. It will be replaced with a new system called Steam Direct that will charge developers a fee for each title they plan to distribute. The Verge reports: Steam Greenlight was launched in 2012 as a way for indie developers to get their games on Steam, even if they weren't working with a big publisher that had a relationship with Valve. Steam users would vote on Greenlight games, and Valve would accept titles with enough support to suggest that they'd sell well. Kroll says that "over 100" Greenlight titles have made $1 million or more. But Greenlight has also had significant problems. Developers could game the system by offering rewards for votes, and worthy projects could get lost amidst a slew of bad proposals. Since Valve ultimately made the call on including games, the process could also seem arbitrary and opaque. The big question is whether what's replacing it is better. To get a game on Steam Direct, developers will need to "complete a set of digital paperwork, personal or company verification, and tax documents similar to the process of applying for a bank account." Then, they'll pay an application fee for each game, "which is intended to decrease the noise in the submission pipeline" -- a polite way of saying that it will make people think twice before spending money submitting a low-quality game. Steam Direct is supposed to launch in spring of 2017, but the application fee hasn't been decided yet. Developer feedback has apparently suggested anything from $100 -- the current Greenlight submission fee -- and $5,000.Read Replies (0)