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Using Mech Combat To Hone Engineering Skills
Posted by News Fetcher on March 20 '12 at 03:30 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's and-practicing-for-defeating-skynet department:
jjp9999 writes "Mech Warfare is a mix between Battlebots and MechWarrior, only without the fanfare. The teams around the competitions include engineers and professionals in robotics, and the games are — aside from being an homage to their love for science fiction — a way to hone their skills in the field. Andrew Alter, roboticist and one of the mech pilots, said the competitions are taken as 'an engineering challenge,' noting that while they do compete, 'Having this mix of skill levels and demographics is really great to see, as information and ideas tend to flow freely. We're also solving practical real-world problems like being able to stream video over WiFi in high-interference areas. It's not nearly as easy as one might think.'"

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All Video Games Cause Aggressive Behavior, Say Two US Congressmen
Posted by News Fetcher on March 20 '12 at 02:45 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's not-intended-as-a-factual-statement department:
Fluffeh writes with news that U.S. Congressmen Baca (D-CA) and Wolf (R-VA) have proposed a bill that would require most video games to have a warning label decrying their "potential damaging" long-term effects on children.
"Under the one-page Violence in Video Games Labeling Act (PDF), packaging for all video games except those rated 'EC' for Early Childhood would be required to prominently display a message reading: 'WARNING: Exposure to violent video games has been linked to aggressive behavior.' The proposed label would be required even if the video game in question is not violent."

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Optimize Offshore Wind Farms Using Weather Modeling
Posted by News Fetcher on March 20 '12 at 02:15 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's any-way-the-wind-blows department:
An anonymous reader sends this excerpt from a Stanford news release:
"Politics aside, most energy experts agree that cheap, clean, renewable wind energy holds great potential to help the world satisfy energy needs while reducing harmful greenhouse gases. Wind farms placed offshore could play a large role in meeting such challenges, and yet no offshore wind farms exist today in the United States. In a study just published in Geophysical Research Letters, a team of engineers at Stanford has harnessed a sophisticated weather model to recommend optimal placement of four interconnected wind farms off the coast of the Eastern United States, a region that accounts for 34 percent of the nation’s electrical demand and 35 percent of carbon dioxide emissions. ... Among its findings, the Stanford model recommended a farm in Nantucket Sound, precisely where the controversial Cape Wind farm has been proposed. The Cape Wind site is contentious because, opponents say, the tall turbines would diminish Nantucket’s considerable visual appeal. By that same token, the meteorological model puts two sites on Georges Bank, a shallows located a hundred miles offshore, far from view in an area once better known for its prodigious quantities of cod. The fourth site is off central Long Island."

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A Hacked WiFi Router, an API, and a Toy Bus: It's the Ambient Bus Arrival Monito
Posted by News Fetcher on March 20 '12 at 01:45 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's don't-want-to-be-outdoors-any-longer-than-necessary department:
JohnGrahamCumming writes "In this simple project, a hacked Linksys WRT54GL talks to a public API to get real-time bus information, and displays the times of the next buses on a model bus. Never miss the bus again! 'It's possible to reflash the Linksys with a custom Linux installation that lets me control the box completely (and still use it as a wireless router). There are various project, but I used OpenWRT. With OpenWRT it's possible to SSH into the box and treat it as any Linux server (albeit a rather slow one). But there's plenty of power to grab bus times and update an LED display connected to the WRT54GL's serial port. "

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U.S. Missile Defense Against Iran Makes China/Russia Mad, Might Not Even Work
Posted by News Fetcher on March 20 '12 at 01:30 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's do-we-blame-george-lucas-for-this department:
An anonymous reader writes "The United States, since the 1980s, has been trying to make missile defense work. Billions of dollars spent, tons of political capital spent, and not a lot to show. The U.S. does have two viable options: the SM-2 and SM-3, although neither are perfect. The U.S., with European allies, has been deploying missile defense in Europe to block a possible strike from Iranian nuclear tipped missiles (even though they have not made nukes or the missiles to carry them). One problem: such defenses could, in theory, also block Russian and Chinese missiles. Russia is now planning to make more missiles to counter such defenses and could pull out of the New Start Treaty. They may also stop helping U.S. forces to supply themselves in Afghanistan. Is this all worth it for something that might not even work?"

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Elon Musk: Future Round-Trip To Mars Could Cost Under $500,000
Posted by News Fetcher on March 20 '12 at 12:45 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's colonized-by-rich-people department:
An anonymous reader writes with this quote from the BBC:
"Rocket entrepreneur Elon Musk believes he can get the cost of a round trip to Mars down to about half a million dollars. The SpaceX CEO says he has finally worked out how to do it, and told the BBC he would reveal further details later this year or early in 2013. ... 'My vision is for a fully reusable rocket transport system between Earth and Mars that is able to re-fuel on Mars — this is very important — so you don't have to carry the return fuel when you go there,' he said. 'The whole system [must be] reusable — nothing is thrown away. That's very important because then you're just down to the cost of the propellant.' ... He conceded the figure was unlikely to be the opening price — rather, the cost of a ticket on a mature system that had been operating for about a decade. Nonetheless, Musk thought such an offering could be introduced in 10 years at best, and 15 at worst."

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Liberating the Laws You Must Pay To Read
Posted by News Fetcher on March 20 '12 at 12:00 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's yes-apparently-this-needs-to-be-a-thing department:
Writing for Boing Boing, Carl Malamud describes the campaign he's been waging to let U.S. citizens read the public safety standards that have become part of federal law — without needing to pay for the privilege. "These public safety standards govern and protect a wide range of activity, from how bicycle helmets are constructed to how to test for lead in water to the safety characteristics of hearing aids and protective footwear." Despite a U.S. Appeals Court ruling which said 'the law' should be in the public domain, many safety codes are still privately produced and then distributed for a fee, to recoup development costs. "Public.Resource.Org has a mission of making the law available to all citizens, and these technical standards are a big black hole in the legal universe. We've taken a gamble and spent $7,414.26 to buy 73 of these technical public safety standards that are incorporated into the U.S. Code of Federal Regulations." Malamud and his Public.Resource.Org foundation are trying — very cautiously — to make these laws more broadly available. "...even though we strongly believe that the documents are not entitled to copyright protection, and moreover that our limited print run is in any case definitely fair use, if a judge were to decide that what we did was breaking the law, 25 copies of 73 standards works out to $273,750,000 in potential liability. While whales may make bigger bets, we draw the line at $273 million."

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Is It Time For the US Government To Back Fusion At NIF Over ITER?
Posted by News Fetcher on March 20 '12 at 11:15 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's come-on-now,-you're-both-pretty department:
ananyo writes "Laser beams at the National Ignition Facility have fired a record 1.875 megajoule shot into its target chamber, surpassing their design specification. The achievement is a milepost on the way to ignition — the 'break-even' point at which the facility will finally be able to release more energy than goes into the laser shot by imploding a target pellet of hydrogen isotopes. NIF's managers think the end of their two-year campaign for break-even energy is in sight and say they should achieve ignition before the end of 2012. However, with scientists at NIF saying that a $4 billion pilot plant could be putting hundreds of megawatts into the grid by the early 2020s, some question whether the Department of Energy is backing the wrong horse with ITER — a $21-billion international fusion experiment under construction at St-Paul-lez-Durance, France. Is it time for the DoE to switch priorities and back NIF's proposals?"
Perhaps a better idea, given the potential benefits of fusion research, would be for the DoE to throw their weight behind multiple projects, rather than sacrificing some to support others.

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Teacher Suspended For Reading Ender's Game To Students
Posted by News Fetcher on March 20 '12 at 10:30 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's it's-the-teachers,-they're-the-enemy department:
An anonymous reader writes "Forbes reports that a middle school teacher in South Carolina has been placed on administrative leave for reading sci-fi classic Ender's Game to his students. According to blogger Tod Kelly, '[A parent] reported him to the school district complained that the book was pornographic; that same parent also asked the local police to file criminal charges against the teacher. As of today, the police have not yet decided whether or not to file charges (which is probably a good sign that they won't). The school district, however, appears to agree with the parent, is considering firing the teacher and will be eliminating the book from the school.'"

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Mozilla To Support H.264
Posted by News Fetcher on March 20 '12 at 10:00 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's lost-the-battle-but-not-the-war department:
suraj.sun writes with a followup to last week's news that Mozilla was thinking about reversing their stance on H.264 support. Mozilla chairman Mitchell Baker and CTO Brendan Eich have now both written blog posts explaining why they feel H.264 support is no longer optional. Eich wrote, "We will not require anyone to pay for Firefox. We will not burden our downstream source redistributors with royalty fees. We may have to continue to fall back on Flash on some desktop OSes. I’ll write more when I know more about desktop H.264, specifically on Windows XP. What I do know for certain is this: H.264 is absolutely required right now to compete on mobile. I do not believe that we can reject H.264 content in Firefox on Android or in B2G and survive the shift to mobile. Losing a battle is a bitter experience. I won’t sugar-coat this pill. But we must swallow it if we are to succeed in our mobile initiatives. Failure on mobile is too likely to consign Mozilla to decline and irrelevance." Baker added, "Our first approach at bringing open codecs to the Web has ended up at an impasse on mobile, but we’re not done yet. ... We'll find a way around this impasse."

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Detecting Chess Cheats Taxes Computers
Posted by News Fetcher on March 20 '12 at 09:30 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's listen-for-the-synthesized-voice-in-the-background department:
First time accepted submitter jeffrlamb writes "Cheating in live chess matches — fueled by powerful computer programs that play better than people do, as well as sophisticated communication technologies — is becoming a big problem for world championship chess. Kenneth W. Regan is attempting to construct a mathematical proof to see if someone cheated; the trouble is that so many variables and outliers must be taken into account. Modeling and factoring human behavior in competition turns out to be very difficult."

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Tom's Hardware Tests and Reviews Fedora 16 and Gnome 3
Posted by News Fetcher on March 20 '12 at 09:15 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's love-it-or-hate-it department:
New submitter LordDCLXVI writes with a review at Tom's Hardware that starts out with some loaded questions about GNOME 3, as included in the newest version of Red Hat's Fedora: "While most other distros are passing up or postponing GNOME Shell, Fedora is full steam ahead. Does Red Hat know something the rest of us don't? Or is GNOME 3 really as bad as everyone says?" Writes LordDCLVXI: "This massive article amounts to a full-blown guide to Fedora 16 'Verne' and complete dissection of GNOME Shell. It begins with an installation guide, with instructions for enabling third-party repos, proprietary graphics drivers, Wi-Fi, Flash, Java, multimedia codecs, and 32-bit libs. Next up is a GNOME Shell tear-down, including customization options and methods to 'fix' the Shell or mimic GNOME 2. Finally, Fedora is benchmarked against Ubuntu 11.10 and Windows 7. [While the author] adds to the voices criticizing GNOME Shell, he also points out that the extensions can empower distributors to create unique, yet compatible layouts. One of the most fair and constructive critiques of GNOME 3 — definitely worth the read, and even makes GNOME 3 worth a second look."

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Mobile Ads May Serve As a Malware Conduit
Posted by News Fetcher on March 20 '12 at 08:30 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's send-you-this-advert-to-have-your-advice department:
alphadogg writes with this excerpt from Network World: "Many mobile apps include ads that can threaten users' privacy and network security, according to North Carolina State University researchers. The National Science Foundation-funded researchers studied 100,000 apps in Google Play (formerly Android Market) and found that more than half contained ad libraries, nearly 300 of which were enabled to grab code from remote servers that could give malware and hackers a way into your smartphone or tablet. 'Running code downloaded from the Internet is problematic because the code could be anything,' says Xuxian Jiang, an assistant professor of computer science at NC State."

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Satellites Expose 8,000 Years of Civilization
Posted by News Fetcher on March 20 '12 at 08:15 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's scratching-the-surface department:
ananyo writes "By combining spy-satellite photos obtained in the 1960s with modern multispectral images and digital maps of Earth's surface, researchers have created a new method for mapping large-scale patterns of human settlement. The approach was used to map some 14,000 settlement sites spanning eight millennia in 23,000 square kilometres of northeastern Syria — part of the fertile crescent of the Middle East. Traditional archaeology has focused on the big features such as cities or palaces but the new technique uncovers networks of small settlements, revealing migration patterns and sparking renewed speculation about the importance of water to city development."

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Sweden Moving Towards Cashless Economy
Posted by News Fetcher on March 20 '12 at 07:45 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's all-pancakes-and-lingonberries department:
cold fjord writes "Sweden is rapidly moving towards a cashless economy. How will Sweden, and other countries in the future, balance efficiency, privacy, government control, and civil liberties? Or will they do all that technology allows? 'Bills and coins represent only 3 percent of Sweden's economy, compared to an average of 9 percent in the eurozone and 7 percent in the U.S.,. . . The Swedish Bankers' Association says the shrinkage of the cash economy is already making an impact in crime statistics. The number of bank robberies in Sweden plunged from 110 in 2008 to 16 in 2011 — the lowest level since it started keeping records 30 years ago. It says robberies of security transports are also down. The prevalence of electronic transactions — and the digital trail they generate — also helps explain why Sweden has less of a problem with graft than countries with a stronger cash culture, such as Italy or Greece, says economics professor Friedrich Schneider of the Johannes Kepler University in Austria. The flip side is the risk of cybercrimes. According to the Swedish National Council for Crime Prevention the number of computerized fraud cases, including skimming, surged to nearly 20,000 in 2011 from 3,304 in 2000.'"

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The Risk of a Meltdown In the Cloud
Posted by News Fetcher on March 20 '12 at 07:00 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's precipitating-danger department:
zrbyte writes "A growing number of complexity theorists are beginning to recognize some potential problems with cloud computing. The growing consensus is that bizarre and unpredictable behavior often emerges in systems made up of "networks of networks", such as a business using the computational resources of a cloud provider. Bryan Ford at Yale University in New Haven says that the full risks of the migration to the cloud have yet to be properly explored. He points out that complex systems can fail in many unexpected ways and outlines various simple scenarios in which a cloud could come unstuck."

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SpaceX Gets Astronauts To Try Out Its Dragon Crew Cabin
Posted by News Fetcher on March 20 '12 at 06:15 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's want-to-get-inside-it department:
Zothecula writes "With the space shuttle program now officially over, the United States needs a new reusable vehicle for getting supplies to and from the International Space Station. NASA is considering the Dragon spacecraft, designed by California-based SpaceX Exploration Technologies, to take over that role. The Dragon's scheduled late March/early April test flight to the ISS will be unmanned, utilizing a cargo configuration of the spacecraft. Last Friday, however, SpaceX released photographs of an engineering model of of its planned seven-passenger crew cabin, complete with a crew that included real live astronauts."

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Ask Slashdot: Any Smart Phones Made Under Worker-Friendly Conditions?
Posted by News Fetcher on March 20 '12 at 06:00 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's ethics-vs-aesthetics department:
New submitter unimacs writes "So Apple has been under fire recently for the conditions at the factories of their Chinese suppliers. I listened to 'This American Life's' recent retraction of the Michael Daisey piece they did a while back. Great radio for those of you who haven't heard it — rarely has dead air been used to such effect. Anyway, while his work has been discredited, Michael Daisey wasn't inaccurate in his claims that working conditions are poor in iPhone and iPad factories. Given that, are there any smart phone manufacturers whose phones are made under better conditions?"

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Seagate Hits 1 Terabit Per Square Inch
Posted by News Fetcher on March 20 '12 at 05:45 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's please-take-a-minute-to-wonder department:
MrSeb was one of several readers to submit news that drive manufacturer Seagate has announced (and demoed) the first hard drive to squeeze a terabit into each square inch of platter. "'Initially this will result in 6TB 3.5-inch desktop drives and 2TB 2.5-inch laptop drives, but eventually Seagate is promising up to 60TB and 20TB respectively. To achieve such a huge leap in density, Seagate had to use a technology called heat-assisted magnetic recording (HAMR). Basically, the main issue that governs hard drive density is the size of each magnetic "bit." These can only be made so small until the magnetism of nearby bits affects them. With HAMR, "high density" magnetic compounds that can withstand further miniaturization are used. The only problem is that these materials, such as iron platinum alloy, are more stubborn when it comes to writing data — but if you heat it first, that problem goes away.' With HAMR, Seagate has strapped a laser to the hard drive head; when it wants to write data, the laser turns on. Reading data is still done conventionally, without the laser. In theory, HAMR should allow for areal densities up to 10 terabits per square inch (magnetic sites that are just 1nm long!), and thus desktop hard drives in the 60TB range."

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D-Wave Announces Commercially Available Quantum Computer
Posted by News Fetcher on March 20 '12 at 05:00 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's you-either-have-one-or-you-don't department:
New submitter peetm writes "Computing company D-Wave has announced that they're selling a quantum computing system commerically, which they're calling the D-Wave One. The D-Wave system comes equipped with a 128-qubit processor that's designed to perform discrete optimization operations. A qubit is the basic unit of quantum information – analogous to a bit in conventional computing. For a broader understanding of how qubits work, check out Ars Technica's excellent guide."

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