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The Intimate Social Graph
Posted by News Fetcher on October 15 '10 at 03:00 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's anything-you-tweet-may-be-used-against-you-in-a-court-of-law deptartment:
jamie tips an article by Slashdot vet Keith Dawson about the uncertain state of privacy protection for one-to-one online communications through social sites and services. Quoting: "The privacy of these communications is protected mainly under a law — ECPA, the Electronic Communications Privacy Act — dating from 1986 and crafted for then-existing email (think Compuserve and Prodigy) and emerging cellular networks. This law is an increasingly poor fit for modern and emerging communication modalities. Email stored on servers is treated differently depending on whether or not the user has read a particular message; and messages older than 6 months in storage enjoy different protection than newer messages. In attempting to apply the ECPA to social networking media, courts have interpreted users' privacy rights in a variety of ways. ... One shortcoming of the ECPA is that it does not require email, search engine, cloud computing or social networking sites to report how many requests for private data they get from authorities. Whatever the number, it almost certainly dwarfs the number of real-time online intercepts (wiretap, pen register, and trap and trace orders), for which statistics must be kept."

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Can Apps Really Damage a Cellular Network?
Posted by News Fetcher on October 15 '10 at 02:15 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's there's-an-app-for-everything-nowadays deptartment:
schnell writes "In FCC filings earlier this year, T-Mobile described how the behavior of one Android IM app nearly brought their cellular data network to a breakdown in one city. Even more interesting, the US carrier describes how just the 300,000 unlocked iPhones on their network caused massive spikes in data usage. T-Mobile is using these anecdotes as evidence that mobile carriers should be able to retain control over the applications and devices on their network to ensure quality of service for all users. Do they have a point?"

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Searching For Alternatives To China's Rare Earth Monopoly
Posted by News Fetcher on October 15 '10 at 01:45 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's do-not-pass-go-do-not-collect-200-kg-of-ytterbium deptartment:
KantIsDead writes "MIT's Technology Review adds to the ongoing discussion of China's monopoly on rare earth metals, an issue that was temporarily catapulted to national attention during China's rare earth embargo of Japan. The current article focuses on the search for alternatives to rare earth metals that would undercut China's monopoly and allow nations to develop their industry without fearing the hand of a Chinese embargo. From the article: 'In the US, the Chinese dominance of rare-earth mineral production has prompted a surge of funding focused on developing permanent magnets that use less, if any, rare-earth materials, such as nearly $7 million from the Advanced Research Projects Agency for Energy (ARPA-E). In one of these projects, University of Nebraska researchers are working to enhance permanent magnets made with an alloy iron and cobalt, or FeCo. This class of materials is sold today, but delivers half or less of the power of the best rare-earth-based magnets. The Nebraska researchers will focus on ways to dope the structural matrix of these alloys with traces of other elements, thereby rearranging their molecular geometry to create stronger, more durable permanent magnetic materials.'"

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New Fish Species Discovered 4.5 Miles Under the Ocean
Posted by News Fetcher on October 15 '10 at 01:15 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's how-does-it-taste deptartment:
eldavojohn writes "The University of Aberdeen's Oceanlab (a partner in the recent census of marine life) has discovered a new snailfish. That might not sound very exciting, unless you consider that its habitat is an impressive four and a half miles below the ocean's surface (video). If my calculations are correct, that's over ten and a half thousand PSI, or about seventy-three million Pascals. The videos and pictures are a couple years old, as the team has traveled around Japan, South America and New Zealand to ascertain the biodiversity of these depths. The group hopes to eventually bring specimens to the surface. It seems the deepest parts of the ocean, once thought to be devoid of life, are actually home to some organisms. As researchers build better technology for underwater exploration, tales of yore containing unimaginable monsters seem a little more realistic than before."

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AOL Spends $1M On Solid State Memory SAN
Posted by News Fetcher on October 15 '10 at 01:00 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's go-big-or-go-home deptartment:
Lucas123 writes "AOL recently completed the roll out of a 50TB SAN made entirely of NAND flash in order to address performance issues with its relational database. While the flash memory fixed the problem, it didn't come cheap, at about four times the cost of a typical Fibre Channel disk array with the same capacity, and it performs at about 250,000 IOPS. One reason the flash SAN is so fast is that it doesn't use a SAS or PCIe backbone, but instead has a proprietary interface that offers up 5 to 6Gb/s throughput. AOL's senior operations architect said the SAN cost about $20 per gigabyte of capacity, or about $1 million. But, as he puts it, 'It's very easy to fall in love with this stuff once you're on it.'"

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Background Noise Affects Taste of Foods
Posted by News Fetcher on October 15 '10 at 12:30 PM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's that-sounds-delicious deptartment:
gollum123 writes "The level of background noise affects both the intensity of flavour and the perceived crunchiness of foods, researchers have found. Blindfolded diners assessed the sweetness, saltiness, and crunchiness, as well as overall flavour, of foods as they were played white noise. While louder noise reduced the reported sweetness or saltiness, it increased the measure of crunch. It may go some way to explaining why airline food is notoriously bland — a phenomenon that drives airline catering companies to season their foods heavily. In a comparatively small study, 48 participants were fed sweet foods such as biscuits or salty ones such as crisps, while listening to silence or noise through headphones. Also in the group's findings there is the suggestion that the overall satisfaction with the food aligned with the degree to which diners liked what they were hearing — a finding the researchers are pursuing in further experiments."

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Meta-Research Debunks Medical Study Findings
Posted by News Fetcher on October 15 '10 at 12:00 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's truthiness-in-medicine deptartment:
jenningsthecat writes "From The Atlantic comes the story of John Ioannidis and his team of meta-researchers, who have studied the overall state of medical research and found it dangerously and widely lacking in trustworthiness. Even after filtering out the journalistic frippery and hyperbole, the story is pretty disturbing. Some points made in the article: even the most respected, widely accepted, peer-reviewed medical studies are all-too-often deeply flawed or outright wrong; when an error is brought to light and the conclusions publicly refuted, the erroneous conclusions often persist and are cited as valid for years, or even decades; scientists and researchers themselves regard peer review as providing 'only a minimal assurance of quality'; and these shortcomings apply to medical research across the board, not just to blatantly self-serving pharmaceutical industry studies. The article concludes by saying, 'Science is a noble endeavor, but it's also a low-yield endeavor ... I'm not sure that more than a very small percentage of medical research is ever likely to lead to major improvements in clinical outcomes and quality of life.' I've always been somewhat suspicious of research findings, but before this article I had no idea just how prevalent untrustworthy results were."

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Switzerland's Mega Tunnel Sets Record
Posted by News Fetcher on October 15 '10 at 11:30 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's what-a-bore deptartment:
Anonymous Dupaeur writes "Switzerland, co-home of CERN and numerous other world organizations, has come closer to the completion of their recent megaproject: the Gotthard Base Tunnel, which will be the largest railway tunnel made by man. The project is due to be completed in 2017, and will host 200 to 250 trains a day with a significantly larger kinetic energy than the LHC's beams." After the completion of today's work, the tunnel is now 57 kilometers long, surpassing Japan's 53.9-kilometer Seikan Tunnel. There are a few longer tunnels in existence, such as the 137-kilometer Delaware Aqueduct, but they all move water rather than people.

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FSF Announces Hardware Endorsement Criteria
Posted by News Fetcher on October 15 '10 at 11:00 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's ideals-inside deptartment:
sveinungkv writes "The Free Software Foundation has announced criteria for the hardware endorsement program 'Respects Your Freedom.' From the announcement: 'The desire to own a computer or device and have full control over it, to know that you are not being spied on or tracked, to run any software you wish without asking permission, and to share with friends without worrying about Digital Restrictions Management (DRM) — these are the desires of millions of people who care about the future of technology and our society. (...) With our endorsement mark and the strong criteria that back it, we plan to bridge that gap and demonstrate to manufacturers that they stand to gain plenty by making hardware that respects people's freedom instead of curtailing it.' While it currently contains some requirements that many may find broader than what they personally need, the remaining criteria would make the FSF endorsement a useful tool when looking for devices that give the owner control over the device they have bought and paid for. The criteria are still open for feedback"

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New Site Aims To Be iTunes For Exploits
Posted by News Fetcher on October 15 '10 at 10:00 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's bet-they-won't-cost-99-cents deptartment:
Trailrunner7 writes "It's been tried before, but NSS Labs founder Rick Moy says his company's new Exploit Hub — a store front for exploit code — can work. In an interview, he explains why the current market for exploits doesn't work for the good guys, and why zero-day exploits don't help anyone. Above-board markets for software vulnerabilities have been around for close to a decade, but previous efforts to market exploits have had mixed results. The business of selling exploits versus vulnerabilities is fraught with danger, and organizations like WabiSabiLabi have operated eBay-style marketplaces for zero-day exploits for years, but haven't seen exploit writers beating a path to their door. The need for an above-board marketplace that can compete with the black market surely exists, but getting it to work is another matter entirely."

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Study Shows Babies Think Friendly Robots Are Sentient
Posted by News Fetcher on October 15 '10 at 09:15 AM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's stupid-babies deptartment:
seanonymous writes "A study from University of Washington claims that babies think robots are human, so long as the robots are friendly. No word on what evil robots are thought to be. From the article: 'At 18 months old, babies have begun to make conscious delineations between sentient beings and inanimate objects. But as robots get more and more advanced, those decisions may become harder to make. What causes a baby to decide a robot is more than bits of metal? As it turns out, it takes more than humanoid looks — babies rely on social interaction to make that call.'"

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How To Deflect an Asteroid With Today's Technology
Posted by News Fetcher on October 15 '10 at 09:15 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's don't-use-the-phasers deptartment:
Matt_dk writes "Apollo 9 astronaut Rusty Schweickart is among an international group of people championing the need for the human race to prepare for what will certainly happen one day: an asteroid threat to Earth. Schweickart said the technology is available today to send a mission to an asteroid in an attempt to move it, or change its orbit so that an asteroid that threatens to hit Earth will pass by harmlessly. But what would such a mission entail?"

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Facebook, Microsoft Team Up Against Google
Posted by News Fetcher on October 15 '10 at 08:30 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's pretty-soon-we-won't-have-to-talk-to-our-friends-at-all deptartment:
Pickens writes "In a move that could be the biggest threat to Google's search standing yet, Microsoft and Facebook announced that they're teaming up for social search. When someone uses Bing's search engine to look for a new car or a book, she can see which ones her friends liked. While industry watchers say this is an interesting move for search, what's most notable is that Facebook turned to Microsoft for this deal and not to the market leader, Google. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg says there is a specific reason he wants to go with Bing: 'They really are the underdog here. They're incentivized to go out and innovate. They have all these smart people and are trying to do all these new things.' The real importance of this week's announcement is that it highlights the growing strategic conflict between Facebook and Google, says analyst Ray Valdes. 'There is a battle for the future of the Web, and it is not about search engines, but about the social Web.'"

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The Spread of Do-It-Yourself Biotech
Posted by News Fetcher on October 15 '10 at 07:45 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's not-just-for-terrorists-and-governments-anymore deptartment:
zrbyte writes "Are you an electronics hobbyist or a garden shed tinkerer? If so, then move aside, because there's a new kid on the block: the DIY biotechnologist. The decreasing price of biotech instrumentation has made it possible for everyday folks (read: biotech geeks) with a few thousand dollars to spare to equip their garages and parents' basements with the necessary 'tools of the trade.' Some, like PCR machines, are available on eBay; other utensils are hacked together from everyday appliances and some creativity. For example: microscopes out of webcams and armpit E. coli incubators. Nature News has an article on the phenomenon, describing the weird and wonderful fruits of biotech geek ingenuity, like glow-in-the-dark yogurt. One could draw parallels with the early days of computer building/programming. It may be that we're looking at a biotech revolution, not just from the likes of Craig Venter, but from Joe-next-door hacking away at his E. coli strain. What are the Steve Wozniaks of biotech working on right now?"

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StarCraft AI Competition Results
Posted by News Fetcher on October 15 '10 at 07:00 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's teaching-skynet-the-zerg-rush deptartment:
bgweber writes "The StarCraft AI Competition announced last year has come to a conclusion. The competition received 28 bot submissions from universities and teams all over the world. The winner of the competition was UC Berkeley's submission, which executed a novel mutalisk micromanagement strategy. During the conference, a man versus machine exhibition match was held between the top ranking bot and a former World Cyber Games competitor. While the expert player was capable of defeating the best bot, less experienced players were not as successful. Complete results, bot releases, and replays are available at the competition website."

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Data Miners Scraping Away Our Privacy
Posted by News Fetcher on October 15 '10 at 06:15 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's hopefully-they-get-trapped-in-a-chilean-digitial-mine deptartment:
Presto Vivace writes "Twig, writing for Corrente, reports on data scrapers. They are not looking for passwords and such; scrapers are looking at blogs and forums searching for material relevant to their corporate clients. We are assured that the information is 'anonymized' to protect the identities of forum participants. However, a tool called PeekYou permits users to connect online names with real world identities. No worries, though — if you have a week to spare, you can opt-out of some of the larger data banks."

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French Government May Subsidize Music Downloads
Posted by News Fetcher on October 15 '10 at 05:45 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's opening-a-new-front deptartment:
angry tapir writes "The European Commission has approved a French program to subsidize legal music downloads for young people. The Carte Musique scheme gives €25 (US$35) to French residents aged 12 to 25 to spend on music downloads or subscription services. Young people can purchase a €50 card for just €25, with the balance paid by the state."

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Putting the Squeeze On Broadband Copper Robbers
Posted by News Fetcher on October 15 '10 at 05:00 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's bubbs-is-at-it-again deptartment:
nk497 writes "As the price of copper rises, thieves have taken to stealing broadband cables, taking out internet connections and slowing down the rollout of super-fast broadband by giving engineers more work to do. To battle the criminals, UK provider BT has 21 investigators on staff to track down thieves and has started using SmartWater bombs that spray stolen property and the criminals. The SmartWater liquid carries a DNA fingerprint that links a criminal to the scene of the crime and police units carrying ultra-violet light detectors can use the incriminating stains to make an arrest after the trap has been sprung. 'We had one case recently where someone in Dagenham was stopped and searched after acting suspiciously and the police used a UV light on them and could show that they had been tampering with the equipment,' said Auguste. The SmartWater liquid can also be pasted inside cables, making them easier to trace — and less appealing to scrap metal buyers, helping to cut demand for stolen copper."

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Digital Dashboard Device Detects Driver Drowsiness
Posted by News Fetcher on October 15 '10 at 04:30 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's string-between-ceiling-and-nostril deptartment:
Pickens writes "Science Daily Headlines reports that researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Digital Media Technology have developed a self-contained, dashboard-mounted assistant system that tracks a driver's eye movements and issues a warning before the driver has an opportunity to nod off to sleep. 'What we have developed is a small modular system with its own hardware and programs on board, so that the line of vision is computed directly within the camera itself,' says Professor Husar. 'Since the Eyetracker is fitted with at least two cameras that record images stereoscopically — meaning in three dimensions — the system can easily identify the spatial position of the pupil and the line of vision.' The cameras, which can be installed in any model of car, evaluate up to 200 images per second to identify the line of vision. If the camera modules detect that the eye is closed for longer than a user-defined interval, it sounds an alarm. The Eyetracker also has applications in computer games where players could look around themselves without requiring a joystick to change their viewing direction, and in marketing and advertising, where researchers could determine which parts of a poster or advertising spot receive longer attention from their viewers."

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Unspoofable Device Identity Using Flash Memory
Posted by News Fetcher on October 15 '10 at 01:15 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's double-edged-sword deptartment:
wiredmikey writes with a story from Security Week that describes a security silver lining to the inevitable errors that arise in NAND flash chips. By seeking out (or intentionally causing) defects in a given part of the chip, a unique profile can be created for any device using NAND flash which the author says may be obscured, but not reproduced: "[W]e recognize devices (or rather: their flash memory) by their defects. Very much like humans recognize faces: by their defects (or deviations from the 'norm') a bigger nose, a bit too bushy eyebrows, bigger cheeks. The nice twist is that if an attacker manages to read your device identity, he cannot inscribe it into his own device. Yes, he can create errors — like we did. But he cannot control where in the block they occur as this relies solely on microscopic manufacturing defects in the silicon."

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