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NASA's Stunning Close-Up Photos of Comet Hartley 2
Posted by News Fetcher on November 05 '10 at 01:45 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's for-sufficiently-distant-values-of-close deptartment:
Several readers have sent word that NASA's EPOXI spacecraft performed a close approach to comet Hartley 2 yesterday, taking pictures within roughly 700km of the nucleus. Bad Astronomer Phil Plait has a collection of some fantastic photographs, and you can check out a ton of other images on the mission website. The Planetary Society blog put together a neat animation of the flyby. NASA's mission fact sheet (PDF) explains EPOXI's background — it's the supplemental mission of the Deep Impact craft that smashed a small probe into a different comet back in 2005 — and why Hartley 2 was chosen for this flyby (they couldn't find their original target).

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MS Adds Security Suite To Update Service, Antivirus Rival Objects
Posted by News Fetcher on November 05 '10 at 01:00 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's shades-of-internet-explorer deptartment:
CWmike writes "Microsoft has started adding Security Essentials to the optional download list seen by US Windows users when they fire up the operating system's update service, and antivirus rivals are crying foul. 'Commercializing Windows Update to distribute other software applications raises significant questions about unfair competition,' Carol Carpenter, a GM at Trend Micro, said on Thursday. 'Windows Update is a de facto extension of Windows, so to begin delivering software tied to updates has us concerned,' she added. 'Windows Update is not a choice for users, and we believe it should not be used this way.' If Windows doesn't detect working security software on the PC, Microsoft adds Security Essentials to the Optional section of Microsoft Update, a superset of the better-known Windows Update, or to Windows Update if it has been configured to also draw downloads from Microsoft Update. Microsoft made a point to say that it was not offering the software via Windows Update, but only through the Microsoft Update service, which also offers patches for new versions of non-operating system software, notably Office and Windows Media Player. But most users won't understand the distinction."

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College Application Inflation — Marketing Meets Admissions
Posted by News Fetcher on November 05 '10 at 12:30 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's forward-this-application-to-seven-of-your-friends deptartment:
gollum123 sends this quote from the Chronicle of Higher Education: "The numbers keep rising, the superlatives keep glowing. Each year, selective colleges promote their application totals, along with the virtues of their applicants. For this fall's freshman class, the statistics reached remarkable levels. Stanford received a record 32,022 applications from students it called 'simply amazing,' and accepted 7 percent of them. Brown saw an unprecedented 30,135 applicants, who left the admissions staff 'deeply impressed and at times awed.' Nine percent were admitted. Such announcements tell a story in which colleges get better — and students get more amazing — every year. In reality, the narrative is far more complex, and the implications far less sunny for students as well as colleges caught up in the cruel cycle of selectivity. To some degree, the increases are inevitable: the college-bound population has grown, and so, too, has the number of applications students file, thanks in part to online technology. But wherever it is raining applications, colleges have helped seed the clouds — by recruiting widely and aggressively for ever more applicants. Many colleges have made applying as simple as updating a Facebook page. Some deans and guidance counselors complain that it's too easy. They question the ethics of intense recruitment by colleges that reject the overwhelming majority of applicants. Today's application inflation is a cause and symptom of the uncertainty in admissions."

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Hulu Plus Now Available To All — But Be Warned
Posted by News Fetcher on November 05 '10 at 11:30 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's plus-or-minus deptartment:
itwbennett writes "Peter Smith outlines some of the things you need to know before plunking down your $10 subscription fee for Hulu Plus, which yesterday came out of its invitation-only phase and is now open to everyone. First off, don't assume that paying $10 gets you out of viewing ads like it does on Netflix — and there's no way to skip them. Second, yes, there's tons of content available on Hulu Plus, but it's not necessarily the same content as hulu.com. 'So if you've been watching a show on hulu.com and can't wait to watch it on the big screen via your PS3, stop a moment and check the Hulu Plus listings,' advises Smith. And then there's the issue of performance, which at least in the preview version has been less than perfect."

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Skin-Tight Bodysuits Could Protect Astronauts From Bone Loss
Posted by News Fetcher on November 05 '10 at 10:45 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's wink-wink-you-bet-they-will deptartment:
jamie passes along a report about research from MIT's Man-Vehicle Laboratory into using "superhero-style" skinsuits to combat the effects of extended stays in microgravity on bone density in astronauts. (Abstract.) Quoting: "Astronauts lose 1 to 2 percent of their bone mass for each month they spend in space. As far back as the Gemini missions, conditioning exercise regimes have been used to slow the rate of bone loss, but a 2001-2004 NASA-sponsored study showed that crew members aboard the International Space Station were still losing up to 2.7 percent of their interior bone material and 1.7 percent of outer hipbone material for each month they spent in space. ... With stirrups that loop around the feet, the elastic gravity skinsuit is purposely cut too short for the astronaut so that it stretches when put on — pulling the wearer's shoulders towards the feet. In normal gravity conditions on Earth, a human's legs bear more weight than the torso. Because the suit's legs stretch more than the torso section, the wearer's legs are subjected to a greater force — replicating gravity effects on Earth." See? Seven of Nine's outfit was inspired by science after all.

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$2,000 Bounty For Open Source Xbox Kinect Drivers
Posted by News Fetcher on November 05 '10 at 10:00 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's helping-everybody-to-look-dumb deptartment:
ptorrone writes "Open source hardware company Adafruit Industries is offering a $2,000 bounty for the first person or group to upload driver code and examples under an open source license to GitHub for the Xbox Kinect released yesterday. The Kinect sensor outputs video at a frame rate of 30Hz, with the RGB video stream at 32-bit color VGA resolution (640×480 pixels), and the monochrome video stream used for depth sensing at 16-bit QVGA resolution (320×240 pixels with 65,536 levels of sensitivity). The open hardware group would like to see this camera used for education, robotics and fun outside the Xbox." The bounty was originally $1,000, but Microsoft's dour response induced Adafruit to double it. ("With Kinect, Microsoft built in numerous hardware and software safeguards designed to reduce the chances of product tampering. Microsoft will continue to make advances in these types of safeguards and work closely with law enforcement and product safety groups to keep Kinect tamper-resistant.") In addition, the Xbox 360 dashboard update that preceded Kinect's launch contains upgraded anti-piracy restrictions.

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Firefox 4 Beta For Mobile Now Faster and Sleeker
Posted by News Fetcher on November 05 '10 at 09:15 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's almost-like-some-sort-of-fox deptartment:
An anonymous reader writes "Mozilla has released Beta 2 of Firefox 4 for Mobile. Some notable improvements over the initial beta release include 'reduced memory usage, improved text rendering and a 60% install size reduction on Android (from around 43 MB to 17 MB).' Mozilla also makes mention that 'actions like panning and zooming are faster and smoother, and page load times are reduced from our previous beta. On Android 2.2, we're now around 25% faster on the SunSpider JavaScript benchmark than the stock browser.' A future beta release will enable GL acceleration, which should further improve the performance of the browser."

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EPIC Files Lawsuit To Suspend Airport Body Scanner Use
Posted by News Fetcher on November 05 '10 at 08:30 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's shut-up-it's-cold-here deptartment:
nacturation writes "The Electronic Privacy Information Center filed a petition for review and motion for an emergency stay, urging the District of Columbia Court of Appeals to suspend the Transportation Security Administration's full body scanner program. EPIC said that the program is 'unlawful, invasive, and ineffective' (PDF). EPIC argued that the federal agency has violated the Administrative Procedures Act, the Privacy Act, the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and the Fourth Amendment. EPIC cited the invasive nature of the devices, the TSA's disregard of public opinion, and the impact on religious freedom."

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Scientists Overclock People's Brains
Posted by News Fetcher on November 05 '10 at 07:45 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's time-to-install-some-extra-fans deptartment:
arshadk writes with this excerpt from the BBC about researchers at Oxford University who found that inducing a small current in a subject's parietal lobe boosted their capacity for numerical learning: "The current could not be felt, and had no measurable effect on other brain functions. As it was turned on, the volunteers tried to learn a puzzle which involved substituting numbers for symbols. Those given the current from right to left across the parietal lobe did significantly better when given, compared to those who were given no electrical stimulation. The direction of the current was important — those given stimulation running in the opposite direction, left to right, did markedly worse at these puzzles than those given no current, with their ability matching that of an average six-year-old. The effects were not short-lived, either. When the volunteers whose performance improved was re-tested six months later, the benefits appear to have persisted. There was no wider effect on general maths ability in either group, just on the ability to complete the puzzles learned as the current was applied."

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Apple To Discontinue Xserve
Posted by News Fetcher on November 05 '10 at 07:00 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's bad-day-for-X-names deptartment:
Toe, The writes "Apple has announced that they are discontinuing their line of 1u rack-mount servers. With their usual understated style, the announcement comes in the form of a box on their website and a transition guide (PDF) to their low-end Mac mini server or their now-more-powerful-than-Xserve Mac Pro server. Attitudes about the Xserve have ranged from considering it a token nod to enterprise to an underpowered wimp to a tremendous value. Apparently, the migration to Intel processors removed some of the value of clustering Xserves, leaving them somewhat overpriced compared to other, more traditional offerings. The odd thing is that Apple clearly has shown they have the capacity for enterprise, but rarely the will to take it on. So, does the discontinuation of their rack-mount mean they have abandoned enterprise for their post-PC offerings, or are they simply acknowledging that their products aren't gaining traction in the data center? Or do they have something else up their sleeve for next year?"

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Ubuntu Dumps X For Unity On Wayland
Posted by News Fetcher on November 05 '10 at 06:30 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's no-longer-marks-the-spot deptartment:
An anonymous reader writes "Canonical and Ubuntu founder Mark Shuttleworth has announced that Ubuntu will move away from the traditional X.org display environment to Wayland — a more modern alternative. The move means there is now little reason for GNOME developers to recommend Ubuntu as an operating system. Shuttleworth said, 'We're confident we’ll be able to retain the ability to run X applications in a compatibility mode, so this is not a transition that needs to reset the world of desktop free software. Nor is it a transition everyone needs to make at the same time: for the same reason we'll keep investing in the 2D experience on Ubuntu despite also believing that Unity, with all its GL dependencies, is the best interface for the desktop. We'll help GNOME and KDE with the transition, there's no reason for them not to be there on day one either.'"

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Microsoft Open Sources F#
Posted by News Fetcher on November 05 '10 at 05:45 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's does-f#-scale deptartment:
aabelro writes "Don Syme has announced the release of the F# compiler source code as a code drop under Apache 2.0. He wrote, 'The F# PowerPack now includes libraries, tools and the compiler/library source code drops. I'd like to take a moment to explain the F# team's approach to this. Firstly, the source for the F# compiler in our MSI/CTP releases has been available for some time, in the releases themselves, so in that sense there's not much new in this release. Secondly, we've always made sure we have a free download binary release of F# available, and will continue to do that, and that should still be the main way you "get" a release of F#. However, we've long discussed making compiler+library source available in a different way. After some discussion, we've decided to do this via a "code drop" model, where we make available versions of the compiler+library code logically matching each release of the F# language itself.'"

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Nicaragua Raids Costa Rica, Blames Google Maps
Posted by News Fetcher on November 05 '10 at 05:00 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's i-was-just-following-my-gps deptartment:
Garabito writes "An error on Google Maps has caused an international conflict in Central America. A Nicaraguan military commander, relying on Google Maps, moved troops into an area near San Juan Lake along the border between his country and Costa Rica (Google translation of Spanish original). The troops are accused of setting up camp there, taking down a Costa Rican flag and raising the Nicaraguan flag, doing work to clean up a nearby river, and dumping the sediment in Costa Rican territory."

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EU Commission Says People Have a 'Right To Be Forgotten' Online
Posted by News Fetcher on November 05 '10 at 04:30 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's pesky-data-retention-laws deptartment:
nk497 writes "The European Commission wants to strengthen data protection rules to give more power to consumers — including the right to be forgotten online. Legislation it's looking to push through next year will let consumers know when and how their data is being used, and force companies to delete it when asked. 'People should be able to give their informed consent to the processing of their personal data,' the commission said in a statement. 'They should have the "right to be forgotten" when their data is no longer needed or they want their data to be deleted.'"

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CDN Optimizing HTML On the Fly
Posted by News Fetcher on November 05 '10 at 01:30 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's speed-is-good deptartment:
Caerdwyn writes "Cotendo, which is a content distribution network, has taken to altering HTML as it passes through their CDN to optimize web pages for faster rendering. This is essentially a repackaging of the Apache mod mod_pagespeed (from Google), with the critical difference being that the rewriting of HTML occurs inline rather than at the web server. We all know that well-written HTML can result in much better rendering of whatever your content is; the questions are 'Will this automatic rewriting cause other problems, i.e. browser quirks?' and 'Assuming that only the web pages of Cotendo's customers are altered, are there nonetheless potential legal troubles with someone rewriting HTML before delivery to a browser?'"

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iFixit Tears Down Microsoft's Kinect For Xbox 360
Posted by News Fetcher on November 04 '10 at 10:00 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's will-it-fix deptartment:
alphadogg writes "Microsoft's new hands-free Kinect game controller is packed with four microphones, two autofocus cameras and a motion detector chip that together make for one heck of a complex toy, according to iFixit's initial teardown of the device. 'We haven't been this excited to get our hands on new hardware since the iPad,' says Kyle Wiens, CEO of the company. 'The way that we interact with computers is (finally) evolving, and Kinect is unlike any hardware we've ever taken apart. In fact, the only thing we've ever taken apart that has anywhere close to this many sensors is Pleo, the dinosaur robot.' iFixit describes Kinect as 'a horizontal bar of sensors connected to a small, motorized pivoting base.' The $150 device that Microsoft put hundreds of millions of dollars of research into can be purchased separately from the Xbox 360 or as part of a bundle. A Prime Sense PS1080-A2 is at the heart of Kinect's motion detection capabilities, as it connects to all of Kinect's sensors and processes images of your game room's color and scope before shooting them over to the Xbox. iFixit couldn't immediately identify all of the chips within the box, so plans to update its teardown."

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World's Northernmost Town Gets Nightlights
Posted by News Fetcher on November 04 '10 at 08:45 PM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's goodbye-darkness-my-old-friend deptartment:
Velcroman1 writes "On October 26, 2,000 Norwegians watched the sun set. The next time they'll see it rise? Sometime in February. Extended nighttime is an annual occurrence for the residents of Longyearbyen, Norway — Earth's northernmost town. Located at 78 degrees north latitude in the Arctic circle, Longyearbyen experiences a phenomenon called Polar Night, in which the town remains in perpetual darkness for four months each winter. To lighten up the seemingly endless night, Philips has started an experiment called 'Wake Up the Town.' And anyone who's complained about the brief daylight hours in winter will want to know how it works."

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Researcher To Release Web-Based Android Attack
Posted by News Fetcher on November 04 '10 at 07:15 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's oopsie-daisy deptartment:
CWmike writes "A computer security researcher says he plans to release code Thursday that could be used to attack some versions of Google's Android phones over the Internet. The attack targets the browser in older, Android 2.1-and-earlier versions of the phones. It is being disclosed Thursday at the HouSecCon conference by M.J. Keith, a security researcher with Alert Logic. Keith says he has written code that allows him to run a simple command line shell in Android (video) when the victim visits a website that contains his attack code. The bug used in Keith's attack lies in the WebKit browser engine used by Android. Google said it knows about the vulnerability. 'We're aware of an issue in WebKit that could potentially impact only old versions of the Android browser,' Google spokesman Jay Nancarrow confirmed in an e-mail. 'The issue does not affect Android 2.2 or later versions.' Version 2.2 runs on 36.2 percent of Android phones, Google says"

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Flash Can Rob 2 Hours From MacBook Air's Battery Life
Posted by News Fetcher on November 04 '10 at 04:15 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's less-frantic-scrambling deptartment:
The lack of Flash in the new MacBook Air may annoy some users, but it has a big upside, too. According to Wired's report (citing Ars Technica) passed on by an anonymous reader, "Having Flash installed can cut battery runtime considerably — as much as 33 percent in our testing. With a handful of websites loaded in Safari, Flash-based ads kept the CPU running far more than seemed necessary, and the best time I recorded with Flash installed was just 4 hours. After deleting Flash, however, the MacBook Air ran for 6:02 — with the exact same set of websites reloaded in Safari, and with static ads replacing the CPU-sucking Flash versions."

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Tesla Roadster Data Logging Format Reverse Engineered
Posted by News Fetcher on November 04 '10 at 03:15 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's we-know-where-you-plugged-in deptartment:
s1axter writes with word that "the data log format for the Tesla Roadster has been reverse engineered and documented, now available in Python. (Python script linked in the post.)" From the linked blog entry: "Not only was I given a $110k car unrestricted I was requested to see what ECU information is available, collect and parse the data from it. Tesla Motors periodically collects information from their vehicles presumably to see what real-world driving the cars see. On original Roadster models there is no method to collect this information remotely thus someone must go out to the vehicle and collect it. The owner of the vehicle saw this and wanted to know what information was collected on these service calls ... Because I am a big fan of freedom to modify a program to fit ones needs, I have uploaded the ... python script to parse Tesla logs."

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