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BP Robot Seriously Hampers Oil Spill Containment
Posted by News Fetcher on June 25 '10 at 03:00 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's skynet-not-bothering-with-the-sky deptartment:
ChiefMonkeyGrinder writes "A high-tech effort by BP to slow the oil gushing from its ruptured well head led to a large accident yesterday that forced the company to remove a vital containment cap for 10 hours. Robots, known as remote operated vehicles, were performing multiple operations at the disaster site when one bumped into the 'top hat' cap and damaged one of the vents that removes excess fluid, according to the US Coast Guard. The robots weigh around four tons, and are controlled from vessels on the surface using advanced IT systems with both manual and automated functions. BP removed the cap for nearly 10 hours ... in order to assess it after a discharge of liquids was noted from a key valve. The cap's removal left the oil gushing out of the wellhead, largely uninterrupted. Admiral Thad Allen, US National Incident Commander for the response, told the media that part of the problem was the number of robots conducting simultaneous operations at an immense depth. A dozen robots are circulating the wellhead." Another factor that may hinder containment even more is the increasing potential for tropical storms in that area of the Gulf.

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Experts Explain iPhone 4 Antenna Problem
Posted by News Fetcher on June 25 '10 at 02:15 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's darth-jobs-doesn't-see-what-the-fuss-is-about deptartment:
CWmike writes "Reports of call and data signal strength problems in the new iPhone 4 have a basis in fact, a hardware expert said Thursday. Later in the day, Apple acknowledged that holding the iPhone 4 may result in a diminished signal that could make it difficult to make and maintain calls or retain a data connection. 'Gripping any phone will result in some attenuation of its antenna performance with certain places being worse than others depending on the placement of the antennas. This is a fact of life for every wireless phone,' Apple said in a statement issued to several media outlets, including PC Magazine, which had run tests earlier Thursday. 'If you ever experience this on your iPhone 4, avoid gripping it in the lower left corner in a way that covers both sides of the black strip in the metal band, or simply use one of many available cases.' Scores of new iPhone owners confirmed the reception problem in a string of more than 360 messages posted to a thread on Apple's iPhone 4 support forum." A blog post from an antenna design company explains that the reception problems are probably the direct result of phone design adapting to FCC requirements.

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Hemisphere Games Reveals Osmos Linux Sales Numbers
Posted by News Fetcher on June 25 '10 at 02:00 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's more-than-a-little-less-than-a-lot deptartment:
An anonymous reader writes "Hemisphere Games analyzes the sales numbers for their Linux port of Osmos and ask themselves: 'is it worth porting games to Linux?' The short, simple answer is 'yes.' Breakdown and details in the post." A few other interesting details: the port took them about two man-months of work, the day they released for Linux was their single best sales day ever, and they got a surprising amount of interest from Russia and Eastern Europe. Their data only reflects sales through their website, and they make the point that "the lack of a strong Linux portal makes it a much less 'competitive' OS for commercial development." Hopefully someday the rumored Steam Linux client will help to solve that.

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ASCAP Declares War On Free Culture, EFF
Posted by News Fetcher on June 25 '10 at 01:45 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's less-sense-than-a-unicorn-meat-c&d deptartment:
Andorin writes "According to Drew Wilson at ZeroPaid and Cory Doctorow, the ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers), a US organization that aims to collect royalties for its members for the use of their copyrighted works, has began soliciting donations to fight key organizations of the free culture movement, such as Creative Commons, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and Public Knowledge. According to a letter received by ASCAP member Mike Rugnetta, 'Many forces including Creative Commons, Public Knowledge, Electronic Frontier Foundation and technology companies with deep pockets are mobilizing to promote "Copyleft" in order to undermine our "Copyright." They say they are advocates of consumer rights, but the truth is these groups simply do not want to pay for the use of our music. Their mission is to spread the word that our music should be free.' (Part 1 and part 2 of the letter.) The collecting agency is asking that its professional members donate to its Legislative Fund for the Arts, which appears to be a lobbying campaign meant to convince Congress that artists should not have the choice of licensing their works under a copyleft license."

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A Quantum Memory Storage Prototype
Posted by News Fetcher on June 25 '10 at 01:00 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's spooky-action-down-under deptartment:
eldavojohn writes "An Australian National University project has completed a proof-of-concept storage unit that relies on bringing light to a standstill inside a crystal and then releasing it later for a read-once storage device. There are a few complexities to work out, such as the -270 degrees Celsius requirement to stop the light. And there is an interesting side effect noted by the team lead: 'We could entangle the quantum state of two memories, that is, two crystals. According to quantum mechanics, reading out one memory will instantly alter what is stored in the other, no matter how large the distance between them. According to relativity, the way time passes for one memory is affected by how it moves. With a good quantum memory, an experiment to measure how these fundamental effects interact could be as simple as putting one crystal in the back of my car and going for a drive.' Hopefully this will lead to a better understanding and simple testing of quantum entanglement."

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Arlington National Cemetery's Many IT Flaws
Posted by News Fetcher on June 25 '10 at 12:15 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's may-bobby-tables-rest-in-peace deptartment:
imac.usr writes "A story in today's Washington Post calls to light the utter failure of the nation's most sacred final resting place to modernize its pen-and-paper record system. According to the story, the cemetery's administrators have spent $5 million without managing to accomplish the seemingly simple task of creating a database record of the site's graves. As Virginia senator Mark Warner points out, 'We are one fire, or one flood, or one spilled Starbucks coffee away from some of those records being lost or spoiled.'"

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Stem Cells Curing Burn-Induced Blindness
Posted by News Fetcher on June 25 '10 at 11:45 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's i-can-see-clearly-now deptartment:
mcgrew writes "The AP (via Yahoo) is reporting that Italian researchers can now cure blindness caused by chemical burns using the patient's own stem cells. 'The treatment worked completely in 82 of 107 eyes and partially in 14 others, with benefits lasting up to a decade so far. One man whose eyes were severely damaged more than 60 years ago now has near-normal vision.' Previously, this kind of injury needed either a corneal transplant or stem cells from someone else, both of which are plagued by problems with tissue rejection. Unfortunately, this only works for damaged corneas — so far."

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Pakistan To Scour Google, Yahoo For Blasphemy
Posted by News Fetcher on June 25 '10 at 11:30 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's hope-you've-got-a-lot-of-free-time deptartment:
sv_libertarian sends in this excerpt from an AP report: "Pakistan will start monitoring seven major websites, including Google, Yahoo and Amazon, for sacrilegious content, while blocking 17 other, lesser-known sites it deems offensive to Muslims, an official said Friday. The moves follow Pakistan's temporary ban imposed on Facebook in May that drew both praise and condemnation in a country that has long struggled to figure out how strict a version of Islam it should follow. ... 'If any particular link with offensive content appears on these websites, the (link) shall be blocked immediately without disturbing the main website,' [said Pakistan Telecommunication Authority spokesman Khurram Mehran]."

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Researchers Create Lung On a Chip
Posted by News Fetcher on June 25 '10 at 10:45 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's i-bet-the-borg-use-something-like-this deptartment:
ElectricSteve writes "Utilizing human lung and blood vessel cells, researchers have created a device mounted on a microchip that mimics a living, breathing human lung. About the size of a rubber eraser, the device was developed by a team from the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering at Harvard University, Harvard Medical School and Children's Hospital Boston. Because it's translucent, researchers can watch the processes taking place inside of it — something that's difficult to do with an actual lung. It will be used for testing the respiratory effects of environmental toxins, aerosolized therapeutics and new drugs. Using conventional models, such tests can cost over $2 million."

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Experts Say Wiretap Law Needs Digital Era Update
Posted by News Fetcher on June 25 '10 at 10:00 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's only-a-couple-of-decades-late deptartment:
GovTechGuy writes "Experts at a Congressional hearing Thursday said the government needs to update the Electronic Communications Privacy Act to reflect changes in technology, notably location-based services. On one hand, legal experts argue tracking a mobile user's location should require a higher burden of proof than simply intercepting their communications. On the other hand, first responders may need location data in order to save lives and respond to 911 calls. Either way, expect legislation from the committee later this year."

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Bionic Cat Gets World's First Implant Paws
Posted by News Fetcher on June 25 '10 at 09:15 AM
By kdawson from Slashdot's ten-lives deptartment:
Several readers send in the news of Oscar, the first bionic cat, whose hind paws got cut off in a harvester accident. In a world's-first operation, a neurosurgeon has now given him exoprosthetic paws that are implanted directly into his leg bones. The BBC artlcle has a video captured just after the operation, and PopSci has an apparently later one in which Oscar is walking and running almost completely normally.

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SCOTUS Rules Petiton Signatures Are Public Record
Posted by News Fetcher on June 25 '10 at 08:45 AM
By kdawson from Slashdot's stand-behind-your-john-hancock deptartment:
Reader SheeEttin reminds us that back in October, the Supreme Court accepted a case testing whether or not petition signers' names could be kept anonymous. (The premise was that the act of signing a petition is covered by free speech, and thus signers are entitled to anonymity, especially to protect them from harassment.) Now the Court has issued its ruling: signatures are part of the public record. "By a strong majority Thursday, the Supreme Court issued a setback for opponents of gay marriage who wanted to keep their identities secret. The justices favored transparency over privacy in a case testing whether signing a petition is a public act. The case began with a bill that the Washington state legislature passed in 2009, expanding the state's domestic partnership law. The new referendum was known as 'everything but marriage' for the enhanced rights it gave same-sex couples. People who opposed the bill gathered 120,000 signatures for a ballot measure asking voters to repeal it. That measure eventually reached Washington voters, who upheld 'everything but marriage.' Those who signed the repeal petition feared that they would be harassed if their names became public, so they went to court challenging Washington's Public Records Act. They argued that signing a petition is speech that is protected from disclosure. But in Thursday's 8-1 ruling, the Supreme Court disagreed. 'Such disclosure does not, as a general matter, violate the first amendment,' Chief Justice John Roberts wrote for the court."

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Finance, Scientific Users Get ActivePython Updates
Posted by News Fetcher on June 25 '10 at 07:45 AM
By kdawson from Slashdot's snakes-on-a-filing deptartment:
jcasman sends along this clip from PCWorld: "ActiveState has added three open source mathematics libraries to its ActivePython Python distribution that might interest financial and scientific computing markets, the company announced Thursday. The packages are being added, in part, to anticipate the demand that may arise from new proposed rules for the US financial community brought about by the US Securities and Exchange Commission... In April, the government agency posted a set of proposed rules for handling asset-backed securities that called for financial firms to disclose, along with their prospectus filings, the source code of the programs that generated the filings, as rendered in Python. The government agency will be accepting input about the proposed rule until August 2. The three libraries that are being added to the ActivePython package are NumPy, SciPy, and matplotlib."

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Astronomers Solve the Mystery of 'Hanny's Voorwerp'
Posted by News Fetcher on June 25 '10 at 07:30 AM
By kdawson from Slashdot's do-not-look-directly-into-the-quasar deptartment:
KentuckyFC writes "In 2007, a Dutch school teacher named Hanny van Arkel discovered a huge blob of green-glowing gas while combing though images to classify galaxies. Hanny's Voorwerp (meaning Hanny's object in Dutch) is astounding because astronomers have never seen anything like it. Although galactic in scale, it is clearly not a galaxy because it does not contain any stars. That raises an obvious question: what is causing the gas to glow? Now a new survey of the region of sky seems to have solved the problem. The Voorwerp lies close to a spiral galaxy which astronomers now say hides a massive black hole at its center. The infall of matter into the black hole generates a cone of radiation emitted in a specific direction. The great cloud of gas that is Hanny's Voorwerp just happens to be in the firing line, ionizing the gas and causing it to glow green. That lays to rest an earlier theory that the cloud was reflecting an echo of light from a short galactic flare up that occurred 10,000 years ago. It also explains why Voorwerps are so rare: these radiation cones are highly directional so only occasionally do unlucky gas clouds get caught in the crossfire."

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Open Source Complaint Against IBM Gets Support
Posted by News Fetcher on June 25 '10 at 07:15 AM
By kdawson from Slashdot's flashback-to-the-eighties deptartment:
FlorianMueller writes "ZDNet blogger Dana Blankenhorn reports that '[t]he efforts by open source TurboHercules to break IBM's mainframe monopoly through the European Commission got some proprietary support this week when NEON Enterprise Software LLC of Austin, TX filed an EU complaint alongside a US antitrust lawsuit.' NEON's founder co-founded BMC, so the company is well-funded for this fight. In comments given to the IDG News Service, IBM claims that NEON's product, which saves mainframe customers money by optimizing the use of coprocessors, 'offers no innovation,' and accuses the 'copycat' of violating IBM's intellectual property. That's basically what IBM also said about the Hercules emulator. The European Commission is expected to take a decision on an investigation in a matter of months. Since IBM lobbies the EC over the Open Document Format, it's now accused of double standards."

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A Professional Perspective On Apple's Retina Display
Posted by News Fetcher on June 25 '10 at 07:00 AM
By kdawson from Slashdot's eye-for-an-eye deptartment:
Reader BWJones, who is a retinal scientist, sends in this detailed analysis of the iPhone 4's "retinal display," which includes photomicrographs of the display pixels of earlier generations of iPhone as well as the iPad. Well worth a read. "...as you can see from these images of the displays I captured under a microscope, these pixels are not square. Rather they are rectangular and while the short axis is 78 microns, the long axis on the iPhone 4 pixel is somewhere in the neighborhood of 102 microns. ... While [an earlier analysis by] Dr. Soneira was partially correct with respect to the retina, Apple’s Retina Display adequately represents the resolution at which images fall upon our retina. ... [I] find Apple’s claims stand up to what the human eye can perceive."

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Amazon Opposes Plan To End Saturday Mail Delivery
Posted by News Fetcher on June 25 '10 at 05:45 AM
By kdawson from Slashdot's wee-bit-of-self-interest deptartment:
theodp writes "Online retailer giant Amazon.com has come out against a US Postal Service proposal to end Saturday service, part of efforts to address the USPS budget deficit. 'Amazon's customers have come to appreciate and expect Saturday delivery,' explained Amazon VP Paul Misener. 'If the five-day delivery proposal is not withdrawn,' he added, 'we ask that Congress ensure that Saturday delivery be maintained.' In the past, Amazon has argued that it should not have to help support public services in states in which it has no physical presence." The article adds, "Interestingly, online DVD service Netflix is backing the plan to end Saturday mail delivery, arguing that a 'well functioning' Postal Service is more important than 'maintaining current delivery frequency.'"

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Senate Panel Approves Cybersecurity Bill
Posted by News Fetcher on June 25 '10 at 05:00 AM
By kdawson from Slashdot's wrong-meme deptartment:
GovTechGuy writes "A Senate Committee approved a bill that would give the president an emergency 'kill switch' over the Internet, but added some restrictions to the bill. The president may no longer simply assert that the threat remains indefinitely, he must now seek Congressional approval after 120 days. Still, privacy advocates are concerned about the government's ability to shut down private networks. Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) 'said she was disappointed to read reports that the bill gives the White House a "kill switch" for the Internet, an authority she says the president already has under a little-known clause in the Communications Act passed one month after the December 1941 attack on Pearl Harbor by the Japanese. ... Collins [argued] the new bill actually circumscribes the president's existing authority and puts controls on its use.'"

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APB To Use In-Game Audio Advertisements
Posted by News Fetcher on June 25 '10 at 04:45 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's almost-like-an-all-points-bulletin deptartment:
Rock, Paper, Shotgun reports that upcoming action MMOG APB: All Points Bulletin will use in-game audio advertisements as part of its business model. The number of ads you hear will be limited: "you'll only hear an ad when you go into a new zone, and that's only once every three hours." Nevertheless, some gamers are upset that these ads will be included on top of APB's already unusual payment plans. The game is set for release next Tuesday. Producer Jesse Knapp says of Realtime Worlds' goals for APB, "We looked at other online action games, and we saw things we felt could be better. Only 12 to 32 players in a match, bad connection due to peer-to-peer, dead cities, way too much time in lobbies, things like that. So what we set out to do was to make a game that has that online player vs. player action game experience in a large city with other players around, no lobbies, dynamic matchmaking, dedicated servers, great experience, and that's been one of the driving factors of APB from the very beginning." CVG recently previewed the game.

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Google Remotely Nukes Apps From Android Phones
Posted by News Fetcher on June 25 '10 at 04:15 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's probably-not-ones-you'd-want-to-hang-on-to deptartment:
itwbennett writes "Google disclosed in a blog post on Thursday that it remotely removed two applications from Android phones that ran contrary to the terms of the Android Market. From the post: 'Recently, we became aware of two free applications built by a security researcher for research purposes. These applications intentionally misrepresented their purpose in order to encourage user downloads, but they were not designed to be used maliciously, and did not have permission to access private data — or system resources beyond permission.INTERNET. As the applications were practically useless, most users uninstalled the applications shortly after downloading them. After the researcher voluntarily removed these applications from Android Market, we decided, per the Android Market Terms of Service, to exercise our remote application removal feature on the remaining installed copies to complete the cleanup.' The blog post comes a day after security vendor SMobile Systems published a report saying that 20% of Android apps are malicious."

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