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New Zealand May Be the Tip of a Submerged Continent
Posted by News Fetcher on February 21 '17 at 01:41 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's making-a-case department:
An anonymous reader shares a report on The Outline: A group of geologists believe it is time to name a new continent. A paper published in the March/April edition of GSA Today, the journal for the Geological Society of America, lays out the case for Zealandia as the seventh and youngest geological continent. In the past, New Zealand was thought to be part of a collection of "islands, fragments, and slices," the authors wrote, but it's now understood to be part of a solid landmass. New Zealand is essentially the highest mountains of a 1.9 million square mile landmass that is 94 percent underwater, according to the paper. The authors believe it is both large and isolated enough to qualify as a continent. They note that it is elevated relative to the oceanic crust, as befits a continent, and its distinctiveness and thickness are also on par with continents one through six. What does it matter if Zealandia is officially a continent? Reclassifying the area would encourage geologists to include it in studies of comparative continental rifting and continent-ocean boundaries.

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Why Astronauts Are Banned From Getting Drunk in Space
Posted by News Fetcher on February 20 '17 at 11:02 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's mystery-solved department:
Bryan Lufkin, writing for BBC: "Alcohol is not permitted onboard the International Space Station for consumption," says Daniel G Huot, spokesperson for Nasa's Johnson Space Center. "Use of alcohol and other volatile compounds are controlled on ISS due to impacts their compounds can have on the station's water recovery system." For this reason, astronauts on the space station are not even provided with products that contain alcohol, like mouthwash, perfume, or aftershave. Spilling beer during some drunken orbital hijinks could also risk damaging equipment. [...] There could be another reason to avoid frothy drinks like beer -- without the assistance of gravity, liquid and gases can tumble around in an astronaut's stomach, causing them to produce rather soggy burps.

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Apple Files 14-Point Appeal Against European Commission's $14 Billion Tax Edict
Posted by News Fetcher on February 20 '17 at 09:41 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's fighting-back department:
An anonymous reader shares an AppleInsider report: Apple has filed its appeal with the European court of appeals, all declaring that the European Commission's decision to levy $14 billion in taxes on Apple on behalf of the EU is erroneous, against the rule of law, and should be stricken. The 14 points of appeal introduced by Apple on Monday challenge the European Commission (EC) on several fronts. Primarily, Apple contests that the Cork, Ireland, headquarters of Apple's European wing was properly set up, in accordance with all regulations and laws. Additionally, other apparent accounting blunders by the EC while making its decision were brought up as well. Apple points out that the taxable income attributed to the Ireland branch was misapplied, giving more weight to the Irish operation than it should, and that back taxes were being applied to worldwide profits.

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EU Privacy Watchdogs Say Windows 10 Settings Still Raise Concerns
Posted by News Fetcher on February 20 '17 at 05:31 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's some-things-never-change department:
Julia Fioretti, reporting for Reuters: European Union data protection watchdogs said on Monday they were still concerned about the privacy settings of Microsoft's Windows 10 operating system despite the U.S. company announcing changes to the installation process. The watchdogs, a group made up of the EU's 28 authorities responsible for enforcing data protection law, wrote to Microsoft last year expressing concerns about the default installation settings of Windows 10 and users' apparent lack of control over the company's processing of their data. The group -- referred to as the Article 29 Working Party -- asked for more explanation of Microsoft's processing of personal data for various purposes, including advertising. "In light of the above, which are separate to the results of ongoing inquiries at a national level, even considering the proposed changes to Windows 10, the Working Party remains concerned about the level of protection of users' personal data," the group said in a statement which also acknowledged Microsoft's willingness to cooperate.

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Amazon Quietly Lowered Its Free Shipping Minimum to $35
Posted by News Fetcher on February 20 '17 at 01:31 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's small-changes department:
Retailers have been busy over the weekend with Presidents Day promotions and sales, but Amazon had a significant surprise discount of its own. From a report: In a blink-and-miss-it move, the online retail giant quietly reduced its free shipping minimum rate to $35. The change was picked up and reported by a number of news outlets over the weekend, and was spotted by Fortune as well during the online checkout process. Amazon confirmed the change on its shipping guidelines and options page, designating which items and regions for delivery are eligible for free shipping. Amazon's free shipping rate, arguably one of the promotions on the site that has been the most popular and vaulted it to its e-commerce throne in years past, has gone up and down over the years. The free shipping minimum has been as low as $25 in the past and was most recently as high as $49.

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Of Course Facebook Is Putting a Snapchat Clone Inside WhatsApp
Posted by News Fetcher on February 20 '17 at 12:11 PM
By msmash from Slashdot's we-will-never-change department:
Karissa Bell, writing for Mashable: Facebook is about to start pushing its next Snapchat clone on a new set of 1 billion+ users. WhatsApp is now starting to roll out its own version of Stories with an update to its Status feature. Launching now in the Netherlands and France, the feature will eventually be live in all the countries where the messaging app is available. [...] The update, which coincides with the chat app's eighth birthday, makes WhatsApp the last of the major Facebook services to get the Snapchat treatment. (The company started with Instagram last year before adding Snapchat-like features to Messenger and the main Facebook app.) Journalist Casey Newton sums up the situation with this sarcastic tweet, "Honestly whatever you think of Evan Spiegel, it's impressive that he's taking Snap public while serving as Facebook's chief product officer."

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The Death of the Click
Posted by News Fetcher on February 20 '17 at 10:37 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's moving-on department:
Sara Fischer, writing for Axios: For the past 10 years, we've operated on the premise that the most important digital metric is the click that refers a person to a website. That click usually comes from a social distribution channel, like Facebook or Twitter, or a search engine, like Google or Bing. But according to industry experts, the click referral is becoming an idea of the past, soon to be replaced by content exposure. [...] Most publishers have designed their websites to measure user interaction through clicks, not scroll rates or time spent on stories. As the industry moves away from click-through rates (CTR's) as the most meaningful marketing metric, those publishers will have a difficult time justifying the effectiveness of their platforms for marketers.

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Microsoft Has Cancelled the Second-Gen HoloLens, Working on Third-Gen For 2019 Launch
Posted by News Fetcher on February 20 '17 at 10:37 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's change-in-plan department:
Citing several unnamed sources, long-time blogger Brad Sams is reporting that Microsoft has canceled the second iteration of the HoloLens in an attempt to focus on even more advanced HoloLens. The company, he says, now plans to launch that third iteration of HoloLens in 2019. From the report: Back when the first version of HoloLens came out, Microsoft created a roadmap that highlighted several release points for the product. This isn't unusual, you start with the first device, second generation devices are typically smaller and more affordable and then with version three you introduce new technology that upgrades the experience; this is a standard process path in the technology sector. Microsoft, based on my sources, is sidelining what was going to be version two of HoloLens and is going straight to version three. By skipping what was version two on their roadmap, the company can accelerate version three which will be closer to a generational leap and help keep Microsoft ahead of the competition. My sources are telling me that this version of HoloLens will not arrive until 2019.

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Google and Microsoft To Crackdown On Piracy Sites In Search Results
Posted by News Fetcher on February 20 '17 at 09:08 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's tightening-the-screws department:
Google and Microsoft pledged on Monday to crack down on sites hosting pirated content that show up on their search engines. In what is being called a first of its kind agreement, Google and Microsoft's Bing will demote U.K. search results of copyright infringing websites. From a report on The Telegraph: The search engine operators have signed up to a clampdown that will see the UK's copyright watchdog monitor the search results they provide for unlawful websites. The agreement follows years of campaigning by record labels and film studios, which have accused Google and Microsoft of turning a blind eye to piracy and dragging their feet over measures to protect copyright online. Under a new voluntary code, the tech giants have committed to demote websites that have repeatedly been served with copyright infringement notices, so that they do not appear on the first page for common searches.

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NASA Is Studying A Manned Trip Around The Moon On A $23 Billion Rocket
Posted by News Fetcher on February 20 '17 at 07:42 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's shape-of-things-to-come department:
An anonymous reader shares a report on NASA's ongoing work on a manned trip to the moon. From the report: Without a new administrator even nominated yet, NASA's acting head Robert Lightfoot on Wednesday requested a study of whether next year's first flight of the Space Launch System rocket, billed as the most powerful NASA has built, could have a crew of astronauts. "I know the challenges associated with such a proposition," Lightfoot said in a letter to his agency, citing costs, extra work, and "a different launch date" for the planned 2018 Exploration Mission-1 (EM-1). The mission would be launched by the massive SLS, which is still in development, then boosted by a European service module to put three astronauts inside the new Orion space capsule on a three-week trip around the moon. NASA first sent three astronauts around the moon in 1968 in the Apollo 8 mission. The last astronaut to stand on the moon, the late Gene Cernan returned to Earth in 1972. The new talk of a repeat moon-circling mission, aboard an untested spacecraft, has space policy experts variously thrilled, dismissive, and puzzled. "I frankly don't quite know what to say about it," space policy expert John Logsdon of George Washington University said. Writing on NASAWatch, Keith Cowing called the study request a "Hail Mary" pass to save the life of the SLS ahead of Trump installing a budget cutter to head the space agency. The Government Accountability Office estimates the costs of SLS and its two planned launches (a second, crewed mission is planned for 2023) at $23 billion.

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Former Engineer Says Uber Is a Nightmare of Sexism; CEO Orders Urgent Investigation
Posted by News Fetcher on February 20 '17 at 06:24 AM
By msmash from Slashdot's what-in-the-world department:
An anonymous reader shares a report on The Verge: A former Uber engineer has published an explosive account of sexism and power struggles in the workplace, with allegations beginning from her very first official day with the company. The engineer, Susan Fowler (who left Uber in December and now works for Stripe), posted the account to her blog on Sunday, calling it a "strange, fascinating, and slightly horrifying story." It is indeed horrifying. Sexism is a well-documented problem in Silicon Valley, but the particulars of Fowler's account are astounding. She says problems began on day one, when her manager accosted her with details of his sex life: "In my first official day rotating on the team, my new manager sent me a string of messages over company chat. He was in an open relationship, he said, and his girlfriend was having an easy time finding new partners but he wasn't. He was trying to stay out of trouble at work, he said, but he couldn't help getting in trouble, because he was looking for women to have sex with. It was clear that he was trying to get me to have sex with him, and it was so clearly out of line that I immediately took screenshots of these chat messages and reported him to HR. When I reported the situation, I was told by both HR and upper management that even though this was clearly sexual harassment and he was propositioning me, it was this man's first offense, and that they wouldn't feel comfortable giving him anything other than a warning and a stern talking-to. Upper management told me that he "was a high performer" (i.e. had stellar performance reviews from his superiors) and they wouldn't feel comfortable punishing him for what was probably just an innocent mistake on his part. The things only get worse for Fowler. Read the full account of her story here. In the meanwhile, Uber CEO Travis Kalanick said the company would "conduct an urgent investigation" into the allegations, and promised to fire anyone who "behaves this way or thinks this is OK." Journalist Paul Carr summing up the situation, says, "Uber's ability to be on the wrong side of every moral and ethical issue is bordering on magical."

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NASA Scientist Revive 10,000-Year-Old Microorganisms
Posted by News Fetcher on February 20 '17 at 05:01 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's bacteria-to-the-future department:
"Scientists have extracted long-dormant microbes from inside the famous giant crystals of the Naica mountain caves in Mexico -- and revived them," reports the BBC. An anonymous reader writes:
"The organisms were likely to have been encased in the striking shafts of gypsum at least 10,000 years ago, and possibly up to 50,000 years ago," according to the BBC, which calls the strange lifeforms "another demonstration of the ability of life to adapt and cope in the most hostile of environments." With no light, extremophile species must "chemosynthesise," deriving all their energy by extracting minerals from rocks. These ancient microbes "are not very closely related to anything in the known genetic databases," according to the new director of NASA's Astrobiology Institute, who helped conduct the research, and believes that the microbes could help suggest what life might look like on other planets. The BBC adds that many other scientists "suspect that if life does exist elsewhere in the Solar System, it is most likely to be underground, chemosynthesising like the microbes of Naica."

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'Counter-Strike' Gets Invaded By An Unblockable Chat-Bot
Posted by News Fetcher on February 20 '17 at 12:51 AM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's first-person-chatter department:
An anonymous reader writes:

"At least one intruder is taking advantage of a Counter-Strike: Global Offensive exploit to flood lobbies (even private ones) with text from chat bots that can't be kicked," writes Engadget. The attack "allegedly comes from one person," according to Kotaku, which reports that "It's a similar exploit to one found a few weeks ago, where typing messages into a lobby allowed users to rank up and down as they chose." The chat bot's text includes various complaints about Counter-Strike which it claims motivated the attack, including cheaters, hackers and "bugs that break the game," and it urges a one-day boycott "to proof [sic] them that we care about the game and want them to fix it."

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Kim Dotcom Can Be Extradited, Rules A New Zealand Court
Posted by News Fetcher on February 19 '17 at 09:42 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's residency-shmesidency department:
Kim Dotcom -- and Megaupload's programmers Mathias Ortmann and Bram van der Kolk, as well as its advertising manager Finn Batato -- could soon be in a U.S. courtroom. A New Zealand judge just ruled they can all be extradited to the U.S. An anonymous reader quotes Reuters:

The Auckland High Court upheld the decision by a lower court in 2015 on 13 counts, including allegations of conspiracy to commit racketeering, copyright infringement, money laundering and wire fraud, although it described that decision as "flawed" in several areas. Dotcom's lawyer Ron Mansfield said in a statement the decision was "extremely disappointing" and that Dotcom would appeal to New Zealand's Court of Appeal.

U.S. authorities say Dotcom and three co-accused Megaupload executives cost film studios and record companies more than $500 million and generated more than $175 million by encouraging paying users to store and share copyrighted material. High Court judge Murray Gilbert said that there was no crime for copyright in New Zealand law that would justify extradition but that the Megaupload-founder could be sent to the United States to face allegations of fraud.

"I'm no longer getting extradited for copyright," Dotcom commented on Twitter. "We won on that. I'm now getting extradited for a law that doesn't even apply.

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ZDNet: Linux 'Takes The World' While Windows Dominates The Desktop
Posted by News Fetcher on February 19 '17 at 06:51 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's decade-of-the-Linux-desktop department:
ZDNet editor-in-chief Steve Ranger writes that desktop dominance is less important with today's cloud-based apps running independent of operating system, arguing that the desktop is now "just one computing platform among many." An anonymous reader quotes his report:
Linux on the desktop has about a 2% market share today and is viewed by many as complicated and obscure. Meanwhile, Windows sails on serenely, currently running on 90% of PCs in use... That's probably OK because Linux won the smartphone war and is doing pretty well on the cloud and Internet of Things battlefields too.
There's a four-in-five chance that there's a Linux-powered smartphone in your pocket (Android is based on the Linux kernel) and plenty of IoT devices are Linux-powered too, even if you don't necessarily notice it. Devices like the Raspberry Pi, running a vast array of different flavours of Linux, are creating an enthusiastic community of makers and giving startups a low-cost way to power new types of devices. Much of the public cloud is running on Linux in one form or another, too; even Microsoft has warmed up to open-source software.

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Linux Kernel 4.10 Officially Released With Virtual GPU Support
Posted by News Fetcher on February 19 '17 at 05:04 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's tarballs-from-Torvalds department:
"Linus Torvalds announced today the general availability of the Linux 4.10 kernel series, which add a great number of improvements, new security features, and support for the newest hardware components," writes Softpedia. prisoninmate quotes their report:
Linux kernel 4.10 has been in development for the past seven weeks, during which it received a total of seven Release Candidate snapshots that implemented all the changes that you'll soon be able to enjoy on your favorite Linux-based operating system... Prominent new features include virtual GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) support, new "perf c2c" tool that can be used for analysis of cacheline contention on NUMA systems, support for the L2/L3 caches of Intel processors (Intel Cache Allocation Technology), eBPF hooks for cgroups, hybrid block polling, and better writeback management. A new "perf sched timehist" feature has been added in Linux kernel 4.10 to provide detailed history of task scheduling, and there's experimental writeback cache and FAILFAST support for MD RAID5... Ubuntu 17.04 (Zesty Zapus) could be the first stable OS to ship with Linux 4.10.
It required 13,000 commits, plus over 1,200 merges, Linus wrote in the announcement, adding "On the whole, 4.10 didn't end up as small as it initially looked."

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Serious Computer Glitches Can Be Caused By Cosmic Rays
Posted by News Fetcher on February 19 '17 at 03:42 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's it-came-from-outer-space department:
The Los Alamos National Lab wrote in 2012 that "For over 20 years the military, the commercial aerospace industry, and the computer industry have known that high-energy neutrons streaming through our atmosphere can cause computer errors." Now an anonymous reader quotes Computerworld:
When your computer crashes or phone freezes, don't be so quick to blame the manufacturer. Cosmic rays -- or rather the electrically charged particles they generate -- may be your real foe. While harmless to living organisms, a small number of these particles have enough energy to interfere with the operation of the microelectronic circuitry in our personal devices... particles alter an individual bit of data stored in a chip's memory. Consequences can be as trivial as altering a single pixel in a photograph or as serious as bringing down a passenger jet. A "single-event upset" was also blamed for an electronic voting error in Schaerbeekm, Belgium, back in 2003. A bit flip in the electronic voting machine added 4,096 extra votes to one candidate. The issue was noticed only because the machine gave the candidate more votes than were possible. "This is a really big problem, but it is mostly invisible to the public," said Bharat Bhuva. Bhuva is a member of Vanderbilt University's Radiation Effects Research Group, established in 1987 to study the effects of radiation on electronic systems.

Cisco has been researching cosmic radiation since 2001, and in September briefly cited cosmic rays as a possible explanation for partial data losses that customer's were experiencing with their ASR 9000 routers.

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Google Discloses An Unpatched Windows Bug (Again)
Posted by News Fetcher on February 19 '17 at 03:42 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's presents-from-Project-Zero department:
An anonymous reader writes: "For the second time in three months, Google engineers have disclosed a bug in the Windows OS without Microsoft having released a fix before Google's announcement," reports BleepingComputer. "The bug in question affects the Windows GDI (Graphics Device Interface) (gdi32.dll)..." According to Google, the issue allows an attacker to read the content of the user's memory using malicious EMF files. The bad news is that the EMF file can be hidden in other documents, such as DOCX, and can be exploited via Office, IE, or Office Online, among many.

"According to a bug report filed by Google's Project Zero team, the bug was initially part of a larger collection of issues discovered in March 2016, and fixed in June 2016, via Microsoft's security bulletin MS16-074. Mateusz Jurczyk, the Google engineer who found the first bugs, says the MS16-074 patches were insufficient, and some of the issues he reported continued to remain vulnerable." He later resubmitted the bugs in November 2016. The 90-days deadline for fixing the bugs expired last week, and the Google researcher disclosed the bug to the public after Microsoft delayed February's security updates to next month's Patch Tuesday, for March 15.

Microsoft has described Google's announcements of unpatched Windows bugs as "disappointing".

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Some Recyclers Give Up On Recycling Old Monitors And TVs
Posted by News Fetcher on February 19 '17 at 02:22 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's electronic-wastelands department:
An anonymous reader writes:

"In many cases, your old TV isn't recycled at all and is instead abandoned in a warehouse somewhere, left for society to deal with sometime in the future," reports Motherboard, describing the problem of old cathode-ray televisions and computer monitors with "a net negative recycling value" (since their component parts don't cover the cost of dismantling them). An estimated 705 million CRT TVs were sold in the U.S. since 1980, and many now sit in television graveyards, "an environmental and economic disaster with no clear solution." As much as 100,000 tons of potentially hazardous waste are stockpiled in two Ohio warehouses of the now-insolvent recycler Closed Loop, plus "at least 25,000 tons of glass and unprocessed CRTs in Arizona...much of it is sitting in a mountainous pile outside one of the warehouses."

One EPA report found 23,000 tons of lead-containing CRT glass abandoned in four different states just in 2013.

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Self-Driving Car Speed Race Ends With A Crash
Posted by News Fetcher on February 19 '17 at 02:22 PM
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's self-crashing-cars department:
An anonymous reader writes:On a professional track in Buenos Aires, fans watched the first Formula E auto race with self-driving electric cars. "Roborace's two test vehicles battled it out on the circuit at a reasonably quick 115MPH," reports Engadget, "but one of the cars crashed after it took a turn too aggressively. The racing league was quick to tout the safety advantages of crashing autonomous cars ('no drivers were harmed'), but it's clear that the tech is still rough around the edges." Electrek is reporting that the cars "still have a cabin for a driver but neither car's cabin was occupied during the event." The ultimate goal is to have several teams racing the exact same self-driving car, while letting each team customize its car's driving software.
An Argentinian journalist shared footage of the race cars on Twitter, and apparently at one point a dog wandered out in front of an oncoming race car. But the real question is how the fans are going to feel about watching a speed race between cars with no drivers?

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