By manishs from Slashdot's robots-are-coming department
An anonymous reader writes: Sheep and cattle farms in the Australian outback are vast as well as remote. For example, the country's most isolated cattle station, Suplejack Downs in the Northern Territory, extends across 4000 square kilometres and takes 13 hours to reach by car from the nearest major town, Alice Springs. But robots are coming to the rescue. A two-year trial, which starts next month, will train a 'farmbot' to herd livestock, keep an eye on their health, and check they have enough pasture to graze on. Sick and injured animals will be identified using thermal and vision sensors that detect changes in body temperature and walking gait, says Salah Sukkarieh of the University of Sydney, who will carry out the trial on several farms in central New South Wales. The robot, which has not yet been named, is a more sophisticated version of an earlier model, Shrimp, which was designed to herd groups of 20 to 150 dairy cows.Read Replies (0)
By manishs from Slashdot's meanwhile-in-China department
Scott Cendrowski, reporting for Fortune: Xiaomi, the Chinese smartphone maker and second highest-valued startup in the world at $45 billion, barely grew sales at all last year. Revenue for 2015 reached 78 billion yuan ($12.5 billion), a 5% rise from 2014's 74.3 billion yuan. Taking into account the falling value of the Chinese currency, the yuan, sales rose 3% in U.S. dollar terms. Xiaomi has been mum about the 2015 sales total since founder Lei Jun gave a revenue target of 100 billion yuan ($16 billion at the time) at a government meeting in March last year. Flat sales growth represents a dramatic change of fortune for Xiaomi, which until recently appeared to be enjoying the momentum befitting China's hottest startup. It was coming off sales growth of 135% in 2014, and in early 2015 founder Lei Jun said at a press conference that Xiaomi's new smartphone was even better than Apple's iPhone. However the phone, the Mi Note, amassed early user complaints about hot temperatures and didn't become the mega-seller the company might have hoped.CNBC's Jay Yarrow said "The Apple-killer is dying." For the uninitiated, Xiaomi rose to fame in 2013-14 when the company took the world by storm with its cheap-priced handsets, TVs, speakers, power banks, and cameras. These devices offered top-of-the-line specifications for their respective echelon. The company has been called out before for allegedly copying Apple's iOS design in its MIUI Android-based operating system. In the past two years, Xiaomi has expanded its business to several Asian regions, and intends to sell a number of gadgets in the United States and Europe among other regions starting later this year. The company has also expanded its product portfolio, making weighing scale, rice cooker, suitcase and a range of other items.Read Replies (0)
By manishs from Slashdot's the-future-of-transportation department
Marc Tarpenning, co-founder of Tesla, believes hydrogen fuel cells are a "scam". Tarpenning, who is not with Tesla anymore appeared on Internet History Podcast last week to outline a number of issues with hydrogen fuel cells. He said (via Electrek blog): If your goal is to reduce energy consumption, petrol or whatever resource, you want to use it as efficiently as possible. You don't want to pick something that consumes a lot for whatever reason, and hydrogen is uniquely bad. There's a saying in the auto industry that hydrogen is the future of transportation and always will be. It's a scam as far as I can tell because the energy equation is terrible. People will say that hydrogen is the most abundant element in the universe, but it's abundant out there in the universe not here. We live on a planet where hydrogen is super reactive -- it's bound up into everything. It's bound up into water, wood and everything else. They only way that you get hydrogen requires you to pour energy into it to break it from the chemical bonds. Electrolysis is the most common method. You put electricity in water and it separates it, but you are pouring energy in order to make hydrogen, and then you have to compress it and that takes energy, and then you have to transport it to wherever you actually need it, which is really difficult because hydrogen is much harder to work with than gasoline or even natural gas -- and natural gas is not that easy. And then you ultimately have to place it into a car where you'll have a very high-pressure vessel which offers its own safety issues -- and that's only to convert it back again to electricity to make the car go because hydrogen fuel cell cars are really electric cars. They just have an extraordinary bad battery.Here's the podcast.Read Replies (0)
By manishs from Slashdot's the-curious-case-of-copyright-and-DMCA department
London-based resident Annabelle Narey posted a negative review of a building firm on Mumsnet. She noted in her review that her ceiling fell down in an upstairs bedroom. The Guardian reports about what happened to her in the aftermath of posting that review. Building firm BuildTeam sent a letter to Mumsnet, which the site passed on to Narey. According to Narey, BuildTeam found Narey's comment defamatory and untrue, and asked for the removal of the comment from the website. The original comment saw several other users also post similar grievances, though many of these users pulled their comments in response to the legal threats from BuildTeam. Narey wanted to keep hers up. Then things got even weirder, reports the Guardian. Narey says BuiltTeam staff visited her apartment, and instead of offering any apology, asked her to remove the comment. Mumsnet received a warning from Google: a takedown request under DMCA, alleging copyright infringement. This led Google to de-list the entire thread. From the report: No copyright infringement had occurred at all. At some point after Narey posted her comments on Mumsnet, someone had copied the entire text of one of her posts and pasted it, verbatim, to a spammy blog titled "Home Improvement Tips and Tricks". The post, headlined "Buildteam interior designers" was backdated to September 14 2015, three months before Narey had written it. BuildTeam says it has no idea why Narey's review was reposted, but that it had nothing to do with it.The Guardian deep dives into what is wrong with the copyright system, the issues Google faces in dealing with them, and the consequences many users are facing because of this.Read Replies (0)
By manishs from Slashdot's 'apple-is-doomed' department
It's almost unbelievable today that BlackBerry ruled the smartphone market once. The Canadian company's handset, however, started to lose relevance when Apple launched the iPhone in 2007. At the time, BlackBerry said that nobody would purchase an iPhone, as there's a battery trade-off. Wittingly or not, Apple could end up in a similar position to BlackBerry, argues Marco Arment. Arment -- who is best known for his Apple commentary, Overcast and Instapaper apps, and co-founding Tumblr -- says that Apple's strong stand on privacy is keeping it from being the frontrunner in the advanced AI, a category which has seen large investments from Google, Apple, Facebook, and Amazon in the recent years. He adds that privacy cannot be an excuse, as Apple could utilize public data like the web, mapping databases, and business directories. He writes: Today, Amazon, Facebook, and Google are placing large bets on advanced AI, ubiquitous assistants, and voice interfaces, hoping that these will become the next thing that our devices are for. If they're right -- and that's a big "if" -- I'm worried for Apple. Today, Apple's being led properly day-to-day and doing very well overall. But if the landscape shifts to prioritise those big-data AI services, Apple will find itself in a similar position as BlackBerry did almost a decade ago: what they're able to do, despite being very good at it, won't be enough anymore, and they won't be able to catch up. Where Apple suffers is big-data services and AI, such as search, relevance, classification, and complex natural-language queries. Apple can do rudimentary versions of all of those, but their competitors -- again, especially Google -- are far ahead of them, and the gap is only widening. And Apple is showing worryingly few signs of meaningful improvement or investment in these areas. Apple's apparent inaction shows that they're content with their services' quality, management, performance, advancement, and talent acquisition and retention. One company that is missing from Mr. Arment's column is Microsoft. The Cortana-maker has also placed large bets on AI. According to job postings on its portal, it appears, for instance, that Microsoft is also working on Google Home-like service.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's far-above-the-world department
The Indian Space Research Organisation continues developing a reusable launch vehicle, which could cut the costs of satellite launches by 90%. William Robinson quotes the Business Times: India will use a mini-rocket with a booster to fly a winged reusable launch vehicle into lower earth orbit on May 23... If everything goes well, it will reach about 70 kilometers from earth, and will plunge into the Bay of Bengal...to demonstrate hypersonic and aero-thermodynamics of the winged re-entry vehicle with autonomous mission management Meanwhile, Thelasko shares this reminder from BlastingNews that the U.S. Air Force's mysterious X-37B celebrated the one-year anniversary of its launch: Today, the maneuverable craft operates in a 220-mile orbit, a higher altitude it briefly held last fall and roughly the same perch occupied twice by the previous X-37B mission, according to satellite-tracking hobbyist Ted Molczan. This X-37B carries at least two payloads, revealed by the military before the ship took off â" an experimental electric propulsion thruster to be tested in orbit and a pallet to expose sample materials to the space environment.
And MarkWhittington writes that "The latest Chinese space station, the Tiangong 2, is slated to be launched later in 2016 and will be visited by Chinese astronauts in a Shenzhou spacecraft. But, according to Spaceflight Insider, the Chinese are already looking ahead to their permanent low Earth orbit space facility, the Tiangong 3, slated to begin construction in 2018."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's Codemonkey-very-simple-man department
An anonymous reader writes: Swiss researchers are unveiling "a not at all sinister-sounding system capable of predicting the quality of code produced by developers based on their biometric data," according to Motherboard. "By looking at the programmer as they program, rather than the code after the programmer is done writing it, the system described by the Zurich researchers finds code quality issues as the code is being produced... By using heart rate information, for example, they were able to quantify the difficulty a given programmer had in producing a piece of software. This information could then be used to identify likely sections of bad code..."
In a paper to be presented at an Austin engineering conference this week, the researchers write that "Delaying software quality concerns, such as defects or poor understandability of the code, increases the cost of fixing them," calling their system an improvement over code reviews, even automated ones. "Biometrics helped to automatically detect 50 percent of the bugs found in code reviews and outperformed traditional metrics in predicting all quality concerns found in code reviews."
On the other hand, Motherboard likened the stress level for programmers to "a coding interview that never ends where you also happen to be naked. "Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's long-before-Snowden department
10 years before Edward Snowden's leak, an earlier whistle-blower on NSA spying "was fired, arrested at dawn by gun-wielding FBI agents, stripped of his security clearance, charged with crimes that could have sent him to prison for the rest of his life, and all but ruined financially and professionally," according to a new article in The Guardian. "The only job he could find afterwards was working in an Apple store in suburban Washington, where he remains today... The supreme irony? In their zeal to punish Drake, these Pentagon officials unwittingly taught Snowden how to evade their clutches when the 29-year-old NSA contract employee blew the whistle himself."
But today The Guardian reveals a new story about John Crane, a senior official at the Department of Defense "who fought to provide fair treatment for whistleblowers such as Thomas Drake -- until Crane himself was forced out of his job and became a whistleblower as well..." Crane told me how senior Defense Department officials repeatedly broke the law to persecute whistleblower Thomas Drake. First, he alleged, they revealed Drake's identity to the Justice Department; then they withheld (and perhaps destroyed) evidence after Drake was indicted; finally, they lied about all this to a federal judge...
Crane's failed battle to protect earlier whistleblowers should now make it very clear that Snowden had good reasons to go public with his revelations... if [Crane's] allegations are confirmed in court, they could put current and former senior Pentagon officials in jail. (Official investigations are quietly under way.)
Meanwhile, George Maschke writes: In a presentation to a group of Texas law students, a polygraph examiner for the U.S. Department of Defense revealed that in the aftermath of Edward Snowden's revelations, the number of polygraphs conducted annually by the department tripled (to over 120,000). Morris also conceded that mental countermeasures to the polygraph are a "tough thing."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's pigs-vs-birds department
An anonymous reader writes:Last year Rovio "cut 213 jobs, affecting all departments except those working on the film and its related projects," remembers VentureBeat, describing their effort to make a movie about three outcast birds on an island of happier birds who all meet in an anger management class. But "Since Rovio funded the entire film, the directors didn't have to answer to an executive committee or a board of trustees..." reports VentureBeat, quoting director Clay Kaytis as saying "We had to make ourselves happy... We were making the films for [ourselves] instead of for a larger entity that expects something in return."
After working for four years from a script by Jon Vitti (a writer for both The Simpsons and The Office), and funding a marketing onslaught that lasted nine months, Rovio finally saw their Angry Birds movie open in this weekend's #1 spot, according to the New York Times. "Most of the 'Angry Birds' financial risk fell to Rovio, the Finnish video game company, which paid $173 million to make and market the movie. As such, Rovio will receive the bulk of any profit."
In China, McDonald's released special Angry Birds burgers with red or green buns...which at least one patron complained made the buns look moldy.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's insecurity-complex department
An anonymous reader shares a story about Dejan Ornig, a security analyst in Slovenia who warned the Slovenian police department about vulnerabilities in their supposedly secure communication system TETRA in 2013. (Here's Google's English translation of the article, and the Slovenian original.)
He discovered that the system, which was supposed to provide encrypted communication, was incorrectly configured. As a result lots of communication could be intercepted with a $25 piece of equipment and some software. To make matters worse, the system is not used just by the police, but also by the military, military police, IRS, Department of Corrections and a few other governmental institutions which rely on secure communications. After waiting for more than two years for a reaction, from police or Ministry of Interior and getting in touch with security researchers at the prestigious institute Jozef Stefan, he eventually decided to go public with his story... The police and Ministry of interior then launched an internal investigation, which then confirmed Ornig's findings and revealed internal communications problems between the departments... Ornig has been subject to a house search by the police, during which his computers and equipment that he used to listen in on the system were seized. Police also found a "counterfeit police badge" during the investigation. All along Ornig was offering his help with securing the system.
On May 11th Ornig received a prison sentence of 15 months suspended for duration of three years, provided that he doesn't repeat any of the offenses for which he was found guilty (illegal access of the communications system). He can appeal this judgment.Read Replies (0)