By EditorDavid from Slashdot's flying-by-radar department
Zorro quotes DefenseOne:
A new contest seeks flight systems inspired by Mother Nature and powered by directed-energy beams. Tired: multi-rotor copters and fixed-wing drones. Wired: flying robots that move like living animals, are crafted of next-generation materials, and draw their power not from batteries but energy beamed from nearby aircraft...
"The biological study of agile organisms such as bats and flying insects has yielded new insights into complex flight kinematics of systems with a large number of degrees of freedom, and the use of multi-functional flight surface materials," the announcement reads. The Air Force believes that more and more naturalistic design -- coupled with more powerful and smaller sensors to form a better picture of the outside world -- should yield "significant improvements in maneuverability, survivability and stealth over traditional quadcopter or fixed wing designs."
The article includes a link to a CalTech video showing footage of an advanced robotic bat.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's real-life-space-odysseys department
Legendary astronaut John Young -- who walked on the moon and piloted the first space shuttle -- died Friday at the age of 87. schwit1 shares a nice profile from CBS News:
A naval aviator and test pilot, Young logged more than 15,275 hours flying time in a variety of aircraft, including 9,200 hours in T-38 jets. He spent 835 hours in space across his six NASA flights, serving as co-pilot of the first Gemini mission in 1965, commander of a second Gemini flight in 1966, lunar module pilot for Apollo 10 in 1969, commander of Apollo 16 in 1972 and commander of the first shuttle flight in 1981... Young was the first man to fly in space six times and the only astronaut to fly aboard Gemini and Apollo capsules and the space shuttle...
He also brought a legendary cool nerve to an inherently dangerous job that amazed his compatriots. "I found out from the flight surgeon later on that my heartbeat was 144 at liftoff," Charlie Duke, one of Young's crewmates on the Apollo 16 moon landing mission, said of his reaction to launch atop a Saturn 5 rocket. "John's (heartbeat) was 70".
On one space shuttle flight, two of the ship's three auxiliary power units actually caught on fire, and exploded just minutes after touchdown. But Young always kept his cool. In 2010 Slashdot remembered the first manned Gemini mission in 1965. When it reached orbit, Young surprised his fellow astronaut Gus Grissom by pulling a fresh corned beef sandwich out of his pocket.
An anonymous Slashdot reader writes: Andrew Chaikin, author of "A Man on the Moon: The Voyages of the Apollo Astronauts", remembers that Young "used to talk about how if we stay on this planet for too long, something's going to get us, whether it was a super volcano or whatever. He really was a true believer." NASA Administrator Robert Lightfoot added that Young's career "spanned three generations of spaceflight; we will stand on his shoulders as we look toward the next human frontier."
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's things-that-cost-$29 department
An anonymous reader quotes TechCrunch:
Google today announced that it sold "tens of millions of Google devices for the home" over the course of the last year and that it sold "more than one Google Home device every second since Google Home Mini started shipping in October," with roughly 6.75 million seconds since October 19 (the day the Home Mini officially went on sale)... The launch of the Google Home Mini, which you could easily buy for $29 (and occasionally for $19 with store credit) gave the company a low-price competitor to Amazon's Echo Dots, and even though it's doubtful that Google made a lot of money of these sales, the move clearly paid off.
The Verge adds:
Google is thought to be losing money on every unit of the Home Mini; Reuters reported on one analysis that pegged the device's parts alone at $26, not including the cost of developing the entire thing, supporting it, advertising it, shipping it, and so on. Of course, Google is in this for the long game -- the Assistant is an attempt to make sure Google remains the way people get information, and Google has plenty of options to make money through ads or the data it collects in the future...
Amazon is also believed to be losing money on the Echo Dot, which was similarly cut to $29 during the holiday season. Amazon never gives out specific sales figures, but it did say that "tens of millions" of its own Alexa-enabled devices were sold over the holidays, with the Echo Dot being one of the top sellers... These super cheap prices are getting people to buy smart speakers and commit to an ecosystem. These companies are clearly happy to spend a few dollars gaining customers in the short term so that they have an enormous audience available to them down the road.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's Lucy-in-disguise-with-diamonds department
"Researchers at Google were able to create little stickers with 'psychedelic'-looking patterns on them that could trick computer AI image-classifying algorithms into mis-classifying images of objects that it would normally be able to recognize," writes amxcoder:
The patterned stickers work by tricking the image recognition algorithm into focusing on, and studying, the little pattern on the small sticker -- and ignoring the rest of the image, including the actual object in the picture... The images on the stickers were created by the researchers using knowledge of features and shapes, patterns, and colors that the image recognition algorithms look for and focus on.
These stickers were created so that the algorithm finds them 'more interesting' than the rest of the image and will focus most of it's attention on analyzing the pattern, while giving the rest of the image content a lower importance, thus ignoring it or confusing it.
The technique "works in the real world, and can be disguised as an innocuous sticker," note the researchers -- describing them as "targeted adversarial image patches."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's not-so-sweet department
Zorro (Slashdot reader #15,797) quotes the Los Angeles Times:
Two bacterial strains that have plagued hospitals around the country may have been at least partly fueled by a sugar additive in our food products, scientists say. Trehalose, a sugar that is added to a wide range of food products, could have allowed certain strains of Clostridium difficile to become far more virulent than they were before, a new study finds. The results, described in the journal Nature, highlight the unintended consequences of introducing otherwise harmless additives to the food supply.
Nearly half a million people were sickened by C. difficile in 2011, when it was directly linked to 15,000 deaths.
"The misuse and overuse of antibiotics has long been thought to be responsible for the rise of many kinds of antibiotic-resistant 'superbug'," notes the article, before citing a researcher who now believes "the circumstantial and experimental evidence points to trehalose as an unexpected culprit."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's get-off-of-my-cloud department
The Register reports:
Nvidia has banned the use of its GeForce and Titan gaming graphics cards in data centers -- forcing organizations to fork out for more expensive gear, like its latest Tesla V100 chips. The chip-design giant updated its GeForce and Titan software licensing in the past few days, adding a new clause that reads: "No Datacenter Deployment. The SOFTWARE is not licensed for datacenter deployment, except that blockchain processing in a datacenter is permitted."
Long-time Slashdot reader Xesdeeni has a few questions:
Is this really even legal? First, because it changes use of existing hardware, already purchased, by changing software (with potentially required bug fixes) agreements retroactively. Second, because how can a customer (at least in the U.S.) be told they can't use a product in a particular place, unless it's a genuine safety or security concern (i.e. government regulation)!?
Nvidia expects that "working together with our user base on a case-by-case basis, we will be able to resolve any customer concerns," they told CNBC, adding that "those who don't download new drivers won't be held to the new terms."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's decisions-decisions department
An anonymous reader quotes USA Today:
"Always connected personal computers" -- or ACPCs -- refer to a new breed of Windows laptops with three key features: a battery that can last multiple days; instant-on access when you open the lid or touch a key; and an optional high-speed cellular connection, to avoid hunting for a Wi-Fi hotspot to get online. In other words, your laptop is going to behave a lot more like your smartphone... In fact, with the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor, ASUS is claiming battery life of up to 22 hours of continuous video playback, and up to 30 days on standby. At $799, the ASUS NovaGo (model # TP370) will also be the first always-connected PC with a 360-degree flip hinge -- making it a "2-in-1" that can convert from laptop mode to a tablet by bending back the 13.3-inch screen -- and the first with Gigabit LTE speeds, for an always on, always connected experience.
ASUS's media relations director touts the high-speed cellular connections -- which consumers pay for separately -- as 3 to 7 times faster than broadband. "It allows you to download a 2-hour movie in about 10 seconds."
And Qualcomm's senior director of product management says there's more ways that it's like a smartphone. "Even when the screen is off, it's still connected, so when I open the lid, it does facial recognition, and I'm in."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's I'm-feeling-lucky department
What's happening to Google's 1,100 Gbikes? The Mercury News reports:
Last summer, it emerged that some of the company's bikes -- intended to help Googlers move quickly and in environmentally friendly fashion around the company's sprawling campus and surrounding areas -- were sleeping with the fishes in Stevens Creek. And now, a new report has revealed that 100 to 250 Google bikes go missing every week, on average. "The disappearances often aren't the work of ordinary thieves, however. Many residents of Mountain View, a city of 80,000 that has effectively become Google's company town, see the employee perk as a community service," the Wall Street Journal reported.
And for the company, here's one Google bike use case that's got to burn a little: 68-year-old Sharon Veach told the newspaper that she sometimes uses one of the bicycles as part of her commute: to the offices of Google's arch foe, Oracle... Mountain View Mayor Ken Rosenberg even admitted to helping himself to a Google bike to go to a movie after a meeting at the company's campus, according to the WSJ.
One Silicon Valley resident reportedly told a neighbor that "I've got a whole garage full of them," while Veach describes the bikes as "a reward for having to deal with the buses" that carry Google employees.
Google has already hired 30 contractors to prowl the city in five vans looking for lost or stolen bikes -- only a third of which have GPS trackers -- and they eventually recover about two-thirds of the missing bikes.
They've discovered them as far away as Mexico, Alaska, and the Burning Man festival in Nevada.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's discerning-couch-potatoes department
The network card died on Thelasko's smart TV -- and rather than spend $65 on a new one, they're considering buying a nice, simple streaming box.
I am running a Rygel server on my PC, but rarely use it... I primarily only watch Amazon Prime, Netflix, and YouTube for streaming, and am wondering what Slashdot users have found to be the best option. I'm considering Roku or Chromecast because they are well known and supported. However, I have heard a lot of news about Kodi devices being more hackable.
AppleTV? Amazon Fire TV? The Emtec GEM Box? Building your own from a Raspberry Pi? Leave your own thoughts and suggestions in the comments.
What's the best media streaming device?Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's pull-over-and-buy-something department
An anonymous reader quote SiliconBeat:
Santa Clara auto-tech firm Telenav has just announced an "in-car advertising platform" for cars that connect to the internet. Telenav wants to sell the system to major auto manufacturers. And although it's probably the last thing many consumers want, vehicle owners will pay more for connected-car services if they decline the ads. "This approach helps car makers offset costs related to connected services, such as wireless data, content, software and cloud services," a spokeswoman for Telenav said Jan. 5. "In return for accepting ads in vehicles, drivers benefit from access to connected services without subscription fees, as well as new driving experiences that come from the highly-targeted and relevant offers delivered based on information coming from the vehicle."
Auto makers including Toyota, Lexus, Ford, GM and Cadillac already use the company's connected-car products, the spokeswoman said. Telenav CEO H.P. Jin in a press release called the ad platform "an exciting new opportunity" for vehicle manufacturers to "monetize connectivity to cover service costs and even drive healthy profits while enriching the consumer experience with safely delivered, engaging and relevant offers"...
To prevent driver distraction, "ads only appear when the vehicle is stopped, such as at car startup, traffic lights and upon arrival," Telenav said... Of course, driver distraction won't be an issue in self-driving cars, and this technology suggests the captive audiences in those vehicles will likely be subjected to an ad barrage in robotic ride-sharing vehicles and automated cars whose owners decline to pay more to avoid in-car advertising.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's chips-on-our-shoulders department
An anonymous reader quotes, Jason Perlow, the senior technology editor at ZDNet:
Perhaps the Meltdown and Spectre bugs are the impetus for making long-overdue changes to the core DNA of the semiconductor industry and how chip architectures are designed... Linux (and other related FOSS tech that forms the overall stack) is now a mainstream operating system that forms the basis of public cloud infrastructure and the foundational software technology in mobile and Internet of Things (IoT)... We need to develop a modern equivalent of an OpenSPARC that any processor foundry can build upon without licensing of IP, in order to drive down the costs of building microprocessors at immense scale for the cloud, for mobile and the IoT. It makes the $200 smartphone as well as hyperscale datacenter lifecycle management that much more viable and cost-effective.
Just as Linux and open source transformed how we view operating systems and application software, we need the equivalent for microprocessors in order to move out of the private datacenter rife with these legacy issues and into the green field of the cloud... The fact that we have these software technologies that now enable us to easily abstract from the chip hardware enables us to correct and improve the chips through community efforts as needs arise... We need to stop thinking about microprocessor systems' architectures as these licensed things that are developed in secrecy by mega-companies like Intel or AMD or even ARM... The reality is that we now need to create something new, free from any legacy entities and baggage that has been driving the industry and dragging it down the past 40 years. Just as was done with Linux.
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's liquids-that-turn-solid department
CNN has a story about a slimy, gooey orange gel developed by British company D3O as far back as 1999 that is very soft and fluid-like normally, but that hardens immediately when it receives an impact: It's a gel that acts as both a liquid and a solid. When handled slowly the goo is soft and flexible but the moment it receives an impact, it hardens. It's all thanks to the gel's shock-absorbing properties... Felicity Boyce, a material developer at D3O, told CNN, "if you hit it with great force, it behaves more like a solid that's absorbing the shock and none of that impact goes through my hand."
American football has become a huge market for the British company, where the gel is incorporated in padding and helmets to absorb the impact of any hits a player receives. D3O claims it can reduce blunt impact by 53% compared to materials like foam. The material can also be put inside running shoes to improve performance and reduce the risk of foot injury. Usain Bolt ran with D3O gel insoles in his shoes at the 2016 Rio Olympics.
The material is being tested in body armor. "While we don't have a material that can stop a bullet, we do have a material that can reduce the amount of trauma that your body would experience if you got shot." There are also soft smartphone casings using the gel that harden when the phone is dropped and hits a hard surface.Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's not-passing-Go department
More details are emerging about an online gamer whose fake call to Kansas police led to a fatal shooting:
"After phoning in a false bomb threat to a Glendale, California TV station in 2015, Tyler Barriss threatened to kill his grandmother if she reported him, according to local reports and court documents." -- The Wichita Eagle "The Glendale Police Department confirmed to ABC News that Tyler Barriss made about 20 calls to universities and media outlets throughout the country around the time he was arrested for a bomb threat to Los Angeles ABC station KABC in 2015... He was sentenced to two years and eight months in jail, court records show." -- ABC News "Within months of his release in August, he had already become the target of a Los Angeles Police Department investigation into similar hoax calls... LAPD detectives were planning to meet with federal prosecutors to discuss their investigation..." -- The Los Angeles Times The Wichita Eagle reports that even after the police had fatally shot the person SWauTistic was pretending to be, he continued his phone call with the 911 operator for another 16 minutes -- on a call which lasted over half an hour. Brian Krebs reports that police may have been aided in their investigation by another reformed SWAT perpetrator -- adding that SWauTistic privately claimed to have already called in fake emergencies at approximately 100 schools and 10 homes.
Just last month SWauTistic's Twitter account showed him bragging about a bomb threat which caused the evacuation of a Dallas convention center, according to the Daily Beast -- after which SWauTistic encouraged his Twitter followers to also follow him on a second account, "just in case twitter suspends me for being a god." Later the 25-year-old tweeted that "if you can't pull off a swat without getting busted you're not a leet hacking God its that simple."
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By EditorDavid from Slashdot's Time-for-Bill-Gates department
Long-time Slashdot reader theodp writes: Time invited Bill Gates to be the first guest editor in the 94-year history of the magazine. Among the news Bill deemed fit to print in Time's first augmented-reality-enhanced issue were articles by wife Melinda and pal Bono, both of whom graced the cover of Time with Bill as the 2005 Persons of the Year... Another article reveals that "the four learning hacks Bill Gates swears by" include Khan Academy (a $10+ million Gates Foundation partner), tech-backed Code.org (to which Bill, the Gates Foundation, Microsoft, and Steve Ballmer have given somewhere north of $17M), the Big History Project (to which Bill had contributed a "modest $10 million" as of 2014), and The Teaching Company (which got Bill stoked about Big History).
The issue also includes Gates' "four favorite ways to give back" and "six innovations that could change the world." In fact, the theme of the whole issue is "optimism," with 62-year-old Gates writing that "On the whole, the world is getting better. This is not some naively optimistic view; it's backed by data. Look at the number of children who die before their fifth birthday. Since 1990, that figure has been cut in half. That means 122 million children have been saved in a quarter-century, and countless families have been spared the heartbreak of losing a child."
Another optimistic essay came from Daily Show host Trever Noah, who writes, "Mock millennials all you want. Here's why they give me hope."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's not-everywhere-you-want-to-be department
At least four pre-paid debit cards that accept cryptocurrencies abruptly suspended service on Friday. An anonymous reader quotes TheNextWeb:
Speaking to their customers on Twitter, the affected companies have said the move is the result of actions from their card issuer, [WaveCrest], who was acting on behalf of Visa Europe... A statement from Visa Europe obtained by The Daily Beast reporter Joseph Cox said the action was taken due to WaveCrest's "non-compliance" with VISA's membership regulations... In its statement, Visa makes clear that this isn't a crackdown on cryptocurrencies, but rather action against one company that broke its rules.
"All funds stored on cards are safe and will be returned to your Cryptopay accounts ASAP," one of the affected debit card companies assured users on Twitter, adding "Sorry for all the inconvenience caused..."
According to the article, "Some users on Twitter are reportedly stranded abroad without funds."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's requests-for-comments-on-requests-for-comments department
An anonymous reader quotes the official Rust blog:
The Rust team is happy to announce a new version of Rust, 1.23.0... New year, new Rust! For our first improvement today, we now avoid some unnecessary copies in certain situations. We've seen memory usage of using rustc to drop 5-10% with this change; it may be different with your programs...
The documentation team has been on a long journey to move rustdoc to use CommonMark. Previously, rustdoc never guaranteed which markdown rendering engine it used, but we're finally committing to CommonMark. As part of this release, we render the documentation with our previous renderer, Hoedown, but also render it with a CommonMark compliant renderer, and warn if there are any differences.
A few new APIs were also stabilized in this release -- see the complete release notes here -- and you no longer need to import the trait AsciiExt to provide ASCII-related functionality on u8, char, [u8], and str.
The Rust blog made another announcement earlier this week. "As open source software becomes more and more ubiquitous and popular, the Rust team is interested in exploring new and innovative ways to solicit community feedback and participation." So while defining Rust's roadmap for 2018, "we'd like to try something new in addition to the RFC process: a call for community blog posts for ideas of what the goals should be."Read Replies (0)
By EditorDavid from Slashdot's eight-year-hiatus department
BrianFagioli writes: About 16 years ago, a for-pay Linux distribution caused quite a stir all because of its name -- Lindows. Yes, someone actually thought kicking the billion dollar hornets nest that is Microsoft by playing off of the "Windows" name was a good idea. To be honest, from a marketing perspective, it was brilliant -- it got tons of free press. Microsoft eventually killed the Lindows name by use of money and the legal system, however. Ultimately, the Linux distro was renamed "Linspire." Comically, there was a Lindows Insiders program way before Windows Insiders! After losing the Lindows name, the operating system largely fell out of the spotlight, and its 15 minutes of fame ended. After all, without the gimmicky name, it was hard to compete with free Linux distros with a paid OS. Not to mention, Richard Stallman famously denounced the OS for its non-free ways. The company eventually created a free version of its OS called Freespire, but by 2008, both projects were shut down by its then-owner, Xandros. Today, however, a new Linspire owner emerges -- PC/OpenSystems LLC. And yes, Lindows is rising from the grave -- as Freespire 3.0 and Linspire 7.0! "Today the development team at PC/Opensystems LLC is pleased to announce the release of Freespire 3.0 and Linspire 7.0. While both contain common kernel and common utilities, they are targeted towards two different user bases. Freespire is a FOSS distribution geared for the general Linux community, making use of only open source components, containing no proprietary applications. This is not necessarily a limitation : through our software center and extensive repositories, Freespire users can install any application that they wish," says PC/OpenSystems LLC. Back in 2003 the CEO of Lindows answered questions from Slashdot readers.
The first question was "Why oh why?"Read Replies (0)