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Amazon Robot Contest May Accelerate Warehouse Automation
Posted by News Fetcher on March 25 '15 at 02:30 PM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's goodbye-minimum-wage-worker department:
moon_unit2 writes Amazon is organizing an event to spur the development of more nimble-fingered product-packing robots. Participating teams will earn points by locating products sitting somewhere on a stack of shelves, retrieving them safely, and then packing them into cardboard shipping boxes. Robots that accidentally crush a cookie or drop a toy will have points deducted. The contest is already driving new research on robot vision and manipulation, and it may offer a way to judge progress made in the past few years in machine intelligence and dexterity. Robots capable of advanced manipulation could eventually take on many simple jobs that are still done by hand.

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First Nuclear Power Plant Planned In Jordan
Posted by News Fetcher on March 25 '15 at 01:45 PM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's power-up department:
jones_supa writes Jordan has signed an agreement with Russia's state-owned nuclear power giant Rosatom, that sets the legal basis for building the kingdom's first nuclear power plant with a total capacity of 2,000 MW. The agreement is worth $10 billion and it envisages the construction of a two-unit power plant at Amra in the north of the kingdom by 2022. The deal provides for a feasibility study, site evaluation process and an environmental impact assessment. Currently Jordan imports nearly 98% of its energy from oil products and crude and is struggling to meet electricity demand, which is growing by more than 7% annually due to a rising population and industrial expansion. The kingdom hopes that eventually nuclear power could provide almost 40% of its total electricity generating capacity.

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Dueling Home Automation Systems at SXSW (Video)
Posted by News Fetcher on March 25 '15 at 01:00 PM
By Roblimo from Slashdot's my-only-objective-is-to-serve-man department:
Austin has a strong western heritage and more country and western music than you can shake a fiddle bow at. So when Timothy came back from SXSW with video clips from two home automation companies with different approaches to this question: "How can you work with a whole bunch of lights and thermostats and other IoT home automation pieces that all have different OSes and control APIs?" we obviously had to call the resulting video 'Dueling Home Automation Systems.'

The two companies shown in this video are called WigWag and Yonomi. WigWag sells you a "Relay," which they say "is a powerful mini computer that gives you control of your home's smart devices." The minimum pre-order buy-in for WigWag seems to be a $149 WigWag Relay. Their 'products' page his page shows the Relay -- and many other gadgets and kits that could easily run your total tab up to $1000 or more. Yonomi, on the other hand, "resides on your phone and in the Cloud. No need for a hub, controller box or other additional hardware. Yonomi magically finds and enhances your existing connected devices allowing them to interact with one another in ways never before possible."

< article continued at Slashdot >

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RadioShack Puts Customer Data Up For Sale In Bankruptcy Auction
Posted by News Fetcher on March 25 '15 at 12:15 PM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's names-and-numbers department:
itwbennett writes For years, RadioShack made a habit of collecting customers' contact information at checkout. Now, the bankrupt retailer is putting that data on the auction block. A list of RadioShack assets for sale includes more than 65 million customer names and physical addresses, and 13 million email addresses. Bloomberg reports that the asset sale may include phone numbers and information on shopping habits as well. New York's Attorney General says his office will take 'appropriate action' if the data is handed over.

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Gen Con Threatens To Leave Indianapolis Over Religious Freedom Bill
Posted by News Fetcher on March 25 '15 at 11:46 AM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's rolling-in-another-place department:
Grymalkin writes A controversial religious freedom bill has passed the Indianapolis Senate and is now awaiting Governor Mike Pence's signature to become law. Supporters claim that this bill will protect business owners from excessive government control while opponents argue it is just a veiled attempt to allow those same business owners to deny services to individuals because of their sexual orientation. Now, Gen Con has released a statement saying this bill will influence their decision to keep the convention in Indiana. This announcement has tourism officials worried as Gen Con brings in roughly 50,000 visitors each year, contributing $50 million to the local economy. So far Gen Con's announcement has not swayed the Governor who says he is looking forward to signing the bill into law. Gen Con currently has a contract with the Indy Convention Center through 2020. No word yet as to exactly when the convention would be moved should the bill become law.

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Scientists Create Permanently Slick Surface So Ketchup Won't Stay In Bottle
Posted by News Fetcher on March 25 '15 at 11:30 AM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's greased-lightning department:
HughPickens.com writes Much of what we buy never makes it out of the container and is instead thrown away — up to a quarter of skin lotion, 16 percent of laundry detergent and 15 percent of condiments like mustard and ketchup. Now Kenneth Chang reports at the NYT that scientists have just solved one of life's little problems — how to get that last little bit of ketchup (or glue) out of a bottle. Using a coating that makes the inside of the bottle permanently wet and slippery, glue quickly slides to the nozzle or back down to the bottom. The technology could have major environmental payoffs by reducing waste. Superhydrophobic surfaces work similar to air hockey tables. Tiny peaks and valleys on the surface create a thin layer of air between the liquid and the coating. The air decreases friction, so the liquid almost levitates above the surface, just like the hockey puck floats above the table. LiquiGlide's approach is similar, but it uses a liquid lubricant, not a gas. "What could be a solution that provides sort of universal slipperiness?" says Dr. Varanasi. "The idea we had was, Why not think about trapping a liquid in these features?" Dr. Varanasi and Mr. Smith worked out a theory to predict interactions among the surface, the lubricant and air. Essentially, the lubricant binds more strongly to the textured surface than to the liquid, and that allows the liquid to slide on a layer of lubricant instead of being pinned against the surface, and the textured surface keeps the lubricant from slipping out. "We're not defying physics, but effectively, we are," says Smith.

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Researchers: Smartphone Use Changing Our Brain and Thumb Interaction
Posted by News Fetcher on March 25 '15 at 10:45 AM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's a-mind-of-its-own department:
Rambo Tribble writes Researchers from the University of Zurich, ETH Zurich, and University of Fribourg have found evidence that smartphone use changes the way your brain interacts with your thumbs. Using electroencephalography to study brain activity in smartphone users vs. feature-phone users, they found apparently persistent, increased activity in areas of the brain associated with the thumbs. Of course, this may well be true of other repetitive activities, like keyboard use. Reuters provide a bit more approachable coverage.

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Sierra Nevada's Dream Chaser Could Land At Ellington Space Port Near Houston
Posted by News Fetcher on March 25 '15 at 10:00 AM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's coming-soon department:
MarkWhittington writes Despite having been rejected in NASA's commercial crew program, Sierra Nevada has been very busy trying to develop its lift body spacecraft, the Dream Chaser. Having rolled out a smaller, cargo version of the spacecraft for the second round for contracts for commercial cargo to the International Space Station, the company has amended the unfunded Space Act Agreement with NASA to add a closeout review milestone that would help transition the Dream Chaser from the preliminary design review to the critical design review step. Finally, Sierra Nevada announced a new agreement on Tuesday with the Houston Airport System to use Ellington Spaceport as a landing site for the cargo version of the Dream Chaser.

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How Nuclear Weapon Modernization Undercuts Disarmament
Posted by News Fetcher on March 25 '15 at 09:15 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's perfecting-the-planetcracker department:
Lasrick writes: John Mecklin details exactly how nuclear weapons modernization is kick-starting a new arms race, and how modernizing these weapons to make them more accurate and stealthy puts the world at even greater risk of nuclear war: "[T]his is precisely why the U.S. Congress rejected the Air Force’s requests for low-yield, precision-guided nuclear weapons in the 1990s: Their very accuracy increases the temptation to use them." The issue is not getting very much attention, but the patience of the non-nuclear states is wearing thin, and a breakthrough in public awareness may be on the horizon: "The disarmament debate is likely to make this spring's NPT conference a contentious one and just might be loud enough to make the public aware that a new type of nuclear arms race is unfolding around the world."

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Do Robots Need Behavioral 'Laws' For Interacting With Other Robots?
Posted by News Fetcher on March 25 '15 at 08:30 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's don't-let-your-quake-3-bots-duel department:
siddesu writes: Asimov's three laws of robotics don't say anything about how robots should treat each other. The common fear is robots will turn against humans. But what happens if we don't build systems to keep them from conflicting with each other? The article argues, "Scientists, philosophers, funders and policy-makers should go a stage further and consider robot–robot and AI–AI interactions (AIonAI). Together, they should develop a proposal for an international charter for AIs, equivalent to that of the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This could help to steer research and development into morally considerate robotic and AI engineering. National and international technological policies should introduce AIonAI concepts into current programs aimed at developing safe AIs."

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No, It's Not Always Quicker To Do Things In Memory
Posted by News Fetcher on March 25 '15 at 08:00 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's performance-that-fails-to-perform department:
itwbennett writes: It's a commonly held belief among software developers that avoiding disk access in favor of doing as much work as possible in-memory will results in shorter runtimes. To test this assumption, researchers from the University of Calgary and the University of British Columbia compared the efficiency of alternative ways to create a 1MB string and write it to disk. The results consistently found that doing most of the work in-memory to minimize disk access was significantly slower than just writing out to disk repeatedly (PDF).

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Researchers Identify 'Tipping Point' Between Quantum and Classical Worlds
Posted by News Fetcher on March 25 '15 at 07:15 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's border-between-hostile-nations department:
wjcofkc sends this report from R&D Magazine:
If we are ever to fully harness the power of light for use in optical devices, it is necessary to understand photons — the fundamental unit of light. Achieving such understanding, however, is easier said than done. That's because the physical behavior of photons — similar to electrons and other sub-atomic particles — is characterized not by classical physics, but by quantum mechanics.

Now, in a study published in Physical Review Letters (abstract), scientists from Bar-Ilan University have observed the point at which classical and quantum behavior converge. Using a fiber-based nonlinear process, the researchers were able to observe how, and under what conditions, 'classical' physical behavior emerges from the quantum world.


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Michael Stonebraker Wins Turing Award
Posted by News Fetcher on March 25 '15 at 06:30 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's much-deserved-recognition department:
An anonymous reader writes: Michael Stonebraker, an MIT researcher who has revolutionized the field of database management systems and founded multiple successful database companies, has won the Association for Computing Machinery's $1 million A.M. Turing Award, often referred to as "the Nobel Prize of computing." In his previous work at the University of California at Berkeley, Stonebraker developed two of his most influential systems, Ingres and Postgres (PDF), which provide the foundational ideas — and, in many cases, specific source code — that spawned several contemporary database products, including IBM's Informix and EMC's Greenplum. Ingres was one of the first relational databases, which provide a more organized way to store multiple kinds of entities – and which now serve as the industry standard for business storage. Postgres, meanwhile, integrated Ingres' ideas with object-oriented programming, enabling users to natively map objects and their attributes into databases. This new notion of "object-relational" databases could be used to represent and manipulate complex data, like computer-aided design, geospatial data, and time series.

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Wikipedia Admin's Manipulation "Messed Up Perhaps 15,000 Students' Lives"
Posted by News Fetcher on March 25 '15 at 05:45 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's going-for-the-high-score department:
Andreas Kolbe writes: Recently, "ArbCom", Wikipedia's highest court, banned an administrator account that for years had been manipulating the Wikipedia article of a bogus Indian business school – deleting criticism, adding puffery, and enabling the article to become a significant part of the school's PR strategy. Believing the school's promises and advertisements, families went to great expense to send sons and daughters on courses there – only for their children to find that the degrees they had gained were worthless. "In my opinion, by letting this go on for so long, Wikipedia has messed up perhaps 15,000 students' lives," an Indian journalist quoted in the story says. India is one of the countries where tens of millions of Internet users have free access to Wikipedia Zero, but cannot afford the data charges to access the rest of the Internet, making Wikipedia a potential gatekeeper.

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New Bill Would Repeal Patriot Act
Posted by News Fetcher on March 25 '15 at 05:00 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's would-also-bake-cookies-for-every-citizen department:
schwit1 points out a new piece of bipartisan legislation that aims to repeal the Patriot Act and the FISA Amendments Act, which the NSA has used to justify broad domestic surveillance. House Representatives Thomas Massie (R-KY) and Mark Pocan (D-WI) introduced the bill yesterday, calling it the Surveillance State Repeal Act (PDF). Pocan said, "This isn't just tinkering around the edges. This is a meaningful overhaul of the system, getting rid of essentially all parameters of the Patriot Act." The bill also attempts to dramatically strengthen whistleblower protections, so situations like Edward Snowden's and Thomas Drake's don't happen in the future. This legislation is not expected to get the support of Congressional leaders, but supporters hope it will at least inspire some debate about several provisions of the Patriot Act coming up for renewal in June.

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Developers and the Fear of Apple
Posted by News Fetcher on March 25 '15 at 04:30 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's think-different-except-about-us department:
An anonymous reader writes: UI designer Eli Schiff has posted an article about the "climate of fear" surrounding Apple in the software development community. He points out how developers who express criticism in an informal setting often recant when their words are being recorded, and how even moderate public criticism is often prefaced by flattery and endorsements.

Beyond that, the industry has learned that they can't rely on Apple's walled garden to make a profit. The opaque app review process, the race to the bottom on pricing, and Apple's resistance to curation of the App Store are driving "independent app developers into larger organizations and venture-backed startups." Apple is also known to cut contact with developers if they release for Android first. The "climate of fear" even affects journalists, who face not only stonewalling from Apple after negative reporting, but also a brigade of Apple fans and even other journalists trying to paint them as anti-Apple.


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Uber To Turn Into a Big Data Company By Selling Location Data
Posted by News Fetcher on March 25 '15 at 01:15 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's yellow-cabs-looking-slightly-less-unappealing department:
Presto Vivace sends news that Uber has entered into a partnership with Starwood Hotels that hooks accounts from both companies together. If you're a customer of both, you'll get a small benefit when chartering Uber rides, but the cost is that Uber will share all their data on you with Starwood. The article says,
This year, we are going to see the transformation of Uber into a big data company cut from the same cloth as Google, Facebook and Visa – using the wealth of information they know about me and you to deliver new services and generate revenue by selling this data to others. ... Uber can run the same program with airlines, restaurants, nightclubs, bars – every time you go from point A to point B in an Uber, “A”, “B” or both represent a new potential consumer of your data. ... Uber knows the hot nightclubs, best restaurants and most obviously now has as much data about traffic patterns as Waze (which coincidentally trades data with local governments). Combining Uber’s data with the very-personal data that customers are willing to give up in exchange for benefits, means that Uber can, and is, on its way to becoming a Big Data company.

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Short Circuit In LHC Could Delay Restart By Weeks
Posted by News Fetcher on March 24 '15 at 11:45 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's universe-will-survive-a-bit-longer department:
hypnosec writes: On March 21 CERN detected an intermittent short circuit to ground in one of the LHC's magnet circuits. Repairs could delay the restart by anywhere between a few days and several weeks. CERN revealed that the short circuit affected one of LHC's powerful electromagnets, thereby delaying preparations in sector 4-5 of the machine. They confirmed that seven of the machine's eight sectors have been successfully commissioned to 6.5 TeV per beam, but they won't be circulating a beam in the LHC this week. Though the short circuit issue is well understood, resolving it will take time, since it's in a cold section of the machine and repairs may therefore require warming and re-cooling.

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Stanford Breakthrough Could Make Better Chips Cheaper
Posted by News Fetcher on March 24 '15 at 10:30 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's encheapificating-the-expensive-part department:
angry tapir writes: Researchers at Stanford University have come up with a new way to make chips and solar panels using gallium arsenide, a semiconductor that beats silicon in several important areas but is typically too expensive for widespread use. "[I]t can cost about $5,000 to make a wafer of gallium arsenide 8 inches in diameter, versus $5 for a silicon wafer, according to Aneesh Nainani, who teaches semiconductor manufacturing at Stanford. The new Stanford process (abstract) seeks to lessen this thousand-to-one cost differential by reusing that $5,000 wafer. Today the working electronic circuits in a gallium arsenide device are grown on top of this wafer. Manufacturers make this circuitry layer by flowing gaseous gallium arsenide and other materials across the wafer surface. This material condenses into thin layer of circuitry atop the wafer. In this scenario, the wafer is only a backing. The thin layer of circuitry on top of this costly platter contains all of the electronics."

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Indian Supreme Court Strikes Down Law Against Posting 'Offensive' Content Online
Posted by News Fetcher on March 24 '15 at 08:30 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's score-one-for-free-speech department:
palemantle writes: The Indian Supreme Court has overturned the controversial Section 66A of the IT Act which included a provision for a three-year jail term for sending "offensive" messages through a "computer resource or a communication device." In its judgement, the Supreme Court held "liberty of thought and expression as cardinal" and overturned the provision (66A) deeming it "unconstitutional." It's been in the news recently for an incident involving the arrest of a high school student for posting allegedly "offensive" content on Facebook about a local politician.

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