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Meet the Firmware Lead For Google's Project Ara Modular Smartphone (Video)
Posted by News Fetcher on April 28 '15 at 01:45 PM
By Roblimo from Slashdot's build-it-one-piece-at-a-time department:
According to Wikipedia, 'Project Ara is the codename for an initiative that aims to develop an open hardware platform for creating highly modular smartphones.' Google is the sponsor, and the project seems to be moving faster than some people expect it to. There's a Project Ara website, of course, a GitHub repository, a Facebook page, even an Ara subreddit. During his conversation with Timothy Lord, Ara firmware project lead (and spokesman) Marti Bolivar said it won't be long before prototype Ara modular phones start user testing. Meanwhile, if you want to see what Marti and his coworkers have been up to lately, besides this interview, you can read a transcription of his talk (including slides) from the January Project Ara Developers Conference in Singapore.

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Verizon Tells Customer He Needs 75Mbps For Smoother Netflix Video
Posted by News Fetcher on April 28 '15 at 01:00 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's selling-your-grandma-upgrades department:
An anonymous reader writes: Verizon recently told a customer that upgrading his 50Mbps service to 75Mbps would result in smoother streaming of Netflix video. Of course, that's not true — Netflix streams at a rate of about 3.5 Mbps on average for Verizon's fiber service, so there's more than enough headroom either way. But this customer was an analyst for the online video industry, so he did some testing and snapped some screenshots for evidence. He fired up 10 concurrent streams of a Game of Thrones episode and found only 29Mbps of connection being used. This guy was savvy enough to see through Verizon's BS, but I'm sure there are millions of customers who wouldn't bat an eye at the statements they were making. The analyst "believes that the sales pitch he received is not just an isolated incident, since he got the same pitch from three sales reps over the phone and one online."

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Breakthough Makes Transparent Aluminum Affordable
Posted by News Fetcher on April 28 '15 at 12:15 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's hello-computer department:
frank249 writes: In the Star Trek universe, transparent aluminum is used in various fittings in starships, including exterior ship portals and windows. In real life, Aluminium oxynitride is a form of ceramic whose properties are similar to those of the fictional substance seen in Star Trek. It has a hardness of 7.7 Mohs and was patented in 1980. It has military applications as bullet-resistant armor, but is too expensive for widespread use.

Now, there has been a major breakthrough in materials science. After decades of research and development, the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory has created a transparent, bulletproof material that can be molded into virtually any shape. This material, known as Spinel (magnesium aluminate), is made from a synthetic powdered clay that is heated and pressed under vacuum into transparent sheets. Spinel weighs just a fraction of a modern bulletproof pane.


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A Light-Powered Retina Implant For the Blind
Posted by News Fetcher on April 28 '15 at 11:30 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's resistance-is-futile department:
the_newsbeagle writes: In certain diseases of the retina, people lose function in the photoreceptor cells that respond to light and trigger a message to the brain. So engineers have designed various retina implants that do the job instead, including the Argus II system, which received the first FDA approval for an implanted visual prosthetic in 2013. But the Argus II only produces vision of about 20/1200. A new implant in the pipeline from Stanford University has already achieved 20/250 vision in rats, and is aiming at 20/120, which would be below the legal threshold for blindness. This implant is photovoltaic, so the same infrared light that beams an image of the world into the implanted chip also powers its electronics.

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KDE Plasma 5.3 Released
Posted by News Fetcher on April 28 '15 at 11:00 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's onward-and-upward department:
jrepin writes: The KDE community has released Plasma 5.3, a major new version of the popular, open source desktop environment. The latest release brings much enhanced power management, better support for Bluetooth, and improved Plasma widgets. Also available is a technical preview of Plasma Media Center shell. In addition, Plasma 5.3 represents a big step towards support for the Wayland windowing system. There are also a few other minor tweaks and over 300 bugfixes. Here is the full changelog, and here's the package download wiki page.

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Researchers Mount Cyberattacks Against Surgery Robot
Posted by News Fetcher on April 28 '15 at 10:15 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's backseat-aortic-bypass department:
An anonymous reader writes: A group of researchers from University of Washington have tested the security of a teleoperated robotic surgery system created by their colleagues, and have found it severely lacking. "Teleoperated surgical robots will be expected to use a combination of existing publicly available networks and temporary ad-hoc wireless and satellite networks to send video, audio and other sensory information between surgeons and remote robots. It is envisioned these systems will be used to provide immediate medical relief in under-developed rural terrains, areas of natural and human-caused disasters, and in battlefield scenarios," the researchers noted, and asked: "But what if these robotic systems are attacked and compromised?"

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US Successfully Tests Self-Steering Bullets
Posted by News Fetcher on April 28 '15 at 09:30 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's bad-news-for-Neo department:
mpicpp sends this report from The Independent:
The United States Department of Defense has carried out what it says is its most successful test yet of a bullet that can steer itself towards moving targets. Experienced testers have used the technology to hit targets that were actively evading the shot, and even novices that were using the system for the first time were able to hit moving targets. The project, which is known as Extreme Accuracy Tasked Ordnance weapon, or Exacto, is being made for the American government's military research agency, DARPA. It is thought to use small fins that shoot out of the bullet and re-direct its path, but the U.S. has not disclosed how it works. Technology in the bullet allows it to compensate for weather and wind, as well as the movement of people it is being fired at, and curve itself in the air as it heads towards its target.

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University Overrules Professor Who Failed Entire Management Class
Posted by News Fetcher on April 28 '15 at 08:45 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's aggies-being-aggies department:
McGruber writes: After a semester of disrespect, backstabbing, lying, and cheating, Texas A&M Galveston Professor Irwin Horwitz had all he could take. He "sent a lengthy email to his Strategic Management class explaining that they would all be failing the course. He said the students proved to be incompetent and lack the maturity level to enter the workforce." Professor Horwitz's email cited examples of students cheating, telling him to "chill out," and inappropriate conduct. He said students spread untrue rumors about him online, and he said at one point he even felt the need to have police protection in class. "I was dealing with cheating, dealing with individuals swearing at me both in and out of class, it got to the point that the school had to put security guards at that class and another class," said Horowitz.

However, Vice President of Academic Affairs Dr. Patrick Louchouarn made it very clear that the failing grades won't stick. The department head will take over the class until the end of the semester, according to school officials.


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Signs of Subsurface 'Alien' Life Found In Antarctica
Posted by News Fetcher on April 28 '15 at 08:15 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's welcome-friends department:
astroengine writes: An airborne survey of a presumably dry Antarctic valley revealed a stunning and unexpected interconnected subsurface briny aquifer deep beneath the frozen tundra, a finding that not only has implications for understanding extreme habitats for life on Earth, but the potential for life elsewhere in the solar system, particularly Mars. The briny liquid — about twice as salty as seawater — was discovered about 200 miles underground in a region known as Taylor Valley. The aquifer is widespread, extending from the Ross Sea's McMurdo Sound more than 11 miles into the eastern part of valley. A second system was found connecting Taylor Glacier with the ice-cover Lake Bonney. But the survey, which covered 114 square miles, may have just uncovered the proverbial tip of the iceberg.

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China's Tencent Launches Smart Hardware OS To Rival Alibaba
Posted by News Fetcher on April 28 '15 at 07:15 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's diversity-in-approach department:
An anonymous reader writes: Chinese internet and media giant Tencent Holdings has today launched an operating system for mobile devices such as internet-connected phones, TVs, smartwatches and other IoT products. Tencent Operating System (OS) TOS+ is open to all developers and manufacturers free of charge should they agree to share their revenue – a framework similar to Google's popular Android mobile OS.The new Tencent OS offering, which provides voice recognition and mobile payment systems, will rival other home-grown operating systems looking to conquer the smart hardware arena with connected wearables, TVs and smart homeware technology. These competitors include smartphone maker Xiaomi and Asia's largest internet company Alibaba, who hopes to see its recently launched Yun OS eventually installed on tens of millions of smartphones. The Chinese systems for mobile and hardware products provide an alternative to Google's services, which constantly face challenges across the country due to strict censorship and licensing laws.

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TeslaCrypt Isn't All That Cryptic
Posted by News Fetcher on April 28 '15 at 06:45 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's nelson-laugh department:
citpyrc writes: TeslaCrypt, the latest-and-greatest ransomware branch off of the CryptoWall family, claims to the unwitting user that his/her documents are encrypted with "a unique public key generated for this computer". This coudn't be farther from truth. In actuality, the developers of this malware appear to have been lazy and implemented encryption using symmetric AES256 with a decryption key generated on the user's machine. If any of your machines are afflicted, Talos has developed a tool that can be used to generate the user's machine's symmetric key and decrypt all of the ransomed files.

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Feds Say It's Time To Cut Back On Fluoride In Drinking Water
Posted by News Fetcher on April 28 '15 at 05:45 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's my-amount-of-fluoride-right-or-wrong-but-my-amount-of-fluoride department:
An anonymous reader writes: Federal health officials Monday changed the recommended amount of fluoride in drinking water for the first time since 1962, cutting by almost half the maximum amount of fluoride that should be added to drinking supplies. The Department of Health and Human Services recommended 0.7 milligrams of fluoride per liter of water instead of the long-standing range of 0.7 to 1.2 milligrams. The change is recommended because now Americans have access to more sources of fluoride, such as toothpaste and mouth rinses, than they did when fluoridation was first introduced in the United States,' Dr. Boris Lushniak, the deputy surgeon general, told reporters during a conference call.

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ATT, DirecTV Mega-Merger May Go Through
Posted by News Fetcher on April 28 '15 at 05:00 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's so-long-as-the-destruction-is-creative department:
An anonymous reader writes: Hot on the heels of Comcast's failed attempt to swallow up Time Warner Cable, AT&T's pursuit of satellite provider DirecTV is plowing forward. What would be the result of a wireline and cellular mega-monopoly buying one of only two subscription satellite TV providers? Has to be worse than a Comcast/TWC marriage ... at least there, the territories and services offered didn't overlap at all, but AT&T offers voice, data, and television in many markets already. Adding satellite would stifle competition for television services (and to a lesser extent, because satellite is only best suited for rural installations, data).

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How To Increase the Number of Female Engineers
Posted by News Fetcher on April 28 '15 at 04:15 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's other-than-million-dollar-signing-bonuses department:
HughPickens.com writes: Lina Nilsson writes in an op-ed piece in the NY Times that she looks with despair at estimates that only about 14 percent of engineers in the work force are women. But there may be a solution to the disparity that is much simpler than targeted recruitment efforts. "An experience here at the University of California, Berkeley, where I teach, suggests that if the content of the work itself is made more societally meaningful, women will enroll in droves," writes Nilsson. "That applies not only to computer engineering but also to more traditional, equally male-dominated fields like mechanical and chemical engineering." Nilsson says that Blum Center for Developing Economies recently began a new program that, without any targeted outreach, achieved 50 percent female enrollment in just one academic year. In the fall of 2014, UC Berkeley began offering a new Ph.D. minor in development engineering for students doing thesis work on solutions for low-income communities. They are designing affordable solutions for clean drinking water, inventing medical diagnostic equipment for neglected tropical diseases and enabling local manufacturing in poor and remote regions.

< article continued at Slashdot >

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A Cheap, Ubiquitous Earthquake Warning System
Posted by News Fetcher on April 28 '15 at 01:15 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's if-you-check-your-cellphone-immediately department:
Tekla Perry writes: Earthquake alert systems that give a 10 or 20 second warning of an impending temblor, enabling automatic systems to shut down and people to take cover, are hugely expensive to build and operate. (One estimate is $38.3 milllion for equipment to span California, and another $16.1 million annually to operate.) But a Palo Alto entrepreneur thinks he's got a way to sense earthquakes and provide alerts far more cheaply and with much greater resolution. And he's got money from the National Science Foundation to begin the first test of his system — covering the Bay Area from Santa Cruz to Napa and the cities of Hollister, Coalinga, and Parkfield. He starts that test next month.

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Kerbal Space Program 1.0 Released After 4 Years of Development
Posted by News Fetcher on April 28 '15 at 12:00 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's onward-and-upward department:
hampton2600 writes: The beloved space simulator game Kerbal Space Program has just hit version 1.0 after four years in development. It has risen to prominence in public beta, but the full release brings a host of new features: "The flight model has had a complete overhaul, meaning the lift is now calculated correctly to all lift-generating parts, which includes lifting bodies. The drag simulation has also been completely revised, and uses automatically pre-calculated data based on the each part’s geometry, to be finally applied based on not just the orientation of parts in flight, but also taking other parts into consideration. ... A new heating simulation has been implemented together with the improved aerodynamics. Now, not only temperature but also energy flux is considered when making heat calculations, meaning radiative, conductive, and convective heating and cooling are all simulated and all parts have their individual thermal properties. Parts will emit a blackbody radiation glow if they get hot enough." To the mun!

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Why Our Antiquated Power Grid Needs Battery Storage
Posted by News Fetcher on April 27 '15 at 10:30 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's investing-in-wires-is-boring-but-necessary department:
Lucas123 writes: Last year, renewable energy sources accounted for half of new installed electric-generation capacity (natural gas units made up most of the remainder). As more photovoltaic panels are installed on rooftops around the nation, an antiquated power grid is being overburdened by a bidirectional load its was never engineered to handle. The Hawaiian Electric Company, for example, said it's struggling with electricity "backflow" that could destabilize its system. Batteries for distributed renewable power has the potential to mitigate the load on the national grid by allowing a redistribution of power during peak hours. Because of this, Tesla, which is expected to announce batteries for homes and utilities on Thursday, and others are targeting a market estimated to be worth $1.2B by 2019. Along with taking up some of the load during peak load, battery capacity can be used when power isn't being generated by renewable systems, such as at night and during inclement weather. That also reduces grid demand.

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New Zero Day Disclosed In WordPress Core Engine
Posted by News Fetcher on April 27 '15 at 09:30 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's pressing-words-is-risky-business department:
Trailrunner7 writes: WordPress security issues have for the most part involved a vulnerable plug-in, but a Finnish researcher has disclosed some details on a zero-day vulnerability he discovered in the WordPress 4.2 and earlier core engine that could lead to remote code execution on the webserver. Juoko Pynnonen of Klikki Oy reported a new and unpatched stored cross-site scripting vulnerability in the platform; a similar bug was patched this week by WordPress developers, but only 14 months after it was reported. The vulnerability allows an attacker to inject JavaScript in the WordPress comment field; the comment has to be at least 66,000 characters long and it will be triggered when the comment is viewed, Pynnonen said.

"An unauthenticated attacker can store JavaScript on WordPress pages and blog posts. If triggered by an administrator, this leads to server-side code execution under default settings," Pynnonen said. "A usable comment form is required. It looks like the script is not executed in the admin Dashboard, but only when viewing the post/page where the comment was entered. If comment moderation is enabled (the default setting) then the comment won't appear on the page until it has been approved by an admin/moderator. Under default settings, after one 'harmless' comment is approved, the attacker is free from subsequent moderation and can inject the exploit to several pages and blog posts."


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Valve Pulls the Plug On Paid Mods For Skyrim
Posted by News Fetcher on April 27 '15 at 08:30 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's entitled-wheel-gets-the-grease department:
westlake writes: Valve has abandoned its attempt to introduce paid mods to Skyrim on Steamworks, following furious and unrelenting complaints by the gaming community that did not spare Gabe Newell. Valve said, "[O]ur main goals were to allow mod makers the opportunity to work on their mods full time if they wanted to, and to encourage developers to provide better support to their mod communities. We thought this would result in better mods for everyone, both free & paid." Bethesda had similar goals, saying, "There are certainly other ways of supporting modders, through donations and other options. We are in favor of all of them. One doesn't replace another, and we want the choice to be the community’s. Yet, in just one day, a popular mod developer made more on the Skyrim paid workshop than he made in all the years he asked for donations."

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New Privacy Threat: Automated Vehicle Occupancy Detection
Posted by News Fetcher on April 27 '15 at 06:30 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's shades-of-minority-report department:
An anonymous reader writes: The Electronic Frontier Foundation is warning against a new potential privacy threat: cameras that look inside cars and try to identify how many people are inside. This technology is a natural combination of simpler ones that have existed for years: basic object recognition software and road-side cameras (red light cameras, speeding cameras, license plate readers — you name it). Of course, we can extrapolate just a bit further, and point out that as soon as the cameras have high enough resolution, they can start running face recognition algorithms on the images, and determine the identities of a vehicle's occupants.

"The San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG), a government umbrella group that develops transportation and public safety initiatives across the San Diego County region, estimates that 15% of drivers in High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes aren't supposed to be there. After coming up short with earlier experimental projects, the agency is now testing a brand new technology to crack down on carpool-lane scofflaws on the I-15 freeway. ... In short: the technology is looking at your image, the image of the people you're with, your location, and your license plate. (SANDAG told CBS the systems will not be storing license plate data during the trial phase and the system will, at least for now, automatically redact images of drivers and passengers. Xerox's software, however, allows police the option of using a weaker form of redaction that can be reversed on request.)"


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