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Computer Scientist Parachutes From 135,908 Feet, Breaking Record
Posted by News Fetcher on October 24 '14 at 11:45 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's touching-space department:
An anonymous reader writes: The NY Times reports that Alan Eustace, a computer scientist and senior VP at Google, has successfully broken the record for highest freefall jump, set by Felix Baumgartner in 2012. "For a little over two hours, the balloon ascended at speeds up to 1,600 feet per minute to an altitude of 135,908 feet, more than 25 miles. Mr. Eustace dangled underneath in a specially designed spacesuit with an elaborate life-support system. He returned to earth just 15 minutes after starting his fall. ... Mr. Eustace cut himself loose from the balloon with the aid of a small explosive device and plummeted toward the earth at a speeds that peaked at more than 800 miles per hour, setting off a small sonic boom heard by observers on the ground. ... His technical team had designed a carbon-fiber attachment that kept him from becoming entangled in the main parachute before it opened. About four-and-a-half minutes into his flight, he opened the main parachute and glided to a landing 70 miles from the launch site."

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Researcher Finds Tor Exit Node Adding Malware To Downloads
Posted by News Fetcher on October 24 '14 at 11:00 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's at-least-it's-anonymous-malware department:
Trailrunner7 writes: A security researcher has identified a Tor exit node that was actively patching binaries users download, adding malware to the files dynamically. The discovery, experts say, highlights the danger of trusting files downloaded from unknown sources and the potential for attackers to abuse the trust users have in Tor and similar services. Josh Pitts of Leviathan Security Group ran across the misbehaving Tor exit node while performing some research on download servers that might be patching binaries during download through a man-in-the middle attack.

What Pitts found during his research is that an attacker with a MITM position can actively patch binaries–if not security updates–with his own code. In terms of defending against the sort of attack, Pitts suggested that encrypted download channels are the best option, both for users and site operators. "SSL/TLSis the only way to prevent this from happening. End-users may want to consider installing HTTPS Everywhere or similar plugins for their browser to help ensure their traffic is always encrypted," he said via email.


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Employers Worried About Critical Thinking Skills
Posted by News Fetcher on October 24 '14 at 10:00 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's employees-worried-about-it-too department:
Nerval's Lobster writes: Every company needs employees who can analyze information effectively, discarding what's unnecessary and digging down into what's actually useful. But employers are getting a little bit worried that U.S. schools aren't teaching students the necessary critical-thinking skills to actually succeed once they hit the open marketplace. The Wall Street Journal talked with several companies about how they judge critical-thinking skills, a few of which ask candidates to submit to written tests to judge their problem-solving abilities. But that sidesteps the larger question: do schools need to shift their focus onto different teaching methods (i.e., downplaying the need for students to memorize lots of information), or is our educational pipeline just fine, thank you very much?

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Recent Nobel Prize Winner Revolutionizes Microscopy Again
Posted by News Fetcher on October 24 '14 at 09:30 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's magnified-consistency department:
An anonymous reader writes: Eric Betzig recently shared in the Nobel Prize for Chemistry for his work on high-resolution microscopy. Just yesterday, Betzig and a team of researchers published a new microscopy technique (abstract) that "allows them to observe living cellular processes at groundbreaking resolution and speed." According to the article, "Until now, the best microscope for viewing living systems as they moved were confocal microscopes. They beam light down onto a sample of cells. The light penetrates the whole sample and bounces back. ... The light is toxic, and degrades the living system over time. Betzig's new microscope solves this by generating a sheet of light that comes in from the side of the sample, made up of a series of beams that harm the sample less than one solid cone of light. Scientists can now snap a high-res image of the entire section they're illuminating, without exposing the rest of the sample to any light at all."

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Decades-old Scientific Paper May Hold Clues To Dark Matter
Posted by News Fetcher on October 24 '14 at 08:30 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's how-scientists-become-hoarders department:
sciencehabit writes: Here's one reason libraries hang on to old science journals: A paper from an experiment conducted 32 years ago may shed light on the nature of dark matter, the mysterious stuff whose gravity appears to keep the galaxies from flying apart. The old data put a crimp in the newfangled concept of a 'dark photon' and suggest that a simple bargain-basement experiment could put the idea to the test. The data come from E137, a "beam dump" experiment that ran from 1980 to 1982 at SLAC National Accelerator Laboratory in Menlo Park, California. In the experiment, physicists slammed a beam of high-energy electrons, left over from other experiments, into an aluminum target to see what would come out. Researchers placed a detector 383 meters behind the target, on the other side of a sandstone hill 179 meters thick that blocked any ordinary particles.

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PCGamingWiki Looks Into Linux Gaming With 'Port Reports'
Posted by News Fetcher on October 24 '14 at 08:00 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's welcome-to-our-home department:
AberBeta writes: PCGamingWiki contributor Soeb has been looking into the recent larger budget game releases to appear on Linux, including XCOM: Enemy Unknown and Borderlands: The Pre–Sequel produced by Mac porting houses Feral and Aspyr. Soeb reports that while feature parity is high, performance could be a bit better. Performance differences aside, the games are finally arriving on Linux — now the userbase needs to expand to make a virtuous cycle.

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How To Beat Online Price Discrimination
Posted by News Fetcher on October 24 '14 at 07:15 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's complain-until-they-give-it-to-you-for-free department:
New submitter Intrepid imaginaut sends word of a study (PDF) into how e-commerce sites show online shoppers different prices depending on how they found an item and what the sites know about the customer.
"For instance, the study found, users logged in to Cheaptickets and Orbitz saw lower hotel prices than shoppers who were not registered with the sites. Home Depot shoppers on mobile devices saw higher prices than users browsing on desktops. Some searchers on Expedia and Hotels.com consistently received higher-priced options, a result of randomized testing by the websites. Shoppers at Sears, Walmart, Priceline, and others received results in a different order than control groups, a tactic known as “steering.”
To get a better price, the article advises deleting cookies before shopping, using your browser's private mode, putting the items in your shopping cart without buying them right away, and using tools like Camelcamelcamel to keep an eye out for price drops.

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Automation Coming To Restaurants, But Not Because of Minimum Wage Hikes
Posted by News Fetcher on October 24 '14 at 06:30 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's my-compliments-to-the-chefbot department:
dcblogs writes: McDonald's this week told financial analysts of its plans to install self-ordering kiosks and mobile ordering at its restaurants. This news prompted the Wall Street Journal to editorialize, in " Minimum Wage Backfire," that while it may be true for McDonald's to say that its tech plans will improve customer experience, the move is also "a convenient way...to justify a reduction in the chain's global workforce." Minimum wage increase advocates, the Journal argued, are speeding along an automation backlash. But banks have long relied on ATMs, and grocery stores, including Walmart, have deployed self-service checkouts. In contrast, McDonald's hasn't changed its basic system of taking orders since its founding in the 1950s, said Darren Tristano, executive vice president of Technomic, a research group focused on the restaurant industry. While mobile, kiosks and table ordering systems may help reduce labor costs, the automated self-serve technology is seen as an essential. It will take the stress out of ordering (lines) at fast food restaurants, and the wait for checks at more casual restaurants. It also helps with upselling and membership to loyalty programs. People who can order a drink refill off a tablet, instead of waving down waitstaff, may be more inclined to do so. Moreover, analysts say younger customers want self-service options.

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FTDI Removes Driver From Windows Update That Bricked Cloned Chips
Posted by News Fetcher on October 24 '14 at 06:00 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's righteous-backpedaling department:
New submitter weilawei writes: Last night, FTDI, a Scottish manufacturer of USB-to-serial ICs, posted a response to the ongoing debacle over its allegedly intentional bricking of competitors' chips. In their statement, FTDI CEO Fred Dart said, "The recently release driver release has now been removed from Windows Update so that on-the-fly updating cannot occur. The driver is in the process of being updated and will be released next week. This will still uphold our stance against devices that are not genuine, but do so in a non-invasive way that means that there is no risk of end user's hardware being directly affected." This may have resulted from a discussion with Microsoft engineers about the implications of distributing potentially malicious driver software.

If you design hardware, what's your stance on this? Will you continue to integrate FTDI chips into your products? What alternatives are available to replace their functionality?


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Stem Cells Grown From Patient's Arm Used To Replace Retina
Posted by News Fetcher on October 24 '14 at 05:15 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's you-and-what-arm-eye department:
BarbaraHudson writes: The Globe and Mail is reporting the success of a procedure to implant a replacement retina grown from cells from the patient's skin. Quoting: "Transplant doctors are stepping gingerly into a new world, one month after a Japanese woman received the first-ever tissue transplant using stem cells that came from her own skin, not an embryo. On Sept. 12, doctors in a Kobe hospital replaced the retina of a 70-year-old woman suffering from macular degeneration, the leading cause of blindness in the developed world. The otherwise routine surgery was radical because scientists had grown the replacement retina in a petri dish, using skin scraped from the patient's arm.

The Japanese woman is fine and her retinal implant remains in place. Researchers around the world are now hoping to test other stem-cell-derived tissues in therapy. Dr. Jeanne Loring from the Scripps Research Institute in La Jolla, Calif., expects to get approval within a few years to see whether neurons derived from stem cells can be used to treat Parkinson's disease."


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Detritus From Cancer Cells May Infect Healthy Cells
Posted by News Fetcher on October 24 '14 at 04:30 AM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's one-bad-cell department:
bmahersciwriter writes Tiny bubbles of cell membrane — called exosomes — are shed by most cells. Long thought to be mere trash, researchers had recently noticed that they often contain short, regulatory RNA molecules, suggesting that exosomes may be one way that cells communicate with one another. Now, it appears that RNA in the exosomes shed by tumor cells can get into healthy cells and 'transform' them, putting them on the path to becoming cancerous themselves.

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British Army Looking For Gamers For Their Smart-Tanks
Posted by News Fetcher on October 24 '14 at 02:00 AM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's point-and-destroy department:
concertina226 writes The U.K. branch of global defense firm General Dynamics is working on a futuristic state-of-the-art smart-tank to replace the British Army's aging armored vehicle fleet, to be delivered to the Ministry of Defense in 2020. The Scout SV armored vehicle is the first fully-digitized armored fighting vehicle to have been built for the British Army, and is far bigger and more durable than any of its existing tanks, which are now at least 20 years old. The tank comes in six variants that can be customized with a tools for different missions, and has numerous sensors, cameras, and sights to offer real-time intelligence on weather conditions, target acquisition, and reconnaissance — all crucial battlefield data required by commanders to access and direct situations. "With the capability in the Scout SV, we're really looking for the type of people who play Xbox games – tech-savvy people who are able to take in a lot of information and process it in the proper way," says Kevin Connell, the vice president for General Dynamic UK's Land Systems Regiment.

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Incapacitating Chemical Agents: Coming Soon To Local Law Enforcement?
Posted by News Fetcher on October 23 '14 at 11:45 PM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's and-stay-down department:
Lasrick writes To this day, Russian authorities refuse to disclose the incapacitating chemical agent (ICA) they employed in their attempt, 12 years ago, to save 900 hostages held in a theater by Chechen fighters. Malcom Dando elaborates on a new report (PDF) that Russia, China, Israel, and a slew of other countries are continuing research into ICAs, and the apparent indifference of the international community into such research. Proponents of ICAs have long promoted their use in a variety of scenarios, including that of law enforcement, because in theory these chemicals incapacitate without permanent disability. Critics, however, point out that these weapons rely on exact dosage to prevent fatality, and that the ability to 'deliver the right agent to the right people in the right dose without exposing the wrong people, or delivering the wrong dose' is a near-impossible expectation. ICAs represent the further misuse and militarization of the life sciences and a weakening of the taboo against the weaponization of toxic substances, and the idea that they could be used in law enforcement situations is a disturbing one."

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NY Doctor Recently Back From West Africa Tests Positive For Ebola
Posted by News Fetcher on October 23 '14 at 08:45 PM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's I-think-I-saw-this-movie department:
An anonymous reader writes An emergency room doctor who recently returned to the city after treating Ebola patients in West Africa has tested positive for the virus, Mayor Bill de Blasio said. It's the first case in the city and the fourth in the nation. From the article: "The doctor, identified as Craig Spencer, 33, came back from treating Ebola patients in Guinea about 10 days ago, and developed a fever, nausea, pain and fatigue Wednesday night. The physician, employed at New York's Columbia Presbyterian Hospital, has been in isolation at Bellevue Hospital in Manhattan since Thursday morning, the official said."

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Tracking a Bitcoin Thief
Posted by News Fetcher on October 23 '14 at 06:45 PM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's naming-names department:
An anonymous reader writes A small group of researchers were able to publish an investigative report on the hacking of a popular Bitcoin exchange earlier this year by the name of CryptoRush.in. Close to a million dollars stolen in crypto currency lead the group to discover evidence, track down the attacker and put together a timeline of what exactly happened. A captivating read for a community desensitized by thefts, hackings and lack of reporting. With pictures, and logs to prove it all.

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How Sony, Intel, and Unix Made Apple's Mac a PC Competitor
Posted by News Fetcher on October 23 '14 at 05:30 PM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's back-in-the-day department:
smaxp writes In 2007, Sony's supply chain lessons, the network effect from the shift to Intel architecture, and a better OS X for developers combined to renew the Mac's growth. The network effects of the Microsoft Wintel ecosystem that Rappaport explained 20 years ago in the Harvard Business Review are no longer a big advantage. By turning itself into a premium PC company with a proprietary OS, Apple has taken the best of PC ecosystem, but avoided taking on the disadvantages.

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Microsoft Exec Opens Up About Research Lab Closure, Layoffs
Posted by News Fetcher on October 23 '14 at 05:15 PM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's story-behind-the-story department:
alphadogg writes It's been a bit over a month since Microsoft shuttered its Microsoft Research lab in Silicon Valley as part of the company's broader restructuring that will include 18,000 layoffs. This week, Harry Shum, Microsoft EVP of Technology & Research, posted what he termed an "open letter to the academic research community" on the company's research blog. In the post, Shum is suitably contrite about the painful job cut decisions that were made in closing the lab, which opened in 2001. He also stresses that Microsoft will continue to invest in and value "fundamental research".

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Assange: Google Is Not What It Seems
Posted by News Fetcher on October 23 '14 at 05:15 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's mixed-motivations department:
oxide7 (1013325) writes "In June 2011, Julian Assange received an unusual visitor: the chairman of Google, Eric Schmidt. They outlined radically opposing perspectives: for Assange, the liberating power of the Internet is based on its freedom and statelessness. For Schmidt, emancipation is at one with U.S. foreign policy objectives and is driven by connecting non-Western countries to Western companies and markets. These differences embodied a tug-of-war over the Internet's future that has only gathered force subsequently. Assange describes his encounter with Schmidt and how he came to conclude that it was far from an innocent exchange of views."

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SMART Begins Live Public Robocar Tests In Singapore
Posted by News Fetcher on October 23 '14 at 05:01 PM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's give-it-a-whirl department:
Hallie Siegel writes Robocar R&D is moving fast in Singapore, and this week, the National University of Singapore (NUS) announced they will be doing a live public demo of their autonomous golf carts over a course with 10 stops in the Singapore Chinese and Japanese Gardens. The public will be able to book rides online, and then summon and direct the vehicles with their phones. The vehicles will have a touch tablet where the steering wheel will go. Rides will be free, and will take place Oct. 23-25, Oct. 30-31 and Nov. 1.

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Tech Firm Fined For Paying Imported Workers $1.21 Per Hour
Posted by News Fetcher on October 23 '14 at 05:00 PM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's was-that-wrong? department:
An anonymous reader sends in news about a company that was fined for flying in "about eight employees" from India to work 120-hour weeks for $1.21 per hour. Electronics for Imaging paid several employees from India as little as $1.21 an hour to help install computer systems at the company's Fremont headquarters, federal labor officials said Wednesday. "We are not going to tolerate this kind of behavior from employers," said Susana Blanco, district director of the U.S. Labor Department's wage and hour division in San Francisco.... An anonymous tip prompted the U.S. Department of Labor to investigate the case, which resulted in more than $40,000 in back wages paid to the eight employees and a fine of $3,500 for Electronics for Imaging.

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