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A New Homegrown OS For China Could Arrive By October
Posted by News Fetcher on August 24 '14 at 06:45 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's which-governement-holds-your-data? department:
According to a Reuters report, China could have a new homegrown operating system by October to take on imported rivals such as Microsoft Corp, Google Inc and Apple Inc, Xinhua news agency said on Sunday. Computer technology became an area of tension between China and the United States after a number of run-ins over cyber security. China is now looking to help its domestic industry catch up with imported systems such as Microsoft's Windows and Google's mobile operating system Android. The operating system would first appear on desktop devices and later extend to smartphone and other mobile devices, Xinhua said, citing Ni Guangnan who heads an official OS development alliance established in March. It would make sense for even a "homegrown" operating system to be based on existing ones, in the way Red Flag Linux is. Conceptually related: Earlier this year, Chinese company Coship Electronics announced (and demonstrated) a mobile OS called 960 OS.

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Magnitude 6.0 Quake Hits Northern California, Causing Injuries and Outages
Posted by News Fetcher on August 24 '14 at 05:15 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's be-safe-out-there department:
As numerous sources report, an earthquake of magnitude 6.0 struck California early Sunday morning, with an epicenter about 9 miles south of Napa. According to the San Francisco Chronicle's account, Some power lines down in western Contra Costa County, but Bay Area bridges appeared to be fine, according to the California Highway Patrol. There were widespread reports of power outages, gas leaks and flooding in the North Bay, with at least 15,000 Pacific Gas and Electric Co. customers without power in Vallejo, Napa, Rohnert Park, Santa Rosa and Sonoma. Police reminded motorists to stop at darkened intersections. ... In Benicia, several miles from the epicenter, the quake was strong enough to knock pictures off mantles.

Bay Area bridges appear to have survived the quake -- significant, in that the L.A. Times reports that USGS estimates peg it as "the largest earthquake to strike the Bay Area since the Loma Prieta temblor of 1989," and says that injury reports (especially from glass) are streaming in from the area around Napa. The Times also has a larger estimate of customers suffering power outages: "more than 42,000" around the northern Bay Area. Unsurprisingly, social media channels are full of pictures showing some of the damage.

For those in California, did you feel the quake? (And from how far away?)

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Major Delays, Revamped Beta For Credit-Card Consolidating Gadget Coin
Posted by News Fetcher on August 24 '14 at 05:15 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's nickelback-quarterback-pedalback department:
The premise behind Coin is attractive: consolidate credit cards onto a single card-sized gadget. However, on Friday the company announced a delay in the release of its final version from this summer to spring of 2015, and in a way that angered many of the project's crowd-funding backers. The announcement of a delay was not only sudden, and quite close to the previously announced shipping date, but upset those who'd pre-ordered by outlining a confusing beta program that would involve an interim product release — recipients of the beta version (limited to 10,000) would have had to then pay $30 to upgrade to the final product. As CNET reports, the delay until 2015 remains, but with regard to that beta program,

Coin has now reversed its stance. The beta program will be free -- meaning preorder customers who opt-in will no longer forfeit the $55 they paid and will still receive the finished Coin product next year. The program will also expand from 10,000 customers to 15,000. Regardless of whether your smartphone is running Apple's iOS or Google's Android operating system, preorder customers can opt-in to Coin's beta program through its app and will be eligible for a device if they fall within the 15,000-person threshold. The order is determined by when you bought your Coin.

< article continued at Slashdot >

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Among Gamers, Adult Women Vastly Outnumber Teenage Boys
Posted by News Fetcher on August 24 '14 at 03:15 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's ok-but-in-a-fight-who-would-win department:
MojoKid writes: The Entertainment Software Association has just released its 2014 report on the state of the video game industry (PDF), and as the title of this post suggests, there have been some significant shifts since the last report. Let's tackle the most interesting one first: Females have become the dominant gamer, claiming 52% of the pie. That's impressive, but perhaps more so is the fact that women over the age of 18 represent 36% of the game-playing population, whereas boys aged 18 and under claim a mere 17%. Statistics like these challenge the definition of "gamer." Some might say that it's a stretch to call someone who only plays mobile games a "gamer" (Candy Crush anyone?). Mental hurdle aside, the reality is that anyone who plays games, regardless of the platform, is a gamer.

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Western US Drought Has Made Earth's Crust Rise
Posted by News Fetcher on August 24 '14 at 12:45 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's like-a-burden's-been-lifted department:
Loss of both groundwater and water stored in surface reservoirs in the drought-striken western U.S. isn't just expensive and contentious: it's evidently making the earth's crust rise in the West. Scripps researchers say that the average rise across a wide stretch of the West Coast is approximately one sixth of an inch.

Scientists came to this conclusion by studying data collected from hundreds of GPS sensors across the Western U.S., installed primarily to detect small changes in the ground due to earthquakes. But the GPS data can also be used to show very small changes in elevation. The study specifically examined GPS stations on bedrock or very thin soil because it provides the most accurate measurement of groundwater loss, said Duncan Agnew, professor of geophysics at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography. Areas with thick soil, such as farms, can see the ground sinking as the soil dries out. But Agnew said the bedrock underneath that soil is actually rising.
The highest uplift of the Earth occurred in California's mountains because there is so much water below them, Agnew said. The uplift was less in Nevada and the Great Basin.


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The Making of the Making of Nihilumbra
Posted by News Fetcher on August 23 '14 at 10:15 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's has-it-ever-recurred-to-you department:
SlappingOysters (1344355) writes "Digital magazine outlet Grab It has been pushing the boundaries of what can be achieved with media on touchscreens, which includes an experimental special edition of its publication focused on indie platformer Nihilumbra from BeautiFun Games. In this blog entry, the editor talks about how the digital format can be used to create reading experiences that you physically play just like it is the game. The app is available on iPad, but the article itself is an intriguing read for those wondering where the future of digital magazines can head."

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Air Force Requests Info For Replacement Atlas 5 Engine
Posted by News Fetcher on August 23 '14 at 07:00 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's send-picture-of-rocket department:
schwit1 (797399) writes The U.S. Air Force on Thursday issued a request for information from industry for the replacement of the Russian-made engines used by ULA's Atlas 5 rocket: "Companies are being asked to respond by Sept. 19 to 35 questions. Among them: "What solution would you recommend to replace the capability currently provided by the RD-180 engine?" Air Force officials have told Congress they only have a broad idea of how to replace the RD-180. Estimates of the investment in money and time necessary to field an American-built alternative vary widely. Congress, meanwhile, is preparing bills that would fund a full-scale engine development program starting next year; the White House is advocating a more deliberate approach that begins with an examination of applicable technologies. In the request for information, the Air Force says it is open to a variety of options including an RD-180 facsimile, a new design, and alternative configurations featuring multiple engines, and even a brand new rocket. The Air Force is also trying to decide on the best acquisition approach. Options include a traditional acquisition or a shared investment as part of a public-private partnership. [emphasis mine]"

The Atlas 5 is built by Lockheed Martin. This is really their problem, not the Air Force or ULA. In addition, the Air Force has other options, both from Boeing's Delta rocket family as well as SpaceX's Falcon 9 rocket.


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Slashdot Asks: Cheap But Reasonable Telescopes for Kids?
Posted by News Fetcher on August 23 '14 at 04:15 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's will-take-credit-for-the-nobel-prize department:
I am interested in a telescope for the use of some elementary and middle school aged relatives. Older and younger siblings, and parents, would no doubt get some scope time, too. Telescopes certainly come in a range of prices, from cheap to out of this world, and I am purely a duffer myself. But I enjoy looking at the moon and stars with magnification, and think they would, too. What I'm trying to find might be phrased like this: "the lowest priced scope that's reasonably robust, reasonably accurate, and reasonably usable for kids" -- meaning absolute precision is less important than a focus that is easy to set and doesn't drift. Simplicity in design beats tiny, ill-labeled parts or an incomprehensible manual, even if the complicated one might be slightly better when perfectly tuned. I'd be pleased if some of these kids decide to take up astronomy as a hobby, but don't have any strong expectation that will happen -- besides, if they really get into it, the research for a better one would be another fun project. That said, while I'm price sensitive, I'm not looking *only* at the price tag so much as seeking insight about the cluster of perceived sweet spots when it come to price / performance / personality. By "personality" I mean whether it's friendly, well documented, whether it comes intelligently packaged, whether it's a crapshoot as to whether a scope with the same model name will arrive in good shape, etc -- looking at online reviews, it seems many low-end scopes have a huge variance in reviews. What scopes would you would consider giving to an intelligent 3rd or 4th grader? As a starting point, Google has helped me find some interesting guides that list some scopes that sound reasonable, including a few under or near $100. (Here's one such set of suggestions.) What would you advise buying, from that list or otherwise? (There are some ideas that sound pretty good in this similar question from 2000, but I figure the state of the art has moved on.) I'm more interested in avoiding awful junk than I am expecting treasure: getting reasonable views of the moon is a good start, and getting at least some blurry rings around Saturn would be nice, too. Simply because they are so cheap, I'd like to know if anyone has impressions (worth it? pure junk?) of the Celestron FirstScope models, which are awfully tempting for under $50.

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Spot ET's Waste Heat For Chance To Find Alien Life
Posted by News Fetcher on August 23 '14 at 02:45 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's especially-if-they've-got-grow-lights department:
mdsolar passes along this selection from New Scientist describing a (comparatively) low-tech means of scanning the skies for extraterrestrial civilizations: The best-known technique used to search for tech-savvy aliens is eavesdropping on their communications with each other. But this approach assumes ET is chatty in channels we can hear.

The new approach, dubbed G-HAT for Glimpsing Heat from Alien Technologies, makes no assumptions about what alien civilisations may be like.

"This approach is very different," says Franck Marchis at the SETI Institute in California, who was not involved in the project. "I like it because it doesn't put any constraints on the origin of the civilisation or their willingness to communicate." Instead, it utilises the laws of thermodynamics. All machines and living things give off heat, and that heat is visible as infrared radiation. The G-HAT team combed through the catalogue of images generated by the Wide-field Infrared Survey Explorer, or WISE, which released an infrared map of the entire sky in 2012. A galaxy should emit about 10 per cent of its light in the mid-infrared range, says team leader Jason Wright at Pennsylvania State University. If it gives off much more, it could be being warmed by vast networks of alien technology – though it could also be a sign of more prosaic processes, such as rapid star formation or an actively feeding black hole at the galaxy's centre.


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Facebook Experimenting With Blu-ray As a Storage Medium
Posted by News Fetcher on August 23 '14 at 02:00 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's what-do-you-trust-with-your-selfies department:
s122604 links to CNN's explanation of what may be the future of cold (or at least lukewarm) storage at Facebook, which is experimenting with massive arrays of Blu-Ray discs for seldom-accessed user files. Says the report: The discs are held in groups of 12 in locked cartridges and are extracted by a robotic arm whenever they're needed.
One rack contains 10,000 discs, and is capable of storing a petabyte of data, or one million gigabytes.
Blu-ray discs offer a number of advantages versus hard drives. For one thing, the discs are more resilient: they're water- and dust-resistant, and better able to withstand temperature swings. Their data can be restored more quickly, and they're easier to transport.
Most important, though, is cost. Because the Blu-ray system doesn't need to be powered when the discs aren't in use, it uses 80% less power than the hard-drive arrangement, cutting overall costs in half.


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For Microsoft, $93B Abroad Means Avoiding $30B Tax Hit
Posted by News Fetcher on August 23 '14 at 12:30 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's what's-billed-vs-what's-owed department:
walterbyrd (182728) writes "Microsoft Corp. is currently sitting on almost $29.6 billion it would owe in U.S. taxes if it repatriated the $92.9 billion of earnings it is keeping offshore, according to disclosures in the company's most recent annual filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission. The amount of money that Microsoft is keeping offshore represents a significant spike from prior years, and the levies the company would owe amount to almost the entire two-year operating budget of the company's home state of Washington."

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The Tech Fixes the PS3 Still Needs, Eight Years On
Posted by News Fetcher on August 23 '14 at 11:45 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's needs-a-cupholder-for-metamucil department:
An anonymous reader writes "The PlayStation 4 has well and truly arrived, but Sony's still selling its last-gen console by the pallet-load, eight years after first going on sale. Of course, as a new article points out, that's nothing compared to the PS2's astonishing 13 year manufacturing run. To help achieve that, the author outlines some tech fixes the PS3 could still do with, even after all this time, from tighter PS Vita integration, to yes, cross game chat. Can it make it past a decade, too?"

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South Carolina Student Arrested For "Killing Pet Dinosaur"
Posted by News Fetcher on August 23 '14 at 11:15 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's tell-me-again-about-our-troubled-youth department:
Rambo Tribble (1273454) writes In South Carolina a 16-year old boy, Alex Stone, was arrested and charged with creating a disturbance at his school, as well as suspended, for choosing to write: "I killed my neighbor's pet dinosaur. I bought the gun to take care of the business," in response to a class writing assignment. The story has attracted international attention.

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Eruption Of Iceland's Bardarbunga Raises Travel Alert to Red
Posted by News Fetcher on August 23 '14 at 10:45 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's melting-iceland department:
The eruption of the Bardarbunga volcano in central Iceland, which appeared a strong possibility after a series of earthquakes, is currently underway, beneath the ice of the Dyngjujokull glacier. The BBC reports that Iceland has raised its air travel alert to red, its higest level, but that for now all of Iceland's airports remain open. CNN notes that "the underground activity did not immediately result in changes to volcanic activity on the surface ... Because of a pressure from the glacier cap it is uncertain whether the eruption will stay sub-glacial or not, Iceland 2 TV said."

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Oregon Sues Oracle For "Abysmal" Healthcare Website
Posted by News Fetcher on August 23 '14 at 09:30 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's finest-consultants-in-the-land department:
SpzToid (869795) writes The state of Oregon sued Oracle America Inc. and six of its top executives Friday, accusing the software giant of fraud for failing to deliver a working website for the Affordable Care Act program. The 126-page lawsuit claims Oracle has committed fraud, lies, and "a pattern of activity that has cost the State and Cover Oregon hundreds of millions of dollars". "Not only were Oracle's claims lies, Oracle's work was abysmal", the lawsuit said. Oregon paid Oracle about $240.3 million for a system that never worked, the suit said. "Today's lawsuit clearly explains how egregiously Oracle has disserved Oregonians and our state agencies", said Oregon Atty. Gen. Ellen Rosenblum in a written statement. "Over the course of our investigation, it became abundantly clear that Oracle repeatedly lied and defrauded the state. Through this legal action, we intend to make our state whole and make sure taxpayers aren't left holding the bag."

Oregon's suit, alleges that Oracle, the largest tech contractor working on the website, made falsely convinced officials to buy "hundreds of millions of dollars of Oracle products and services that failed to perform as promised." It is seeking $200 million in damages. Oracle issued a statement saying the suit "is a desperate attempt to deflect blame from Cover Oregon and the governor for their failures to manage a complex IT project. The complaint is a fictional account of the Oregon Healthcare Project."


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It's Dumb To Tell Kids They're Smart
Posted by News Fetcher on August 23 '14 at 08:30 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's converse-is-also-true department:
theodp writes Over at Khan Academy, Salman Khan explains Why I'm Cautious About Telling My Son He's Smart. "Recently," writes Khan, "I put into practice research I had been reading about for the past few years: I decided to praise my son not when he succeeded at things he was already good at, but when he persevered with things that he found difficult. I stressed to him that by struggling, your brain grows. Between the deep body of research on the field of learning mindsets and this personal experience with my son, I am more convinced than ever that mindsets toward learning could matter more than anything else we teach." According to Dr. Carol Dweck, who Khan cites, the secret to raising smart kids is not telling kids that they are. A focus on effort — not on intelligence or ability — says Dweck, is key to success in school and in life.

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BBC and FACT Shut Down Doctor Who Fansite
Posted by News Fetcher on August 23 '14 at 07:30 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's you're-gonna-need-a-bigger-tardis department:
An anonymous reader writes with this report from Torrentfreak, excerpting: In just a few hours time the brand new season of Doctor Who will premiere, kicking off with the first episode 'Deep Breath'. There's been a huge build up in the media, but for fans who prefer to socialize and obtain news via a dedicated community, today brings bad news. Doctor Who Media (DWM) was a site created in 2010 and during the ensuing four and a half years it amassed around 25,000 dedicated members. A source close to the site told TF that since nothing like it existed officially, DWM's core focus was to provide a central location and community for everything in the 'Whoniverse,' from reconstructions of missing episodes to the latest episodes, and whatever lay between. But yesterday, following a visit by representatives from the BBC and Federation Against Copyright Theft, the site's operator took the decision to shut down the site for good.

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Google Announces a New Processor For Project Ara
Posted by News Fetcher on August 23 '14 at 06:45 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's starting-from-not-quite-scratch department:
rtoz writes Google has just announced a new processor for Project Ara. The mobile Rockchip SoC will function as an applications processor, without requiring a bridge chip. A prototype of the phone with the Rockchip CPU, will be available early next year. Via Google+ post, Project Ara team Head Paul Eremenko says "We view this Rockchip processor as a trailblazer for our vision of a modular architecture where the processor is a node on a network with a single, universal interface -- free from also serving as the network hub for all of the mobile device's peripherals."

(Project Ara is Google's effort to create an extensible, modular cellphone; last month we mentioned a custom version of Linux being developed for the project, too.)

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2 Galileo Satellites Launched To Wrong Orbit
Posted by News Fetcher on August 23 '14 at 05:45 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's conspiracy-theory department:
As reported by the BBC, two satellites meant to form part of the EU's Galileo global positioning network have been launched into a wrong, lower orbit, and it is unclear whether they can be salvaged. NASASpaceFlight.com has a more detailed account of the launch, which says [D]espite the Arianespace webcast noting no issue with the launch, it was later admitted the satellites were lofted into the wrong orbit. “Following the announcement made by Arianespace on the anomalies of the orbit injection of the Galileo satellites, the teams of industries and agencies involved in the early operations of the satellites are investigating the potential implications on the mission,” noted a short statement, many hours after the event. It is unlikely the satellites can be eased into their correct orbit, even with a large extension to their transit time. However, ESA are not classing the satellites as lost at this time. “Both satellites have been acquired and are safely controlled and operated from ESOC, ESA’s Operations Centre in Darmstadt, Germany,” the Agency added.

Over the course of the next "year or so," an additional 24 satellites are slated to complete the Galileo constellation, to be launched by a mixed slate of Ariane and Soyuz rockets.

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Anomaly Triggers Self-Destruct For SpaceX Falcon 9 Test Flight
Posted by News Fetcher on August 23 '14 at 04:45 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's fly-up-go-boom department:
SpaceMika (867804) writes "A SpaceX test flight at the McGregor test facility ended explosively on Friday afternoon. A test flight of a three-engine Falcon 9 Dev1 reusable rocket ended in a rapid unscheduled disassembly after an unspecified anomaly triggered the Flight Termination System, destroying the rocket. No injuries were reported."

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