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Aliens Are Probably Everywhere, Just Not Anywhere Nearby
Posted by News Fetcher on December 04 '14 at 01:45 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's where-is-everyone? department:
rossgneumann writes If there's intelligent life in the cosmos, it's probably nowhere we can get to anytime soon. At least that's the finding of the astrobiologist who, for the first time in decades, has rendered a major update to the key formula scientists use to seek out interstellar life. That'd be the Drake equation, which was developed over half a century ago to determine where life might lurk in the universe. Using the new Kepler data, astrobiologist Amri Wandel did some calculations to estimate the density of life-bearing worlds in our corner of the universe.

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New Effort To Grant Legal Rights To Chimpanzees Fails
Posted by News Fetcher on December 04 '14 at 01:00 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's what-about-monkeys department:
sciencehabit writes Advocates of "legal personhood" for chimpanzees have lost another battle. This morning, a New York appellate court rejected a lawsuit by the Nonhuman Rights Project (NhRP) to free a chimp named Tommy from captivity. The group had argued that the chimpanzee deserved the human right of bodily liberty. Despite the loss, the NhRP is pursuing more cases in the hopes of conferring legal rights to a variety of animals, from elephants to dolphins.

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Apple Accused of Deleting Songs From iPods Without Users' Knowledge
Posted by News Fetcher on December 04 '14 at 12:15 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's not-cricket department:
SternisheFan writes with this excerpt from a story at AppleInsider that says "During in-court proceedings of Apple's iPod/iTunes antitrust lawsuit on Wednesday, plaintiffs' lawyers claimed Apple surreptitiously deleted songs not purchased through the iTunes Music Store from users' iPods. Attorney Patrick Coughlin, representing a class of individuals and businesses, said Apple intentionally wiped songs downloaded from competing services when users performed a sync with their iTunes library, reports The Wall Street Journal. As explained by the publication, users attempting to sync an iPod with an iTunes library containing music from a rival service, such as RealNetworks, would see an ambiguous error message without prompting them to perform a factory reset. After restoring the device, users would find all non-iTunes music had disappeared. ... It is unclear if iTunes or iPod encountered a legitimate problem, though Coughlin seems to be intimating Apple manufactured the error message as part of a supposed gambit to stop customers from using their iPod to play back music from stores other than iTunes. For its part, Apple said the system was a safety measure installed to protect users."

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Consumer-Grade SSDs Survive Two Petabytes of Writes
Posted by News Fetcher on December 04 '14 at 11:45 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's some-of-them-at-least department:
crookedvulture writes The SSD Endurance Experiment previously covered on Slashdot has reached another big milestone: two freaking petabytes of writes. That's an astounding total for consumer-grade drives rated to survive no more than a few hundred terabytes. Only two of the initial six subjects made it to 2PB. The Kingston HyperX 3K, Intel 335 Series, and Samsung 840 Series expired on the road to 1PB, while the Corsair Neutron GTX faltered at 1.2PB. The Samsung 840 Pro continues despite logging thousands of reallocated sectors. It has remained completely error-free throughout the experiment, unlike a second HyperX, which has suffered a couple of uncorrectable errors. The second HyperX is mostly intact otherwise, though its built-in compression tech has reduced the 2PB of host writes to just 1.4PB of flash writes. Even accounting for compression, the flash in the second HyperX has proven to be far more robust than in the first. That difference highlights the impact normal manufacturing variances can have on flash wear. It also illustrates why the experiment's sample size is too small to draw definitive conclusions about the durability of specific models. However, the fact that all the drives far exceeded their endurance specifications bodes well for the endurance of consumer-grade SSDs in general.

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How the NSA Is Spying On Everyone: More Revelations
Posted by News Fetcher on December 04 '14 at 11:15 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's your-own-good department:
The Intercept has published today a story detailing documents that "reveal how the NSA plans to secretly introduce new flaws into communication systems so that they can be tapped into—a controversial tactic that security experts say could be exposing the general population to criminal hackers." The documents also describe a years-long effort, aimed at hostile and friendly regimes, from the point of view of the U.S. government, to break the security of various countries' communications networks.

"Codenamed AURORAGOLD, the covert operation has monitored the content of messages sent and received by more than 1,200 email accounts associated with major cellphone network operators, intercepting confidential company planning papers that help the NSA hack into phone networks."

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Using OwnCloud To Integrate Dropbox, Google Drive, and More In Gnome
Posted by News Fetcher on December 04 '14 at 11:15 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's all-in-one-and-one-for-all department:
Jason Hibbets writes Jiri Folta was looking for an easy way to have all of his online storage services, such as Google Drive and Dropbox, integrated with his Linux desktop without using any nasty hacks. He shares this solution in this short tutorial, and shows you how to integrate ownCloud with the Gnome desktop and then add your favorite cloud providers to use all of your cloud accounts in one place just as easily as if they were local drives.

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A Backhanded Defense of Las Vegas' Taxi Regulation
Posted by News Fetcher on December 04 '14 at 10:15 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's professional-clowns-rather-than-amateur-clowns department:
At Medium.com, Blake Ross takes a tongue-in-cheek look at the consumer protections that exist courtesy of the the Nevada Taxicab Authority, which (putting it mildly) seem to be rather more friendly to the existing taxi businesses in Las Vegas than they are to any disgruntled riders. By contrast with Uber (just booted from Las Vegas), Ross points out that the Taxicab Authority relies on antiquated complaint forms, random police checks, overlooked airport signs, and expensive tracking devices. Nonethess, says Ross, "I stand with Nevada and say—leave this to the pros."

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'Moneyball' Approach Reduces Crime In New York City
Posted by News Fetcher on December 04 '14 at 09:30 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's precrime-works-citizens department:
HughPickens.com writes The NYT reports that NY County District Attorney Cyrus Vance Jr.'s most significant initiative has been to transform, through the use of data, the way district attorneys fight crime. "The question I had when I came in was, Do we sit on our hands waiting for crime to tick up, or can we do something to drive crime lower?" says Vance. "I wanted to develop what I call intelligence-driven prosecution." When Vance became DA in 2009, it was glaringly evident that assistant D.A.s fielding the 105,000-plus cases a year in Manhattan seldom had enough information to make nuanced decisions about bail, charges, pleas or sentences. They were narrowly focused on the facts of cases in front of them, not on the people committing the crimes. They couldn't quickly sort minor delinquents from irredeemably bad apples. They didn't know what havoc defendants might be wreaking in other boroughs.

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Negative Online Reviews Are Not Defamation (At Least In Canada)
Posted by News Fetcher on December 04 '14 at 09:15 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's in-canada-at-least department:
An anonymous reader writes A client who was dissatisfied with the service of an immigration company in Canada took her grievances online, upon which she was sued for defamation and libel by the owner of the company. A Canadian superior court has tossed out the lawsuit with the note: "One may be dissatisfied with the quality or efficiency of services but expressing one's dissatisfaction is not equivalent to defamation." The court noted: "This demand is grossly exaggerated. It flirts with frivolity and abuse within the meaning given to these words in Article 54.1 C.C.P."

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Woz Downplays the Significance of Apple's Startup Garage
Posted by News Fetcher on December 04 '14 at 09:00 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's having-a-home-seems-pretty-significant department:
mrspoonsi (2955715) writes "When thinking about the early days of Apple, most people who know even a little bit about the company probably picture Steve Jobs and cofounder Steve Wozniak busily brainstorming in a small garage in Silicon Valley. That's how the story goes — in fact, the garage where they famously started the company was even deemed a historical site last year. Wozniak, however, doesn't really see that location as a crucial part of Apple's history. "The garage is a bit of a myth," he told Bloomberg Businessweek's Brandon Lisy when asked whether the garage was important to Apple's story. "We did no designs there, no breadboarding, no prototyping, no planning of products. We did no manufacturing there." The garage served as a familiar location for him and Jobs in the early days, Wozniak said, but that's about it. "The garage didn't service much purpose, except it was something for us to feel was our home," he said. "We had no money. You have to work out of your home when you have no money.""

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Windows 10 Adds Battery Saver Feature
Posted by News Fetcher on December 04 '14 at 08:45 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's perpetual-frontier department:
jones_supa writes In past builds of Windows 10 Technical Preview there has been an interesting feature called Battery Saver, but for the time being it has been just a mockup. In a leaked build 9888, the code is now in place. Battery Saver, as the name implies, will help your mobile device make the most out of your battery. This feature works by limiting the background activity on your device when the mode is activated. You can turn the feature on any time but there is also a setting to have it automatically turn on when the battery capacity goes below a user-defined percentage. Considering that this build was not supposed to make its way out of Redmond and that the company is not releasing any new builds this year, this may be the best look we get until the Consumer Preview arrives.

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The Cost of the "S" In HTTPS
Posted by News Fetcher on December 04 '14 at 07:30 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's not-insignificant department:
An anonymous reader writes Researchers from CMU, Telefonica, and Politecnico di Torino have presented a paper at ACM CoNEXT that quantifies the cost of the "S" in HTTPS. The study shows that today major players are embracing end-to-end encryption, so that about 50% of web traffic is carried by HTTPS. This is a nice testament to the feasibility of having a fully encrypted web. The paper pinpoints also the cost of encryption, that manifests itself through increases in the page loading time that go above 50%, and possible increase in battery usage. However, the major loss due to the "S" is the inability to offer any in-network value added services, that are offered by middle-boxes, such as caching, proxying, firewalling, parental control, etc. Are we ready to accept it? (Presentation can be downloaded from here.)

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UK Completes 250km of Undersea Broadband Rollouts
Posted by News Fetcher on December 04 '14 at 07:15 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's part-of-the-anti-independence-conspiracy department:
DW100 writes The UK has completed a highly challenging rollout of broadband to remote islands in Scotland, covering 250km of seabed. The work has taken many months but will mean some 150,000 residents in the islands will be able to get broadband of up to 80Mbps. A cable laying ship, the Rene Descartes, carried out the work, with the longest cable stretching 50 miles between islands.

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Technical Hitches Delay Orion Capsule's First Launch
Posted by News Fetcher on December 04 '14 at 06:45 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's despite-not-being-run-by-the-usps department:
According to NBC news, "A series of delays held up the maiden launch of NASA's Orion capsule on Thursday, adding some extra suspense to the first test of a spacecraft that's designed to take humans farther than they've ever gone — including to Mars." The much-anticipated launch, which had been scheduled for launch 7:05 a.m. Florida time, is to boost into orbit — empty — an instance of the Orion crew capsule intended to be part of a manned mission to Mars. As of shortly after 9 a.m. eastern time, troubleshooting has been in progress on the Alliance Delta 4 launch vehicle's hydrogen fill and drain valves in attempt to make the launch within today's launch window, which extends to 9:44 a.m. Besides the technical problem with those valves, the launch was delayed by wind, as well as by a boat that strayed into a restricted area. (Shades of the stray-boat delay in October for Orbital Science's ISS delivery launch.) Friday and Saturday have been designated as backup dates.

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Chinese CEO Says "Free" Is the Right Price For Mobile Software
Posted by News Fetcher on December 04 '14 at 06:15 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's sounds-like-a-plan department:
hackingbear writes Sheng Fu, CEO of Cheetah Mobile, a public Chinese mobile software company you probably haven't heard of, but whose products are among the top downloaded products in Android markets around the world, said that the intense competition of the Chinese market leads to products that can compete globally. Many recent university graduates are working in tech, all with their startups looking to find their place in the market, he said. Chinese companies saw the impact that piracy played in the PC software era, and China's mobile companies grew up knowing they would need to make money without getting consumers to open their wallets. "Chinese companies are so good at making free but high-quality products," he said. Sounds like we have a good race to the bottom.

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Google Confirms That It's Designing Kid-Friendly Versions of Its Services
Posted by News Fetcher on December 04 '14 at 05:15 AM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's won't-somebody-please-think-of-the-children? department:
An anonymous reader writes USA Today reports that rumors about Google working on specific services catering to young kids are true. From the article: "With Google processing 40,000 search queries a second — or 1.2 trillion a year — it's a safe bet that many of those doing the Googling are kids. Little surprise then that beginning next year the tech giant plans to create specific versions of its most popular products for those 12 and younger. The most likely candidates are those that are already popular with a broad age group, such as search, YouTube and Chrome. 'The big motivator inside the company is everyone is having kids, so there's a push to change our products to be fun and safe for children,' Pavni Diwanji, the vice president of engineering charged with leading the new initiative, told USA TODAY. 'We expect this to be controversial, but the simple truth is kids already have the technology in schools and at home,' says the mother of two daughters, ages 8 and 13. 'So the better approach is to simply see to it that the tech is used in a better way.'"

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How High-Tech Temporary Tattoos Will Hack Your Skin
Posted by News Fetcher on December 04 '14 at 03:15 AM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's wear-and-test department:
Molly McHugh writes with this story about sensors that can be attached to temporary tattoos to monitor various medical information. "The Center for Wearable Sensors at the University of California San Diego has been experimenting with attaching sensors to temporary tattoos in order to extract data from the body. The tattoos are worn exactly as a regular temporary tattoo would be worn. The sensors simply sit atop the skin without penetrating it and interact with Bluetooth or other wireless devices with a signal in order to send the data....A biofuel battery applied as a temporary tattoo converts sweat into energy, and a startup within the center has developed a strip that extracts data from sweat to explain how your body is reacting to certain types of exercise. Amay Bandodkar, a fourth year PhD student at UCSD, explains that the sensors are programmed to react to the amount of lactate the body produces."

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UK MP Says ISPs Must Take Responsibility For Movie Leaks, Sony Eyes North Korea
Posted by News Fetcher on December 04 '14 at 12:15 AM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's who's-to-blame department:
An anonymous reader writes that the recent IP advisor to Prime Minister David Cameron has laid some of the blame for the recent Sony hack at the feet of ISPs. Meanwhile, it's reported that Sony is close to officially blaming North Korea. As the fallout from the Sony hack continues, who is to blame for the leak of movies including Fury, which has been downloaded a million times? According to the UK Prime Minister's former IP advisor, as 'facilitators' web-hosts and ISPs must step up and take some blame. Mike Weatherley MP, the recent IP advisor to Prime Minister David Cameron, has published several piracy reports including one earlier in the year examining the advertising revenue on pirate sites. He believes that companies with no direct connection to the hack or subsequent leaks should shoulder some blame. 'Piracy is a huge international problem. The recent cyber-attack on Sony and subsequent release of films to illegal websites is just one high-profile example of how criminals exploit others' Intellectual Property,' Weatherley writes in an email to TF. 'Unfortunately, the theft of these films – and their subsequent downloads – has been facilitated by web-hosting companies and, ultimately, ISPs who do have to step-up and take some responsibility.' Weatherley doesn't provide detail on precisely why web-hosts and ISPs should take responsibility for the work of malicious hackers (possibly state-sponsored) and all subsequent fall out from attacks. The theory is that 'something' should be done, but precisely what remains elusive."

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Why Pluto Still Matters
Posted by News Fetcher on December 03 '14 at 11:00 PM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's where-the-mi-go-and-the-terran-federation-play department:
StartsWithABang writes Nearly a century ago, Pluto was discovered, and for 48 years it remained the only known object whose orbit takes it beyond the gravitational pull of Neptune. In a single generation, we've now discovered more than 1,000 additional objects in the Kuiper Belt, but does that make Pluto any less special? Here's a strong argument for why Pluto might matter now more than ever.

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Programmer Father Asks: What Gets Little Girls Interested In Science?
Posted by News Fetcher on December 03 '14 at 10:00 PM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's what's-a-father-to-do? department:
nbauman writes Programmer David Auerbach is dismayed that, at a critical developmental age, his 4-year-old daughter wants to be a princess, not a scientist or engineer, he writes in Slate. The larger society keeps forcing sexist stereotypes on her, in every book and toy store. From the article: "Getting more women into science and technology fields: Where’s the silver bullet? While I might get more hits by revealing the One Simple Trick to increase female participation in the sciences, the truth is there isn’t some key inflection point where young women’s involvement drops off. Instead, there is a series of small- to medium-sized discouraging factors that set in from a young age, ranging from unhelpful social conditioning to a lack of role models to unconscious bias to very conscious bias. Any and all of these can figure into why, for example, women tend to underrate their technical abilities relative to men. I know plenty of successful women in the sciences, but let’s not fool ourselves and say the playing field in the academic sciences or the tech world is even. My wife attributes her pursuit of programming to being a loner and pretty much ignoring wider society while growing up: 'Being left alone with a computer (with NO INTERNET TO TELL ME WHAT I COULDN’T DO) was the deciding factor,' she tells me."

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