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The Struggle To Ban Killer Robots
Posted by News Fetcher on May 08 '14 at 03:01 PM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's shoot-to-kill department:
Lasrick (2629253) writes "The Campaign to Stop Killer Robots is a year old; the same month is was founded, the UN's special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions called for a moratorium on the development and deployment of autonomous lethal weapons while a special commission considered the issue. The campaign is succeeding at bringing attention to the issue, but it's possible that it's too late, and if governments don't come to a common understanding of what the problems and solutions are, the movement is doomed. As this article points out, one of the most contentious issues is the question of what constitutes an autonomous weapons system: 'Setting the threshold of autonomy is going to involve significant debate, because machine decision-making exists on a continuum.' Another, equally important issue of course is whether a ban is realistic."

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Take a Picture: Snapchat Settles With FTC Over "Dissapearing" Claims
Posted by News Fetcher on May 08 '14 at 02:01 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's if-it-reaches-an-output-device-it-can-reach-an-input-device department:
The New York Times is one of many outlets reporting that Snapchat has agreed to settle with the FTC about the gap between promises made about the company's "disappearing" communications system and reality. "The Federal Trade Commission on Thursday said Snapchat had agreed to settle charges that the company was deceiving users about the ephemeral nature of the photos and video messages sent through its service. The messages were significantly less private than the company had said, the commission said. In marketing the service, Snapchat has said that its messages “disappear forever.” But in its complaint, the commission said the messages, often called snaps, can be saved in several ways. The commission said that users can save a message by using a third-party app, for example, or employ simple workarounds that allow users to take a screenshot of messages without detection." Besides the monetary side of the settlement (details of which are promised soon on the FTC's site), the company has agreed to operate for the next 20 years with special supervision of a new privacy program; it seems a little optimistic as a timeframe for any social-media related business. Here are the FTC's charges (PDF).

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USPTO Approves Amazon Patent For Taking Pictures
Posted by News Fetcher on May 08 '14 at 01:46 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's not-even-on-the-internet-will-save-you department:
An anonymous reader writes "The U.S. Patent Office granted Amazon a patent in March that basically describes taking a picture with a white background. Amazon claims that their method is unique to current photography methods because they can achieve the effect of a true white background without retouching the photo or using any sort of post-processing technique. Some professional photographers disagree, claiming that plenty of prior art exists embodying Amazon's described method and furthermore that this pre-existing method is what the photography industry calls 'shooting against a seamless white backdrop.'"

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The Next Unreal Tournament: Totally Free, Developed By Public
Posted by News Fetcher on May 08 '14 at 12:45 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's cool-model department:
Nerval's Lobster (2598977) writes "Epic Games is rebooting Unreal Tournament, but not in a typical way. A small team of veteran developers will begin work on the next edition of the popular, multi-player shooter, in collaboration with pretty much anyone who wants to participate. "From the very first line of code, the very first art created and design decision made, development will happen in the open, as a collaboration between Epic, UT fans and UE4 developers. We'll be using forums for discussion, and Twitch streams for regular updates," reads a note on the company's blog. All code and content will appear on GitHub, and development will focus on Mac, Linux, and Windows. What's the catch? According to Epic, it'll take months to forge a playable game. "When the game is playable, it will be free. Not free to play, just free," the blog adds. "We'll eventually create a marketplace where developers, modders, artists and gamers can give away, buy and sell mods and content. Earnings from the marketplace will be split between the mod/content developer, and Epic. That's how we plan to pay for the game.""

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Mathematical Model Suggests That Human Consciousness Is Noncomputable
Posted by News Fetcher on May 08 '14 at 12:31 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's opposite-would-be-more-suprising department:
KentuckyFC (1144503) writes "One of the most profound advances in science in recent years is the way researchers from a variety of fields are beginning to formulate the problem of consciousness in mathematical terms, in particular using information theory. That's largely thanks to a relatively new theory that consciousness is a phenomenon which integrates information in the brain in a way that cannot be broken down. Now a group of researchers has taken this idea further using algorithmic theory to study whether this kind of integrated information is computable. They say that the process of integrating information is equivalent to compressing it. That allows memories to be retrieved but it also loses information in the process. But they point out that this cannot be how real memory works; otherwise, retrieving memories repeatedly would cause them to gradually decay. By assuming that the process of memory is non-lossy, they use algorithmic theory to show that the process of integrating information must noncomputable. In other words, your PC can never be conscious in the way you are. That's likely to be a controversial finding but the bigger picture is that the problem of consciousness is finally opening up to mathematical scrutiny for the first time."

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Wretched Ride: PS4 Driveclub Game Rental Tied To Paid Subscription
Posted by News Fetcher on May 08 '14 at 11:45 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's utility-company's-involved-too department:
MojoKid (1002251) writes "The upcoming PS4 game Driveclub is making waves for reasons that have nothing to do with its gameplay or development status. In a new video, the company has spelled out its free trial and upgrade policies, and the requirements are a doozy. First, the good news — PlayStation Plus subscribers will be able to download a demo of the game that contains a few maps and one trial area, India. If you choose to upgrade that version, the full title will cost you $50. Here's the catch — that purchase is tied to your Playstation Plus subscription. In other words, if you stop paying Sony the official $49.95 a year for PlayStation Plus, you lose your $50 game. This is completely at odds with how PlayStation Plus membership is supposed to work. It contradicts Sony's official FAQ, which states that: 'Any content you purchase with a Plus discount is yours to keep, regardless of you membership status.'"

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Ask Slashdot: Practical Alternatives To Systemd?
Posted by News Fetcher on May 08 '14 at 11:00 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's going-forward department:
First time accepted submitter systemDead (3645325) writes "I looked mostly with disinterest at Debian's decision last February to switch to
systemd
as the default init system for their future operating system releases. The Debian GNU/Linux distribution is, after all, famous for allowing users greater freedom to choose what system components they want to install. This appeared to be the case with the init system, given the presence of packages such as sysvinit-core, upstart, and even openrc as alternatives to systemd.

Unfortunately, while still theoretically possible, installing an alternative init system means doing without a number of useful, even essential system programs. By design, systemd appears to be a full-blown everything-including-the-kitchen-sink solution to the relatively simple problem of starting up a Unix-like system. Systemd, for example, is a hard-coded dependency for installing Network Manager, probably the most user-friendly way for a desktop Linux system to connect to a wireless or wired network. Just this week, I woke up to find out that systemd had become a dependency for running PolicyKit, the suite of programs responsible for user privileges and permissions in a typical Linux desktop.

< article continued at Slashdot >

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Single Gene Can Boost IQ By Six Points
Posted by News Fetcher on May 08 '14 at 10:16 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's pair-of-jeans-can-lower-them-at-least-20 department:
ananyo (2519492) writes "People are living longer, which is good. But old age often brings a decline in mental faculties and many researchers are looking for ways to slow or halt such decline. One group doing so is led by Dena Dubal of the University of California, San Francisco, and Lennart Mucke of the Gladstone Institutes, also in San Francisco. Dr Dubal and Dr Mucke have been studying the role in ageing of klotho, a protein encoded by a gene called KL. A particular version of this gene, KL-VS, promotes longevity. One way it does so is by reducing age-related heart disease. Dr Dubal and Dr Mucke wondered if it might have similar powers over age-related cognitive decline. What they found was startling. KL-VS did not curb decline, but it did boost cognitive faculties regardless of a person's age by the equivalent of about six IQ points. If this result, just published in Cell Reports, is confirmed, KL-VS will be the most important genetic agent of non-pathological variation in intelligence yet discovered."

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Feds Issue Emergency Order On Crude Oil Trains
Posted by News Fetcher on May 08 '14 at 09:45 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's what-about-a-line-of-pipes department:
Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "Joan Lowy writes for AP that the Department of Transportation has issued an emergency order requiring that railroads inform state emergency management officials about the movement of large shipments of crude oil through their states and urged shippers not to use older model tanks cars that are easily ruptured in accidents, even at slow speeds. The emergency order follows a warning two weeks ago from outgoing National Transportation Safety Board Chairwoman Deborah Hersman that the department risks a 'higher body count' as the result of fiery oil train accidents if it waits for new safety regulations to become final. There have been nine oil train derailments in the U.S. and Canada since March of last year, many of them resulting in intense fires and sometimes the evacuation of nearby residents, according to the NTSB. The latest was last week, when a CSX train carrying Bakken crude derailed in downtown Lynchburg, Va., sending three tank cars into the James River and shooting flames and black smoke into the air. Concern about the safe transport of crude oil was heightened after a runaway oil train derailed and then exploded last July in the small town of Lac-Megantic in Canada, just across the border from Maine. More than 60 tank cars spilled more than 1.3 million gallons of oil. Forty-seven people were killed and 30 buildings destroyed in the resulting inferno. Hersman says that over her 10 years on the board she has 'seen a lot of difficulty when it comes to safely rules being implemented if we don't have a high enough body count. That is a tombstone mentality. We know the steps that will prevent or mitigate these accidents. What is missing is the will to require people to do so.'"

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Apple Can Extract Texts, Photos, Contacts From Locked iPhones
Posted by News Fetcher on May 08 '14 at 08:30 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's as-a-public-service department:
Trailrunner7 (1100399) writes "If law enforcement gets hold of your locked iPhone and has some interest in its contents, Apple can pull all kinds of content from the device, including texts, contacts, photos and videos, call history and audio recordings. The company said in a new document that provides guidance for law enforcement agencies on the kinds of information Apple can provide and what methods can be used to obtain it that if served with a search warrant, officials will help law enforcement agents extract specific application-specific data from a locked iOS device. However, that data appears to be limited to information related to Apple apps, such as iMessage, the contacts and the camera. Email contents and calendar data can't be extracted, the company said in the guidelines."

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Electromagnetic Noise Found To Affect Bird Navigation
Posted by News Fetcher on May 08 '14 at 07:45 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's or-did-you-mean-magnetic-north? department:
Rambo Tribble (1273454) writes "A 7-year German study has come to a troubling conclusion: the EM noise from human activities is interfering with birds' magnetic 'compass' [paywalled paper, but above-average abstract], and potentially disrupting migratory behavior. While science is unclear how the birds' compasses work, it is theorized it employs the quantum phenomenon of electron spin. As the lead researcher, Prof Henrik Mouritsen, is quoted as saying, 'A very small perturbation of these electron spins would actually prevent the birds from using their magnetic compass.' The BBC has a nice summary article, as well."

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In SF: an App For Auctioning Off Your Public Parking Spot
Posted by News Fetcher on May 08 '14 at 07:15 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's markets-in-everything department:
trbdavies (979982) writes 'Only in San Francisco' used to refer to issues like whether public nudity should be restricted to certain hours of the day. Now I hear it most often in connection with the interplay between the city and tech companies. SF Weekly reports on one such development: 'Anyone who's visited San Francisco for 35 minutes knows that easy parking is a rare find. Enter Paolo Dobrowolny, an Italian tech bro who decided San Francisco was the perfect spot to test out his new experiment. Here's how it works: You find a parking spot, revel a little, let Monkey Parking know where you're located, and watch the bidding begin. Finally, give your spot to the wealthiest victim willing to pay the highest price for your spot. Drive away that much richer.'"

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McAfee Grabbed Data Without Paying, Says Open Source Vulnerability Database
Posted by News Fetcher on May 08 '14 at 06:30 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's but-don't-say-they-didn't-ask department:
mask.of.sanity (1228908) writes with this excerpt from The Register: "'Intel security subsidiary McAfee may be in hot water after it allegedly scraped thousands of records from the Open Source Vulnerability Database instead of paying for them. The slurp was said to be conducted using fast scripts that rapidly changed the user agent, and was launched after McAfee formally inquired about purchasing a license to the data.' Law experts say the site's copyright could be breached by individuals merely downloading the information in contravention to the site's policies, and did not require the data to be subsequently disseminated."

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Melbourne Uber Drivers Slapped With $1700 Fines; Service Shuts Down
Posted by News Fetcher on May 08 '14 at 05:45 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's permission-is-mandatory department:
beaverdownunder (1822050) writes "Victoria Australia's Taxi Directorate has begun a crackdown on Melbourne Uber drivers, fining them $1700 each for operating a taxi service illegally, with total fines apparently equalling over $50000. In response, Uber has shut down its Melbourne service, and has refused to comment on whether its drivers will be compensated, since Uber told them they were providing a legal service. (Fined Uber drivers could take the company to the state's consumer tribunal: stay tuned!) Uber is set to meet with the Directorate next week but it is likely the demands the Directorate will place on Uber drivers, such as mandatory criminal record checks, vehicle inspections and insurance, will make the service in Melbourne unviable. Meanwhile, the New South Wales government is awaiting a report to determine if Uber drivers operating in that state are doing so illegally, warning that drivers could face substantial fines if they are found to have been operating in breach of the law. In South Australia, it doesn't even appear Uber will get off the ground — the state has made it clear that those who operate as an Uber driver will be driving without being covered by the state's mandatory insurance coverage, essentially de-registering their vehicle and making them liable for fines and license suspension."

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First Arrest In Japan For 3D-Printed Guns
Posted by News Fetcher on May 08 '14 at 05:00 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's illegal-objects-around-the-world department:
PuceBaboon (469044) writes "Earlier today (Thursday), police in Kawasaki, Japan, arrested a man for violation of the firearms control law. He was apparently in possession of five, 3D-printed handguns, two of which were reportedly capable of firing normal rounds (although no actual bullets were found). The suspect was arrested after releasing video of the guns online. Japan has very strict gun control laws and, whether or not the suspect actually appeared in the alleged video, he may just have signed himself up for some serious porridge."

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ACLU and EFF Endorse Weaker USA Freedom Act Passed By Committee
Posted by News Fetcher on May 08 '14 at 04:15 AM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's dialing-it-back department:
First time accepted submitter sumakor (3571543) writes "The House Judiciary Committee has advanced a weakened version of the USA Freedom Act (HR3361). The amended compromise version allows collection of phone call records up to two hops away from a target, potentially including millions of customer records, and allows for collection without a judge's order in emergency cases. The amended bill also drops the requirement for a privacy advocate who can appeal the rulings of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court and extends the controversial Section 215 of the Patriot Act from 2015 through 2017.

Despite these significant changes the amended bill has been endorsed by the ACLU and the EFF as a first step and the most promising path towards reigning in government surveillance. The two organizations called for further Congressional measures to tighten control of surveillance authorities including an explicit definition of the term 'selector,' a reduction in the number of hops from 2 to 1 under most circumstances and the closing the loophole that allows searches of Americans' data inadvertently collected thru Section 702.

The bill now proceeds to the House Intelligence Committee, who has advanced its competing bill, the FISA Transparency and Modernization Act (HR 4291). The committee will mark up both bills on the same day, beginning at 10am Thursday, behind closed doors."


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Tesla Logged $713 Million In Revenue In Q1 and Built 7,535 Cars
Posted by News Fetcher on May 08 '14 at 02:00 AM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's numbers-are-in department:
cartechboy (2660665) writes "Tesla just announced its first-quarter earnings and the numbers are interesting. It logged revenue of $713 million on deliveries of 6,457 Model S electric cars. It's worth noting that's basically the number of vehicles it said it would sell in the quarter, but that number is slightly down from the prior quarter. It built a total of 7,535 Model S cars in the quarter as it built inventory as shipments began to China where sales just started last month. Net orders in North America grew 10 percent, and production for the second quarter is expected to increase to 8,500-9,000 Model S cars. Tesla expects to deliver 35,000 cars during the 2014 calendar year. Musk told analysts that China's enthusiastic and that government support is crucial. The Model X is delayed until spring of 2015 with production-design prototypes being ready in the fourth quarter. Tesla hopes to possibly break ground as early as next month on its gigafactory, though the location has yet to be announced. Of course, the stock market is already reacting to these numbers and is currently down nearly 3 percent in after hours trading."

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London Police To Wear Video Cameras In Pilot Project
Posted by News Fetcher on May 07 '14 at 11:15 PM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's keeping-an-eye-on-things department:
An anonymous reader writes "The London Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) is reportedly engaging in a year-long pilot program to determine the benefits of its police force wearing video cameras during interactions with the public. 'The pilot will include a total of 500 cameras distributed across ten city boroughs.' London joins some major U.S. cities in this endeavor to improve the quality of policing through the use of wearable cameras. Privacy advocates argue, however, that police officers having these devices on their persons is not enough: 'the efficacy of police body-mounted cameras as a crime reduction and accountability tool hinges on enforcement of good policies and procedures—including something as basic as preventing officers from being able to deactivate the cameras at their own discretion.'"

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Space Telescope Reveals Weird Star Cluster Conundrum
Posted by News Fetcher on May 07 '14 at 08:46 PM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's weird-space department:
astroengine (1577233) writes "We thought we had star formation mechanisms pinned down, but according to new observations of two star clusters, it seems our understanding of how stars are born is less than stellar. When zooming in on the young star clusters of NGC 2024 (in the center of the Flame Nebula) and the Orion Nebula Cluster, NASA's Chandra X-ray Observatory teamed up with infrared telescopes to take a census of star ages. Conventional thinking suggests that stars closest to the center of a given star cluster should be the oldest and the youngest stars can be found around the edges. However, to their surprise, astronomers have discovered that the opposite is true: 'Our findings are counterintuitive,' said Konstantin Getman of Penn State University, lead scientist of this new study. 'It means we need to think harder and come up with more ideas of how stars like our sun are formed.'"

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China Using Troop of Trained Monkeys To Guard Air Base
Posted by News Fetcher on May 07 '14 at 07:46 PM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's I-waana-guard-like-you-hoo-hoo department:
samzenpus (5) writes "No, they don't have guns and they don't ride on top of drones. Instead the small troop of macaques have been trained to guard air bases from birds who often get caught in aircraft engines. Government sources say the monkeys have proven more effective than netting, scarecrows, firecrackers and soldiers with live ammunition in dealing with birds. From the article: 'The macaques are trained to respond to precise whistle commands from their handlers, according to the Chinese military, leaping into action, clambering up trees to destroy nests and scare away birds, according to an account on China's Air Force News Web site on Sunday. The particular air force base employing the monkeys was left unidentified, described simply as being in the Beijing military zone. Base commanders in the account said the monkeys have destroyed more than 180 nests, at a pace of six to eight nests per monkey per day.'"

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