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Amazon Confirms Hachette Spat Is To "Get a Better Deal"
Posted by News Fetcher on May 28 '14 at 04:45 PM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's no-book-for-you department:
tlhIngan (30335) writes "Last week we heard that Amazon was withdrawing Hachette books from its virtual shelves including allowing preorders of the new JK Rowling book. Amazon has responded to these allegations, and confirms that yes, they are purposefully preventing pre-orders and lowering stock in order to get a better deal from Hachette. Amazon recommends that in the meantime, customers either buy a used or new copy from their zShops or buy from a competitor. Amazon admits there is nothing wrong with Hachette's business dealings and that they are a generally good supplier." Here's Hachette's response to the Amazon statement.

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Hunt Intensifies For Aliens On Kepler's Planets
Posted by News Fetcher on May 28 '14 at 04:00 PM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's there-you-are department:
astroengine (1577233) writes "Could ET be chatting with colleagues or robots on sister planets in its solar system? Maybe so, say scientists who last year launched a new type of Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, or SETI, project to eavesdrop on aliens. Using data collected by NASA's Kepler space telescope, a team of scientists spent 36 hours listening in when planets in targeted solar systems lined up, relative to Earth's perspective, in hopes of detecting alien interplanetary radio signals. "We think the right strategy in SETI is a variety of strategies. It's really hard to predict what other civilizations might be doing," Dan Werthimer, director of SETI research at the University of California Berkeley, told Discovery News. So far the search hasn't turned up any artificial signals yet, but this marks a change in strategy for radio searches for ETI with Kepler data taking a focused lead."

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Microsoft Demos Real-Time Translation Over Skype
Posted by News Fetcher on May 28 '14 at 03:15 PM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's speaking-the-same-language department:
Z80xxc! (1111479) writes "Today at the first annual Code Conference, Microsoft demonstrated its new real-time translation in Skype publicly for the first time. Gurdeep Pall, Microsoft's VP of Skype and Lync, compares the technology to Star Trek's Universal Translator. During the demonstration, Pall converses in English with a coworker in Germany who is speaking German. 'Skype Translator results from decades of work by the industry, years of work by our researchers, and now is being developed jointly by the Skype and Microsoft Translator teams. The demo showed near real-time audio translation from English to German and vice versa, combining Skype voice and IM technologies with Microsoft Translator, and neural network-based speech recognition.'"

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Apple Confirms Purchase of Beats For $3 Billion
Posted by News Fetcher on May 28 '14 at 02:32 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's throwing-down-the-big-money department:
SimonTheSoundMan writes: "Apple has confirmed it will buy Beats Electronics and Beats Music for $3 billion. Apple will make the purchase using $2.6 billion in cash and $400 million in stock. An important part of the acquisition for Apple is absorbing the Beats subscription streaming service, even though it only has about 110k users. The Beats brand will remain intact, and will continue to sell headphones. "

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AMD and NVIDIA Trade Allegations, Denials Over Shady Tactics
Posted by News Fetcher on May 28 '14 at 02:32 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's can't-we-all-just-get-along department:
crookedvulture writes "In an article published by Forbes earlier this week, AMD lashed out at NVIDIA's GameWorks program, which includes Watch Dogs and other popular titles, such as Call of Duty: Ghosts, Assassin's Creed IV, and Batman: Arkham Origins. Technical communications lead for PC graphics Robert Hallock alleged that GameWorks deliberately cripples performance on AMD hardware. He also claimed that developers are prevented from working with AMD on game optimizations. The Forbes piece was fairly incriminating, but it didn't include any commentary from the other side of the fence. NVIDIA has now responded to the allegations, and as one might expect, it denies them outright. Director of engineering for developer technology Cem Cebenoyan says NVIDIA has never barred developers from working with AMD. In fact, he claims that AMD's own developer relations efforts have prevented NVIDIA from getting its hands on early builds of some games. AMD has said in the past that it makes no effort to prevent developers from working with NVIDIA. So, we have another round of he said, she said, with gamers caught in the middle and performance in newer titles hanging in the balance."

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TrueCrypt Website Says To Switch To BitLocker
Posted by News Fetcher on May 28 '14 at 02:00 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's so-long-and-thanks-for-all-the-Jkkms0EuPPlvOmW7Mk5x2A== department:
Several readers sent word that the website for TrueCrypt, the popular disk encryption system, says that development has ended, and Windows users should switch to BitLocker. A notice on the site reads, "WARNING: Using TrueCrypt is not secure as it may contain unfixed security issues. ... You should migrate any data encrypted by TrueCrypt to encrypted disks or virtual disk images supported on your platform." It includes a link to a new version of TrueCrypt, 7.2, and provides instructions on how to migrate to BitLocker. Many users are skeptical of a site defacement, and there's been no corroborating post or communication from the maintainers. However, the binaries appear to be signed with the same GPG key that the TrueCrypt Foundation used for previous releases. A source code diff of the two versions has been posted, and the new release appears to simply remove much of what the software was designed to do. It also warns users away from relying on it for security. (The people doing an audit of TrueCrypt had promised a 'big announcement' soon, but that was coincidental.) Security experts are warning to avoid the new version until the situation can be verified.

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Bunnie Huang Shows Off His Open Source Laptop (Video)
Posted by News Fetcher on May 28 '14 at 01:15 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's something-we've-been-waiting-for-since-1995 department:
Bunnie Huang is both a hardware and software hacker, but that's greatly understating the case: renaissance man is more like it. Bunnie doesn't just tinker with one-off system modifications or console mods (though he's done that, too) -- he creates and repurposes at scale. (He's also an author, respected researcher with interesting thoughts on a wide range of topics, like how to think of the H1N1 flu from the point of view of a security researcher.) Bunnie's latest long-term project has been mentioned a few times on Slashdot: It's an open-source laptop computer that goes much farther than some other open-source hardware projects, and as a bonus includes an FPGA as well as a conventional -- but unusual -- processor. (Bunnie grants that there are still bits that aren't quite open source, but points out that we also don't have the software that runs the fabs; there's a point of diminishing returns.) A crowd funding campaign (via CrowdSupply) was successful enough to also fund several stretch goals, including a general purpose breakout board. I talked with Bunnie at the recent Bay Area Maker Faire. (Expect more from that show in coming weeks.) He walked us through the state of the hardware, and talked about some of the design decisions that go into making a computer that is of, by, and for hackers. (Alternate video link)

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No, HealthCare.gov Doesn't Require 500 Million Lines of Code
Posted by News Fetcher on May 28 '14 at 12:45 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's but-somebody-on-the-teevee-said-so department:
itwbennett writes: "Half a billion lines of code for a transactional website — more than five times as much code as that behind OS X — just didn't pass the sniff test. But just how many lines of code does it take to generate HealthCare.gov? This question came up on Reddit again last week and it appears that we may now have an answer. One commenter who claimed to have worked on HealthCare.gov as part of the post launch clean-up crew at the end of 2013, provided counts of the lines of code behind HealthCare.gov, broken down by programming/markup language."

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The Singularity Is Sci-Fi's Faith-Based Initiative
Posted by News Fetcher on May 28 '14 at 11:45 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's omnipotent-god-computers-will-not-run-your-life department:
malachiorion writes: "Is machine sentience not only possible, but inevitable? Of course not. But don't tell that to devotees of the Singularity, a theory that sounds like science, but is really just science fiction repackaged as secular prophecy. I'm not simply arguing that the Singularity is stupid — people much smarter than me have covered that territory. But as part of my series of stories for Popular Science about the major myths of robotics, I try to point out the Singularity's inescapable sci-fi roots. It was popularized by a SF writer, in a paper that cites SF stories as examples of its potential impact, and, ultimately, it only makes sense when you apply copious amounts of SF handwavery. The article explains why SF has trained us to believe that artificial general intelligence (and everything that follows) is our destiny, but we shouldn't confuse an end-times fantasy with anything resembling science."

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Misogyny, Entitlement, and Nerds
Posted by News Fetcher on May 28 '14 at 11:00 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's coming-to-terms-with-reality department:
PvtVoid writes: "Jeopardy champion Arthur Chu pens a heartfelt takedown of misogyny in nerd culture: 'I’ve heard and seen the stories that those of you who followed the #YesAllWomen hashtag on Twitter have seen—women getting groped at cons, women getting vicious insults flung at them online, women getting stalked by creeps in college and told they should be "flattered." I’ve heard Elliot Rodger’s voice before. I was expecting his manifesto to be incomprehensible madness—hoping for it to be—but it wasn’t. It’s a standard frustrated angry geeky guy manifesto, except for the part about mass murder. I've heard it from acquaintances, I've heard it from friends. I've heard it come out of my own mouth, in moments of anger and weakness.

What the f*$# is wrong with us? How much longer are we going to be in denial that there's a thing called "rape culture" and we ought to do something about it? ... To paraphrase the great John Oliver, listen up, fellow self-pitying nerd boys — we are not the victims here. We are not the underdogs. We are not the ones who have our ownership over our bodies and our emotions stepped on constantly by other people's entitlement. We're not the ones where one out of six of us will have someone violently attempt to take control of our bodies in our lifetimes.'"


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Virtual DVDs, Revisited
Posted by News Fetcher on May 28 '14 at 10:15 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's still-waiting-on-virtual-laserdiscs department:
Bennett Haselton writes:
"In March I asked why Netflix doesn't offer their rental DVD service in 'virtual DVD' form -- where you can 'check out' a fixed number of 'virtual DVDs' per month, just as you would with their physical DVDs by mail, but by accessing the 'virtual DVDs' in streaming format so that you could watch them on a phone or a tablet or a laptop without a DVD drive. My argument was that this is an interesting, non-trivial question, because it seems Netflix and (by proxy) the studios are leaving cash on the table by not offering this as an option to DVD-challenged users. I thought some commenters' responses raised questions that were worth delving into further."
Read on for the rest of Bennett's thoughts.

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Can Cyborg Tech End Human Disability By 2064?
Posted by News Fetcher on May 28 '14 at 09:30 AM
By Unknown Lamer from Slashdot's sweet-robot-arm department:
the_newsbeagle (2532562) writes "As part of a 50th anniversary celebration, IEEE Spectrum magazine tries to peer into the technological future 50 years out. Its biomedical article foresees the integration of electronic parts into our human bodies, making up for physical, emotional, and intellectual disabilities. The article spotlights the visionaries Hugh Herr, an MIT professor (and double amputee) who wants to build prosthetic limbs that are wired directly into the nervous system; Helen Mayberg, who has developed brain pacemakers to cure depression; and Ted Berger, who's working on neural implants that can restore memory function."

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Data Center With a Brain: Google Using Machine Learning In Server Farms
Posted by News Fetcher on May 28 '14 at 09:00 AM
By Unknown Lamer from Slashdot's skynet-online department:
1sockchuck (826398) writes "Google has begun using machine learning and artificial intelligence to analyze the oceans of data it collects about its server farms and recommend ways to improve them. Google data center executive Joe Kava said the use of neural networks will allow Google to reach new frontiers in efficiency in its server farms, moving beyond what its engineers can see and analyze. Google's data centers aren't yet ready to drive themselves. But the new tools have been able to predict Google's data center performance with 99.96 percent accuracy."

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Firefox OS Powered Flame Available For Pre-order; Ships Globally
Posted by News Fetcher on May 28 '14 at 08:30 AM
By Unknown Lamer from Slashdot's everyone-has-a-phone department:
sfcrazy (1542989) writes "Developers need access to device running the platform for which they develop. Nexus was Google's reference device and now Mozilla is coming out with its own device. Mozilla has opened pre-order for Flame, its Firefox OS reference devices for $170 including free shipping."

Specs are, of course, modest: a dual core 1.2GHz snapdragon, 1G of RAM, 8G of flash, an 854×480 4.5" screen, and a 5MP camera. Now, if only they would release a device with a keyboard.

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German Authorities Lack Evidence To Prosecute Anyone For NSA Spying
Posted by News Fetcher on May 28 '14 at 08:00 AM
By Unknown Lamer from Slashdot's leave-no-trace department:
jfruh (300774) writes "The revelations about the NSA's surveillance program caused particular outrage in Germany, a country that is closely allied with the United States but nevertheless found that its leader's cell phone was being snooped on. Nevertheless, the German federal prosecutor's office will not be bringing any charges against anyone, mostly because they lack enough evidence (Google translation). The decision is sparking anger among German privacy advocates."

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I Want a Kindle Killer
Posted by News Fetcher on May 28 '14 at 07:15 AM
By Unknown Lamer from Slashdot's newton-rises-from-the-grave department:
lpress (707742) writes "Amazon's Kindle is a good e-reader and they've sold around 40 million units, but it is far from perfect. It could be significantly improved with speech recognition for commands and text entry, a well-designed database for marginal notes and annotations, and integration with laptop and desktop computers. Google, Apple and Microsoft all have device design and manufacturing experience as well as stores that sell books and other written material. A Kindle-killing e-reader would be low-hanging fruit for Apple, Google or Microsoft — think of the competition if they each built one!"

Handwriting as an input method would be nice too; a friend in college had one of the experimental Windows XP tablet PCs, and it was great for note taking and document annotation.

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The Earliest Bird To Sip a Flower
Posted by News Fetcher on May 28 '14 at 06:30 AM
By Unknown Lamer from Slashdot's not-just-for-bees department:
sciencehabit (1205606) writes "Researchers have unearthed the earliest evidence of a bird sipping nectar from a flower. The stomach contents of the 47-million-year-old fossil flyer — a long-extinct species of perching bird — include hundreds of grains of pollen. The ancient pollen grains are large and apparently clumped together readily, a clue that the plant that bore the flowers was pollinated by creatures and not by the wind."

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Temporary Classrooms Are Bad For the Environment, and Worse For Kids
Posted by News Fetcher on May 28 '14 at 05:45 AM
By Unknown Lamer from Slashdot's false-economy department:
tcd004 (134130) writes "You've always suspected those trailer-type portable classrooms are no good, right? It turns out you're right. Analysis of prefabricated classrooms in Washington shows the structures often don't allow for proper ventilation, leading to terrible air quality for kids. Students in temporary classrooms have higher rates of absenteeism than those in standard classrooms. And the energy-inefficient structures often become permanent, sucking on school energy bills for decades, and requiring more upkeep than permanent classrooms. What's needed are new designs for healthy, sustainable temporary classrooms."

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The Andromeda Galaxy Just Had a Bright Gamma Ray Event
Posted by News Fetcher on May 28 '14 at 05:45 AM
By Unknown Lamer from Slashdot's alien-super-weapon department:
First time accepted submitter SpaceMika (867804) writes "We just saw something bright in the Andromeda Galaxy, and we don't know what it was. A Gamma Ray Burst or an Ultraluminous X-Ray Object, either way it will be the closest of its type we've ever observed at just over 2 million light years away. It's the perfect distance: close enough to observe in unprecedented detail, and far enough to not kill us all."

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Belief In Evolution Doesn't Measure Science Literacy
Posted by News Fetcher on May 28 '14 at 04:15 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's also-doesn't-measure-temperature-or-blood-pressure department:
cold fjord writes: "Dan Kahan at the Yale Law School Cultural Cognition Project says, 'Because imparting basic comprehension of science in citizens is so critical to enlightened democracy, it is essential that we develop valid measures of it, so that we can assess and improve the profession of teaching science to people. ... The National Science Foundation has been engaged in the project of trying to formulate and promote such a measure for quite some time. A few years ago it came to the conclusion that the item "human beings, as we know them today, developed from earlier species of animals," shouldn't be included when computing "science literacy." The reason was simple: the answer people give to this question doesn't measure their comprehension of science. People who score at or near the top on the remaining portions of the test aren't any more likely to get this item "correct" than those who do poorly on the remaining portions. What the NSF's evolution item does measure, researchers have concluded, is test takers' cultural identities, and in particular the centrality of religion in their lives.' Kahan also had a previous, related post on the interaction between religiosity and scientific literacy"

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