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Slashdot  
Fri, 25 Jul 2014 21:40:33 GMT
News for nerds, stuff that matters

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The NSA's New Partner In Spying: Saudi Arabia's Brutal State Police - Fri, 25 Jul 2014 21:32:00 GMT2014-07-25T21:32:00Z
Advocatus Diaboli sends this news from The Intercept: The National Security Agency last year significantly expanded its cooperative relationship with the Saudi Ministry of Interior, one of the world's most repressive and abusive government agencies. An April 2013 top secret memo provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden details the agency's plans "to provide direct analytic and technical support" to the Saudis on "internal security" matters. The Saudi Ministry of Interior—referred to in the document as MOI— has been condemned for years as one of the most brutal human rights violators in the world. In 2013, the U.S. State Department reported that "Ministry of Interior officials sometimes subjected prisoners and detainees to torture and other physical abuse," specifically mentioning a 2011 episode in which MOI agents allegedly "poured an antiseptic cleaning liquid down [the] throat" of one human rights activist. The report also notes the MOI's use of invasive surveillance targeted at political and religious dissidents.

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Russia Posts $110,000 Bounty For Cracking Tor's Privacy - Fri, 25 Jul 2014 20:50:00 GMT2014-07-25T20:50:00Z
hypnosec writes: The government of Russia has announced a ~$110,000 bounty to anyone who develops technology to identify users of Tor, an anonymising network capable of encrypting user data and hiding the identity of its users. The public description (in Russian) of the project has been removed now and it only reads "cipher 'TOR' (Navy)." The ministry said it is looking for experts and researchers to "study the possibility of obtaining technical information about users and users' equipment on the Tor anonymous network."

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Switching From Microsoft Office To LibreOffice Saves Toulouse 1 Million Euros - Fri, 25 Jul 2014 20:08:00 GMT2014-07-25T20:08:00Z
jrepin sends this EU report: The French city of Toulouse saved 1 million euro by migrating all its desktops from Microsoft Office to LibreOffice. This project was rooted in a global digital policy which positions free software as a driver of local economic development and employment. Former IT policy-maker Erwane Monthubert said, "Software licenses for productivity suites cost Toulouse 1.8 million euro every three years. Migration cost us about 800,000 euro, due partly to some developments. One million euro has actually been saved in the first three years. It is a compelling proof in the actual context of local public finance. ... France has a high value in free software at the international level. Every decision-maker should know this."

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Google Looking To Define a Healthy Human - Fri, 25 Jul 2014 19:25:00 GMT2014-07-25T19:25:00Z
rtoz writes: Google's moonshot research division, "Google X," has started "Baseline Study," a project designed to collect anonymous genetic and molecular information from 175 people (and later thousands more) to create a complete picture of what a healthy human being should be. The blueprint will help researchers detect health problems such as heart disease and cancer far earlier, focusing medicine on prevention rather than treatment. According to Google, the information from Baseline will be anonymous, and its use will be limited to medical and health purposes. Data won't be shared with insurance companies.

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SLS Project Coming Up $400 Million Short - Fri, 25 Jul 2014 18:43:00 GMT2014-07-25T18:43:00Z
schwit1 writes: A GAO report finds that the Space Launch System is over budget and NASA will need an additional $400 million to complete its first orbital launch in 2017. From the article: "NASA isn't meeting its own requirements for matching cost and schedule resources with the congressional requirement to launch the first SLS in December 2017. NASA usually uses a calculation it calls the 'joint cost and schedule confidence level' to decide the odds a program will come in on time and on budget. 'NASA policy usually requires a 70 percent confidence level for a program to proceed with final design and fabrication,' the GAO report says, and the SLS is not at that level. The report adds that government programs that can't match requirements to resources 'are at increased risk of cost and schedule growth.' In other words, the GAO says SLS is at risk of costing more than the current estimate of $12 billion to reach the first launch or taking longer to get there. Similar cost and schedule problems – although of a larger magnitude – led President Obama to cancel SLS's predecessor rocket system called Constellation shortly after taking office." The current $12 billion estimate is for the program's cost to achieve one unmanned launch. That's four times what it is costing NASA to get SpaceX, Boeing, and Sierra Nevada to build their three spaceships, all scheduled for their first manned launches before 2017.

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New SSL Server Rules Go Into Effect Nov. 1 - Fri, 25 Jul 2014 18:01:00 GMT2014-07-25T18:01:00Z
alphadogg writes: Public certificate authorities (CAs) are warning that as of Nov. 1 they will reject requests for internal SSL server certificates that don't conform to new internal domain naming and IP address conventions designed to safeguard networks. The concern is that SSL server digital certificates issued by CAs at present for internal corporate e-mail servers, Web servers and databases are not unique and can potentially be used in man-in-the-middle attacks involving the setup of rogue servers inside the targeted network, say representatives for the Certification Authority/Browser Forum (CA/B Forum), the industry group that sets security and operational guidelines for digital certificates. Members include the overwhelming bulk of public CAs around the globe, plus browser makers such as Microsoft and Apple. The problem today is that network managers often give their servers names like 'Server1' and allocate internal IP addresses so that SSL certificates issued for them through the public CAs are not necessarily globally unique, notes Trend Micro's Chris Bailey.

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Siberian Discovery Suggests Almost All Dinosaurs Were Feathered - Fri, 25 Jul 2014 17:18:00 GMT2014-07-25T17:18:00Z
A new study published in Science (abstract) suggests that most dinosaurs were covered with feathers. This conclusion was drawn after the discovery of fossils belonging to a 1.5-meter-long, two-legged dinosaur called Kulindadromeus zabaikalicus. "The fossils, which included six skulls and many more bones, greatly broaden the number of families of dinosaurs sporting feathers—downy, ribboned, and thin ones in this case—indicating that plumes evolved from the scales that covered earlier reptiles, probably as insulation." Its distinctiveness from earlier theropod fossil discoveries suggests that feathered dinosaurs appeared much further back in history than previously thought. Paleontologist Stephen Brusatte said, "This does mean that we can now be very confident that feathers weren't just an invention of birds and their closest relatives, but evolved much deeper in dinosaur history. I think that the common ancestor of dinosaurs probably had feathers, and that all dinosaurs had some type of feather, just like all mammals have some type of hair."

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eSports Starting To Go Mainstream - Fri, 25 Jul 2014 16:24:00 GMT2014-07-25T16:24:00Z
An anonymous reader writes: eSports have never been more popular, and many large companies are starting to view them in the same light as traditional sports. The amount of money being thrown around is beginning to rival the money exchanged over sports teams. A recent Dota 2 tournament handed out over $10 million in prizes, and Google's $1 billion purchase of game-streaming site Twitch.tv has now been confirmed. But it doesn't end there — companies like Coca-cola, Intel, Nissan, and major movie studios are looking at the audiences being drawn by eSports and realizing the advertising potential. "Last fall, Riot Games sold out the Staples Center for its League of Legends Championship Series Finals. While 12,000 people watched live in the home of the Lakers and Kings, over 32 million tuned in to the livestream." George Woo, head of a global eSports tournament, said, "Attendance to Intel Extreme Masters events has grown 10X with us filling up sport stadiums, where we have visitors lining up to get a seat to watch the competition. Online it has grown 100X, where we now get more viewers watching livestreams for a single event than we'd have tune in for an entire season in the past."

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Wikipedia Blocks 'Disruptive' Edits From US Congress - Fri, 25 Jul 2014 15:40:00 GMT2014-07-25T15:40:00Z
alphatel writes: Wikipedia has blocked anonymous edits from a congressional IP address for 10 days because of "disruptive" behavior. These otherwise anonymous edits were brought to light recently by @Congressedits, a bot that automatically tweets Wikipedia changes that come from Congressional IP addresses. The biography of former U.S. defense secretary Donald Rumsfeld was edited to say that he was an "alien lizard who eats Mexican babies." Mediaite's Wikipedia page was modified to label the site as a "sexist transphobic" publication.

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Earth In the Midst of Sixth Mass Extinction: the 'Anthropocene Defaunation' - Fri, 25 Jul 2014 14:57:00 GMT2014-07-25T14:57:00Z
mspohr writes: A special issue of Science magazine devoted to 'Vanishing Fauna' publishes a series of articles about the man-caused extinction of species and the implications for ecosystems and the climate. Quoting: "During the Pleistocene epoch, only tens of thousands of years ago, our planet supported large, spectacular animals. Mammoths, terror birds, giant tortoises, and saber-toothed cats, as well as many less familiar species such as giant ground sloths (some of which reached 7 meters in height) and glyptodonts (which resembled car-sized armadillos), roamed freely. Since then, however, the number and diversity of animal species on Earth have consistently and steadily declined. Today we are left with a relatively depauperate fauna, and we continue to lose animal species to extinction rapidly. Although some debate persists, most of the evidence suggests that humans were responsible for extinction of this Pleistocene fauna, and we continue to drive animal extinctions today through the destruction of wild lands, consumption of animals as a resource or a luxury, and persecution of species we see as threats or competitors." Unfortunately, most of the detail is behind a paywall, but the summary should be enough to get the point across.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.










Long-range Electric Car World Speed Record Broken By Australian Students - Fri, 25 Jul 2014 14:15:00 GMT2014-07-25T14:15:00Z
New submitter is_this_gdog writes: The Sunswift solar car team from UNSW Australia has broken an international world speed record for the fastest long-range electric vehicle, averaging a speed of 107km/h (66mph) over 500km (310miles) from a single charge with their car, eVe. Solar panels were not used for this record (with solar, the car has a range of over 500 miles), the challenge was endurance speed with battery only. There are faster electric cars, and one or two with longer range if you go slow enough — Sunswift eVe is the first to officially do 500kms at highway speeds (pending official FIA approval). Pictures of the car are available here.

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Amazon's Ambitious Bets Pile Up, and Its Losses Swell - Fri, 25 Jul 2014 13:31:00 GMT2014-07-25T13:31:00Z
New submitter shirleymarone sends word that investors are becoming impatient with Amazon's willingness to absorb short-term losses for theoretical long-term gains. The company brought in over $19 billion in revenue last quarter, but reported a net loss of $126 million. The company warned of even greater losses this quarter. Amazon officials exude a serene if vague confidence. "We're not trying to optimize for short-term profits," Thomas J. Szkutak, the chief financial officer, said in a conference call. "We're investing on behalf of customers and share owners," he said. "We're fortunate to have these opportunities." But even the analysts, who are generally enthusiastic about the company and its global ambitions, are asking slightly more pointed questions these days. For all these investments, one analyst asked Mr. Szkutak, why are sales not increasing even faster? His answer: Just wait. ... Amazon, which is based in Seattle, long ago transcended its roots as a simple retailer. In recent weeks it introduced Zocalo, a document storage and sharing service that grew out of its fast-growing web services division. It began a program to allow readers to consume as many e-books as they want for a set monthly fee. And it is starting to ship its long-awaited entry in the smartphone sweepstakes. The phone, the result of years of development by thousands of Amazon programmers and designers, is meeting some resistance from reviewers.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.










How a Solar Storm Two Years Ago Nearly Caused a Catastrophe On Earth - Fri, 25 Jul 2014 12:49:00 GMT2014-07-25T12:49:00Z
schwit1 writes: On July 23, 2012, the sun unleashed two massive clouds of plasma that barely missed a catastrophic encounter with the Earth's atmosphere. These plasma clouds, known as coronal mass ejections (CMEs), comprised a solar storm thought to be the most powerful in at least 150 years. "If it had hit, we would still be picking up the pieces," physicist Daniel Baker of the University of Colorado tells NASA. Fortunately, the blast site of the CMEs was not directed at Earth. Had this event occurred a week earlier when the point of eruption was Earth-facing, a potentially disastrous outcome would have unfolded. "Analysts believe that a direct hit could cause widespread power blackouts, disabling everything that plugs into a wall socket. Most people wouldn't even be able to flush their toilet because urban water supplies largely rely on electric pumps. ... According to a study by the National Academy of Sciences, the total economic impact could exceed $2 trillion, or 20 times greater than the costs of a Hurricane Katrina. Multi-ton transformers damaged by such a storm might take years to repair." Steve Tracton put it this way in his frightening overview of the risks of a severe solar storm: "The consequences could be devastating for commerce, transportation, agriculture and food stocks, fuel and water supplies, human health and medical facilities, national security, and daily life in general."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.










Two Cities Ask the FCC To Preempt State Laws Banning Municipal Fiber Internet - Fri, 25 Jul 2014 12:06:00 GMT2014-07-25T12:06:00Z
Jason Koebler writes Two cities—Chattanooga, Tennessee, and Wilson, North Carolina—have officially asked the federal government to help them bypass state laws banning them from expanding their community owned, gigabit fiber internet connections. In states throughout the country, major cable and telecom companies have battled attempts to create community broadband networks, which they claim put them at a competitive disadvantage. The FCC will decide if its able to circumvent state laws that have been put in place restricting the practice.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.










Comet To Make Close Call With Mars - Fri, 25 Jul 2014 09:34:00 GMT2014-07-25T09:34:00Z
sciencehabit writes In mid-October, a comet sweeping through our inner solar system for the first time will pass near Mars—so close, in fact, that if it were buzzing Earth at the same distance it would fly by well inside our moon's orbit. While material spewing from the icy visitor probably won't trigger the colossal meteor showers on the Red Planet that some scientists predicted, dust and water vapor may still slam into Mars, briefly heating up its atmosphere and threatening orbiting spacecraft. However it affects the planet, the comet should give scientists their closest view yet of a near-pristine visitor from the outer edges of our solar system.

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Will Your Next Car Be Covered In Morphing Dimples? - Fri, 25 Jul 2014 07:02:00 GMT2014-07-25T07:02:00Z
cartechboy writes Golfing and cars, not much in common there. But that's about to change thanks to a new technology from a research lab at MIT called Smorphs. The idea is simple: put a set of dynamic dimples on the exterior of a car to improve its surface aerodynamics and make it slipperier, and therefore faster. Pedro Reis is the mechanical engineering and research spearheading this project. A while ago Mythbusters proved the validity of the dimpled car form in a much more low-tech way. The concept uses a hollow core surrounded by a thick, deformable layer, and a smoother outer skin. When vacuum is applied, the outer layers suck in to form the dimples. The technology is only in its very earliest stages, but we could see this applied to future vehicles in an effort to make them faster and more fuel efficient.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.










Poetry For Sysadmins: Shall I Compare Thee To a Lumbering Bear? - Fri, 25 Jul 2014 06:07:00 GMT2014-07-25T06:07:00Z
itwbennett writes Don't forget that July 25th is Sysadmin Day — a good day to show love to the folks who save your butt again and again when you mess up your computer. Forget the chocolate and flowers, long-time sysadmin Sandra Henry-Stocker has tailored some poems to celebrate these under appreciated, hard-working souls.

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Metamason: Revolutionizing CPAP Masks With 3D Scanning and 3D Printing - Fri, 25 Jul 2014 04:33:00 GMT2014-07-25T04:33:00Z
First time accepted submitter Leslie Oliver Karpas writes As millions of Americans with Obstructive Sleep Apnea struggle to get a good night's sleep, one company has harnessed 3D technology to revolutionize CPAP therapy. As 3ders.org reported today, "Metamason is working on custom CPAP masks for sleep apnea patients via 3D scanning, smart geometry, and 3D printing." "We're at the crossroads of 3D technology and personalized medicine," says Metamason's founder and CEO. "There are many medical products that would be infinitely more comfortable and effective with a customized fit. CPAP therapy is the perfect example—it's a very effective treatment with a 50% quit rate, because mass-produced masks are uncomfortable and don't fit properly." CPAP is a respiratory device worn during sleep to treat OSA, which affects 1 in 4 men and 1 in 9 women in the US alone. Metamason's "ScanFitPrint" process for creating their custom Respere masks translates a 3D scan of the patient's face into a 3D printed custom mask that is a perfect individual fit. To print the masks in soft, biocompatible silicone, Metamason invented a proprietary 3D printing process called Investment Molding, which creates wholly integrated products that were previously considered "unmoldable."

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One Trillion Bq Released By Nuclear Debris Removal At Fukushima So Far - Fri, 25 Jul 2014 02:01:00 GMT2014-07-25T02:01:00Z
AmiMoJo writes The operator of the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant says more than one trillion becquerels of radioactive substances were released as a result of debris removal work at one of the plant's reactors. Radioactive cesium was detected at levels exceeding the government limit in rice harvested last year in Minami Soma, some 20 kilometers from Fukushima Daiichi. TEPCO presented the Nuclear Regulation Authority with an estimate that the removal work discharged 280 billion becquerels per hour of radioactive substances, or a total of 1.1 trillion becquerels. The plant is believed to be still releasing an average of 10 million becquerels per hour of radioactive material.

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Man Booted From Southwest Flight and Threatened With Arrest After Critical Tweet - Fri, 25 Jul 2014 00:31:00 GMT2014-07-25T00:31:00Z
CanHasDIY writes The old saying goes, "if you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all." A man learned the consequences Sunday, after Tweeting about his experience with a rude Southwest gate attendant: "A Minnesota man and his two sons were asked to leave a Southwest Airlines flight after the man sent a tweet complaining about being treated rudely by a gate agent. Duff Watson said he was flying from Denver to Minneapolis on Sunday and tried to board in a spot for frequent flyer privileges he held and take his sons, ages 6 and 9, with him, even though they had a later spot to board the plane. The agent told him that he would have to wait if he wanted to board with his children. Watson replied that he had boarded early with them before and then sent out a tweet that read 'RUDEST AGENT IN DENVER. KIMBERLY S. GATE C39. NOT HAPPY @SWA.' Watson told TV broadcaster KARE in Minneapolis on Wednesday that after he boarded, an announcement came over the plane asking his family to exit the aircraft. Once at the gate, the agent said that unless the tweet was deleted, police would be called and the family would not be allowed back onboard." He gave into the threat, deleted the Tweet, and was allowed to board a later flight. Southwest, as one could have predicted, offered a boilerplate "apology" and vouchers.

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Lawrence Krauss: Congress Is Trying To Defund Scientists At Energy Department - Thu, 24 Jul 2014 23:48:00 GMT2014-07-24T23:48:00Z
Lasrick writes Physicist Lawrence Krauss blasts Congress for their passage of the 2015 Energy and Water Appropriations bill that cut funding for renewable energy, sustainable transportation, and energy efficiency, and even worse, had amendments that targeted scientists at the Department of Energy: He writes that this action from the US Congress is worse even than the Australian government's move to cancel their carbon tax, because the action of Congress is far more insidious: "Each (amendment) would, in its own way, specifically prohibit scientists at the Energy Department from doing precisely what Congress should mandate them to do—namely perform the best possible scientific research to illuminate, for policymakers, the likelihood and possible consequences of climate change." Although the bill isn't likely to become law, Krauss is fed up with Congress burying its head in the sand: The fact that those amendments "...could pass a house of Congress, should concern everyone interested in the appropriate support of scientific research as a basis for sound public policy."

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"Magic Helmet" For F-35 Ready For Delivery - Thu, 24 Jul 2014 23:01:00 GMT2014-07-24T23:01:00Z
Graculus writes with news that the so called "magic helmets" for the controversial F-35 are ready for action. This week, Lockheed Martin officially took delivery of a key part of the F-35 fighter's combat functionality—the pilot's helmet. The most expensive and complicated piece of headgear ever constructed, the F-35 Gen III Helmet Mounted Display System (HMDS) is one of the multipurpose fighter's most critical systems, and it's essential to delivering a fully combat-ready version of the fighter to the Marine Corps, the Navy, and the Air Force. But it almost didn't make the cut because of software problems and side effects akin to those affecting 3D virtual reality headsets. Built by Rockwell Collins ESA Vision Systems International (a joint venture between Rockwell Collins and the Israeli defense company Elbit Systems), the HMDS goes way beyond previous augmented reality displays embedded in pilots' helmets. In addition to providing the navigational and targeting information typically shown in a combat aircraft's heads-up display, the HMDS also includes aspects of virtual reality, allowing a pilot to look through the plane. Using a collection of six high-definition video and infrared cameras on the fighter's exterior called the Distributed Aperture System (DAS), the display extends vision a full 360 degrees around the aircraft from within the cockpit. The helmet is also equipped with night vision capabilities via an infrared sensor that projects imagery inside the facemask

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Western US States Using Up Ground Water At an Alarming Rate - Thu, 24 Jul 2014 22:17:00 GMT2014-07-24T22:17:00Z
sciencehabit (1205606) writes A new study shows that ground water in the Colorado basin is being depleted six times faster than surface water. The groundwater losses, which take thousands of years to be recharged naturally, point to the unsustainability of exploding population centers and water-intensive agriculture in the basin, which includes most of Arizona and parts of Colorado, California, Nevada, Utah, New Mexico, and Wyoming. Because ground water feeds many of the streams and rivers in the area, more of them will run dry.

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Chromebooks Are Outselling iPads In Schools - Thu, 24 Jul 2014 21:35:00 GMT2014-07-24T21:35:00Z
Nate the greatest (2261802) writes Apple thrilled investors earlier this week when they revealed that they had sold 13 million iPads to schools and claimed 85% of the educational tablet market, but that wasn't the whole story. It turns out that Apple has only sold 5 million iPads to schools since February 2013, or an average of less than a million tablets a quarter over 6 quarters. It turns out that instead of buying iPads, schools are buying Chromebooks. Google reported that a million Chromebooks were sold to schools last quarter, well over half of the 1.8 million units sold in the second quarter. With Android tablets getting better, Apple is losing market share in the consumer tablet market, and now it looks Apple is also losing the educational market to Google. Analysts are predicting that 5 million Chromebooks will be sold by the end of the year; how many of those will be sold to schools, do you think?

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A Warm-Feeling Wooden Keyboard (Video) - Thu, 24 Jul 2014 21:00:00 GMT2014-07-24T21:00:00Z
Plastic, plastic everywhere! Except on most surfaces of the Keyboardio ergonomic keyboard, which started as a 'scratch his itch' project by Jesse Vincent. According to his blurb on the Keyboardio site, Jesse 'has spent the last 20 years writing software like Request Tracker, K-9 Mail, and Perl. He types... a lot. He tried all the keyboards before finally making his own.' His objective was to make a keyboard he really liked. And he apparently has. This video was shot in June, and Jesse already has a new model prototype under way that Tim Lord says is a notable improvement on the June version he already liked. || Note that the Keyboardio is hackable and open source, so if you think you can improve it, go right ahead. (Alternate Video Link)

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