An anonymous reader writes "Brent Simmons has posted about a troubling email he received from Network Solutions. He registered two domains with them in the 1990s, and the domains remain registered today. Simmons just received an email informing him that he'd been opted into some kind of security service called Weblock, and that he would be billed $1,850 for the first year. Further, he would be billed $1,350 for every year after the first. Believing it to be a scam, he contacted the official Network Solutions account on Twitter. They said it was real. The email even said he couldn't opt out except by making a phone call."
bmearns writes "The Voynich Manuscript is most geeks' favorite 'indecipherable' illuminated manuscript. Its bizarre depictions of strange plants and animals, astrological diagrams, and hordes of tiny naked women bathing in a system of interconnected tubs (which bear an uneasy resemblance to the human digestive system), have inspired numerous essays and doctoral theses', plus one XKCD comic. Now a team of botanists (yes, botanists) may have uncovered an important clue as to its origin and content by identifying several of the plants and animals depicted, and linking them to the Spanish territories in Central America."
This is a slightly puzzling product. To begin with, Christopher Goggin, shown as the inventor of the Electronic Dog Nose (as featured in Popular Science) may not be the actual inventor, at least according to some of the comments attached to that 2011 Popular Science article. Yet other comments on the same article claim that the unit Goggin supposedly ripped off is totally different from his, and doesn't work, while his does. A report (pdf) on bed-bugs.co.uk says the device "...clearly fails to perform to the manufacturers specification and procedures." Goggin's badge at CES showed his company affiliation as Datt Solutions Group, but Datt's website did not mention him as of Jan. 21, 2013, several weeks after CES 2014 closed. A New York Real Estate blog is skeptical, as are others. Goggin also claims to have a laser device that will kill the bedbugs you find. It sounds great. But a person who prefers the tried and true to new products that may or may not work might want to use old-fashioned, all-natural Diatomaceous earth, which kills not only bedbugs but other insect pests, and costs very little compared to most other methods. If that method doesn't work, then it may be time to try dogs, lasers, and other ways to find and kill bedbugs, which have been spotted everywhere from luxury hotels to housing projects, even in taxicabs and movie theaters.
An anonymous reader writes "Hacker and author Peter Seibel has done a lot of work to adopt one of the most widely-accepted practices toward becoming a better programmer: reading high quality code. He's set up code-reading groups and interviewed other programmers to see what code they read. But he's come to learn that the overwhelming majority of programmers don't practice what they preach. Why? He says, 'We don't read code, we decode it. We examine it. A piece of code is not literature; it is a specimen.' He relates an anecdote from Donald Knuth about figuring out a Fortran compiler, and indeed, it reads more like a 'scientific investigation' than the process we refer to as 'reading.' Seibel is now changing his code-reading group to account for this: 'So instead of trying to pick out a piece of code and reading it and then discussing it like a bunch of Comp Lit. grad students, I think a better model is for one of us to play the role of a 19th century naturalist returning from a trip to some exotic island to present to the local scientific society a discussion of the crazy beetles they found.'"
cold fjord writes with this excerpt from Computerworld: "[W]hite hat hacker David Kennedy, CEO of TrustedSec, may feel like he's beating his head against a stone wall. Kennedy said, 'I don't understand how we're still discussing whether the website is insecure or not. ... It is insecure — 100 percent.' Kennedy has continually warned that healthcare.gov is insecure. In November, after the website was allegedly 'fixed,' he told Congress it was even more vulnerable to hacking and privacy breaches. ... 'Out of the issues identified last go around, there has been a half of a vulnerability closed out of the 17 previously disclosed ... other security researchers have also identified an additional 20+ exposures on the site.' ... Kennedy said he was able to access 70,000 records within four minutes ... At the House Science and Technology Committee hearing held last week ... elite white hat hackers — Kevin Mitnick, Ed Skoudis, Chris Nickerson, Eric Smith, Chris Gates, John Strand, Kevin Johnson, and Scott White – blasted the website's insecurity. ... Mitnick, the 'world's most famous hacker' testified: '... It would be a hacker's wet dream to break into Healthcare.gov ... A breach may result in massive identity theft never seen before — these databases house information on every U.S. citizen! It's shameful the team that built the Healthcare.gov site implemented minimal, if any, security best practices.'"
Slashdot contributor Bennett Haselton writes: "Internet users in Saudi Arabia, along with most users in the United Arab Emirates, are blocked by their respective government censors from accessing the websites of the Trinity Davison Lutheran Church, Deliverance Tabernacle Ministries in Pittsburgh, the Amitayu Buddhist Society of Taiwan, and GayFaith.org. An attempt to access any of those websites yields an error page like this one. However, the sites are not blocked because they conflict with the religions beliefs of those countries' governments. Rather, they are blocked because Smartfilter -- the American-made blocking program sold by McAfee, and used for state-mandated Internet censorship in those countries -- classifies those sites as "pornography". You can see the screen shots here, here, here and here." Read on for the rest of Bennett's thoughts.
An anonymous reader writes "Microsoft, partnered with Machinima, has put forth a promotion for YouTube personalities: make a video about the Xbox One and get money for it. Problematically, they also require the reviewer not to disclose that they're getting paid (or mention anything negative), which breaks FTC disclosure rules (PDF). Microsoft has a well-known history of astroturfing, but is this the first proof of them doing it illegally?"
sandbagger writes "Health Canada scientists are so concerned about losing access to their research library that they're finding workarounds, with one squirreling away journals and books in his basement for colleagues to consult, says a report obtained by CBC News. The report said the number of in-house librarians went from 40 in 2007 to just six in April 2013. 'I look at it as an insidious plan to discourage people from using libraries' said Dr. Rudi Mueller, who left the department in 2012. 'If you want to justify closing a library, you make access difficult and then you say it is hardly used.' This is hardly new for Stephen Harper's Conservative government. Over the Christmas holidays, several scientific libraries were closed and their contents taken to the dump."
sfcrazy writes "The controversy over Canonical's Contributor License Agreement (CLA) has once again surfaced. While Matthew Garrett raises valid points about the flaws in Canonical's CLAs, Linus Torvalds says 'To be fair, people just like hating on Canonical. The FSF and Apache Foundation CLA's are pretty much equally broken. And they may not be broken because of any relicencing, but because the copyright assignment paperwork ends up basically killing the community. Basically, with a CLA, you don't get the kind of "long tail" that the kernel has of random drive-by patches. And since that's how lots of people try the waters, any CLA at all – changing the license or not – is fundamentally broken.'"
sciencehabit writes "If you happened to catch any of the news coverage of Dennis Rodman's trip to North Korea last week, you might have spotted in the big man's entourage a white guy with an Amish-style beard, as in clean-shaven cheeks and no mustache. That's Joseph Terwilliger, 48, a statistical geneticist who splits his time at Columbia University and the University of Helsinki. He's now visited North Korea three times with the basketball star. He sat down with Science Magazine for a Q and A about how he got involved with Rodman and whether the trips are helping--or hurting--U.S. relations with the country."
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "CNN reports that more than 200 bottlenose dolphins remain penned in a cove by Japanese fishermen, many of them stressed and bloodied from their attempts to escape before fishermen start to slaughter them for meat. Until now, the fishermen have focused on selecting dolphins to be sold into captivity at marine parks and aquariums in Japan and overseas as twenty-five dolphins, including a rare albino calf, were taken on Saturday 'to a lifetime of imprisonment,' and another 12 on Sunday. 'Many of the 200+ Bottlenose dolphins who are in still the cove are visibly bloody & injured from their attempts to escape the killers,' one update says. Although the hunting of dolphins is widely condemned in the west, Japanese defend the practice as a local custom — and say it is no different to the slaughter of other animals for meat. The Wakayama Prefecture, where Taiji is located condemns the criticism as biased and unfair to the fishermen. 'Taiji dolphin fishermen are just conducting a legal fishing activity in their traditional way in full accordance with regulations and rules under the supervision of both the national and the prefectural governments. Therefore, we believe there are no reasons to criticize the Taiji dolphin fishery.' Meanwhile the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society describes how about 40 to 60 local fishermen work with nets to divide up the pod, whose initial numbers were estimated by the group at more than 250. 'They tighten up the nets to bring each sub-group together then the skiffs push them toward the tarps. Under the tarps in the shallows is where the trainers work with the killers to select the "prettiest" dolphins which will sell and make the best pay day for the hunters,' the group says. The fishermen will 'kill the "undesirable" dolphins (those with nicks and scars) under the tarps to hide from our cameras when that time comes.'"
judgecorp writes "The group of security experts who urged people to boycot the RSA conference (over allegations that the security firm RSA has taken a $10 million bribe from the NSA to weaken the security of its products) have put together a rival conference called TrustyCon just down the road from San Francisco's Moscone Center, where the EMC-owned firm will have its conference at the end of February."
cold fjord writes "The Hill reports, 'Senate Intelligence Committee Chairwoman Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) predicted Sunday that lawmakers who favored shutting down the bulk collection of telephone metadata would not be successful in their efforts as Congress weighs potential reforms to the nation's controversial intelligence programs. "I don't believe so," Feinstein said during an appearance on NBC's Meet the Press (video). "The president has very clearly said that he wants to keep the capability So I think we would agree with him. I know a dominant majority of the — everybody, virtually, except two or three, on the Senate Intelligence Committee would agree with that." ... "A lot of the privacy people, perhaps, don't understand that we still occupy the role of the Great Satan. New bombs are being devised. New terrorists are emerging, new groups, actually, a new level of viciousness," Feinstein said. "We need to be prepared. I think we need to do it in a way that respects people's privacy rights."'"
theodp writes "At first glance, the headline in The Salt Lake Tribune — Very Few Utah Girls, Minorities Take Computer Science AP Tests — appears to be pretty alarming. As does the headline No Girls, Blacks, or Hispanics Take AP Computer Science Exam in Some States over at Education Week. Not One Girl Took The AP Computer Science Test In Some States warns a Business Insider headline. And so on and so on and so on. So how could one quibble with tech-giant backed Code.org's decision to pay teachers a $250 "Female Student Bonus", or Google's declaration that 'the ultimate goal of CS First is to provide proven teaching materials, screencasts, and curricula for after-school programs that will ignite the interest and confidence of underrepresented minorities and girls in CS,' right? But the thing is, CollegeBoard AP CS exam records indicate that no Wyoming students at all took an AP CS exam (xls) in 2013, and only a total of 103 Utah students (xls) had reported scores. Let's not forget about the girls and underrepresented minorities, but since AP CS Exam Stats are being spun as a measure of CS education participation (pdf) and equity, let's not forget that pretty much everyone has been underrepresented if we look at the big AP CS picture. If only 29,555 AP CS scores were reported (xls) in 2013 for a HS population of about 16 million students, shouldn't the goal at this stage of the game really be CS education for all?"
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Chris Mooney writes at Mother Jones that a new study, from the Yale and George Mason University research teams on climate change communication, shows a 7-percentage-point increase in the proportion of Americans who say they do not believe that global warming is happening. And that's just since the spring of 2013. The number of deniers is now 23 percent; back at the start of last year, it was 16 percent (PDF). The obvious question is, what happened over the last year to produce more climate denial? The answer may lie in the so-called global warming "pause"—the misleading idea that global warming has slowed down or stopped over the the past 15 years or so. This claim was used by climate skeptics, to great effect, in their quest to undermine the release of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's Fifth Assessment Report in September 2013—precisely during the time period that is in question in the latest study. "The notion of a global warming "pause" is, at best, the result of statistical cherry-picking," writes Mooney. " It relies on starting with a very hot year (1998) and then examining a relatively short time period (say, 15 years), to suggest that global warming has slowed down or stopped during this particular stretch of time." Put these numbers back into a broader context and the overall warming trend remains clear. "If you shift just 2 years earlier, so use 1996-2010 instead of 1998-2012, the trend is 0.14 C per decade, so slightly greater than the long-term trend," explains Drew Shindell, a climate scientist at NASA who was heavily involved in producing the IPCC report. This is why climate scientists generally don't seize on 15 year periods and make a big thing about them. "Journalists take heed: Your coverage has consequences. All those media outlets who trumpeted the global warming "pause" may now be partly responsible for a documented decrease in Americans' scientific understanding.""
New submitter MrBingoBoingo writes "Recently it was announced here on Slashdot that OpenBSD was facing an impending shortfall that jeopardized its continued existence. A sponsorship to save OpenBSD has been announced, and it wasn't one of the usual culprits that saved OpenBSD, but a Romanian Bitcoin billionaire."
An anonymous reader writes "The East Buchanan Telephone Cooperative started charging cellular prices for home DSL internet service starting on January 1st, 2014. A 5GB plan costs $24.95 a month while a 25 GB plan will run $99.95 per month. 100 GB is the most data you can get in a package for $299.95 per month. Each additional GB is $5. They argue that the price increase is justified because their costs have increased by 900% since 2009. About half of their customers use less than 5 GB a month while their largest users use around 100 GB a month. They argue that the switch to measured internet will appropriately place the cost on their heaviest users. With the landmark Net Neutrality ruling this week will larger providers try to move to similar price models?"
wiredmikey writes "While the recent data breach that hit Target has dominated headlines lately, another massive data breach was disclosed this week that affected at least 20 million people in South Korea. According to regulators, the personal data including names, social security numbers, phone numbers, credit card numbers and expiration dates of at least 20 million bank and credit card users was taken by a temporary consultant working at the Korea Credit Bureau (KCB). The consultant later sold the data to phone marketing companies, but has since been arrested along with mangers at the companies he sold the stolen data to. A similar insider-attack occurred at Vodafone late last year when a contractor made off with the personal data of two million customers from a server located in Germany. According to a study from PwC, organizations have made little progress developing defenses against both internal and external attackers, and insiders pose just as great a security risk to organizations as outside attackers."
sandbagger writes "The cynics at the Register have picked apart Barack Obama's NSA reform promises. As to be expected, there's some good, some deliberate vagueness, talk of 'ticking bomb scenarios' and the politician's favourite 'promises to commit to future reforms'. Basically, it's a fig-leaf to kick the can down the road so the next president has to deal with it. He's promising bulk data will go to a third party so the NSA can't see it. Okay, who is this magical third party?" They don't seem to me nearly cynical enough.
Former Googler and Foursquare employee Sean Haufler is now a student at Yale studying CS and Economics, but he hasn't put away his real-world software skills for academia. When two other Yale students named Harry Yu and Peter Xu were threatened with the school's punishment committee for designing a site that extends and improves the presentation of data from the school-controlled course selection guide (the Yale Bluebook [available only at Yale]), Haufler decided to create a similar site which he hopes will force the school's hand to either allow or deny this kind of data-mashing presentation. He acknowledges that there are legitimate questions about copyright, but Haufler's site treads lightly in a way that Yu and Xus did not: "Banned Bluebook never stores data on any servers. It never talks to any non-Yale servers. Moreover, since my software is smarter at caching data locally than the official Yale course website, I expect that students using this extension will consume less bandwidth over time than students without it. Don’t believe me? You can read the source code. No data ever leaves Yale’s control. Trademarks, copyright infringement, and data security are non-issues. It's 100% kosher." And if the school disagrees? "If Yale denies this right, I'll see you at the punishment committee." Of note: the Yale Bluebook site itself grew out of an independent student project, but was later acquired by the school. Update: 01/20 00:26 GMT by T : Correction: Unlike Yu and Xu, Haufler's approach is not a full-fledged separate site, but rather a Chrome extension that presents the data from Yale's own site differently, rather than at any point re-hosting it. Mea culpa.
retroworks writes "Dr. Gary Becker (University of Chicago) and Julio Elias (Universidad CEMA, Argentina) wrote a thought-provoking editorial in last week's WSJ, arguing that the prohibition on voluntary sale and trade of human organs is probably killing people. In 2012, 95,000 American men, women and children were on the waiting list for new kidneys. Yet only about 16,500 kidney transplant operations were performed that year. 'The altruistic giving of organs might decline with an open market, since the incentive to give organs to a relative, friend or anyone else would be weaker when organs are readily available to buy. On the other hand, the altruistic giving of money to those in need of organs could increase to help them pay for the cost of organ transplants.' Paying for organs would lead to more transplants, the article maintains. 'Initially, a market in the purchase and sale of organs would seem strange, and many might continue to consider that market "repugnant." Over time, however, the sale of organs would grow to be accepted, just as the voluntary military now has widespread support.'"
cold fjord writes "Reuters reports, 'A blogger is entitled to the same free speech protections as a traditional journalist and cannot be liable for defamation unless she acted negligently, a federal appeals court ruled on Friday. Crystal Cox lost a defamation trial in 2011 over a blog post she wrote accusing a bankruptcy trustee and Obsidian Finance Group of tax fraud. A lower court judge had found that Obsidian did not have to prove that Cox acted negligently because Cox failed to submit evidence of her status as a journalist. But in the ruling, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco said Cox deserved a new trial, regardless of the fact that she is not a traditional reporter. "As the Supreme Court has accurately warned, a First Amendment distinction between the institutional press and other speakers is unworkable."... Eugene Volokh, [a] Law professor who represented Cox, said Obsidian would now have to show that Cox had actual knowledge that her post was false when she published it. ... "In this day and age, with so much important stuff produced by people who are not professionals, it's harder than ever to decide who is a member of the institutional press."' Further details are available at Courthouse News Service."
Taco Cowboy writes "Since September of last year scientists have been wondering what's happening to the Sun. It's supposed to have reached the peak of its 11-year cycle, but sunspot and flare activity remains much quieter than expected. Experts now think the recent cold snap that hit North America and the wet weather that hit part of Europe might be linked to the eerie quietness of the Sun. According to the BBC, solar activity hasn't been this low in 100 years, and if activity keeps dropping, it may reach levels seen during the 'Maunder Minimum,' an 'era of solar inactivity in the 17th Century [which] coincided with a period of bitterly cold winters in Europe.' It wouldn't have a big effect on global temperatures, just regional ones. Why? The sun's UV output drops during these lulls, and the decreased amount of UV light hitting the stratosphere would cause the jet stream to change course. Prof. Mike Lockwood says, 'These are large meanders in the jet stream, and they're called blocking events because they block off the normal moist, mild winds we get from the Atlantic, and instead we get cold air being dragged down from the Arctic and from Russia. These are what we call a cold snap... a series of three or four cold snaps in a row adds up to a cold winter. And that's quite likely what we'll see as solar activity declines.'"
jones_supa writes "OpenGL debugging has always lagged behind DirectX, mainly because of the excellent DX graphics debugging tools shipping with Visual Studio and GL being left with APITrace. Valve's Linux initiatives are making game companies to think about OpenGL, and the video game company wants to create a good open source OpenGL debugger to improve the ecosystem. AMD and Nvidia have already expressed interest in helping them out. Valve has been developing VOGL mostly on Ubuntu-based distributions under Qt Creator. The software currently supports tracing OpenGL 1.0 through 3.3 (core and compatibility), and is expected to eventually support OpenGL 4.x. Many more details on VOGL can be found at Valve's Rich Geldreich's blog." This looks much nicer than BuGLe. Valve is using Mercurial for version control and they plan to throw it up on bitbucket under an unspecified open source license soon. It works with clang and gcc, but debugging with gcc is currently very slow (hopefully something that can be fixed once the source is available and the gcc hackers can see what's going on). The tracer's internal binary log format can be converted into JSON for use with other tools as well.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Eric Barker writes at TheWeek that while high intelligence has its place, a large-scale study of more than three hundred creative high achievers including Leonardo da Vinci, Galileo, Beethoven, and Rembrandt has found that curiosity, passion, hard work, and persistence bordering on obsession are the hallmarks of genius. 'Successful creative people tend to have two things in abundance, curiosity and drive. They are absolutely fascinated by their subject, and while others may be more brilliant, their sheer desire for accomplishment is the decisive factor,' writes Tom Butler-Bowdon. It's not about formal education. 'The most eminent creators were those who had received a moderate amount of education, equal to about the middle of college. Less education than that — or more — corresponded to reduced eminence for creativity,' says Geoffrey Colvin. Those interested in the 10,000-hour theory of deliberate practice won't be surprised that the vast majority of them are workaholics. 'Sooner or later,' writes V. S. Pritchett, 'the great men turn out to be all alike. They never stop working. They never lose a minute. It is very depressing.' Howard Gardner, who studied geniuses like Picasso, Freud, and Stravinsky, found a similar pattern of analyzing, testing, and feedback used by all of them: 'Creative individuals spend a considerable amount of time reflecting on what they are trying to accomplish, whether or not they are achieving success (and, if not, what they might do differently).' Finally, genius means sacrifice. 'My study reveals that, in one way or another, each of the creators became embedded in some kind of a bargain, deal, or Faustian arrangement, executed as a means of ensuring the preservation of his or her unusual gifts. In general, the creators were so caught up in the pursuit of their work mission that they sacrificed all, especially the possibility of a rounded personal existence,' says Gardner."
An anonymous reader writes "In December, porn.com started accepting Bitcoin for its premium services, and the virtual currency quickly came to account for 10 percent of sales. At the start of January, a post on Reddit's Bitcoin subforum boosted the figure to 50 percent, before settling down to about 25 percent. The tremendous interest has led David Kay, the marketing director at porn.com's parent company Sagan, to talk very positively about the virtual currency: 'I definitely believe that porn will be Bitcoin's killer app,' he told The Guardian. 'Fast, private and confidential payments.'"
schwit1 writes "The U.S. Supreme Court agreed on Friday to decide whether police can search an arrested criminal suspect's cell phone without a warrant in two cases that showcase how the courts are wrestling to keep up with rapid technological advances. Taking up cases from California and Massachusetts arising from criminal prosecutions that used evidence obtained without a warrant, the high court will wade into how to apply older court precedent, which allows police to search items carried by a defendant at the time of arrest, to cell phones."
sciencehabit writes "A European publisher today terminated a journal edited by climate change skeptics. The journal, Pattern Recognition in Physics, was started less than a year ago. Problems cropped up soon afterward. In July, Jeffrey Beall, a librarian at the University of Colorado, Denver, noted 'serious concerns' with Pattern Recognition in Physics. As he wrote on his blog about open-access publishing, Beall found self-plagiarism in the first paper published by the journal. 'In addition,' says another critic, 'the editors selected the referees on a nepotistic basis, which we regard as malpractice in scientific publishing.'"
First time accepted submitter neiras writes "Mozilla is building a map of publicly-observable cell tower and WiFi access points to compete with proprietary geolocation services like Google's. Coverage is a bit thin so far but is improving rapidly. Anyone with an Android phone can help by downloading the MozStumbler app and letting it run while walking or driving around. The application is also available on the F-Droid market." "Thin" is relative; it's quite a few data points since we first mentioned the pilot program a few months ago.
greatgreygreengreasy writes "In 2005, then-governor of North Dakota John Hoeven signed into law a bill 'ensuring drivers' ownership of their EDR (Electronic Data Recorder) data.' Now a U.S. senator, Hoeven (R-ND) has teamed up with Amy Klobuchar, D-MN, to introduce similar legislation at the Federal level. 'Under this legislation, EDR data could only be retrieved [for specific reasons].' The EFF has expressed concern in the past over the so-called black boxes and their privacy implications. This legislation, however, would not address the recent revelations by a Ford executive on their access to data, since in those cases, 'The vehicle owner or lessee consents to the data retrieval.' The bill has gained the support of about 20 senators so far."
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "CNN reports that Ohio inmate Dennis McGuire appeared to gasp and convulse for roughly 10 minutes before he finally died during his execution by lethal injection using a new combination of drugs. The new drugs were used because European-based manufacturers banned U.S. prisons from using their drugs in executions — among them, Danish-based Lundbeck, which manufactures pentobarbital. The state used a combination of the drugs midazolam, a sedative, and the painkiller hydromorphone, the state corrections department told CNN. In an opinion piece written for CNN earlier this week, a law professor noted that McGuire's attorneys argued he would 'suffocate to death in agony and terror.' 'The state disagrees. But the truth is that no one knows exactly how McGuire will die, how long it will take or what he will experience in the process,' wrote Elisabeth A. Semel, clinic professor of law and director of the Death Penalty Clinic at U.C. Berkeley School of Law. According to a pool report from journalists who witnessed the execution, the whole process took more than 15 minutes, during which McGuire made 'several loud snorting or snoring sounds.' Allen Bohnert, a public defender who lead McGuire's appeal to stop his execution in federal court on the grounds that the drugs would cause undue agony and terror, called the execution process a 'failed experiment' and said his office will look into what happened. 'The people of the state of Ohio should be appalled by what took place here today in their name.'"
vikingpower writes "In a landmark report on bushfires and climate change (PDF), the Australian Climate Council concludes that heat waves in Australia, as driven by climate change, are becoming more frequent — and that they get hotter. 'It is crucial that communities, emergency services, health services and other authorities prepare for the increasing severity and frequency of extreme fire conditions,' says the Council in the report. Sarah Perkins, one of the report's co-authors, was interviewed by The Guardian Australia. '"While we can't blame climate change for any one event, we can certainly see its fingerprint. This is another link in the chain." Perkins said her latest work had analyzed heatwave trends up to 2013. She said the trend "just gets worse – it's a bit scary really."' In 2009, the United Nations World Meteorological Organization signaled that a Southeast Australian heatwave was the hottest in 100 years."
An anonymous reader writes "Google's recent acquisition of Nest, the maker of smart thermostats and smoke detectors, has sparked concerns of future plans for the devices, and how Google's omnipresent thirst for information will affect them. Thus, a team of engineers at Spark sat down and roughed out a prototype for an open source version of Nest. It looks surprisingly good for such a short development cycle, and they've posted their code on Github. The article has a number of short videos illustrating the technology they used, and how they used it. Quoting: 'All in, we spent about $70 on components to put this together (including $39 for the Spark Core); the wood and acrylic were free. We started working at 10am and finished at 3am, with 3.5 engineers involved (one went to bed early), and the only work we did in advance was order the electronic components. We're not saying that you can build a $3.2 billion company in a day. But we are saying that you can build a $3.2 billion company, and it's easier now than it's ever been before.'"
An anonymous reader writes "Slate reports on new anti-science education coming out of Texas. The state has a charter school system called Responsive Education Solutions, which is publicly funded. Unfortunately, 'it has been connected from its inception to the creationist movement and to far-right fundamentalists who seek to undermine the separation of church and state.' The biology workbook used in these schools actually reads, "In the beginning, God created the Heavens and the Earth." It also brings up social Darwinism as if it's an aspect of evolutionary theory and introduces doubt that the Earth is billions of years old. The article continues, 'To get around court rulings, Responsive Ed and other creationists resort to rhetoric about teaching "all sides" of "competing theories" and claiming that this approach promotes "critical thinking." In response to a question about whether Responsive Ed teaches creationism, its vice president of academic affairs, Rosalinda Gonzalez, told me that the curriculum "teaches evolution, noting, but not exploring, the existence of competing theories."' Other so-called education texts being used by the Responsive Ed program teach Western superiority and how feminism forced women to 'turn to the state as a surrogate husband.'"
First time accepted submitter gallifreyan99 writes "Researchers from Duke revealed today that they had discovered nearly 5,900 gas leaks under the streets of Washington DC, including 12 that posed a serious risk of explosion. And it's not just Washington: a gas industry whistleblower who is part of the team showed this was happening in cities all over America."
angry tapir writes "The founder of the Silk Road underground website has forfeited the site and thousands of bitcoins, worth around $28 million at current rates, to the U.S. government. The approximately 29,655 bitcoins were seized from the Silk Road website when the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) moved to close it in late September. 'The United States Marshals Service shall dispose of the Silk Road Hidden Website and the Silk Road Server Bitcoins according to law,' wrote Judge J. Paul Oetken, of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, in a court order that was issued this week. The ruling represents the largest-ever forfeiture of bitcoins. 'It is the intention of the government to ultimately convert the bitcoins to U.S. currency,' said Jim Margolin, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's office for the Southern District of New York."
alphadogg writes "Two-year-old startup Wickr is offering a reward of up to $100,000 to anyone who can find a serious vulnerability in its mobile encrypted messaging application, which is designed to thwart spying by hackers and governments. The reward puts the small company in the same league as Google, Facebook and Microsoft, all of which offer substantial payouts to security researchers for finding dangerous bugs that could compromise their users' data. Wickr has already closely vetted its application so the challenge could be tough. Veracode, an application security testing company, and Stroz Friedberg, a computer forensics firm, have reviewed the software, in addition to independent security researchers."
dcblogs writes "Despite an expanding use of electronics in products, the number of people working as electrical engineers in U.S. declined by 10.4% last year. The decline amounted to a loss of 35,000 jobs and increased the unemployment rate for electrical engineers from 3.4% in 2012 to 4.8% last year, an unusually high rate of job losses for this occupation. There are 300,000 people working as electrical engineers, according to U.S. Labor Department data analyzed by the IEEE-USA. In 2002, there were 385,000 electrical engineers in the U.S. Ron Hira, an assistant professor of public policy at the Rochester Institute of Technology, called the electrical engineering employment trend 'truly disturbing,' and said, 'just like America's manufacturing has been hollowed out by offshoring and globalization, it appears that electrical and electronics engineering is heading that way.'"
BUL2294 writes "95% of the world's ATM machines are still running Windows XP and banks are already purchasing extended support agreements from Microsoft. (some of the affected ATMs are running XP Embedded, which has a support lifecycle until January, 2016). 'Microsoft is selling custom tech support agreements that extend the life of Windows XP, although the cost can soar quickly—multiplying by a factor of five in the second year, says Korala. JPMorgan is buying a one-year extension and will start converting its machines to Windows 7 in July; about 3,000 of its 19,000 ATMs need enhancements before the process can begin...'"
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Jay Frank writes that the big four music distributors and their sister publishers (Sony, Warner, UNI and EMI) make 15% more per year, on average, from paying customers of streaming services like Spotify or Rdio than it does from the average customer who buys downloads, CDs or both. Each label makes 'blanket license' deals with Streaming services with advances in the undisclosed millions, which is virtually the same as selling music in bulk; they receive these healthy licensing fees to cover all activity in a given period rather than allowing Streaming services to 'pay as they go.' 'Artists are up in arms, many are opting out of streaming services,' writes Frank. 'Lost in that noise is a voice that is seldom heard: that of the record companies. There's good reason for that: they're making more money from streaming and the future looks extremely bright for them.' The average 'premium' subscription customer in the U.S. was worth about $16 a year to a major record company, while the average buyer of digital downloads or physical music was worth about $14. Thus, year over year, the premium subscriber was worth nearly 15% more than the person who bought music either digitally or physically."
First time accepted submitter Clark Schultz writes "Vladimir Putin plans to send the country's top domestic students abroad in an effort to prepare engineers, doctors, and scientists with the most modern education. The initiative comes with a catch: Students must return to Mother Russia to work. Though critics say that the students may be tempted to stay abroad after receiving their advanced degrees, Putin is confident they will be properly motivated to keep up their end of the bargain. As one advocate notes, the 'brilliant' practice of educating Russians at top global universities dates back to the times of Peter the Great."
bigmammoth writes "Wikimedia has been a long time supporter of royalty free formats, but is now considering a shift in their position. From the RfC: 'To support the MP4 standard as a complement to the open formats now used on our sites, it has been proposed that videos be automatically transcoded and stored in both open and MP4 formats on our sites, as soon as they are uploaded or viewed by users. The unencumbered WebM and Ogg versions would remain our primary reference for platforms that support them. But the MP4 versions 'would enable many mobile and desktop users who cannot view these unencumbered video files to watch them in MP4 format.' This has stirred a heated debate within the Wikimedia community as to whether the mp4 / h.264 format should be supported. Many Wikimedia regulars have weighed in, resulting in currently an even split between adding the H.264 support or not. The request for comment is open to all users of Wikimedia, including the broader community of readers. What do you think about supporting H.264 on Wikimedia sites?"
ilikenwf writes "A new release from the files obtained by Edward Snowden have revealed that the NSA collects millions of text messages per day. These are used to gain travel plans, financial data, and social network data. The majority of these texts and data belong to people who are not being investigated for any crime or association. Supposedly, "non-US" data is removed, but we all know that means it is sent to a partner country for analysis, which is then sent back to the NSA."
judgecorp writes "Syed Hussain, already serving time for helping to plot attacks against UK targets, got another four months for refusing to divulge the password of a USB stick the police and GCHQ wanted to examine. The USB was believed to contain data about a suspected fraud unconnected with national security, and Hussain claimed to have forgotten it under stress, He later remembered it and it turned out to be a password he had used on other systems investigated by the police."
coondoggie writes "Apple today agreed to refund at least $32.5 million to iTunes customers in order to settle FTC complaints about charges incurred by children in kids' mobile apps without their parents' consent. 'As alleged in the Commission's complaint, Apple violated this basic principle by failing to inform parents that, by entering a password, they were permitting a charge for virtual goods or currency to be used by their child in playing a children's app and at the same time triggering a 15-minute window during which their child could make unlimited additional purchases without further parental action."
An anonymous reader writes "Philip Guo, an Asst. Professor of Computer Science at the University of Rochester, has written a thoughtful article on his education in programming. Guo explains that he was no particular coding wizard while growing up, but when he jumped into a CS major when he went to college at MIT, he received all sorts of passive and active encouragement — simply because he 'looked the part.' He says, 'Instead of facing implicit bias or stereotype threat, I had the privilege of implicit endorsement. For instance, whenever I attended technical meetings, people would assume that I knew what I was doing (regardless of whether I did or not) and treat me accordingly. If I stared at someone in silence and nodded as they were talking, they would usually assume that I understood, not that I was clueless. Nobody ever talked down to me, and I always got the benefit of the doubt in technical settings.' Guo compares this to the struggles faced by other minority groups and women to succeed in a field that is often more skeptical of their abilities. 'I want those people to experience what I was privileged enough to have gotten in college and beyond – unimpeded opportunities to develop expertise in something that they find beautiful, practical, and fulfilling.'"
In late November, Andy Wingo pushed a new register VM to Guile's (the GNU implementation of the Scheme language) master branch. It brought a number of performance improvements, but led to a bit of a conceptual mismatch between the compiler's direct-style intermediate language and the virtual machine. Earlier this week Andy Wingo announced a new continuation-passing style intermediate language for Guile. From the article: "To recap, we switched from a stack machine to a register machine because, among other reasons, register machines can consume and produce named intermediate results in fewer instructions than stack machines, and that makes things faster. To take full advantage of this new capability, it is appropriate to switch at the same time from the direct-style intermediate language (IL) that we had to an IL that names all intermediate values. ... In Guile I chose a continuation-passing style language. ... Guile's CPS language is composed of terms, expressions, and continuations. It was heavily inspired by Andrew Kennedy's 'Compiling with Continuations, Continued' paper. ... The optimizations I have currently implemented for CPS are fairly basic. Contification was tricky. One thing I did recently was to make all non-tail $call nodes require $kreceive continuations; if, as in the common case, extra values were unused, that was reflected in an unused rest argument. This required a number of optimizations to clean up and remove the extra rest arguments for other kinds of source expressions: dead-code elimination, the typical beta/eta reduction, and some code generation changes." The article describes the CPS language provided by Guile and explains the reasons behind choosing CPS over SSA or A-Normal Form. The Guile manual contains draft documentation. The new VM and Intermediate Language will be released with Guile 2.2, which should be out later this year.
Their website's "About" page says, under the headline, "Our Big Mission": "The Eye Tribe intends to become the leading provider of eye control technology for mass market consumer devices by licensing the technology to manufacturers." Their only product at the moment is a $99 development kit ($142.50 with shipping and VAT). Some people may want to say, "This is old news. Wasn't there an open source project called Gaze Tracker that was originally developed to help handicapped people interact with the world?" Yes, there was. The Eye Tribe is an outgrowth of the Gaze Tracker research group, which is still going strong and still offers its software for free download (from SourceForge) under an open source license. The company's funding comes in large part from a government grant. In the interview (below), The Eye Tribe CEO Sune Johansen notes that they have just started shipping their development kit, and that they hope to start selling an eye control kit for tablet computers to the general public before long, but he doesn't want to commit to a specific shipping date because they don't want to sell to end users until "...we have enough applications out there so that it makes sense for the consumers to buy it directly."
Recently presented at Linuxconf.au was Glyphy, a text renderer implemented using OpenGL ES2 shaders. Current OpenGL applications rasterize text on the CPU using Freetype or a similar library, uploading glyphs to the GPU as textures. This inherently limits quality and flexibility (e.g. rotation, perspective transforms, etc. cause the font hinting to become incorrect and you cannot perform subpixel antialiasing). Glyphy, on the other hand, uploads typeface vectors to the GPU and renders text in real time, performing perspective correct antialiasing. The presentation can be watched or downloaded on Vimeo. The slide sources are in Python, and I generated a PDF of the slides (warning: 15M due to embedded images). Source code is at Google Code (including a demo application), under the Apache License.
Bruce Perens writes "Codec2 is the Open Source ultra-low-bandwidth speech codec capable of encoding voice in 1200 Baud. FreeDV (freedv .org) is an HF (global-range radio) implementation that uses half the bandwidth of SSB, and without the noise. Here are three speeches about where it's going."
- David Rowe: Embedding Codec2: Open Source speech coding on a low-cost microprocessor, at Linux.conf.au 2014. YouTube, downloadable MP4.
- Bruce Perens: FreeDV, Codec2, and HT of the Future (how we're building a software-defined walkie-talkie that's smarter than a smartphone), at the TAPR/ARRL Digital Communications Conference 2013. Blip.tv, YouTube
- Chris Testa on the .Whitebox handheld software-defined radio design that is the RF portion of HT of the Future, which was also shown at the TAPR conference.