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Media

VLC Gets First Major Cross-Platform Release 83

Posted by Soulskill
from the now-available-on-palm-pilots-and-apple-newtons dept.
An anonymous reader writes VideoLAN today launched what is arguably the biggest release of VLC to date: an update for the desktop coordinated with new versions across all major mobile platforms. The world's most-used media player just got a massive cross-platform push. The organization says the releases are the result of more than a year of volunteer work on the VLC engine and the libVLC library. As a result, VLC has gained numerous new features, has seen more than 1,000 bugs fixed, and has significantly increased its scope of supported formats.
News

Leonard Nimoy Dies At 83 407

Posted by Soulskill
from the rest-in-peace dept.
Esther Schindler writes: According to the NY Times, Leonard Nimoy died on Friday morning at his home in the Bel Air section of Los Angeles. He was 83 years old. He was, and always shall be, our friend. From the article: His wife, Susan Bay Nimoy, confirmed his death, saying the cause was end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Mr. Nimoy announced last year that he had the disease, which he attributed to years of smoking, a habit he had given up three decades earlier. He had been hospitalized earlier in the week. His artistic pursuits — poetry, photography and music in addition to acting — ranged far beyond the United Federation of Planets, but it was as Mr. Spock that Mr. Nimoy became a folk hero, bringing to life one of the most indelible characters of the last half century: a cerebral, unflappable, pointy-eared Vulcan with a signature salute and blessing: “Live long and prosper” (from the Vulcan “Dif-tor heh smusma”).
China

Microsoft Closing Two Phone Factories In China 85

Posted by Soulskill
from the end-call dept.
randomErr writes: Microsoft is closing two factories in China by the end of March. About 9,000 people worked in these factories, and those jobs were cut a while back as part of the company's major restructuring after its Nokia purchase. Much of the equipment located in these factories from Beijing and the southeastern city of Dongguan is being shipped to Vietnam.
Earth

Lawmakers Seek Information On Funding For Climate Change Critics 386

Posted by Soulskill
from the all-about-the-benjamins dept.
HughPickens.com writes: John Schwartz reports at the NY Times that prominent members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate are demanding information from universities, companies and trade groups about funding for scientists who publicly dispute widely held views on the causes and risks of climate change. In letters sent to seven universities, Representative Raúl M. Grijalva, an Arizona Democrat who is the ranking member of the House committee on natural resources, sent detailed requests to the academic employers of scientists who had testified before Congress about climate change. "My colleagues and I cannot perform our duties if research or testimony provided to us is influenced by undisclosed financial relationships." Grijalva asked for each university's policies on financial disclosure and the amount and sources of outside funding for each scholar, "communications regarding the funding" and "all drafts" of testimony. Meanwhile Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts, Barbara Boxer of California and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island. sent 100 letters to fossil fuel companies, trade groups and other organizations asking about their funding of climate research and advocacy asking for responses by April 3. "Corporate special interests shouldn't be able to secretly peddle the best junk science money can buy," said Senator Markey, denouncing what he called "denial-for-hire operations."

The letters come after evidence emerged over the weekend that Wei-Hock Soon, known as Willie, a scientist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, had failed to disclose the industry funding for his academic work. The documents also included correspondence between Dr. Soon and the companies who funded his work in which he referred to his papers and testimony as "deliverables." Soon accepted more than $1.2 million in money from the fossil-fuel industry over the last decade while failing to disclose that conflict of interest in most of his scientific papers. At least 11 papers he has published since 2008 omitted such a disclosure, and in at least eight of those cases, he appears to have violated ethical guidelines of the journals that published his work. "What it shows is the continuation of a long-term campaign by specific fossil-fuel companies and interests to undermine the scientific consensus on climate change," says Kert Davies.
Government

Drones Cost $28,000 Per Arrest, On Average 280

Posted by Soulskill
from the tag-and-release-even-more-expensive dept.
mpicpp sends this report from CNN: They are sleek, mostly silent converted weapons of war: Drones used by the Border Patrol to scan the skies in the empty deserts of the Southwest to spot illegal immigrants and then, if things work out, have agents arrest them. That's the idea, and the agents who use them say the drones give them a vantage point they never had before. Flying at 18,000 feet, the drones view the landscape below, lock onto potential suspects crossing the Arizona desert, and agents on the ground move into make the arrests. But it's outrageously expensive: $28,000 for a single arrest.
Education

Argonne National Laboratory Shuts Down Online Ask a Scientist Program 104

Posted by samzenpus
from the ask-someone-else dept.
itamblyn writes In a surprising decision, Argonne National Laboratory has decided to pull the plug on its long-standing NEWTON Ask A Scientist Program. NEWTON is (soon to be was) an on online repository of science questions submitted by school children from around the world. A volunteer group of scientists contributed grade-level appropriate answers to these questions. For the past 25 years, a wide range of topics ranging have been covered, including the classic "why is the sky blue" to "is there way to break down the components of plastics completely into their original form". Over the years, over 20,000 questions have been answered. According to ANL, the website will be shut down permanently on 1 March. There is no plan to make the content available in an alternate form or to hand over stewardship to another organization. When contacted about transferring the repository to another institution or moving to a donation model, the response from ANL was simply: "Thank you again for all your support for Newton. Unfortunately, moving Newton to another organization is not a possibility at this time. Thank you again for your energy and support."
Communications

Developers Disclose Schematics For 50-1000 MHz Software-Defined Transceiver 131

Posted by samzenpus
from the fire-up-the-boat-anchor dept.
Bruce Perens writes Chris Testa KD2BMH and I have been working for years on a software-defined transceiver that would be FCC-legal and could communicate using essentially any mode and protocol up to 1 MHz wide on frequencies between 50 and 1000 MHz. It's been discussed here before, most recently when Chris taught gate-array programming in Python. We are about to submit the third generation of the design for PCB fabrication, and hope that this version will be salable as a "developer board" and later as a packaged walkie-talkie, mobile, and base station. This radio is unique in that it uses your smartphone for the GUI, uses apps to provide communication modes, contains an on-board FLASH-based gate-array and a ucLinux system. We intend to go for FSF "Respects Your Freedom" certification for the device. My slide show contains 20 pages of schematics and is full of ham jargon ("HT" means "handi-talkie", an old Motorola product name and the hams word for "walkie talkie") but many non-hams should be able to parse it with some help from search engines. Bruce Perens K6BP
United States

US Govt and Private Sector Developing "Precrime" System Against Cyber-Attacks 55

Posted by samzenpus
from the knowing-is-half-the-battle dept.
An anonymous reader writes A division of the U.S. government's Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) unit, is inviting proposals from cybersecurity professionals and academics with a five-year view to creating a computer system capable of anticipating cyber-terrorist acts, based on publicly-available Big Data analysis. IBM is tentatively involved in the project, named CAUSE (Cyber-attack Automated Unconventional Sensor Environment), but many of its technologies are already part of the offerings from other interested organizations. Participants will not have access to NSA-intercepted data, but most of the bidding companies are already involved in analyses of public sources such as data on social networks. One company, Battelle, has included the offer to develop a technique for de-anonymizing BItcoin transactions (pdf) as part of CAUSE's security-gathering activities.
Medicine

The Peculiar Economics of Developing New Antibiotics 243

Posted by samzenpus
from the killing-bugs dept.
HughPickens.com writes Every year at least two million people are infected with bacteria that can't be wiped out with antibiotics but the number of F.D.A.-approved antibiotics has decreased steadily in the past two decades. Now.Ezekiel J. Emanuel writes at the NYT that the problem with the development of new antibiotics is profitability. "There's no profit in it, and therefore the research has dried up, but meanwhile bacterial resistance has increased inexorably and there's still a lot of inappropriate use of antibiotics out there," says Ken Harvey. Unlike drugs for cholesterol or high blood pressure, or insulin for diabetes, which are taken every day for life, antibiotics tend to be given for a short time so profits have to be made on brief usage. "Even though antibiotics are lifesaving, they do not command a premium price in the marketplace," says Emanuel. "As a society we seem willing to pay $100,000 or more for cancer drugs that cure no one and at best add weeks or a few months to life. We are willing to pay tens of thousands of dollars for knee surgery that, at best, improves function but is not lifesaving. So why won't we pay $10,000 for a lifesaving antibiotic?"

Emanuel says that we need to use prize money as an incentive. "What if the United States government — maybe in cooperation with the European Union and Japan — offered a $2 billion prize to the first five companies or academic centers that develop and get regulatory approval for a new class of antibiotics?" Because it costs at least $1 billion to develop a new drug, the prize money could provide a 100 percent return — even before sales. "From the government perspective, such a prize would be highly efficient: no payment for research that fizzles. Researchers win only with an approved product. Even if they generated just one new antibiotic class per year, the $2-billion-per-year payment would be a reasonable investment for a problem that costs the health care system $20 billion per year." Unless payers and governments are willing to provide favorable pricing for such a drug, the big companies are going to focus their R&D investments in areas like cancer, depression, and heart disease where the return-on-investments are much higher.
China

It's Official: NSA Spying Is Hurting the US Tech Economy 270

Posted by samzenpus
from the who's-to-blame dept.
An anonymous reader writes China is backing away from U.S. tech brands for state purchases after NSA revelations, according to Reuters. This confirms what many U.S. technology companies have been saying for the past year: the activities by the NSA are harming their businesses in crucial growth markets, including China. From the article: "A new report confirmed key brands, including Cisco, Apple, Intel, and McAfee -- among others -- have been dropped from the Chinese government's list of authorized brands, a Reuters report said Wednesday. The number of approved foreign technology brands fell by a third, based on an analysis of the procurement list. Less than half of those companies with security products remain on the list."
The Almighty Buck

Inventors Revolutionize Beekeeping 129

Posted by samzenpus
from the straight-from-the-tap dept.
wombatmobile writes For more than 5,000 years, apiarists donned protective suits and lit bundles of grass to subdue swarms of angry bees while they robbed their hives of precious, golden honey. Now two Australian inventors have made harvesting honey as easy as turning a tap — literally. Cedar Anderson and his father Stuart have just been rewarded for a decades worth of inventing and refining with a $2 million overnight success on Indiegogo. Their Flow Hive coopts bees to produce honey in plastic cells that can be drained and restored by turning a handle, leaving the bees in situ and freeing apiarists from hours of smoke filled danger time every day.
Advertising

Google Now Automatically Converts Flash Ads To HTML5 188

Posted by samzenpus
from the have-some-ads dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Google today began automatically converting Adobe Flash ads to HTML5. As a result, it's now even easier for advertisers to target users on the Google Display Network without a device or browser that supports Flash. Back in September, Google began offering interactive HTML5 backups when Flash wasn't supported. The Flash-to-HTML5 conversion tools for the Google Display Network and DoubleClick Campaign Manager created an HTML5 version of Flash ads, showing an actual ad rather than a static image backup. Now, Google will automatically convert eligible Flash campaigns, both existing and new, to HTML5."
Education

Interviews: Ask Senior Director Matt Keller About the Global Learning XPRIZE 28

Posted by samzenpus
from the go-ahead-and-ask dept.
The former Vice President of One Laptop per Child (OLPC) Matt Keller is currently the Senior Director of the $15 million Global Learning XPRIZE. The competition challenges teams from around the world to develop open source software solutions that will allow children in developing countries to teach themselves basic reading, writing and arithmetic within a 18 month competition period. After 18 months a panel of judges will evaluate the projects and announce semi-finalists. Semi-finalists will have a month to tweak their projects and/or reconfigure their teams before the judges elect the top five finalist to proceed. Each of the five teams selected will receive $1 million to field test their ideas with the eventual winners receiving the Grand Prize of $10 million. The Global Learning XPRIZE is recruiting teams now through April 30, 2015. Matt has agreed to answer any questions you might have about the competition and the future of education in general. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one per post.
Education

Ask Slashdot: Terminally Ill - What Wisdom Should I Pass On To My Geek Daughter? 696

Posted by Soulskill
from the f*#&-cancer dept.
An anonymous reader writes: I am a scientist and educator who has been enjoying and learning from Slashdot since the late 90s. Now I come to you, my geek brothers and sisters, for help. I've been diagnosed with Stage 4 pancreatic cancer, which you will remember is what took Steve Jobs and Randy Pausch from us. My condition is incurable. Palliative chemotherapy may delay the inevitable, but a realistic assessment suggests that I have anywhere from two to six months of "quality" time left, and likely not more than a year in total.

I am slowly coming to terms with my imminent death, but what bothers me most is that I will be leaving my wife alone, and that my daughter will have to grow up without her father. She is in sixth grade, has an inquisitive and sharp mind, and is interested in science and music. She seems well on the path to becoming a "girl geek" like her mother, an outcome I'd welcome.

Since I will not be around for all of the big events in her life, I am going to create a set of video messages for her that she can watch at those important times or just when she's having a bad day. I would like to do this before my condition progresses to the point that I am visibly ill, so time is short.

In the videos I will make clear how much I treasure the time we've spent together and the wonderful qualities I see in her. What other suggestions do you have? What did you need to hear at the different stages of your life? What wisdom would have been most helpful to you? At what times did you especially need the advice of a parent? And especially for my geek sisters, how can I help her navigate the unique issues faced by girls and women in today's world?

Please note that I'm posting anonymously because I don't want this to be about me. I'd prefer that the focus be on my daughter and how I can best help her. Thank you so much for your help.
Patents

Jury Tells Apple To Pay $532.9 Million In Patent Suit 186

Posted by Soulskill
from the or-remit-821,110-iphones dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Smartflash LLC has won a patent lawsuit against Apple over DRM and technology relating to the storage of downloaded songs, games, and videos on iTunes. Apple must now pay $532.9 million in damages. An Apple spokesperson did not hesitate to imply Smartflash is a patent troll: "Smartflash makes no products, has no employees, creates no jobs, has no U.S. presence, and is exploiting our patent system to seek royalties for technology Apple invented. We refused to pay off this company for the ideas our employees spent years innovating and unfortunately we have been left with no choice but to take this fight up through the court system." The trial happened in the same court that decided Apple owed VirnetX $368 million over FaceTime-related patents back in 2012.