United States

Governments Turn Tables By Suing Public Records Requesters (apnews.com) 100

schwit1 quotes the AP: Government bodies are increasingly turning the tables on citizens who seek public records that might be embarrassing or legally sensitive. Instead of granting or denying their requests, a growing number of school districts, municipalities and state agencies have filed lawsuits against people making the requests -- taxpayers, government watchdogs and journalists who must then pursue the records in court at their own expense.

The lawsuits generally ask judges to rule that the records being sought do not have to be divulged. They name the requesters as defendants but do not seek damage awards. Still, the recent trend has alarmed freedom-of-information advocates, who say it's becoming a new way for governments to hide information, delay disclosure and intimidate critics. "This practice essentially says to a records requester, 'File a request at your peril,'" said University of Kansas journalism professor Jonathan Peters, who wrote about the issue for the Columbia Journalism Review in 2015, before several more cases were filed. "These lawsuits are an absurd practice and noxious to open government."

Math

Memorial Set For 'Pi Day' Creator (sfgate.com) 56

"Three-point-one-four was more than a number to museum curator Larry Shaw," writes the San Francisco Chronicle. Long-time Slashdot reader linuxwrangler writes: In 1988 at a retreat for San Francisco Exploratorium staff, Larry Shaw proposed linking the digits of pi, which begins 3.14, with the date March 14. Initially the "holiday" was only celebrated by museum staff but it didn't take long for the idea to spread and Pi Day was born.

For 38 years, Mr. Shaw donned a red cap emblazoned with the magic digits and led a parade of museum goers, each of them holding a sign bearing one of the digits of pi. Shaw died August 19 at age 78 and a memorial is planned for Sunday September 24.

The memorial will be held in Mill Valley, California, the Chronicle reports, adding that "pie will be served."
Space

Most Powerful Cosmic Rays Come From Galaxies Far, Far Away (space.com) 95

A new study finds the highest-energy cosmic rays to bombard Earth come from galaxies far, far away. Space.com reports: The sun emits relatively low-energy cosmic rays. However, for more than 50 years, scientists have also detected ultra-high-energy cosmic rays, ones far beyond the capability of any particle accelerator on Earth to generate. One way to discover the origins of ultra-high-energy cosmic rays is to study their directions of travel. However, ultra-high-energy cosmic rays only rarely strike Earth's atmosphere, with one hitting any given area about the size of a soccer field about once per century, the researchers said. In order to detect ultra-high-energy cosmic rays, scientists look for the spray of electrons, photons and other particles that result when ultra-high-energy cosmic rays hit the top of Earth's atmosphere. Each of these showers contains more than 10 billion particles, which fly downward in a disk shaped like a giant plate miles wide, according to the statement. Scientists examined the sprays from ultra-high-energy cosmic rays using the largest cosmic-ray observatory yet: the Pierre Auger Observatory built in the western plains of Argentina in 2001. It consists of an array of 1,600 particle detectors deployed in a hexagonal grid over 1,160 square miles (3,000 square kilometers), an area comparable in size to Rhode Island. A connected set of telescopes is also used to see the dim fluorescent light the particles in the sprays emit at night.

The researchers analyzed data collected between 2004 and 2016. During these 12 years, the scientists detected more than 30,000 ultra-high-energy cosmic rays. If ultra-high-energy cosmic rays came from the Milky Way, one might perhaps expect them to come from all across the sky, or perhaps mostly from the direction of the supermassive black hole at the galaxy's center. However, the researchers saw that ultra-high-energy cosmic rays mostly came from a broad area of sky about 90 degrees away from the direction of the Milky Way's core.

AMD

AMD Opteron Vs EPYC: How AMD Server Performance Evolved Over 10 Years (phoronix.com) 31

New submitter fstack writes: Phoronix has carried out tests comparing AMD's high-end EPYC 7601 CPU to AMD Opteron CPUs from about ten years ago, looking at the EPYC/Opteron Linux performance and power efficiency. Both on the raw performance and performance-per-Watt, the numbers are quite staggering though the single-threaded performance hasn't evolved quite as much. The EPYC 7601 is a $4,200 USD processor with 32 cores / 64 threads. The first of many tests was with NAS Parallel Benchmarks: "For a heavily threaded test like this, going from a single Opteron 2300 series to the EPYC 7601 yielded around a 40x increase in performance," reports Phoronix. "Not bad when also considering it was only a 16x increase in the thread count (4 physical cores to 32 cores / 64 threads). The EPYC 7601 has a lower base clock frequency than the Opteron 2300 CPUs tested but has a turbo/boost frequency higher, among many architectural advantages over these K10 Opterons. With the NASA test's Lower-Upper Gauss-Seidel solver, going from the dual Opteron 2384 processors to a single EPYC 7601 yields around a 25x improvement in performance over the past decade of AMD server CPUs. Or in looking at the performance-per-Watt with the LU.C test, it's also around a 25x improvement over these older Opterons."
Networking

Scientists Explore A Light Bulb-Based Based 10Gbps Li-Fi/5G Home Network (ispreview.co.uk) 12

Mark.JUK writes: Researchers at Brunel University in London have begun to develop a new 10 Gbps home wireless network using both Li-Fi (light fidelity) and 5G based mmWave technology, which will fit inside LED (light-emitting diode) light bulbs on your ceiling.

In simple terms, the Visible Light Communication (VLC) based Li-Fi technology works by flicking a LED light off and on thousands of times a second (by altering the length of the flickers you can introduce digital communications).

The article says it'd be more energy efficient (and faster) than a standard Wi-Fi network -- though both technologies have trouble penetrating walls, so "you'd have to buy lots of pricey new bulbs in order to cover your home..."

"It's probably not something that an ordinary home owner would want to install; unless you're happy with running lots of optical fibre cable around your various light fittings."
Facebook

Spain Fines Facebook Over Tracking Users Without Consent (tomshardware.com) 41

Spain's Data Protection Authority has issued a 1.2 million euro fine against Facebook after it found three instances when the company collected data without informing users, as required by European Union privacy laws. Tom's Hardware reports: The AEPD found multiple issues with how Facebook gathered data on Spanish users. One of the issues was that Facebook collects data on ideology, sex, and religious beliefs, as well as personal tastes and web surfing habits without informing the users about how that data will be used. A second issue was that Facebook wasn't obtaining specific and informed consent from the users because the data it was offering them about the collection was not sufficiently clear. The company has been tracking both users and non-users of the service through the Like button across the web without informing them about this sort of tracking, nor about what it plans to do with the data. The company has said that the collection is done for advertising purposes before, but some purposes remain secret, according to the Spanish Data Protection Authority. The AEPD said this sort of collection doesn't comply with the EU's data protection regulations.

Finally, the AEPD also noticed that Facebook has not been completely purging the data about users who had already deleted their accounts and that Facebook was making use of accounts' data that have been deleted for more than 17 months. Considering the data that has remained behind is no longer useful for the purpose for which it was collected, the agency considered this another serious infringement of EU privacy laws.

KDE

KDE Plasma 5.11 Beta Released (kde.org) 59

JRiddell writes: The original and best linux desktop has a new version, KDE Plasma 5.11 beta is out. UI improvements include a redesigned System Settings and notification history. Privacy improvements include Plasma Vault, which helps you store your files securely. Progress on Wayland support continues with many people now using it as their daily setup. The full changelog can be viewed here.
Android

I Downloaded an App. Suddenly, I was a Rescue Dispatcher. (houstonchronicle.com) 172

Holly Hartman, a journalism teacher for 22 years, writes an incredible story: After watching nonstop coverage of the hurricane and the incredible rescues that were taking place, I got in bed at 10:30 on Tuesday night. I had been glued to the TV for days. I read an article about the Cajun Navy and the thousands of selfless volunteers who have shown up to this city en masse. The article explained they were using a walkie-talkie-type app called Zello to communicate with each other, locate victims, get directions, etc. I downloaded the app, found the Cajun Navy channel and started listening. I was completely enthralled. Voice after voice after voice coming though my phone in the dark, some asking for help, some saying they were on their way. Most of the transmissions I was hearing when I first tuned in were from Houston, but within 30 minutes or so, calls started coming in from Port Arthur and Orange. Harvey had moved east from Houston and was pummeling East Texas. Call after call from citizens saying they were trapped in their houses and needed boat rescue. None of the volunteer rescuers had made it to that area from Houston, but as soon as the calls started coming in, they were moving out, driving as fast as they could into the middle of Harvey.
Power

Tesla Temporarily Boosts Battery Capacity For Hurricane Irma (sfgate.com) 328

Slashdot reader mikeebbbd noticed this in the AP's Florida hurricane coverage: Electric car maker Tesla says it has temporarily increased the battery capacity of some of its cars to help drivers escaping Hurricane Irma. The electric car maker said the battery boost was applied to Model S and X cars in the Southeast. Some drivers only buy 60 or 70 kilowatt hours of battery capacity, but a software change will give them access to 75 kilowatt hours of battery life until Saturday. Depending on the model, that could let drivers travel about 40 more miles before they would need to recharge their cars.

Tesla said it made the change after a customer asked the company for help evacuating. The company said it's possible it will make similar changes in response to similar events in the future.

Space

Are We Being Watched? Tens of Other Worlds Could Spot the Earth (eurekalert.org) 94

A group of scientists from Queen's University Belfast and the Max Planck Institute for Solar System Research in Germany have turned exoplanet-hunting on its head, in a study that instead looks at how an alien observer might be able to detect Earth using our own methods. From a report: They find that at least nine exoplanets are ideally placed to observe transits of Earth, in a new work published in the journal Monthly Notices of the Royal Astronomical Society. Thanks to facilities and missions such as SuperWASP and Kepler, we have now discovered thousands of planets orbiting stars other than our Sun, worlds known as 'exoplanets.' The vast majority of these are found when the planets cross in front of their host stars in what are known as 'transits,' which allow astronomers to see light from the host star dim slightly at regular intervals every time the planet passes between us and the distant star. In the new study, the authors reverse this concept and ask, "How would an alien observer see the Solar System?" They identified parts of the distant sky from where various planets in our Solar System could be seen to pass in front of the Sun - so-called 'transit zones' -- concluding that the terrestrial planets (Mercury, Venus, Earth, and Mars) are actually much more likely to be spotted than the more distant 'Jovian' planets (Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, and Neptune), despite their much larger size. To look for worlds where civilisations would have the best chance of spotting our Solar System, the astronomers looked for parts of the sky from which more than one planet could be seen crossing the face of the Sun. They found that three planets at most could be observed from anywhere outside of the Solar System, and that not all combinations of three planets are possible.
IBM

Lenovo Looks To Commemorate 25th Anniversary of IBM's Notebook Brand With Thinkpad 25 (theregister.co.uk) 132

New submitter Provocateur writes: Lenovo will be marking the 25th anniversary of IBM's well known notebook with the Thinkpad 25. Andrew Orlowski writes via The Register: "The long-awaited 'retro' Thinkpad will be based on the guts of a contemporary T470 laptop, Lenovo's business workhorse, according to a German certification site. Lenovo inherited IBM's notebook brand 12 years ago, and with it a design classic. However, in 2012 Lenovo saw fit to 'modernize' the iconic keyboard, along with other unwelcome changes. This didn't meet with approval from some stalwarts, who clung to the superior X220 and T420 lines, the last that you could buy with the 7 row QWERTY. Two years ago Lenovo's design chief Dave Hill acknowledged that some people 'would stand in line' for the classic version. In June, Hill confirmed that for the Thinkpad's 25th anniversary this year a retro edition would indeed be produced, which Hill promised 'will embody many of the things people asked for.'

The German certification site has found the 'Thinkpad 25' variant described as a Thinkpad T470 here (hat-tip to NoteBook Check). A Chinese notebook forum has a picture purporting to be the Thinkpad 25."

Earth

Hurricane Irma Reaches 185 MPH, Trailing Only Allen As Strongest Atlantic Storm On Record (arstechnica.com) 318

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: We are quickly running out of adjectives to describe the destructive potential of Hurricane Irma. As of 2pm ET on Tuesday, the National Hurricane Center upgraded the storm's sustained winds to 185mph. This is near-record speed for a storm in the Atlantic basin, which includes the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and Gulf of Mexico. Such high, sustained winds tie Irma for the second-strongest storm on record in the Atlantic, along with Hurricane Wilma (2005), Hurricane Gilbert (1998), and the 1935 Florida Keys hurricane. Only Hurricane Allen, which reached 190 mph in 1980 before striking a relatively unpopulated area of Texas, reached a higher wind speed. Globally, the all-time record for hurricanes is held by Patricia, which reached a staggering 215 mph in the Pacific Ocean in 2015. Although sustained winds capture the most public attention, meteorologists generally measure the intensity of a storm based upon central pressures, which are considerably lower than sea-level pressure on Earth, 1,013 millibars. Typhoon Tip, in 1979, holds this record at 870 millibars. For now, at least, Irma has a relatively high central pressure of 927 millibars. Why the storm has such an odd wind-speed-pressure relationship isn't entirely clear. According to the National Hurricane Center, Irma is expected to bring catastrophic winds and potential storm surges to the U.S. Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic, and the UK territory of Turks and Caicos this week. The Florida Keys could get hit by late Saturday night or Sunday.
Programming

Solve a 'Simple' Chess Puzzle, Win $1 Million (st-andrews.ac.uk) 125

An anonymous reader brings an important announcement: Researchers at the University of St Andrews have thrown down the gauntlet to computer programmers to find a solution to a "simple" chess puzzle which could, in fact, take thousands of years to solve, and net a $1 million prize. Computer Scientist Professor Ian Gent and his colleagues, at the University of St Andrews, believe any program capable of solving the famous "Queens Puzzle" efficiently would be so powerful, it would be capable of solving tasks currently considered impossible, such as decrypting the toughest security on the internet. In a paper [PDF] published in the Journal of Artificial Intelligence Research today, the team conclude the rewards to be reaped by such a program would be immense, not least in financial terms with firms rushing to use it to offer technological solutions, and also a $1 million prize offered by the Clay Mathematics Institute in America.

Devised in 1850, the Queens Puzzle originally challenged a player to place eight queens on a standard chessboard so that no two queens could attack each other. This means putting one queen in each row, so that no two queens are in the same column, and no two queens in the same diagonal. Although the problem has been solved by human beings, once the chess board increases to a large size no computer program can solve it.

Android

LG Announces V30 Smartphone With 'FullVision' OLED Display, Dual Cameras (phonedog.com) 45

At a press conference in Berlin, LG announced their newest flagship smartphone, the LG V30. The V30 doesn't feature a removable battery or a secondary display like its predecessor, but it does feature faster performance and a significantly redesigned build construction that puts in more in line with Samsung and Apple's offerings. PhoneDog reports: A bigger device with beefier specs, the LG's V series took more design cues from the G series this year more than ever. As expected, LG got rid of the secondary display in favor of a single 6-inch LG P-OLED display (not Super AMOLED, although practically the same with rich black and vibrant colors). The V30 switches out its secondary display for slimmer bezels, which may prove to be a smart move considering how popular the concept is this year. Specs look pretty solid, although there were reports that the device would feature 6GB of RAM rather than 4GB. The bread and butter of the V30 are its sophisticated audio and its dual rear camera set-up. Speaking of the back of the device, another small advantage that LG may have over the competition is the center placement of its rear fingerprint sensor, which has been a bit of a pain point for Samsung this year with the S8 and the Note 8. The LG V30 is set to release on September 21 in South Korea, with releases in North America, Asia, Africa, and Europe following shortly after. LG also has yet to announce a price for the V30, although rumors peg it to be around 800,000 KRW in South Korea (which equates to about $699 in the U.S.). For those interested, GSMArena has a full spec sheet available for the LG V30. Some of the noteworthy specs include a 6-inch LG P-OLED display with an 18:9 aspect ratio and QHD (1440 x 2880) resolution, Snapdragon 835 processor with 4GB RAM, dual 16-megapixel/13-megapixel rear-facing camera sensors, headphone jack, 32-bit/192kHz audio, wireless charging and Android 7.1.2 Nougat.
China

China Plans 600 MPH Train To Rival Elon Musk's Hyperloop (shanghaiist.com) 159

In addition to relaunching the world's fastest bullet train, China is working on developing technology similar to Elon Musk's Hyperloop, which will allow passengers to travel at speeds up to 4,000 km/h (~2,500 mph). The first stage of the company's plan, however, will be to create a network of these "flying trains" operating at 1,000 km/h (~600 mph). Shanghaiist reports: Earlier today, the China Aerospace Science and Industry Corporation (CASIC), one of the nation's major space contractors, announced that it had begun research and development into a new, futuristic type of transport which would operate via supersonic "near ground flight." The system would presumably be similar to that of the Hyperloop, proposed earlier this decade by Elon Musk, in which capsules would fly at ultrafast speeds down reduced-pressure tubes, dramatically reducing travel times. Of course, the CASIC isn't looking to reach speeds of 4,000 km/h right away. The first stage of the company's plan will be to create an intercity network of these "flying trains" operating at 1,000 km/h. In the second phase, this network would be extended and the max speed of the pods increased to 2,000 km/h. Finally, in the third stage, the speed would be boosted all the way up to 4,000 km/h -- five times the speed of civil aviation aircraft today.
AMD

New Ryzen Running Stable On Linux, Threadripper Builds Kernel In 36 Seconds (phoronix.com) 186

An anonymous reader writes: After AMD confirmed the a "performance marginality problem" affecting some Ryzen Linux users, RMAs are being issued and replacement Ryzen processors arriving for affected opensource fans. Phoronix has been able to confirm that the new Ryzen CPUs are running stable without the segmentation fault problem that would occur under very heavy workloads. They have also been able to test now the Ryzen Threadripper 1950X. The Threadripper 1950X on Linux is unaffected by any issues unless you count the lack of a thermal reporting driver. With the 32 threads under Linux they have been able to build the Linux kernel in just about a half minute.
Social Networks

People Are Complete Suckers For Online Reviews (nypost.com) 162

schwit1 shared an article from the New York Post: No reviews, no revenue. That's the key takeaway from a new study published in Psychological Science, which finds that if two similar products have the same rating, online shoppers will buy the one with more reviews... "[When] faced with a choice between two low-scoring products, one with many reviews and one with few, the statistics say we should actually go for the product with few reviews, since there's more of a chance it's not really so bad," wrote researcher Derek Powell of Stanford University, lead author of the report. In other words, when there's only a handful of reviews, a few bad ones break the curve and bring down the overall rating. "But participants in our studies did just the opposite: They went for the more popular product, despite the fact that they should've been even more certain it was of low quality," he wrote.

Matt Moog, CEO of PowerReviews, previously conducted a study with Northwestern University [PDF] that drew from an even larger data pool of 400 million consumers, which also found that the more reviews there are of a product, the more likely it is that a customer will purchase that product... He has also found that customers who read reviews often click the bad ones first. "They want to read what's the worst thing people have to say about this," he said... Most online shoppers (97 percent to be exact) say reviews influence their buying decisions, according to Fan & Fuel Digital Marketing Group, which also found that 92 percent of consumers will hesitate to buy something if it has no customer reviews at all.

Space

New Kind of Gravitational Wave Source Detected? (nature.com) 81

"Scientists possibly detected an entirely different type of gravitational wave [source]," writes schwit1. "Gossip over potential detection of colliding neutron stars has astronomers in a tizzy," reports Nature: Astrophysicists may have detected gravitational waves last week from the collision of two neutron stars in a distant galaxy -- and telescopes trained on the same region might also have spotted the event. Rumours to that effect are spreading fast online, much to researchers' excitement. Such a detection could mark a new era of astronomy: one in which phenomena are both seen by conventional telescopes and 'heard' as vibrations in the fabric of space-time. "It would be an incredible advance in our understanding," says Stuart Shapiro, an astrophysicist at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign...

The Laser Interferometer Gravitational-Wave Observatory (LIGO) in Louisiana and Washington state has three times detected gravitational waves -- ripples in the fabric of space-time -- emerging from colliding black holes. But scientists have been hoping to detect ripples from another cosmic cataclysm, such as the merger of neutron stars, remnants of large stars that exploded but were not massive enough to collapse into a black hole.

One astronomer tweeted last week that "merging neutron-neutron star is the initial call," while Nature adds that the same rumor had already been circulating privately, according to "some astronomers who do not want to be identified."

Friday Ligo announced cautiously that "We are working hard to assure that the candidates are valid gravitational-wave events, and it will require time to establish the level of confidence needed to bring any results to the scientific community and the greater public. We will let you know as soon we have information ready to share."
Businesses

Amazon Tests Two-Hour Booze Delivery In 12 US Cities (foodandwine.com) 74

An anonymous reader quotes SFGate: Thanks to the Prime Now service, Amazon will now deliver booze to the home, failing house party, mundane family brunch, or other occasion of Prime members in the Bay Area. While Prime Now (a delivery service that comes with a $99 annual Prime membership) is available in 30 different cities across the U.S., the alcohol delivery service can only be accessed in a select 12 of those 30, including San Francisco... Two-hour delivery on booze is free of charge, but if you find yourself in a truly desperate situation, one-hour delivery is available for an extra $7.99. ID's are checked upon delivery by couriers.

A minimum of $30 is required for a delivery, which shouldn't be a problem to hit seeing that prices are slightly higher than standard for what you'd find in your corner liquor store. $26 for a 12-pack of Coronas, $15 for a six-pack of Angry Orchard, and $23 for a bottle of chardonnay, for example... Delivery hours match those of regular Prime Now services, which run from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m.

Amazon is competing with local liquor-delivery services in the Bay Area, according to the article, as well local services in the Phoenix metropolitan area. Amazon began testing liquor deliveries in March in two Ohio cities, then slowly began rolling it out to more, according to Food & Wine magazine (which has a complete list of the 12 cities). "Unlike other markets such as Seattle, which was the first to get alcohol delivery via Prime Now back in 2015, and Manhattan, which just got Prime Now alcohol delivery this past June, Portland can only order beer and wine, and not spirits, through the service. If Portlanders want spirits in a hurry, they'll have to hunt it down a different way like some sort of bourbon-loving caveman."

Amazon is also testing two-hour liquor deliveries in Los Angeles, Chicago, Minneapolis, San Diego, and Richmond, Virginia.
Open Source

How Open Source Advocates Celebrated The 26th Anniversary of Linux (linux.com) 99

To celebrate Linux's 26th anniversary, the Linux Foundation tweeted a picture of Tux on a birthday cake, and linked to an essay on OpenSource.com by FreeDOS founder Jim Hall: My first Linux distribution was Softlanding Linux System (SLS) 1.03, with Linux kernel 0.99 alpha patch level 11. That required a whopping 2MB of RAM, or 4MB if you wanted to compile programs, and 8MB to run X windows... To celebrate, I reinstalled SLS 1.05 to remind myself what the Linux 1.0 kernel was like and to recognize how far Linux has come since the 1990s.
"Getting X windows to perform was not exactly easy..." Hall writes, adding "the concept of a desktop didn't exist yet." Meanwhile Phoronix celebrated by republishing that fateful email Linus Torvalds sent on August 25, 1991. And Fossbytes shared the most recent statistics about modern-day Linux's 20 million lines of code from the Linux Foundation: During the period between the 3.19 and 4.7 releases, the kernel community was merging changes at an average rate of 7.8 patches per hour; that is a slight increase from the 7.71 patches per hour seen in the previous version of this report, and a continuation of the longterm trend toward higher patch volumes.

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