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sciencehabit (1205606) writes "Using a single pollinated pine seed, researchers have sequenced the entire genome of the loblolly pine tree--and it's a doozy. The tree's genome is largest yet sequenced: 22.18 billion base pairs, more than seven times longer than the human genome. The team found that 82% of the genome was made up of duplicated segments, compared with just 25% in humans. The researchers also identified genes responsible for important traits such as disease resistance, wood formation, and stress response."
An anonymous reader writes "Whether he's debating creationists, taking selfies with President Obama, or 'Dancing with the Stars,' Bill Nye the Science Guy is no stranger to the spotlight. But what about the man behind the public persona? How did Bill Nye become the Science Guy?(video) Bill Nye has made his debut on the PBS series, The Secret Life of Scientists and Engineers, to reveal the story of how he rose from being a young comedian from Seattle to becoming a science icon. In his profile, Bill Nye talks about his early days impersonating Steve Martin, why bow-ties are important in the lab (and with the ladies), and how Carl Sagan's advice helped to shape his hit television show."
cartechboy (2660665) writes "Two University of Southern California grads were looking to start a digital content company so they decided to roll the dice and create a home-made (but incredibly professional looking) television commercial for Tesla — just to see if they could get some attention for it. Well, apparently, mission accomplished. R.J. Collins and James Khabushani took $1,500 and created a 60-second Tesla 'faux-mercial' dubbed 'Modern Spaceship' that is well, pretty good. Elon Musk noticed, tweeted it and has helped the thing go viral."
wiredmikey (1824622) writes "Symantec on Thursday announced that CEO Steve Bennett was terminated by the security company and has been replaced by Michael Brown as interim president and CEO. Bennett, who also resigned from Symantec's board of directors, took the top position at Symantec in July 2012, after former president and CEO Enrique Salem was pushed out by the Board of Directors. In April 2013, Bennett, told attendees at its own Vision Conference, that the company was changing, and acknowledged that Symantec 'lacked strategy' when it came to dealing with acquisitions. His plan was to move the company forward slowly, but consistently and make Symantec easier to do business with. That strategy, or at least the execution of it, hasn't impressed the board of directors, it seems."
First time accepted submitter taiwanjohn (103839) writes "One of the first articles on Nate Silver's highly anticipated data-driven news site used flawed data to make its conclusions, according to some of the nation's top climate scientists. Silver's FiveThirtyEight published its first article about climate change on Wednesday, entitled 'Disasters Cost More Than Ever — But Not Because of Climate Change.' But climate scientists are condemning the article and its author, Roger Pielke Jr., saying he ignored critical data to produce a 'deeply misleading' result. The crux of Pielke's article is this: Extreme weather events are costing us more and more money, but that is not because climate change is making extreme weather more frequent or intense. The reason we are losing more money, rather, is because we have more money to lose. Pielke came to this conclusion by measuring rising disaster damage costs alongside the rising global Gross Domestic Product. He also cited a U.N. climate report, along with his own research, to assert that extreme weather events have not been increasing in frequency or intensity."
v3rgEz (125380) writes "With a Freedom of Information Act request, MuckRock has received copies of two of the guides Homeland Security uses to monitor social media, one on standard procedures and a desktop binder for analysts.
Now asking for help to go through it: See something worth digging into? Say something, and share it with others so we know what to FOIA next."
MojoKid (1002251) writes "Intel used the backdrop of the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco to make a handful of interesting announcements that run the gamut from low-power technologies to ultra-high-end desktop chips. In addition to outing a number of upcoming processors—from an Anniversary Edition Pentium to a monster 8-core Haswell-E — Intel also announced a new technology dubbed Ready Mode. Intel's Ready Mode essentially allows a 4th Gen Core processor to enter a low C7 power state, while the OS and other system components remain connected and ready for action. Intel demoed the technology, and along with compatible third party applications and utilities, showed how Ready Mode can allow a mobile device to automatically sync to a PC to download and store photos. The PC could also remain in a low power state and stream media, server up files remotely, or receive VOIP calls. Also, in a move that's sure to get enthusiasts excited, Intel revealed details regarding Haswell-E. Similar to Ivy Bridge-E and Sandy Bridge-E, Haswell-E is the 'extreme' variant of the company's Haswell microarchitecture. Haswell-E Core i7-based processors will be outfitted with up to eight processor cores, which will remain largely unchanged from current Haswell-based chips. However, the new CPU will connect to high-speed DDR4 memory and will be paired to the upcoming Intel X99 chipset. Other details were scarce, but you can bet that Haswell-E will be Intel's fastest desktop processor to date when it arrives sometime in the second half of 2014. Intel also gave a quick nod to their upcoming 14nm Broadwell CPU architecture, a follow-on to Haswell. Broadwell will be the first Intel desktop processor to feature integrated Iris Pro Graphics and will also be compatible with Intel Series 9 chipsets."
An anonymous reader writes "Following the release of Firefox 28 just two days ago, Mozilla today updated its Firefox Beta channel to version 29 for Windows, Mac, Linux, and Android. This is a massive release: Firefox Sync has been revamped and is now powered by Firefox Accounts, there's a new customization mode, and the major user interface overhaul Australis has finally arrived. Release notes are here: Desktop and Android." Of interest to developers: Firefox 29 will feature the first implementation of CSS3 variables. Yes, variables for CSS (15 years later).
This is wide-ranging interview with Dev Patel and Poulomi Damany of BitYota, an Analytics as a Service startup that works specifically with MongoDB. Open Source? Not yet. But hopefully soon, they say. And why should an IT person or programmer care about marketing-oriented analytics? Because the more you know about functions in your company besides IT (such as finance, investor relations, and -- yes -- marketing), the more valuable you are as an employee. Dev also mentions the two main things he looks for when recruiting for BitYota: "One is intellect, and the other is attitude." He points out that this is not true merely of BitYota, but of any strong startup. This is all good information for any job-seeker hoping to land a spot with a startup -- and for anyone who is happy with where he or she works but hopes to earn promotions and raises, too.
itwbennett (1594911) writes "For the past several months Tor developers have unsuccessfully been trying to convince Apple to remove from its iOS App Store what they believe to be a fake and potentially malicious Tor Browser application. According to subsequent messages on the bug tracker, a complaint was filed with Apple on Dec. 26 with Apple reportedly responding on Jan. 3 saying it would give a chance to the app's developer to defend it. More than two months later, the Tor Browser app created by a developer named Ronen is available still in the App Store. The issue came into the public spotlight Wednesday when people involved in the Tor Project took to Twitter to make their concerns heard. Apple did not respond to IDG News Service's request for comment."
alokmenghrajani (2602135) writes with news of Facebook's new Open Source language, Hack. Quoting: "Today we're releasing Hack, a programming language we developed for HHVM that interoperates seamlessly with PHP. Hack reconciles the fast development cycle of PHP with the discipline provided by static typing, while adding many features commonly found in other modern programming languages. ... Traditionally, dynamically typed languages allow for rapid development but sacrifice the ability to catch errors early and introspect code quickly, particularly on larger codebases. Conversely, statically typed languages provide more of a safety net, but often at the cost of quick iteration. We believed there had to be a sweet spot. ... Hack has deep roots in PHP. In fact, most PHP files are already valid Hack files. ... Our principal addition is static typing. We have developed a system to annotate function signatures and class members with type information; our type checking algorithm infers the rest. Type checking is incremental, such that even within a single file some code can be converted to Hack while the rest remains dynamically typed. ... If a function parameter or class member does not have an explicit type annotation, the type checker considers its type to be dynamic, and it does not check the type of that value." In addition to static typing, they've introduced proper closures that capture the lexical environment, generics, collections, and array shapes. The Hack website has more details. There's a fairly complete language manual, tools to infer types in PHP source and annotate the code, and source available under the PHP license.
Trailrunner7 (1100399) writes "Perhaps no company has been as vocal with its feelings about the revelations about the NSA's collection methods as Google has, and the company has been making a series of changes to its infrastructure in recent months to make it more difficult for adversaries to snoop on users' sessions. The biggest of those changes landed Thursday when the company switched its Gmail service to HTTPS only, enforcing SSL encryption on all Gmail connections. The change is a significant one, especially given the fact that Google also has encrypted all of the links between its data centers. Those two modifications mean that Gmail messages are encrypted from the time they leave a user's machine to the time they leave Google's infrastructure. This makes life much more difficult for anyone—including the NSA–who is trying to snoop on those Gmail sessions." GMail also does TLS for SMTP, but regrettably Talk (what's left of it) does not do TLS for XMPP server-to-server connections, effectively forcing XMPP server admins to lower their security if they want to federate with Google.
waderoush (1271548) writes "A blog post at OLPC News last week went viral with the claim that the nine-year-old One Laptop Per Child project is dead. Media outlets quickly controverted the assertion, but the response from the OLPC Association itself was brief, saying that its mission is 'far from over' and citing ongoing projects to distribute laptops in Central America. In a more lengthy Q&A this week, OLPC chairman and CEO Rodrigo Arboleda says the organization has achieved many of its goals, including demonstrating the value of the 'Constructionist' 1:1 learning philosophy originally espoused by Negroponte. With 2.5 million laptops distributed so far, the OLPC vision is 'on track to being fully realized,' Arboleda says. He sees 'commercial greed' and a 'status-quo mentality' within ministries of education and teachers' unions as the main hurdles holding back faster progress."
Related to yesterday's story about the NSA, Advocatus Diaboli (1627651) writes with this excerpt from The Guardian: "Rajesh De, the NSA general counsel, said all communications content and associated metadata harvested by the NSA under a 2008 surveillance law occurred with the knowledge of the companies – both for the internet collection program known as Prism and for the so-called 'upstream' collection of communications moving across the Internet. ... nearly all the companies listed as participating in the program – Yahoo, Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook and AOL – claimed they did not know about a surveillance practice described as giving NSA vast access to their customers’ data. Some, like Apple, said they had 'never heard' the term Prism. De explained: 'Prism was an internal government term that as the result of leaks became the public term,' De said. 'Collection under this program was a compulsory legal process, that any recipient company would receive.'"
Via Bits from Debian, comes news that the security team is considering adding a Long Term Support suite for Squeeze (Debian 6) after Jessie (Debian 8) is released sometime next year. From the mailing list post:
"At the moment it seems likely that an extended security support
timespan for squeeze is possible. The plan is to go ahead, sort out
the details as as it happens, and see how this works out and whether
it is going to be continued with wheezy.
The rough draft is that updates will be delivered via a separate
suite (e.g. squeeze-lts), where everyone in the Debian keyring can
upload in order to minimise bottlenecks and allow contributions by
all interested parties. Some packages will be exempted upfront due
to their volatile nature (e.g. some web applications) and others
might be expected to see important changes. The LTS suite will be
limited to amd64 and i386. The exact procedures will be sorted out
soon and announced in a separate mail. ... It needs to be pointed out that for this effort to be sustainable
actual contributions by interested parties are required. squeeze-lts
is not something that will magically fall from the sky. If you're
dependent/interested in extended security support you should make an
effort to contribute."
If successful, the LTS idea would possibly be carried over to Wheezy. With all of the changes coming in Jessie and its aggressive release schedule, this sysadmin really likes the idea of having a bit more breathing room for updating infrastructure between releases. The email also contains a bunch of other info on changes coming to the security process.
In related news, the Debian Installer team announced the first alpha of debian-installer for Jessie. Just the installer, not the distro as a whole (Jessie will be frozen in November). XFCE remains the default desktop, ia64 was kicked out of the archive, and a few new ARM variants are supported.
Rambo Tribble (1273454) writes "Coronal mass ejections, with severity comparable to the 1859 Carrington event, missed Earth by only 9 days in 2012, according to researchers. The Carrington event caused widespread damage to the telegraph system in the U.S., and a similar occurrence would be devastating to modern electronics, it is thought. From the Reuters article, 'Had it hit Earth, it probably would have been like the big one in 1859, but the effect today, with our modern technologies, would have been tremendous.' The potential global cost for such damage is pegged at $2.6 trillion."
An anonymous reader writes "Changes to the Russian Civil Code, which include the recognition of open licenses, the right for libraries to generate digital copies of certain works, were now signed by the Russian President and come into force on October 1st. According to Wikimedia-RU member Linar Khalitov, 'these changes are a result of a lot of hard work on behalf of Wikimedia-RU ... proposing, discussing and defending amendments to the Code.'" The changes are pretty major: licenses no longer require a written contract to be enforced, and published works can no longer be retracted. The two combine to give Wikipedia RU authors stronger author rights. Pictures of architectural objects can be used freely without the permission of the architect, which will allow many images that were pulled from the Wikimedia Commons to return, and new projects to add pictures of monuments to go forward.
J. Michael Straczynski has written Thor, World War Z, and Changeling among many other films. He created Babylon 5 and has worked on numerous comic book titles including Superman and The Amazing Spider-Man. Most recently, he has teamed up with the Wachowskis for an original Netflix sci-fi series, Sense8 . He's agreed to take a break from his busy schedule in order to answer any questions you may have. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one question per post.
itwbennett (1594911) writes "The software driving Bitcoin's network was upgraded Wednesday, with security fixes addressing a problem that defunct bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox blamed for losing nearly half a billion dollars worth of bitcoins. The latest version of bitcoin's software, 0.9.0, contains more than a half dozen fixes for transaction malleability, according to the release notes for the software. Bitcoin Core also contains a new feature for payment requests. Previously, merchants couldn't attach a note describing an invoice, and people also could not supply a refund address to a merchant. The latest version automatically supplies a refund address." This wouldn't have prevented the Mt. Gox implosion since they weren't using the reference implementation. The foundation also renamed the software to "Bitcoin Core" to avoid confusion between Bitcoin-the-network and Bitcoin-the-reference-implementation,
Beeftopia (1846720) writes "The New York Genome Center and IBM will investigate whether Watson can be used to parse cancer genome data and then recommend treatments. The trial involves 20 to 25 glioblastoma patients with poor prognoses. The article states, 'It should theoretically be possible to analyze [genomic] data and use it to customize a treatment that targets the specific mutations present in tumor cells. But right now, doing so requires a squad of highly trained geneticists, genomics experts, and clinicians. It's a situation that can't scale to handle the [number of] patients with glioblastoma, much less other cancers. Instead, that gusher of information is going to be pointed at Watson... Watson will figure out which mutations are distinct to the tumor, what protein networks they effect, and which drugs target proteins that are part of those networks. The net result will be a picture of the biochemical landscape inside the tumor cells, along with some suggestions on how clinicians might consider intervening to change the landscape.'"
New submitter dalias (1978986) writes "The musl libc project has released version 1.0, the result of three years of development and testing. Musl is a lightweight, fast, simple, MIT-licensed, correctness-oriented alternative to the GNU C library (glibc), uClibc, or Android's Bionic. At this point musl provides all mandatory C99 and POSIX interfaces (plus a lot of widely-used extensions), and well over 5000 packages are known to build successfully against musl.
Several options are available for trying musl. Compiler toolchains are available from the musl-cross project, and several new musl-based Linux distributions are already available (Sabotage and Snowflake, among others). Some well-established distributions including OpenWRT and Gentoo are in the process of adding musl-based variants, and others (Aboriginal, Alpine, Bedrock, Dragora) are adopting musl as their default libc." The What's New file contains release notes (you have to scroll to the bottom). There's also a handy chart comparing muscl to other libc implementations: it looks like musl is a better bet than dietlibc and uclibc for embedded use.
SmartAboutThings (1951032) writes "Alex Kibkalo, a former Microsoft employee has been arrested yesterday for stealing and leaking company secrets. The former software architecture engineer is accused of leaking early Windows 8 builds to a French tech blogger with whom he was communicating inside a forum. The ex-Microsoft employee also stands accused of leaking some Windows 7 program files and also an internal system meant to protect against software piracy. Kibkalo is said to have leaked the Windows 8 code in the middle of 2012 because he was angry over a poor performance review."
Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "Like something out of the movie Inception, Rhiannon Williams reports in the Telegraph that Dr. Rebecca Roache, in charge of a team of scholars focused upon the ways futuristic technologies might transform punishment, claims the prison sentences of serious criminals could be made worse by distorting prisoners' minds into thinking time was passing more slowly. 'There are a number of psychoactive drugs that distort people's sense of time, so you could imagine developing a pill or a liquid that made someone feel like they were serving a 1,000-year sentence,' says Roache. Roache says when she began researching this topic, she was thinking a lot about Daniel Pelka, a four-year-old boy who was starved and beaten to death by his mother and stepfather.
'I had wondered whether the best way to achieve justice in cases like that was to prolong death as long as possible. Some crimes are so bad they require a really long period of punishment, and a lot of people seem to get out of that punishment by dying. And so I thought, why not make prison sentences for particularly odious criminals worse by extending their lives?' Thirty years in prison is currently the most severe punishment available in the UK legal system. 'To me, these questions about technology are interesting because they force us to rethink the truisms we currently hold about punishment. When we ask ourselves whether it's inhumane to inflict a certain technology on someone, we have to make sure it's not just the unfamiliarity that spooks us,' says Roache. 'Is it really OK to lock someone up for the best part of the only life they will ever have, or might it be more humane to tinker with their brains and set them free? When we ask that question, the goal isn't simply to imagine a bunch of futuristic punishments — the goal is to look at today's punishments through the lens of the future.'"
An anonymous reader writes "China is reportedly now using 4 drones to spy on polluting industries, according to The Guardian. The unmanned aircraft can cover 70 sqkm during a two hour flight. According to the state-run China Daily newspaper the drones have helped the ministry 'resolve' over 200 environment-linked cases. The Ministry of Environmental Protection claims that it can tell the type of smokestacks to crack down upon from the color of the smoke."
theodp writes "Touring a high school with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel, Google Chairman Eric Schmidt informed students they're eating Google 'dog food' because Microsoft's costs money. 'Why would we use Google Docs over like Microsoft Word?' a teacher asked the class. 'Because it's free!' exclaimed a grinning Schmidt. 'Schmidt's comment,' writes GeekWire's Blair Hanley Frank, 'highlights one of the risks Microsoft faces in the academic world. While Microsoft has started offering schools incentives to use Office 365, including free licenses for their pupils, the company is under greater pressure from its competitors. As more schools like Chicago's face budget shortfalls, free and discounted products from companies like Google and Apple, especially when attached to financial assistance, start looking better and better.' Chicago Teachers Union president Karen Lewis said she'd rather see companies pay more in taxes and fund schools that way, rather than relying on their charity or free software."
kc123 writes "The UK government has announced plans to create the Alan Turing Institute intended to tackle problems in Big Data. The government will provide £42m over five years for the project. Turing was a pivotal figure in mathematics and computing. His codebreaking work led to the cracking of the German 'Enigma' codes. In December 2013, after a series of public campaigns, Turing received a posthumous royal pardon, for a conviction of homosexual activity in 1952."
sciencehabit writes "A newly described dinosaur might look like a chicken, but don't be fooled: It was nearly 4 meters long, weighed about 250 kilograms, and lived 66 million years ago in what is today the Hell Creek rock formation in North and South Dakota. That's why its discoverers are calling it the 'chicken from hell,' and indeed it was related to early birds and to feathered, birdlike dinos that brooded over their nests, such as Oviraptor. The creature had a toothless beak, sharp claws, and a tall crest on top of its head. It is the largest Oviraptor-like dinosaur found in North America."