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sciencehabit (1205606) writes "Wood is great for building and heating homes, but it's the bane of biofuels. When converting plants to fuels, engineers must remove a key component of wood, known as lignin, to get to the sugary cellulose that's fermented into alcohols and other energy-rich compounds. That's costly because it normally requires high temperatures and caustic chemicals. Now, researchers in the United States and Canada have modified the lignin in poplar trees to self-destruct under mild processing conditions—a trick that could slash the cost of turning plant biomass into biofuels."
jones_supa (887896) writes "A new Northwestern Medicine study reports the timing, intensity and duration of your light exposure during the day is linked to your weight — the first time this has been shown. People who had most of their daily exposure to even moderately bright light in the morning had a significantly lower body mass index (BMI) than those who had most of their light exposure later in the day, the study found. It accounted for about 20 percent of a person's BMI and was independent of an individual's physical activity level, caloric intake, sleep timing, age or season. About 20 to 30 minutes of morning light is enough to affect BMI. The senior author Phyllis C. Zee rationalizes this by saying that light is the most potent agent to synchronize your internal body clock that regulates circadian rhythms, which in turn also regulate energy balance. The study was small and short. It included 54 participants (26 males, 28 females), an average age of 30. They wore a wrist actigraphy monitor that measured their light exposure and sleep parameters for seven days in normal-living conditions. Their caloric intake was determined from seven days of food logs. The study was published April 2 in the journal PLOS ONE. Giovanni Santostasi, a research fellow in neurology at Feinberg, is a co-lead author."
An anonymous reader writes "Are pro gamers good because they're good, or just because their usernames make you think they are? New scientific research suggests it may actually be a little bit of both. What's most interesting about this isn't what it says about current players, but how up and coming gamers will choose their own handles in future, both to intimidate opponents — and pull in the audiences that help subsidize their budding careers."
itwbennett (1594911) writes "Hackathons have stirred up their share of controversy — mostly around too-big prizes and the inevitable cheating that follows. But for some developers they also can be the ultimate job interview — not just a coding test, but an opportunity to show off your people skills. Take the case of the January 2014 GlobalHack contest in St. Louis that was initially attended by several hundred programmers. The story of the contest isn't who took away the top $50,000 prize but about the other participants who didn't finish in the money but came away with something else that is arguably more important."
Lasrick (2629253) writes "Brian Merchant at Motherboard examines the March 26th House Committee on Science, Space, and Technology's 2015 budget request hearing. White House adviser Dr. John Holdren addressed the committee to defend funding for science programs. Video clips show comments that are difficult to believe, when you hear them. From the article: '"So, when you guys do your research, you start with a scientific—what do they call it—postulate or theory, and you work from that direction forward, is that right?" Representative Randy Weber (R-TX) said. "So, I'm just wondering how that related, for example, to global warming and eventual global cooling." He paused to make a joke about getting the scientists' cell phone number so he could call to ask when to buy a coat, before concluding that science just isn't up to the task.'"
PaisteUser (810863) writes with news about a new, hyper-accurate atomic clock unveiled by the National Institute of Standards and Technology. "A new atomic clock, so accurate it will lose or gain only one second every 300 million years, was unveiled Thursday by the National Institute of Standards and Technology, a branch of the U.S. Department of Commerce. The NIST-F2 had been in development for about a decade and is three times more accurate than the F1, which has been in use since 1999. The institute will continue operating both clocks for now at its campus in Boulder, Colorado."
v3rgEz (125380) writes "Founders at a number of Boston startups shared their stories of building and growing a company while battling depression. One founder didn't even realize he was depressed until glucose and blood tests came back normal, while another said it was worse than her life struggles growing up in the projects. All shared different coping mechanisms. Any advice for dealing with the same?"
Obviously, the first performance enhancement you do on any computer you own is max out the RAM. RAM has gotten cheap, and adding more of it to almost any computer will make it faster without requiring any other modification (or any great skill). The next thing you need to do, says Larry O'Connor, the founder and CEO of Other World Computing (OWC), is move from a "platter" hard drive to a Solid State Drive (SSD). Larry's horse in this race is that his company sells SSDs, mostly for Macs. But he's a real evangelist about SSDs and computer mods in general, even if you buy them from NewEgg, Amazon or another vendor.
A big (vendor-neutral) thing Larry points out is that just because you have a Terabyte drive in your computer now doesn't mean you need a Terabyte SSD, which can easily cost $500. Rather, he says, all you need is a large enough SSD to contain your OS and software and whatever data you're working with at the moment, so you might be able to get by with a 120 GB SSD that costs well under $100. Clone your current main drive, stick in the new SSD, and if your need more storage, get another hard drive (or use your old one). Simple. Efficient. And a lot cheaper than buying a new computer, whether we're talking about home, business or even enterprise use. (Alternate video link.)
atrader42 (687933) writes "Microsoft announced a new .NET compiler that compiles .NET code to native code using the C++ compiler backend. It produces performance like C++ while still enabling .NET features like garbage collection, generics, and reflection. Popular apps have been measured to start up to 60% faster and use 15% less memory. The preview currently only supports Windows Store applications, but is expected to apply to more .NET applications in the long term. A preview of the compiler is available for download now. (Caveat: I both work for MS and read Slashdot.)"
New submitter matafagafo (1343219) writes with this news, straight from the Mozilla blog, which comes in the wake of controversy over Brendan Eich's polticial views (in particular, his support for California's Proposition 8, which would have reversed a decision legalizing same-sex marriage within the state). and how they would reflect on the organization : "Brendan Eich has chosen to step down from his role as CEO. He's made this decision for Mozilla and our community. Mozilla believes both in equality and freedom of speech. Equality is necessary for meaningful speech. And you need free speech to fight for equality. Figuring out how to stand for both at the same time can be hard ..."
KentuckyFC (1144503) writes "The single-celled organism slime mold, or Physarum polycephalum, is an extraordinary creature. It explores its world by extending protoplasmic tubes into its surroundings in search of food and it does this rather well. Various researchers have exploited this process to show how Physarum can find optimal routes between different places and even solve mazes. Now one researcher has worked out how to use these protoplasmic tubes as clock-like electronic oscillators. His experiment was straightforward. He encouraged the growth of protoplasmic tubes between two blobs of agar sitting on electrical contacts. He then measured the resistance of the tubes at various voltages. This turns out to be about 6 megaohms. But the results show something else too: that the resistance oscillates over a period of about 73 seconds. That's due to the tubes contracting as waves of calcium ions pass through them. So altering the period of oscillation should be possible by influencing the production of calcium ions, perhaps using light or biochemistry. Electronic oscillators are significant because they are basic drivers of almost all active electronic devices. But this guy's goal is bigger than this. The plan is to grow a "Physarum chip" that acts as a general purpose computer, a device that will need some kind of oscillator or clock to co-ordinate activity, just as in an ordinary processor, although speed will not be its chief characteristic."
jfruh (300774) writes "Bitcoin has made many governments and regulators uncomfortable, and the Chinese government is responding to the challenge it poses with its usual lack of subtlety. Two Chinese bitcoin exchanges have found themselves cut off from the money economy, as Chinese banks, under pressure from the government, refuse to do business with them."
Nerval's Lobster (2598977) writes "Amazon is serious about conquering the living room: the online retailer has launched Fire TV, a set-top box that not only allows viewers to stream content, but also play games. That streaming-and-gaming capability makes Amazon a threat to Apple, which rumors suggest is hard at work on an Apple TV capable of doing the same things. In addition, Fire TV puts the screws to other streaming hardware, including Roku and Google's Chromecast, as well as smaller game consoles such as Ouya (a $99, Android-based device). Much of Amazon's competitive muscle comes from its willingness to sell hardware for cheap (the Fire TV retails for $99) on the expectation that owners will use it to stream and download digital content from Amazon, including television shows and apps. Those developers who've developed Android games have an advantage when it comes to migrating software to Amazon's new platform. "Porting You Don't Know Jack was really like developing for Android, with the exception of the store and the new controller library," Jackbox Games Designer/Director Steve Heinrich told Gamasutra after the Fire TV announcement. "The store itself is the same as the Kindle version, which we've used many times now, and the way the controller works is very close to what we did for Ouya." While Fire TV could represent yet another opportunity for game developers looking to make a buck, it also raises a pressing question: with so many platforms out there (iOS, PC, etc.), how's an indie developer or smaller firm supposed to allocate time and resources to best advantage?"
vidarlo (134906) writes "A Norwegian skydiver, Anders Helstrup, caught a falling meteorite on video. This is the first reported instance in the world of his happening, and the rock fell close to the skydiver.
NRK writes: Although Helstrup is still not completely convinced that it was indeed a meteorite that flew past him, the experts are in no doubt.
“It can’t be anything else. The shape is typical of meteorites – a fresh fracture surface on one side, while the other side is rounded,” said geologist Hans Amundsen.
Although Helstrup is still not completely convinced that it was indeed a meteorite that flew past him, the experts are in no doubt.
The video in the article shows the metorite. It's in the dark flight phase, with low velocity."
Link to Original Source
curtwoodward (2147628) writes "In January, Boston University settled lawsuits against two dozen big technology companies for allegedly using its patented blue LED technology without permission. But apparently, the school's lawyers were a little too forthcoming for everyone's tastes — they recently asked a federal judge to delete a court filing that spelled out all of the companies who settled. Luckily, we still had the unredacted version, which shows that Apple, Amazon, Microsoft, Motorola and many more are on the list, even if they don't want you to know it."
Bruce Perens is a computer programmer and one of the most important advocates for the open source community. He co-founded the Open Source Initiative with ESR and has worked towards reforms of national and international technology policies. He is an amateur radio enthusiast, and has pushed for open radio communication standards. He is also our interview guest today. As usual, ask as many questions as you'd like, but please, one per post.
An anonymous reader writes "Researchers at New York University have devised a new scheme called PolyPassHash for storing password hash data so that passwords cannot be individually cracked by an attacker. Instead of a password hash being stored directly in the database, the information is used to encode a share in a Shamir Secret Store (technical details PDF). This means that a password cannot be validated without recovering a threshold of shares, thus an attacker must crack groups of passwords together. The solution is fast, easy to implement (with C and Python implementations available), requires no changes to clients, and makes a huge difference in practice. To put the security difference into perspective, three random 6 character passwords that are stored using standard salted secure hashes can be cracked by a laptop in an hour. With a PolyPassHash store, it would take every computer on the planet longer to crack these passwords than the universe is estimated to exist. With this new technique, HoneyWords, and hardware solutions all available, does an organization have any excuse if their password database is disclosed and user passwords are cracked?."
cartechboy (2660665) writes "Did you watch the Tesla 60 Minutes segment the other night? If you did, you might have ended up on the floor rolling around laughing like I did. Since when does the Tesla Model S electric car make audible engine noises? Or downshift? Turns out, 60 Minutes dubbed engine noises and a downshift over the Model S running footage. The show claims it was an editing error. Call it what you want, it was absolutely hilarious. A little note to TV producers assigned to cover Tesla Motors in the future: Electric cars don't upshift or downshift." At least they didn't fraudulently blow it up!
MojoKid (1002251) writes "Today, Qualcomm is announcing full support for a new wireless transmission method that could significantly boost performance on crowded networks. The new standard, MU-MIMO (Multiple User — Multiple Input and Multiple Output) has a clunky name — but could make a significant difference to home network speeds and make gigabit WiFi a practical reality. MU-MIMO is part of the 802.11ac Release 2 standard, so this isn't just a custom, Qualcomm-only feature. In SU-MIMO mode, a wireless router creates time slices for every device it detects on the network. Every active device on the network slows down the total system bandwidth — the router has to pay attention to every device, and it can only pay attention to one phone, tablet, or laptop at a time. The difference between single-user and multi-user configurations is that where SU can only serve one client at a time and can therefore only allocate a fraction of total bandwidth to any given device, MU can create groups of devices and communicate with all three simultaneously."
barlevg (2111272) writes "In a country where the government severely limits access to the world wide web, ZunZeneo, an anonymous SMS-based social network, drew more than 40,000 Cuban users at its peak, the Associated Press reports. On it, people shared news and opinions about music and culture. But what none of its subscribers knew was that the project was secretly funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), though a series of shell corporations and foreign bank accounts, and that its stated goal was 'renegotiate the balance of power between the state and society' in the Communist stronghold, hopefully leading to a 'Cuban Spring.'"
An anonymous reader writes "In an unprecedented total disruption of a fully operational GNSS constellation, all satellites in the Russian GLONASS broadcast corrupt information for 11 hours, from just past midnight until noon Russian time (UTC+4), on April 2 (or 5 p.m. on April 1 to 4 a.m. April 2, U.S. Eastern time). This rendered the system completely unusable to all worldwide GLONASS receivers."
First time accepted submitter TBerben (1061176) writes "The European Parliament has voted to accept the telecommunications reform bill. This bill simultaneously forbids mobile providers from charging roaming costs as of December 15, 2015 and guarantees net neutrality. Previous versions of the bill contained a much weaker definition of net neutrality, offering exemptions for 'specialized services,' but this was superseded in an amendment (original link, in Dutch) submitted by Dutch MEP Marietje Schaake (liberal fraction). Note that the legislation is not yet definitive: the Council of Ministers still has the deciding vote, but they are expected to follow the EP's vote."
Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "There have been many explanations for the zebra's impressive stripes including Darwin who thought that the stripes help males and females make sensible choices about whom they mate with. Now Henry Nicholls reports at The Guardian that Tim Caro at the University of California, Davis, has taken a completely original approach, stepping back from one species of zebra and attempting to account for the differences in patterning across different species and subspecies of zebras, horses and asses to see if there is anything about the habitat or ecology of these different equids that hints at the function of stripes. To answer that question, Caro and his colleagues created a detailed map charting the ranges of striped vs. non-striped species and subspecies. Then they worked on a map for the bloodsuckers that targeted those species — specifically, abanid biting flies (horse flies) and tsetse flies.
'I was amazed by our results,' says Caro. 'Again and again, there was greater striping on areas of the body in those parts of the world where there was more annoyance from biting flies.' Where there are tsetse flies, for instance, the equids tend to come in stripes. Where there aren't, they don't. Biologists who buy into the bug-repellent hypothesis say that, all other things being equal, striped animals would have an evolutionary advantage because they wouldn't suffer from the loss of blood, reduced weight gain and lowered milk production that's associated with bug bites. Tsetse flies are also associated with the transmission of diseases. 'There are a lot of them, such as sleeping sickness, equine anemia and equine influenza,' Caro says. Why would zebras evolve to have stripes whereas other hooved mammals did not? The study found that, unlike other African hooved mammals living in the same areas as zebras, zebra hair is shorter than the mouthpart length of biting flies, so zebras may be particularly susceptible to annoyance by biting flies. 'It's clear that the flies can get through that hair and get to the skin.'"
bsk_cw (1202181) writes "The W3C's Tracking Protection Working Group has been trying to come up with a way to make targeted ads acceptable to users and useful to advertisers — and so far, hasn't gotten very far. Computerworld's Robert Mitchell has interviewed people on all sides of the issue — consumer privacy advocates, vendors of ad-blocking tools, advertisers and website publishers — to try to unravel the issues and see if any solution is possible at all."
Hallie Siegel (2973169) writes "Here's stunning photos and incredible interactive aerial maps of the devastation, cleanup and reconstruction effort in the region around the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Adam Klaptocz of Drone Adventures in collaboration with Taichi Furuhashi, researcher at the Center for Spatial Information Science at the University of Tokyo show the current state of the region."