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Scientists Who Smuggle Radioactive Materials

Soulskill posted about a month and a half ago | from the probably-more-ethical-than-most-ways-they-can-get-funding dept.

Government 66

Lasrick writes: Although the complicity of scientists in the smuggling of radioactive materials has been a long-standing concern, smuggling-prevention efforts have so far failed to recognize a key aspect to the problem: scientists are often sought out to test the quality and level of the material well before it is taken to the black market. Egle Murauskaite of the U.S. National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) describes why concentrating on this aspect of the smuggling process, long considered less egregious than the actual selling of the material, could really make a difference in keeping radioactive materials off the black market in the first place.

Xbox One Will Play Media from USB Devices, DLNA Servers

Soulskill posted about a month and a half ago | from the revolution-will-not-be-streamed dept.

Media 112

New submitter Mauro sends word that Microsoft has announced upcoming Xbox One support for streaming media both from attached USB devices, such as flash drives, and DLNA media servers. Compatibility with a broad list of media formats will be added by the end of the year, including .MKV files. They also followed up last week's announcement of a digital TV tuner with an interesting twist: it will be able to stream broadcasts over a local network to devices running the Smartglass app, which is available on Windows, Android, and iOS.

New Watson-Style AI Called Viv Seeks To Be the First 'Global Brain'

Soulskill posted about a month and a half ago | from the siri-why-does-my-cat-throw-up-so-much? dept.

AI 161

paysonwelch sends this report from Wired on the next generation of consumer AI: Google Now has a huge knowledge graph—you can ask questions like "Where was Abraham Lincoln born?" And it can name the city. You can also say, "What is the population?" of a city and it’ll bring up a chart and answer. But you cannot say, "What is the population of the city where Abraham Lincoln was born?" The system may have the data for both these components, but it has no ability to put them together, either to answer a query or to make a smart suggestion. Like Siri, it can’t do anything that coders haven’t explicitly programmed it to do. Viv breaks through those constraints by generating its own code on the fly, no programmers required. Take a complicated command like "Give me a flight to Dallas with a seat that Shaq could fit in." Viv will parse the sentence and then it will perform its best trick: automatically generating a quick, efficient program to link third-party sources of information together—say, Kayak, SeatGuru, and the NBA media guide—so it can identify available flights with lots of legroom.

Getting IT Talent In Government Will Take Culture Change, Says Google Engineer

Soulskill posted about a month and a half ago | from the optimizing-for-the-wrong-thing dept.

Government 166

dcblogs writes: Mikey Dickerson, a site reliability engineer at Google, who was appointed Monday by the White House as the deputy federal CIO, will lead efforts to improve U.S. Websites. Dickerson, who worked on the Healthcare.gov rescue last year, said that one issue the government needs to fix is its culture. In describing his experience on the Healthcare.gov effort, he said the workplace was "not one that is optimized to get good work out of engineers." It was a shirt-and-tie environment, and while Dickerson said cultural issues may sound superficial, they are still real. "You don't have to think that the engineers are the creative snowflakes and rock stars that they think they are, you don't have to agree with any of that," Dickerson said in a recent conference presentation posted online. "I'm just telling you that's how they think of themselves, and if you want access to more of them, finding a way to deal with that helps a lot." Engineers want to make a difference, Dickerson said, and he has collected the names of more than 140 engineers who would be willing to take unpaid leave from their jobs to work on a meaningful project.

Reversible Type-C USB Connector Ready For Production

Soulskill posted about a month and a half ago | from the it's-never-the-facing-the-right-way-on-the-first-try dept.

Cellphones 191

orasio writes: One of the most frustrating first-world problems ever (trying to connect an upside-down Micro-USB connector) could disappear soon. The Type-C connector for USB has been declared ready for production by the USB Promoter Group (PDF). "With the Type-C spec finalized, it now comes down to the USB-IF to actually implement the sockets, plugs, cables, adapters, and devices. The problem is that there are billions of existing USB devices and cables that will need adapters and new cables to work with new Type-C devices. It’s a lot like when Apple released the Lightning connector, but on an even grander scale. Further exacerbating the issue is the fact that China, the EU, and the GSMA have all agreed that new mobile devices use Micro-USB for charging — though it might be as simple as including a Micro-USB-to-Type-C adapter with every new smartphone."

Maryam Mirzakhani Is the First Woman Fields Medalist

Soulskill posted about a month and a half ago | from the first-of-many dept.

Math 75

An anonymous reader sends news that the 2014 Fields Medals have been awarded for outstanding work in the field of mathematics. The winners are Artur Avila, Manjul Bhargava, Martin Hairer, and Maryam Mirzakhani. Quanta Magazine writes, Mirzakhani is the first woman to win a Fields Medal. The gender imbalance in mathematics is long-standing and pervasive, and the Fields Medal, in particular, is ill-suited to the career arcs of many female mathematicians. It is restricted to mathematicians younger than 40, focusing on the very years during which many women dial back their careers to raise children. Mirzakhani feels certain, however, that there will be many more female Fields medalists in the future. "There are really many great female mathematicians doing great things," she said. Quanta has profiles of the other winners as well (Avila, Bhargava, Hairer), and of Rolf Nevanlinna Prize winner Subhash Khot.

Gmail Now Rejects Emails With Misleading Combinations of Unicode Characters

Soulskill posted about a month and a half ago | from the we-look-forward-to-being-caught-in-your-new-web dept.

Communications 79

An anonymous reader writes: Google today announced it is implementing a new effort to thwart spammers and scammers: the open standard known as Unicode Consortium's "Highly Restricted" specification. In short, Gmail now rejects emails from domains that use what the Unicode community has identified as potentially misleading combinations of letters. The news today follows Google's announcement last week that Gmail has gained support for accented and non-Latin characters. The company is clearly okay with international domains, as long as they aren't abused to trick its users.

Study: Firmware Plagued By Poor Encryption and Backdoors

Soulskill posted about a month and a half ago | from the how-the-sausage-is-made dept.

Security 141

itwbennett writes: The first large-scale analysis of firmware has revealed poor security practices that could present opportunities for hackers probing the Internet of Things. Researchers with Eurecom, a technology-focused graduate school in France, developed a web crawler that plucked more than 30,000 firmware images from the websites of manufacturers including Siemens, Xerox, Bosch, Philips, D-Link, Samsung, LG and Belkin. In one instance, the researchers found a Linux kernel that was 10 years out of date bundled in a recently released firmware image. They also uncovered 41 digital certificates in firmware that were self-signed and contained a private RSA encryption key and 326 instances of terms that could indicate the presence of a backdoor.

Type 225 Words per Minute with a Stenographic Keyboard (Video)

Roblimo posted about a month and a half ago | from the you-can-type-faster-if-you-use-more-than-one-finger-at-a-time dept.

Input Devices 109

Joshua Lifton says you can learn to type at 225 words per minute with his Stenosaurus, an open source stenography keyboard that has a not-there-yet website with nothing but the words, "Stenography is about to evolve," on it as of this writing. If you've heard of Joshua it's probably because he's part of the team behind Crowd Supply, which claims, "Our projects raise an average of $43,600, over twice as much as Kickstarter." A brave boast, but there's plenty of brainpower behind the company. Joshua, himself. has a PhD from MIT, which according to his company bio means, "he's devoted a significant amount of his time learning how to make things that blink." But the steno machine is his own project, independent of Crowd Supply.

Stenotype machines are usually most visible when court reporters are using them. They've been around since the 1800s, when their output was holes in paper tape. Today's versions are essentially chorded keyboards that act as computer input devices. (Douglas Engelbart famously showed off a chorded keyboard during his 1968 Mother of All Demos.) Today you have The Open Steno Project, and Stenosaurus is a member. And while Joshua's project may not have an actual website quite yet, it has an active blog. And the 225 WPM claim? Totally possible. The world record for English language stenography is 360 WPM. And you thought the Dvorak Keyboard was fast. Hah! (Alternate Video Link)

Errata Prompts Intel To Disable TSX In Haswell, Early Broadwell CPUs

Soulskill posted about a month and a half ago | from the somebody-is-getting-fired dept.

Intel 131

Dr. Damage writes: The TSX instructions built into Intel's Haswell CPU cores haven't become widely used by everyday software just yet, but they promise to make certain types of multithreaded applications run much faster than they can today. Some of the savviest software developers are likely building TSX-enabled software right about now. Unfortunately, that work may have to come to a halt, thanks to a bug—or "errata," as Intel prefers to call them—in Haswell's TSX implementation that can cause critical software failures. To work around the problem, Intel will disable TSX via microcode in its current CPUs — and in early Broadwell processors, as well.

3 Congressmen Trying To Tie Up SpaceX

Soulskill posted about a month and a half ago | from the can't-you-go-back-to-not-passing-legislation dept.

Space 393

An anonymous reader writes: Phil Plait reports that a trio of U.S. Congressmen are asking NASA to investigate what they call "an epidemic of anomalies" at SpaceX. They sent a memo (PDF) demanding that SpaceX be held accountable to taxpayers for mission delays stemming from the development of new rockets. Plait notes, "[A]s a contractor, the rules are different for them than they would be if NASA themselves built the rockets, just as the rules are for Boeing or any other contractor. In fact, as reported by Space News, NASA didn't actually pay for the development of the Falcon 9; Elon Musk did." He adds, "Another reason this is silly is that every rocket ever made has undergone problems; they are fiendishly complex machines and no design has ever gotten from the drafting board to the launch pad without issues. Sure, SpaceX has experienced launch delays and other problems, but the critical thing to remember is that those problems are noted, assessed, and fixed sometimes within hours or minutes." Plait accuses the congressmen of trying to bury private spaceflight under red tape in order to protect established industries in their own states.

Larry Rosen: A Case Study In Understanding (and Enforcing) the GPL

timothy posted about a month and a half ago | from the he-actually-wrote-the-book dept.

Businesses 191

lrosen (attorney Lawrence Rosen) writes with a response to an article that appeared on Opensource.com late last month, detailing a court case that arose between Versata Software and Ameriprise Financial Services; part of the resulting dispute hinges on Versata's use of GPL'd software (parsing utility VTD-X, from Ximpleware), though without acknowledging the license. According to the article's author, attorney Aaron Williamson (former staff attorney for the Software Freedom Law Center), "Lawyers for commercial software vendors have feared a claim like this for essentially the entire 20-odd-year lifetime of the GPL: a vendor incorporates some GPL-licensed code into a product—maybe naively, maybe willfully—and could be compelled to freely license the entire product as a result. The documents filed by Amerprise in the case reflect this fearful atmosphere, adopting the classically fear-mongering characterization of the GPL as a 'viral' license that 'infects' its host and 'requires it to become open source, too.'" Rosen writes: I want to acknowledge Aaron's main points: This lawsuit challenges certain assumptions about GPLv2 licensing, and it also emphasizes the effects of patents on the FOSS (and commercial) software ecosystem. I also want to acknowledge that I have been consulted as an expert by the plaintiff in this litigation (Ximpleware vs. Versata, et al.) and so some of what I say below they may also say in court. Read on for the rest (and Williamson's article, too, for a better understanding of this reaction to it). An important take-away: it's not just the license that matters.

Sniffing Out Billions In US Currency Smuggled Across the Border To Mexico

timothy posted about a month and a half ago | from the don't-steal-the-government-hates-competition dept.

The Almighty Buck 158

An anonymous reader writes "Criminals smuggle an estimated $30 billion in U.S. currency into Mexico each year from the United States, most of it laundered drug money. But researchers say help is on the way for border guards in the form of a portable device that identifies specific vapors given off by U.S. paper money. "We're developing a device that mimics the function of trained dogs 'sniffing' out concealed money, but without the drawbacks, such as expensive training, sophisticated operators, down time and communication limitations," says Suiqiong Li, Ph.D., a member of the research team behind the technology. When developing the device, the researchers first had to figure out which gases money emits and how fast that happens. It turned out that the gases are a set of trace chemicals, including aldehydes, furans and organic acids." What do bitcoins smell like?

Ask Slashdot: Why Are Online Job Applications So Badly Designed?

timothy posted about a month and a half ago | from the no-one-asked-jakob-nielsen dept.

Security 278

First time accepted submitter GreyViking (3606993) writes Over the past few years, I've witnessed a variety of my intelligent but largely non-technical nearest-and-dearest struggling to complete online job applications. The majority of these online forms are multiple screens long, and because they're invariably HTTPS, they'll time out after a finite time which isn't always made known to the user. Some sites actively disable back/forward buttons but many don't, and text that's sometime taken a lot of effort to compile, cut and paste can be lost. And did I mention text input boxes that are too small? Sometimes it seems that the biggest obstacle to getting a job can be being able to conquer the online application, and really, there has to be a better way: but what is it?

Wikipedia Gets Critical Reception from UK Press at Wikimania 2014

timothy posted about a month and a half ago | from the wikipedia-has-the-right-to-forget-you dept.

Wikipedia 113

metasonix (650947) writes On Sunday the 2014 Wikimania conference in London closed. Wikimania is the major annual event for Wikipedia editors, insiders and WMF employees to meet face-to-face, give presentations and submit papers. Usually they are full of "Wiki-Love" and good feelings; but this year, as the Wikipediocracy blog summarized, Wikipedia and its "god-king" Jimmy Wales came under considerable fire from the UK media — a very unusual occurrence. And much of it was direct criticism of Wales himself, including a very hostile interview by BBC journalist James O'Brien, who had been repeatedly defamed in his Wikipedia biography by persons unknown.

Chinese Researchers' 'Terror Cam' Could Scan Crowds, Looking for Stress

timothy posted about a month and a half ago | from the what-if-you're-stressed-about-government-surveillance? dept.

China 146

concertina226 (2447056) writes Scientists at China's Southwest University in Chongqing are working on a new type of camera that takes Big Brother to a whole new level – the camera is meant to detect highly stressed individuals so that police can catch them before they commit a crime. The camera makes use of hyperspectral imaging, i.e. a 'stress sensor' that measures the amount of oxygen in blood across visible areas of the body, such as the face. Chinese authorities are deeply concerned about the recent spate of deadly attacks occurring in public places, such as the mass stabbing attack by eight knife-wielding extremists in the city of Kunming, Yunnan in March, which left 29 civilians dead and over 140 others injured.

Comcast Drops Spurious Fees When Customer Reveals Recording

timothy posted about a month and a half ago | from the keep-the-recording-handy dept.

Businesses 368

An anonymous reader writes In yet another example of the quality of Comcast's customer service, a story surfaced today of a Comcast customer who was over-charged for a service that was never provided. At first, the consumer seemed to be on the losing end of a customer service conversation, with Comcast insisting that the charges were fair. But then, the consumer whipped out a recording of a previous conversation that he had with another Comcast representative in which not only was the consumer promised that he wouldn't be charged for services not rendered, but the reason why was explained. Suddenly Comcast conceded, and the fees were dropped. But most telling of all, the Comcast rep implied that she only dropped them because he had taped his previous interaction with Comcast customer service. I wish I had recordings of every conversation that I've ever had with AT&T, the USPS, and the landlord I once had in Philadelphia. Lifehacker posted last year a few tips on the practicality of recording phone calls, using Google Voice, a VoIP service, or a dedicated app. Can anyone update their advice by recommending a good Android app (or iOS, for that matter) designed specifically to record sales and service calls, complete with automated notice?

The Fiercest Rivalry In Tech: Uber vs. Lyft

timothy posted about a month and a half ago | from the follow-that-car-driver dept.

Businesses 125

onehitwonder (1118559) writes WSJ looks at the cantankerous rivalry between two popular ride-sharing companies, Uber and Lyft, and the dirty tactics each employs to weaken its opponent. Lyft, for example, alleges that representatives from Uber frequently order short rides from Lyft just to slow down Lyft's service and to try to poach its drivers. WSJ points out that the rivalry is more than just a made-for-TV competition: "It's a battle for a key role in the future of urban transportation." Lyft certainly isn't Uber's only rival, though, even setting aside conventional taxis and car services, even those two names are big in U.S. cities: its clash with Gett has reportedly involved tricks at least as dirty. Another way to look at the rivalry, too, is that the biggest clash is not between Uber and any other particular company, but rather between the various ride-calling / ride-sharing services taken together against the existing, regulated taxi and car-service companies they threaten.

Microsoft Research Brings Kinect-Style Depth Perception to Ordinary Cameras

timothy posted about a month and a half ago | from the how-far-away-you-are dept.

Hardware Hacking 31

mrspoonsi (2955715) writes "Microsoft has been working on ways to make any regular 2D camera capture depth, meaning it could do some of the same things a Kinect does. As you can see in the video below the team managed to pull this off and we might see this tech all around in the near future. What's really impressive is that this works with many types of cameras. The research team used a smartphone as well as a regular webcam and both managed to achieve some impressive results, the cameras have to be slightly modified but that's only to permit more IR light to hit the sensor." The video is impressive, but note that so are several of the other projects that Microsoft has created for this year's SIGGRAPH, in particular one that makes first-person sports-cam footage more watchable.

DEA Paid Amtrak Employee To Pilfer Passenger Lists

Unknown Lamer posted about a month and a half ago | from the have-to-break-the-law-to-protect-the-law dept.

United States 127

Via Ars Technica comes news that an Amtrak employee was paid nearly $900,000 over the last ten years to give the DEA passenger lists outside of normal channels. Strangely enough, the DEA already had access to such information through official channels. From the article: The employee, described as a "secretary to a train and engine crew" in a summary obtained by the AP, was selling the customer data without Amtrak's approval. Amtrak and other transportation companies collect information from their customers including credit card numbers, travel itineraries, emergency contact info, passport numbers, and dates of birth. When booking tickets online in recent years, Amtrak has also collected phone numbers and e-mail addresses. ... Amtrak has long worked closely with the DEA to track drug trafficking activity on its train lines. The Albuquerque Journal reported in 2001 that "a computer with access to Amtrak's ticketing information sits on a desk in the [DEA]'s local office," wrote the ACLU.

NVIDIAs 64-bit Tegra K1: The Ghost of Transmeta Rides Again, Out of Order

Unknown Lamer posted about a month and a half ago | from the order-out-of dept.

Transmeta 125

MojoKid (1002251) writes Ever since Nvidia unveiled its 64-bit Project Denver CPU at CES last year, there's been discussion over what the core might be and what kind of performance it would offer. Visibly, the chip is huge, more than 2x the size of the Cortex-A15 that powers the 32-bit version of Tegra K1. Now we know a bit more about the core, and it's like nothing you'd expect. It is, however, somewhat similar to the designs we've seen in the past from the vanished CPU manufacturer Transmeta. When it designed Project Denver, Nvidia chose to step away from the out-of-order execution engine that typifies virtually all high-end ARM and x86 processors. In an OoOE design, the CPU itself is responsible for deciding which code should be executed at any given cycle. OoOE chips tend to be much faster than their in-order counterparts, but the additional silicon burns power and takes up die area. What Nvidia has developed is an in-order architecture that relies on a dynamic optimization program (running on one of the two CPUs) to calculate and optimize the most efficient way to execute code. This data is then stored inside a special 128MB buffer of main memory. The advantage of decoding and storing the most optimized execution method is that the chip doesn't have to decode the data again; it can simply grab that information from memory. Furthermore, this kind of approach may pay dividends on tablets, where users tend to use a small subset of applications. Once Denver sees you run Facebook or Candy Crush a few times, it's got the code optimized and waiting. There's no need to keep decoding it for execution over and over.

Is "Scorpion" Really a Genius?

Unknown Lamer posted about a month and a half ago | from the watch-out-I-know-html dept.

Entertainment 391

An anonymous reader writes CBS's upcoming hacker show Scorpion is pitched as based on the real life of Irish 'eccentric genius' Walter O'Brien a.k.a. "Scorpion". Some of the claims made for the real Scorpion are extraordinary. A child prodigy with an IQ of 197, hacking Nasa at age 13, [supplying] Ireland with more Personal Computers than DELL and Gateway together. Searching online I wasn't able to find anything which, for me, clearly backed up any of these (or other) claims. For example, rather than being the sixth fastest programmer in the world in 1993, his team ranked 90th out of 250 teams. Curiously, his degree grade was an ok, but hardly stellar B+ (II-I). Does anyone know anything to back up the genius claims being made about Scorpion?

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