John McAfee made a surprise appearance at Def Con to talk about privacy: he's for it. Trouble is, he says, lots of companies feel otherwise, and he took the stage to single out "don't be evil" Google: “Google, or at least certain people within Google, I will not mention names because I am not a rude gentleman, would like us to believe that if we have nothing to hide, we should not mind if everybody knows everything that we do,” he said from the podium. “I have to take serious issue with that.” The BBC has video. McAfee also announced his new complaints website, The Brown List. (Good usernames are still available, and your complaint can be about anything, not just privacy violations by humongous corporations.)
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According to the AP, in a story carried by the San Jose Mercury News, NASA engineers insisted Friday that a test of a vehicle they hope to one day use on Mars achieved most of its objectives, despite a parachute that virtually disintegrated the moment it deployed. The engineers laid out at a news conference what they've learned in the six weeks since the $150 million high-altitude test of a vehicle that's designed to bring spacecraft -- and eventually astronauts -- safely to Mars. Engineers said they achieved the main objective: getting a flying saucer-shaped craft to 190,000 feet above the Earth at more than four times the speed of sound under test conditions that matched the Martian atmosphere. Ars Technica has (beautiful, high-speed, high-definition) video of the test that shows the parachute tearing itself apart, as well as the many parts that went as planned.
Around the world, American schools' long summer break is viewed as an anomaly, and the long summer seems to be getting shorter. While most American primary and secondary schools used to start after Labor Day, more and more of them now open sometime in August (and that's not counting the ones that have gone to a year-round schedule). Some of my younger relatives started a new school year last week (in Indiana), while Baltimore schools start later this month. Both Seattle and Portland's kids have until after Labor Day (with start dates of the 3rd and 4th of September, respectively). The 4th is also the start date for students in New York City's public schools, the country's largest district. Colleges more often start in September, but some get a jump start in August, especially with required seminars or orientation programs for new students. Whether you're in school, out of school, or back in school by proxy (packing lunches or paying tuition), what time does (or did) your school-year start? Would you prefer that your local public schools run all year round, if they're of the long-summer variety? (And conversely, if your local schools give short shrift to summer, whether that's in the U.S. or anywhere else, do you think that's a good idea?)
An anonymous reader writes After 30 years of wearing glasses, one man says that the Oculus Rift virtual reality headset has prompted him to get laser eye surgery. With farsightedness and astigmatism, he says, "Never thought much about the laser surgery until the Rift, that's for sure." He has an appointment to get the $2200 surgery on the 13th of this month. "For me it is clear, my eyeglasses are like an obstacle for optimal VR experience," he said. He hopes the surgery will remove his need for glasses, which can be uncomfortable inside of the Rift, if they fit at all, and cause several issues such as scratched lenses and lower field of view. Oculus plans to make the consumer version of the Oculus Rift (aka CV1) more friendly to glasses wearers, "...we have a lot of great ideas for supporting glasses in the consumer version [of the Rift] (especially since a huge portion of the Oculus team wears glasses everyday!)" they noted in their Kickstarter.
Zothecula (1870348) writes "While there has been progress made in the fight against Alzheimer's, our understanding of the dispiriting disease remains somewhat limited, with a definitive cure yet to be found. The latest development comes at the hands of researchers from Yale's School of Medicine, who have discovered a new drug compound shown to reverse the effects of Alzheimer's in mice."
New submitter Wierzbowski85 (2852925) writes Indie Kickstarter-funded sci-fi short HENRi features classic visual effects and storytelling – with a twist. As detailed in Cinefex magazine (issue 134), the film itself utilizes a mixture of the old and the new — combining live-action sequences with puppetry, quarter-scale miniatures, and modern CGI. Speaking with Wired, the film's director said: "The goal was to seamlessly integrate these different techniques to create the world. My philosophy is that effects are merely a tool to help the story, and that in mind, we used pretty much every trick in the book." The film also stars genre legend Keir Dullea, of 2001: A Space Odyssey. In a making-of video for the film, Dullea says, "Having done 2001, [HENRi] was a wonderful homage to Stanley Kubrick and that film." The short is now available for free viewing online at Hulu.
An anonymous reader writes "Beginning with the Chrome 38 Beta it's now possible to watch Netflix without any Wine/Silverlight plug-ins but will work natively using Chrome's DRM-HTML5 video capabilities with Netflix. The steps just involve using the latest beta of Chrome and an HTTP user-agent switcher to tell Netflix you're a Windows Chrome user, due to Netflix arbitrarily blocking the Linux build."
According to data gathered by Akamai, an analysis from Broadview Networks comes to the conclusion that the top five U.S. states for broadband speed are Virginia (at the top of the list, with an average transfer speed of 13.78 Mbps), Delaware, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Washington, with Washington, D.C. slightly edging out the similarly-named state; Alaska comes in dead last. These are average speeds, though, and big states have more variation to account for, including connections in the hinterlands. You could still have a fast connection in Chattanooga, or be stuck on dial-up in the Texas panhandle.
turkeydance (1266624) writes A new study [PDF] from the Brookings Institution, a Washington think tank, argues that using solar and wind energy may be the most expensive alternatives to carbon-based electricity generation, even though they require no expenditures for fuel.....Specifically, this means nuclear power offers a savings of more than $400,000 worth of carbon emissions per megawatt of capacity. Solar saves only $69,000 and wind saves $107,000. An anonymous reader points out that the Rocky Mountain Institute finds the Brookings study flawed in several ways, and offers a rebuttal.
Lucas123 (935744) writes "Telehealth medicine, or communicating remotely with patients through electronic means, will be used by nearly one in six North Americans this year, according to Deloitte. With an aging Baby Boomer population and a growing shortage of primary care physicians, electronic visits (eVisits) reduce both time and cost in treating common ailments. The overall cost of in-person primary physician visits worldwide is $175 billion. Globally, the number of eVisits will climb to 100 million this year, potentially saving over $5 billion when compared to the cost of in-person doctor visits. Last November, The University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) revamped its patient portal, renaming it MyUPMC, and rolling out AnywhereCare, offering patients throughout Pennsylvania eVisits with doctors 24 hours a day, seven days a week either over the phone or through video conferencing. The service offers a 30-minute or less wait time and saves the hospital system more than $86 per patient over a traditional visit."
A cave in Wyoming that's easy to fall into, and hard to escape, has become a treasure trove for scientists. Scientists excavating an ancient Wyoming sinkhole containing a rare trove of fossils of Ice Age mammals have unearthed hundreds of bones of such prehistoric animals as American cheetahs, a paleontologist said on Friday. The two-week dig by an international team of researchers led by Des Moines University paleontologist Julie Meachen marked the first exploration of Natural Trap Cave at the base of the Bighorn Mountains in north-central Wyoming since its initial discovery in the 1970s. ... Meachen said the extensive excavation that began late last month uncovered roughly 200 large bones of animals like horses that roamed North America from 12,000 to 23,000 years ago and an uncounted number of microfossils of creatures such as birds, lizards and snakes. ... A number of animals that fell 85 feet to their deaths after stumbling into the 15-foot-wide mouth of the cavern were unusually well preserved by cold and damp conditions, Meachen said.
jfruh (300774) writes "The Xbox one isn't just a game console: it's also a nifty media set-top box, and it interacts very well with your TV service — as long as you have cable. Cord-cutters will soon be able to attach their Xbox to an antenna — but only in Europe." The peripheral that Microsoft will soon release allows you to integrate over-the-air content into the Xbox One system. From the images Microsoft released it looks like the tuner is a small box with a port for an antenna cable on one end, and the USB cable on the other. Unfortunately for my readers in North America, as of now, the Xbox One Digital TV Tuner is only scheduled to release in Europe. Microsoft says it supports DVB-T, DVB-T2 and DVB-C television channels, which I hope means something to my European readers; Wikipedia tells me these are European over-the-air cable standards. The TV Tuner will be available in late October for 24.99 in the UK, and for €29.99 in France, Italy, Germany and Spain.
An anonymous reader writes "On Friday, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) voted to require all U.S. wireless carriers and popular messaging applications to support texting to emergency response units via 911. AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, and T-Mobile implemented this capability back in 2012; the FCC's vote will make it mandatory for all carriers that operate in the country as well as all messaging applications that interconnect with the SMS structure in the U.S. to follow suit. One technological hurdle this mandate faces is the difficulty of tracing "the exact physical origin of a text message, particularly in residences with multiple floors."" Somehow I doubt that cellphone calls are consistently traceable to that degree, either, and I've lived in houses with extensions spread over several floors, too.
An anonymous reader writes with word of new movement on an old front: namely, the rule that makes it hard for sports fans to see coverage of local teams. The 39-year-old blackout rule basically "prevents games from being televised locally when tickets remain unsold." The Federal Communications Commission (FCC), in response to a 2011 petition by consumers, has decided to consider abolishing this rule. The National Football League (NFL) has of course objected, claiming that the rule allows it to keep airing their games on free TV. If that were to change and they would have to move to cable, they argue, the "result would represent a substantial loss of consumer welfare." In their petition to the FCC, consumers point out that the NFL charges "exorbitant prices for tickets" which results in lower attendance. The blackout rule, they claim, therefore punishes fans by preventing them from watching the game if the NFL can't sell enough stadium tickets. NFL yearly profits reportedly number in the billions. Even if the FCC supports the petition, however, sports leagues can and probably will privately negotiate blackouts to boost their revenue.
The synthesis of ammonia is one of the globe's most significant industrial applications of chemistry. PhysOrg reports the publication in the August issue of Science (sadly, article is paywalled) the description of a low-energy process to syntheize ammonia for fertilizer using just air, water, and sunlight, by zapping with electricity water bubbling through a matrix of iron oxide, and sodium and potassium hyroxide. Electricity isn't free, though — "Low energy" in this case means two-thirds the energy cost of the long-in-use Haber-Bosch process. Researcher Stuart Licht is getting some of the energy to run this reaction from a high-efficiency solar cell he's created, which creates hydrogen as a byproduct. Along with the elimination of the need to produce hydrogen from natural gas, the overall emissions are reduced quite significantly. The whole process also takes place at milder conditions, not requiring 450C and 200 times atmospheric pressure as the Haber-Bosch process does. ... But even with Licht's method, [University of Bristol electrochemistry professor David] Fermin points out that we are far away from being able to replicate nature's efficiency at converting nitrogen from the air to useful chemicals, which is done by nitrogen-fixing bacteria. "What is truly remarkable is that nature does it incredibly efficiently at low-temperature," Fermin added. And yet, if something more efficient can replace the Haber-Bosch process, it would lower the energy input of the production of one of the worlds most important chemicals and lead to a notable reduction in global CO2 emissions.