SpaceX's Dragon launch to the ISS earlier today went off smoothly, but the mission encountered trouble shortly after: three sets (of four) of the craft's maneuvering thrusters didn't work. CNET quotes SpaceX founder Elon Musk: "It looks like there was potentially some blockage in the oxidizer pressurization (system). It looks like we've been able to free that blockage, or maybe a stuck valve. We've been able to free that up by cycling the valves, essentially pressure hammering the valves, to get that to loosen. It looks like that's been effective. All the oxidizer tanks are now holding the target pressure on all four (thruster) pods. I'm optimistic we'll be able to bring all four of them up and then we'll work closely with NASA to figure out what the next step is for rendezvousing with space station," and follows up with the good news that "Shortly after the briefing concluded, engineers reported all four sets of thrusters were back on line and that testing was underway to verify the health of the system." Barring further problems, Dragon could reach the ISS as soon as Sunday.
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Nerval's Lobster writes "In 2005, the first business to offer colocated Mac Minis inside a data center made its debut, provoking criticism on Slashdot of everything from how the Mini was cooled to the underlying business model. But nowadays, more than half a dozen facilities are either hosting their own Mac Minis for rent, or offering colocation services for individual consumers and businesses. While some vendors declined to give out reliability information, those who did claimed a surprisingly small number of failures. 'If Dell makes a small little machine, you don't know that they'll be making that, in that form factor, six months down the road, or what they're going to do, or how they're going to refresh it,' Jon Schwenn, a network engineer for CyberLynk Networks (which owns Macminivault) said in an interview. 'We've had three model years of Minis that have stayed externally, physically identical.' Customers are using Minis for all sorts of things: providing Mail, iCal, and the Websites for small businesses; databases, like Filemaker or Daylite; as a VPN server for those who want an IP address in the United States; build servers for Xcode; and general personal servers for Plex media streaming and other fun projects. Some are even using it for Windows."
New submitter fluxgate writes "Steve Mann (whom you might know for his having pioneered wearable computing as a grad student at MIT back in the 1990s) writes in IEEE Spectrum magazine about his decades of experience with computerized eyeware. His article warns that Google Glass hasn't been properly engineered to avoid creating disorientating effects and significant eyestrain. While it's hard to imagine that Google has missed something fundamental here, Mann convincingly describes why Google Glass users might experience serious problems. Quoting: 'The very first wearable computer system I put together showed me real-time video on a helmet-mounted display. The camera was situated close to one eye, but it didn’t have quite the same viewpoint. The slight misalignment seemed unimportant at the time, but it produced some strange and unpleasant results. And those troubling effects persisted long after I took the gear off. That’s because my brain had adjusted to an unnatural view, so it took a while to readjust to normal vision. ... Google Glass and several similarly configured systems now in development suffer from another problem I learned about 30 years ago that arises from the basic asymmetry of their designs, in which the wearer views the display through only one eye. These systems all contain lenses that make the display appear to hover in space, farther away than it really is. That’s because the human eye can’t focus on something that’s only a couple of centimeters away, so an optical correction is needed. But what Google and other companies are doing—using fixed-focus lenses to make the display appear farther away—is not good.'"
Edgewood_Dirk writes "In response to the recent White House petition, the FCC will be investigating the viability and possible harm of the ban on cell-phone unlocking. Gregory Ferenstein met with FCC Chairman Julius Genachowski at a TechCrunch CrunchGov event Wednesday, where the Chairman said the 'ban raises competition concerns; it raises innovation concerns.'" This line from the end of the article fails to inspire confidence: "Genachowski isn’t sure what authority he has, but if he finds any, given the tone of the conversation, it’s likely he will exert his influence to reverse the decision."
ios and web coder writes "An article at Ars notes, 'Unmanned aircraft crash. In fact, they crash a lot—though there's no recent specific data, the Congressional Research Service reported last year that despite improvements, "the accident rate for unmanned aircraft is still far above that of manned aircraft.' And while many of those accidents can be attributed to being exposed to hostile fire or operating in conditions when aircraft normally wouldn't, a significant percentage of drone crashes is caused by human error. A December 2004 FAA study of Defense Department drone crashes found human factors to be a causal factor in about a third of the cases they examined (PDF).' Drones are un-cheap. As yesterday's Super Hornet story noted, they are cheaper than manned planes... but not that much cheaper. Expect them to get more expensive. Also, as they get armed, the price paid for a bad UX decision could become quite tragic."
TrueSatan writes "In an utterly craven move, the Canadian government has launched a bill to bring Canada into full compliance with the discredited, U.S.-led ACTA agreement — an agreement to which most of the world does not agree. To further pressure the acceptance of this awful bill, the U.S., on the same day, released their Trade Policy and Agenda Annual Report (PDF), which calls on Canada to comply with ACTA obligations. For ACTA to take effect, it would require six signatures from the major economic blocks. Tt appears to have no remaining possibility of getting them, yet the U.S., and now Canada, continue to push it forward. The Canadian bill features claims based on spurious health and safety concerns that have been thoroughly debunked by a U.S. report. Despite these claims being so dubious, they remain a cornerstone of the Canadian bill. Similarly, the claimed losses due to counterfeiting ($30 billion USD) stated in the bill have also been debunked. The Canadian bill seeks to give border guards an unprecedented level of control, without the possibility of judicial oversight. Despite a lack of evidence to suggest that Canada is a major source of counterfeit product, the bill puts at risk the fully-legal parallel import of generic items — pharmaceuticals, for instance. The bill would also change copyright infringement from a civil dispute to a breach of criminal law. Pity Canada if this bill is enacted!"
An anonymous reader writes "Flash SSDs are non-volatile, right? So how could power failures screw with your data? Several ways, according to a ZDNet post that summarizes a paper (PDF) presented at last month's FAST 13 conference. Researchers from Ohio State and HP Labs researchers tested 15 SSDs using an automated power fault injection testbed and found that 13 lost data. 'Bit corruption hit 3 devices; 3 had shorn writes; 8 had serializability errors; one device lost 1/3 of its data; and 1 SSD bricked. The low-end hard drive had some unserializable writes, while the high-end drive had no power fault failures. The 2 SSDs that had no failures? Both were MLC 2012 model years with a mid-range ($1.17/GB) price.'"
New submitter charlesj68 writes with news that U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh has cut Apple's $1.05 billion patent infringement award from Samsung down by $450.5 million. She also said Samsung deserves a new trial over claims related to some of its smartphones. "Koh rejected Apple’s request to enhance the jury’s award, saying the amount Samsung owed was heavily disputed and the jury wasn’t bound to accept either side’s damages estimate. 'It is not the proper role of the court to second-guess the jury’s factual determination as to the proper amount of compensation,' Koh said in her ruling. Apple is entitled to additional damages for sales of infringing products that weren’t considered by the jury, Koh ruled, saying she intends to calculate the amount beginning on Aug. 25, the day after the jury reached its verdict. As the case has been appealed, Koh said she would delay considering evidence of actual post-verdict sales and pre-judgment interest until the appeals are completed."
New submitter oag2 writes "Discover Magazine has a new slideshow of NASA's pie-in-the-sky (or, rather, toroid-in-the-sky) mock-ups of what space colonies would look like, complete with verdant mountains, flowing rivers, cocktail parties, and a guy on a floating bicycle. Though the designs are retro-futuristic, the artist who made them was prescient in other ways. From the accompanying article: "In the context of the 70s, when we had some sense of momentum from Apollo as far as expanding the human presence in space, it seemed like the kind of thing we could have just picked up and moved with," Davis says. "And it's still possible. It's just a matter of where we decide to spend our money." But Guidice remembers a more telling prophecy from O'Neill. "One of the most memorable things I ever heard him say was, 'If we don't do it right now,' meaning in the next 20 years, and that was 20 years ago, 'then we'll never do it, because we'll be overpopulated and the strain on the natural resources will be the number one priority. We will not have any sort of inclination to see this through."'" The O'Neill referenced above is Gerard K. O'Neill, physicist and founder of the Space Studies Institute. He wrote a book in 1976 called The High Frontier which featured these mock-up paintings, and explained in great detail how the space habitats would function. It's a fascinating book, and well worth reading if the pictures pique your curiosity.
alphadogg writes "Google is open-sourcing a new general purpose data compression library called Zopfli that can be used to speed up Web downloads. The Zopfli Compression Algorithm, which got its name from a Swiss bread recipe, is an implementation of the Deflate compression algorithm that creates a smaller output size (PDF) compared to previous techniques, wrote Lode Vandevenne, a software engineer with Google's Compression Team, on the Google Open Source Blog on Thursday. 'The smaller compressed size allows for better space utilization, faster data transmission, and lower Web page load latencies. Furthermore, the smaller compressed size has additional benefits in mobile use, such as lower data transfer fees and reduced battery use,' Vandevenne wrote. The more exhaustive compression techniques achieve higher data density, but also make the compression a lot slower. This does not affect the decompression speed though, Vandenne wrote."
In the North of Sweden, in Lappland, there is a university spinoff company named BehavioSec that decides you are you (or that a person using your computer is not you) by the way you type. Not the speed, but rhythm and style quirks, are what they detect and use for authentication. BehavioSec CEO/CTO Neil Costigan obviously knows far more about this than we do, which is why Tim Lord met with him at the 2013 RSA Conference and had him tell us exactly how BehavioSec's system works. As usual, we've provided both a video and a transcript (There's a small "Show/Hide Transcript" link immediately below the video) so you can either watch or read, whichever you prefer.
silentbrad writes "Cliff Bleszinski, formerly of Epic Games, posted a blog entry titled 'Nickels, dimes, and quarters' yesterday, advocating that gamers dissatisfied with the current trend toward DLC and microtransactions should vote with their wallets. Quoting: 'The video game industry is just that. An industry. Which means that it exists in a capitalistic world. You know, a free market. A place where you're welcome to spend your money on whatever you please or to refrain from spending that money. ... Adjusted for inflation, your average video game is actually cheaper than it ever has been. Never mind the ratio of the hours of joy you get from a game per dollar compared to film. To produce a high quality game it takes tens of millions of dollars, and when you add in marketing that can get up to 100+ million. ... I've seen a lot of comments online about microtransactions. They're a dirty word lately, it seems. Gamers are upset that publishers/developers are "nickel and diming them." They're raging at "big and evil corporations who are clueless and trying to steal their money." I'm going to come right out and say it. I'm tired of EA being seen as "the bad guy." I think it's bulls*** that EA has the 'scumbag EA' memes on Reddit and that Good Guy Valve can Do No Wrong. ... If you don't like EA, don't buy their games. If you don't like their microtransactions, don't spend money on them. It's that simple. ... The market as I have previously stated is in such a sense of turmoil that the old business model is either evolving, growing, or dying. No one really knows. "Free to play" aka "Free to spend 4 grand on it" is here to stay, like it or not. ... People like to act like we should go back to "the good ol' days" before microtransactions but they forget that arcades were the original change munchers. Those games were designed to make you lose so that you had to keep spending money on them. Ask any of the old Midway vets about their design techniques. The second to last boss in Mortal Kombat 2 was harder than the last boss, because when you see the last boss that's sometimes enough for a gamer. ... If you don't like the games, or the sales techniques, don't spend your money on them. You vote with your dollars.'"
yenrabbit writes "A friend has just told me he has 80 CRT TVs, a stack of DVD players and hundreds of VCR machines, all broken and all mine free of charge. I can already think of a few awesome components I can extract (flyback transformers for high voltage contraptions and so on) and have a few ideas, such as DVD lasers, that I can build. But what else can be made from such a treasure-trove of components, and how would one go about processing such a large volume of stuff with the least amount of effort? Also, I don't have access to online shopping so I'd also like a pain free way of salvaging many simpler parts such as resistors as well." Another reader sent in a similar question: "The other day I went down to my University's property disposition center for the first time. In addition to mundane things like chairs and desks, it also had a wealth of technological devices, from old PCs and monitors to obscure medical and chemistry equipment. Honestly, I was a bit overwhelmed. I just don't know what I'd do with a old gene sequencing machine or a broken oscilloscope. Any ideas for fun projects? Or better yet, suggestions on how I can figure out which machines (or their components) are worth playing with?"
An anonymous reader sends word that NASA scientists using the Relativistic Electron Proton Telescope (REPT) about the Van Allen Probes have discovered a third radiation belt surrounding Earth. Scientists have been aware of the Van Allen radiation belts since the 1950s, but it was thought that there were only two of them. The probes were sent up to simply map the belts in fine detail; the discovery of a third belt was a complete surprise. Deputy mission scientist Shri Kanekal said, "By the fifth day REPT was on, we could plot out our observations and watch the formation of a third radiation belt. We started wondering if there was something wrong with our instruments. We checked everything, but there was nothing wrong with them. The third belt persisted beautifully, day after day, week after week, for four weeks." Part of the reason they caught a glimpse of this belt was that they turned the REPT on early, so it would overlap with another probe that had reached end-of-life and was about to de-orbit. If they hadn't decided to do so, or if the REPT hadn't worked perfectly, we still might be in the dark about a third Van Allen belt.
Bennett Haselton writes "The U.S. government recently announced that academic papers on federally-funded research should become freely available online within one year of publication in a journal. But the real question is why academics don't simply publish most papers freely anyway. If the problem is that traditional journals have a monopoly on the kind of prestige that can only be conferred by having your paper appear in their hallowed pages, that monopoly can easily be broken, because there's no reason why open-access journals can't confer the same imprimatur of quality." Read on for the rest of Bennett's thoughts on the great free-access debate.
Nerval's Lobster writes "Computer games are big business, with millions of players and billions of dollars in revenue every year. But that popularity puts game studios in a tough spot, especially when it comes to mobile games that need to serve their players a constant stream of updates and rewards. That pressure is leading to an interesting phenomenon: while IT companies that create more 'serious' software (i.e., productivity apps, business tools, etc.) are often viewed as cutting edge, it might be game developers actually doing the most innovative stuff when it comes to analytics, cloud and high-performance computing, and so on. Broken Bulb Studios, Hothead Games, and some other studios (along with some hosting companies) talk about how they've built their platforms to handle immense (and fluctuating) demand from gamers."
the_newsbeagle writes "This year, a biotech company called Ion Torrent will introduce a new chip for its genome sequencing machine, which should enable researchers and doctors to scan a complete human genome for $1000 and in just a couple of hours. Compare that to the effort required to complete the first human genome: $3 billion and 13 years. Ion Torrent has nearly reached the $1000-genome milestone by virtue of a process called 'semiconductor sequencing,' and the company's founder says his chip-based sequencing machine benefits from all the efficiencies of the computer industry. At a price point of $1000, genome scans could become a routine part of medicine. And the price could keep dropping. To test out the technology, and to investigate just how useful genome scans are these days for your typical, reasonably healthy person, the IEEE Spectrum reporter got her own genome scanned and analyzed."
nk497 writes "Scientists from Cancer Research UK are working with Amazon, Facebook and Google to design and develop a mobile game aimed at speeding up the search for new cancer drugs. The first step is for 40 computer programmers, gamers, graphic designers and other specialists to take part in a weekend "GameJam" to turn the charity's raw genetic data into a game format, with a working title of GeneRun. 'We're making great progress in understanding the genetic reasons cancer develops. But the clues to why some drugs will work and some won't are held in data that needs to be analysed by the human eye — and this could take years,' said Carlos Caldas at Cancer Research UK's Cambridge Institute. 'By harnessing the collective power of citizen scientists we'll accelerate the discovery of new ways to diagnose and treat cancer much more precisely.'"
Later today, the U.S. government will enter the sequestration process, a series of across-the-board budget cuts put into place automatically because U.S. politicians are bad at agreeing on things. "At that moment, somewhere in the bowels of the Treasury Department, officials will take offline the computers that process payments for school construction and clean energy bonds to reprogram them for reduced rates. Payments will be delayed while they are made manually for the next six weeks." The cuts will directly affect science- and tech-related spending throughout the country. Tom Levenson writes, '[s]equester cuts will strike bluntly across the scientific community. The illustrious can move a bit of money around, but even in large labs, a predictable result will be a reduction in the number of graduate student and post – doc slots available — and as those junior and early-stage researchers do a whole lot of the at-the-bench level research, such cuts will have an immediate effect on research productivity. The longer term risk is obvious too: fewer students and post-docs mean on an ongoing drop from baseline in the amount of work to be done year over year.' The former director of the National Institute of Health says it will set back medical science for a generation. NASA Administrator Charles Bolden has laid out how the cuts will affect the U.S. space program. He said, "The Congress wasn’t able to do what they were supposed to do, so we’re going to suffer." The sequester will also prevent billions of dollars from flowing into the tech industry. This comes at a time when there's a pressing need in the tech sector for professionals versed in the use of Linux, and salaries for those workers are on the rise.
Mr_Blank writes "Organizations like the EFF and ACLU have been raising the alarm over increased government surveillance of U.S. citizens. Legislators haven't been quick to respond to concerns of government spying on citizens. But Texas legislators are apparently quite concerned that private citizens operating hobby drones might spot environmental violations by businesses. Representative Lance Gooden has introduced HB912 which proposes: 'A person commits an offense if the person uses or authorizes the use of an unmanned vehicle or aircraft to capture an image without the express consent of the person who owns or lawfully occupies the real property captured in the image. ('Image' is defined as including any type of recorded telemetry from sensors that measure sound waves, thermal, infrared, ultraviolet, visible light, or other electromagnetic waves, odor, or other conditions.)' Can you foresee any unintended consequences if this proposal becomes law?" Another reader notes that New Hampshire has introduced a similar bill: "Neal Kurk, a Republican member of New Hampshire's House of Representatives knows that those drones present a growing privacy concern, and in response has introduced a bill that would ban all aerial photography in the state. That is, unless you're working for the government. The bill, HB 619-FN (PDF), is blessedly short, and I suggest reading the whole thing for yourself." Here's part of the bill: "A person is guilty of a class A misdemeanor if such person knowingly creates or assists in creating an image of the exterior of any residential dwelling in this state where such image is created by or with the assistance of a satellite, drone, or any device that is not supported by the ground."
cylonlover writes "Boston Dynamics' BigDog may have already been replaced by the beefier LS3, but that doesn't mean it's totally obsolete. Today the company unveiled a version of the quadruped equipped with an arm where a head (or tail) would go. As can be seen in a slightly disquieting video, it's powerful enough to lift and toss a heavy cinder block. Key to this work, funded by the U.S. Army Research Laboratory, is that BigDog uses the dynamic forces of its whole body to help it throw the cinder block. It begins by taking several steps to the side before quickly accelerating as it swings its arm, temporarily launching itself into the air in the process. This approach is similar to the way an athlete winds up before throwing a discus, for example, and greatly enhances the robot's throwing power. Since few robots are as capable as BigDog when it comes to balance, it's an excellent platform to test these sorts of strenuous actions."
Today at 10:10am ET (15:10 UTC) SpaceX will be launching an unmanned Dragon capsule, perched atop a Falcon9 rocket, to the International Space Station. The capsule is filled with about 1,200 pounds of supplies for the ISS crew, and it is scheduled to arrive early Saturday morning. The return trip, on March 25, will bring over 2,000 pounds of cargo back to Earth when Dragon re-enters the atmosphere and falls into the Pacific Ocean. Both NASA and SpaceX are covering the launch live. For text and pictures, you can watch on SpaceX Launch Central or NASA's launch blog. For streaming video, check out NASA TV. Spaceflight Now has both, and their live updates provide a bit more detail. SpaceX's press kit for the mission (PDF) explains how the launch will proceed: "At 1 minute, 10 seconds after liftoff, Falcon 9 reaches supersonic speed. The vehicle will pass through the area of maximum aerodynamic pressure—max Q—15 seconds later. This is the point when mechanical stress on the rocket peaks due to a combination of the rocket’s velocity and resistance created by the Earth’s atmosphere. Around 170 seconds into the flight, two of the first-stage engines will shut down to reduce the rocket’s acceleration. (Its mass, of course, has been continually dropping as its propellants are being used up.) The remaining engines will cut off around 3 minutes into the flight—an event known as main-engine cutoff, or MECO. At this point, Falcon 9 is 80 kilometers (50 miles) high, traveling at 10 times the speed of sound. Five seconds after MECO, the first and second stages will separate. Seven seconds later, the second stage’s single Merlin vacuum engine ignites to begin a 6-minute burn that brings Falcon 9 and Dragon into low-Earth orbit."
Dr Max sends this excerpt from an AP report: "U.S. prosecutors won a New Zealand court victory Friday in their battle to extradite Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom and three colleagues accused of facilitating massive copyright fraud through the now-defunct online file-sharing site. The appeals court overturned an earlier ruling that would have allowed Dotcom and the others broad access to evidence in the case against them at the time of their extradition hearing, which is scheduled for August. The appeals court ruled that extensive disclosure would bog down the process and that a summary of the U.S. case would suffice. Dotcom says he's innocent and can't be held responsible for those who chose to use the site to illegally download songs or movies."
An anonymous reader writes "No one, but no one, in the Linux community likes Microsoft's mandated deployment of the Unified Extensible Firmware Interface (UEFI) Secure Boot option in Windows 8 certified PCs. But, how Linux should handle the fixes required to deal with this problem remains a hot-button issue. Now, as the debate continues hot and heavy, Linus Torvalds, Linux's founder and de facto leader, spells out how he thinks Linux should deal with Secure Boot keys." And it's not in the control of Microsoft: distros should sign only the modules they provide with their key, with user built modules signed by locally generated keys (since, as SSL certification authority break-ins have shown, centralized trust systems are prone to abuse and offer dubious security benefits). Basically, no love for proprietary kernel modules.
drew30319 writes "NPR reports that a team of researchers at the University of Rome required a group of surgical residents to play video games on a Nintendo Wii for an hour a day, five days a week, for four weeks resulting in 'statistically better' performance than a control group for laparoscopic skills. The study includes some interesting stats (e.g. while the control group showed a 10% improvement in accuracy, the Wii-playing group's accuracy improved by 83%). The study's authors add that '[t]he Nintendo Wii may be adopted in lower-budget Institutions or at home by younger surgeons to optimize their training on simulators before performing real procedures.'"
judgecorp writes "The British domain name registry, Nominet, has abandoned the idea of a shorter .uk domain name system, which would replace the current regime where all .uk domains are in subdomains, such as .co.uk, or .org.uk. Although a consultation found a huge demand for a simpler system, Nominet couldn't get agreement on how to get there from here — so has put the idea to one side for now. There are some shorter addreses like british-library.uk — but these predate Nominet's regime."
iONiUM writes "From the article: 'Many are only just getting their heads around the idea of 3D printing but scientists at MIT are already working on an upgrade: 4D printing. At the TED conference in Los Angeles, architect and computer scientist Skylar Tibbits showed how the process allows objects to self-assemble.' There could be many applications for this. Definitely a cool step forward." Pictures and video of the process.