RocketAcademy writes "The Lone Star State is moving to become a leader in spaceport development. The Houston Airport System is officially moving ahead with plans to turn Ellington Airport, near NASA's Johnson Space Center, into an FAA-licensed commercial spaceport. The airport system has completed a feasibility study for turning the field into a spaceport for suborbital spacecraft such as Virgin Galactic's SpaceShip Two and XCOR's Lynx. In the longer term, spacecraft could link Houston to Singapore in as little as three hours, according to airport system director Mario Diaz. Meanwhile, state Representative Rene Oliveira (D-Brownsville) introduced a bill that would allow county commissioners to close a local beach for launches from the proposed SpaceX launch site in Cameron County. The bill is part of a flood of spaceport-related legislation that has been introduced recently in the Texas legislature."
Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive
93,000 writes "According to Yahoo, George Lucas has let slip that Han, Leia and Luke will return for the next Star Wars installment. From the article: 'Lucas backtracked, saying, "Maybe I’m not supposed to say that. I think they want to announce that with some big whoop-de-do, but we were negotiating with them." Then he tried to cover his tracks: "I won’t say whether the negotiations were successful or not."'"
astroengine writes "Finding things like amino acids in space directly is a difficult business. So, instead of finding them directly, a team using West Virginia's Green Bank Telescope, led by Anthony Remijan, discovered two other molecules – cyanomethanimine and ethanamine — both of which are precursor molecules. In other words, these molecules are the early steps in the chain of chemical reactions that go on to make the stuff of life. The researchers found these molecules near the center of the Milky Way inside a hulking interstellar cloud known as Sagittarius B2 (Sgr B2), spanning 150 light-years in size, up to 40 times as dense as any other cloud the Milky Way has to offer."
dakohli writes "Michael Geist has pointed out an interesting development at the National Post's website. 'If you try to highlight the text to cut and paste it, you are presented with a pop-up request to purchase a license if you plan to post the article to a website, intranet or a blog. The fee would be $150.' He notes that even if you are highlighting a 3rd party quote inside an article a pop-up asking if you want a license will appear. Mr Geist points out this might be contrary to Canadian Copyright Law's fair use provisions."
tverbeek writes "Russian scientists believe they have found a new type of bacteria in the sub-glacial Lake Vostok. From the article: 'The samples obtained from the underground lake in May 2012 contained a bacteria which bore no resemblance to existing types, said Sergei Bulat of the genetics laboratory at the Saint Petersburg Institute of Nuclear Physics. "After putting aside all possible elements of contamination, DNA was found that did not coincide with any of the well-known types in the global database," he said. "We are calling this life form unclassified and unidentified," he added.'"
An anonymous reader writes with an excerpt from Geek.com: "In what must be a big blow for EA and Maxis, Amazon has stopped selling download copies of the just released SimCity. The game has at time of writing received 833 reviews on Amazon, and has an average rating of just one star. That's because 740 of those are one star reviews. Only 20 people gave it 5 stars. There's few better ways to gauge how a game has been received, and this is pretty damning as to how EA has handled the launch."
crookedvulture writes "Slashdot has already covered the four main flavors of Cherry MX mechanical key switches: red, black, blue, and brown. Now, there's a green MX variant that emulates the feel of the buckling spring switches in old-school IBM Model M keyboards. The green switches combine tactile feedback, an audible click, and a stiff spring that requires 80g of actuation force. They're a stiffer version of the MX blues that more closely matches the characteristics of IBM's buckling spring design. Previously reserved for use with space bars, the green switches have now taken over an entire Cooler Master keyboard. And, unlike the old Model M and contemporary copycats, the new CM Storm Trigger has modern conveniences like an integrated USB hub, LED backlighting, and programmable macros." I've had my hopes raised and then dashed by some other keyboards whose makers promised Model M feel, so I'll believe it when I feel and hear it.
An anonymous reader writes "An Apple patent granted on 7 March details a system allowing customers to resell iTunes and iBooks content to other users at a reduced price, or to loan the content temporarily for free. Such a system could pave the way for second hand content being made available on iTunes for a discounted price." (Note: Beware the auto-playing video ad, with sound.)
AlphaWolf_HK writes "I own an HDHomeRun Prime tuner, and unfortunately I live in an area where the cable provider (Cox) blanket flags all channels to be copy restricted. I'm tired of using Windows Media Center due to bugs and other problems, but since the channels are flagged it is the only option. Satellite is of course not an option at all (no cablecard or similar standard.) I've already begun moving most of my content watching to XBMC in the form of using sickbeard and couchpotato, both of which do an amazing job even with torrents now that Usenet has been getting hit pretty hard. To match this, I've already dropped my cable tier to the lowest possible for some basic digital channels that people in my household still watch and aren't available over torrents. But ideally I'd like to cut the cord completely as the service is otherwise useless. Are there any options for obtaining this content without physically moving to Comcast territory where they don't do this? Or perhaps any workarounds for the CCI flag? Ideally, anything that allows XBMC with digital content and no transcoding."
Millions of pixels have been used to talk about Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer's decision to ban telecommuting and her reasons for doing it. Today's interviewee, Mårten Mickos, built MySQL AB into a billion-dollar company with 70% of its workers, all over the world, telecommuting instead of working in offices. Now he's CEO of another young open source company, Eucalyptus, and is following a similar hiring pattern. Mårten says (toward the end of the video/transcript) that he believes people working out of their homes is entirely natural; that this is how things were done for thousands of years before the industrial revolution.
pigrabbitbear writes "The Supreme Court may have approved the warrantless wiretapping of American citizens for just about forever, but the good old state of Texas isn't going to take that lying down. Texas lawmakers don't believe that cell phone location data is fair game for law enforcement, and a couple identical bills filed in Texas's House and Senate would provide sweeping protections for private cell users."
An anonymous reader writes "The European Union is voting on a proposal next week that could lead to a blanket ban on porn in member states, and it seems the measure may well be approved. The proposal, called 'Eliminating gender stereotypes in the EU,' mentions issues such as women carrying a 'disproportionate share of the burden' when raising a family, violence against women as 'an infringement of human rights,' and gender stereotypes that develop early in life. From the proposal: "Calls on the EU and its Member States to take concrete action on its resolution of 16 September 1997 on discrimination against women in advertising, which called for a ban on all forms of pornography in the media and on the advertising of sex tourism." Update: 03/07 19:05 GMT by T : Pirate MEP Christian Engström writes on his blog that citizens writing to the European Parliament about the proposal are not necessarily being heard: "Before noon, some 350 emails [on this topic] had arrived in my office. But around noon, these mails suddenly stopped arriving. When we started investigating why this happened so suddenly, we soon found out: The IT department of the European Parliament is blocking the delivery of the emails on this issue, after some members of the parliament complained about getting emails from citizens."
mikejuk writes "Microsoft Research is currently having a Techfest at Redmond where it is showing off a lot of new work. The latest work on the Kinect uses the same sort of machine-learning approach to distinguish between an open hand and a clenched fist. Although there are no details, its general method was to use a large number of images of people's hands and supervised training to distinguish between open and closed hands. The learning algorithm is based on a forest of decision trees, which is the same general method used to implement the skeleton tracking. Being able to detect an open or closed hand might not seem to be much of an advance, and certainly not as good as a multi-gesture touch screen interface, but it is enough to allow the user interface to distinguish a "pick up" or "grip" gesture. So you can move the hands within an image, close both hands to grip the image points and move apart to zoom. You can't get the software at the moment, but it has been promised for the next version of the Kinect SDK for Windows along with the long awaited 3D scanner Kinect Fusion."
Stiletto writes "Business Insider and All Things D are reporting that Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer's decision to ban telecommuting was data-driven, as you'd expect out of the former Google exec. After spending months frustrated at how empty Yahoo parking lots were, Mayer consulted Yahoo's VPN logs to see if remote employees were checking in enough. Despite all the outrage and flak she's getting from those outside the company for the move, some ex-employees are praising the decision, citing abuse, slacking off, and general 'unavailability' of folks working from home."
An anonymous reader writes "In as little as a few days, the British-made Surrey Training, Research, and Nanosatellite Demonstrator (STRaND-1) satellite will begin transitioning its key systems over to a completely stock Android Nexus One smartphone that's been bolted to the bottom of it. The mission is designed to test the endurance of off-the-shelf consumer hardware, and to validate Android as a viable platform for controlling low-cost spacecraft. STRaND-1 managed to beat NASA's own 'PhoneSat' mission to the punch, which will see a Nexus One and Nexus S launched into space aboard the April test flight of the Orbital Sciences Antares commercial launch vehicle, the prime competitor to SpaceX's Falcon 9."
mask.of.sanity writes "Annual Canadian hack fest Pwn2Own is famous for leaving a trail of bloodied software bits and today it did not disappoint. Security researchers tore holes through all major web browsers, breaking Windows 8 and Java, too (though the latter feat is not remarkable). Thankfully for the rest of us, the cashed-up winners will disclose the holes quietly to Microsoft, Mozilla, Google and Oracle, and the proof of concept attack code will remain in the hands of organisers only."
jppiiroinen writes "North Korea threatened the United States on Thursday with a preemptive nuclear strike, raising the level of rhetoric while the U.N. Security Council considers new sanctions against the reclusive country."
sciencehabit writes "Pharmaceuticals often have side effects that go unnoticed until they're already available to the public. Doctors and even the FDA have a hard time predicting what drug combinations will lead to serious problems. But thanks to people scouring the web for the side effects of the drugs they're taking, researchers have now shown that Google and other search engines can be mined for dangerous drug combinations. In a new study, scientists tried the approach out on predicting hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar. They found that the data-mining procedure correctly predicted whether a drug combo did or did not cause hypoglycemia about 81% of the time."
An anonymous reader writes "A Court of Appeal judgement released today has ruled in favor of Kim Dotcom and will let him sue the Government Communications Security Bureau (GCSB) alongside New Zealand Police. During the High Court case, it emerged that the GCSB had been illegally spying on Dotcom prior to the raid on his Coatesville mansion, on behalf of the FBI, who now wants the Megaupload millionaire extradited to face trial in the US over copyright infringements."
Qedward writes "Virgin Atlantic is preparing for a significant increase in data as it embraces the Internet of Things, with a new fleet of highly connected planes each expected to create over half a terabyte of data per flight. IT director David Bulman said: 'The latest planes we are getting, the Boeing 787s, are incredibly connected. Literally every piece of that plane has an internet connection, from the engines, to the flaps, to the landing gear. If there is a problem with one of the engines we will know before it lands to make sure that we have the parts there. It is getting to the point where each different part of the plane is telling us what it is doing as the flight is going on. We can get upwards of half a terabyte of data from a single flight from all of the different devices which are internet connected.'"
Nerval's Lobster writes "The Green Grid, which helped popularize metrics for minimizing wasted electricity in data centers, has developed a new method for cutting down on wasted electronics as old servers and other equipment reach their inevitable retirement. The Electronics Disposal Efficiency metric is designed to help minimize electronic waste, specifically servers and other enterprise hardware. It will take a cue from other organizations, including the Solving the E-waste Problem (StEP) Initiative. The Green Grid is trying to build on established regulations that govern the disposal of consumer electronics such as televisions, including the rules governing Waste Electronics and Electrical Equipment (WEEE) within the EU. The metric isn't concerned with whether equipment has been reused or recycled, or where it's broken down into component parts. But Green Grid decided that recyclers need to be ISO 14001 certified, on top of being audited 'to the end of the line'—presumably to ensure that materials were being recycled and not discarded somewhere along the recycling chain."
Hugh Pickens writes writes "It's been said that social graces may be just as important as intelligence and engineering prowess to success as an astrophysicist or computer engineer. But how do you take someone who's grown up in the world of pocket protectors and get them thinking about suits, bow ties and the proper way to hold a wine glass. Now Jennifer Lawinski reports that MIT's Charm School just celebrated its 20th birthday with classes in alcohol and gym etiquette, how to dress for work and how to visit a contemporary art museum. 'We're giving our students the tools to be productive members of society, to be the whole package,' says Alana Hamlett. 'It gets them thinking about who they are and what their impact and effect is, whether they're working on a team in an engineering company, or in a small group on a project, or interviewing for a job.' At this year's Charm School students were free to drop in and participate in any of the 20-minute mini-courses being offered that day and students who participated in 10 of the mini-courses were awarded doctorates of charm. Computational biology graduate student Asa Adadey said the free meal was a draw and said he learned in one mini-course not to cut up all his meat at once before eating it. 'Who knows? Down the line I may find myself at a formal dinner.'"