MarkWhittington writes "According to a July 3, 2013 story in SpaceRef, NASA has issued a Request for Information concerning various commercial endeavors to create robotic lunar landers. NASA appears to be interested in assisting in those projects with a view of using the resulting vehicles for its own exploration plans. Officially, thanks to a mandate by President Obama, NASA is not planning its own crewed mission to the moon. However the space agency seems to be interested in supporting, in some way, a commercially run lunar base. Joint robotic lunar landings might be seen as the start of such an effort."
Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive
ananyo writes "Transplanting tiny 'liver buds' constructed from human stem cells restores liver function in mice, researchers have found. Although preliminary, the results offer a potential path towards developing treatments for the thousands of patients awaiting liver transplants every year. The liver buds, approximately 4 mm across, staved off death in mice with liver failure, the researchers report this week in Nature (abstract.). The transplanted structures also took on a range of liver functions — secreting liver-specific proteins and producing human-specific metabolites. But perhaps most notably, these buds quickly hooked up with nearby blood vessels and continued to grow after transplantation."
An anonymous reader writes "Finnish software and services firm Digia, which bought Qt from Nokia back in August, has released version 5.1 of the cross-platform application framework. Among the changes are 'significant improvements' to Qt Quick and preliminary support for Android and iOS. The latter means Qt on Android and iOS are both considered Technology Previews, letting developers start building for the two mobile operating systems and porting apps from other platforms by reusing the same code base. Although most of the Qt functionality and tool integration is already in place to start developing mobile apps, Digia promises complete ports to Android and iOS will come with the release of Qt 5.2 'later this year.'"
First time accepted submitter doublebackslash writes "On July 5th, WWVB, NIST's timekeeping radio station transmitting near Fort Collins, will celebrate 50 years of continuous operation. Operating at 60kHz, the signal actually follows the curvature of the Earth via a trick of electromagnetics, allowing nearly the entire globe to receive an accurate time signal, which has in recent years reached an accuracy of 1 part in 70 trillion. Recent upgrades, which came in $15.9 million under budget will allow the station to be better received even in large buildings, giving it an edge on timekeeping that not even GPS can touch, with its need for open skies to receive a signal."
An anonymous reader writes "When George Lucas produced his Star Wars movies, he subtitled them 'Episode I,' 'Episode IV' etc. But that style will become inappropriate and confusing with Disney producing a new Star Wars movie each year, observes blogger Christopher Knight: 'Those were individual chapters of one story in an epic fantasy setting. And it suffices for that one multi-generational epic on film. Except now, there is the intent to produce several stories in that same setting. And they aren't necessarily going to pertain to the tale of the Skywalker family from Anakin to Luke to whoever it will be in the next trilogy.' Knight's solution is to retroactively amend the titles of Episodes I through IX to reflect it being the Skywalkers' saga, just as Lucas retroactively subtitled the first movie to be Episode IV."
Daniel_Stuckey writes with a snippet from his piece at Vice: "I did some calculations in Excel, using independence dates provided on About.com, and found the average age of a country is about 158.78 years old. Now, before anyone throws a tizzy about what makes a country a country, about nations, tribes, civilizations, ethnic categories, or about my makeshift methodology, keep in mind, I simply assessed 195 countries based on their political sovereignty. That is the occasion we're celebrating today, right?"
Mark.JUK writes "The European Union and Japan have unveiled a joint investment of 18 million Euros that aims to build more efficient fibre optic broadband networks that are '5000 times faster than today's average European broadband ISP speed (100Gbps compared to 19.7Mbps).' The funding will go towards supporting six research projects, which range from an effort to enable fibre optic networks at more than 100Gbps (aka – STRAUSS), to investigating new ways of ensuring efficient use of energy in information networks (aka — GreenICN). Faster than 100Gbps fibre optic links already exist but the new research could potentially help to bring these closer to homes. Some ISPs already offer 1Gbps+ connections to home users; not so long ago everybody was still stuck on a 50Kbps dialup link or slower."
astroengine writes "Astronomers were on a celestial fishing expedition for pulsing neutron stars and other radio bursts when they found something unexpected in archived sky sweeps conducted by the Parkes radio telescope in New South Wales, Australia. The powerful signal, which lasted for just milliseconds, could have been a fluke, but then the team found three more equally energetic transient flashes all far removed from the galactic plane and coming from different points in the sky. Astronomers are at a loss to explain what these flashes are — they could be a common astrophysical phenomenon that has only just been detected as our radio antennae have become sensitive enough, or they could be very rare and totally new phenomenon that, so far, defies explanation."
First time accepted submitter Kyle Jacoby writes "The app-powered on-demand ride-sharing startup, Lyft, has brought its trademark pink mustaches to San Diego. After a successful venture in San Francisco about a year ago, Lyft has since expanded to offer their services to other congested cities, like Boston, Los Angeles, Seattle, and Chicago. Despite the utility of the service, Lyft (and related services Sidecar and Uber) has recently come under fire from the city of Los Angeles, whose department of transportation issued cease-and-desist letters to the startup. It seems that the service has the taxi community in an uproar, who believe that Lyft ride-share drivers should be required to obtain the permits similar to those required of taxi drivers." Nothing like some regulatory capture for Independence Day. Amid the ongoing strike of BART workers in the Bay Area, I bet some people are using on-line organization tools for ride-sharing with a similar upshot.
Freshly Exhumed writes with this news (quoting The Guardian): "France runs a vast electronic surveillance operation, intercepting and stocking data from citizens' phone and internet activity, using similar methods to the U.S. National Security Agency's Prism programme exposed by Edward Snowden, Le Monde has reported. An investigation by the French daily [en français; Google translation] found that the DGSE, France's external intelligence agency, had spied on the French public's phone calls, emails and internet activity. The agency intercepted signals from computers and phones in France as well as between France and other countries, looking not so much at content but to create a map of 'who is talking to whom,' the paper said."
schwit1 writes with this excerpt from the Washington Examiner: "State Department officials spent $630,000 to get more Facebook 'likes,' prompting employees to complain to a government watchdog that the bureau was 'buying fans' in social media, the agency's inspector general says. 'Many in the bureau criticize the advertising campaigns as "buying fans" who may have once clicked on an ad or "liked" a photo but have no real interest in the topic and have never engaged further,' the inspector general reported. The effort failed to reach the bureau's target audience, which is largely older and more influential than the people liking its pages. Only about 2 percent of fans actually engage with the pages by liking, sharing or commenting. In September 2012 Facebook also changed its approach to users' news feeds, and the expensive 'fan' campaigns became much less valuable. The bureau now must constantly pay for sponsored ads to keep its content visible even to people who have already liked its pages."
judgecorp writes "Jay-Z's Android app has been hit by hackers who created a clone of the software. The app was supposed to deliver a copy of the rapper's single and provide footage and other goodies. The rogue app is a ringer for the real one, but has a time-based trigger to deliver anti-Government propaganda on 4 July. The app, and its service name NSAListener, appears to suggest be a protest against U.S. surveillance."
Nerval's Lobster writes "The same layers of virtualization that have made networked business computing so much more convenient and useful have also given bad guys much easier access to both physical and virtual servers within previously-secure datacenters. A group of engineering researchers from MIT has demonstrated one approach to making secure servers harder to access using a physical system that prevents attackers from reading a server's memory-access patterns to figure out where and how data are stored. Ascend, which the group demonstrated at a meeting of the International Symposium on Computer Architecture in Tel Aviv in June (PDF), is designed to obscure both memory-access patterns and the length of time specific computations take to keep attackers from learning enough to compromise the server. The approach goes beyond simply encrypting everything on the whole server to try to shut off one of the most direct ways attackers can address the server directly — whether the server is an air-gapped high-security machine sitting in an alarmed and guarded room at the NSA or a departmental server whose security settings are a little too loose. Other ways to try to obscure memory-access patterns were built as applications to run on the server. Ascend is the first time a hardware-only approach has been proposed, and the first to approach an acceptable level of performance, according to Srini Devadas, Edwin Sibley Webster Professor of Electrical Engineering and Computer Science, the MIT researcher who oversaw the team developing the hardware."
An anonymous reader writes "A server error has meant that for the past few months, a man not associated in any way with social gaming powerhouse Zynga has been getting customer support emails. When Zynga failed to return his messages, he started replying to the customers himself. Hilariously." Sadly (though perhaps some of his correspondents would disagree), the glitch has now been fixed.
New submitter badzilla writes with a story from ZDnet that says a vote is scheduled in the European Parliament for today, U.S. Independence Day, on "whether existing data sharing agreements between the two continents should be suspended, following allegations that U.S. intelligence spied on EU citizens." One interesting scenario outlined by the article is that it may disrupt air travel between the U.S. and EU: "In the resolution, submitted to the Parliament on Tuesday, more than two-dozen politicians from a range of political parties call the spying 'a serious violation of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations,' and call on the suspension of the Passenger Name Records (PNR) system. Prior to leaving the airport, airlines must make passenger data available to the U.S. Names, dates of birth, addresses, credit or debit card details and seat numbers are among the data — though critics say the information has never helped catch a suspected criminal or terrorist before. Should the PNR system be suspended, it could result in the suspension of flights to the U.S. from European member states."
New submitter TheRecklessWanderer writes "Boxee, manufacturer of The Boxee Box and Boxee DVR as well as developer of the Boxee software, has been sold to Samsung. Boxee has had a hard time adapting to the quickly changing environment where appliances have converged with televisions (morphing into Smart TVs), and I'm sure Samsung is looking to integrate the software in some form or another into their smart TVs."
MojoKid writes "The semiconductor market for mobile and hand-held devices has changed dramatically in the past six years and ARM has had to evolve along side it. ARM's IP focus allows it to dedicate all its resources to building a great design rather than committing to any single manufacturing process node, customer, or foundry. Architectural design and implementation is done very much in partnership with both foundries (TSMC, GlobalFoundries) and licensees like Samsung or Qualcomm. The difference between the way Intel goes to market and ARM's model is more nuanced than the simple ownership of manufacturing facilities. Owning its own fab means that Intel can tweak process technology to match the particulars of a given architecture (and vice-versa). It also gives the company far more flexibility when planning future nodes. If Intel feels that integrating Peanut Butter Silicon on Insulator (PB-SOI) is the best way to hit its performance and power consumption targets at 14nm, for example, it can make that happen internally. ARM, in contrast, is limited by the decisions of the foundry manufacturers it partners with."
An anonymous reader writes with this news from The Irish Times: "'The Supreme Court [Wednesday] upheld a challenge by four music companies to a notice of the Data Protection Commissioner which they feared would effectively unwind their 'three strikes and you're out' agreement with Eircom aimed at combating the widespread illegal downloading of music.' In the ruling it was found the original High Court trial judge correctly concluded there was 'a complete absence of reasons' and therefore, the notice was unlawful and made in breach of Section 10.4 of the Data Protection Acts. Makes you wonder whether the High Court would have upheld it, had the Data Commissioner given reasons ... which seemed quite justified: 'In September 2011, the Commissioner told Eircom the complainant subscriber had restated his original complaint and alleged Eircom's monitoring of his internet use breached his data protection rights.'"