gbrumfiel writes "Researchers in France have discovered the world's largest virus and given it a terrifying name: Pandoravirus. NPR reports it doesn't pose a threat to people, but its genetic code could hint at an unusual origin. The team believes that the virus may carry the genes from a long-dead branch of the tree of life, one that possibly even started on Mars or somewhere else. Other scientists are skeptical, but everyone agrees that the new giant virus is pretty cool."
Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive
cylonlover writes "It's one of the most memorable moments in perhaps the best James Bond film, From Russia with Love: SPECTRE agent Rosa Klebb, posing as a hotel maid, drops her gun, and appears to be at a disadvantage as she goes toe to toe with Sean Connery's imposing Bond. That is until she deploys her iconic poison-tipped dagger shoes, which have gone on to be copied in other notable action films. But as kitsch as Klebb's cleaver clogs might seem, the CIA attempted to replicate them, and another classic Bond gadget, in real life, according to research by Dr. Christopher Moran of Warwick University. At the heart of the story is the close friendship of Bond author Ian Fleming and former CIA Director Allen Dulles. Gizmag spoke to Moran about 20th century Intelligence, and its peculiar relationship with the fictional British spy."
itwbennett writes "Baltimore this week became the first city to hop on the open data bandwagon with the launch of the Baltimore Decoded website. The site makes the city's charter and codes more accessible to the public and will eventually include information on court decisions, legislative tracking and city technical standards (e.g., building regulations, zoning restrictions, fire codes). The site also offers a RESTful, JSON-based API for accessing the data. ITworld's Phil Johnson dug in and found these lesser-known Baltimore codes: You can't hold more than 1 yard sale every 6 months, you can't tie a horse to a tree, and you can't have fruit on a wharf. What you do with this information is up to you."
astroengine writes "At one time, Mars had a thick, protective atmosphere — possibly even cushier than Earth's — but the bubble of gases mostly dissipated about 4 billion years ago and has never been replenished, new research shows. The findings come from NASA's Mars rover Curiosity, which has been moonlighting as an atmospheric probe as it scours planet's surface for habitats that could have supported ancient microbial life. 'On Earth, our magnetic field protects us, it shields us from the solar wind particles. Without Earth's magnetic field, we would have no atmosphere and there would be no life on this planet. Everything would be wiped out — especially when you go back 4 billion years. The solar wind was at least 100 times stronger then than it is today. It was a young sun with a very intense radiation,' Chris Webster, manager of the Planetary Sciences Instruments Office at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif., told Discovery News. Unfortunately for Mars, the last 4 billion years have not been kind."
Nerval's Lobster writes "a 'broad alliance' of 63 technology companies and civil liberties organizations plan on demanding more transparency about U.S. government surveillance programs, according to a new report in AllThingsD. Those companies and organizations will reportedly ask the government to allow them to report more accurate information about user-data requests. At the moment, federal agencies forbid Google, Microsoft, and other tech vendors from reporting more than a broad numerical range; for example, Google might announce as part of its Transparency Report that it received between 0-999 National Security Letters (issued by agencies as part of national security investigations) in 2009. 'We seek permission for the same information to be made available regarding the government's national security–related authorities," reads a portion of a letter that will be reportedly published July 19 and signed by all those tech companies. "This information about how and how often the government is using these legal authorities is important to the American people, who are entitled to have an informed public debate about the appropriateness of those authorities and their use.' This is all continuing fallout from Edward Snowden's leaks of top-secret documents alleging that the NSA maintains a program called PRISM that allegedly siphons personal information from the databases of the world's largest tech companies. Ever since, those companies (which have all denied participation in PRISM) have been anxious to show the world that they only give the government as little user data as possible. This new push for more 'transparency' plays to that strategy, and the stakes couldn't be higher—if consumers and businesses lose faith in their IT providers' ability to preserve privacy, the latter's very existence could be at risk."
itwbennett writes "The only thing that's noteworthy about Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer's recent disclosure that the company has one million servers in its data centers is that he decided to disclose it — most of the industry giants like to keep that information to themselves, says ITworld's Nancy Gohring. But just for fun, Amazon Web Services engineer James Hamilton did the math: One million servers equals 15–30 data centers, a $4.25 billion capital expense, and power consumption of 2.6TWh annually, or the amount of power that would be used by 230,000 homes in the U.S. Whether this is high or low, good or bad is impossible to know without additional metrics."
New submitter cpitman writes "In a house hearing Wednesday the NSA admitted that it could query not only a suspect's records, but also perform up to a 'three hop query'. Considering that most people in the world are separated by under 6 degrees of separation, the NSA essentially claims that any single suspect gives them rights to investigate a large chunk of the world's population. With the terror watch list having over 700,000 names, just how many times has Kevin Bacon been investigated?"
solareagle writes "Pennsylvania resident Chris Reynolds got quite a shock when he opened his most recent PayPal statement — it said he had a $92,233,720,368,547,800 balance in his account. 'I'm just feeling like a million bucks,' Reynolds told the [Philadelphia] Daily News yesterday. 'At first I thought that I owed quadrillions. It was quite a big surprise.' When asked what he would do with the money, he said, 'I would pay the national debt down first. Then I would buy the Phillies, if I could get a great price.' The Daily News speculates that the astronomical balance may be related to PayPal's new Galactic initiative, announced last month, to expand its business beyond Earth." He should have quickly minted a new coin.
An anonymous reader writes "VideoLAN revealed some very exciting news today: VLC for iOS will be back in Apple's App Store by tomorrow (July 19). The company tells TNW the app will be available for free worldwide, requires iOS 5.1 or later, as well supports the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch. As you can expect, VLC for iOS version 2.0 will be open-source. This time, however, its code will be available online (also by tomorrow), bi-licensed under both the Mozilla Public License Version 2 as well as the GNU General Public License Version 2 or later."
An anonymous reader writes "Comcast engineers want to put WiFi transceivers in rental cars, taxis, buses and even on humans to extend reach of its Xfinity WiFi network. They also detail an idea for offering incentives to drivers to move WiFi-enabled cars to areas where it needs WiFi coverage. The plan was detailed in a patent application published today by the USPTO (I wrote a story about it for FierceCable)." Speaking of extension, this sounds like a logical outgrowth of using wireless routers to grow the network. (I hope they choose their humans carefully, if this plan bears fruit.)
Declan Mccullagh, C|net's Chief political correspondent, has covered politics since the late 1990s for a variety of publications. He is a strong libertarian, privacy advocate, and long time Slashdot reader who is not happy about how the NSA and other government bodies are sticking their noses into our personal business. He and I originally talked about doing an interview based on a story he wrote for C|net on July 12 titled How the U.S. forces Net firms to cooperate on surveillance. Scheduling problems put the interview off for a bit, but here we are. Note that Declan has written millions of pixels worth of material about privacy, NSA spying, and related matters. With new revelations about unsavory government activities coming to light seemingly every day the interview delay is no big deal. And this question still remains: Can we repeal the Patriot Act? New Jersey Congressman Rush Holt wants to. What about your representatives? Are they willing to join Rep. Holt? Do you think they might if a bunch of people -- perhaps starting with you -- asked them to?
Mark.JUK writes "Alcatel-Lucent's research and development division, Bell Labs, has successfully broken yet another record after it used 155 lasers (each operating at different frequencies and carrying 200Gbps of data over a 50GHz frequency grid) and an enhanced version of Wavelength Division Multiplexing (WDM) to send information at a staggering speed of 31 Terabits per second over a single 7200km long optical fibre cable. Previous experiments have been faster but only over shorter distances or by using a different type of fibre optic cable entirely."
First time accepted submitter husemann writes "Micah Lee from the EFF filed a bug report about Google storing all your WLAN passwords on their application settings backup service without allowing you to encrypt them. So far it's not known whether the passwords are stored encrypted at rest, but just the fact that Google can read them (and disclose them if forced by 'law') is a bit surprising, too put it nicely. Already one German university is concerned enough about this 'feature' that they issued a warning to their users."
hypnosec writes "ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers) has approved the first set of global Top Level Domains (gTLDs) and surprisingly all four are non-English words including . ("Web" in Arabic); . ("Game" in Chinese); . ("Online" in Russian); and . ("Web site" in Russian). Approval of four non-English words can be considered as a milestone and this approval marks "the first time that people will be able to access and type in a website address for generic Top-Level Domains in their native language.""
An anonymous reader writes with news that a California Senate Bill would authorize the state's Department of Motor Vehicles to test a digital registration plate system patented by San Francisco-based Smart Plate Mobile on as many as 160,000 cars. An article on the proposed trial in the Modesto Bee says, in part: "The state hopes the technology will improve efficiencies in vehicle registrations and potentially save the DMV some of the $20 million spent each year in postage for renewals. Privacy advocates say the approach could leave motorists vulnerable to government surveillance by undoing a Supreme Court ruling that required authorities to obtain search warrants before using vehicle tracking devices. 'It means everyone driving in California will have their location accessible to the government at any time,' said Nate Cardozo, a staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. In 2010, the Legislature considered a similar bill supported by Smart Plate Mobile, with the noted addition of allowing for scrolling advertisements when a vehicle comes to a stop for four seconds or longer." If only it took smart plates to track you.
pacopico writes "Telsa Motors has started churning out 500 of its all electric Model S sedans per week. Bloomberg Businessweek just did a cover story about the company, suggesting that Tesla is becoming more than just a fad of rich folks in California. According to the story, 75 percent of Tesla's sales now come from outside of California, and the company appears poised to raise its sales forecasts for the year. There's a lot of talk about Tesla's history and why it survived when Fisker and Better Place failed too."
eldavojohn writes "According to RT, the 39th president of the United States made several statements worth noting at a meeting in Atlanta. Carter said that 'America has no functioning democracy at this moment' and 'the invasion of human rights and American privacy has gone too far.' The second comment sounded like Carter predicted the future would look favorably upon Snowden's leaks — at least those concerning domestic spying in the United States — as he said: 'I think that the secrecy that has been surrounding this invasion of privacy has been excessive, so I think that the bringing of it to the public notice has probably been, in the long term, beneficial.' It may be worth noting that, stemming from Zurcher v. Stanford Daily, Jimmy Carter signed the Privacy Protection Act of 1980 into law and that Snowden has received at least one nomination for the Nobel Peace Prize."
An anonymous reader writes "Artificial and natural knowledge researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago have IQ-tested one of the best available artificial intelligence systems to see how intelligent it really is. Turns out–it's about as smart as the average 4-year-old. The team put ConceptNet 4, an artificial intelligence system developed at M.I.T., through the verbal portions of the Wechsler Preschool and Primary Scale of Intelligence Test, a standard IQ assessment for young children. They found ConceptNet 4 has the average IQ of a young child. But unlike most children, the machine's scores were very uneven across different portions of the test." If you'd like to play with the AI system described here, take note of the ConceptNet API documentation, and this Ubuntu-centric installation guide.
vikingpower writes "How a phone manufacturer making a somewhat successful come-back can shoot itself in the foot: Marc "van Hauser" Heuse, who works for German technology magazine Heise, has discovered that immediately after setting up an email account on Blackberry 10 OS, full credentials for that account are sent to Research In Motion, the Canadian Blackberry manufacturer. Shortly after performing the set-up, the first successful connections from a server located within the RIM domain appear in the mail server's logs. (Most of the story in English, some comments in German.) At least according to German law, this is completely illegal, as the phone's user does not get a single indication or notice of what is being done." (Here's Heise's article, in German.)
New submitter Taffykay writes "Swedish designers developed the Sweat Machine to drain perfectly good drinking water from sweaty clothes! PR Agency Deportivo has teamed up with UNICEF to show off the machine at the Gotha Cup youth soccer tournament in order to highlight how many people around the world lack access to basic drinking water."
DeviceGuru writes with this excerpt from LinuxGizmos: "GlassUp, an Italian startup, has started taking pre-orders on Indiegogo for an Android eyewear display system billed as a simpler, lower-cost alternative to Google Glass. The GlassUp device is a receive-only Bluetooth accessory to a nearby mobile device, providing a monochrome, 320 x 240-pixel augmented reality display of incoming messages and notifications. GlassUp was unveiled at CeBit in March, and is now up for crowdfunding on Indiegogo, where pre-sales opened today ranging from $199 to $399, depending on whether it's a pre-release, pre-production, or full-production version. This is less than a quarter the price of the $1,500 Google Glass Developer Edition. Already almost two years in development, GlassUp is expected to ship to presales customers in Feb. 2014, around the same time Google Glass is expected to ship in commercial production form." And for Google Glass itself, there's at least one project to bring Google's own hardware an alternative operating system.
puddingebola writes "The ACLU has published a study saying the widespread use of police and traffic cameras has made it possible to track individual's movements, even across multiple jurisdictions. From the article, 'While the Supreme Court ruled in 2012 that a judge's approval is needed to use GPS to track a car, networks of plate scanners allow police effectively to track a driver's location, sometimes several times every day, with few legal restrictions. The ACLU says the scanners are assembling a "single, high-resolution image of our lives." "There's just a fundamental question of whether we're going to live in a society where these dragnet surveillance systems become routine," said Catherine Crump, a staff attorney with the organization. The group is proposing that police departments immediately delete any records of cars not linked to any crime.'"
Taco Cowboy writes " The CIA is currently funding, in part, a $630,000 study on geoengineering, the science of using experimental techniques to modify Earth's climate. Scientists will study how humans might influence weather patterns, assess the potential dangers of messing with the climate, and investigate possible national security implications of geoengineering attempts. The study calls for information on two geoengineering techniques in particular, 'solar radiation management (SRM),' which refers to launching material into Earth's atmosphere to try and block the Sun's infrared radiation, limiting global temperature rise; and 'carbon dioxide removal (CDR),' taking carbon dioxide emissions out of the climate, which scientists have proposed doing through a variety of means, from structures that eat air pollution to capturing carbon emissions as they come out of smokestacks."
snydeq writes "Born or made, network admins share certain defining characteristics. Deep End's Paul Venezia offers nine: 'I hope that this insight into the extremely logical, yet consistently dangerous world of the network admin has shed some light on how we work and how we think. I don't expect it to curtail the repeated claims of the network being down, but maybe it's a start. In fact, if you're reading this and you are not a network admin, perhaps you should find the closest one and buy him or her a cup of coffee. They could probably use it.'"
MojoKid writes "Apple may be closer than previously thought to using Liquidmetal's technology to manufacture casings for its mobile devices. In a patent filing, a company called 'Crucible Intellectual Properties, LLC' (which is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Liquidmetal dedicated to Apple work) laid claim to a manufacturing process for creating 'bulk amorphous alloy sheets', also known as bulk metallic glass (BMG). The process, called 'float glass', involves two layers of molten metal, and the result is a glass-like metal that allegedly would be strong, incredibly lightweight, corrosion-resistant--and low cost. Further, the manufacturing process would ostensibly make it far easier to create specific items, as it removes some of the barriers and issues related to forming and cutting metal, and specifically BMG."