First time accepted submitter MrMagooAZ writes "An interesting article about a questionable reaction by FEMA in response to the flooding in Colorado. It seems a small firm was working free of charge with County officials to use drones to map the area and provide near-real-time maps of the flood damage. When FEMA took control of operations one of their first acts appears to have been to not only ground the drones, but threaten the operators. 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help you?'" The drone model in question has permits from the FAA to be flown around even. The drones were replaced with manned craft that, due to the terrain, where unable to fly low enough to make useful maps.
Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive
sciencehabit writes "Ever send a bottle of wine back at a restaurant? If you weren't just being a pretentious snob, then it was probably because the wine seemed 'corked' — had a musty odor and didn't taste quite right. Most likely, the wine was contaminated with a molecule called 2,4,6-trichloroanisole (TCA), the main cause of cork taint. But a new study by Japanese researchers concludes that you do not smell TCA directly; rather, TCA blocks up your sense of smell and distorts your ability to detect odors. The findings could help the food and beverage industry improve its products and lead to less embarrassment for both you and your waiter."
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Reddit became a gathering place for amateur sleuthing in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing earlier this year, fueling what some reports called 'online witch hunts' that resulted in some people being falsely identified as the bomber. Now Andrea Peterson reports at the Washington Post that a section on the popular online community for finding the Navy Yard shooters has been banned. 'We banned it because it violated site rules by encouraging the posting of personal information,' says Erik Martin from reddit. The shooting at the Washington Navy Yard on Monday morning left at least 12, including a gunman dead. But police say there may be another suspect at large, and they 'have reason to believe' this individual was involved in shootings."
cagraham writes "Following close on the heels of Instagram's advertising announcement last week, Tumblr has signed an agreement with analytics firm DataSift to provide info to advertisers on user behavior. According to Yahoo! CEO Marissa Mayer, who oversaw the recent $1.1 billion purchase of Tumblr, advertising on the site will become increasingly prevalent throughout 2014. DataSift will provide advertisers with info on the 5.5 billion interactions that occur on the site each day. This makes Tumblr the latest in a slew of recent tech companies to turn towards targeted ads in an attempt to generate revenue." Twitter is another customer of DataSift.
jamie writes "It seems every time someone twists global-warming science into 'good news,' a retraction is soon to follow, and so it must be for Slashdot. Yesterday, the conservative Wall Street Journal published yet another apologetic claiming 'the overall effect of climate change will be positive,' by someone who (of course) is not a climate scientist. Today, Climate Progress debunks the piece, noting 'Ridley and the WSJ cite the University of Illinois paper to supposedly prove that warming this century will be under 2C — when the author has already explained to them that his research shows the exact opposite!' We went through this same process last year, with the same author and the same paper, so it's pretty embarrassing that he 'makes a nearly identical blunder' all over again."
An anonymous reader writes in with a story about the advocacy group "Peers". The group says their goal is to “mainstream, protect, and grow the sharing economy.” "The growth of the 'sharing economy,' a loosely defined term generally referring to the internet-enabled peer-to-peer exchanges of goods, has brought with it a shift in the way we think about consumption. Its rise has been fast, and loud. What started with a few enterprising individuals willing to let complete strangers sleep in their homes and use their possessions has now developed into a formidable economic force that threatens to upend several different industries. Along the way, it has posed some major legal challenges. The companies that are pushing it forward have continually undermined local ordinances, consumer safeguards, and protectionist regulations alike. As a result, governments around the country are trying to reign them in. That’s where Silicon Valley’s newest advocacy group comes in."
Nerval's Lobster writes "As noted by CNET, Apple hasn't released data on the number of iPhone 5C units it presold in the device's first 24 hours of availability—a first for the iPhone since 2009. Why is that? Reporter Josh Lowensohn speculates that iPhone 5C sales 'may not be as impressive when stacked up against tallies from previous years,' with one outside analyst suggesting that Apple racked up 1 million iPhone 5C preorders last Friday, or roughly half the 2 million presales scored by the iPhone 5 on its first day of ordering availability last year. However well the iPhone 5C ends up performing on the open market, Apple's decision to launch two iPhones this year—rather than a single 'hero' device—could result in self-cannibalism, as users who would've bought the iPhone 5S instead gravitate toward the cheaper option. Cannibalism is a topic that Apple knows well, as it's been dealing with the iPhone cannibalizing the iPod for the past several years; but a new iPhone eating away at another new iPhone is fresh territory for the company. During earnings calls, Apple CEO Tim Cook likes to argue that cannibalization—whether iPhones feeding off the iPod, or the iPad taking the place of MacBooks—is a good thing, so long as it's Apple products eating other Apple products. But it's far more questionable whether he would welcome the iPhone 5C—almost certainly a low-margin device, despite its current-generation components and plastic body—taking a bite out of the more expensive, and presumably higher-margin iPhone 5S. Margin erosion remains a prime concern of investors and Apple watchers; anything that contributes to that erosion is bound to be viewed unfavorably."
Slashdot's Timothy Lord is attending LinuxCon in New Orleans this week and writes in with the following. "Valve co-founder and managing director Gabe Newell says in no uncertain terms what the brain trust at Valve thinks: When it comes to actual users, 'Linux is currently insignificant by any metric' (by any metric that matters to game companies, at least, like number of players, minutes played, and — all important — revenue). On these fronts, Linux players are 'typically under 1 percent' of what game companies see. But that's not the upshot. The takeaway is just about the opposite, says Newell: 'The future of gaming is on Linux.' Newell expounded on the present and future of games on Linux in a keynote address at LinuxCon North America, which kicked off today in New Orleans. He described ways Valve is working to improve the landscape for games on Linux, and hinted at new hardware developments from the company in the near future." Keep reading for the rest of Tim's report.
With three letters, you can get most gamers' attention: MMO. With three more, you can just as quickly inspire skepticism and doubt: FPS. Ever since the MMORPG craze got underway, players and developers have been looking for ways to meld it with the FPS craze that's been going on since the days of Doom. Unfortunately, it's proven much more difficult than expected. The spectrum ranges only from high profile failures, like Richard Garriott's Tabula Rasa, to minor successes, like the Planetside games. That's why Red 5 Studios, a company built upon industry veterans from studios like Blizzard, has been hesitant to throw around the term 'MMOFPS' to describe its first game: Firefall. They say emphatically that it's 'a shooter first and foremost,' and that it also has MMORPG elements. It's more than an academic distinction; they feel that you can't simply cobble together two different genres. In order for the game to work, it has to do the shooter part well, with the relevant RPG parts (character advancement, a persistent world, crafting, etc.) added only in service to the shooter aspect. As Firefall takes shape in an open beta period, it's clear that this is the proper approach. Red 5's unfinished experiment is promising.
minty3 writes "The new snail species, Zospeum tholussum, has no eyes or pigmentation on its shell and is considered to be a true eutroglobiont or cave-dweller. It was found by a team of cavers and biologists from the Croatian Biospeleological Society. While on an expedition to determine the cave’s depth, they collected animal specimens including one of the previously unidentified snails along with eight of its empty shells."
alphadogg writes "A Swiss security company said the NASDAQ website had a serious cross-site scripting vulnerability for two weeks before being fixed on Monday, despite earlier warnings. Ilia Kolochenko, CEO of the Geneva-based penetration testing company High-Tech Bridge, said he repeatedly emailed NASDAQ and warned of the XSS flaw. 'I can basically say I have spammed them,' Kolochenko said in an interview. A NASDAQ spokesman did not have immediate comment. NASDAQ.com lets users create accounts and build a profile to monitor stocks and news."
eionmac writes in with a story about the humble beginnings of an industry that is worth over $186.1 billion in the UK alone. "Grandmother Jane Snowball, 72, sat down in an armchair in her Gateshead home in May 1984, picked up a television remote control and used it to order the groceries from her local supermarket. She was part of a council initiative to help the elderly. What she - and everyone else with her at the time - didn't realise was that her simple shopping list was arguably the world's first home online shop. With her remote control she used a piece of computer technology called Videotex. It sent the order down her phone line to the local Tesco - the goods were then packaged and delivered to her door. Mrs Snowball never saw a computer - her television linked her to the shop. 'What we effectively did was to take a domestic TV in a home and turn it into a computer terminal,' says Michael Aldrich, the man behind the technology for the system. 'That was the big leap.'"
darthcamaro writes "The Linux Foundation's Who Writes Linux report (sign up required) is now out and after 22 yrs leading Linux, Linux creator Linus Torvalds has fallen out of the list of top 100 developers in terms of code contributions. He currently ranks 101st for number of patches generated from the Linux 3.3 to the Linux 3.10 kernel releases." Read below for a few highlights from the report.
Zothecula writes "Researchers at the University of Pennsylvania have found a way to harvest energy from sunlight more efficiently, with the help of so-called plasmonic nanostructures. The new findings suggest that plasmonic components can enhance and direct optical scattering, creating a mechanism that is more efficient than the photoexcitation that drives solar cells. The development could therefore provide a real boost to solar cell efficiency and lead to faster optical communication."
Velcroman1 writes "Imagine living in a country where only 3.5 percent of the population use the Internet. When you ask a neighbor about Facebook, they give you a confused look. Posting a status update on Twitter is a foreign concept, and most citizens still rely on printed newspapers and radio reports. That's life in Afghanistan today, where only 1.5 million people (out of 30M) have Internet access. A new National Social Media Summit intends to change that trend. To be held September 22 to 23 in Kabul, and featuring some 200 speakers, the event will promote the use of social media as a way to not only discuss current news, but to make news. The summit, called Paiwand (or Unity), aims to boost Net use further. It will break out into several themes including social media and government transparency, new media trends and emerging tech."
First time accepted submitter julf writes "The Belgian newspaper De Standaard reports that in an internal investigation, Belgacom, the mostly state-owned telecoms operator in Belgium, discovered evidence that the NSA has been listening in (Dutch) on the Belgacom network since 2011. From the Reuters article: 'Belgium said on Monday it was investigating suspected foreign state espionage against its main telecoms company, which is the top carrier of voice traffic in Africa and the Middle East, and a newspaper pointed the finger at the United States. Federal prosecutors said in a statement that the former state telecoms monopoly Belgacom had filed a complaint in July about the hacking of several servers and computers. "The inquiry has shown that the hacking was only possible by an intruder with significant financial and logistic means," they said.'"
theodp writes "The fist rule of Hackathon Club is don't talk about Hackathon Club cheating. But ever-increasing stakes — the MHacks Hackathon at the Univ. of Michigan is offering over $30,000 in prizes — prompts Kevin Conley to broach the subject, suggesting it's time for some common-sense measures — including showing one's code or reducing prize money — to discourage Hackathon ruses, which can include pre-coding, faked live demos/videos, and the use of remote teammates."
An anonymous reader writes "The Department of Defense has just declassified a copy of its 2009 Concept of Operations Plan for an Influenza Pandemic. Among the Plan's scary yet reasonable assumptions are that in the United States, such a pandemic will kill 2 percent of the infected population, or about 2 million people. The plan also assumes that a vaccine won't be available for at least 4 to 6 months after confirmation of sustained human transmission, and that the weekly vaccine manufacturing capability will only produce 1 percent of the total US vaccine required. State and local governments will be overwhelmed, and civilian mortuary operations will require military augmentation. Measures such as limiting public gatherings, closing schools, social distancing, protective sequestration and masking will be required to limit transmission and reduce illness and death. International and interstate transportation will be restricted to contain the spread of the virus. If a pandemic starts outside the US, it will enter the country at multiple locations and spread quickly to other parts of the country. A related document, CONPLAN 3591-09, was released by DoD in 2010."
schliz writes "An Australian-German team of researchers has developed the most detailed map of gravitational variations ever, using satellite data, gravitational readings and small-scale topographical models. They say the data will help civil engineers and miners, and will be available for free online. Gravitational fields vary because the Earth isn't perfectly spherical. According to the new map, the field is 0.7% greater near the North Pole (9.83ms-2) than at Peru's Nevado Huascaran summit (9.76ms-2). The difference is 40% more than previously expected."
Sparrowvsrevolution writes "The world's first 3D-printed gun known as the Liberator has been treated as a technological marvel and a terrorist threat. Now it's officially become a work of art. On Sunday, London's Victoria & Albert museum of art and design announced that it's buying two of the original Liberator printed guns from their creator, the libertarian hacker non-profit known as Defense Distributed, and will display them during its Design Festival. Cody Wilson, Defense Distributed's founder, calls the museum's acquisition of the gun a victory for his group: 'It will now be this curated, permanent cultural provocation.'"
jones_supa writes "The National Security Agency (NSA) widely monitors international payments, banking and credit card transactions, according to documents seen by SPIEGEL. Information acquired by the former NSA contractor and whistleblower Edward Snowden, show that the spying is conducted by a branch called Follow the Money (FTM). The collected information then flows into the NSA's own financial databank, called Tracfin, which in 2011 contained 180 million records. Some 84 percent of the data is from credit card transactions."
dryriver writes "A daring attempt to pull the shipwrecked Costa Concordia upright will go ahead on Monday, Italian officials have confirmed. The Civil Protection agency said the sea and weather conditions were right for the salvage attempt. Engineers have never tried to move such a huge ship so close to land. Thirty-two people died when the cruise ship hit rocks off the Tuscan island of Giglio in January 2012. It has been lying on its side ever since. Five people have already been convicted of manslaughter over the disaster, and the ship's captain, Francesco Schettino, is currently on trial accused of manslaughter and abandoning ship. The salvage operation is due to begin at 06:00 (04:00 GMT) on Monday, and it is being described as one of the largest and most daunting ever attempted. The head of the operation, Nick Sloane, told AFP news agency that it was now or never for the Costa Concordia, because the hull was gradually weakening and might not survive another winter. Engineers will try to roll the ship up using cables and the weight of water contained in huge metal boxes welded to the ship's sides — a process called parbuckling. This procedure must be done very slowly to prevent further damage to the hull, which has spent more than 18 months partially submerged in 50ft of water and fully exposed to the elements. The salvage project has so far cost more than 600m euros ($800m; £500m) and could cost a lot more by the time the operation is complete."
MojoKid writes "Yep, a USB condom. That term is mostly a dose of marketing brilliance, which is to say that grabs your attention while also serving as an apt description of the product. A little company called int3.cc has developed a product—a USB condom—that blocks the data pins in your USB device while leaving the power pins free. Thus, any time you need to plug a device such as a smartphones into a USB port to charge it—let's say at a public charging kiosk or a coworker's computer--you don't have to worry about compromising any data or contracting some nasty malware. It's one of those simple solutions that seems so obvious once someone came up with it."