juliangamble writes "Designer Prescott Harvey has written and animated an open letter to J.J. Abrams about the plans for the next Star Wars movie. He says, 'Like so many people, I've spent most of my recent years wondering why the original Star Wars trilogy was so awesome, and the new movies were so terrible. What are the factors that make Star Wars Star Wars? I took an empirical approach, determining what elements were in the original movies that differed from the prequels. My first major epiphany was that, in the originals, the characters are always outside somewhere very remote. The environment and the wildlife are as much a threat as the empire. All three movies had this bushwacky, exploratory feel. Contrast that with the prequels, where the characters are often in cities, or in the galactic senate. In order for Star Wars to feel like a true adventure, the setting has to be the frontier, and this became my first rule.'"
theodp writes "This week's NY Times Magazine cover story, We Like You So Much and Want to Know You Better, is an adaptation from The Circle, the soon-to-be-published novel by Dave Eggers which tells the tale of Mae Holland, a young woman who goes to work at an omnipotent technology company and gets sucked into a corporate culture that knows no distinction between work and life, public and private. The WSJ calls it a The Jungle for our own times. And while Eggers insists he wasn't thinking of any one particular company, the NYT excerpt evokes memories of Larry Page's you-will-be-social edict and suggests what the end-game for Google Glass might look like."
wabrandsma sends this story from New Scientist: "A sensor previously used for military operations can now be tuned to secretly locate and record any single conversation on a busy street. [A] Dutch acoustics firm, Microflown Technologies, has developed a matchstick-sized sensor that can pinpoint and record a target's conversations from a distance. Known as an acoustic vector sensor, Microflown's sensor measures the movement of air, disturbed by sound waves, to almost instantly locate where a sound originated. It can then identify the noise and, if required, transmit it live to waiting ears. Security technologist Bruce Schneier says this new capability is unwelcome – particularly given the recent claims about the NSA's success at tapping into our private lives. 'It's not just this one technology that's the problem,' Schneier says. 'It's the mic plus the drones, plus the signal processing, plus voice recognition.'"
New submitter physicsphairy writes "Tomas Mikolov and others at Google have developed a simple means of translating between languages using a large corpus of sample texts. Rather than being defined by humans, words are characterized based on their relation to other words. For example, in any language, a word like 'cat' will have a particular relationship to words like 'small,' 'furry,' 'pet,' etc. The set of relationships of words in a language can be described as a vector space, and words from one language can be translated into words in another language by identifying the mapping between their two vector spaces. The technique works even for very dissimilar languages, and is presently being used to refine and identify mistakes in existing translation dictionaries."
Deathspawner writes "The EU has been known to make a lot of odd decisions when it comes to tech, but one committee's latest vote is one that most people will likely agree with: Standardized smartphone chargers. If passed, this decision would cut down on never having the right charger handy, but as far as the EU is concerned, this is all about a reduction of waste. The initial vote went down on Thursday, and given its market saturation, it seems likely that micro USB would be the target standard. Now, it's a matter of waiting on the EU Parliament to make its vote."
toygeek writes "'Scout,' a 4-meter-long autonomous boat built by a group of young DIYers, is attempting to cross the Atlantic Ocean. It is traveling from Rhode Island, where it launched on 24 August, to Spain, where all being well it will arrive in a few months' time. Scout has now gone about 1,000 miles (1,600 kilometers) of its planned 3,700-mile (5,900 kilometer) journey. Should it complete this voyage successfully, its passage will arguably belong in the history books."
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Having spent the last decade wreaking havoc in Russia, a flesh-eating drug called Krokodil has arrived in Arizona, reports Eliza Gray at Time Magazine. The Banner Poison Control Center has reported the first two users of the drug which makes user's skin scaly and green before it rots away [Warning: Graphic Images]. Made of codeine, a painkiller often used in cough syrup, and a mix of other materials including gasoline, paint thinner, and alcohol, Krokodil become popular in Russia because it costs 20 times less than heroin and can be made easily at home. Also known as Desomorphine, Krokodil has sedative and analgesic effects, and is around 8-10 times more potent than morphine. When the drug is injected, it rots the skin by rupturing blood vessels, causing the tissue to die. As a result, the skin hardens and rots, sometimes even falling off to expose the bone. 'These people are the ultimate in self-destructive drug addiction,' says Dr. Ellen Marmur. 'Once you are an addict at this level, any rational thinking doesn't apply.' The average life span of a Krokodil user is two to three years, according to a 2011 TIME investigation of the drug's prevalence in Russia."
chicksdaddy writes "Pay-as-you-drive programs are all the rage in the auto insurance industry. The (voluntary) programs, like Progressive Insurance's Snapshot use onboard monitoring devices to track information like the speed of the automobile, sudden stops, distance traveled and so on. Safe and infrequent drivers might see their rates drop while customers who log thousands of miles behind the wheel and/or drive recklessly would see their insurance rates rise. GPS data isn't generally collected, and insurance companies promise customers that they're not tracking their movement. No matter. A study (PDF) by researchers at the University of Denver claims that the destination of a journey can be derived by combining knowledge of the trip's origin with the metrics collected by the 'pay-as-you-drive' device. The data points collected by these remote sensing devices are what the researchers call 'quasi-identifiers' – attributes that are 'non-identifying by themselves, but can be used to unique identify individuals when used in combination with other data.' In one example, researchers used a strategy they called 'stop-point matching,' to compare the pattern of vehicle stop points from a known origin with various route options. They found that in areas with irregular street layouts (i.e. 'not Manhattan'), the pattern will be more or less unique for any location. The study raises important data privacy questions for the (many) 'pay-as-you-drive' programs now being piloted, or offered to drivers – not to mention other programs that seek to match remote sensors and realtime monitoring with products and services."
Now that we have the full picture of Valve's efforts to bring PC gaming to the living room (SteamOS, dedicated hardware, and a fresh controller design), people are starting to analyze what those efforts will mean for gaming, and what Valve must do to be successful. Eurogamer's Oli Welsh points out that even if Steam Machines aren't able to take the market away from Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo, they put us a step closer to the final console generation. "Valve has hopefully sidestepped the most depressing aspect of console gaming: the enforced obsolescence that makes you consign your entire games collection to a dusty cupboard every five years." GamesRadar notes that Valve's approach is fundamentally different from that of the current console manufacturers because it's about putting more power into the hands of the users. "The takeaway from SteamOS, then, is that openness breeds innovation. Valve's putting the very source code of its operating system in the hands of everyone who wants it just to see what happens. Comparatively, Microsoft is pushing its Windows Store, turning Windows into an increasingly closed platform (i.e. one that charges costly development licensing fees and restricts access to certain content providers)." Everyone's curious to see how the controller will perform, so Gamasutra and Kotaku reached out to a number of game developers who have experimented with prototypes already. "[Dan Tabar of indie studio Data Realms] said the configuration map for the controller allows you to do 'pretty much anything.' For example, developers can slice up a pad into quarters, each one representing a different input, or even into eight radial sections, again, each section representing whatever you want, mapping to key combinations, or to the mouse." Tommy Refenes, co-creator of Super Meat Boy, wrote an in-depth description of his experience with the device. He summed up his reaction by saying, "Great Start, needs some improvements, but I could play any game I wanted with it just fine."
ifchairscouldtalk writes "Pasta maker Barilla is in hot water over its chairman's anti-gay comments. Guido Barilla said his brand would 'never feature gays in ads' because Barilla does not agree with them. He added, '[if gay people] like our pasta and our advertising, they'll eat our pasta, if they don't like it then they will not eat it and they will eat another brand.' Vehement protest worldwide calling for a boycott of Barilla products via Twitter and Facebook forced the chairman to apologize with a video on Facebook."
dryriver sends this story from The Guardian: "The introduction of fake zooms, parallax, sliding and other changes in Apple's new iPhone and iPad software has a very real effect on people with vestibular disorders. ... It makes frequent use of zoom and slide animations; the home screen boasts parallax, with icons apparently floating above subtly animating wallpaper. And it's making people sick. Triggers and symptoms vary, but TidePool mobile app developer Jenni Leder's experience is not uncommon. A self-professed power-user, she frequently switches apps; but on iOS 7, this has caused headaches and feelings associated with motion sickness. 'I now have to close my eyes or cover the screen during transitions, which is ridiculous,' she told The Guardian, adding that there's nowhere to hide: 'It's not apps that affect me, but accessing them. Tap a folder and the view zooms in. Tap an app and it's like flying through the icon and landing in that app's micro world — and I'm getting dizzy on the journey there.' Reactions to screen-based systems — especially those utilizing 3D effects — aren't new. Cynthia Ryan, executive director of the Vestibular Disorders Association, says 3D effects can cause 'intense nausea, dizziness and vertigo,' sometimes from general vision problems, but also from visual-vestibular conflict. She added symptoms 'manifest more severely if a viewer already has a disorder of the vestibular system.'"
Nerval's Lobster writes "In its second announcement of the kind, Microsoft revealed [Friday] that it received more than 37,000 requests for information on customers of its Skype, Azure and other services from law enforcement agencies around the world. The count does not include requests made using "National Security Letters" issued by the FBI or other U.S. federal agencies that have the force of a warrant or subpoena, albeit without the oversight or control provided by the courts that issue those sorts of orders. During the first six months of 2013, Microsoft received 37,196 requests that covered a total of 66,539 customer accounts. The company refused to provide any information in response to 21 percent of those requests. It provided "non-content data" in response to 77 percent of the requests – non-content data usually includes information such as names or basic subscriber information rather than information on the content of messages or other details describing online activity of those customers. In 2.19 percent of cases, however, Microsoft reports having provided "customer content data" – which includes the content of messages or data stored in accounts owned by Microsoft companies. Ninety-two percent of requests for customer content came from U.S. law-enforcement agencies."
An anonymous reader writes "In the process of standardizing the SHA-3 competition winning algorithm Keccak, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) may have lowered the bar for attacks, which might be useful for or even initiated by NSA. 'NIST is proposing a huge reduction in the internal strength of Keccak below what went into final SHA-3 comp,' writes cryptographer Marsh Ray on Twitter. In August, John Kelsey, working at NIST, described (slides 44-48) the changes to the algorithm, including reduction of the bit length from 224, 256, 384 and 512-bit modes down to 128 and 256-bit modes."
An anonymous reader writes "A group of Montreal MBA students took home this year's million-dollar Hult Prize, winning a competition for socially innovative business ideas that calls itself 'one of the planet's leading forces for good.' But now the ethics of the winners and the prize committee are being called into question. McGill PhD researcher Jakub Dzamba says that after he supplied the idea and design behind their pitch, products of years of development work, the team reneged on its promises to make him a partner and is instead taking credit for his work. Apparently, Hult knew about the issue before it awarded the prize." Yes, these are the students whose win garnered $1 million awarded by Bill Clinton.