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Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive

+ - 147 Robotic Surgery Complications Going Underreported

Submitted by neapolitan
neapolitan (1100101) writes "PBS has a report on the difficulties of tracking the complications arising from surgical robotic systems, particularly the Da Vinci robotic surgery apparatus. The original study (paywall) notes that there is a large lag in filing reports, and some are not reported at all. It is difficult to assess the continued outcomes and safety without accurate reporting data."

+ - 177 When 64-bit Isn't The Answer: Diving Into Apple A7 3DMark Performance->

Submitted by MojoKid
MojoKid (1002251) writes "Apple's new A7 SoC that sits at the heart of the iPad Air and iPhone 5S is a fast chip. Benchmarks and analysis have shown that it picks up its additional performance thanks to a mixture of architectural tweaks and, in some cases, its new 64-bit architecture. On average, the gains are split about 60/40 between the two areas, with more performance gains from the microarchitecture enhancements. But in one notable case — the popular 3DMark Ice Storm cross-platform benchmark — this hasn't been true at all. In 3DMark Ice Storm, the iPhone 5S is significantly faster in GPU workloads — almost 3x as fast in fact but its CPU performance is actually slightly slower than the A6, as measured in the Physics test. The iPad Air shows exactly the same performance issue, only its CPU is clocked faster than the iPhone 5/5S, and shows a small improvement as a result. Moving the code to 64-bit improved the A7's performance by about seven percent. The difference, it turns out, is tied to the open source Bullet physics library that 3DMark Ice Storm relies upon for testing CPU performance. While this doesn't dramatically change how the iPhone 5S ranks in 3DMark, it shows how the advantage of a big change (32-bit to 64-bit) can actually be much smaller than the impact of a low-level optimization that better matches how a CPU best performs a task."
Link to Original Source

+ - 176 Helium Filled Hard Disks Takes Flight with 6TB of Storage 3

Submitted by Hugh Pickens DOT Com
Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "Lucas Mearian reports that it took Western Digital's more than a decade to develop a way to reliably seal helium gas inside of a hard drive but with 6 TB of storage, it was worth the wait. "I'd say helium is one of the major breakthroughs in the hard drive industry because you can only increase the platter areal density so much with today's technology," says Fang Zhang, an analyst at market researcher IHS. At one-seventh the density of air, helium produces less drag on the moving components of a drive — the spinning disk platters and actuator arms — which translates into less friction and lower operating temperatures. Sealing air out of the drive also keeps humidity and other contaminates from getting in and while the Ultrastar He6's 50% boost in capacity is impressive, what's most notable is the power reduction (PDF), Zhang says, because the high-capacity drives will be used in large data centers and cloud infrastructures. "Data is going to the moon. As we deploy solutions that are tens and hundreds of petabytes, anything you can do to increase density is a boon," says Jimmy Daley, director of Smart Storage at Hewlett-Packard. "We are seeing about 2-watt lower power on random workloads compared to today's 4TB. That's about 20% [power reduction]." However with helium shortages occurring right now and the price of helium skyrocketing, the question’s how much commercial demand might affect manufacturing costs in products that depend on the increasingly sparse element. It may be telling that HGST hasn’t announced a price for the Ultrastar He6 at this time."

+ - 164 Adobe's giant-sized cryptographic blunder->

Submitted by Anonymous Coward
An anonymous reader writes "Everyone knows you hash passwords instead of encrypting them, right? Right? Not Adobe it seems. Paul Ducklin from Sophos takes apart the Adobe breach data to show just how bad for us Adobe's mistakes were."
Link to Original Source

+ - 167 Bitcoin protocol vulnerability could lead to a collapse

Submitted by stanga
stanga (1137015) writes "Cornell researchers unveiled an attack on the Bitcoin mining protocol that enables selfish mining pools to earn more than their fair share. In a technical report the authors explain this attack can be performed by a pool of any size. Rational miners will join this pool to increase their benefits, creating a snowball effect that may end up with a pool commanding a majority of the system's mining power. Such a pool would be able to single-handedly control the blockchain, violating the decentralized nature of the increasingly successful Bitcoin.

The authors propose a patch to the protocol that would protect the system from selfish mining pools smaller than 25% of the system. They also show that Bitcoin can never be safe from selfish mining pools larger than 33% of the network, whereas it was previously believed that only groups larger than 50% of the network were a threat to the system.

The question is — can the miners operating today adopt the suggested fix and dismantle too-large pools before a selfish mining pool arises?"

+ - 296 Withhold Passwords From Your Employer, Go to Jail?->

Submitted by ericgoldman
ericgoldman (1250206) writes "Terry Childs was a network engineer in San Francisco, and he was the only employee with passwords to the network. After he was fired, he withheld the passwords from his former employer, preventing his employer from controlling its own network. Recently, a California appeals court upheld his conviction for violating California's computer crime law, including a 4 year jail sentence and $1.5 million of restitution. The ruling provides a good cautionary tale for anyone who thinks they can gain leverage over their employer or increase job security by controlling key passwords."
Link to Original Source

+ - 184 Speed Test: Comparing Intel C++, GNU C++, and LLVM Clang Compilers->

Submitted by Nerval's Lobster
Nerval's Lobster (2598977) writes "Benchmarking is a tricky business: a valid benchmarking tries to remove all extraneous variables in order to get an accurate measurement, a process that’s often problematic: sometimes it’s nearly impossible to remove all outside influences, and often the process of taking the measurement can skew the results. In deciding to compare three compilers (the Intel C++ compiler, the GNU C++ compiler (g++), and the LLVM clang compiler), developer and editor Jeff Cogswell takes a number of "real world" factors into account, such as how each compiler deals with templates, and comes to certain conclusions. "It’s interesting that the code built with the g++ compiler performed the best in most cases, although the clang compiler proved to be the fastest in terms of compilation time," he writes. "But I wasn’t able to test much regarding the parallel processing with clang, since its Cilk Plus extension aren’t quite ready, and the Threading Building Blocks team hasn’t ported it yet." Follow his work and see if you agree, and suggest where he can go from here."
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+ - 156 How a Market-driven Society is Unable to Fix the Climate-> 3

Submitted by Lasrick
Lasrick (2629253) writes "This is an excellent, thoughtful piece by Ted Trainer on how the very core to a market-oriented, consumer society is unable to tackle the problem of climate change. The numbers here are pretty staggering. Here's an excerpt: 'These kinds of figures show that major global problems cannot be solved unless the wealthiest countries face up to enormous reductions in per-capita resource use. However, these countries are obsessed with raising levels of production and consumption as fast as possible, and without any upper limit. The supreme, never-questioned goal is continuous economic growth. But for the world’s population to achieve Australian living standards by 2050, given an annual economic growth rate of 3 percent, total world production and consumption would have to be more than 30 times as great in 2050 as they are now.'"
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+ - 158 Silicon Valley could be heading for a new stock collapse.->

Submitted by billcarson
billcarson (2438218) writes "Even though for most of us the recession is far from over, analysts are worried the technology sector might be heading for its next bubble. Technology stocks are at records highs at the moment. Companies that have no sound business plan have no difficulty in raising capital to fund their crazy dreams. Even Yahoo is again buying companies without real profit (Tumblr). Andreessen Horowitz, a major venture capitalist in Silicon Valley is already pulling up the ladder. Might this be an indicator for more woe to come?"
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+ - 249 The NYPD Is FOIA-Proof->

Submitted by Daniel_Stuckey
Daniel_Stuckey (2647775) writes "Reporters Matt Apuzzo and Adam Goldman, who shared a Pulitzer last year as part of the Associated Press team covering the NYPD’s surveillance activity, have summed it up perfectly: The NYPD doesn't answer document requests.

“For the most part, they don’t respond,” Apuzzo told the Huffington Post. "Even the NSA responds.”

It's not just reporters who've noticed. New York City Public Advocate and mayoral candidate Bill de Blasio gave the police department a failing grade in an April report based on its dismal response rate to Freedom of Information requests. By de Blasio’s analysis, nearly a third of requests submitted to NYPD go unanswered."

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+ - 152 Bribe Devs To Improve Open Source Software -> 1

Submitted by mikejuk
mikejuk (1801200) writes "Bribe.io announces itself as:
A super easy way to bribe developers to fix bugs and add features in the software you're using.
Recognizing the fact that a lot of open source projects are maintained by developers working alone and in their spare time, the idea is to encourage other developers to by specifying a monetary value to a bug report or feature enhancement. Once an initial "Bribe" has been posted others can "chip in" and add to the financial incentive.
Obviously there are problems to overcome — will it lead to devs introducing bugs at the same time as new features just to get paid to fix them? Also how does this fit with the underlying ethos of open source software? I Can hear RMS already...."

Link to Original Source

+ - 170 10-Year-Old Boy Discovers 600-Million-Year-Old Supernova->

Submitted by minty3
minty3 (2942557) writes "Nathan Gray, 10, from Nova Scotia, Canada, recently discovered a 600-million-year-old supernova in the galaxy PGC 61330, which lies in the constellation of Draco – beating his sister by 33 days as the youngest person to find a supernova.

Gray made the discovery on October 30 while looking at astronomical images taken by Dave Lane, who runs the Abbey Ridge Observatory (ARO) in Nova Scotia. The Royal Astronomical Society of Canada confirmed Gray’s discovery, but astronomers with the International Astronomical Union say they will need to use a larger telescope to make the finding official."

Link to Original Source

+ - 154 How Elon Musk Approaches IT at Tesla->

Submitted by onehitwonder
onehitwonder (1118559) writes "In short, they build it themselves. When Tesla Motors needed to improve the back-end software that runs its business, CEO Elon Musk decided not to upgrade the company's SAP system. Instead, he told his CIO, Jay Vijayan, to have the IT organization build a new back-end system, according to The Wall Street Journal. The company's team of 25 software engineers developed the new system in about four months, and it provided the company with speed and agility at a time when it was experiencing costly delivery delays on its all-electric Model S."
Link to Original Source

+ - 139 The Academy For Software Engineering: A High School For Developers

Submitted by rjmarvin
rjmarvin (3001897) writes "The Academy for Software Engineering http://www.afsenyc.org/ , right off of Manhattan's Union Square, is in its second year of educating students http://sdt.bz/65254 for a future in computer science and software engineering. No entrance exams, no admission standards http://sdt.bz/65307, just an opportunity for any student interested in software to take specialized classes like robotics and programming, go on trips to companies like Google and Facebook, and spend summers interning at Morgan Stanley and JPMorgan Chase before heading to college and into the workforce, powering the next wave of innovation as members of the tech workforce in New York's burgeoning "Silicon Alley.""

+ - 170 Snowden Publishes "A Manifesto for the Truth"

Submitted by wjcofkc
wjcofkc (964165) writes "In the turbulent wake of the international uproar spurred by his leaked documents, Mr. Snowden published a letter over the weekend in Der Spiegel titled, "A Manifesto for the Truth". In the letter, Mr. Snowden reflects on the consequences of the information released so far, and their effect on exposing the extent and obscenity of international and domestic surveillance, while continuing to call out the NSA and GCHQ as the worst offenders. He further discusses how the debate should move forward, the intimidation of journalists, and the criminalization of the truth saying, "Citizens have to fight suppression of information on matters of vital public importance. To tell the truth is not a crime.""

+ - 158 New framework for programming unreliable chips

Submitted by rtoz
rtoz (2530056) writes "For handling the future unreliable chips, a research group at MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory has developed a new programming framework that enables software developers to specify when errors may be tolerable. The system then calculates the probability that the software will perform as it’s intended.

As transistors get smaller, they also become less reliable. This reliability won’t be a major issue in some cases. For example, if few pixels in each frame of a high-definition video are improperly decoded, viewers probably won’t notice — but relaxing the requirement of perfect decoding could yield gains in speed or energy efficiency."

+ - 229 Satellite Internet connections for South America (specifically Peru). Advice? 6

Submitted by EdIII
EdIII (1114411) writes "I've been looking on the Internet for a decent contention service (4:1,10:1) in South America and I am not finding much. I have also heard that some frequency bands are a lot better at cutting through cloud cover. This is for a fairly remote ground station with reliable power generation, but also routinely cloudy. I would need at least 3/1Mbps with hopefully decent latency. What's your advice Slashdotters? Yes, I know that some of the solutions can cost 20K for deployment and 2-10K per month for service. Not looking NASA results with Home Depot parts on the budget of a 7/11 chiclet. Feel free to to tell me about a good commercial service. There is another ground station that might be deployed in north east Alaska. Thanks"

+ - 141 Fuel cell-powered data centres could cut costs, carbon->

Submitted by angry tapir
angry tapir (1463043) writes "A group of Microsoft researchers believe that using fuel cells to power data centres could potentially result in an "over 20% reduction in costs using conservative projections", cutting infrastructure and power input costs. In addition, using fuel cells would likely result in a smaller carbon footprint for data centres. The researchers looked at the potential of using fuel cells at the rack level to power servers in data centres — although they note there is a long way to go before this could become a reality (not least of the small worldwide production level of fuel cells)."
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+ - 241 The NSA Revelations Decoded->

Submitted by Robotron23
Robotron23 (832528) writes "The Guardian has published a comprehensive review of the revelations derived from leaked documents published by Edward Snowden. Among the topics covered are NSA monitoring programs and techniques, the legal framework of such programs, counter-surveillance techniques, events such as the Lavabit shutdown, and prospects for reform. In the final section, some NSA documents are available for access."
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