An anonymous reader writes "There's many improvements due in the Linux 3.13 kernel that just entered development. On the matter of new hardware support, there's open-source driver support for Intel Broadwell and AMD Radeon R9 290 'Hawaii' graphics. NFTables will eventually replace IPTables; the multi-queue block layer is supposed to make disk access much faster on Linux; HDMI audio has improved; Stereo/3D HDMI support is found for Intel hardware; file-system improvements are on the way, along with support for limiting the power consumption of individual PC components."
Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive
dcblogs writes "One year ago this month, the U.S. Department of Energy announced a $120 million plan to develop a technology capable of radically extending battery life. 'We want to change the game, basically,' said George Crabtree, a senior scientist at Argonne National Laboratory and a physics professor who is leading the effort. The goal is to develop a battery that can deliver five times the performance, measured in energy density, that's also five times cheaper, and do it in five years. They are looking at three research areas. Researchers are considering replacing the lithium with magnesium that has two charges, or aluminum, which has three charges. Another approach investigates replacing the intercalation step with a true chemical reaction. A third approach is the use of liquids to replace crystalline anodes and cathodes, which opens up more space for working ions."
An anonymous reader writes "Google is changing the way its browser handles PDF files, starting with the Chrome Canary channel. Citing security concerns, the company wants Chrome to open PDF files by default, bypassing any third-party programs such as Adobe Reader or Foxit Reader."
plover writes "The Seattle Times reports, 'The Smithsonian Institution is launching a new 3D scanning and printing initiative to make more of its massive collection accessible to schools, researchers and the public worldwide. A small team has begun creating 3D models of some key objects representing the breadth of the collection at the world's largest museum complex. Some of the first 3D scans include the Wright brothers' first airplane, Amelia Earhart's flight suit, casts of President Abraham Lincoln's face during the Civil War and a Revolutionary War gunboat. Less familiar objects include a former slave's horn, a missionary's gun from the 1800s and a woolly mammoth fossil from the Ice Age. They are pieces of history some people may hear about but rarely see or touch.' So far they have posted 20 models, with the promise of many more to come." They even have a model supernova remnant.
itwbennett writes "The FCC's new Android app will allow users to measure the speed of their mobile broadband connection, while providing aggregate data to the agency for measuring nationwide mobile broadband network performance. Released as open-source software on Thursday, the free FCC Speed Test App will test network performance for parameters such as upload and download speed, latency and packet loss. An iPhone version of the app is in the works."
jones_supa writes "One of the most important measuring sticks for the success of any software is how long a user keeps it installed after first trying it. Intel has an article about some of the most common reasons users abandon software. Quoting: 'Apps that don’t offer anything helpful or unique tend to be the ones that are uninstalled the most frequently. People cycle through apps incredibly quickly to find the one that best fits their needs. ... A lot of apps have a naturally limited lifecycle; i.e., apps that are centered around a movie release or an app that tracks a pregnancy, or an app that celebrates a holiday. In addition, apps with limited functionality, for example, “lite” games that only go so far, are uninstalled once the user has mastered all the levels.' Some of the common factors they list include: lengthy forms, asking for ratings, collecting unnecessary data, user unfriendliness, unnecessary notifications and, of course, bugs. Additionally, if people have paid even a small price for the app, they are more committed to keep it installed. So, what makes you uninstall a piece of software?"
cold fjord writes "The BBC reports, 'A fragile quantum memory state has been held stable at room temperature for a "world record" 39 minutes — overcoming a key barrier to ultrafast computers. 'Qubits' of information encoded in a silicon system persisted for almost 100 times longer than ever before. ... "This opens the possibility of truly long-term storage of quantum information at room temperature," said Prof Thewalt ... unofficially, the previous best for a solid state system was 25 seconds at room temperature, or three minutes under cryogenic conditions. ... What's more, they found they could manipulate the qubits as the temperature of the system rose and fell back towards absolute zero. At cryogenic temperatures, their quantum memory system remained coherent for three hours. "Having such robust, as well as long-lived, qubits could prove very helpful for anyone trying to build a quantum computer," said co-author Stephanie Simmons of Oxford University's department of materials. ... "We've managed to identify a system that seems to have basically no noise." However she cautions there are still many hurdles to overcome before large-scale quantum computations can be performed. ... "This result represents an important step towards realizing quantum devices," said David Awschalom, professor in Spintronics and Quantum Information, at the University of Chicago. "However, a number of intriguing challenges still remain." — Abstract for the paywalled academic paper."
Rambo Tribble writes "The BBC reports on efforts at Sydney University, where researchers have had excellent success herding dairy cows with robots. By designing the robots to move smoothly, they have kept the cows moving without stressing them. From the video, one can see the animals seem not to interpret the machine as any threat. 'The robot could also cut down the number of accidents involving humans on farms. Most dairy farmers in Australia use quad bikes to round up their cattle and they are one of the leading causes of injury. The team hopes that by using the robot to do the job instead, accident rates could fall.'"
sabri writes "Jen Palmer tried to order something from kleargear.com, some sort of cheap ThinkGeek clone. The merchandise never arrived and she wrote a review on ripoffreport.com. Now, kleargear.com is reporting her to credit agencies and sending collectors to fetch $3,500 as part of a clause which did not exist at the alleged time of purchase. 'By email, a person who did not identify him or herself defended the $3500 charge referring again to Kleargear.com's terms of sale. As for Jen being threatened — remove the post or face a fine — the company said that was not blackmail but rather a, "diligent effort to help them avoid [the fine]."' The terms and conditions shouldn't even apply, since the sales transaction was never completed."
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Kim Gittleson reports at BBC that car insurance firms like Progressive are trying to convince consumers that letting them monitor their driving behavior is actually a good thing. They say that the future of car insurance is not just being able to monitor individual drivers to give them lower prices, but also to make them better drivers. 'Now that we can observe directly how people drive, we think this will change the way insurance works,' says Dave Pratt, who says that Progressive has more than a trillion seconds of driving data from 1.6 million customers. '18-year-old guys pay a lot for insurance, but some 18-year-olds are really safe drivers and they deserve a better deal.' Better big data technologies, like the telematic driving data collected by car companies (PDF) or even information gathered from social media profiles, can help augment that risk profile. 'If I'm a driver that doesn't drive that frequently, and I have a pattern that would indicate that I drive more carefully than an average person with my profile, then I may be able to save 30-40% on my car insurance, and that's pretty significant,' says Joe Reifel. For now, using big data analytics for insurers is still in the early stages. Only 2% of the U.S. car insurance market offers an insurance product based on monitoring driving, but that proportion is projected to grow to around 10-15% of the market by 2017. And other countries, like Italy and the U.K., are already using the data to analyze not just risk profiles but also to determine who is at fault in car accidents. The future, most analysts agree is create a continuous feedback loop between insurers and consumers, so that consumers will react to the big data analyses that insurers perform and change their behavior accordingly. 'Bad drivers will at some point need to improve their driving or accept [having] to pay for the real risk they represent,' says Jacques Amselem."
In late 2011, defense contractor Stratfor suffered a cybersecurity breach that resulted in a leak of millions of internal emails. A few months later, the FBI arrested hacktivist Jeremy Hammond and several others for actions related to the breach. Hammond pleaded guilty to one count of violating the CFAA, and today his sentence was handed down: 10 years in prison followed by three years of supervised release. He said, [The prosecutors] have made it clear they are trying to send a message to others who come after me. A lot of it is because they got slapped around, they were embarrassed by Anonymous and they feel that they need to save face." Reader DavidGilbert99 adds, "Former LulzSec and Anonymous member Jake Davis argues that U.S. lawmakers need to take a leaf out of the U.K.'s legal system and not put Jeremy Hammond behind bars for his part in the hack of Stratfor. 'Jeremy Hammond has a lot to give society too. Prisons are for dangerous people that need to be segmented from the general population. Hackers are not dangerous, they are misunderstood, and while disciplinary action is of course necessary, there is nothing disciplined about locking the door on a young man's life for 10 years.'"
An anonymous reader writes "What happens when the editorial team of the biggest-selling English Linux magazine gets frustrated? They leave their company and start a new one. Most of the writers behind Linux Format have jumped ship and started Linux Voice, a social enterprise magazine which will donate 50% of its profits back to the community, and freely license its content under Creative Commons after 9 months. They're running a fundraiser on Indiegogo with already a quarter of their funding goal reached. Will this shake up the whole publishing industry?"
ananyo writes "Research on Borrelia burgdorferi, the bacterium that causes Lyme disease, shows that the capacity to evolve can itself be the target of natural selection. B. burgdorferi can cause a chronic infection even if its animal host mounts a strong immune response — evading those defenses by tweaking the shape and expression of its main surface antigen, VIsE. A series of unexpressed genetic sequences organized into 'cassettes' recombine with the VIsE gene, changing the resulting protein such that it escapes detection by the host's immune system. The researchers studied the molecular evolution of the cassettes' genetic sequences in 12 strains of B. burgdorferi. They found that natural selection seemed to favor bacteria with more genetic variability within their cassettes, and hence a greater capacity to generate different versions of the antigen. 'Greater diversity among the cassettes in itself shouldn't be a selective advantage considering they aren't expressed and don't do anything else,' says lead author Dustin Brisson. 'But we did find evidence of selection, so the question is: what else could it be for besides evolvability?'"
SonicSpike writes "The founder of Bigelow Aerospace, Robert Bigelow, made a fortune in the hotel and real estate businesses, and he's pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into an enterprise that will create inflatable habitats designed for life beyond Earth. He entered into an agreement with NASA to provide a report on how ventures like his could help NASA get back to the moon, and even Mars, faster and cheaper. Bigelow is applying to the Federal Aviation Administration's Office of Commercial Space Transportation to amend a 1967 international agreement on the moon so that a system of private property rights can be established there. 'When there isn't law and order,' he said, 'there's chaos.' Bigelow said he believes the right to own what one discovers on the moon is the incentive needed for private enterprise to commit massive amounts of capital and risk lives. 'It provides a foundational security to investors,' he said. Bigelow does not feel that any one nation should own the moon. 'No one anything should own the moon,' he said. 'But, yes, multiple entities, groups, individuals, yes, they should have the opportunity to own the moon.'"
anagama writes "According to an article at Medium, 'Cisco has seen a huge drop-off in demand for its hardware in emerging markets, which the company blames on fears about the NSA using American hardware to spy on the rest of the world. ... Cisco saw orders in Brazil drop 25% and Russia drop 30%. ... Analysts had expected Cisco's business in emerging markets to increase 6%, but instead it dropped 12%, sending shares of Cisco plunging 10% in after-hours trading.' This is in addition to the harm caused to remote services that may cost $35 billion over the next three years. Then, of course, there are the ways the NSA has made ID theft easier. ID theft cost Americans $1.52 billion in 2011, to say nothing of the time wasted in solving ID theft issues — some of that figure is certainly attributable to holes the NSA helped build. The NSA, its policies, and the politicians who support the same are directly responsible for massive losses of money and jobs."
angry tapir writes "MenuetOS is an open source, GUI-equipped, x86 operating system written entirely in assembly language that can fit on a floppy disk (if you can find one). I originally spoke to its developers in 2009. Recently I had a chance to catch up with them to chat about what's changed and what needs to be done before the OS hits version 1.0 after 13 years of work. The system's creator, Ville Turjanmaa, says, 'Timeframe is secondary. It's more important is to have a complete and working set of features and applications. Sometimes a specific time limit rushes application development to the point of delivering incomplete code, which we want to avoid. ... We support USB devices, such [as] storages, printers, webcams and digital TV tuners, and have basic network clients and servers. So before 1.0 we need to improve the existing code and make sure everything is working fine. ... The main thing for 1.0 is to have all application groups available'"
Today marks the launch of the latest entrant to the next-gen console race: Sony's PlayStation 4. A number of reviews for the system have already gone up, but many outlets are waiting for next Friday's Xbox One launch before passing final judgment. With regard to the PS4's hardware and UI, Digital Foundry praises the DualShock 4 controller design and the improvements to background downloading, while worrying about fan noise in warmer environments. iFixit provides a step-by-step teardown of the device, giving it an 8/10 repairability score. Ars has many good things to say, but many bad things as well: "The PlayStation 4 has an excellent controller, decently powerful hardware, some intriguing, well-executed new features, and an interface that shows belated acknowledgment of some of Sony's most user-unfriendly past designs. It also has a lot of features that are half-assed, missing, or downright bewildering at this point." Polygon's review is more visually oriented, filled with pictures, videos, and drawings. They conclude, "[T]he PlayStation 4's focus on gaming — and only gaming — is undermined by a distinct lack of compelling software. That failing is sure to improve — better games and more of them will appear on the PlayStation 4 — but right now, this is a game console without a game to recommend it." Eurogamer's coverage includes has a round-up of launch title reviews and gameplay videos. IGN has coverage of the roughly 0.4% of PS4s that arrive broken out of the box, and Kotaku explains how they fixed theirs.
Layzej writes "A new paper shows that global temperature rise of the past 15 years has been greatly underestimated. The reason is that the weather station network covers only about 85% of the planet. Satellite data shows that the parts of the Earth that are not covered by the surface station network, especially the Arctic, have warmed exceptionally fast over the last 15 years. Most temperature reconstructions simply omit any region not covered. A temperature reconstruction developed by NASA somewhat addresses the gaps by filling in missing data using temperatures from the nearest available observations. Now Kevin Cowtan (University of York) and Robert Way (University of Ottawa) have developed a new method to fill the data gaps using satellite data. The researchers describe their methods and findings in this YouTube video. 'The most important part of our work was testing the skill of each of these approaches in reconstructing unobserved temperatures. To do this we took the observed data and further reduced the coverage by setting aside some of the observations. We then reconstructed the global temperatures using each method in turn. Finally, we compared the reconstructed temperatures to the observed temperatures where they are available... While infilling works well over the oceans, the hybrid model works particularly well at restoring temperatures in the vicinity of the unobserved regions.' The authors note that 'While short term trends are generally treated with a suitable level of caution by specialists in the field, they feature significantly in the public discourse on climate change.'"
Nerval's Lobster writes "Stephen Wolfram, the chief designer of the Mathematica software platform and the Wolfram Alpha 'computation knowledge engine,' has another massive project in the works—although he's remaining somewhat vague about details for the time being. In simplest terms, the project is a new programming language—which he's dubbing the 'Wolfram Language'—which will allow developers and software engineers to program a wide variety of complex functions in a streamlined fashion, for pretty much every single type of hardware from PCs and smartphones all the way up to datacenters and embedded systems. The Language will leverage automation to cut out much of the nitpicking complexity that dominates current programming. 'The Wolfram Language does things automatically whenever you want it to,' he wrote in a recent blog posting. 'Whether it's selecting an optimal algorithm for something. Or picking the most aesthetic layout. Or parallelizing a computation efficiently. Or figuring out the semantic meaning of a piece of data. Or, for that matter, predicting what you might want to do next. Or understanding input you've given in natural language.' In other words, he's proposing a general-purpose programming language with a mind-boggling amount of functions built right in. At this year's SXSW, Wolfram alluded to his decades of work coming together in 'a very nice way,' and this is clearly what he meant. And while it's tempting to dismiss anyone who makes sweeping statements about radically changing the existing paradigm, he does have a record of launching very big projects (Wolfram Alpha contains more than 10 trillion pieces of data cultivated from primary sources, along with tens of thousands of algorithms and equations) that function reliably. At many points over the past few years, he's also expressed a belief that simple equations and programming can converge to create and support enormously complicated systems. Combine all those factors together, and it's clear that Wolfram's pronouncements—no matter how grandiose—can't simply be dismissed. But it remains to be seen how much of an impact he actually has on programming as an art and science."
coondoggie writes "Amazon Web Services recently won a reported $600 million contract to build the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) a cloud. But that cloud will not look like any other cloud on the planet. Amazon will build the cloud using AWS architectures and AWS will manage it, but executives hinted that it will not be accessed the way other customers use AWS services through the public Internet. 'We're managing the operations in the data center,' Andy Jassy, Amazon's senior vice president and the head of the company's cloud computing division AWS said about the CIA deal. 'It's our hardware, it's our networking.'"
KentuckyFC writes "Until now, the largest known structure in the Universe was the Huge-LQG (Large Quasar Group), a cluster of 73 quasars stretching over a distance of 4 billion light years. Now astronomers say they've spotted something even bigger in data from gamma ray bursts, the final explosions of energy released by stars as they die and the universe's most energetic events. Astronomers have measured the distance to 283 of these bursts and mapped their position in the universe. This throws up a surprise. At a distance of ten billion light years, there are more gamma ray bursts than expected if they were evenly distributed throughout the universe. This implies the existence of a structure at this distance that is about ten billion light years across and so dwarfs the Huge-LQG. What's odd about the discovery is that the Cosmological principle--one of the fundamental tenets of cosmology--holds that the distribution of matter in the universe will appear uniform if viewed at a large enough scale. And yet, structures clearly emerge at every scale astronomers can see. The new discovery doesn't disprove the principle but it does provide some interesting food for thought for theorists."
Lucas123 writes "Autonomous robots programmed to scan city streets with thermal imaging and robotic equipment carriers created to aid in transporting ammunition and other supplies will likely outnumber U.S. troops in 10 years, according to robotic researchers and U.S. military officials. 5D Robotics, Northrop Grumman Corp., QinetiQ, HDT Robotics and other companies demonstrated a wide array of autonomous robots during a display at Ft. Benning in Georgia last month. The companies are already gaining traction in the military. For example, British military forces, use QinetiQ's 10-pound Dragon Runner robot, which can be carried in a backpack and then tossed into a building or a cave to capture and relay surveillance video. 'Robots allow [soldiers] to be more lethal and engaged in their surroundings,' said Lt. Col. Willie Smith, chief of Unmanned Ground Vehicles at Fort Benning, Ga. 'I think there's more work to be done but I'm expecting we'll get there.'"
binarstu writes "According to a recent report by Tom Gjelten of NPR, 'NSA officials are bracing for more surveillance disclosures from the documents taken by former contractor Edward Snowden — and they want to get out in front of the story. ... With respect to other information held by Snowden and his allies but not yet publicized, the NSA is now considering a proactive release of some of the less sensitive material, to better manage the debate over its surveillance program.'"