Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive
An anonymous reader writes "The itinerary for Steam Dev Days 2014 lists two talks by Valve's internal virtual and augmented reality researchers, Michael Abrash and Joe Ludwig. Abrash's talk, titled 'What VR Could, Should, and Almost Certainly Will Be within Two Years' will feature a demonstration of Valve's secret prototype VR headset that is 'capable of stunning experiences.' Ludwig's talk 'Virtual Reality and Steam' will discuss how Valve will be adapting Steam to VR to 'support and promote Virtual Reality games.' Rift inventor and Oculus co-founder Palmer Luckey will also be taking to the stage at Steam Dev Days to speak on best-practice for VR development." There's a hint that they might be showing off a head mounted display featuring a low persistence display, which would be great news for those of us that get the urge to hurl when playing Doom on a conventional display. If you missed it you might want to check out the slides and notes (PDF) from Michael Abrash's GDC2013 talk on VR.
McGruber writes "The Washington Post reports that 'Federal prosecutors have not filed a sealed indictment against WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, despite persistent rumors that a nearly three-year grand jury investigation into him and his organization had secretly led to charges, according to senior law enforcement sources. ... "Nothing has occurred so far," said one law enforcement official with knowledge of the case. "If Assange came to the U.S. today, he would not be arrested. But I can't predict what's going to happen. He might be in six months." The law enforcement official providing this assurance chose to remain anonymous.'"
Nerval's Lobster writes "Two investors are Tweeting that Instagram, had it stayed an independent company, could be worth between $5 billion and $15 billion today. That's led to talk of whether Snapchat was right to (reportedly) shoot down Facebook's bid of $3 billion for its business, considering its growth and sizable user base. Snapchat's founders evidently think they can score a better deal within the next few quarters. If they manage to sell their startup a year from now for twice as much, they'll be lauded as extraordinarily smart businessmen—perhaps smarter than the folks at Instagram who sold for a 'measly' $1 billion (and all this despite Snapchat making no revenue). But for other startups in the space, the Snapchat and Instragram stories won't do them much good. Propelled by dreams of ever-increasing millions (perhaps billions!) startup founders could end up turning down perfectly good acquisition offers in favor of continuing to bootstrap — and find their businesses eroding and imploding, as the market for their particular app or service either fades away or (more likely) ends up crowded out by competing software. The startup market is a shark-tank, and most of those who don't get out of the water as soon as possible are eaten, dreams of grandeur or no."
sciencehabit writes "What is your beloved mummy going to eat for the rest of eternity? For some ancient Egyptians, the answer included meat. In King Tutankhamun's tomb, for example, archaeologists found 48 wooden cases of butchered cuts of beef and poultry. But unlike offerings of fruit and grains, which could last for quite a while once dehydrated and placed in dry tombs, pieces of meat required special treatment. After just a few hours in the desert heat, 'they will become a terrible mess if you don't take some steps to preserve them,' says Richard Evershed, an archaeological chemist at the University of Bristol in the United Kingdom. The solution? Mummify. Now, a team of researchers led by Evershed is shedding light on the embalming processes used to create these so-called meat mummies, including mummified beef ribs."
sfcrazy writes "Ubuntu developer Oliver Grawert does not prefer to do online banking with Linux Mint. In the official mailing list of the distribution, Ubuntu developers stated that the popular Ubuntu derivative is a vulnerable system and people shouldn't go for online banking on it. One of the Ubuntu developers, Oliver Grawert, originally pointed out that it is not necessary that security updates from Ubuntu get down to Linux Mint users since changes from X.Org, the kernel, Firefox, the boot-loader, and other core components are blocked from being automatically upgraded." Clement Lefebvre, the Linux Mint project founder, has since made a statement and confirmed that Oliver Grawert seems "more opinionated than knowledgeable" adding "the press blew what he said out of proportion."
schwit1 writes "As Silk Road emerged from the 'dark-web', other sites have appeared offering services that are frowned upon by most. As Forbes reports, perhaps the most-disturbing is 'The Assassination Market' run by a pseudonymous Kuwabatake Sanjuro. The site, remarkably, is a crowdfunding service that lets anyone anonymously contribute bitcoins towards a bounty on the head of any government official–a kind of Kickstarter for political assassinations. As Forbes reports, NSA Director Alexander and President Obama have a BTC40 bounty (~$24,000) but the highest bounty — perhaps not entirely surprising — is BTC 124.14 (~$75,000) for none other than Ben Bernanke."
Nerval's Lobster writes "Following reports that the NSA aggressively targets Google and Yahoo servers for surveillance, Yahoo is working to encrypt much of the data flowing through its datacenters. 'As you know, there have been a number of reports over the last six months about the U.S. government secretly accessing user data without the knowledge of tech companies, including Yahoo,' Yahoo CEO Marissa Mayer wrote in a Nov. 18 blog posting. 'I want to reiterate what we have said in the past: Yahoo has never given access to our data centers to the NSA or to any other government agency.' In order to make Yahoo's systems more secure, she added, the company is introducing SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) encryption to Yahoo Mail with a 2048-bit key. That security measure will supposedly be in place by January 8, 2014. Beyond that, Yahoo plans on encrypting all information that moves between its datacenters by the end of the first quarter of 2014. Around that same time, the company will give users the option to encrypt all data flowing to and from Yahoo; it will also 'work closely with our international Mail partners to ensure that Yahoo co-branded Mail accounts are https-enabled,' Mayer wrote. (While it's not a crushing expense for massive companies such as Yahoo, introducing this sort of security does add to infrastructure and engineering costs, and takes time to actually put in place.)"
KentuckyFC writes "Some 65 million years ago, an asteroid the size of a small city hit the Yucatan Peninsula in what is now Mexico, devastating Earth and triggering the sequence of events that wiped out the dinosaurs. This impact ejected 70 billion kg of Earth rock into space. To carry life around the Solar System, astrobiologists say these rocks must have stayed cool, less than 100 degrees C, and must also be big, more than 3 metres in diameter to protect organisms from radiation in space. Now they have calculated that 20,000 kilograms of this Earth ejecta must have reached Europa, including at least one or two potentially life-bearing rocks. And they say similar amounts must have reached other water-rich moons such as Callisto and Titan. Their conclusion is that if we find life on the moons around Saturn and Jupiter, it could well date from the time of the dinosaurs (or indeed from other similar impacts)."
rtoz writes "TEPCO (Tokyo Electric Power Company) has started removing fuel rods from a storage pond at the Unit 4 reactor building of Tsunami-hit Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear power station in Japan. The first of the fuel-rod assemblies at the plant's No. 4 reactor building was transferred from an underwater rack on the fifth floor to a portable cask. This step is an early milestone in decommissioning the facility amid doubts about whether the rods had been damaged and posed a radiation risk. 22 unused fuels will be moved to the cask a task which is planned to be completed by November 19. After being filled with fuel, the cask will be closed with a lid, and following decontamination, will be taken down to ground level and transported to the common spent fuel pool on a trailer. It is planned to take approximately one week from placing the fuel into the cask at the spent fuel pool to storing it in the common pool. The entire removal of all fuel inside the Unit 4 spent fuel pool is planned to take until the end of 2014."
Velcroman1 writes "The tomb of brutal Mongolian emperor Genghis Khan — the one who created the world's most powerful empire by raiding and invading across Eurasia, not Kirk's nemesis — is a lost treasure archaeologists have sought for years. And one man thinks he knows where it is. Last fall Alan Nichols, the president of The Explorers Club, mapped out possible locations for the tomb of Khan (also known as Chinnggis Qa'an). His hypothesis: Khan's tomb is located in the Liupan Mountains in Northern China, where the emperor who was born in 1162 and is said to have perished from an arrow wound in August 1227. Next fall, Nichols plans the next phase of his research: pinpointing Khan's exact resting place. 'Ghengis Khan's tomb is my obsession,' Nichols, a noted authority on the emperor, said recently. 'I couldn't stop thinking about it. But I'm not happy just reading about it, or knowing about it. I need to have my feet on it.'"
MojoKid writes "The supercomputing conference SC13 kicks off this week and Nvidia is kicking off their own event with the launch of a new GPU and a strategic partnership with IBM. Just as the GTX 780 Ti was the full consumer implementation of the GK110 GPU, the new K40 Tesla card is the supercomputing / HPC variant of the same core architecture. The K40 picks up additional clock headroom and implements the same variable clock speed threshold that has characterized Nvidia's consumer cards for the past year, for a significant overall boost in performance. The other major shift between Nvidia's previous gen K20X and the new K40 is the amount of on-board RAM. K40 packs a full 12GB and clocks it modestly higher to boot. That's important because datasets are typically limited to on-board GPU memory (at least, if you want to work with any kind of speed). Finally, IBM and Nvidia announced a partnership to combine Tesla GPUs and Power CPUs for OpenPOWER solutions. The goal is to push the new Tesla cards as workload accelerators for specific datacenter tasks. According to Nvidia's release, Tesla GPUs will ship alongside Power8 CPUs, which are currently scheduled for a mid-2014 release date. IBM's venerable architecture is expected to target a 4GHz clock speed and offer up to 12 cores with 96MB of shared L3 cache. A 12-core implementation would be capable of handling up to 96 simultaneous threads. The two should make for a potent combination."
With her signature pink hair, MIT engineer Limor Fried has become a force in the maker movement. Last year she was awarded Entrepreneur of the Year by Entrepreneur Magazine, and her company, Adafruit Industries, did $10 million in sales. Limor has agreed to take some time away from soldering and running a new company to answer your questions about hardware, electronics, and Adafruit. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one question per post.
An anonymous reader writes "Mars seems to have gone from being a warm, wet planet with a liquid core (with magnetic fields strong enough to maintain an atmosphere) to a cooled frozen desert-like surface. By gathering information about the Mars upper atmosphere and its magnetic field scientists hope MAVEN can help explain what happened and where the water went."
cold fjord writes "The New York Times reports, '... the next potential threat from Russia may not come from a nefarious cyberweapon or secrets gleaned from Snowden. Instead, this menace may come in the form of a ... dome-topped antenna perched atop an electronics-packed building surrounded by a security fence somewhere in the United States. ... the Central Intelligence Agency and the Pentagon have been quietly waging a campaign to stop the State Department from allowing ... the Russian space agency, to build about half a dozen ... monitor stations, on United States soil ... These monitor stations, the Russians contend, would significantly improve the accuracy and reliability of Moscow's version of the Global Positioning System ... The Russian effort is part of a larger global race by several countries ... to perfect their own global positioning systems and challenge the dominance of the American GPS. For the State Department, permitting Russia to build the stations would help mend the Obama administration's relationship with the government of President Vladimir V. Putin ... But the C.I.A. and other American spy agencies, as well as the Pentagon, suspect that the monitor stations would give the Russians a foothold on American territory that would sharpen the accuracy of Moscow's satellite-steered weapons. The stations, they believe, could also give the Russians an opening to snoop on the United States within its borders. ... administration officials have delayed a final decision until the Russians provide more information and until the American agencies sort out their differences.'"
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "CNN reports that two sailors were hurt when a drone malfunctioned and crashed into the Chancellorsville, a 567-foot Ticonderoga-class guided missile cruiser, as the ship operated off the Point Mugu area of Southern California in an area where BQM-74E aerial targets are widely used. The drone was being used to test the ship's radar tracking when it malfunctioned, veered out of control and struck the cruiser. 'No sailors were seriously injured, but two sailors were treated for minor burns,' the Navy said in a statement. 'The ship remains capable of operations. However, it did sustain some damage and will return to its homeport of San Diego to have the damage assessed. The Navy is investigating the cause of the malfunction.' Chancellorsville has one of the most advanced air defense systems in the Navy, and the ship regularly tests missiles off Southern California. In late August, Chancellorsville successfully used an SM-6 missile to hit a target drone off Point Mugu. The cruiser stocks a variety of missiles, including Tomahawks."
mrspoonsi writes "Leading search engine companies Google and Microsoft have agreed measures to make it harder to find child abuse images online. As many as 100,000 search terms will now return no results that find illegal material, and will trigger warnings that child abuse imagery is illegal. The Google chairman said he hired a 200-strong team to work out a solution over the last three months. Google's previous set of measures, which displayed a warning to people attempting to search for illegal material and caused a 20 percent drop in illicit activity."
SonicSpike writes with this snippet from The Guardian: "As the technology to print 3D firearms advances, a federal law that banned the undetectable guns is about to expire. The New York senator Chuck Schumer says he is seeking an extension of the law before it expires on 9 December. Schumer said the technology of so-called 3D printing has advanced to the point where anyone with $1,000 and an internet connection can access the plastic parts that can be fitted into a gun. Those firearms cannot be detected by metal detectors or x-ray machines. Schumer says that means anyone can download a gun cheaply, then take the weapons anywhere, including high-security areas. The Democrat is pushing the extension along with Senators Patrick Leahy of Vermont and Bill Nelson of Florida. The effort was announced on Sunday."
jones_supa writes "When GCC 4.9 is released in 2014 it will be coming in hot on new features with a large assortment of improvements and new functionality for the open-source compiler. Phoronix provides a recap of some of the really great features of this next major compiler release from the Free Software Foundation. For a quick list: OpenMP 4.0, Intel Cilk Plus multi-threading support, Intel Bay Trail and Silvermont support, NDS32 port, Undefined Behavior Sanitizer, Address Sanitizer, ADA and Fortran updates, improved C11 / C++11 / C++14, better x86 intrinsics, refined diagnostics output. Bubbling under are still: Bulldozer 4 / Excavator support, OpenACC, JIT compiler, disabling Java by default."
Several sources, including this report at Forbes, and this one at All Things Digital, say that Apple has bought (or is in the process of buying) Tel-Aviv based PrimeSense, the company behind the 3-D sensing technology in Microsoft's Kinect, for $345 million. The Forbes piece also gives a compact but interesting summary of the possibilities of ubiquitous 3-D hardware, and the sudden, recent drop in price of the components necessary for that to happen. Devices like the Lynx 3-D scanner that I saw at last year's SXSW (targeting the cheap and portable end of the 3-D scanning market) may have a lot of competition in the near future.
mask.of.sanity writes "Australia tracked calls by Indonesia's president, documents leaked by defence contractor Edward Snowden reveal. The nation's top spy agency the Australian Signals Directorate tracked phone calls made and received on the mobile phone of Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono for 15 days in August 2009, and also tracked his wife and inner political circle. Indonesia was Australia's nearest and most important regional neighbour."