cartechboy writes "The electric car challenge is what insiders call "getting butts in seats" — and a lot of butts today still belong to humans who are not yet buying electric cars. The big question is: Why? Surveys show drivers are interested in electric cars--and that they love them once they drive them. EVs also cost less to maintain (though more to buy in the first place) and many experts say they're simply nicer to drive. So what's the problem? Disinterested dealers, uneven distribution, limited supplies, and media bias are some potential challenges. Or maybe it's just lousy marketing--casting electric cars as a moral imperative or a duty, like medicine you have to take."
linuxwrangler writes "San Francisco Bay Area commuters awoke this morning to the news that BART, the major regional transit system which carries hundreds of thousands of daily riders, was entirely shut down due to a computer failure. Commuters stood stranded at stations and traffic backed up as residents took to the roads. The system has returned to service and BART says the outage resulted from a botched software upgrade."
necro81 writes "Little known even in environmental circles is a renewable energy success story: five geothermal power plants on Leyte Island in the Philippines — each of which produces enough power for the entire island — that collectively produce more than 10% of the Philippines' total electrical demand. From boreholes deep underground comes pressurized water heated to 280 Celsius. At the surface it flashes into steam, turning one set of turbines, then cools and contracts to spin a second set of turbines. The low-grade steam is then condensed back into water and reinjected into the bedrock. But Typhoon Haiyan destroyed the cooling towers, snapped transmission towers, and scattered the employees."
Lasrick writes "Hugh Gusterson examines the crossroads at which the U.S. finds itself on the use of drones, and the long-term consequences of choices made now, by looking at the history of choices the U.S. made in the 1940s regarding nuclear weapons. Thoughtful read. Quoting: 'Having seen what drones are capable of, political leaders can choose to place clear limits, domestically and internationally, on how they can be used. Or, telling the American people that drones will make them safer or that "you can’t stop technology," they can allow free rein to those military inventors, national security bureaucrats and industry entrepreneurs eager to develop drone technology as aggressively as possible. Such people are impatient to press ahead with new unmanned aerial vehicles, including smart drones and mini-drones, to sell both to the US military for use overseas and to law-enforcement bodies within the United States. If drone development continues unchecked, what can we expect? First, as with nuclear weapons, proliferation. At the moment the United States, Britain, and Israel are the only countries to have used weaponized drones. But many countries, including Russia and China, have been watching carefully as Washington has experimented with counterinsurgency by drone, and are considering how they might use this relatively cheap technology for their own purposes. If they decide to use their own drones outside the boundaries of international law against people they brand “terrorists,” the United States will hardly be in a position to condemn them or counsel restraint.'"
jones_supa writes "John Carmack has left id Software completely. 'John Carmack, who has become interested in focusing on things other than game development at id, has resigned from the studio,' id's studio director Tim Willits told IGN, and continues: 'John's work on id Tech 5 and the technology for the current development work at id is complete, and his departure will not affect any current projects. We are fortunate to have a brilliant group of programmers at id who worked with John and will carry on id's tradition of making great games with cutting-edge technology. As colleagues of John for many years, we wish him well.' Carmack, a co-founder of id, recently joined Oculus VR as Chief Technology Officer, and at the time remained at id Software in some capacity. Earlier this year, id president Todd Hollenshead departed id as well."
An anonymous reader writes "Lord of the Rings: Online's latest expansion, Helm's Deep, involved cutting many skills for all classes, with a only a handful reclaimable through the new, 1-dimensional trait trees. If you're not an end-game raider, you're out of luck. And if you are, you can now play your character perfectly with only one or two buttons. Like many who preordered the expansion, I feel robbed and I'm joining the mass exodus. What do you folks suggest? How do Guild Wars 2, RIFT, World of Warcraft and all the other MMORPGs stack up these days? What else would you recommend looking at?"
vinces99 writes "Digital activism is usually nonviolent and tends to work best when social media tools are combined with street-level organization, according to new research from the University of Washington. The findings come from a report by the Digital Activism Research Project run by Philip Howard, a UW professor of communication, information and international studies. 'This is the largest investigation of digital activism ever undertaken,' Howard said. 'We looked at just under 2,000 cases over a 20-year period, with a very focused look at the last two years.' He and his coauthors oversaw 40 student analysts who reviewed news stories by citizen and professional journalists describing digital activism campaigns worldwide. A year of research and refining brought the total down to 400 to 500 well-verified cases representing about 150 countries. The research took a particularly focused look at the last two years. Howard said one of their main findings is that digital activism tends to be nonviolent, despite what many may think. 'In the news we hear of online activism that involves anonymous or cyberterrorist hackers who cause trouble and break into systems. But that was 2 or 3 percent of all the cases — far and away, most of the cases are average folks with a modest policy agenda' that doesn't involve hacking or covert crime."
Daniel_Stuckey writes "Tor has been in the spotlight lately as a way to keep prying eyes away from your online activities. However, to your average internet user, the covert network of relays and whatchamacallits can come off as too complex and intimidating to bother with — even as people are increasingly concerned with their online privacy in light of the NSA scandal. So goes the thinking behind Safeplug, a new hardware adapter that basically puts Tor in a box. It takes 60 seconds and 50 bucks to plug the privacy box into your router, and you're good to go, the company claims. Like anonymous browsing for dummies. The adapter comes from hardware company Pogoplug, which announced its new product yesterday and hopes it will bring Tor to the mass market by offering more consumer-friendly access. 'We want to just take what is currently available today to a more technical crowd and democratize it, making it easier to use for an average user,' CEO Dan Putterman told GigaOM."
mdsolar sends this quote from an article about the politics of solar energy: "Clean energy technology has always been an easy punching bag for conservatives. Propelled by growing strain of global warming denial within their party, Republicans in Congress have proposed to slash funding for renewable energy programs in half this year, and mocked the idea of a green economy as “groovy” liberal propaganda. Their argument, as laid out by House Republicans and libertarian organs like the Cato Institute and Reason magazine, is that the federal government shouldn't 'pick winners and losers' in the energy markets or gamble taxpayer dollars on renewable-energy loans to companies like Solyndra, the Silicon Valley solar panel manufacturer that went bankrupt in 2011 after receiving $535 million in federal loan guarantees. The assumption has always been that, without heavy government subsidies, renewable energy sources like solar and wind power would never be able to compete with fossil fuels. But something funny has happened to renewables that major power companies and their Republican allies didn't see coming. Over the past two years, the solar industry has skyrocketed, with one new solar unit installed every four minutes in the US, according to the renewable energy research group Greentech Media. The price of photovoltaic panels has fallen 62 percent since January 2011. Once considered a boutique energy source, solar power has become a cost-competitive alternative for many consumers, costing an average $143 per megawatt-hour, down from $236 in the beginning of 2011. Backed by powerful conservative groups, public utilities in several states are now pushing to curb the solar industry, and asking regulators to raise fees and impose new restrictions on solar customers. And as more people turn to rooftop solar as a way to reduce energy costs—90,000 businesses and homeowners installed panels last year, up 46 percent from 2011—the issue is pitting pro-utilities Republicans against this fledgling movement of libertarian-minded activists who see independent power generation as an individual right. In other words, the fight over solar power is raging within the GOP itself."
Nerval's Lobster writes "Bitcoin hype has reached orbit: you can now use the virtual currency to fly on Virgin Galactic, which will begin taking passengers on sub-orbital flights in 2014. 'One future astronaut, a female flight attendant from Hawaii, has already purchased her Virgin Galactic ticket using bitcoins,' Virgin CEO Richard Branson wrote in a blog posting on Virgin's Website, 'and we expect many more to follow in her footsteps. All of our future astronauts are pioneers in their own right, and this is one more way to be forward-thinking.' Branson is an investor in Bitcoin, which has seen its per-unit value skyrocket from $10 to $900 over the past two years (today, its value stands at $766, but that could rapidly change). 'The lack of transparency from Bitcoin's founders has attracted some criticism, but its open source nature means anyone can audit the code,' he added in his posting. 'It is a brilliantly conceived idea to allow users to power the peer-to-peer payment network themselves, providing control and freedom for consumers.' A flight aboard Virgin Galactic costs $250,000, or roughly 320 Bitcoin at today's price. However, Bitcoin is also a volatile currency, diving and spiking in response to a variety of factors—while it's certainly possible that its value could zoom above $1,000 in the near future, there's always the possibility it could crash down to a few hundred dollars, or even lower."
cold fjord writes "Earlier this year we discussed news of a shockingly powerful gamma-ray burst. Scientists have had time to study the phenomenon, but it's not offering up any easy answers. The Christian Science Monitor reports, 'An exploded star some 3.8 billion light-years away is forcing scientists to overhaul much of what they thought they knew about gamma-ray bursts – intense blasts of radiation triggered, in this case, by a star tens of times more massive than the sun that exhausted its nuclear fuel, exploded, then collapsed to form a black hole. Last April, gamma rays from the blast struck detectors in gamma-ray observatories orbiting Earth, triggering a frenzy of space- and ground-based observations. Many of them fly in the face of explanations researchers have developed during the past 30 years ... "Some of our theories are just going down the drain," said Charles Dermer, an astrophysicist at the Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico ... while typical long-duration bursts last from a few seconds to a few minutes, GRB 130427A put on its display for 20 hours. ... [W]ith GRB 130427A, some of the highest energy photons, including the new record-holder, appeared hours after the blast. "This is hard to explain with our current models," Dermer said. In addition, gamma rays and emissions at visible wavelengths brightened and dimmed in tandem, quite unexpected because theory suggested they come from different regions of the expanding shells of material and thus should have peaked and dimmed at different times. Finally, theorists had posited different mechanisms for generating gamma rays and X-rays that are part of the light show a long-duration gamma-ray burst puts on. The result should have been a fadeout for the two forms of light punctuated by periods where emissions were interrupted. Instead, the two dimmed smoothly. The theoretical edifice GRB 130427A is eroding has been 46 years in the making.' — The 21 November 2013 Science Express has abstracts for four related papers (first, second, third, fourth). More at Sky & Telescope and NASA."
rjupstate sends an article comparing how an IT infrastructure would be built today compared to one built a decade ago. "Easily the biggest (and most expensive) task was connecting all the facilities together. Most of the residential facilities had just a couple of PCs in the staff office and one PC for clients to use. Larger programs that shared office space also shared a network resources and server space. There was, however, no connectivity between each site -- something my team resolved with a mix of solutions including site-to-site VPN. This made centralizing all other resources possible and it was the foundation for every other project that we took on. While you could argue this is still a core need today, there's also a compelling argument that it isn't. The residential facilities had very modest computing needs -- entering case notes, maintaining log books, documenting medication adherence, and reviewing or updating treatment plans. It's easy to contemplate these tasks being accomplished completely from a smartphone or tablet rather than a desktop PC." How has your approach (or your IT department's approach) changed in the past ten years?
alphadogg writes "With memory, as with real estate, location matters. A group of researchers from AMD and the Department of Energy's Los Alamos National Laboratory have found that the altitude at which SRAM resides can influence how many random errors the memory produces. In a field study of two high-performance computers, the researchers found that L2 and L3 caches had more transient errors on the supercomputer located at a higher altitude, compared with the one closer to sea level. They attributed the disparity largely to lower air pressure and higher cosmic ray-induced neutron strikes. Strangely, higher elevation even led to more errors within a rack of servers, the researchers found. Their tests showed that memory modules on the top of a server rack had 20 percent more transient errors than those closer to the bottom of the rack. However, it's not clear what causes this smaller-scale effect."
ardmhacha writes "Magnus Carlsen was able to force a draw in the 10th game of the World Chess Championship to claim the title with a 6.5 — 3.5 score (3 wins, 0 losses, 7 draws) over Viswanathan Anand. Carlsen became the youngest ever World No. 1 in 2010, but withdrew from the 2012 championship cycle and so has only now been able to add the World Champion title to his No. 1 ranking. He won three games and lost none. His first two victories came when he was able to convert small advantages in the endgame into wins. The third (in game 9) came after a blunder from Anand."
Microsoft released the Xbox One today, putting the next-gen console war into full swing. A common theme throughout most of the reviews is that properly evaluating the system is going to take time. Not only are updates for the console continuing to roll out, but the usefulness of some of its technology will depend on what game-makers and other content producers can do with it. Digital Foundry says, "It is willing to make the trades on gaming power in order to potentially revolutionize the way we interact with entertainment in the living room." The Penny Arcade Report calls the hardware and UI a "confusing mess" — until you learn to use it, at which point the hands-free navigation is fast and convenient. Polygon's review is once again visually-oriented, providing a good look at the UI, comparing the controller with the Xbox 360's controller, and giving a demonstration of how Kinect recognizes users. Their conclusion is that while "Kinect isn't a fully realized product yet," "the Xbox One feels like it's from the future." iFixit has a full teardown of the Xbox One, giving it a repairability score of 8/10 (the Kinect sensor gets 6/10). HotHardware has more details about the console's internals, including power consumption and temperature readings. Eurogamer has a compilation of launch coverage, including launch title reviews.
mask.of.sanity writes "Users can be identified with a half percent margin of error based on the way they type. The research work has been spun into an application that could continuously authenticate users (PDF), rather than just relying on passwords, and could lock accounts if another person jumped on the computer. Researchers are now integrating mouse movements and clicks, and mobile touch patterns into the work."
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Health authorities have been struggling to convince the public that the threat of totally drug-resistant bacteria is a crisis. Earlier this year, British chief medical officer Sally Davies described resistance to antibiotics as a 'catastrophic global threat' that should be ranked alongside terrorism. In September, Dr. Thomas Frieden, the director of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, issued a blunt warning: 'If we're not careful, we will soon be in a post-antibiotic era. For some patients and some microbes, we are already there.' Now Maryn McKenna writes that we are on the verge of entering a new era in history and asks us to imagine what our lives would be like if we really lost antibiotics to advancing drug resistance. We'll not just lose the ability to treat infectious disease; that's obvious. But also: The ability to treat cancer, and to transplant organs, because doing those successfully relies on suppressing the immune system and willingly making ourselves vulnerable to infection. We'll lose any treatment that relies on a permanent port into the bloodstream — for instance, kidney dialysis. We'd lose any major open-cavity surgery, on the heart, the lungs, the abdomen. We'd lose implantable devices: new hips, new knees, new heart valves. We'd lose the ability to treat people after traumatic accidents, as major as crashing your car and as minor as your kid falling out of a tree. We'd lose the safety of modern childbirth. We'd lose a good portion of our cheap modern food supply because most of the meat we eat in the industrialized world is raised with the routine use of antibiotics, to fatten livestock and protect them from the conditions in which the animals are raised. 'And it wouldn't be just meat. Antibiotics are used in plant agriculture as well, especially on fruit. Right now, a drug-resistant version of the bacterial disease fire blight is attacking American apple crops,' writes McKenna. 'There's currently one drug left to fight it.'"
snydeq writes "InfoWorld's Paul Venezia provides an in-depth review of Puppet, Chef, Ansible, and Salt — four leading configuration management and orchestration tools, each of which takes a different path to server automation. 'Puppet, Chef, Ansible, and Salt were all built with that very goal in mind: to make it much easier to configure and maintain dozens, hundreds, or even thousands of servers. That's not to say that smaller shops won't benefit from these tools, as automation and orchestration generally make life easier in an infrastructure of any size. I looked at each of these four tools in depth, explored their design and function, and determined that, while some scored higher than others, there's a place for each to fit in, depending on the goals of the deployment. Here, I summarize my findings.'"
Rambo Tribble writes "The BBC reports on a finding, reported in Nature, (abstract), that the so-called 'Black Beauty' rock, discovered in the Sahara, is over twice as old as previously thought. The meteorite is now thought to be 4.4 billion years old, dating from a time in a nascent Mars' history that scientists are eager to know more about."
cold fjord writes "It looks like no more spam, spam, spam for Norway's warriors... at least on Mondays. The Daily Caller reports, 'Norway's military is taking drastic steps to ramp up its war against global warming. The Scandinavian country announced its soldiers would be put on a vegetarian diet once a week to reduce the military's carbon footprint. "Meatless Monday's" has already been introduced at one of Norway's main military bases and will soon be rolled out to others, including overseas bases. It is estimated that the new vegetarian diet will cut meat consumption by 150 tons per year. "It's a step to protect our climate," military spokesman Eystein Kvarving told AFP. "The idea is to serve food that's respectful of the environment." ... The United Nations says that livestock farming is responsible for 18 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. Cutting meat consumption, environmentalists argue, would help stem global warming and improve the environment." — The Manchester Journal reports, "The meatless Monday campaign launched in 2003 as a global non-profit initiative in collaboration with Johns Hopkins University to promote personal and environmental health by reducing meat consumption.'"
alphadogg writes "A network researcher at the U.S. Department of Energy's Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory has found a potential new use for graphics processing units — capturing data about network traffic in real time. GPU-based network monitors could be uniquely qualified to keep pace with all the traffic flowing through networks running at 10Gbps or more, said Fermilab's Wenji Wu. Wenji presented his work as part of a poster series of new research at the SC 2013 supercomputing conference this week in Denver."