Esther Schindler writes "It's certainly fun to pretend to find work inspiration from our favorite SF films. That's what Carol Pinchefsky does in two posts, one about positive business lessons you can take away from SF films (such as 'agile thinking can save many a project (and project manager) in a crisis' from Robocop and team motivation lessons from Buffy), and the other, 5 Project Management Horror Stories Found in Sci-Fi Movies, with examples of the impact of poor documentation on Captain America."
Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive
KDE Community writes "The KDE Community is proud to announce the latest major updates to KDE software delivering new features and fixes. With Plasma Workspaces and the KDE Platform frozen and receiving only long term supportt, those teams are focusing on the technical transition to Frameworks 5. This release marks substantial improvements in the KDE PIM stack, giving much better performance and many new features. Kate added new features including initial Vim-macro support, and games and educational applications bring a variety of new features. The announcement for the KDE Applications 4.12 has more information. This release of KDE Platform 4.12 only includes bugfixes and minor optimizations and features. About 20 bugfixes as well as several optimizations have been made to various subsystems. A technology preview of the Next Generation KDE Platform, named KDE Frameworks 5, is coming this month."
sfcrazy writes "The newly formed company has opened the next chapter of its history by bagging $23 million financing from A16Z (Andreessen Horowitz). CyanogenMod was recently incorporated as a company after getting Benchmark Capital and Redpoint Ventures as partners and raising $7 million in funding."
cartechboy writes "Two guys have made a life-sized Lego car that runs on air. That's right, the 256-piston, air-powered Lego working vehicle built with half a million black and yellow Lego pieces can actually be driven up to 18 mph. It was designed and built by 20-year-old Romanian Raul Oaida in 20 months after he and his partner, Australia-based Steve Sammartino raised "tens of thousands" of crowdfunded dollars with their prospectus entitled quite simply: "Super Awesome Micro Project." The car was built in Romania and then moved to Melbourne, Australia (presumably not brick-by-brick.) In the video, the only visible non-Lego components are the gauges, wheel rims, and tires (though the wheels have Lego faces--literally.)"
An anonymous reader writes "Gates fulfilled a Reddit users wish-list by buying several items and donating to a listed charity organization, although he did pass on getting the iPad on the list. From the article: 'The true identity of Rachel's Secret Santa was finally revealed when she found a photo of Gates holding the stuffed animal and the signed donation sent to Heifer International. An inscription in the book with a "really nice message" and note from Gates wishing Rachel a Merry Christmas and a Happy Birthday was the topper.'"
ckwu writes "The vast real estate of windows in office buildings and skyscrapers could be a fruitful field for harvesting solar energy—if lightweight solar cells could be made with a high enough conversion efficiency and appealing aesthetics. Now researchers at Oxford University report semitransparent solar cells that might do the trick. The team made solar cells using a perovskite, a class of mineral-like materials that have properties similar to inorganic semiconductors and show sunlight-to-electricity conversion efficiencies of more than 15%. The team deposited a thin film of perovskite onto glass so that the material formed tiny crystalline islands. The islands absorb photons and convert them to electrons, while light striking the empty areas passes through. The result was a semitransparent solar cell with a grayish tint."
First time accepted submitter wallydallas writes "I'm close to a solution, but I wonder how other people block their many devices and operating systems from updating in working hours. For example: I'm the IT guy who blocks iPads from updating when school is in session because we are in a rural location. 3mbps is the best WAN we can buy. Devices can update after hours just fine. We do this with our router (DDWRT) by blocking MESU.APPLE.COM. Many guests bring in Windows 7 laptops, and I want to welcome them, but not their updates. How can I block updates on Android Phones and Linux Laptops? I have a 4G device at home, and I'd like to apply the same tricks 24 hours a day so that I don't use up the bandwith from my vendor. And my many home visitors should have their updates blocked."
McGruber writes "Walt Mossberg, principal technology columnist for The Wall Street Journal, has written his last column after 22 years of reviewing consumer technology products for the newspaper. His final column discusses the dozen personal-technology products that were most influential over the past two decades."
alphadogg writes "Kill-switch technology that can render a lost or stolen smartphone useless would become mandatory in California under a new bill that will be proposed to the state legislature in January. The bill will be introduced by Senator Mark Leno, a Democrat representing San Francisco and neighboring towns, and George Gascón, the district attorney for San Francisco. Gascón has been spearheading a push by major law-enforcement agencies across the U.S. for more to be done to prevent smartphone theft. The proposed law could reach well beyond the borders of California. Because of the difficulty and added cost of producing handsets solely for sale in California, it could serve to make kill-switch technology a standard feature on phones sold across the U.S."
cartechboy writes "It looks like Elon Musk and Tesla Motors find themselves in another PR war over the cause of a fire involving a Tesla Model S. Authorities in Irvine, CA are currently investigating the reason for a fire in a garage that, yes, contained a Tesla Model S. While the actual cause of the fire remains unknown, Tesla Motors and the Orange County Fire Authority are already publicly disputing possible causes, thought to center around the Tesla charging system. Tesla says the fire was not caused by any part of the car nor its charging system, reports Reuters. For what its worth — we've seen a version of this movie before. In 2011, investigators determined that a garage fire that destroyed a Chevrolet Volt had started away from the car, later spreading to engulf and destroy the car."
The Virtuix Omni "is an omnidirectional treadmill video game peripheral for virtual reality games currently in development by Virtuix," says Wikipedia. With this device and an Oculus Rift, Razer Hydra or a similar "immersive" headset, you can play games equipped to use these devices with your whole body moving in any direction you choose. If you think you saw this product on the Shark Tank TV show or a pitch for it at Kickstarter.com, you're right. You did. The Virtuix Omni people have been pushing their product hard, everywhere they can. Tim ran into their product manager, Colton Jacobs, at the recent AppsWorld conference in London. This video is Tim's record of their conversation.
judgecorp writes "A new remotely-programmable embedded SIM design from the GSMA operators' group means that devices can be operated on the Internet of things and won't have to be opened up to have their SIM card changed if they move to a different operator. The design could speed up embedded applications."
An anonymous reader writes "The Free Software Foundation announced today the first laptop they have been able to certify as-is that respects the user's freedoms. The laptop is free down to using Coreboot in place of a proprietary BIOS. The OS shipped on the laptop is Trisquel, the Ubuntu derived Linux OS that removes all traces of proprietary firmware, patented formats, etc. The only issue though for new customers is this endorsed laptop comes down to being a refurbished 2006 ThinkPad X60 with single or dual-core Intel CPU, 1GB+ of RAM, 60GB+ HDD, and a 1024x768 12.1-inch screen, while costing $320+ USD (200 GBP). The FSF-certified refurbished laptops are only offered for sale through the Gluglug UK shop. Are these outdated specs worth your privacy and freedom?"
First time accepted submitter jma05 writes "The UN General Assembly unanimously adopted a privacy resolution introduced by Brazil and Germany, against unlawful surveillance. 'The resolution affirms that the same rights that people have offline must also be protected online, including the right to privacy.' Under pressure from US lobbying, the clause that mass surveillance constitutes a human rights violation was dropped earlier."
waderoush writes "One of the problems that kept PR2, a two-armed humanoid robot developed by Menlo Park, CA-based Willow Garage, from succeeding commercially was its $400,000 price tag. But as it turned out, only a handful of the 40 or so universities that own PR2s ever developed applications that use both arms. That's one of the reasons why UBR-1, a mobile manipulator robot from Willow Garage spinoff Unbounded Robotics, has only one arm. And that, along with many other engineering decisions and technology improvements, will allow the startup to sell its robot for just $35,000 (it's designed for materials-handling tasks in places like warehouses, elder care facilities, and supermarkets). 'With robots, feature creep is so much more present than in some other fields,' says Unbounded co-founder and CEO Melonee Wise. 'There is always this desire to make a Swiss Army knife. But you have to make compromises, and those compromises directly impact the capabilities as well as the cost of the robot.' One roboticist told Unbounded: 'Your robot is so inexpensive that if I needed to have a second arm, I'd just buy a second robot.'"
mrspoonsi writes with this excerpt from Business Insider: "This morning, Mark Zuckerberg announced plans to give 18 million Facebook shares to charity by the end of the month. Facebook is currently trading at $55 per share, so Zuckerberg's gift is worth just under $1 billion. The money will go toward Zuckerberg's foundation, the Silicon Valley Community Foundation and The Breakthrough Prize In Life Science, a [Nobel] Prize-like award. Zuckereberg is giving his shares away as part of a secondary stock offering from Facebook. Reuters says Zuckerberg will sell 41.4 million shares, reducing his voting power in the company from 58.8% to 56.1%. Other insiders selling include board member Marc Andreessen, who will sell 1.65 million shares. Facebook is selling 27 million."
Nerval's Lobster writes "A compiler can take your C++ loops and create vectorized assembly code for you. It's obviously important that you RTFM and fully understand compiler options (especially since the defaults may not be what you want or think you're getting), but even then, do you trust that the compiler is generating the best code for you? Developer and editor Jeff Cogswell compares the g++ and Intel compilers when it comes to generating vectorized code, building off a previous test that examined the g++ compiler's vectorization abilities, and comes to some definite conclusions. 'The g++ compiler did well up against the Intel compiler,' he wrote. 'I was troubled by how different the generated assembly code was between the 4.7 and 4.8.1 compilers—not just with the vectorization but throughout the code.' Do you agree?"
DavidGilbert99 writes "A report from Dell Secureworks earlier this week reported that up to 250,000 systems have been infected with the pernicious ransomware known as CryptoLocker. Digging a little deeper, David Gilbert at IBTimes UK found that the average ransom being paid was $300, and than on a very conservative basis just 0.4% of people paid the ransom. What does this all add up to? $30 million for the gang controlling CryptoLocker — and this could be 'many times bigger.'"
An anonymous reader writes with this excerpt from a Reuters report shedding light on one consequence of increasing knowledge of the extent of U.S. government spying: "Brazil awarded a $4.5 billion contract to Saab AB on Wednesday to replace its aging fleet of fighter jets, a surprise coup for the Swedish company after news of U.S. spying on Brazilians helped derail Boeing's chances for the deal. ... The timing of the announcement, after more than a decade of off-and-on negotiations, appeared to catch the companies involved by surprise. Even Juniti Saito, Brazil's top air force commander, said on Wednesday that he only heard of the decision a day earlier in a meeting with President Dilma Rousseff. Until earlier this year, Boeing's F/A-18 Super Hornet had been considered the front runner. But revelations of spying by the U.S. National Security Agency in Brazil, including personal communication by Rousseff, led Brazil to believe it could not trust a U.S. company."
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "SF writer Charles Stross writes on his blog that like all currency systems, Bitcoin comes with an implicit political agenda attached and although our current global system is pretty crap, Bitcoin is worse. For starters, BtC is inherently deflationary. There is an upper limit on the number of bitcoins that can ever be created so the cost of generating new Bitcoins rises over time, and the value of Bitcoins rise relative to the available goods and services in the market. Libertarians love it because it pushes the same buttons as their gold fetish and it doesn't look like a "Fiat currency". You can visualize it as some kind of scarce precious data resource, sort of a digital equivalent of gold. However there are a number of huge down-sides to Bitcoin says Stross: Mining BtC has a carbon footprint from hell as they get more computationally expensive to generate, electricity consumption soars; Bitcoin mining software is now being distributed as malware because using someone else's computer to mine BitCoins is easier than buying a farm of your own mining hardware; Bitcoin's utter lack of regulation permits really hideous markets to emerge, in commodities like assassination and drugs and child pornography; and finally Bitcoin is inherently damaging to the fabric of civil society because it is pretty much designed for tax evasion. "BitCoin looks like it was designed as a weapon intended to damage central banking and money issuing banks, with a Libertarian political agenda in mind—to damage states ability to collect tax and monitor their citizens financial transactions," concludes Stross. "The current banking industry and late-period capitalism may suck, but replacing it with Bitcoin would be like swapping out a hangnail for Fournier's gangrene.""
jfruh writes "You may find it mildly creepy that Microsoft has a private police force, but the Digital Crimes Unit has helped real law enforcement do things like disrupt huge botnets. According to Richard Boscovich, assistant general counsel for the Digital Crimes Unit, Microsoft is only able to do all this by relying on the company's existing infrastructure, including its Azure cloud service. The DCU can provision compute time from the cloud as necessary to combat complex threats, he said, and also uses cloud services to share information with law enforcement agencies quickly."
Nerval's Lobster writes "The comparatively recent addition of supercomputing to the toolbox of biomedical research may already have paid off in a big way: Researchers have used a bio-specialized supercomputer to identify a molecular 'switch' that might be used to turn off bad behavior by pathogens. They're now trying to figure out what to do with that discovery by running even bigger tests on the world's second-most-powerful supercomputer. The 'switch' is a pair of amino acids called Phe396 that helps control the ability of the E. coli bacteria to move under its own power. Phe396 sits on a chemoreceptor that extends through the cell wall, so it can pass information about changes in the local environment to proteins on the inside of the cell. Its role was discovered by a team of researchers from the University of Tennessee and the ORNL Joint Institute for Computational Sciences using a specialized supercomputer called Anton, which was built specifically to simulate biomolecular interactions among proteins and other molecules to give researchers a better way to study details of how molecules interact. 'For decades proteins have been viewed as static molecules, and almost everything we know about them comes from static images, such as those produced with X-ray crystallography,' according to Igor Zhulin, a researcher at ORNL and professor of microbiology at UT, in whose lab the discovery was made. 'But signaling is a dynamic process, which is difficult to fully understand using only snapshots.'"
beaverdownunder writes "Apple has agreed to an agreement to ensure staff inform customers of rights under Australian consumer law. Despite the 2011 law requiring retailers to provide a refund option for faulty goods, and free repairs to items reasonably expected to still function properly (this part of the law is intentionally ambiguous), Apple steadfastly stuck to its AppleCare program, denying warranty repairs to units more than one year old (without the purchase of an extension) and only offering replacement or credit for DOA items. Apple has promised to compensate all Australian customers who were charged for repairs during the last two years, and make the terms of the law clear on the Australian Apple website. How this will affect company warranty policy is unclear — under the law, consumers could be entitled to repairs for the life of the product (barring damage, of course)."
toshikodo writes "The BBC is reporting that Internet content filters being rolled out by major ISPs in the UK are failing to allow access to acceptable content, such as sex education and sexual abuse advise sites, while also still allowing access to porn. According to the article, 'TalkTalk's filter is endorsed by Mr Cameron but it failed to block 7% of the 68 pornographic websites tested by Newsnight.' The ISPs claim that it is impossible for their filters to be 100% accurate, and that they are working with their users to improve quality. I wonder how long it will be before one of these filters blocks access to the Conservative Party's website, and what will Cameron do then?"
wiredmikey writes "A board set up to review the NSA's vast surveillance programs has called for a wide-ranging overhaul of National Security Agency practices while preserving 'robust' intelligence capabilities. The panel, set up by President Obama, issued 46 recommendations, including reforms at a secret national security court and an end to retention of telephone 'metadata' by the spy agency. The 308-page report (PDF) submitted last week to the White House and released publicly Wednesday says the US government needs to balance the interests of national security and intelligence gathering with privacy and 'protecting democracy, civil liberties, and the rule of law.' Panel members said the recommendations would not necessarily mean a rolling back of intelligence gathering, including on foreign leaders, but that surveillance must be guided by standards and by high-level policymakers."
JoeyRox writes "Target experienced a system-wide breach of credit card numbers over the Black Friday holiday shopping season. What's unique about this massive breach is that it didn't involve compromising a centralized data center or website but instead represented a distributed attack at individual Target stores across the country. Investigators believe customer account numbers were lifted via software installed on card readers at checkout." Also at Slash BI.