An anonymous reader writes "For geeks that want to secure their home, it seems that the choice of Do It Yourself solutions are limited. And in case you prefer to use a company, most of them require to subscribe to a contract for 3 years that costs at least $20 a month. In case you want to make a DIY security system without a monthly fee, few options are available. Some products (such as ismartalarm, Lowe's Iris system or also the fortress security) let you install your own system but seem not to be very mature (for some the alarm is not loud, for others they do not use the internet and only a land line, etc.). Is there any recommendation for a basic DIY home security system for monitoring the house and just have notification by e-mail or through a mobile application? Is there any open standard for home automation and security devices? Any suggestion about how to build something simple, affordable and efficient?" How to top the big-name subscription-based security companies is a recurring question, but one worth exploring every once in a while, as sensors and software both advance, and especially as more and more people are carrying around phones well-suited as remote monitors for in-house cameras. (And here's a preemptive link to ZoneMinder.)
Tech educational collective The Geek Group, based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, has more than 25,000 members, scattered all over the world — most of whom have never been to their flagship location in Michigan. Sadly, a fire Thursday damaged one of the facilities at their Leonard Street Labs (damage report starts about 26 minutes into this video), the High Voltage Lab. Since there aren't that many places for amateurs and hobbyists to learn about high voltage (even with the growing number of maker spaces around the world), that leaves a hole that hopefully will soon be filled; lucky for anyone interested, The Geek Group welcomes volunteers.
sfcrazy writes "YouTube will demonstrate 4K videos at the upcoming CES. That's not the best news, the best part of this story is that Google will do it using it's own open sourced VP9 technology. Google acquired the technology from O2 and open sourced it. Google started offering the codec on royalty free basis to vendors to boost adoption. Google has also learned the hardware partnership game and has already roped in hardware partners to use and showcase VP9 at CES. According to reports LG (the latest Nexus maker), Panasonic and Sony will be demonstrating 4K YouTube using VP9 at the event. Google today announced that all leading hardware vendors will start supporting the royalty-free VP9 codecs. These hardware vendors include major names like ARM, Broadcom, Intel, LG, Marvell, MediaTek, Nvidia, Panasonic, Philips, Qualcomm, RealTek, Samsung, Sigma, Sharp, Sony and Toshiba."
cold fjord writes "Computing reports on a U.K. survey: 'Governments remain the organizations most trusted by the public to handle personal data, despite revelations about surveillance and data collection schemes by the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA), the U.K.'s GCHQ and other governmental organizations around the world. That's according to research by accounting and consultancy firm Ernst & Young, which suggests that more than half of people — 55 per cent — say they're comfortable sharing personal information with central government organizations ... However, consumers are more wary about sharing their data with private companies. Just one-third told Ernst & Young that they're willing to share personal information with financial institutions, while one-quarter are happy to do so when it comes to their energy provider. Only one-fifth of those surveyed said they're comfortable sharing personal data with supermarkets. ... it was web firms that people were most claimed to be wary of sharing information with — fewer than one-in-10 said they were comfortable about sharing data with social networks, such as Facebook or web search engines like Google.'" Meanwhile, a pair of researchers have assessed the NSA's data gathering scheme and found, unsurprisingly, that it's probably not very cost effective (PDF). "Conceivably, as some maintain, there still exist some exceptionally dim-witted terrorists or would-be terrorists who are oblivious to the fact that their communications are rather less than fully secure. But such supreme knuckle-heads are surely likely to make so many mistakes — like advertising on Facebook or searching there or in chatrooms for co-conspirators — that sophisticated and costly communications data banks are scarcely needed to track them down."
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "ABC News reports that General Mills has ended the use of genetically modified ingredients in Cheerios, its flagship breakfast food. General Mills has been manufacturing its original-flavor Cheerios without GMOs for the past several weeks in response to consumer demand. Original Cheerios will now be labeled as 'Not Made With Genetically Modified Ingredients,' although that it is not an official certification. 'We were able to do this with original Cheerios because the main ingredients are oats,' says Mike Siemienas, noting that there are no genetically modified oats. The company is primarily switching the cornstarch and sugar to make the original Cheerios free of GMOs. Green America has been targeting Cheerios for the past year to raise the profile of the anti-GMO movement. 'This is a big deal,' says Green America's Todd Larsen. 'Cheerios is an iconic brand and one of the leading breakfast cereals in the U.S. We don't know of any other example of such a major brand of packaged food, eaten by so many Americans, going from being GMO to non-GMO.' For its part, General Mills says, It's not about safety,' and will continue to use GMOs in other food products."
An anonymous reader writes "Over the past several years, we've had a spate of new input methods for playing video games. Instead of just pushing buttons, now we can wave body parts around, yell at the screen, or even (weakly) control things with our thoughts. Now, we're adding an eye-tracking sensor bar. It's being created by SteelSeries, but it's based on tech from a Swedish company called Tobii, who built similar tech for cars. 'Inside the device there are two cameras and an infrared light source. The infrared light reflects off your pupil and cornea, which is then captured by the two camera sensors. Throw in a healthy serving of Tobii's proprietary image processing algorithms, and a physiological 3D model of the eye, and you can work out the position of the eye and the direction of the gaze with high accuracy. Tobii doesn't seem to put an exact figure on the resolution/accuracy, merely saying that "within less than a centimeter" is possible.' Of course, the biggest question will be how well it works, but it seems like it could be a useful supplement to normal control schemes. I can see how it would be nice to simply flick your eyes to an icon to do something, or to make it easier to dig through your in-game inventory."
Daniel_Stuckey writes "The media is currently praising Isaac Asimov's vision for 2014, which he articulated in a New York Times opinion piece in 1964. The sci-fi writer imagined visiting the 2014 World Fair, and the global culture and economy the exhibits might reflect. NPR called his many predictions, which range from cordless smart telephones, to robots running our leisure society, to machine-cooked 'automeals,' 'right on.' Business Insider called the forecast 'spot on.' The Huffington Post called the projections 'eerily accurate.' The only thing is, they're not. Taken as a whole, Asimov's vision for 2014 is wildly off. It's more that 'Genius predicted the future 50 years ago' makes for a great article hook. Asimov does hit a couple pretty close to home: He got pretty close to guessing the world population (6.5 billion); he anticipated automated cars ('vehicles with 'robot brains'"); and he seems to have described the current smartphone/tablet craze ('sight-sound' telephones that 'can be used not only to see the people you call but also for studying documents and photographs and reading passages from books.') But he also thought we'd have a colony on the moon, be living under a global population control regime, eating at multi-flavored algae bars, and letting machines prepare us personalized meals. Most divergent of all, he believed that increasing automatization of labor would spawn not inequality or joblessness, but spiritual malaise."
TWToxicity writes "Most prescriptions would say something like 'take two pills nightly with meal' on the bottle. Now, we may be adding a new method. Baltimore-based company WellDoc is making a national push in 2014 for doctors to prescribe their app, BlueStar, after a regional launch last Fall. BlueStar helps patients with Type II Diabetes by suggesting in real-time when to test and how to regulate their blood-sugar levels by, for example, altering their medication or food intake. Prescription apps may revolutionize mobile medicine and allow for more effective treatments because the patients get real time feedback and the data collected by the app is sent to their physicians. WellDoc is currently working on apps to monitor and coach patients with other diseases. The success of this product will rely on how many doctors prescribe it."
Kimomaru writes "Two Facebook users are trying to start a class action lawsuit against Facebook for allegedly mining information from private messages with the intention of selling is to advertisers (full complaint PDF). It's not the first time a social medial player has been in the press over privacy or security issues. But when the services are provided free of charge, does the user have a realistic expectation of privacy or security, especially when it's understood that the user's data is being mined for advertising? If not, should social media networks be allowed to use words like 'private' (as in private messaging) or 'security' to describe their services?"
Virtucon writes "A city councilman in Indian Trail Town, North Carolina has resigned and opted to write his letter of resignation in Klingon. David Waddell is obviously a fan of Star Trek. I wonder if the other council members know what the hell he wrote? I'm sure a nice Qu'vatlh would have sufficed."
Nerval's Lobster writes "Researchers at the University of Tokyo have published a paper and video describing a technique that is explicitly not an anti-gravity system, and doesn't pretend to be, but looks very much like one. 'The essence of levitation is the countervailing of gravity,' according to the provocative opening of a paper published Dec. 14 on the Cornell University science-publishing site arXiv.org that describes a way to not only raise an object into the air, but maneuver it in three dimensions using only standing waves of ultrasound. Since the mid-1970s, researchers have been able to levitate small objects using focused beams of high-frequency sound that bounce off a flat surface and create a wave of pressure that pushes the object into the air. But they couldn't cause an object to float, and they couldn't move it around in any direction other than up or down. The University of Tokyo team led by Yoichi Ochiai built a system that could raise small particles, water droplets and even 'small creatures' off a flat surface and zoom them around within an open, cubical area about 21 inches on each side. The system uses four sets of phased arrays – speakers producing focused beams of sound at around 40kHz – to create waves of ultrasonic force on every side of the object rather than just one. The force produced by each of the four ultrasound sources can be changed – and the force on the object manipulated – using the same techniques utilized by older systems. Coordinating the frequencies and force of ultrasound arrays on four sides, however, creates a consistent focal point for the force from each. By keeping frequency changes in sync, the system creates a 'bubble' within which the force from all four sources is consistent no matter where within the target area the focus is directed."
An anonymous reader writes "The Guardian takes the UK government's internet porn filter to task by pointing out how absurd the opt-out process is: 'Picture the scene. You're pottering about on the internet, perhaps idly looking up cake recipes, or videos of puppies learning to howl. Then the phone rings. It's your internet service provider. Actually, it's a nice lady in a telesales warehouse somewhere, employed on behalf of your service provider; let's call her Linda. Linda is calling because, thanks to David Cameron's "porn filter", you now have an "unavoidable choice", as one of 20 million British households with a broadband connection, over whether to opt in to view certain content. Linda wants to know – do you want to be able to see hardcore pornography? How about information on illegal drugs? Or gay sex, or abortion? Your call may be recorded for training and monitoring purposes. How about obscene and tasteless material? Would you like to see that? Speak up, Linda can't hear you.' The article also points out how the filter is being used as a tool for private industry to protect their profits. 'The category of "obscene content", for instance, which is blocked even on the lowest setting of BT's opt-in filtering system, covers "sites with information about illegal manipulation of electronic devices [and] distribution of software" – in other words, filesharing and music downloads, debate over which has been going on in parliament for years.'"
In 1990, a development studio called Toys for Bob created a game called Star Control, a fun little space combat game with a bit of strategy added in. In 1992, they released Star Control 2, a full-blown space adventure RPG, which became one of the seminal works of early PC gaming. (Later open-sourced and released for modern systems.) After that, creators Fred Ford and Paul Reiche III lost control of the franchise to Accolade, who botched Star Control 3 and eventually abandoned the series. Last July, Stardock, the studio behind Sins of a Solar Empire, acquired the rights, and they're now discussing their plans to resurrect the classic series. They'll be using Star Control 2 as a template and an inspiration for all aspects of the game, though they won't be using any of the IP from Star Control I & II. They've also contacted Ford and Reiche and will try to hold true to their creative intentions. (The two currently run an Activision game studio, so they won't be involved with the new game.) Production will begin this winter.
New submitter sumoinsanity writes "The Washington Post has disclosed that the NSA is trying to build a quantum computer for use in cracking modern encryption. Their work is part of a research project into tackling the toughest equipment, which received $79.7 million in total funding. Another article makes the case that the NSA's quantum computing efforts are both disturbing and reassuring. The reassuring part is that public key infrastructure is still OK when done properly, since the NSA is still working so hard to defeat it. It's also highly unlikely that the NSA has achieved significant progress without outside awareness or help. More disturbing is that it may simply be a matter of time before it fails, and our private messages are out there for all to see."
New submitter Cochonou writes "In an unforeseen turn of events, the Sydney Morning Herald reports that the Chinese icebreaker Xue Long is now stuck in heavy Antarctic pack ice, just a day after its helicopter was used for the rescue of the passengers onboard the ice-trapped MV Akademik Shokalskiy. The Australian icebreaker Aurora Australis, which is now carrying the passengers of the Shokalskiy, has been placed on standby to assist. The Chinese vessel is waiting for favorable tidal conditions on Saturday to make another attempt at freeing itself."
theodp writes "It's said that you can't fully understand someone until you meet their family. In Janelle Nanos's 'Losing Aaron,' you'll meet Bob Swartz, father of the late Aaron Swartz and adviser to MIT's Media Lab, and get a better understanding of how Aaron's family helped plant the seeds of his idealism. You'll also, sadly, see how MIT — the institution which Bob Swartz long felt stood for compassion and creativity, challenging authority, and pure scientific inquiry — took a self-described stance of 'neutrality' in the aggressive prosecution of his son that ended with Aaron's senseless death last January. 'Clearly I failed,' a tortured Bob Swartz acknowledges. 'There's no question, my son is dead. On the other hand, do I feel that I didn't try hard enough? Yes. Do I feel guilt about not trying hard enough? No. If you understand the distinction I'm trying to make. Could I have done more? Of course I could have done more. Because you can always do more. Did I put everything in that I possibly could? Did I work as hard pretty much as I knew how? Yes. Do I wish I did more? Yes. But I don't go home at night and say, "Well, you didn't care." Because I did. I cared about it more than anything else. And I don't go home at night and say, "I didn't try." Because I tried. Everything I could figure out. But I failed.'"
the_newsbeagle writes "'As 2014 dawns, China has the most active and ambitious space program in the world,' says this article. While it's true that the Chinese space agency is just now reaching milestones that the U.S. and Russia reached 40 years ago (its first lunar rover landed in December), the Chinese government's strong support for space exploration means that it's catching up fast. On the agenda for the next decade: A space station to rival the ISS, a new spaceport, new heavy-lift rockets, a global satellite navigation system to rival GPS, and China's first space science satellites."
An anonymous reader writes "With the release of Windows 8.1 to the world in October, Microsoft ended 2013 with two full months of availability for its latest operating system version. While Windows 8.1 is certainly growing quickly and eating into Windows 8s share, the duo has only now been able to pass 10 percent market share, while Windows 7 seems to be plowing forward unaffected. The latest market share data from Net Applications shows that Windows 8 and Windows 8.1 made steady progression in December 2013, gaining a combined 1.19 percentage points (from 9.30 percent to 10.49 percent). More specifically, Windows 8 gained 0.23 percentage points (from 6.66 percent to 6.89 percent), while Windows 8.1 jumped 0.96 percentage points (from 2.64 percent to 3.60 percent)."
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Here's an interesting paper by two physicists at Michigan Technological University who have come up with a practical methodology for finding time travelers through the internet. 'Time travel has captured the public imagination for much of the past century, but little has been done to actually search for time travelers. Here, three implementations of Internet searches for time travelers are described, all seeking a prescient mention of information not previously available. The first search covered prescient content placed on the Internet, highlighted by a comprehensive search for specific terms in tweets on Twitter. The second search examined prescient inquiries submitted to a search engine, highlighted by a comprehensive search for specific search terms submitted to a popular astronomy web site. The third search involved a request for a direct Internet communication, either by email or tweet, pre-dating to the time of the inquiry. Given practical verifiability concerns, only time travelers from the future were investigated. No time travelers were discovered. Although these negative results do not disprove time travel, given the great reach of the Internet, this search is perhaps the most comprehensive to date.' Stephen Hawking's similar search (video) also provided negative results."
Zothecula writes "More shark attacks occur in Western Australia than almost anyplace else on Earth. In order to help protect swimmers and surfers, the state government relies largely on helicopter-based spotters, plus members of the public who report their own sightings. Now, however, the Department of Fisheries has introduced a new system, in which the toothy fishes announce their own presence via Twitter. Known as the Shark Monitoring Network, the system utilizes acoustic tags that are attached to the fins of individual sharks, along with buoyed monitoring devices that pick up the signals transmitted by those tags. When a tagged shark swims within range of one of the monitors, its species, size and location is automatically recorded."