An anonymous reader writes "Google today announced new integration between Gmail and Google+ that sees your social connections show up in auto-complete when you're composing an email. Google says the feature is rolling out "over the next couple of days" to everyone that uses Gmail and Google+."
Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive
An anonymous reader writes "3D printers are transforming the business, medical, and consumer landscapes by creating objects like airplane parts, lamps, jewellery, and even artificial human bones. Now astronomers are experimenting with the technology to transform astronomy education, turning images from the NASA/ESA Hubble Space Telescope into tactile 3D pictures for people who cannot explore celestial wonders visually."
Science_afficionado writes "Astronomers have discovered a surprising new class of 'hypervelocity stars' that are moving at more than a million miles per hour, fast enough to escape the gravitational grasp of the Milky Way galaxy. The 20 hyper stars are about the same size as the sun and, other than their extreme speed, have the same composition as the stars in the galactic disk. The big surprise is that they don't seem to come from the galaxy's center. The generally accepted mechanism for producing hypervelocity stars relies on the extreme gravitational field of the supermassive black hole that resides in the galaxy's core."
Zothecula writes "The town of Kiruna in Lapland, Sweden, is known for its Jukkasjårvi Ice Hotel and for hosting the recent Arctic Council summit. It also sits within the Arctic Circle, on one of the world's richest deposits of iron ore. Now in danger of collapse due to extensive deep mining, the city center is to be relocated."
An anonymous reader writes "The smartphone and tablet rivals will work with a mediator in an effort to settle their patent disputes in advance of a second trial on the issues scheduled for this spring, according to Bloomberg News. The agreement, filed in federal court in San Jose today, was in response to U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh's request in November that both sides submit a settlement discussion proposal before trial. Senior legal executives at the companies met Jan. 6 to discuss 'settlement opportunities,' according to the proposal. The companies agreed to retain a mediator 'who has experience mediating high profile disputes,' according to the filing, which doesn't name the person. The chief executive officers and three to four company lawyers, but no outside lawyers, will attend the mediation before Feb. 19, according to the filing."
sciencehabit writes "A molecule nearly identical to one in rhubarb may hold the key to the future of renewable energy. Researchers have used the compound to create a high-performance 'flow' battery, a leading contender for storing renewable power in the electric utility grid. If the battery prototype can be scaled up, it could help utilities deliver renewable energy when the wind is calm and the sun isn't shining." Abstract.
On Planet Python, Gregory Szorc asks why many projects continue to support Python releases prior to 2.7, when they are all EOLed (2.4 in 2008, 2.5 in 2011, and 2.6 last October), and Python 2.7 provides a clear upgrade path to Python 3. Quoting: "I think maintainers of Python projects should seriously consider dropping support for Python 2.6 and below. Are there really that many people on systems that don't have Python 2.7 easily available? Why are we Python developers inflicting so much pain on ourselves to support antiquated Python releases? As a data point, I successfully transitioned Firefox's build system from requiring Python 2.5+ to 2.7.3+ and it was relatively pain free." Shortly after posting, other developers responded with their reasons for using older Python releases. First, Rob Galanakis of CCP (EVE Online) explains the difficulties involved in upgrading a mature commercial project embedding Python. Nathan Froyd adds "I think this list of reasons to upgrade misses the larger point in providing software for other people: You do not get to tell your users what to do. ... Maybe those users don’t have sufficient control over their working environments to install a new version of Python. ... Maybe those users rely on certain APIs only available in older versions of Python and don’t wish to take an indeterminate amount of time to rewrite (retest, recertify, etc. etc.) their software. ... Maybe those users are just rationally lazy and don’t want to deal with downloading, configuring, and installing a new version of Python, plus dealing with inevitable fallout, when the old version has worked Just Fine for everything else."
Shai Goitein started with a powered paper airplane, the PowerUp 1, which was pretty cool. But he didn't stop there. The PowerUp 3 is a powered paper airplane you control with your smartphone. He calls this "a mixture of origami and technology." He also says it's a great toy, class project or whatever for the younger set, since kids start making paper airplanes at the age of six or seven. Adults? Why not? This is obviously a suitable toy for anyone with a two-digit (or three-digit) age number. And PowerUp 3.0 is a Kickstarter-funded project, with (at this writing) $928,091 pledged -- against a $50,000 goal, with another 15 days of Kickstarter funding left to go. There's also a smartphone-controlled PowerUp paper boat kit. Unlike the PowerUp airplane kits, it's not sold out (at this writing). Yet.
New submitter citab writes with news that "the first major retailer is now accepting bitcoins!" In December, Overstock.com announced that they would begin accepting Bitcoin for payment as early as the end of second quarter 2014, but decided to make it a priority task to avoid having someone else beat them to it. From the article: "Last Tuesday, the company struck a deal to handle Bitcoin payments through a service operated by the suddenly hot San Francisco startup Coinbase, and since then, a team of Overstock engineers has worked almost every waking hour to prepare the site for what is undeniably a key moment in the digital currency’s short history. ... [Overstock CEO] Byrne believes this can ultimately boost the company’s bottom line, but that’s not his only aim. For Byrne, a rather opinionated libertarian who’s unafraid to take his company places others fear to tread, embracing the cryptocurrency is as much a political statement as a business decision. Like so many others, he believes Bitcoin can free the world from the control of big banks and big government. 'It helps us fight the machine,' he says."
The Pirate Bay co-founder Warg has been held in solitary confinement since being turned over by Sweden to Denmark in December. Yesterday, he appeared in a closed court session where the judge ordered he continue to be held until at least February 5th. From the article: "In an attempt to free the Swede, or at least improve his circumstances, a petition was launched recently, directed at the Danish Prime Minister. Initially there were only a few hundred backers but when a banner was added to the homepage of The Pirate Bay this quickly grew to more than 50,000. Among other things, the petition demands that Gottfrid is given free access to books and other reading material." Although kept from computers and books, he is at least no longer being held in solitary confinement as of last week.
First time accepted submitter vrml writes "Critical situations in which participant's actions lead to the death of (virtual) humans have been employed in a study of moral dilemmas which just appeared in the Social Neuroscience journal. The experiment shows that participants' behavior becomes more utilitarian (that is, they tend to minimize the number of persons killed) when they have to take a decision in Virtual Reality rather than the more traditional settings used in Moral Psychology which ask participants to read text descriptions of the critical situations. A video with some of the VR moral dilemmas is available, as is the paper."
ananyo writes "A swarm of small satellites set to deliver close to real-time imagery of swathes of the planet is launching today. San Francisco-based Planet Labs, founded in 2010 by three former NASA scientists, is scheduled to launch 28 of its 'Doves' on 9 January. Each toaster-sized device weighs about 5 kilograms and can take images at a resolution of 3–5 metres. Meanwhile Skybox Imaging plans to launch a swarm of 24 satellites, each weighing about 100 kilograms, which will take images of 1 meter resolution or better. Skybox launched its first satellite on 21 November (and captured the first HD video of the world from space) and plans to launch another this year, followed by the remainder between 2015 and 2017. In a first — at least for civilian satellites — Skybox's devices will also stream short segments of near-live high-resolution video footage of the planet. So, too, will UrtheCast, a start-up based in Vancouver, Canada, whose cameras will hitch a ride on the International Space Station. Because the swarms are still to be launched, scientists have yet to fully assess the quality of the imagery. But the satellites' spatial resolutions of 1–5 metres are much higher than those of most scientific satellites. Landsat, NASA's Earth-observation workhorse, for example, has a resolution of 15–100 metres depending on the spectral frequency, with 30 metres in the visible-light range."
The device that does this is the Geonaute 360 Degree Camera. The Geonaute display caught Tim Lord's eye at CES, and he got Geonauter (is that a word?) Marian Le Calves to show him the company's "action camera," which costs $499 -- or more accurately, will cost $499 when it starts shipping. Until then, you can pre-order. Or you could buy a GoPro camera for as little as $199. Geonaute has a bunch of videos on YouTube, some of which are quite fetching. But GoPo has a bunch of slick YouTube videos, too, and at this point they're the dominant brand in the action camera market niche. Will Geonaute be able to capture a decent market share with their 360 degree coolness -- and higher price? Or will they, GoPro, and other action camera vendors get into a price war so that every kid who has a skateboard can make good-looking videos?
An anonymous reader writes "As companies look for solutions to protect the integrity of their networks, data centers, and computer systems, an unexpected threat is lurking under the surface — senior management. According to a new survey, 87% of senior managers frequently or occasionally send work materials to a personal email or cloud account to work remotely, putting that information at a much higher risk of being breached. 58% of senior management reported having accidentally sent the wrong person sensitive information (PDF), compared to just 25% of workers overall."
innocent_white_lamb writes "Current laws make the driver of a car responsible for any mayhem caused by that vehicle. But what happens when there is no driver? This article argues that the dream of a self-driving car is futile since the law requires that the driver is responsible for the operation of the vehicle. Therefore, even if a car is self-driving, you as the driver must stay alert and pay attention. No texting, no reading, no snoozing. So what's the point of a self-driving car if you can't relax or do something else while 'driving?'"
Qedward writes with word that the EU Parliament's Civil Liberties Committee published the draft of their report on the impact of dragnet surveillance by the NSA on EU citizens (PDF). Quoting CIO: "... Members of the European Parliament say that it is 'very doubtful that data collection of such magnitude is only guided by the fight against terrorism,' and that there may be other motives such as political and economic espionage. The document urges EU countries to take legal action against the breach of their sovereignty perpetrated through such mass surveillance programs." The same committee voted today to allow Edward Snowden to testify before them in a special hearing.
davecb writes "The Toronto Star's lead article today is Canada courting U.S. web giants in wake of NSA spy scandal, an effort to convince them their customer data is safer here. This follows related moves like Cisco moving R&D to Toronto. Industry Canada will neither confirm nor deny that European and U.S. companies are negotiating to move confidential data away from the U.S. This critically depends on recent blocking legislation to get around cases like U.S. v. Bank of Nova Scotia, where U.S. courts 'extradited' Canadian bank records to the U.S. Contrary to Canadian law, you understand ..."
Taco Cowboy writes "Japanese researchers are planning an experiment to better understand what transpires during a nuclear meltdown by attempting to create a controlled nuclear meltdown. Using a scaled down version of a nuclear reactor — essentially a meter long stainless steel container — the experiment will involve the insertion of a foot long (30 cm) nuclear fuel rod, starting the fission process, and then draining the coolant. The experiment is scheduled to take place later this year."
An anonymous reader writes with news that funding has been secured for the ISS through at least 2024. From NASA: "'...We are pleased to announce that the Obama Administration has approved an extension of the International Space Station until at least 2024. We are hopeful and optimistic that our ISS partners will join this extension effort and thus enable continuation of the groundbreaking research being conducted in this unique orbiting laboratory for at least another decade. ... A further benefit of ISS extension is it will give NASA and its private-sector partners time to more fully transition to the commercial space industry the transportation of cargo and crew to low-Earth-orbit, allowing NASA to continue to increase its focus on developing the next-generation heavy-lift rocket and crew capsule necessary for deep-space exploration."
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "ZDNet reports that at least eight security researchers or policy experts have withdrawn from RSA's annual security conference in protest over the sponsor's alleged collaboration with the National Security Agency. Last month, it was revealed that RSA had accepted $10 million from the NSA to use a flawed default cipher in one of its encryption tools. The withdrawals from the highly regarded conference represent early blowback by experts who have complained that the government's surveillance efforts have, in some cases, weakened computer security, even for innocent users. Jeffrey Carr, a security industry veteran who works in analyzing espionage and cyber warfare tactics, took his cancellation a step further calling for a boycott of the conference, saying that RSA had violated the trust of its customers. 'I can't imagine a worse action, short of a company's CEO getting involved in child porn,' says Carr. 'I don't know what worse action a security company could take than to sell a product to a customer with a backdoor in it.' Organizers have said that next month's conference in San Francisco will host 560 speakers, and that they expect more participants than the 24,000 who showed up last year. 'Though boycotting the conference won't have a big impact on EMC's bottom line, the resulting publicity will,' says Dave Kearns. 'Security is hard enough without having to worry that our suppliers — either knowingly or unknowingly — have aided those who wish to subvert our security measures.'"
sciencehabit writes "Looking a bit like a dolphin, but with a long slim snout filled with pointy teeth, one species of ichthyosaur was practically invisible in the murky depths of Jurassic seas, thanks to dark pigmentation that covered its entire body. That's one conclusion of a new study that provides an unprecedented peek at the coloration of sea creatures alive during or soon after the dinosaur era. The approach involves bombarding fossils with charged particles and then analyzing the particles that are knocked from the surface, which reveals remnants of ancient pigments. Dark pigmentation may have helped ichthyosaurs and other predators camouflage themselves in the murky depths while they hunted prey."
judgecorp writes "Two media reports suggest that the Universal Credit scheme to overhaul Britain's welfare programme is in trouble. The IT project to support Universal Credit was launched by the Cabinet Office, and it will be completed and run by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) — but the Guardian says the Cabinet Office has pulled out its elite experts too soon, while a different leak told Computer Weekly that the four original suppliers — HP, IBM, Accenture and BT — have been effectively frozen out in an internal change. It's the biggest change to Britain's benefits system for many years, and all the evidence says it's not going well."
itwbennett writes "On Tuesday, Yahoo delivered on a promise that it made in October to enable email encryption for everyone by default by January 8. While this is a great step, the company's HTTPS implementation appears to be inconsistent across servers and even technically insecure in some cases, according to Ivan Ristic, director of application security research at security firm Qualys. For example, some of Yahoo's HTTPS email servers use RC4 as the preferred cipher with most clients. 'RC4 is considered weak, which is why we advise that people either don't use it, or if they feel they must, use it as a last resort,' Ristic said."
benonemusic writes "Three computer scientists at Stony Brook University in New York believe they have found some rules through a computer program that might predict which fiction books will be successful. Their algorithm had as much as an 84 percent accuracy rate when applied to already published manuscripts in Project Gutenberg and other sources. Among their findings was that more successful books relied on verbs describing thought processes rather than actions and emotions. However, some disagree with the findings. Author Ron Hansen said style is not the key, but instead readers' interest in the topics in the book." There has been work done already on finding the formula for a hit song, and using analytics to craft a blockbuster movie.