An anonymous reader writes "A new system called RoboEarth is currently being tested at Eindhoven University which will enable robots to complete tasks by sharing knowledge through a cloud based world-wide-web. The current study is based in a hospital setting where robots are sharing information to complete tasks like moving around by sharing a map of the room and serving drinks to 'patients'. The aim of the system is that robots and humans will be able to upload information to a cloud based database which can be accessed and used by robots. This will enable robots to share information and also to learn from each other. It will also allow robots to react to changes within their environment without having to be reprogrammed."
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sciencehabit writes "Anyone watching the autumn sky knows that migrating birds fly in a V formation, but scientists have long debated why. A new study of ibises — where researchers took to microlight planes and recorded birds strapped with GPS in-flight — finds that these big-winged birds carefully position their wingtips and sync their flapping, presumably to catch the preceding bird's updraft and save energy during flight."
curtwoodward writes "Boston University hadn't been very aggressive with intellectual property lawsuits in the past. But that changed in 2012, when the school began suing the biggest names in consumer tech, alleging infringement of a patent on blue LEDs — a patent that, no coincidence, is set to expire at the end of 2014. As of today, about 25 big tech names have now settled the lawsuits, using 'defensive' patent firm RPX. A dozen or so more defendants are probably headed that way. And BU is no longer a quiet patent holder."
vinces99 writes "A mere glass full of water from Monterey Bay Aquarium's 1.2 million-gallon Open Sea tank is all scientists really needed to identify the Pacific Bluefin tuna, dolphinfish and most of the other 13,000 fish swimming there. Researchers also discerned which of the species were most plentiful in the tank. Being able to determine the relative abundance of fish species in a body of water is the next step in possibly using modern DNA identification techniques to census fish in the open ocean, according to Ryan Kelly, University of Washington assistant professor of marine and environmental affairs, and lead author of a paper in the Jan. 15 issue of PLOS ONE. 'It might be unpleasant to think about when going for a swim in the ocean, but the water is a soup of cells shed by what lives there,' Kelly said. Fish shed cells from their skin, damaged tissues and as body wastes. 'Every one of those cells has DNA and if you have the right tools you can tell what species the cell came from. Now we're working to find the relative abundance of each species present,' he said."
An anonymous reader writes "Microsoft today announced it will continue to provide updates to its security products for Windows XP users through July 14, 2015. Previously, the company said it would halt all updates on the end of support date for Windows XP: April 8, 2014. For consumers, this means Microsoft Security Essentials will continue to get updates after support ends for Windows XP. For enterprise customers, the same goes for System Center Endpoint Protection, Forefront Client Security, Forefront Endpoint Protection, and Windows Intune running on Windows XP."
An anonymous reader writes "The Volatility memory forensics project has developed plugins that can automatically find instances of Truecrypt within RAM dumps and extract the associated keys and parameters. Previous research in this area has focused specifically on AES keys and led to the development of tools such as aeskeyfind. The Volatility plugin takes a different approach by finding and analyzing the same data structures in memory that Truecrypt uses to manage encryption and decryption of data that is being read from and written to disk. With the creation of these plugins a wide range of investigators can now decrypt Truecrypt volumes regardless of the algorithm used (AES, Seperent, combinations of algos, etc.). Users of Truecrypt should be extra careful of physical security of their systems to prevent investigators from gaining access to the contents of physical memory."
coondoggie writes "Apple today agreed to refund at least $32.5 million to iTunes customers in order to settle FTC complaints about charges incurred by children in kids' mobile apps without their parents' consent. 'As alleged in the Commission's complaint, Apple violated this basic principle by failing to inform parents that, by entering a password, they were permitting a charge for virtual goods or currency to be used by their child in playing a children's app and at the same time triggering a 15-minute window during which their child could make unlimited additional purchases without further parental action."
MTorrice writes "To make future displays that roll, bend, and stretch, electronics makers need the circuits that control the pixels to be elastic. In particular, they need flexible transistors. Now researchers have combined a carbon nanotube mesh with a spongy ionic polymer to build super-stretchy transistors. The scientists can pull the devices to lengths 57% greater than their resting length without disrupting performance."
An anonymous reader writes "Statistician and author Nassim Taleb has a suggestion for scientific researchers: stop trying to use standard deviations in your work. He says it's misunderstood more often than not, and also not the best tool for its purpose. Taleb thinks researchers should use mean deviation instead. 'It is all due to a historical accident: in 1893, the great Karl Pearson introduced the term "standard deviation" for what had been known as "root mean square error." The confusion started then: people thought it meant mean deviation. The idea stuck: every time a newspaper has attempted to clarify the concept of market "volatility", it defined it verbally as mean deviation yet produced the numerical measure of the (higher) standard deviation. But it is not just journalists who fall for the mistake: I recall seeing official documents from the department of commerce and the Federal Reserve partaking of the conflation, even regulators in statements on market volatility. What is worse, Goldstein and I found that a high number of data scientists (many with PhDs) also get confused in real life.'"
cold fjord writes "The LA Times reports, 'Judges on the ... surveillance court have strongly rejected any proposed changes to their review process ... In a blunt letter to the House and Senate intelligence and judiciary committees, U.S. District Judge John D. Bates made it clear that the 11 judges on the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court are united in opposition to key recommendations by a presidential task force last month ... their skepticism adds to a list of hurdles for those advocating significant reforms following former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden's massive disclosures of domestic and foreign surveillance programs. ... Obama and some intelligence officials have publicly signaled support for creating an adversarial legal process in the court ... and aides have suggested the president will create an advocate's position or call for legislation to do so ... But Bates disagreed sharply, arguing that "the participation of an advocate would neither create a truly adversarial process nor constructively assist the courts in assessing the facts, as the advocate would be unable to communicate with the target or conduct an independent investigation." Adding an advocate to "run-of-the-mill FISA matters would substantially hamper the work of the courts without providing any countervailing benefit in terms of privacy protection," he added.' — The Hill adds that Bates, "... recommended an advocate chosen by the court, rather than an independent authority, for only a limited number of cases. " — More at Computerworld and NPR."
An anonymous reader writes "Philip Guo, an Asst. Professor of Computer Science at the University of Rochester, has written a thoughtful article on his education in programming. Guo explains that he was no particular coding wizard while growing up, but when he jumped into a CS major when he went to college at MIT, he received all sorts of passive and active encouragement — simply because he 'looked the part.' He says, 'Instead of facing implicit bias or stereotype threat, I had the privilege of implicit endorsement. For instance, whenever I attended technical meetings, people would assume that I knew what I was doing (regardless of whether I did or not) and treat me accordingly. If I stared at someone in silence and nodded as they were talking, they would usually assume that I understood, not that I was clueless. Nobody ever talked down to me, and I always got the benefit of the doubt in technical settings.' Guo compares this to the struggles faced by other minority groups and women to succeed in a field that is often more skeptical of their abilities. 'I want those people to experience what I was privileged enough to have gotten in college and beyond – unimpeded opportunities to develop expertise in something that they find beautiful, practical, and fulfilling.'"
In late November, Andy Wingo pushed a new register VM to Guile's (the GNU implementation of the Scheme language) master branch. It brought a number of performance improvements, but led to a bit of a conceptual mismatch between the compiler's direct-style intermediate language and the virtual machine. Earlier this week Andy Wingo announced a new continuation-passing style intermediate language for Guile. From the article: "To recap, we switched from a stack machine to a register machine because, among other reasons, register machines can consume and produce named intermediate results in fewer instructions than stack machines, and that makes things faster. To take full advantage of this new capability, it is appropriate to switch at the same time from the direct-style intermediate language (IL) that we had to an IL that names all intermediate values. ... In Guile I chose a continuation-passing style language. ... Guile's CPS language is composed of terms, expressions, and continuations. It was heavily inspired by Andrew Kennedy's 'Compiling with Continuations, Continued' paper. ... The optimizations I have currently implemented for CPS are fairly basic. Contification was tricky. One thing I did recently was to make all non-tail $call nodes require $kreceive continuations; if, as in the common case, extra values were unused, that was reflected in an unused rest argument. This required a number of optimizations to clean up and remove the extra rest arguments for other kinds of source expressions: dead-code elimination, the typical beta/eta reduction, and some code generation changes." The article describes the CPS language provided by Guile and explains the reasons behind choosing CPS over SSA or A-Normal Form. The Guile manual contains draft documentation. The new VM and Intermediate Language will be released with Guile 2.2, which should be out later this year.
Their website's "About" page says, under the headline, "Our Big Mission": "The Eye Tribe intends to become the leading provider of eye control technology for mass market consumer devices by licensing the technology to manufacturers." Their only product at the moment is a $99 development kit ($142.50 with shipping and VAT). Some people may want to say, "This is old news. Wasn't there an open source project called Gaze Tracker that was originally developed to help handicapped people interact with the world?" Yes, there was. The Eye Tribe is an outgrowth of the Gaze Tracker research group, which is still going strong and still offers its software for free download (from SourceForge) under an open source license. The company's funding comes in large part from a government grant. In the interview (below), The Eye Tribe CEO Sune Johansen notes that they have just started shipping their development kit, and that they hope to start selling an eye control kit for tablet computers to the general public before long, but he doesn't want to commit to a specific shipping date because they don't want to sell to end users until "...we have enough applications out there so that it makes sense for the consumers to buy it directly."
Recently presented at Linuxconf.au was Glyphy, a text renderer implemented using OpenGL ES2 shaders. Current OpenGL applications rasterize text on the CPU using Freetype or a similar library, uploading glyphs to the GPU as textures. This inherently limits quality and flexibility (e.g. rotation, perspective transforms, etc. cause the font hinting to become incorrect and you cannot perform subpixel antialiasing). Glyphy, on the other hand, uploads typeface vectors to the GPU and renders text in real time, performing perspective correct antialiasing. The presentation can be watched or downloaded on Vimeo. The slide sources are in Python, and I generated a PDF of the slides (warning: 15M due to embedded images). Source code is at Google Code (including a demo application), under the Apache License.
astroengine writes "Three new exoplanets have been discovered inside a star cluster, which is a rare find as only a handful of such exoplanets are known to exist. However, one of the three new finds is even more remarkable — it orbits a star that appears to be 'an almost perfect solar twin.' The discovery was made by astronomers using the European Southern Observatory's HARPS exoplanet-hunting instrument (PDF) attached to the 3.6-meter telescope at the La Silla Observatory in Chile and was confirmed by other collaborating observatories. The astronomers' attention was focused on the Messier 67 open star cluster, which is located approximately 2,600 light-years away in the constellation Cancer."
Bruce Perens writes "Codec2 is the Open Source ultra-low-bandwidth speech codec capable of encoding voice in 1200 Baud. FreeDV (freedv .org) is an HF (global-range radio) implementation that uses half the bandwidth of SSB, and without the noise. Here are three speeches about where it's going."
- David Rowe: Embedding Codec2: Open Source speech coding on a low-cost microprocessor, at Linux.conf.au 2014. YouTube, downloadable MP4.
- Bruce Perens: FreeDV, Codec2, and HT of the Future (how we're building a software-defined walkie-talkie that's smarter than a smartphone), at the TAPR/ARRL Digital Communications Conference 2013. Blip.tv, YouTube
- Chris Testa on the .Whitebox handheld software-defined radio design that is the RF portion of HT of the Future, which was also shown at the TAPR conference.
sciencehabit writes "The ghost of former President George W. Bush permeates the 2014 budget that Congress released this week. His presence is good news for physical scientists, but less cheery for biomedical researchers, as Congress reserved some of the biggest spending increases for NASA and the Department of Energy. The National Institutes of Health, meanwhile, got a $1 billion increase that is drawing mixed reviews from research advocates."
Freshly Exhumed writes "Today the OpenBSD mailing list carried a plea from Theo de Raadt for much needed financial aid for the OpenBSD foundation: 'I am resending this request for funding our electricity bills because it is not yet resolved. We really need even more funding beyond that, because otherwise all of this is simply unsustainable. This request is the smallest we can make.' Bob Beck, of the OpenBSD Foundation, added: 'the fact is right now, OpenBSD will shut down if we do not have the funding to keep the lights on.'" The electricity bill in question is $20,000 a year for build servers located in Canada.
An anonymous reader writes "The United States is the leading malware hosting nation, with 44 percent of all malware hosted domestically, according to Solutionary. The U.S. hosts approximately 5 times more malware than the second-leading malware-hosting nation, Germany, which is responsible for 9 percent of the detected malware. The cloud is allowing malware distributors to create, host and remove websites rapidly, and major hosting providers such as Amazon, GoDaddy and Google have made it economical for malicious actors to use their services to infect millions of computers and vast numbers of enterprise systems."
Lasrick writes "The Doomsday Clock remains at 5 minutes to midnight. In a letter to United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon and members of the UN Security Council, the Bulletin announced its decision and how it was made. The decision to move (or to leave in place) the minute hand of the Doomsday Clock is made every year by the Bulletin's Science and Security Board in consultation with its Board of Sponsors, which includes 18 Nobel laureates. The Clock has become a universally recognized indicator of the world's vulnerability to catastrophe from nuclear weapons, climate change, and new technologies emerging in other domains." Reasons for the clock remaining at five minutes include the U.S. and Russian not doing much for disarmament increasing nuclear weapon stockpiles in India and China, stalled efforts to reduce carbon emissions globally, and "killer robots."
First time accepted submitter amartha writes with news that a lawsuit alleging Silicon Valley companies of colluding to lower wages is going forward as a class action. From the article: "Roughly 60,000 Silicon Valley workers won clearance to pursue a lawsuit accusing Apple Inc, Google Inc, and others of conspiring to drive down pay by not poaching each other's staff, after a federal appeals court refused to let the defendants appeal a class certification order."
judgecorp writes "Famed cryptography activist Phil Zimmerman is set to launch Blackphone, a privacy-oriented phone which allows secure calls and messages. The phone is a joint venture between Zimmerman's Silent Circle communications provider and Geeksphone, the creator of the first Firefox phone, and will run PrivatOS, a secure version of Android. Zimmerman says the venture will be taking orders for the devices from February 24, after it is unveiled at Mobile World Congress in Barcelona."
An anonymous reader writes with this quick bite from Info Q: "Oracle is seeking feedback from the Java community about what it should work on for the next version of Java EE, the popular and widely used enterprise framework. As well as standardizing APIs for PaaS and SaaS the vendor is looking at removing some legacy baggage including EJB 2.x remote and local client view (EJBObject, EJBLocalObject, EJBHome, and EJBLocalHome interfaces) and CORBA."
ananyo writes "Organisms, including humans, are often assumed to be hard-wired by evolution to try to make optimal decisions, to the best of their knowledge. Ranking choices consistently — for example, in selecting food sources — would seem to be one aspect of such rationality. If A is preferred over B, and B over C, then surely A should be selected when the options are just A and C? This seemingly logical ordering of preferences is called transitivity. Furthermore, if A is preferred when both B and C are available, then A should 'rationally' remain the first choice when only A and B are at hand ... But sometimes animals do not display such logic. For example, honeybees and gray jays have been seen to violate the Independence of Irrational Alternatives, and so have hummingbirds ... Researchers have now used a theoretical model to show that, in fact, violations of transitivity can sometimes be the best choice (original paper) for the given situation, and therefore rational. The key is that the various choices might appear or disappear in the future. Then the decision becomes more complicated than a simple, fixed ranking of preferences. So while these choices look irrational, they aren't necessarily."
Fnord666 writes with news that the notorious scanner patent troll MPHJ Technology caught the eye of the FTC, and decided to file a preemptive lawsuit (PDF) against the Federal government. From the article: As the debate over so-called "patent trolls" has flared up in Congress, MPHJ became the go-to example for politicians and attorneys general trying to show that patent abuse has spun out of control. ... The FTC was going to sue under Section 5 of the FTC Act, which bars deceptive trade practices. MPHJ says that the FTC is greatly overstepping its bounds. The patent-licensing behavior doesn't even amount to 'commerce' by the standards of the FTC Act, because the letters are not 'the offer of a good or sale for service,' argues MPHJ. Furthermore, MPHJ has a First Amendment right to notify companies that it believes its patents are being infringed."
retroworks writes "The New York Times has an interesting story on how NSA put transmitters into the USB input devices of PCs, allowing computers unplugged from the Internet to still be monitored, via radio, from up to 8 miles away. The article mainly reports NSA's use of the technology to monitor Chinese military, and minor headline reads 'No Domestic Use Seen.' The source of the data was evidently the leak from Edward J. Snowden."
theodp writes "Fresh off their wildly-hyped Hour of Code, Code.org headed to Washington last Thursday where H-1B visas were prescribed as the cure for U.S. kids' STEM ills. 'The availability of computer science to all kids is an issue that warrants immediate and aggressive action,' Code.org told Congress. "Comprehensive immigration reform efforts that tie H-1B visa fees to a new STEM education fund,' suggested Code.org co-founder Hadi Partovi, is 'among the policies that we feel can be changed to support the teaching and learning of more computer science in K-12 schools. We hope you can be allies in our endeavors on Capitol Hill.' Also testifying with Partovi was inventor and US FIRST founder Dean Kamen, who also pitched the benefits of H-1B visas (PDF). 'We strongly encourage Congress to pass legislation that directs H-1B visa fees to enable underserved inner-city and rural schools to participate in FIRST,' Kamen testified. 'Specifically, these fees should support efforts to enable underserved inner-city and rural schools to participate in FIRST.'"
rueger writes "We live and breathe Netflix, but sometimes want to watch programs downloaded from the 'net. I've been carrying them downstairs on a USB stick, but would prefer to run a small media server on my Mint Linux box. As usual, I thought this would be simple. Install a package on my PC, and use our Netgear NeoTV Max box to play stuff off of the server. Plex was highly recommended, and installed easily, but will see some .mkv files, but not others, for no obvious reason. The one file that does show up plays fine, except that subtitles don't work. And it completely refuses to see the partition full of music. A quick tour of the Plex forums suggests that making this work would take more hours than I'm prepared to spend. Serviio looked good too, and 'sees' my music, and sees the movie folders that Plex couldn't, but won't show the actual .mkv files. And again, it looks like configuring the thing could consume half of my life. So I'm asking: is there a fairly simple, works-right-out-of-the-box, fairly resource friendly media server that will just allow me to play movies that I download without a lot of headaches? (One obvious issue is that movies and TV shows downloaded can be in a any of a dozen formats. I'd love it if the server dealt with that. I'm also open to suggestions for a Roku style box that does Netflix well, but which will also play nicely with a media server. And if any or all of these things can also let me play streaming video off the web (like BBC iPlayer content), I'll be in heaven.)"
dp619 writes "The Outercurve Foundation has published a defense of freeloaders as part of a blog series on how businesses can participate in open source. '...in the end, it's all about freeloaders, but from the perspective that you want as many as possible. That means you're "doing it right" in developing a broad base of users by making their experience easy, making it easy for them to contribute, and ultimately to create an ecosystem that continues to sustain itself. Freeloaders are essential to the growth and success of every FOSS project.'"
An anonymous reader writes "CBS recently aired a segment on its 60 Minutes TV newsmagazine critical of what it referred to as the 'Cleantech' industry, i.e. clean energy startups, often founded by Silicon Valley/IT businessmen and engineers. Correspondent Lesley Stahl adapted the familiar confrontational 60 Minutes style when interviewing venture capitalist Vinod Khosla, an investor in biofuel startup KiOR and dozens of other clean energy businesses, then following up with other industry experts who appear to refute Khosla's assertions. Stahl ran down a list of high profile taxpayer-subsidized industry failures and suggests that private investors such as Khosla seem to be losing money as well. Khosla has just responded in the form of an open letter to CBS News which lists allegedly false and inaccurate statements in the 60 Minutes program, while pointing out that the fossil fuels industry is also heavily subsidized by government. Khosla, a longtime general partner at Kleiner Perkins before starting his own firm, was one of four Stanford graduate students who co-founded Sun Microsystems in the early 1980s. Physicist and climate blogger Joseph Romm posted a response to what he referred to as the '60 Minutes hit job on clean energy' last week; other environmentalists have also weighed in."
sunbird writes "Edward Snowden is joining the board of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, a nonprofit committed to defending public-interest journalism which exposes law-breaking in government. Co-founder Glenn Greenwald said, 'We began this organization to protect and support those who are being punished for bringing transparency to the world's most powerful factions or otherwise dissent from government policy. Edward Snowden is a perfect example of our group's purpose, as he's being persecuted for his heroic whistleblowing, and it is very fitting that he can now work alongside us in defense of press freedom, accountability, and the public’s right-to-know.' The foundation is presently raising money and awareness for a variety of open-source encryption tools. Please consider donating to my favorite: the LEAP Encryption Access Project."
jfruh writes "Recently Business Insider caused a minor stir among developers with dreams of riches with a story about a nameless Google engineer who's making $3 million a year. Who is this person, and how unusual are pay scales like this inside the Googleplex? Phil Johnson uses public information to try to figure out the answer. His conclusion: the $3 million engineer may exist, but is a rare bird indeed if so."