Nerval's Lobster writes "Microsoft has censored Chinese-language results for Bing users in the United States as well as mainland China, according to an article in The Guardian. But this isn't the first time that Bing's run into significant controversy over the 'sanitizing' of Chinese-language search results outside of mainland China. In November 2009, Microsoft came under fire from free-speech advocates after New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof accused the company of 'craven kowtowing' to the mainland Chinese government by sanitizing its Chinese-language search results for users around the world. Just as with The Guardian and other news outlets this week, Microsoft insisted at the time that a 'bug' was to blame for the sanitized search results. 'The bug identified in the web image search was indeed fixed,' a Microsoft spokesperson told me in December 2009, after I presented them with a series of screenshots suggesting that the pro-Chinese-government filter remained in effect even after Kristof's column. 'Please also note that Microsoft 'recognize[s] that we can continue to improve our relevancy and comprehensiveness in these web results and we will.' Time will tell whether anything's different this time around."
Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive
First time accepted submitter MCastelaz writes "Researchers at the Pisgah Astronomical Research Institute, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit foundation located at a former NASA Tracking Station, are preparing to unlock 120 years of images of the night sky. The images are embedded on more than 220,000 astronomical photographic plates and films dating back to 1898 collected from over 40 institutions and observatories in the United States. These plates and films are housed in the Astronomical Photographic Data Archive at PARI. The researchers plan to begin digitizing these collections this year, bringing these fantastic observational works by generations of astronomers who spent more than a million hours at telescopes to the general public and scientists worldwide. The PARI researchers are calling this the Astronomy Legacy Project. The researchers will use an extremely high precision, fast, scanning machine to do the work. To get the project off the ground, they are beginning with a crowdfunding campaign and the funds from that campaign will be used to buy the digitizing machine."
Esther Schindler writes "It's a danger for any consultant, and for most inter-departmental internal project staff: To get the work done, you need to work with someone else who supplies expertise you lack. But when the 'expert' turns out to be the wrong person how do you tell the client (or boss) that you just can't work with that individual?"
cold fjord sends this excerpt from the Wall Street Journal: "In a lab in Oxford University's experimental psychology department, researcher Roi Cohen Kadosh is testing an intriguing treatment: He is sending low-dose electric current through the brains of adults and children as young as 8 to make them better at math. A relatively new brain-stimulation technique called transcranial electrical stimulation may help people learn and improve their understanding of math concepts. The electrodes are placed in a tightly fitted cap and worn around the head. ... The mild current reduces the risk of side effects, which has opened up possibilities about using it, even in individuals without a disorder, as a general cognitive enhancer. Scientists also are investigating its use to treat mood disorders and other conditions. ... Up to 6% of the population is estimated to have a math-learning disability called developmental dyscalculia, similar to dyslexia but with numerals instead of letters. [In an earlier experiment, Kadosh] found that he could temporarily turn off regions of the brain known to be important for cognitive skills. When the parietal lobe of the brain was stimulated using that technique, he found that the basic arithmetic skills of doctoral students who were normally very good with numbers were reduced to a level similar to those with developmental dyscalculia. That led to his next inquiry: If current could turn off regions of the brain making people temporarily math-challenged, could a different type of stimulation improve math performance?"
An anonymous reader writes "'Jade Rabbit,' the first lunar rover successfully deployed by China, has now been officially declared 'lost.' The rover encountered problems on January 25th, just over a month into its planned three-month mission. 'The rover's mechanical problems are likely related to critical components that must be protected during the cold lunar night. When temperatures plunge, the rover's mast is designed to fold down to protect delicate instruments, which can then be kept warm by a radioactive heat source. Yutu also needs to angle a solar panel towards the point where the sun will rise to maintain power levels. A mechanical fault in these systems could leave the rover fatally exposed to the dark and bitter cold.'"
Daniel_Stuckey points us to this story by Max Cherney: "This morning, anyone hoping to browse Utopia, the up-and-coming (but now defunct) competitor to Silk Road 2.0, was greeted with an unwelcome but at this point familiar message: 'This hidden service has been seized by the Dutch National Police.' The online black market was shut down a mere nine days after its much-anticipated launch. Despite rumors of a hack, Dutch cops have issued a statement saying they arrested five men in connection with running Utopia and seized computers, hard drives, USB sticks, and 'about 900 Bitcoins' — roughly $600,000. Utopia's servers were apparently housed in Germany, where another man was arrested on suspicion of weapons and drug trafficking. The Dutch launched operation CONDOR in early 2013 to uncover illegal marketplaces on the Tor network, of the likes of Silk Road 2.0 and Utopia. The investigation into Utopia pulled out all the stops: undercover agents and 'buy-busts,' not just of drugs, but also a contract assassination — much to the surprise of the Dutch public prosecutor."
RoccamOccam writes Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) is filing a class action lawsuit against President Obama and other members of his administration over the National Security Agency's collection of phone metadata, a practice he believes violates the Fourth Amendment. In a YouTube video released Tuesday, Paul compared the government surveillance to the warrantless searches practiced by the British military prior to American independence."
ananyo writes "P values, the 'gold standard' of statistical validity, are not as reliable as many scientists assume. Critically, they cannot tell you the odds that a hypothesis is correct. A feature in Nature looks at why, if a result looks too good to be true, it probably is, despite an impressive-seeming P value."
Rambo Tribble writes "The BBC provides some insights into the next generation satellites being built for Google by contractor DigitalGlobe in Colorado. The resolution of these satellites' cameras is sufficient to resolve objects that are only 25cm wide. Unfortunately, the public will be allowed only half that image quality, the best being reserved for the U.S. military. 'The light comes in through a barrel structure, pointed at the Earth, and is bounced around by a series of mirrors, before being focused onto a CCD sensor. The big difference – apart from the size – between this and a typical handheld digital camera, is that the spacecraft will not just take snapshots but continuous images along thin strips of land or sea.'"
sciencehabit writes "As it approaches its fifth birthday, the National Ignition Facility (NIF), a troubled laser fusion facility in California, has finally produced some results that fusion scientists can get enthusiastic about. In a series of experiments late last year (abstract 1, abstract 2), NIF researchers managed to produce energy yields 10 times greater than produced before and to demonstrate the phenomenon of self-heating that will be crucial if fusion is to reach its ultimate goal of 'ignition'—a self-sustaining burning reaction that produces more energy than it consumes."
An anonymous reader writes "After a seven-year lawsuit costing nearly $4 million, a judge has concluded that Rahinah Ibrahim's student visa was revoked because an FBI agent checked the wrong box on a form. That simple human error resulted in the detention of Rahinah Ibrahim, the revocation of her student visa years later and interruption of her PhD studies. The Bush and later Obama administrations obstructed the lawsuit repeatedly, invoking classified evidence, sensitive national security information and the state secrets privilege to prevent disclosure of how suspects are placed on the 'no-fly' list. The dispute eventually involved statements of support from James Clapper, Eric Holder and several other DOJ and TSA officials in favor of the government's case. The defendant was not allowed to enter the United States even to attend her own lawsuit trial and in a separate incident, her daughter, a U.S. citizen, was denied entry to witness the trial as well. The case exemplifies how government secrecy can unintentionally transform otherwise easily corrected errors into a multi-year legal and bureaucratic nightmare and waste millions of taxpayer dollars in doing so."
phmadore writes "Windows Phone has been struggling for market share, largely due to a serious lack of developers willing to invest their time in what one might consider a niche market. Statistically speaking, Android has more than 1.1M apps to Windows Phone's 200,000+. Well, according to unnamed sources informing the Verge, Microsoft may soon integrate/allow Android applications into both Windows and Windows Phone." This follows the recent debate over whether Microsoft should try to fork Android. Peter Bright made the point that doing so would be extremely difficult, and probably not worth Microsoft's time. Ben Thompson has an insightful post about how Microsoft's real decision is whether to focus on devices or services.
cartechboy writes "Man the automotive dealer associations don't like Tesla. Remember that time the Ohio dealers attempted to block Tesla from selling its electric cars in in the Buckeye State. Now, it's happening again. The car dealers are once again pushing legislation that would keep Tesla from selling cars in Ohio. Senate Bill 260 would prohibit the Ohio Bureau of Motor Vehicles from issuing car-dealer licenses to auto manufacturers. Since Tesla owns and operates its own network of 'dealerships' (aka galleries), this would make it so the automaker couldn't acquire a car-dealer license. Section 11 of the bill lists 'a manufacturer... applying for license to sell or lease new motor vehicles at retail' as one of the types of organization ineligible for a dealership license. On top of all this, the language isn't on the Senate floor as a standalone bill. No, it's inserted as an amendment to Senate Bill 137 which is an unrelated bill requiring Ohio drivers to move to the left while passing roadside maintenance vehicles. Is this yet another slimy tactic to try and undercut the new kid on the block?"
Bucc5062 writes "A previous mobile phone of mine, a Motorola Razr, had a very nice program call Motocast. With it any pictures and videos would be automatically uploaded to a local/home PC running something akin to a 'cloud' service. This was great tool for I did not want to store files in the greater 'cloud'. the Razr moved on and I currently have two phones at home, neither of which have the same ability to push files to a local PC automatically. I did some research and did not find any good substitute for local cloud type backup so I am putting this out to one of the most diverse crowds I know, Slashdot readers. Zumocast did not look like it did the trick (I don't want streaming to my mobile device) and Delite studios had local cloud, but they make no reference to automatically pushing files to the server. I have people at home who are not tech savvy and would never remember to do it manually. Rolling my one is a long term option though it would require me learning the APIs for Android and I guess Windows. Is there something out that that works as good as Motocast?" ownCloud seems like a reasonable contender (installation on Debian, at least in the case of a few users and sqlite, is pretty easy). Their Android app has an option to automatically sync videos and photos as they are taken. But are there other options that are easier to install for folks uncomfortable with the idea of running Apache and an SQL server?
First time accepted submitter vigna writes "The Laboratory for Web Algorithmics of the Università degli studi di Milano together with the Data and Web Science Group of the University of Mannheim have put together the first entirely open ranking of more than 100 million sites of the Web. The ranking is based on classic and easily explainable centrality measures applied to a host graph, and it is entirely open — all data and all software used is publicly available. Just in case you wonder, the number one site is YouTube, the second Wikipedia, and the third Twitter." They are using the Common Crawl data (first released in November 2011). Pages are ranked using harmonic centrality with raw Indegree centrality, Katz's index, and PageRank provided for comparison. More information about the web graph is available in a pre-print paper that will be presented at the World Wide Web Conference in April.
An anonymous reader tipped us to news that several Bitcoin exchanges have joined Mt Gox in suspending withdrawals after being forced out of sync with the Bitcoin network at large. After Mt Gox blamed transaction malleability for forcing them to suspend withdrawals, miscreants started flooding at least Bitpay and Btc-e with bogus transactions. Quoting the Bitcoin Foundation: "Somebody (or several somebodies) is taking advantage of the transaction malleability issue and relaying mutated versions of transactions. This is exposing bugs in both the reference implementation and some exchange’s software. We (core dev team, developers at the exchanges, and even big mining pools) are creating workarounds and fixes right now. This is a denial-of-service attack; whoever is doing this is not stealing coins, but is succeeding in preventing some transactions from confirming. It’s important to note that DoS attacks do not affect people’s bitcoin wallets or funds. "
Daniel_Stuckey writes "A business park in North Korea will soon have (limited) access to the Internet, according to news reports. The Register wrote that an industrial park in the Kaesong Industrial Region will house Internet-connected PCs by the first half of this year. The Daily NK explained that the first step to connectivity will be an Internet cafe with 20 computers but afterward company offices will also be connected. They quoted a spokesperson from the Ministry of Unification — a department of the South Korean government that works on unifying the two Koreas — as saying, 'We are planning to launch the basic level of Internet services at the Kaesong Industrial Complex starting in the first half of this year,' and adding, 'Officials and employees in the North's border city will be able to use most of the online services now available in South Korea.'"
alphadogg writes "The exclusive relationship of ICANN with the U.S. must end, said the European Union's digital agenda chief on Wednesday. California-based ICANN is responsible for the assignment of top-level domains and has a long-standing operating agreement with the U.S. However, following the revelations by Edward Snowden of widespread surveillance of the Internet by the National Security Agency, many countries have questioned the arrangement. The historical relationship, noted in ICANN's Affirmation of Commitments, is outdated and the governance of the Internet must become more global, said the E.U. Digital Agenda Commissioner Neelie Kroes. Kroes was presenting the European Commission's new policy on Internet governance, which rejects any United Nations or governmental takeover of Internet governance and calls for a move to globalize ICANN."
Nerval's Lobster writes "The winter weather made my hands numb. I was distracted, rushed, running late to a meeting. Put those two things together, and it's a recipe for disaster,' Boonsri Dickinson writes in her account of how she lost her Google Glass unit. 'The cab had already gone two blocks before I realized my Google Glass was no longer in my hand. I asked the driver to swing back around to where he picked me up; I retraced my steps along the snowy street to my apartment, looking for my $1,500 device. No luck. Total panic.' The device featured photos, video, email, and other data that, in the wrong hands, could seriously upend her life. Fortunately, the person who found the Glass unit was a.) more interested in returning the device than wrecking her existence, and b.) engaged in quite a bit of digital detective work to track her down (with some help from Google). 'The device holds more than enough data to make me nervous about the possible voyeuristic invasion of my privacy, and the fear of the thought that the media connected to my Glass would possibly end up online, somewhere, cached forever in a Google search,' she concluded. But the saga also reset some of her faith in humanity."
An anonymous reader writes "Scientists have charted the ebb and flow of moose and wolf populations on Isle Royale in Lake Superior for nearly 50 years. Ice bridges to Canada regularly supplied the genetic stocks for much of that time, but have been rare in recent years leading to inbreeding, dwindling populations and developmental deformity for the wolves that inhabit the island. Now, with the first solid freeze in six years, new wolves could join the mix ... or the remaining island dwellers could leave." If new wolves do not appear, or all of the current wolves leave, the moose would end up destroying the native Fir population. The wildlife service is considering introducing new wolves as part of a genetic rescue, or reintroducing wolves should the population reach zero on its own.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Americans have always had a strange fascination with astrology. First Lady Nancy Reagan famously employed the services of an astrologer after the assassination attempt on her husband. Now UPI reports that according to a new survey by the National Science Foundation, nearly half of all Americans say astrology is either 'very' or 'sort of' scientific. Younger respondents, in particular, were the least likely to regard astrology as unscientific, with 58% of 18 to 24 years olds saying that astrology is scientific (PDF). What's most alarming is that American attitudes about science are moving in the wrong direction. Skepticism of astrology hit an all-time high in 2004, when 66 percent of Americans said astrology was total nonsense. But each year, fewer and fewer respondents have dismissed the connections between star alignment and personality as bunk. Among respondents in the 25 — 44 age group 49% of respondents in the 2012 survey said astrology is either 'very scientific' or 'sort of scientific,' up from 36% in 2010. So what's behind this data? The lead author of the report chapter in question, public opinion specialist John Besley of Michigan State University, cautions that we should probably wait for further data 'to see if it's a real change' before speculating. But, he admits, the apparent increase in astrology belief 'popped out to me when I saw it.'"
dp619 writes "A developer might fly under the patent troll radar until she makes it big, and then it's usually open season. Apple just shared that it has faced off 92 lawsuits over just 3 years. Even Google's ad business is at risk. FOSS attorney Heather Meeker has blogged at the Outercurve Foundation on what to consider and what to learn if you're ever sued for patent infringement. 'There have been at least two cases where defendants have successfully used open source license enforcement as a defensive tactic in a patent lawsuit. ... In both these cases, the patent plaintiff was using open source software of the defendant, and the patent defendant discovered a violation of the applicable open source license that it used to turn the tables on the plaintiff. In this way, open source license enforcement can be a substitute for a more traditional retaliatory patent claim.' Meeker also examines how provisions of open source licenses can deflate a patent troll's litigation and shift the balance in favor of the defense."
Mozilla has announced a new initiative to show sponsored content within the Firefox browser. Currently, opening a new tab in Firefox will display a set of nine tiles showing your most commonly visited websites. When a user installs Firefox and opens it for the first time, they see these tiles, but eight of them are blank (one links to a Firefox tutorial). As the user browses the web, those tiles gradually fill in with visited sites. But Mozilla is going to fill out those blank eight tiles for new users. They say, "Some of these tile placements will be from the Mozilla ecosystem, some will be popular websites in a given geographic location, and some will be sponsored content from hand-picked partners to help support Mozilla’s pursuit of our mission. The sponsored tiles will be clearly labeled as such, while still leading to content we think users will enjoy." Existing users shouldn't see any difference, and the tiles will be replaced with commonly-visited sites like they do now.
cartechboy writes "Soon, your new car's headlights will be powered by lasers. The 2015 BMW i8 is entering production, and it's the first vehicle to offer laser headlights. These new beams offer a handful of advantages over LED lighting, including greater lighting intensity and extending the beams' reach as far as 600 meters down the road (nearly double the range of LEDs). The beam pattern also can be controlled very precisely. Plus, laser lights consumer about 30 percent less energy than the already-efficient LED lights. Audi is among the short list of other auto manufacturers to promise laser lights in the near future. But the coolest part of all this? When you turn on a set of these new headlights, you'll be able to scream, 'fire the lasers!'"
An anonymous reader writes "While it took over a decade for E17 to come out, Enlightenment E19 is being readied for release just two months after E18's debut. The Enlightenment DR 0.19 update has a rewritten compositor that can fully act as its own Wayland compositor (not dependent upon Weston). The update integrates OpenGL canvas filters support, contains many bug-fixes, and has other improvements for both X11 and Wayland users. The 1.9.0 alpha1 pre-release was issued today as the initial testing version of the new window manager."