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Businesses

NASA Admits It Gave Jet Fuel Discounts To Google Execs' Company 126 126

An anonymous reader writes "In a letter to Senator Grassley of the Senate Judiciary Committee, NASA 'admits the agency was selling jet fuel at below market rates to H2-11, a company owned by the founders of Google.' The agency has since raised its rates to reflect market prices but has informed the Senator that it would be impossible for NASA to recoup the money that tax payers have paid in order to subsidize Google's jet fuel discounts."
Medicine

Genomic Medicine, Finally 64 64

Daniel Dvorkin writes "When I first started studying bioinformatics almost fifteen years ago (!) what drew me to the field was the promise that we might soon be able to provide effective, personalized treatments for a wide variety of diseases. There have been some successes along the way, like genetic tests for warfarin dosage, but for the most part our gains in understanding of basic biology haven't been matched by clinical advances. Now it looks like that is at long last about to change, and it's about time.

Too many people suffer and die from too many diseases that we more or less understand, but can't effectively treat. I hated it when I worked in hands-on patient care, and I hate it now in the lab. We are, finally, getting there."
Facebook

Facebook To Pay City $200K-a-Year For a Neighborhood Cop 235 235

theodp writes "Valleywag reports that Facebook just bought itself a police officer and questions what kind of mechanism will be in place to make sure the officer — whose position Facebook has agreed to fund to the tune of $200K-a-year for 3 years — doesn't provide preferential protection for the social network giant and its employees. It's probably a fair question, considering that U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder made the City of New Orleans enter into a federal consent decree designed to address the 'divided loyalties' of the city's moonlighting police officers. But for now, everything's hunky-dory in Menlo Park, where Police Chief Robert Jonsen called the deal a 'benchmark in private-public partnerships.' No doubt it is, as was last week's Google-City of San Francisco deal to fund free bus passes for low- and middle-income kids. But is giving earmarked funding to facilitate self-serving city expenditures a good or bad development?"
Science

Dinosaurs Done In By... Dark Matter? 135 135

bmahersciwriter writes "Theoretical physicists propose that the Sun periodically crosses into a dense layer of dark matter sandwiching the Milky Way. The gravitational push and pull that this creates disturbs debris in the Oort cloud sending deadly comets and asteroids ricocheting around the solar system. This passage happens, their admittedly speculative model suggests, every 35 million years, which jibes somewhat with evidence on impact craters. Take it with a dino-sized grain of salt."
AI

Why Robots Will Not Be Smarter Than Humans By 2029 294 294

Hallie Siegel writes "Robotics expert Alan Winfield offers a sobering counterpoint to Ray Kurzweil's recent claim that 2029 will be the year that robots will surpass humans. From the article: 'It’s not just that building robots as smart as humans is a very hard problem. We have only recently started to understand how hard it is well enough to know that whole new theories ... will be needed, as well as new engineering paradigms. Even if we had solved these problems and a present day Noonian Soong had already built a robot with the potential for human equivalent intelligence – it still might not have enough time to develop adult-equivalent intelligence by 2029'"
Firefox

Firefox OS Will Become the Mobile OS To Beat 205 205

mattydread23 writes with an opinion piece naming a few reasons Firefox OS is likely to succeed "It's geared toward low-powered hardware in a way that Google doesn't care as much about with Android, it's cheap enough for the pre-paid phones that are much more common than post-paid in developing countries, and most important, there are still 3.5 billion people in the world who have feature phones and for whom this will be an amazing upgrade." I'd push greater commitment to keeping the essential components of the system under FOSS licenses onto the head of that list.
United Kingdom

BPAS Appeals £200,000 Fine Over Hacked Website 104 104

DW100 writes "A UK charity that provides help and guidance for women seeking abortions has been fined £200,000 after a hacker breached its website in 2012 and was able to gather data on 9,900 people that had requested help from the organization. The hacker was given almost three years in jail for the attack. The charity's CEO has condemned the decision, arguing it rewards the hacker for his efforts." The data was unintentionally stored in their CMS after miscommunication with a contractor, and they never performed security audits. Martin S. writes "The BPAS is appealing a £200,000 fine imposed by the ICO after their website was hacked by an Anonymous anti-abortion extremist. The amount is particularly egregious when perpetrators of willful data theft often attract fines of only a few thousand pounds."
GNOME

Ubuntu Gnome Seeking Long Term Support Status 26 26

sfcrazy writes "The Ubuntu Gnome team wants to join the elite club of Ubuntu flavors which enjoy the LTS (Long Term Support) status. Ubuntu 14.04 will be an LTS release making it a good time for the Ubuntu Gnome flavor to be promoted since it will be two more years before the next LTS release."
Science

Can Science Ever Be "Settled?" 497 497

StartsWithABang writes "From physics to biology, from health and medicine to environmental and climate science, you'll frequently hear claims that the science is settled. Meanwhile, those who disagree with the conclusions will clamor that science can never be 'settled,' and then the name-calling from 'alarmist' to 'denier' ensues. But can science legitimately ever be considered settled, and if so, what does that mean? We consider gravitation, evolution, the Big Bang, germ theory, and global warming in an effort to find out."
Input Devices

New VR Game Makes You a "Hollywood Hacker" 38 38

An anonymous reader writes "An upcoming VR game for the Oculus Rift aims to let players 'be a Hollywood Hacker.' Listing inspirations from 'Johnny Mnemonic, Hackers, The Lawnmower Man, and the TRON films,' Polygon claims that the game 'does an amazing job at exploring those hacking tropes and often silly visuals to give the player a sense of control and power. This is "real life" hacking as filtered through a Michael Bay fever dream.'"
Media

TrustyCon Session Videos Now Online 6 6

The RSA conference counter-conference TrustyCon livestreamed its videos and made the seven hour video available. Al Billings wasn't happy with that, and split the videos into segments for easy viewing. Quoting: "I don't know about you but I like my viewing in smaller chunks. I also tend to listen to talks and presentations, especially when there is no strong visual component, by saving the audio portion of it to my huffduffer account and listening to the resulting feed as a podcast. I took it on myself to do a quick and dirty slice and dice on the seven plus hour video. It isn't perfect (I'm a program manager, not a video editor!) but it works. ... Additionally, I extracted the audio from each of these files and put an audio collection up on the Internet Archive, for people like me who just want to listen to them." The videos are collected into a Youtube playlist.
Encryption

HTTPS More Vulnerable To Traffic Analysis Attacks Than Suspected 17 17

msm1267 writes "Researchers have built new attack techniques against HTTPS traffic that have been effective in learning details on users' surfing habits, leaking sensitive data that could impact privacy. They tested against 600 leading healthcare, finance, legal services and streaming video sites, including Netflix. Their attack, they said in a research paper, reduced errors from previous methodologies more than 3 ½ times. They also demonstrate a defense against this attack that reduces the accuracy of attacks by 27 percent by increasing the effectiveness of packet level defenses in HTTPS, the paper said. 'We design our attack to distinguish minor variations in HTTPS traffic from significant variations which indicate distinct traffic contents,' the paper said. 'Minor traffic variations may be caused by caching, dynamically generated content, or user-specific content including cookies. Our attack applies clustering techniques to identify patterns in traffic.'"
Linux

Ask Slashdot: Linux For Grandma? 287 287

First time accepted submitter BlazeMiskulin writes "With XP approaching end-of-life, I find myself in a situation that I'm guessing is common: What to do with Mom's machine (or 'grandma's machine' for the younger of you). Since a change has to be made, this seems like a good time to move to a Linux distro. My mother (82) uses her computer for e-mail and web-browsing only. I know that any distro will be able to handle her needs. I've been using Linux (Ubuntu, CentOS, and Redhat--usually with KDE interface) for about 10 years now, but I know that my preferences are quite different from hers.

I have my own ideas, but I'm curious what others think: What combination of distro and UI would you recommend for an old, basic-level user who is accustomed to the XP interface and adverse to change?"
My Grandmother seems happy running KDE on Debian.
Bitcoin

Satoshi Nakamoto Found? Not So Fast 182 182

Yesterday, Newsweek outed the creator of Bitcoin. Or did they? An anonymous reader tipped us to news that the account on p2pfoundation that posted the original Bitcoin paper, posted for the first time in five years simply noting "I am not Dorian Nakamoto." And the Satoshi Nakamto Newsweek claims was the creator? In an interview with the AP, he claims to have only learned of Bitcoin recently, and that his comments were taken far out of context. From the article: "He also said a key portion of the piece — where he is quoted telling the reporter on his doorstep before two police officers, 'I am no longer involved in that and I cannot discuss it' — was misunderstood. Nakamoto said he is a native of Beppu, Japan who came to the U.S. as a child in 1959. He speaks both English and Japanese, but his English isn't flawless. ... 'I'm saying I'm no longer in engineering. That's it,' he said of the exchange. 'And even if I was, when we get hired, you have to sign this document, contract saying you will not reveal anything we divulge during and after employment. So that's what I implied. ... It sounded like I was involved before with bitcoin and looked like I'm not involved now. That's not what I meant. I want to clarify that,' he said.

Newsweek writer Leah McGrath Goodman, who spent two months researching the story, told the AP: 'I stand completely by my exchange with Mr. Nakamoto. There was no confusion whatsoever about the context of our conversation -and his acknowledgment of his involvement in bitcoin.'"
Social Networks

First Study of the Evolution of Memes On Facebook 56 56

KentuckyFC writes "The way memes evolve on Facebook is startlingly similar to the way genes evolve on Earth. That's conclusion of a team of researchers who have analyzed the evolution of thousands of memes that have appeared more than 460 million times on Facebook. The memes are ideas like: 'No one should die because they cannot afford health care and no one should go broke because they get sick. If you agree please post this as your status for the rest of the day,' which has been copied 470,000 times. However, the meme quickly mutated. A version that included the phrase '[Your Name] thinks that' appeared 60,000 times. And humorous versions appeared too: 'No one should be without beer because they cannot afford one.'

The team analyzed how often variants appeared and how different they were to the original to get a measure of each meme's evolution. It turns out that this evolution follows the same mathematical evolution, called the Yule Process, that genes follow. And there are other similarities too. There is a small but clear preference for variants that are shorter than the original memes. That's analogous to bacteria favoring small genomes because they allow fast replication. And the same advantageous sequences can appear in many different memes, probably transferred by a single individual from one meme to another. This process is analogous to lateral gene transfer in bacteria. There are some differences too. Evolution is a blind process in biology but not in social media there can be a conscious effort to create mutations that will spread more effectively. This leads to some memes evolving with very high replication rates that are not described by the Yule process. The team says the results should provide greater insight into the nature of information transfer in social networks. It also raises the interesting question of how far evolution might go when given a little time to play with memes."
X

Glamor, X11's OpenGL-Based 2D Acceleration Driver, Is Becoming Useful 46 46

The Glamor driver for X11 has sought for years to replace all of the GPU-specific 2D rendering acceleration code in X.org with portable, high performance OpenGL. Unfortunately, that goal was hampered by the project starting in the awkward time when folks thought fixed-function hardware was still worth supporting. But, according to Keith Packard, the last few months have seen the code modernized and finally maturing as a credible replacement for many of the hardware-specific 2D acceleration backends. From his weblog: "Fast forward to the last six months. Eric has spent a bunch of time cleaning up Glamor internals, and in fact he’s had it merged into the core X server for version 1.16 which will be coming up this July. Within the Glamor code base, he's been cleaning some internal structures up and making life more tolerable for Glamor developers. ... A big part of the cleanup was a transition all of the extension function calls to use his other new project, libepoxy, which provides a sane, consistent and performant API to OpenGL extensions for Linux, Mac OS and Windows." Keith Packard dove in and replaced the Glamor acceleration for core text and points (points in X11 are particularly difficult to accelerate quickly) in just a few days. Text performance is now significantly faster than the software version (not that anyone is using core text any more, but "they’re often one of the hardest things to do efficiently with a heavy weight GPU interface, and OpenGL can be amazingly heavy weight if you let it."). For points, he moved vertex transformation to the GPU getting it up to the same speed as the software implementation. Looking forward, he wrote "Having managed to accelerate 17 of the 392 operations in x11perf, it’s pretty clear that I could spend a bunch of time just stepping through each of the remaining ones and working on them. Before doing that, we want to try and work out some general principles about how to handle core X fill styles. Moving all of the stipple and tile computation to the GPU will help reduce the amount of code necessary to fill rectangles and spans, along with improving performance, assuming the above exercise generalizes to other primitives." Code is available in anholt's and keithp's xserver branches.
Science

Physics Forum At Fermilab Bans Powerpoint 181 181

Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Amanda Solliday reports at Symmetry that six months ago, organizers of a biweekly forum on Large Hadron Collider physics at Fermilab banned PowerPoint presentations in favor of old-fashioned, chalkboard-style talks. 'Without slides, the participants go further off-script, with more interaction and curiosity,' says Andrew Askew. 'We wanted to draw out the importance of the audience.' In one recent meeting, physics professor John Paul Chou of Rutgers University presented to a full room holding a single page of handwritten notes and a marker. The talk became more dialogue than monologue as members of the audience, freed from their usual need to follow a series of information-stuffed slides flying by at top speed, managed to interrupt with questions and comments. Elliot Hughes, a Rutgers University doctoral student and a participant in the forum, says the ban on slides has encouraged the physicists to connect with their audience. 'Frequently, in physics, presenters design slides for people who didn't even listen to the talk in the first place,' says Hughes. 'In my experience, the best talks could not possibly be fully understood without the speaker.'"
Censorship

Youtube and Facebook May Be Banned In Turkey, Again 57 57

Taco Cowboy writes "Istanbul (dpa) — Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan is considering banning YouTube and Facebook after local elections at the end of this month, according to remarks carried by local media Friday. It may, or may not be related to the criticisms arising from (not-yet verified) leaked recordings of Mr. Erdogan's involvement with corruption. 'We will not let YouTube and Facebook destroy our nation. We will take measures, including closure,' said Erdogan, who has previously made comments against social media sites. YouTube had been banned in the country for two years and was recently unblocked."
Mars

Impact Crater Origin of Mars Meteorites Discovered 11 11

astroengine writes "Out of the thousands of craters scarring the face of Mars, one has emerged as the likely source of most of the Martian meteorites that have been recovered on Earth, a new study shows. Researchers pinpoint Mojave Crater, a 34 mile (55 kilometer) wide basin on the planet's equator, as the origin of the so-called 'shergottites' meteorites, a family that includes about 75 percent of the roughly 150 known Martian meteorites. The crater is located slightly north and east of Meridian Planum, where NASA's Mars rover Opportunity landed in January 2004."
United States

BP Finds Way To Bypass US Crude Export Ban 247 247

Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Bloomberg reports that the oil industry is pressuring President Barack Obama to end the 41-year-old ban on most crude exports but British Petroleum (BP) isn't waiting for a decision. The British oil giant has signed on to take at least 80 percent of the capacity of a new $360 million mini-refinery in Houston that will process crude just enough to escape restrictions on sales outside the country. 'It's a relatively inexpensive way around the export prohibition,' says Judith Dwarkin 'You can lightly ruffle the hydrocarbons and they are considered processed and then they aren't subject to the ban.' Amid a flood of new US oil, the demand for simple, one-step plants capable of transforming raw crude into exportable products such as propane is feeding a construction boom along the Gulf Coast. The first such mini-refinery, built for 1/10 the cost of a complex, full-scale refinery, is scheduled to open the first phase of its 100,000 barrel-a-day crude processing plant in July, The mini-refineries take advantage of the law that allows products refined from oil to be sold overseas, though not the raw crude itself. 'The international buyers of these products will likely need to refine them further, so this is basically a veiled form of condensate exports,' says Leo Mariani."
United States

Drone Pilot Wins Case Against FAA 236 236

schwit1 writes "In a David vs. Goliath battle that pitted the Federal Aviation Administration against the operator of a small model airplane, a federal administrative judge has sided with the aircraft's pilot. The judge has dismissed a proposed $10,000 fine against businessman Raphael Pirker, who used a remotely operated 56-inch foam glider to take aerial video for an advertisement for the University of Virginia Medical Center"
Businesses

Estimate: Academic Labs 11 Times More Dangerous Than Industrial Counterparts 153 153

Jim_Austin writes "Academic science labs are generally far less safe than labs in industry; one estimate says that people working in academic labs are 11x more likely to be hurt than their industrial counterparts. A group of grad students and postdocs in Minnesota decided to address the issue head-on. With encouragement and funding from DOW, and some leadership from their department chairs, they're in the process of totally remaking their departments' safety cultures."
Bitcoin

Should Newsweek Have Outed Satoshi Nakamoto's Personal Details? 276 276

Nerval's Lobster writes "Newsweek's Leah McGrath Goodman spent months tracking down the mysterious founder of Bitcoin, "Satoshi Nakamoto," a name that everybody seemed to believe was a pseudonym for either a single individual or a shadowy collective of programmers. If Satoshi Nakamoto, former government contractor and model-train enthusiast, is actually "Satoshi Nakamoto," Bitcoin founder, then he's sitting atop hundreds of millions of dollars in crypto-currency. Does the article's exhaustive listing of Nakamoto's personal details place his security at risk? Many in the Bitcoin community think so, and poured onto the Web to express that opinion. The Newsweek article has raised some interesting questions about the need for thorough journalism versus peoples' right to privacy. For example, should Goodman have posted an image of Nakamoto's house and car, even though information about both would probably be relatively simple to find online, anyway?"