Windows

Buggy Win 95 Code Almost Wrecked Stuxnet Campaign 87

Posted by timothy
from the when-governments-attack dept.
mask.of.sanity writes: Super-worm Stuxnet could have blown its cover and failed its sabotage mission due to a bug that allowed it to spread to ancient Windows boxes, malware analysts say. Stuxnet was on the brink of failure thanks to buggy code allowing it to spread to PCs running older and unsupported versions of Windows, and probably causing them to crash as a result. Those blue screens of death would have raised suspicions at the Natanz nuclear lab.
United States

Drone Killed Hostages From U.S. and Italy, Drawing Obama Apology 332

Posted by timothy
from the tragic-events dept.
HughPickens.com writes: The NYT reports that President Obama has offered an emotional apology for the accidental killing of two hostages held by Al Qaeda, one of them American, in a United States government counterterrorism operation in January, saying he takes "full responsibility" for their deaths. "As president and as commander in chief, I take full responsibility for all our counterterrorism operations," including the one that inadvertently took the lives of the two captives, a grim-faced Obama said in a statement to reporters in the White House briefing room. The White House earlier released an extraordinary statement revealing that intelligence officials had confirmed that Warren Weinstein, an American held by Al Qaeda since 2011, and Giovanni Lo Porto, an Italian held since 2012, died during the operation. Gunmen abducted Warren Weinstein in 2011 from his home in Lahore, Pakistan. They posed as neighbors, offered food and then pistol-whipped the American aid worker and tied up his guards, according to his daughter Alisa Weinstein.

The White House did not explain why it has taken three months to disclose the episode. Obama said that the operation was conducted after hundreds of hours of surveillance had convinced American officials that they were targeting an Al Qaeda compound where no civilians were present, and that "capturing these terrorists was not possible." The White House said the operation that killed the two hostages "was lawful and conducted consistent with our counterterrorism policies" but nonetheless the government is conducting a "thorough independent review" to determine what happened and how such casualties could be avoided in the future.
Crime

Oklahoma Says It Will Now Use Nitrogen Gas As Its Backup Method of Execution 590

Posted by timothy
from the that's-not-the-only-cost dept.
schwit1 writes Yesterday, Oklahoma governor Mary Fallin signed into law a bill that approves the use of nitrogen gas for executions in the state. The method, which would effectively asphyxiate death row inmates by forcing them to breathe pure nitrogen through a gas mask, is meant to be the primary alternative to lethal injection, the Washington Post reports.

Fallin and other supporters of the procedure say it's pain-free and effective, noting that the nitrogen would render inmates unconscious within ten seconds and kill them in minutes. It's also cheap: state representatives say the method only requires a nitrogen tank and a gas mask, but financial analysts say its impossible to give precise figures, the Post reports.

Oklahoma's primary execution method is still lethal injection, but the state's procedure is currently under review by the Supreme Court. Earlier this week, Tennessee suspended executions statewide following challenges to its own lethal injection protocol.
The Courts

FBI Overstated Forensic Hair Matches In Nearly All Trials Before 2000 173

Posted by timothy
from the why-the-house-wins-so-often dept.
schwit1 writes The Justice Department and FBI have formally acknowledged that nearly every examiner in an elite FBI forensic unit gave flawed testimony in almost all trials in which they offered evidence against criminal defendants over more than a two-decade period before 2000. Of 28 examiners with the FBI Laboratory's microscopic hair comparison unit, 26 overstated forensic matches in ways that favored prosecutors in more than 95 percent of the 268 trials reviewed so far, according to the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers (NACDL) and the Innocence Project, which are assisting the government with the country's largest post-conviction review of questioned forensic evidence. The cases include those of 32 defendants sentenced to death. Of those, 14 have been executed or died in prison, the groups said under an agreement with the government to release results after the review of the first 200 convictions.
Businesses

Chinese Ninebot Buys US Rival Segway 134

Posted by samzenpus
from the lean-into-it dept.
An anonymous reader writes Xiaomi-backed startup Ninebot, a Chinese maker of electric-powered personal transportation products, has acquired U.S. rival Segway – the two-wheeler upright scooter which has become a running joke, synonymous with various comedic appearances (such as in U.S. sitcom Arrested Development and the 2009 comedy Paul Blart: Mall Cop), and the death of its owner at the hands of an unfortunate Segway-induced cliff fall. However Gao Lufeng, chief executive, still recognizes the potential of the Segway and has bought the U.S. company for an undisclosed amount. Lufeng confirmed that Ninebot had also secured $80mn in funding from Xiaomi and venture capital firm Sequoia Capital.
Hardware

Fifty Years of Moore's Law 101

Posted by Soulskill
from the not-over-the-hill-but-the-hill-keeps-getting-steeper dept.
HughPickens.com writes: IEEE is running a special report on "50 Years of Moore's Law" that considers "the gift that keeps on giving" from different points of view. Chris Mack begins by arguing that nothing about Moore's Law was inevitable. "Instead, it's a testament to hard work, human ingenuity, and the incentives of a free market. Moore's prediction may have started out as a fairly simple observation of a young industry. But over time it became an expectation and self-fulfilling prophecy—an ongoing act of creation by engineers and companies that saw the benefits of Moore's Law and did their best to keep it going, or else risk falling behind the competition."

Andrew "bunnie" Huang argues that Moore's Law is slowing and will someday stop, but the death of Moore's Law will spur innovation. "Someday in the foreseeable future, you will not be able to buy a better computer next year," writes Huang. "Under such a regime, you'll probably want to purchase things that are more nicely made to begin with. The idea of an "heirloom laptop" may sound preposterous today, but someday we may perceive our computers as cherished and useful looms to hand down to our children, much as some people today regard wristwatches or antique furniture."

Vaclav Smil writes about "Moore's Curse" and argues that there is a dark side to the revolution in electronics for it has had the unintended effect of raising expectations for technical progress. "We are assured that rapid progress will soon bring self-driving electric cars, hypersonic airplanes, individually tailored cancer cures, and instant three-dimensional printing of hearts and kidneys. We are even told it will pave the world's transition from fossil fuels to renewable energies," writes Smil. "But the doubling time for transistor density is no guide to technical progress generally. Modern life depends on many processes that improve rather slowly, not least the production of food and energy and the transportation of people and goods."

Finally, Cyrus Mody tackles the question: what kind of thing is Moore's Law? "Moore's Law is a human construct. As with legislation, though, most of us have little and only indirect say in its construction," writes Mody. "Everyone, both the producers and consumers of microelectronics, takes steps needed to maintain Moore's Law, yet everyone's experience is that they are subject to it."
The Military

UN To Debate Lethal Autonomous Weapons 166

Posted by Soulskill
from the smart-money-is-on-the-lethal-autonomous-weapons dept.
Hallie Siegel writes: Should robots be allowed to make life and death decisions? This will be the topic of heated debate at the United Nations (UN) Palais des Nations in Geneva next week (April 13-17th, 2015). As part of the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons (CCW), experts from all over the world will gather to discuss 'questions related to emerging technologies in the area of lethal autonomous weapons systems.' The Open Roboethics Research Initiative will be presenting public views at the debate. Human rights groups are urging the UN to ban such weapons. A new report titled "Mind the Gap" details the accountability issues that need to be solved before going any further. "A key concern with fully autonomous weapons is that they would be prone to cause civilian casualties in violation of international humanitarian law and international human rights law. The lack of meaningful human control that characterizes the weapons would make it difficult to hold anyone criminally liable for such unlawful actions."
Games

A Data-Driven Exploration of the Evolution of Chess 109

Posted by samzenpus
from the what-does-the-horse-do-again? dept.
HughPickens.com writes Randy Olsen has a interesting article where he explores a data set of over 650,000 chess tournament games ranging back to the 15th century and looks at how chess has changed over time. His findings include:

Chess games are getting longer. Chess games have been getting steadily longer since 1970, increasing from 75 ply (37 moves) per game in 1970 to a whopping 85 ply (42 moves) per game in 2014. "This trend could possibly be telling us that defensive play is becoming more common in chess nowaday," writes Olsen. "Even the world's current best chess player, Magnus Carlsen, was forced to adopt a more defensive play style (instead of his traditional aggressive style) to compete with the world's elite."

The first-move advantage has always existed. White consistently wins 56% and Black only 44% of the games every year between 1850 and 2014 and the first-move advantage becomes more pronounced the more skilled the chess players are. "Despite 150+ years of revolutions and refinement of chess, the first-move advantage has effectively remained untouched. The only way around it is to make sure that competitors play an even number of games as White and Black."

Draws are much more common nowadays. Only 1 in 10 games ended in a draw in 1850, whereas 1 in 3 games ended in a draw in 2013. "Since the early 20th century, chess experts have feared that the over-analysis of chess will lead "draw death," where experts will become so skilled at chess that it will be impossible to decisively win a game any more." Interestingly chess prodigy and world champion Jose Raul Capablanca said in the 1920's that he believed chess would be exhausted in the near future and that games between masters would always end in draws. Capablanca proposed a more complex variant of chess to help prevent "draw death," but it never really seemed to catch on.
Software

Is This the Death of the Easter Egg? 290

Posted by timothy
from the roland-hedley-on-the-case-again dept.
An anonymous reader writes: The BBC reports that more and more companies are cracking down on the practice of hiding harmless snippets of code in their products. Known as "Easter eggs," they can be anything from the names of the developers, to pictures, to games like pinball, to a flight simulator. Is this simply professionalism, or is it stifling programmers' quirky, playful side? (Have you created any Easter eggs yourself? If so, what did they do?)
News

Rare Ideopathic Encephaly Tied to Higher IQ, Not Lower 58

Posted by samzenpus
from the consume-mass-quantities dept.
Timothy writes Cranial deformation is commonly linked to brain dysfunction; it is one of the most common serious conditions affecting fetal growth. Multiple factors are involved, but in nearly every case on record the result is debilitating; stillbirth or neonatal death are common. A mutation, though, has been observed among members of a New Jersey family which represents a rare case of heritable encephaly tied not to dysfunction, but to higher-than-average intelligence, and with no evident negative health consequences.

Donald R. DeCicco (not his real name) and his wife Prymaat of Paramus, both French-born naturalized U.S. citizens, were born with unremarkable physical characteristics, apart from a specific constellation of physical abnormalities affecting maxillofacial and brain development. In both of their cases, brain development appears to be ordinary, but with all brain lobes occupying a volume that is both larger and narrower than typical. All medical tests (and the couple's success as educated, productive members of society) make it clear that their condition has not prevented ordinary life, and may even have enhanced it; a series of MRI and PET scans conducted by Johns Hopkins researchers indicated that their above-average cerebella are at least as active and neuron-rich as are more run-of-the-mill subjects' brains, and tests of memory, cognition, and reasoning place both DeCicco and Clorhone in the top percentile of American rest subjects. A daughter, Connie, shares both their unusual skeletal growth pattern, and is similarly highly intelligent; perhaps this form of heritable encephaly should be thought of as akin to Marfan syndrome, for its pairing of both high intelligence and a characteristic bone-growth pattern. At least one researcher quoted in the linked article believes that less extreme forms of the same anomaly can be observed in some historical and contemporary figures, citing as examples both Vladimir Putin and actor Richard Belzer as bearing some tendency toward the same characteristic shape.

First described by a family physician and described in the Journal of the Society of the Federal Health Professionals,the condition has been labeled Sandler's Syndrome.
News

Wastelanders Decry Lack of Change In Punishment Wheel 37

Posted by samzenpus
from the bust-a-deal dept.
If you've spent time in the wasteland you've no doubt gone to Bartertown. Famous for its functioning walls, the oasis gives traders a chance to watch people battle to the death in a giant cage and deal busters spin The Wheel to learn their fate. While most wanderers enjoy watching the bloodsport many are now complaining that The Wheel is starting to feel old. "It's been around so long I think everyone has seen every option many times. You never know what's going to happen when someone is trying to smash someone else with a giant hammer, but The Wheel is getting predictable. It's worked so well that nobody has bothered to come up with new options," says one purveyor of slightly irradiated meat. His voice is just one in a growing chorus of dissatisfied wanderers. Another long-time resident adds: "I know it may not seems like a big deal, but part of the fun of living out here is the excitement. If the punishment to my eventual crime can't be fresh or creative I don't know what we're trying to build. These are not the values of the Bartertown I grew up in."
Crime

Attempted Breach of NSA HQ Checkpoint; One Shot Dead 308

Posted by samzenpus
from the breaking-news dept.
seven of five writes One man is dead and another severely injured after a shootout at one of the main gates of the National Security Agency located at Fort Meade, Maryland. Two men dressed as women attempted to 'penetrate' the entry point with their vehicle when a shootout occurred, officials said. The FBI said they do not believe the incident is related to terrorism.
Transportation

Musk Says Drivers May Become Obsolete, Announces Juice-Saving Upgrades 341

Posted by timothy
from the dog's-not-that-shaggy dept.
Lucas123 (935744) writes During a discussion at a Nvidia conference, Elon Musk predicted that in the future, consumers will not be allowed to drive cars because it will be considered too dangerous. [Note: compare Lyft CEO Logan Green's opposite view] 'You can't have a person driving a two-ton death machine,' he said. Others agree. Thilo Koslowski, a vice president at Gartner, said instead of laws dictating drivers must cede control to their car's computer, we may someday someday just pass signs requiring drivers to activate auto-drive functionality for certain particularly treacherous stretches of roadway. Kowlowski said fully autonomous vehicles won't be ubiquitous for another 10 to 15 years, but the government could spur that on by offering tax incentives as it does today with all-electric vehicles and hybrids. Related news: it may not be fully autonomous driving, but Tesla S drivers are promised an upgrade a few months from now that gives a taste, with the addition of automatic steering features. And though it's perhaps anti-climactic as a solution to "ending range anxiety," Musk also announced today that Teslas will get in the next two weeks a software upgrade that will greatly upgrade the cars' routing software, integrating "near-realtime" lists of available supercharger stations, and keeping drivers apprised of whether one is within range.
Nintendo

Nintendo Finally Working On Games for Smartphones 86

Posted by Soulskill
from the seeing-which-way-the-wind-blows dept.
Several readers sent word that Nintendo is finally bringing its games to mobile devices. It's partnering with Japanese game publisher DeNA to develop games for phones and tablets based on Nintendo's popular game IPs. (Existing games will not get mobile ports, however.) DeNA first approached Nintendo about using the company's characters in mobile games back in 2010, Iwata said, and has been passionately pursuing talks on the alliance ever since. Iwata acknowledged that the transition from the Wii and DS lines to the Wii U and 3DS lines has not gone "as smoothly as we had expected," but he maintained that industry watchers predicting the death of dedicated video game consoles are being too pessimistic. Iwata tied the move to smartphones to Nintendo's historical embrace of TV gaming after decades as a physical toy and card game company during a time when TVs didn't exist. "Now that smart devices have grown to become the window for so many people to personally connect with society, it would be a waste not to use these devices."
United States

How To Execute People In the 21st Century 1081

Posted by samzenpus
from the end-of-the-road dept.
HughPickens.com writes Matt Ford writes in The Atlantic that thanks to a European Union embargo on the export of key drugs, and the refusal of major pharmaceutical companies to sell them the nation's predominant method of execution is increasingly hard to perform. With lethal injection's future uncertain, some states are turning to previously discarded methods. The Utah legislature just approved a bill to reintroduce firing squads for executions, Alabama's House of Representatives voted to authorize the electric chair if new drugs couldn't be found, and after last years botched injection, Oklahoma legislators are mulling the gas chamber.

The driving force behind the creation and abandonment of execution methods is the constant search for a humane means of taking a human life. Arizona, for example, abandoned hangings after a noose accidentally decapitated a condemned woman in 1930. Execution is also prone to problems as witnesses routinely report that, when the switch is thrown, the condemned prisoner "cringes," "leaps," and "fights the straps with amazing strength." The hands turn red, then white, and the cords of the neck stand out like steel bands. The prisoner's limbs, fingers, toes, and face are severely contorted. The force of the electrical current is so powerful that the prisoner's eyeballs sometimes pop out and "rest on [his] cheeks." The physical effects of the deadly hydrogen cyanide in the gas chamber are coma, seizures and cardiac arrest but the time lag has previously proved a problem. According to Ford one reason lethal injection enjoyed such tremendous popularity was that it strongly resembled a medical procedure, thereby projecting our preconceived notions about modern medicine—its competence, its efficacy, and its reliability—onto the capital-punishment system. "As states revert to earlier methods of execution—techniques once abandoned as backward and flawed—they run the risk that the death penalty itself will be seen in the same terms."
Sci-Fi

Sir Terry Pratchett Succumbs To "the Embuggerance," Aged 66 299

Posted by timothy
from the now-the-world-is-worse-off dept.
New submitter sp1nl0ck writes Sir Terry Pratchett, the creator of Discworld, has died aged 66, following a long battle with Alzheimer's Disease. Sir Terry announced that he was suffering from The Embuggerance in an open letter to fans over seven years ago, and recently had to cancel a planned appearance at the International Discworld Convention last summer, and donated over £500K of his own money to research into the condition. He also spoke in favour of a euthanasia tribunal, the members of which would consider the case of each '...applicant...to ensure they are of sound and informed mind, firm in their purpose, suffering from a life-threatening and incurable disease and not under the influence of a third party'. Sadly, he didn't survive long enough to see such a tribunal — or indeed any kind of assistance for those suffering from an incurable condition who wish to end their own life — come into being. More at the BBC.
Math

Number of Legal 18x18 Go Positions Computed; 19x19 On the Horizon 186

Posted by timothy
from the now-we'll-call-it-gone dept.
johntromp writes It took about 50,000 CPU hours and 4PB of disk IO, but now we know the exact number of legal 18x18 Go positions. Seeking computing power for the ultimate 19x19 count. And it's not a heat-death-of-the-universe kind of question, either, they say: "Thanks to the Chinese Remainder Theorem, the work of computing L(19,19) can be split up into 9 jobs that each compute 64 bits of the 566-bit result. Allowing for some redundancy, we need from 10 to 13 servers, each with at least 8 cores, 512GB RAM, and ample disk space (10-15TB), running for about 5-9 months."
Medicine

Treadmill Performance Predicts Mortality 134

Posted by Soulskill
from the reasons-OK-Go-are-immortal dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Cardiologists from Johns Hopkins have published an analysis of exercise data that strongly links a patient's performance on a treadmill to their risk of dying. Using data from stress tests of over 58,000 people, they report: "[A]mong people of the same age and gender, fitness level as measured by METs and peak heart rate reached during exercise were the greatest indicators of death risk. Fitness level was the single most powerful predictor of death and survival, even after researchers accounted for other important variables such as diabetes and family history of premature death — a finding that underscores the profound importance of heart and lung fitness, the investigators say." The scoring system is from -200 to +200. People scoring between -100 and 0 face an 11% risk of dying in the next decade. People scoring between -200 and -100 face a 38% risk of death within the next decade. People scoring above zero face only a 3% chance or less.
United States

Snowden Reportedly In Talks To Return To US To Face Trial 671

Posted by Soulskill
from the bold-strategy dept.
HughPickens.com writes: The Globe and Mail reports that Edward Snowden's Russian lawyer, Anatoly Kucherena, says the fugitive former U.S. spy agency contractor is working with American and German lawyers to return home. "I won't keep it secret that he wants to return back home. And we are doing everything possible now to solve this issue. There is a group of U.S. lawyers, there is also a group of German lawyers and I'm dealing with it on the Russian side." Kucherena added that Snowden is ready to return to the States, but on the condition that he is given a guarantee of a legal and impartial trial. The lawyer said Snowden had so far only received a guarantee from the U.S. Attorney General that he will not face the death penalty. Kucherena says Snowden is able to travel outside Russia since he has a three-year Russian residency permit, but "I suspect that as soon as he leaves Russia, he will be taken to the U.S. embassy."
Movies

Spock and the Legacy of Star Trek 233

Posted by samzenpus
from the memories-of-the-many dept.
StartsWithABang writes While the nerd/geek world mourns the death of Leonard Nimoy in its own way, it's important to remember the legacy that Star Trek — and that Spock and alien characters like him — left on our world. Unlike any other series, Star Trek used a futuristic, nearly utopian world to explore our own moral battles and failings, and yet somehow always managed to weave in an optimism about humanity and our future. This is something, the author argues, that is sorely missing from the new J.J. Abrams movies.