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Robotics

Drought and Desertification: How Robots Might Help 46

Posted by timothy
from the droids-you're-looking-for dept.
Hallie Siegel writes Groundwater levels in California's Central Valley are down to historic lows and reservoirs have been depleted following four consecutive years of severe drought in the state. California is set to introduce water rationing in the coming weeks, and though the new rationing rules will focus on urban areas and not farms for the time being, they serve as a warning bell to farmers who will inevitably need to adapt to the effects of climate change on food production. John Payne argues that long term solutions are needed to help make agriculture drought resistant and looks at some of the ways that robotics might help.
Microsoft

Microsoft Open Technologies Is Closing: Good Or Bad News For Open Source? 91

Posted by timothy
from the sea-change-or-see-no-change dept.
BrianFagioli writes When Microsoft Open Technologies was founded as a subsidiary of Microsoft — under Steve Ballmer's reign — many in the open source community hailed it as a major win, and it was. Today, however, the subsidiary is shutting down and being folded into Microsoft. While some will view this as a loss for open source, I disagree; Microsoft has evolved so much under Satya Nadella, that a separate subsidiary is simply no longer needed. Microsoft could easily be the world's biggest vendor of open source software, which is probably one reason some people don't like the term.
Medicine

When You're the NFL Commish, Getting E-Medical Record Interoperability's a Cinch 41

Posted by Soulskill
from the it's-good-to-be-the-commish dept.
Lucas123 writes: The NFL recently completed the rollout of an electronic medical record (EMR) system and picture archiving & communication system (PACS) that allows mobile access for teams to player's health information at the swipe of a finger — radiological images, GPS tracking information, and detailed health evaluation data back to grade school. But as NFL football players are on the road a lot, often they're not being treated at hospitals or by specialists whose own EMRs are integrated with the NFL's; it's a microcosm of the industry-wide healthcare interoperability issue facing the U.S. today. The NFL, however, found achieving EMR interoperability isn't so much a technological issue as a political one, and if you have publicity on your side, it's not that difficult. NFL CIO Michelle McKenna-Doyle, who led the NFL's EMR rollout, said a call from a team owner to a hospital administrator typically does the trick. Even NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell once made the call to a hospital CEO, "and things started moving in the next couple of days," McKenna-Doyle said. "They're very aware of the publicity."
The Military

Scientists Locate Sunken, Radioactive Aircraft Carrier Off California Coast 127

Posted by Soulskill
from the what-you-leave-behind dept.
HughPickens.com writes: Aaron Kinney reports in the San Jose Mercury News that scientists have captured the first clear images of the USS Independence, a radioactivity-polluted World War II aircraft carrier that rests on the ocean floor 30 miles off the coast of Half Moon Bay. The Independence saw combat at Wake Island and other decisive battles against Japan in 1944 and 1945 and was later blasted with radiation in two South Pacific nuclear tests. Assigned as a target vessel for the Operation Crossroads atomic bomb tests, she was placed within one-half-mile of ground zero and was engulfed in a fireball and heavily damaged during the 1946 nuclear weapons tests at Bikini Atoll. The veteran ship did not sink, however (though her funnels and island were crumpled by the blast), and after taking part in another explosion on 25 July, the highly radioactive hull was later taken to Pearl Harbor and San Francisco for further tests and was finally scuttled off the coast of San Francisco, California, on 29 January 1951. "This ship is an evocative artifact of the dawn of the atomic age, when we began to learn the nature of the genie we'd uncorked from the bottle," says James Delgado. "It speaks to the 'Greatest Generation' — people's fathers, grandfathers, uncles and brothers who served on these ships, who flew off those decks and what they did to turn the tide in the Pacific war."

Delgado says he doesn't know how many drums of radioactive material are buried within the ship — perhaps a few hundred. But he is doubtful that they pose any health or environmental risk. The barrels were filled with concrete and sealed in the ship's engine and boiler rooms, which were protected by thick walls of steel. The carrier itself was clearly "hot" when it went down and and it was packed full of fresh fission products and other radiological waste at the time it sank. The Independence was scuttled in what is now the Gulf of the Farallones sanctuary, a haven for wildlife, from white sharks to elephant seals and whales. Despite its history as a dumping ground Richard Charter says the radioactive waste is a relic of a dark age before the enviornmental movement took hold. "It's just one of those things that humans rather stupidly did in the past that we can't retroactively fix.""
Earth

Breakthrough In Artificial Photosynthesis Captures CO2 In Acetate 112

Posted by Soulskill
from the use-it-to-3D-print-your-own-clones dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Researchers from Berkeley Lab and the U.S. Dept. of Energy have created an artificial photosynthetic process that capture carbon dioxide in acetate, "the most common building block today for biosynthesis." The research has been published in the journal Nano Letters (abstract). "Atmospheric carbon dioxide is now at its highest level in at least three million years, primarily as a result of the burning of fossil fuels. Yet fossil fuels, especially coal, will remain a significant source of energy to meet human needs for the foreseeable future. Technologies for sequestering carbon before it escapes into the atmosphere are being pursued but all require the captured carbon to be stored, a requirement that comes with its own environmental challenges. ... By combining biocompatible light-capturing nanowire arrays with select bacterial populations, the new artificial photosynthesis system offers a win/win situation for the environment: solar-powered green chemistry using sequestered carbon dioxide."
United Kingdom

UK Company Wants To Deliver Parcels Through Underground Tunnels 104

Posted by samzenpus
from the mole-mail dept.
Zothecula writes Drones flown by Amazon aren't the only way we could be getting our parcels delivered in the near future. UK firm Mole Solutions is exploring the possibility of using small robot trains running on underground tracks to manage deliveries, and it's just received funding from the British government to help test the viability of the proposal.
Microsoft

Microsoft's Role As Accuser In the Antitrust Suit Against Google 183

Posted by samzenpus
from the on-the-other-side dept.
HughPickens.com writes Danny Hakim reports at the NYT that as European antitrust regulators formally accuse Google of abusing its dominance, Microsoft is relishing playing a behind-the-scenes role of scold instead of victim. Microsoft has founded or funded a cottage industry of splinter groups to go after Google. The most prominent, the Initiative for a Competitive Online Marketplace, or Icomp, has waged a relentless public relations campaign promoting grievances against Google. It conducted a study that suggested changes made by Google to appease regulators were largely window dressing. "Microsoft is doing its best to create problems for Google," says Manfred Weber, the chairman of the European People's Party, the center-right party that is the largest voting bloc in the European Parliament. "It's interesting. Ten years ago Microsoft was a big and strong company. Now they are the underdog."

According to Hakim, Microsoft and Google are the Cain and Abel of American technology, locked in the kind of struggle that often takes place when a new giant threatens an older one. Microsoft was frustrated after American regulators at the Federal Trade Commission didn't act on a similar antitrust investigation against Google in 2013, calling it a "missed opportunity." It has taken the fight to the state level, along with a number of other opponents of Google. Microsoft alleges that Google's anti-competitive practices include stopping Bing from indexing content on Google-owned YouTube; blocking Microsoft Windows smartphones from "operating properly" with YouTube; blocking access to content owned by book publishers; and limiting the flow of ad campaign information back to advertisers, making it more expensive to run ads with rivals. "Over the past year, a growing number of advertisers, publishers, and consumers have expressed to us their concerns about the search market in Europe," says Brad Smith, Microsoft's general counsel. "They've urged us to share our knowledge of the search market with competition officials."
Google

Google Helps Homeless Street Vendors Get Paid By Cashless Consumers 139

Posted by samzenpus
from the easy-pay dept.
An anonymous reader writes Starting today Seattle pedestrians can no longer pat their pockets and claim to have no cash when offered a copy of the ironically-named Real Change weekly newspaper by a homeless street vendor. Google has spent two years working with the Real Change organization to develop a barcode-scanning app which lets passers-by purchase a digital edition with their mobile phones. Google's Meghan Casserly believes the Real Change app — available on Android and iOs — represents the first of its kind in North America.
GNU is Not Unix

GNU Hurd 0.6 Released 208

Posted by samzenpus
from the brand-new dept.
jrepin writes It has been roughly a year and a half since the last release of the GNU Hurd operating system, so it may be of interest to some readers that GNU Hurd 0.6 has been released along with GNU Mach 1.5 (the microkernel that Hurd runs on) and GNU MIG 1.5 (the Mach Interface Generator, which generates code to handle remote procedure calls). New features include procfs and random translators; cleanups and stylistic fixes, some of which came from static analysis; message dispatching improvements; integer hashing performance improvements; a split of the init server into a startup server and an init program based on System V init; and more.
Space

An Engineering Analysis of the Falcon 9 First Stage Landing Failure 109

Posted by Soulskill
from the ground-not-soft-enough dept.
schwit1 writes: AviationWeek has posted an analysis of SpaceX's latest attempt to land its Falcon 9 rocket on an ocean barge. Quoting: "SpaceX founder and chief technology officer Elon Musk tweeted that "excess lateral velocity caused it [the booster] to tip over post landing." In a later tweet that was subsequently withdrawn, Musk then indicated that "the issue was stiction in the biprop throttle valve, resulting in control system phase lag." In this statement, Musk was referring to "stiction" — or static friction — in the valve controlling the throttling of the engine. The friction appears to have momentarily slowed the response of the engine, causing the control system to command more of an extreme reaction from the propulsion system than was required. As a result, the control system entered a form of hysteresis, a condition in which the control response lags behind changes in the effect causing it.

Despite the failure of the latest attempt, SpaceX will be encouraged by the landing accuracy of the Falcon 9 and the bigger-picture success of its guidance, navigation and control (GNC) system in bringing the booster back to the drone ship. The GNC also worked as designed during the prior landing attempt in January, which ended in the destruction of the vehicle following a hard touchdown on the edge of the platform."
In related news, SpaceX is hoping to attempt its next landing on solid ground.
Biotech

A 2-Year-Old Has Become the Youngest Person Ever To Be Cryonically Frozen 294

Posted by Soulskill
from the rest-in-peace dept.
merbs writes: After losing a long battle with brain cancer, 2-year-old Matheryn Naovaratpong became the first minor ever to be cryogenically frozen. This article is the story of how a Thai girl was frozen in Bangkok and shipped to Arizona to have her brain preserved in liquid nitrogen, while medical science works on a cure. "Typically we’d move the head from the trunk of the body. We didn't know what their reaction would be from the family, the mortuary, from border officials; this has to go through a number of shipping venues, customs, the TSA and so on. To see a frozen head in a box might have raised a number of red flags. In the U.S. that’s not a big deal, but there, they may not be accustomed."
Android

Cyanogen Partners With Microsoft To Replace Google Apps 175

Posted by Soulskill
from the unexpected-alliances dept.
Unknown Lamer writes: Microsoft and Cyanogen Inc have announced a partnership to bring Microsoft applications to Cyanogen OS. "Under the partnership, Cyanogen will integrate and distribute Microsoft's consumer apps and services across core categories, including productivity, messaging, utilities, and cloud-based services. As part of this collaboration, Microsoft will create native integrations on Cyanogen OS, enabling a powerful new class of experiences." Ars Technica comments, "If Cyanogen really wants to ship a Googleless Android, it will need to provide alternatives to Google's services, and this Microsoft deal is a small start. Microsoft can provide alternatives for Search (Bing), Google Drive (OneDrive and Office), and Gmail (Outlook). The real missing pieces are alternatives to Google Play, Google Maps, and Google Play Services."

Rather than distribute more proprietary services, how about ownCloud for Drive, K-9 Mail for Gmail, OsmAnd for Maps, and F-Droid for an app store? Mozilla and DuckDuckGo provide Free Software search providers for Android, too. With Google neglecting the Android Open Source Project and Cyanogen partnering with Microsoft, the future for Free Software Android as anything but a shell for proprietary software looks bleak.
Security

Calling Out a GAO Report That Says In-Flight Wi-Fi Lets Hackers Access Avionics 113

Posted by timothy
from the this-postcard-is-just-an-atom-bomb dept.
An anonymous reader writes A new report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) warns that in-flight W-Fi, including wireless entertainment and internet-based cockpit communications, may allow hackers to gain remote access to avionics systems and take over navigation. At the same time, a cyber expert and pilot called the report "deceiving" and said that "To imply that because IP is used for in-flight WiFi and also on the avionics networks means that you can automatically take over the avionics network makes about as much sense as saying you can take over the jet engines because they breathe air like the passengers and there is no air gap between passengers who touch the plane and the engines which are attached to the plane."
GUI

KDE Plasma 5.3 Beta Brings Lot of Improvements 62

Posted by timothy
from the gui-not-gooey dept.
jones_supa writes: The KDE project today announced the release of KDE Plasma 5.3 beta. It brings better power management, improved Bluetooth support, improved widgets, Wayland support, new media center, and nearly 350 bugfixes. The power management improvements include settings that can be independently configured per activity, there is a new energy usage monitor available in KInfoCenter, and a battery applet identifies applications that hog power. Bluetooth applet brings added support for blocking and unblocking devices. New touchpad module has been added as well. The combined window manager and compositor KWin is now able to start a nested XWayland server, which acts as a bridge between the old X11 and the new Wayland world.
Cloud

Google Sunsetting Old Version of Google Maps 198

Posted by timothy
from the nothing-beats-mapblast's-vector-directions dept.
New submitter Robertgilberts writes with word that Google is dropping the old version of Maps. The new version of Google Maps came out of preview back in February 2014 and was in beta for several months before that. The only way to access the old version of Google Maps was via a special URL or if you had a very old browser that did not support the new version of Google Maps. Consolation prize: There will still be a lighter-weight version, which "drops out many of the neat Google Maps features in exchange for speed and compatibility."
Security

The Voting Machine Anyone Can Hack 104

Posted by samzenpus
from the vote-now-vote-often dept.
Presto Vivace writes about a study published by the Virginia Information Technology Agency outlining just how bad the security of the AVS WINVote machine is. "Virginia election officials have decertified an electronic voting system after determining that it was possible for even unskilled people to surreptitiously hack into it and tamper with vote counts. The AVS WINVote, made by Advanced Voting Solutions, passed necessary voting systems standards and has been used in Virginia and, until recently, in Pennsylvania and Mississippi. It used the easy-to-crack passwords of 'admin,' 'abcde,' and 'shoup' to lock down its Windows administrator account, Wi-Fi network, and voting results database respectively, according to a scathing security review published Tuesday by the Virginia Information Technologies Agency. The agency conducted the audit after one Virginia precinct reported that some of the devices displayed errors that interfered with vote counting during last November's elections."
Transportation

The Car That Knows When You'll Get In an Accident Before You Do 189

Posted by samzenpus
from the keep-your-eyes-on-the-road-your-hands-upon-the-wheel dept.
aurtherdent2000 sends word about a system designed to monitor drivers to determine when they're about to do something wrong. "I'm behind the wheel of the car of the future. It's a gray Toyota Camry, but it has a camera pointed at me from the corner of the windshield recording my every eye movement, a GPS tracker, an outside-facing camera and a speed logger. It sees everything I'm doing so it can predict what I'm going to do behind the wheel seconds before I do it. So when my eyes glance to the left, it could warn me there's a car between me and the exit I want to take. A future version of the software will know even more about me; the grad students developing what they’ve dubbed Brains4Cars plan to let drivers connect their fitness trackers to the car. If your health tracker 'knows' you haven’t gotten enough sleep, the car will be more alert to your nodding off."
EU

Google Responds To EU Antitrust Claims In Android Blog Post 233

Posted by samzenpus
from the wait-a-minute dept.
An anonymous reader writes Earlier today the European Union released a Statement of Objection against Google, asserting that the search giant's dominance violating antitrust rules and Android products hindering equal opportunities for market access among its rivals. Google has now released an official blog post in response to the Commission's proposed investigation. Regarding its Android devices, Hiroshi Lockheimer, VP of Engineering at Android writes: "The European Commission has asked questions about our partner agreements. It's important to remember that these are voluntary—again, you can use Android without Google—but provide real benefits to Android users, developers and the broader ecosystem." He continues: "We are thankful for Android's success and we understand that with success comes scrutiny. But it's not just Google that has benefited from Android's success. The Android model has let manufacturers compete on their unique innovations [...] We look forward to discussing these issues in more detail with the European Commission over the months ahead."
Supercomputing

Nuclear Fusion Simulator Among Software Picked For US's Summit Supercomputer 57

Posted by samzenpus
from the how-about-a-nice-game-of-chess dept.
An anonymous reader writes Today, The Register has learned of 13 science projects approved by boffins at the US Department of Energy to run on the 300-petaFLOPS Summit. These software packages, selected for the Center for Accelerated Application Readiness (CAAR) program, will be ported to the massive parallel machine, and are hoped to make full use of the supercomputer's architecture.They range from astrophysics, biophysics, chemistry, and climate modeling to combustion engineering, materials science, nuclear physics, plasma physics and seismology.
Space

Longer Video Shows How Incredibly Close Falcon Stage Came To Successful Landing 339

Posted by samzenpus
from the close-but-no-cigar dept.
Bruce Perens writes In the video here, the Falcon 9 first stage is shown landing with a tilt, and then a thruster keeps the rocket vertical on the barge for a few seconds before it quits, followed by Kabooom with obvious significant damage to the barge. It looks like this attempt was incredibly close to success. Given fixes, a successful first-stage recovery seems likely.