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Submission + - Google says government surveillance growing (informationweek.com)

SternisheFan writes: In a blog post, Google senior policy analyst Dorothy Chou says, " [G]overnment demands for user data have increased steadily since we first launched the Transparency Report." In the first half of 2012, the period covered in the report, Chou says there were 20,938 inquiries from government organizations for information about 34,614 Google-related accounts.

Google has a long history of pushing back against governmental demands for data, going back at least to its refusal to turn over search data to the Department of Justice in 2005.

Many other companies have chosen to cooperate with government requests rather than question or oppose them, but Chou notes that in the past year, companies like Dropbox, LinkedIn, Sonic.net and Twitter have begun making government information requests public, to inform the discussion about Internet freedom and its limits.

According to the report, the U.S. continues to make the most requests for user data, 7,969 in the first six months of the year. Google complied with 90% of these requests. Google's average compliance rate for the 31 countries listed in the report is about 47%.


Submission + - AMD hires bank to explore sale options (reuters.com)

Dainsanefh writes: Advanced Micro Devices has hired JPMorgan Chase & Co to explore options, which could include a potential sale, as the chipmaker struggles to find a role in an industry increasingly focused on mobile and away from traditional PCs, according to three sources familiar with the situation.
The Internet

Submission + - French Company Building a Mobile Internet Just for Things (technologyreview.com)

holy_calamity writes: "France now has a dedicated cellular data network just for Internet of Things devices, and the company that built it is rolling out the technology elsewhere, says MIT Technology Review. SigFox's network is slower than a conventional cellular data network, but built using technology able to make much longer range links and operate on unlicensed spectrum. Those features are intended to allow the service to be cheap enough for low cost sensors on energy infrastructure and many other places to make sense, something not possible on a network shared with smartphones and other consumer devices."

Submission + - Airlines Face Acute Pilot Shortage 2

Hugh Pickens writes writes: "The WSJ reports that US airlines are facing their most serious pilot shortage since the 1960s, with federal mandates taking effect that will require all newly hired pilots to have at least 1,500 hours of prior flight experience—six times the current minimum—raising the cost and time to train new fliers in an era when pay cuts and more-demanding schedules already have made the profession less attractive. Meanwhile, thousands of senior pilots at major airlines soon will start hitting the mandatory retirement age of 65. "We are about four years from a solution, but we are only about six months away from a problem.,” says Bob Reding, recently retired executive vice president of operations at AMR Corp. A study by the University of North Dakota's aviation department indicates major airlines will need to hire 60,000 pilots by 2025 to replace departures and cover expansion over the next eight years. Meanwhile only 36,000 pilots have passed the Air Transport Pilot exam in the past eight years, which all pilots would have to pass under the congressionally imposed rules and there are limits to the ability of airlines, especially the regional carriers, to attract more pilots by raising wages. While the industry's health has improved in recent years, many carriers still operate on thin profit margins, with the airlines sandwiched between rising costs for fuel and unsteady demand from price-sensitive consumers. "It certainly will result in challenges to maintain quality," says John Marshall, an independent aviation-safety consultant who spent 26 years in the Air Force before overseeing Delta's safety. "Regional carriers will be creative and have to take shortcuts" to fill their cockpits."

Submission + - Fabricating Nature and a Physical Turing Test

arrow3D writes: A new startup in Norway is focused on design and fabrication at the level and quality of nature. Using pure mathematical volumes, rather than surfaces or voxels, they are developing a new generation of 3D modelling tools specifically aimed at high resolution 3D printing, to "support the future of design and manufacturing". Their software was recently used to create the multi-material Minotaur Helmet by Neri Oxman from MIT, as featured in Wired UK last month. An interesting thought (as recently illustrated in Dilbert) is the idea of a Physical Turing Test for synthetic objects and that both Turing Tests may require each other — i.e. only by designing and building at the resolution of nature can we achieve the intelligence of natural objects. Their software platform is still very much under development but they've started trying to "save the world from polygons" with a KickStarter campaign that's live now.

Submission + - Cyberespionage For Everyone (darkreading.com)

Mephistophocles writes: A chilling article by Darkreading's Kelly Jackson Higgins describes how the growing accessibility of hacking tools like RAT's (Remote Access Trojans) have made cyber-espionage possible for more than just those financially backed by large nation-states, and speculates on what the implications of this may be:

"Researchers at Norman Security today revealed that they recently analyzed malware used in phishing emails targeting Israeli and Palestinian targets and found that attackers used malware based on the widely available Xtreme RAT crimeware kit. The attacks, which first hit Palestinian targets, this year began going after Israeli targets, including Israeli law enforcement agencies and embassies around the world. Norman says the same attacker is behind the attacks because the attacks use the same command-and-control (C&C) infrastructure, as well as the same phony digital certificates.

This attack campaign just scratches the surface of the breadth and spread of these types of attacks around the world as more players have been turning to cyberspying. "We're just seeing the tip of the iceberg," says Einar Oftedal, deputy CTO at Norman."


Submission + - Study Claims Human Intelligence Peaked Two to Six Millennia Ago (independent.co.uk) 1

eldavojohn writes: Professor Gerald "Jerry" Crabtree of Stanford's Crabtree Laboratory published a paper (PDF warning) that has appeared in two parts in "Trends in Genetics." The paper opens with a very controversial suggestion, 'I would be willing to wager that if an average citizen from Athens of 1000 BC were to appear suddenly among us, he or she would be among the brightest and most intellectually alive of our colleagues and companions' and from there speculates we're on the decline of human intelligence and we have been for at least a couple millennia. His argument seems to suggest that agriculture and, following from that, cities have allowed us to break free of such environmental forces on competitive genetic mutations — a la Mike Judge's theory. However, the conclusion of the paper urges humans to keep calm and carry on as any attempt to fix this genetic trend would almost certainly be futile and disturbing.

Submission + - 1 million robots to replace 1 million humans at Foxconn (singularityhub.com)

kkleiner writes: "Foxconn, the Chinese electronics manufacturer that builds numerous mobile devices and gaming consoles, previously said the company would be aiming to replace 1 million Foxconn workers with robots within 3 years. It appears as if Foxconn has started the ball in motion. Since the announcement, a first batch of 10,000 robots — aptly named Foxbots — appear to have made their way into at least one factory, and by the end of 2012, another 20,000 more will be installed"

Submission + - Ask Slashdot: How to catch Photoshop plagiarism 4

jemenake writes: A friend of mine teaches electronic media (Photoshop, Premiere, etc.) at a local high-school. Right now, they're doing Photoshop, and each chapter in the book starts with an "end result" file which shows what they're going to construct in that chapter, and then, given the basic graphical assets (background textures, photos, etc.), the students need to duplicate the same look in the final-result file.

The problem, of course, is that some students just grab the final-result file and rename it and turn it in. Some are a little less brazen and they rename a few layers, maybe alter the colors on a few images, etc. So, it becomes time-consuming for her to open each file alongside the final-result file to see if it's "too perfect".

When I first discovered that she was doing this, my first reaction was that there's got to be some automated way of catching the cheaters. Of course, my first idea of just doing MD5 hashes of each file won't work, since most kids alter the file a little bit.

A second idea I had was to alter the final-result file in a way that isn't obvious, like removing someone's shoelace, mis-spelling a word in the background, or removing/adding some dust-specks. (I know map publishers and music transcribers use this trick to catch copiers). But this still requires that she look for the alteration in each file. I'd think that Photoshop, after all these years, would have some kind of scripting language which also supports some digital watermarking, but I've just never dabbled in that realm.

And, of course, I guess another solution would be for her to not provide the end-result file in Photoshop format, but to export it as a flat image. But I'm still intrigued by the notion of being able to "fuzzily" compare two photoshop files or images to find the ones which are too similar in certain aspects (color histograms, where the edges are, level of noise, whatever).

Anybody else have any clever ideas for this?

Submission + - Mind-Controlled Robot Avatars Inch Towards Reality (gizmag.com)

Zothecula writes: Researchers at the CNRS-AIST Joint Robotics Laboratory (a collaboration between France's Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique and Japan's National Institute of Advanced Industrial Science and Technology) are developing software that allows a person to drive a robot with their thoughts alone. The technology could one day give a paralyzed patient greater autonomy through a robotic agent or avatar.

Submission + - Acer C7 Chromebooks Expand Chrome OS Market (slashdot.org)

Nerval's Lobster writes: "Google is following up last month’s Samsung Chromebooks with a new, lower-priced one developed by Acer. Retailing for $199, the 11.6-inch Acer C7 Chromebook features an Intel Celeron 847 processor, 2GB of DDR3 memory, a 320GB hard drive, three USB 2.0 ports and an HDMI port for various cords and auxiliary devices. It’s designed for portability, weighing 3.05 pounds and measuring an inch thick. Boot time is reportedly less than 18 seconds.

If the new Chromebook has a weakness, it’s the advertised 3.5 hours of battery life. That’s less than the MacBook Air (which features anywhere from 5-7 hours’ battery life, depending on specs) and many of the Windows-backed Ultrabooks, some of which claim up to 11 hours of battery life depending on usage. It’s also far less than the posted battery life for tablets such as Apple’s iPad and Google’s Nexus 7, which are widely viewed as the most prominent competition to laptops in the extra-portable category."


Submission + - Here come the humanoids. There go U.S. jobs (cnet.com) 1

concealment writes: "Rethink Robotics founder Rodney Brooks took to the stage at the Techonomy conference here to talk about the wonders of his new robot, Baxter, which is designed to work on factory floors doing dull and necessary tasks. He costs just $25,000 and works for what amounts to $4 an hour.

Baxter is a step forward in robotics with mass potential. It has a face and sensors to tell it when people are near. It's about as close to a humanoid robot as we can get, and Brooks said it's just the beginning.

"Within 10 years, we're going to see humanoid robots," said Brooks, who was a co-founder of iRobot, maker of iRoomba, the vacuum cleaner robot."


Submission + - Mark Cuban: Facebook Is Driving Away Brands - Starting With Mine (readwrite.com)

concealment writes: "Tech billionaire and Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban says he is fed up with Facebook and will take his business elsewhere. He's sick of getting hit with huge fees to send messages to his team's fans and followers.

Two weeks ago Cuban tweeted out a screen grab of an offer he'd received from Facebook. The social network wanted to charge him $3,000 to reach 1 million people. Along with the screen grab, Cuban wrote, "FB is blowing it? This is the first step. The Mavs are considering moving to Tumblr or to new MySpace as primary site.""


Submission + - Why dissonant music sounds 'wrong' (nature.com) 1

ananyo writes: "Many people dislike the clashing dissonances of modernist composers such as Arnold Schoenberg. But what’s our problem with dissonance?
There has long been thought to be a physiological reason why at least some kinds of dissonance sound jarring. Two tones close in frequency interfere to produce 'beating': what we hear is just a single tone rising and falling in loudness. If the difference in frequency is within a certain range, rapid beats create a rattling sound called roughness. An aversion to roughness has seemed consistent with the common dislike of intervals such as minor seconds.
Yet when cognitive neuroscientist Marion Cousineau of the University of Montreal in Quebec and her colleagues asked amusic subjects (who cannot distinguish between different musical tones). to rate the pleasantness of a whole series of intervals, they showed no distinctions between any of the intervals but disliked beating as much as people with normal hearing.
Instead the researchers propose that harmonicity is the key. Notes contain many overtones — frequencies that are whole-number multiples of the basic frequency in the note. For consonant 'pleasant sounding' intervals the overtones of the two notes tend to coincide as whole-number multiples, whereas for dissonant intervals this is no longer the case.
The work suggests that harmonicity is more important than beating for dissonance aversion in normal hearers (abstract)."


Submission + - Oracle makes Red Hat kernel changes available as broken-out patches (oracle.com)

Artefacto writes: The Ksplice team has made available a git repository with the changes Red Hat made to the kernel broken down. They are calling this project RedPatch.

This comes in response to a policy change Red Hat had operated in early 2011 with the goal of undercutting Oracle and other vendor's strategy of poaching RedHat's customers. The Ksplice team says they've doing the work they're now making available since the policy was implemented; they claim to be now making it public because they "feel everyone in the Linux community can benefit from the work".

For Ksplice, we build individual updates for each change and rely on source patches that are broken-out, not a giant tarball. Otherwise, we wouldn’t be able to take the right patches to create individual updates for each fix, and to skip over the noise — like a change that speeds up bootup — which is unnecessary for an already-running system. We’ve been taking the monolithic Red Hat patch tarball and breaking it into smaller commits internally ever since they introduced this change.

At Oracle, we feel everyone in the Linux community can benefit from the work we already do to get our jobs done, so now we’re sharing these broken-out patches publicly.