Wired reports on a disease infecting coffee plants across Central America that could lead to shortages around the world. "Regional production fell by 15 percent last year, putting nearly 400,000 people out of work, and that’s just a taste of what’s to come. The next harvest season begins in October, and according to the International Coffee Organization, crop losses could hit 50 percent." The disease is called coffee rust, and it has been damaging crops to some degree since the 1800s. It's not known yet exactly why coffee rust has become such a problem now, but one of the leading suspects is climate change. "Since the mid-20th century, though, weather patterns in Central America and northern South America have shifted. Average temperatures are warmer across the region, with extremes of both heat and cold becoming more pronounced; so are extreme rainfall events." The fungus that causes coffee rust thrives on warm, humid air, and higher temperatures have allowed it to climb to higher altitudes than ever before. But another likely cause is the way in which coffee is planted and harvested these days: the plants evolved as shade-dwellers, but are now often placed in direct sunlight. They're also clustered closer together, which facilitates the spread of disease. "The integrity of this once-complicated ecosystem has been slowly breaking down, which is what happens when you try to grow coffee like corn."
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Lucas123 writes "With Apple announcing that it is now using PCIe flash in its MacBook Air and it has plans to offer it in its Mac Pro later this year, some are speculating that the high-speed peripheral interface may become the standard for higher-end consumer laptops and workplace systems. 'It's coming,' said Joseph Unsworth, research vice president for NAND Flash & SSD at Gartner. The Mac Pro with PCIe flash is expected to exceed 1GB/sec throughput, twice the speed of SATA III SSDs. Apple claims the new MacBook Mini got a 45% performance boost from its PCIe flash. AnandTech has the Air clocked in at 800MB/s. Next year, Intel and Plextor are expected to begin shipping PCIe cards based on the new NGFF specification. Plextor's NGFF SSD measures just 22mm by 44mm in size and connects to a computer's motherboard through a PCIe 2.0 x2 interface. Those cards are smaller than today's half-height expansion cards and offer 770MB/s read and 550MB/s write speeds."
An anonymous reader writes "Several UK Internet providers have quietly added a list of new sites to their secretive anti-piracy blocklists. Following in the footsteps of Sky, the first ISP to initiate a proxy blockade, Virgin, BT and several other providers now restrict access to several torrent site proxies. The surprise isn't really that proxies have been added to the blocklist, but that the music industry and ISPs are failing to disclose which sites are being banned."
coondoggie writes "The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) this week put out a call to fuel producers to offer options that would safely let general aviation aircraft stop using leaded fuel by 2018. The FAA says there are approximately 167,000 aircraft in the United States and a total of 230,000 worldwide that rely on the current 100 octane, low lead fuel for safe operation. It is the only remaining transportation fuel in the United States that contains the addition of tetraethyl lead, a toxic substance, to create the very high octane levels needed for high-performance aircraft engines. Operations with inadequate octane can result in engine failures, the FAA noted."
Nerval's Lobster writes "In an open letter addressed to U.S. attorney general Eric Holder and FBI director Robert Mueller, Google chief legal officer David Drummond again insisted that reports of his company freely offering user data to the NSA and other agencies were untrue. 'However,' he wrote, 'government nondisclosure obligations regarding the number of FISA national security requests that Google receives, as well as the number of accounts covered by those requests, fuel that speculation.' In light of that, Drummond had a request of the two men: 'We therefore ask you to help make it possible for Google to publish in our Transparency Report aggregate numbers of national security requests, including FISA disclosures—in terms of both the number we receive and their scope.' Apparently Google's numbers would show 'that our compliance with these requests falls far short of the claims being made.' Google, Drummond added, 'has nothing to hide.'" Another open letter was sent to Congress from a variety of internet companies and civil liberties groups (headlined by Mozilla, the EFF, the ACLU, and the FSF), asking them to enact legislation to prohibit the kind of surveillance apparently going on at the NSA and to hold accountable the people who implemented it. (A bipartisan group of senators has just come forth with legislation that would end such surveillance.) In addition to the letter, the ACLU sent a lawsuit as well, directed at President Obama, Eric Holder, the NSA, Verizon and the Dept. of Justice (filing, PDF). They've also asked (PDF) for a release of court records relevant to the scandal. Mozilla has also launched Stopwatching.us, a campaign to "demand a full accounting of the extent to which our online data, communications and interactions are being monitored." Other reactions: Tim Berners-Lee is against it, Australia's Foreign Minister doesn't mind it, the European Parliament has denounced it, and John Oliver is hilarious about it (video). Meanwhile, Edward Snowden, the whistleblower who leaked the information about the NSA's surveillance program, is being praised widely as a hero and a patriot. There's already a petition on Whitehouse.gov to pardon him for his involvement, and it's already reached half the required number of signatures for a response from the Obama administration.
davide-nature writes "The mysterious blast that flattened 2,000 square km of a remote Siberian forest in 1908 has been blamed on the most bizarre causes, such as an exotic elementary particle left over from the Big Bang, a black hole or, of course, aliens, including in the double-episode 'Tunguska' of The X-Files. But a new analysis of tiny rock samples suggests that a more mundane explanation — a meteor exploding in the atmosphere — may be the right one. The blast is estimated to have packed between 3 and 5 megatons, 10 times the energy of the meteor that exploded over Russia earlier this year."
Vigile writes "It looks like the rumors were true; AMD is going to be selling an FX-9590 processor this month that will hit frequencies as high as 5 GHz. Though originally thought to be an 8-module/16-core part, it turns out that the new CPU will have the same 4-module/8-core design that is found on the current lineup of FX-series processors including the FX-8350. But, with an increase of the maximum Turbo Core speed from 4.2 GHz to 5.0 GHz, the new parts will draw quite a bit more power. You can expect the the FX-9590 to need 220 watts or so to run at those speeds and a pretty hefty cooling solution as well. Performance should closely match the recently released Intel Core i7-4770K Haswell processor so AMD users that can handle the 2.5x increase in power consumption can finally claim performance parity."
New submitter WML MUNSON sends this quote from NJ.com: "License, registration and cell phone, please. Police officers across New Jersey could be saying that to motorists at the scenes of car crashes if new legislation introduced in the state Senate becomes law. The measure would allow cops — without a warrant — to thumb through a cell phone to determine if a driver was talking or texting when an accident occurred. It requires officers to have 'reasonable grounds' to believe the law was broken. There were 1,840 handheld cell phone-related crashes in New Jersey in 2011, resulting in 807 injuries and six deaths, according to the state Division of Highway Traffic Safety. 'Think about it: The chances of the cop witnessing the accident are slim to none,' said the bill’s sponsor, state Sen. James Holzapfel (R-Ocean), who has worked as a county and municipal prosecutor. 'He’s dispatched, and by the time he gets there — unless they’re unconscious and the phone is in their hands, or some passenger says they were on the phone — then he’s got to do what? Subpoena the service to see if the phone was actively used or not?'"
eldavojohn writes "PBS's NewsHour interviewed Geoffrey Donovan on his recent research published in the American Journal of Preventative Medicine that noted a correlation between trees (at least the 22 North American ash varieties) and human health: 'Well my basic hypothesis was that trees improve people's health. And if that's true, then killing 100 million of them in 10 years should have an effect. So if we take away these 100 million trees, does the health of humans suffer? We found that it does.' The basis of this research is Agrilus planipennis, the emerald ash borer, has systematically destroyed 100 million trees in the eastern half of the United States since 2002. After accounting for all variables, the research found that an additional 15,000 people died from cardiovascular disease and 6,000 more from lower respiratory disease in the 15 states infected with the bug, compared with uninfected areas of the country. While the exact cause and effect remains unknown, this research appears to be reinforcing data for people who regularly enjoy forest bathing as well as providing evidence that the natural environment provides major public health benefits."
This is our second video starring Backyard Brains (Motto: "Neuroscience for Everyone!"). The first one was pretty lab-oriented, with a twitching roach leg here and there. This one has more roaches, with most of them crawling on command. Will the DoD see this and decide to make cockroach soldiers? Or roboroach bomb detectors and defusers? Or cockroach drone pilots? Anything's possible these days. But meanwhile, relax and enjoy learning about roboroaches and watching how, with little circuit boards on their little backs, they scurry hither and yon under control of their human masters. WARNING: Excessively squeamish people should not watch this video, but should stick to the transcript.
dcblogs writes "Hewlett-Packard executives say that the coming demise of Windows XP next year may do what Windows 8 could not, and that's boost PC sales significantly. 'We think this will bring a big opportunity for HP,' said Enrique Lore, senior vice president and general manager of HP's business PCs. Lore was asked, in a later interview, whether the demand for XP replacement systems could help sales more than Windows 8. His response was unequivocal: 'Yes, significantly more, especially on the commercial side,' he said. Lore said 40% to 50% of business users remain on XP systems."
judgecorp writes "The Demo VC funding event has hit Europe (Moscow, specifically), and it is very clear that start-ups in Europe have to compete hard for any venture capital. In its 20 year history in Silicon Valley, Demo is famous for highlighting subsequent success stories such as Netscape, Skype and Salesforce.com. Demo Europe began with a venture capitalist waxing lyrical on how the shortage of funds means he gets plenty of choice where to put his money. Promising tech start-ups have a series of hoops to jump through including brief pitches. The most promising candidates so far include a Russian social VoIP network and a shared whiteboard."
Tackhead writes "E3 is turning into Bizarro World this year. Sony has not only promised that the PS4 will support used games without an online connection, they trolled the Xbox folks hard with this Official PlayStation Used Game Instructional Video. Compounding the silliness, and hot on the heels of the political firestorm surrounding Donglegate, Microsoft went for rape jokes during their Xbox presentation." Similarly, onyxruby writes "The Verge covers how Sony has crafted policies explicitly to make the PS4 consumer friendly to the public. They make the case that the PS4 will be superior in nearly every way [to the Xbox Next] by not requiring an Internet connection, not restricting used games, supporting indie developers and selling for $100 cheaper than the Xbox One." And if you're interested in the guts rather than the policies or the politics, Hot Hardware has a comparison of the internals of both of these new offerings.
twofishy writes "The internet has been buzzing this week with the news that Oracle has ceased to provide free time zone updates outside of the standard JDK release cycle. However, at the end of yesterday the firm appeared to have a change of heart. 'We never intended for a support contract to be required to keep JDK 7 up to date. TZUpdater was made unavailable on March 8 as part of the End of Public Updates for JDK 6, and as soon as we learned that this affected JDK 7 users we initiated the process of making it available for JDK 7 again.'"
colinneagle writes "The first developer preview of Ubuntu Touch – aka 'Ubuntu for Phones and Tablets' – was unveiled just a few short months ago. And, just a few weeks back, it was announced that the team was shooting for having a fully functional (aka "can use it as your actual phone, on a daily basis") version by the end of May. May is now over, so Bryan Lunduke published some screenshots and analysis of the core features of the Ubuntu OS for smartphones and tablets."