Taco Cowboy writes "'NASA is calling off attempts to find its Deep Impact comet probe after a suspected software glitch shut down radio communications in August, officials said on Friday.' Last month, engineers lost contact with Deep Impact and unsuccessfully tried to regain communications. The cause of the failure was unknown, but NASA suspects the spacecraft lost control, causing its antenna and solar panels to be pointed in the wrong direction. NASA had hoped Deep Impact would play a key role in observations of the approaching Comet ISON, a suspected first-time visitor to the inner solar system that was discovered in September 2012 by two Russian astronomers. The comet is heading toward a close encounter with the sun in November, a brush that it may not survive." Deep Impact has had a pretty good run, though: from its original mission to launch a copper slug at a comet (hence the name), to looking for Earth-sized planets.
Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive
markjhood2003 writes "According to a story published in USA Today, an anonymous source at Google familiar with the plan has revealed that Google is developing an anonymous identifier for advertising tracking, replacing the function of third party cookies currently used by most major advertisers. The new AdID supposedly gives consumers more privacy and control over their web browsing, but the ad industry is worried about putting more power in the hands of large technology companies. Sounds like the idea could have some promise, but at this point the proposal is not public so we will probably have to wait until Google reaches out to the industry, government and consumers to provide the details."
reifman writes "In an unusual move, Amazon abruptly pulled the plug on its $100,000 Civic Apps contest for AWS, redirecting contestants to the AWS government site. All entrants through October 15th were to receive a $50 AWS credit. Amazon AWS PR says they, '...accidentally pushed this out early, but please stay tuned for more information on this program later this year.' The contest site, rules (pdf) and FAQ (pdf) of the apparently still upcoming contest can be read from the google cache. Contest prize winners would have had to 'spend' their AWS credits by December 2014."
Freshly Exhumed sends in a story about how close the United States came to accidentally attacking itself with nuclear weapons just a few days after John F. Kennedy took office. "A secret document, published in declassified form for the first time by the Guardian today, reveals that the U.S. Air Force came dramatically close to detonating an atom bomb over North Carolina that would have been 260 times more powerful than the device that devastated Hiroshima. The document, obtained by the investigative journalist Eric Schlosser under the Freedom of Information Act, gives the first conclusive evidence that the US was narrowly spared a disaster of monumental proportions when two Mark 39 hydrogen bombs were accidentally dropped over Goldsboro, North Carolina on 23 January 1961. The bombs fell to earth after a B-52 bomber broke up in mid-air, and one of the devices behaved precisely as a nuclear weapon was designed to behave in warfare: its parachute opened, its trigger mechanisms engaged, and only one low-voltage switch prevented untold carnage."
An anonymous reader writes "Today BlackBerry announced that it expects its quarterly net operating losses to be somewhere between $950 million and $995 million. It also confirmed earlier reports that it would be cutting 4,500 jobs, roughly 40% of its total workforce. 'The loss is mainly the result of a write-off of unsold BlackBerry phones, as well as $72 million in restructuring charges. The company said that it would discontinue two of the six phones it currently offers.' According to the press release, BlackBerry is going to 'refocus on enterprise and prosumer market.' 'The failure of the BlackBerry 10 line of phones quickly led to speculation that the company, like Palm before it, would be broken apart and perhaps gradually disappear, at best lingering as little more than a brand name.'"
llebeel writes "Lucasfilm is currently prototyping the combining of video game engines with film-making to eliminate the post-production process in movies. 'Speaking at the Technology Strategy Board event at BAFTA in London this week, the company's chief technology strategy officer, Kim Libreri, announced that the developments in computer graphics have meant Lucasfilm has been able to transfer its techniques to film-making, shifting video game assets into movie production. Real-time motion capture and the graphics of video game engines, Libreri claimed, will increasingly be used in movie creation, allowing post-production effects to be overlayed in real time. "We think that computer graphics are going to be so realistic in real time computer graphics that, over the next decade, we'll start to be able to take the post out of post-production; where you'll leave a movie set and the shot is pretty much complete," Libreri said.'"
debingjos writes "Management at my company seems to think that our developers can get extra work done if they work extra long days. However, as one of the devs in question, I don't agree. When I've been coding for eight hours, my pool of concentration is exhausted. Working overtime either fails to produce any extra code, or the quality of the code is very bad. What is the community's opinion on this? This can be broken out further into several questions: What are the maximum number of hours you can work in a day/week and still be reasonably productive? When you absolutely must work beyond that limit, what steps do you take to minimize degradation of quality? If you're able to structure your time differently from the typical 9-5 schedule, what method works best for you? Finally, how do you communicate the quality problems to management?"
Presto Vivace sends in this story at Slate: "If you are reading this on a smartphone, then you are probably holding in your palm the conflict minerals that have sent the biggest manufacturing trade group in the U.S. into a court battle with the Securities and Exchange Commission. At stake in this battle between the National Association of Manufacturers and the government is whether consumers will know the potentially blood-soaked origins of the products they use every day and who gets to craft rules for multinational corporations—Congress or the business itself. ... These minerals are tantalum (used in cellphones, DVD players, laptops, hard drives, and gaming devices), tungsten, tin, and gold, if they are mined in the Democratic Republic of Congo and surrounding countries including Rwanda, where the mineral trade has fueled bloody conflicts. The rule requiring disclosure of conflict minerals will go into effect in 2014. Congress included it in Dodd-Frank out of concern for what is known as the “resource curse”—the phenomenon wherein poor counties with the greatest natural resources end up with the most corrupt and repressive governments. The money earned from selling the natural resources props up these harsh regimes and funds violence against their citizens and neighbors."
rDouglass writes "The Open Goldberg Variations team has launched a new project to make an open source, public domain version of J.S. Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier. The work is significant because of its enormous influence on musicians and composers throughout history. A new studio recording, a new digital MuseScore score (with support for MusicXML and MIDI), as well as all source materials (multitrack WAV, lossless FLAC) will be provided as libre and gratis downloads. New to the project are publisher GRIN Verlag, as well as record label PARMA Recordings. GRIN and PARMA will produce and distribute the physical score and double CD, even though the digital versions are to be widely available and in the public domain. Their enthusiasm for the project runs counter to the general publishing and music industry's fear of digital file sharing, and shows growing momentum for finding new models to make free music commercially sustainable."
Lasrick writes "Princeton's Mark Gubrud has an excellent piece on the United States killer robot policy. In 2012, without much fanfare, the U.S. announced the world's first openly declared national policy for killer robots. That policy has been widely misperceived as one of caution, according to Gubrud: 'A careful reading of the directive finds that it lists some broad and imprecise criteria and requires senior officials to certify that these criteria have been met if systems are intended to target and kill people by machine decision alone. But it fully supports developing, testing, and using the technology, without delay. Far from applying the brakes, the policy in effect overrides longstanding resistance within the military, establishes a framework for managing legal, ethical, and technical concerns, and signals to developers and vendors that the Pentagon is serious about autonomous weapons.'"
Lucas123 writes "With scanners able turn objects into printable files and peer-to-peer file sharing sites able to distribute product schematics, 3D printing could make intellectual property laws impossible or impractical to enforce. At the Inside 3D Printing Conference in San Jose this week, industry experts compared the rise of 3D printing to digital music and Napster. Private equity consultant Peer Munck noted that once users start sharing CAD files with product designs, manufacturers may be forced to find legal and legislative avenues to prevent infringement. But, he also pointed out that it's nearly impossible to keep consumers from printing whatever they want in the privacy of their homes. IP attorney John Hornick said, 'Everything will change when you can make anything. Future sales may be of designs and not products.'"
An anonymous reader writes "Last year, sci-fi author Neal Stephenson and a team of game developers set out to make video game swordfighting awesome. They set up a Kickstarter campaign to fund the creation of hardware and software tech that would make replace console controllers with something more realistic. Now, production on that tech and the game in which they showcase it has been halted. In an update on the Kickstarter page, Stephenson explains how they've sought other investments without success. The project is 'on pause,' and the team asks for patience. He says, 'The overall climate in the industry has become risk-averse to a degree that is difficult to appreciate until you've seen it. It is especially bemusing to CLANG team members who, by cheerfully foregoing other opportunities so that they could associate themselves with a startup in the swordfighting space, have already shown an attitude to career, financial, and reputational risk normally associated with the cast members of Jackass. To a game publisher crouched in a fetal position under a blanket, CLANG seems extra worrisome because it is coupled to a new hardware controller.'"
Rambo Tribble writes "As detailed by Ars Technica, Intel has introduced the Minnowboard, an SBC touted as more powerful and more open than the Raspberry Pi. At $199, it is also more expensive. Using an Atom processor, the new SBC boasts more capacity and x86-compatibility. 'It's notable that the MinnowBoard is an open hardware platform, a distinction that Arduino and BeagleBone can claim but Raspberry Pi cannot. Users could create their own MinnowBoards by buying the items on the bill of materials—all the design information is published, and CircuitCo chose components that can be purchased individually rather than in the bulk quantities hardware manufacturers are accustomed to, Anders said. Users can also buy a pre-made MinnowBoard and make customizations or create their own accessory boards to expand its capability. And being an open hardware platform means that the source code of (almost) all the software required to run the platform is open.'" Update: 09/20 22:31 GMT by T : Look soon for a video introduction to the MinnowBoard, and — hopefully not too long from now — a visit to their Dallas-area production facility.
Nerval's Lobster writes "During an executive Q&A at Microsoft's Financial Analyst Meeting on Sept. 19 (video), outgoing CEO Steve Ballmer admitted that Windows Phone had a minuscule share of the smartphone market, and expressed regret over his company's inability to capitalize on burgeoning interest in mobile devices. 'I regret that there was a period in the early 2000s when we were so focused on what we had to do around Windows that we weren't able to redeploy talent to the new device called the phone,' Ballmer told the audience of Wall Street analysts and investors. 'That is the thing I regret the most.' Back in 2007, Ballmer famously denigrated the first-generation iPhone as an expensive toy that would fail to gain significant market share. He was forced to eat his words after the iPhone became a bestseller and ignited a huge market for touch-screen smartphones. Google subsequently plunged into that smartphone arena with Android, which was soon adopted by a variety of hardware manufacturers. While the iPhone (running iOS) and Android carved up the new market between them, Microsoft tried to come up with its own mobile strategy. The result was Windows Phone, which (despite considerable investment on Microsoft's part) continues to lag well behind Android and iOS in the smartphone wars. Even as he focused on discussing Microsoft's financials, Ballmer also couldn't resist taking some swipes at Google, suggesting that the search-engine giant's practices are 'worthy of discussion with competition authority.' Given Microsoft's own rocky history with federal regulators, that's sort of like the pot calling the kettle black; but Ballmer's statement also hints at how, in this new tech environment, Microsoft is very much the underdog when it comes to some of the most popular and lucrative product segments."
An anonymous reader writes "Wired profiles a homeless man who's supporting himself primarily through Bitcoin. Jesse Angle, a former network engineer, earns small amounts throughout the day by visiting various websites that pay him to look at ads. He then converts it to gift certificates and uses the certificates to buy food. '"It's a lot less embarrassing," he says. "You don't have to put yourself out there." And unlike panhandling in Pensacola, using an app like Bitcoin Tapper won't put him on the wrong side of the law. This past May, Pensacola — where Angle has lived since April — passed an ordinance that bans not only panhandling but camping on city property.' Angle learned about Bitcoin from a charity organization called Sean's Outpost that wanted something better than PayPal for accepting donations over the internet. The organization has even opened an outreach center paid for solely with Bitcoins. Founder Jason King said, 'Bitcoin beats the s#!% out of regular money, We've resonated so well with people because it's direct action. There's no chaff between donation and helping people.'"