SpaceX and NASA have reached an agreement (though negotiations on the details are ongoing) for the private space company to lease NASA's launch pad 39A. SpaceX rival Blue Origin had also sought the launch pad for its own use. From the article: "During the selection process, Blue Origin had filed a petition to the Government Accountability Office (GAO). The spaceflight company was claiming that NASA was favoring single-use of the launch pad which was designed as a multi-user facility. ... The GAO decided on Thursday that the petition has no basis, which prompted NASA to proceed with its decision process. The next day, the space agency informed both companies that it is granting the exclusive lease to SpaceX."
Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive
jones_supa writes "SteamOS has been further inspected to see what kind of technical solutions it uses. The Debian-based OS uses Linux 3.10, shipping with a heap of patches applied, with the most focus being on real-time-like features. The kernel is also using aufs and they seem to be sitting on some bug fixes for upstream on top of that. The kernel is not using the new Intel P-State driver, with the reported reason being, 'it causes issues with sound being choppy during BigPicture trailer video playback.' SteamOS is using SysVinit as its init system. The desktop is backed by X.Org server 1.12.4 and a custom desktop compositor which seems to be a 4,200-line patch on xcompmgr. Catalyst and Mesa components can be found on the system, but so far only NVIDIA is officially supported. The system boots into Big Picture Mode, but the user can drop into a GNOME desktop. Responsible for a great deal of the kernel changes, SteamOS compositor work, and other SteamOS code is Pierre-Loup A. Griffais, a.k.a. 'Plagman'. He was a NVIDIA employee dealing with their Linux support. Another Valve employee doing lots of the SteamOS system-level work is John Vert, who up until last year was a Microsoft employee since 1991. There's also other former Microsoft employees on Valve's Linux team, like Mike Sartain."
An anonymous reader writes "Indiana state police acknowledge use of cell phone tracking device 'Stingray', tricking all cellphones in a set distance into connecting to it as if it were a real cellphone tower. A joint USA Today and IndyStar investigation found earlier this month that the state police spent $373,995 on a device called a Stingray. Often installed in a surveillance vehicle, the suitcase-size Stingrays trick all cellphones in a set distance ('sometimes exceeding a mile, depending on the terrain and antennas') into connecting to it as if it were a real cellphone tower. That allows police agencies to capture location data and numbers dialed for calls and text messages from thousands of people at a time."
Ars Technica reports that after journalists gained access to a database readout showing a sample of the data gathered by the 14 registration plate scanners that had been in use by the Boston police and analyzed some of that data with embarrassing results, the police force has announced it will suspend use of the scanners indefinitely. Among other things, the data dump (which was not quite as thoroughly scrubbed as the police department had intended it to be) showed that a stolen motorcycle was detected by the cameras 59 times and red-flagged, but evidently no action was taken to recover it.
mikejuk writes "Google's Dart just reached version 1.0, but now it seems that it has aspirations to being an international standard. The question is will this make any difference to the language's future? Given that Google effectively owns Dart, what advantage does standardization bring? The answer to what Google thinks it brings is indicated in the Chromium blog: 'The new standardization process is an important step towards a future where Dart runs natively in web browsers.' and this seems reasonable. A standard is something that would be required before other browser makers decided to fall in line and support native Dart. It is probably a necessary but far from sufficient condition, however, with Microsoft, Apple and Mozilla having other interests to further. Last but not least, having the backing of a standard might just encourage possible users to believe that the language won't sink if Google gets distracted with other projects and decides that Dart is dispensable. However, a strong open source development community capable of supporting Dart without Google's input would be a better reassurance. If you want to help, Google would like you to join the committee. After all, it still doesn't have a Vice Chair. So can we expect to see ECMA CoffeeScript or TypeScript in the near future? Probably not."
Nerval's Lobster writes "Computer scientists at Harvard University have come up with a way to convert algorithms that teach machines to learn into a form that would allow artificial intelligence to be programmed into complex chemical reactions. The ultimate result could be smart drugs programmed to react differently depending on which of several probable situations they might encounter – without the need to use nano-scale electronics to carry the instructions. 'This kind of chemical-based AI will be necessary for constructing therapies that sense and adapt to their environment,' according to Ryan P. Adams, assistant professor of computer science at Harvard's School of Engineering and Applied Sciences (SEAS), who co-wrote the paper explaining the technique (PDF). 'The hope is to eventually have drugs that can specialize themselves to your personal chemistry and can diagnose or treat a range of pathologies.' The techniques are part of a larger effort to program the behavior of molecules in manufacturing, decision-making and diagnostics, using both nano-scale electronics and the still-relatively-new study of bionanotechnology."
Jah-Wren Ryel writes "IBM Corp has been sued by the Louisiana Sheriffs' Pension & Relief Fund which accused it of concealing how its ties to what became a major U.S. spying scandal reduced business in China and ultimately caused its market value to plunge more than $12 billion." While anyone can file a lawsuit, being sued by an institutional investor is a little different than being sued by John Q. Disgruntled.
China's Chang'e 3 moon probe made its intended landing earlier today, setting down softly in the moon's Sinus Iridum, as reported by Reuters. From the article: "The Chang'e 3, a probe named after a lunar goddess in traditional Chinese mythology, is carrying the solar-powered Yutu, or Jade Rabbit buggy, which will dig and conduct geological surveys. ... China Central Television (CCTV) broadcast images of the probe's location on Saturday and a computer generated image of the probe on the surface of the moon on its website. The probe and the rover are expected to photograph each other tomorrow. ... The Bay of Rainbows was selected because it has yet to be studied, has ample sunlight and is convenient for remote communications with Earth, Xinhua said. The rover will be remotely controlled by Chinese control centers with support from a network of tracking and transmission stations around the world operated by the European Space Agency (ESA)."
Daniel_Stuckey writes "Earlier this year, it was London. Most recently, it was a university in Germany. Wherever it is, [artist Aram] Bartholl is opening up his eight white, plainly printed binders full of the 4.7 million user passwords that were pilfered from the social network and made public by a hacker last year. He brings the books to his exhibits, called 'Forgot Your Password,' where you're free to see if he's got your data—and whether anyone else who wanders through is entirely capable of logging onto your account and making Connections with unsavory people. In fact, Bartholl insists: "These eight volumes contain 4.7 million LinkedIn clear text user passwords printed in alphabetical order," the description of his project reads. "Visitors are invited to look up their own password.""
FooAtWFU writes "Some clowns and jokers over at 4chan thought it would be a funny idea to put together a web page for a programming language named 'C Plus Equality' as a parody of feminism, dismissing OOP as 'objectifying' and inheritance as "a tool of the patriarchy". But this parody was apparently too hot to host at Github, which took down the original Github repository after receiving criticism on Twitter, prompting a backlash and inquiry into the role of free speech and censorship on Github's platform. The project has since found a new home on BitBucket, at least for the time being." Comments on an article describing the research which sparked the parody call the parody's language "fake," and compare it to the 1996 Sokal affair. (It also reminds me a bit of Jesux.)
An anonymous reader writes "'Snooping on the Internet is tricky. The network is diffuse, global, and packed with potential targets. There's no central system for identifying or locating individuals, so it's hard to keep track of who is online and what they're up to. What's a spy agency to do?' In a Slate op-ed, Ed Felten explains how consumer tracking makes the NSA's job much easier. Felten was the first-ever Chief Technologist at the Federal Trade Commission, serving as the agency's lead technical expert on privacy issues. Now back in academia, he argues that the NSA gets a 'free ride on the private sector,' from distinguishing users, to pinpointing geolocation, to slurping up network traffic."
First time accepted submitter totally_mad writes "The New York Times reports that Google has acquired Boston Dynamics, a company that is primarily a concept robot maker for the military. The robot wars appear to be heating up between the big corporations, with Amazon recently announcing plans to have 30-minute home deliveries using drones. Perhaps Boston Dynamics', or now Google's, Cheetah will outrun the drone!"
jones_supa writes "The most widely used cellphone encryption cipher A5/1 can be easily defeated by the National Security Agency, an internal document shows. This gives the agency the means to intercept most of the billions of calls and texts that travel over radiowaves every day, even when the agency would not have the encryption key. Encryption experts have long known the cipher to be weak and have urged providers to upgrade to newer systems. Consequently it is also suggested that other nations likely have the same cracking capability through their own intelligence services. The vulnerability outlined in the NSA document concerns encryption developed in the 1980s but still used widely by cellphones that rely on 2G GSM. It is unclear if the agency may also be able to decode newer forms of encryption, such as those covered under CDMA."
savuporo writes "The Chinese Chang'e-3 probe will be landing on the moon [Saturday], 13:40 UTC. CCTV is likely to carry the event live as they did for initial launch. According to technical overview of the mission scenario and instruments, the landing will be fully autonomous with active landing hazard avoidance, which is the first time this has been attempted on any planetary landing. More real-time updates can be found on Twitter with ChangE3 hash tag and NASASpaceFlight forums live event section."
New submitter Kenseilon writes "Extremetech reports that the recent price hike of Litecoins has triggered yet another arms race for the *coinminers out there, leading to a shortage of AMD graphics cards. While Bitcoin mining is quickly becoming unfeasible for GPU rigs with general purpose graphics cards, there are several alternative currencies with opportunities. The primary candidate is now Litecoin, which has the aim of 'being silver if Bitcoin is gold' Swedish Tech site Sweclockers also reports [in Swedish] that GPU manufacturer Club3D have told them that miners are becoming a new important group of potential customers. However, concerns are being raised that this is a temporary boom that may hurt AMD in the long run, since gamers, their core consumer group, may not be able to acquire the cards and instead opt for Nvidia."