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Government

Scientists Who Smuggle Radioactive Materials 66

Posted by Soulskill
from the probably-more-ethical-than-most-ways-they-can-get-funding dept.
Lasrick writes: Although the complicity of scientists in the smuggling of radioactive materials has been a long-standing concern, smuggling-prevention efforts have so far failed to recognize a key aspect to the problem: scientists are often sought out to test the quality and level of the material well before it is taken to the black market. Egle Murauskaite of the U.S. National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) describes why concentrating on this aspect of the smuggling process, long considered less egregious than the actual selling of the material, could really make a difference in keeping radioactive materials off the black market in the first place.
Media

Xbox One Will Play Media from USB Devices, DLNA Servers 112

Posted by Soulskill
from the revolution-will-not-be-streamed dept.
New submitter Mauro sends word that Microsoft has announced upcoming Xbox One support for streaming media both from attached USB devices, such as flash drives, and DLNA media servers. Compatibility with a broad list of media formats will be added by the end of the year, including .MKV files. They also followed up last week's announcement of a digital TV tuner with an interesting twist: it will be able to stream broadcasts over a local network to devices running the Smartglass app, which is available on Windows, Android, and iOS.
AI

New Watson-Style AI Called Viv Seeks To Be the First 'Global Brain' 161

Posted by Soulskill
from the siri-why-does-my-cat-throw-up-so-much? dept.
paysonwelch sends this report from Wired on the next generation of consumer AI: Google Now has a huge knowledge graph—you can ask questions like "Where was Abraham Lincoln born?" And it can name the city. You can also say, "What is the population?" of a city and it’ll bring up a chart and answer. But you cannot say, "What is the population of the city where Abraham Lincoln was born?" The system may have the data for both these components, but it has no ability to put them together, either to answer a query or to make a smart suggestion. Like Siri, it can’t do anything that coders haven’t explicitly programmed it to do. Viv breaks through those constraints by generating its own code on the fly, no programmers required. Take a complicated command like "Give me a flight to Dallas with a seat that Shaq could fit in." Viv will parse the sentence and then it will perform its best trick: automatically generating a quick, efficient program to link third-party sources of information together—say, Kayak, SeatGuru, and the NBA media guide—so it can identify available flights with lots of legroom.
Government

Getting IT Talent In Government Will Take Culture Change, Says Google Engineer 166

Posted by Soulskill
from the optimizing-for-the-wrong-thing dept.
dcblogs writes: Mikey Dickerson, a site reliability engineer at Google, who was appointed Monday by the White House as the deputy federal CIO, will lead efforts to improve U.S. Websites. Dickerson, who worked on the Healthcare.gov rescue last year, said that one issue the government needs to fix is its culture. In describing his experience on the Healthcare.gov effort, he said the workplace was "not one that is optimized to get good work out of engineers." It was a shirt-and-tie environment, and while Dickerson said cultural issues may sound superficial, they are still real. "You don't have to think that the engineers are the creative snowflakes and rock stars that they think they are, you don't have to agree with any of that," Dickerson said in a recent conference presentation posted online. "I'm just telling you that's how they think of themselves, and if you want access to more of them, finding a way to deal with that helps a lot." Engineers want to make a difference, Dickerson said, and he has collected the names of more than 140 engineers who would be willing to take unpaid leave from their jobs to work on a meaningful project.
Cellphones

Reversible Type-C USB Connector Ready For Production 191

Posted by Soulskill
from the it's-never-the-facing-the-right-way-on-the-first-try dept.
orasio writes: One of the most frustrating first-world problems ever (trying to connect an upside-down Micro-USB connector) could disappear soon. The Type-C connector for USB has been declared ready for production by the USB Promoter Group (PDF). "With the Type-C spec finalized, it now comes down to the USB-IF to actually implement the sockets, plugs, cables, adapters, and devices. The problem is that there are billions of existing USB devices and cables that will need adapters and new cables to work with new Type-C devices. It’s a lot like when Apple released the Lightning connector, but on an even grander scale. Further exacerbating the issue is the fact that China, the EU, and the GSMA have all agreed that new mobile devices use Micro-USB for charging — though it might be as simple as including a Micro-USB-to-Type-C adapter with every new smartphone."
Math

Maryam Mirzakhani Is the First Woman Fields Medalist 75

Posted by Soulskill
from the first-of-many dept.
An anonymous reader sends news that the 2014 Fields Medals have been awarded for outstanding work in the field of mathematics. The winners are Artur Avila, Manjul Bhargava, Martin Hairer, and Maryam Mirzakhani. Quanta Magazine writes, Mirzakhani is the first woman to win a Fields Medal. The gender imbalance in mathematics is long-standing and pervasive, and the Fields Medal, in particular, is ill-suited to the career arcs of many female mathematicians. It is restricted to mathematicians younger than 40, focusing on the very years during which many women dial back their careers to raise children. Mirzakhani feels certain, however, that there will be many more female Fields medalists in the future. "There are really many great female mathematicians doing great things," she said. Quanta has profiles of the other winners as well (Avila, Bhargava, Hairer), and of Rolf Nevanlinna Prize winner Subhash Khot.
Communications

Gmail Now Rejects Emails With Misleading Combinations of Unicode Characters 79

Posted by Soulskill
from the we-look-forward-to-being-caught-in-your-new-web dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Google today announced it is implementing a new effort to thwart spammers and scammers: the open standard known as Unicode Consortium's "Highly Restricted" specification. In short, Gmail now rejects emails from domains that use what the Unicode community has identified as potentially misleading combinations of letters. The news today follows Google's announcement last week that Gmail has gained support for accented and non-Latin characters. The company is clearly okay with international domains, as long as they aren't abused to trick its users.
Security

Study: Firmware Plagued By Poor Encryption and Backdoors 141

Posted by Soulskill
from the how-the-sausage-is-made dept.
itwbennett writes: The first large-scale analysis of firmware has revealed poor security practices that could present opportunities for hackers probing the Internet of Things. Researchers with Eurecom, a technology-focused graduate school in France, developed a web crawler that plucked more than 30,000 firmware images from the websites of manufacturers including Siemens, Xerox, Bosch, Philips, D-Link, Samsung, LG and Belkin. In one instance, the researchers found a Linux kernel that was 10 years out of date bundled in a recently released firmware image. They also uncovered 41 digital certificates in firmware that were self-signed and contained a private RSA encryption key and 326 instances of terms that could indicate the presence of a backdoor.
Input Devices

Type 225 Words per Minute with a Stenographic Keyboard (Video) 109

Posted by Roblimo
from the you-can-type-faster-if-you-use-more-than-one-finger-at-a-time dept.
Joshua Lifton says you can learn to type at 225 words per minute with his Stenosaurus, an open source stenography keyboard that has a not-there-yet website with nothing but the words, "Stenography is about to evolve," on it as of this writing. If you've heard of Joshua it's probably because he's part of the team behind Crowd Supply, which claims, "Our projects raise an average of $43,600, over twice as much as Kickstarter." A brave boast, but there's plenty of brainpower behind the company. Joshua, himself. has a PhD from MIT, which according to his company bio means, "he's devoted a significant amount of his time learning how to make things that blink." But the steno machine is his own project, independent of Crowd Supply.

Stenotype machines are usually most visible when court reporters are using them. They've been around since the 1800s, when their output was holes in paper tape. Today's versions are essentially chorded keyboards that act as computer input devices. (Douglas Engelbart famously showed off a chorded keyboard during his 1968 Mother of All Demos.) Today you have The Open Steno Project, and Stenosaurus is a member. And while Joshua's project may not have an actual website quite yet, it has an active blog. And the 225 WPM claim? Totally possible. The world record for English language stenography is 360 WPM. And you thought the Dvorak Keyboard was fast. Hah! (Alternate Video Link)
Intel

Errata Prompts Intel To Disable TSX In Haswell, Early Broadwell CPUs 131

Posted by Soulskill
from the somebody-is-getting-fired dept.
Dr. Damage writes: The TSX instructions built into Intel's Haswell CPU cores haven't become widely used by everyday software just yet, but they promise to make certain types of multithreaded applications run much faster than they can today. Some of the savviest software developers are likely building TSX-enabled software right about now. Unfortunately, that work may have to come to a halt, thanks to a bug—or "errata," as Intel prefers to call them—in Haswell's TSX implementation that can cause critical software failures. To work around the problem, Intel will disable TSX via microcode in its current CPUs — and in early Broadwell processors, as well.
Space

3 Congressmen Trying To Tie Up SpaceX 393

Posted by Soulskill
from the can't-you-go-back-to-not-passing-legislation dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Phil Plait reports that a trio of U.S. Congressmen are asking NASA to investigate what they call "an epidemic of anomalies" at SpaceX. They sent a memo (PDF) demanding that SpaceX be held accountable to taxpayers for mission delays stemming from the development of new rockets. Plait notes, "[A]s a contractor, the rules are different for them than they would be if NASA themselves built the rockets, just as the rules are for Boeing or any other contractor. In fact, as reported by Space News, NASA didn't actually pay for the development of the Falcon 9; Elon Musk did." He adds, "Another reason this is silly is that every rocket ever made has undergone problems; they are fiendishly complex machines and no design has ever gotten from the drafting board to the launch pad without issues. Sure, SpaceX has experienced launch delays and other problems, but the critical thing to remember is that those problems are noted, assessed, and fixed sometimes within hours or minutes." Plait accuses the congressmen of trying to bury private spaceflight under red tape in order to protect established industries in their own states.
Businesses

Larry Rosen: A Case Study In Understanding (and Enforcing) the GPL 191

Posted by timothy
from the he-actually-wrote-the-book dept.
lrosen (attorney Lawrence Rosen) writes with a response to an article that appeared on Opensource.com late last month, detailing a court case that arose between Versata Software and Ameriprise Financial Services; part of the resulting dispute hinges on Versata's use of GPL'd software (parsing utility VTD-X, from Ximpleware), though without acknowledging the license. According to the article's author, attorney Aaron Williamson (former staff attorney for the Software Freedom Law Center), "Lawyers for commercial software vendors have feared a claim like this for essentially the entire 20-odd-year lifetime of the GPL: a vendor incorporates some GPL-licensed code into a product—maybe naively, maybe willfully—and could be compelled to freely license the entire product as a result. The documents filed by Amerprise in the case reflect this fearful atmosphere, adopting the classically fear-mongering characterization of the GPL as a 'viral' license that 'infects' its host and 'requires it to become open source, too.'" Rosen writes: I want to acknowledge Aaron's main points: This lawsuit challenges certain assumptions about GPLv2 licensing, and it also emphasizes the effects of patents on the FOSS (and commercial) software ecosystem. I also want to acknowledge that I have been consulted as an expert by the plaintiff in this litigation (Ximpleware vs. Versata, et al.) and so some of what I say below they may also say in court. Read on for the rest (and Williamson's article, too, for a better understanding of this reaction to it). An important take-away: it's not just the license that matters.
The Almighty Buck

Sniffing Out Billions In US Currency Smuggled Across the Border To Mexico 158

Posted by timothy
from the don't-steal-the-government-hates-competition dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Criminals smuggle an estimated $30 billion in U.S. currency into Mexico each year from the United States, most of it laundered drug money. But researchers say help is on the way for border guards in the form of a portable device that identifies specific vapors given off by U.S. paper money. "We're developing a device that mimics the function of trained dogs 'sniffing' out concealed money, but without the drawbacks, such as expensive training, sophisticated operators, down time and communication limitations," says Suiqiong Li, Ph.D., a member of the research team behind the technology. When developing the device, the researchers first had to figure out which gases money emits and how fast that happens. It turned out that the gases are a set of trace chemicals, including aldehydes, furans and organic acids." What do bitcoins smell like?
Security

Ask Slashdot: Why Are Online Job Applications So Badly Designed? 278

Posted by timothy
from the no-one-asked-jakob-nielsen dept.
First time accepted submitter GreyViking (3606993) writes Over the past few years, I've witnessed a variety of my intelligent but largely non-technical nearest-and-dearest struggling to complete online job applications. The majority of these online forms are multiple screens long, and because they're invariably HTTPS, they'll time out after a finite time which isn't always made known to the user. Some sites actively disable back/forward buttons but many don't, and text that's sometime taken a lot of effort to compile, cut and paste can be lost. And did I mention text input boxes that are too small? Sometimes it seems that the biggest obstacle to getting a job can be being able to conquer the online application, and really, there has to be a better way: but what is it?
Wikipedia

Wikipedia Gets Critical Reception from UK Press at Wikimania 2014 113

Posted by timothy
from the wikipedia-has-the-right-to-forget-you dept.
metasonix (650947) writes On Sunday the 2014 Wikimania conference in London closed. Wikimania is the major annual event for Wikipedia editors, insiders and WMF employees to meet face-to-face, give presentations and submit papers. Usually they are full of "Wiki-Love" and good feelings; but this year, as the Wikipediocracy blog summarized, Wikipedia and its "god-king" Jimmy Wales came under considerable fire from the UK media — a very unusual occurrence. And much of it was direct criticism of Wales himself, including a very hostile interview by BBC journalist James O'Brien, who had been repeatedly defamed in his Wikipedia biography by persons unknown.

Do not underestimate the value of print statements for debugging.

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