Submission + - Finnish Power Distributor Using Customers To Cover Grid Acquisition

jones_supa writes: The outrageous increases in electricity transmission charges (on average +27%) have whipped up controversy in Finland in recent days. Jarkko Eloranta, the president of the Trade Union for Public and Welfare Sectors (JHL), has lashed out at power distribution company Caruna for what he estimates is a horrible arrangement to cover the costs of its recent grid acquisition and siphon its profits out of Finland. An individual customer has no choice but to pay because power grid operators have a natural monopoly in their area of operation. The case of Caruna is made even more outrageous by the fact that the company pays hardly any taxes on its profits to Finland.

Submission + - Xiaomi-backed Chinese firm acquires iconic scooter maker Segway (yahoo.com)

An anonymous reader writes: Chinese transportation robotics firm Ninebot said on Wednesday it has acquired U.S. rival Segway Inc, the company behind the self-balancing scooter that became a technological marvel when it was launched in the early 2000s but whose hype th...

Submission + - Adblock seeks deal with advertising industry players (yahoo.com)

An anonymous reader writes: Adblock, one of the leading online ad blocker, is looking to reach out to advertisers and identify an "acceptable" level and form of advertising on the net.

Submission + - Malware Targets Skype Users, Records Conversations (softpedia.com)

An anonymous reader writes: A new backdoor trojan is making the rounds, coming equipped with features that allow it to steal files, take screengrabs, and record Skype conversations. Currently detected targeting US organizations, researchers linked it to previous malware developed by a Chinese cyber-espionage group called Admin@338. Besides recording Skype conversations, the malware can also steal Office documents, and includes some of the most complicated installation procedure that allows it to avoid antivirus software installed on the machine.

Submission + - NASA is Building a Virtual Mars (unrealengine.com)

An anonymous reader writes: NASA will release a free virtual reality program this year that will simulate exploring the surface of Mars. "Players will be able to walk on the Red Planet as well as drive the Mars Rover..." reads the official announcement at UnrealEngine.com. The Mars 2030 Experience will be available on Oculus Rift, Google Cardboard, and Samsung Gear VR, and will also "expand" to Sony PlayStation VR and HTC Vive, with additional versions for Android and iOS devices, and it will even be streamed on Twitch. NASA plans to reveal more details at this year’s South by Southwest conference in March.

Submission + - North Korea accused of testing an ICBM with missile launch into space (examiner.com)

MarkWhittington writes: Reuters reported that North Korea launched a long-range missile that is said to have placed a satellite into space. The launch happened much to the consternation of North Korea’s neighbors, South Korea and Japan, as well as the United States. Pyongyang claimed that the missile launch was part of that country’s peaceful space program. But, other countries are pretty sure that the launch was a test of an ICBM capable of placing a nuclear weapon on any target in the world, particularly the United States.

Submission + - Elon Musk's next great idea? An electric jet that can take off vertically (bgr.com)

An anonymous reader writes: Elon Musk is changing the world one idea at a time. First, with Tesla, the man so many people call the real life Tony Stark has done an incredible job of bringing electric vehicles to the mainstream. Second, Musk has been doing an impressive job over at SpaceX in the realm of space travel. And third, Musk’s effective rough draft of a high-speed transportation system known as the Hyperloop is being contemplated and conceptualized in a very real way by some extremely smart people.

So where does Musk go from here? Why, Mars of course. Recently, Musk said that he plans to unveil SpaceX’s Mars roadmap next September. But on another front, Musk has also been thinking about developing an electric airplane capable of taking off and landing vertically.

While answering a few questions during a Q&A session at the SpaceX Hyperloop Pod Award Ceremony last week, Musk was asked what his “next great idea” was.

The answer? Electric-powered air travel.

Submission + - Microsoft's Cortana Doesn't Put Up With Sexual Harassment (hothardware.com)

MojoKid writes: Not long after Apple unveiled its Siri personal assistant to the world, it took very little time before people began asking her outrageous questions, sometimes inappropriate or just humorous, if for no other reason than they just could. When creating Cortana, Microsoft was well-aware of what its digital assistant was going to have to deal with, so, believe it or not, it was designed in such a way to handle abuse in a specific manner. According to Microsoft's Deborah Harrison, who is one of eight writers for Cortana, a chunk of the earliest queries were about Cortana's sex life. A specific goal was to make sure Cortana wasn't treated as a subservient. If she's insulted, she doesn't apologize or back down. She handles it with tact, so as to reduce the chance of further abuse.

Submission + - The death of SLS begins

An anonymous reader writes: At House hearings this week, congressmen listened to several space experts who lambasted NASA's asteroid and Mars mission proposals.

Paul Spudis of the Lunar and Planetary Institute and an expert on lunar science, was especially harsh.

"America's civil space program is in disarray, with many aspirations and hopes but few concrete, realizable plans for future missions or strategic direction," he said, adding that NASA lacks what it needs to pull off the mission (and throwing some shade at the agency's strong Twitter game). "We pretend that we are on a '#JourneytoMars' but in fact, possess neither the technology nor the economic resources necessary to undertake a human Mars mission now or within the foreseeable future. What is needed is a logically arranged set of short-term, realizable space goals-a series of objectives and destinations that are not only interesting in and of themselves, but whose attainment build space faring capability in the long term."

The testimony claimed that it could cost anywhere from $500 billion to $1 trillion for NASA to get humans to Mars, numbers that are reasonable based on using NASA's very costly and overpriced SLS/Orion rocket and capsule. The congressmen were of course interested in this, not because they want to get to Mars, but because they see gobs of pork for their districts in these numbers.

However, I expect that when SpaceX begins successfully launching its Falcon Heavy rocket in the next two years while simultaneously putting humans in space with its Dragon capsule, and does both for a tenth the cost of SLS/Orion, those same congressmen will dump SLS/Orion very quickly. Though they want the pork, they also know they don't have $500 billion to $1 trillion to spend on space. The private sector gives them an option that is both affordable and of strong self-interest. The more realistically priced and designed hardware of private companies will give them a more credible opportunity to fund pork in their districts.

Submission + - Thirty Meter Telescope likely never gets built ... in Hawai

An anonymous reader writes: After years of doing everything the state of Hawaii demanded in order to get permission to build the Thirty Meter Telescope, a state judge today ordered that the whole process should start over again.

Since this order was instigated by the protesters, and that it appears the government favors those protesters, it appears that there is no chance TMT will ever get approval to build in Hawaii. Though the university consortium building the telescope says they want to go through the new process to get permission, they are wasting their time. It will never happen. The peasants with the pitchforks and burning torches, terrified of new knowledge while preferring the worship of a mountain, are in control in Hawaii.

Submission + - Meet the soft, cuddly robots of the future (nature.com)

turkeydance writes: From the publication nature:
“Think about how hard it is to tie shoelaces,” says Daniela Rus, director of the Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge. “That's the kind of capability we'd like to have in robotics.”

Submission + - Firefox going to 6-8 week variable release schedule (mozilla.org)

AmiMoJo writes: Four years ago Mozilla moved to a fixed-schedule release model, otherwise known as the Train Model, in which we released Firefox every six weeks to get features and updates to users faster. Now Mozilla is moving to a variable 6-8 week cycle, with the same number of releases per year but some flexibility to "respond to emerging user and market needs" and allow time for holidays.

The new release schedule looks like this:

2016-01-26 – Firefox 44
2016-03-08 – Firefox 45, ESR 45 (6 weeks cycle)
2016-04-19 – Firefox 46 (6 weeks cycle)
2016-06-07 – Firefox 47 (7 weeks cycle)
2016-08-02 – Firefox 48 (8 weeks cycle)
2016-09-13 – Firefox 49 (6 weeks cycle)
2016-11-08 – Firefox 50 (8 weeks cycle)
2016-12-13 – Firefox 50.0.1 (5 week cycle, release for critical fixes as needed)
2017-01-24 – Firefox 51 (6 weeks from prior release)

Submission + - Ask Slashdot: Surge Protection for International Travel?

gaiageek writes: As someone who has lost a laptop power supply (and thus use of the laptop) due to a late-night power surge while traveling in a developing country, I'm acutely aware of the need for surge protection when traveling abroad. While practically all laptop and phone power adapters these days are voltage auto-sensing 100V-240V compatible, most so-called "travel" surge protectors are restricted to either 110V or 220V. Given the space and weight constraints of carry-on only travel, I'd like to avoid having to carry two separate surge protectors knowing I may go from Central America (110V) to Southeast Asia (220V). Strangely, laptop specific surge protectors typically are 100V-240V compatible, but this doesn't provide protection for a phone or tablet that requires the original power supply (can't be charged from a notebook USB port).

Is there really no solution out there short using a 110V-240V notebook surge protector with an adapter to go from a "cloverleaf" notebook plug to a 5-15R (standard US) plug receptacle?

Submission + - Snowden Leaks Cost Pulitzer Winning Journalist W.H. Security Clearance, Job (businessinsider.com)

An anonymous reader writes: Pulitzer prize-winning journalist Ashkan Soltani was recently detailed to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy from a position at the the Federal Trade Commission. Former Google executive and White House chief technology officer Megan Smith extended a warm welcome. His portfolio at the White House included privacy issues, data ethics, and outreach to the technical community, among others. His drug test was complete, and the FBI investigation for his clearance was under way, when the wheels came off. His clearance was denied. Ashkan's move to the White House surprised some when it was announced due to his history. Ashkan had worked at the Washington Post where he helped analyze and safeguard the Snowden NSA document dump. A technologist at the ACLU noted that Ashkan had published many stories that probably irritated US intelligence officials. Government organizations have previously warned government employees to not access classified information made available in the media. Nobody is directly stating this is the reason, but the subtexts seem clear enough. Ashkan intends to leave Washington and head back to the west coast.

Submission + - Drag-and-Drop "CS" Tutorials: The Emperor's New Code?

theodp writes: "Teaching kids computer science is a great movement," writes HS senior David Yue, "however, to overly dilute the magnitude of the difficulty in regards to the subject area of coding and to create the illusion of mastering a 'superpower' (Code.org) is a huge mistake. There are many videos and articles on the Internet these days that have demonstrated positive support towards computer science education. Below these articles, one can find many comments, left mostly by parents and supporters. These people usually express how proud they are that their children have an opportunity to learn computer science or how proud they are that computer science is being integrated at a more substantial level into the education system." But Drag and Drop Doesn't = Coding, argues Yue. "Parents and teachers today who aren’t technical need to be aware that the drag and drop code or the candy-coated learning process does not effectively teach children programming but eventually causes a huge amount of shock once they are immersed in real code." Yue's Emperor's-New-Code warning comes days before President Obama — a graduate of Code.org's drag-and-drop Disney Princess coding tutorial — asks Congress for $4-billion-and-change in the upcoming budget to fund his "Computer Science for All" K-12 initiative.

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