Android

Google Can't Ignore the Android Update Problem Any Longer 8

Posted by Soulskill
from the i-bet-they-can dept.
An anonymous reader writes: An editorial at Tom's Hardware makes the case that Google's Android fragmentation problem has gotten too big to ignore any longer. Android 5.0 Lollipop and its successor 5.1 have seen very low adoption rates — 9.0% and 0.7% respectively. Almost 40% of users are still on KitKat. 6% lag far behind on Gingerbread and Froyo. The article points out that even Microsoft is now making efforts to both streamline Windows upgrades and adapt Android (and iOS) apps to run on Windows.

If Google doesn't adapt, "it risks having users (slowly but surely) switch to more secure platforms that do give them updates in a timely manner. And if users want those platforms, OEMs will have no choice but to switch to them too, leaving Google with less and less Android adoption." The author also says OEMs and carriers can no longer be trusted to handle operating system updates, because they've proven themselves quite incapable of doing so in a reasonable manner.
Classic Games (Games)

GOG Announces Open Beta For New Game Distribution Platform 21

Posted by Soulskill
from the taking-advantage-of-valve's-stumble dept.
New submitter Donaithnen writes: Like many geeks, I'm against the idea of DRM in general and have championed GOG.com's DRM-free approach to selling games online. Yet like many geeks, I've also often succumbed to the temptation of Steam because of the convenience of tracking, installing, and playing my PC game purchases through the launcher (not to mention the compulsion of collecting achievements, and watching the total playtime for my favorite games (to my occasional dismay). Now, GOG has announced the open beta for GOG Galaxy, an entirely optional launcher to allow those who want (and only those who want) to have all the same features when playing GOG games.
Intel

Intel Launches Xeon E7-8800 and E7-4800 V3 Processor Families 19

Posted by Soulskill
from the xeonward-and-upward dept.
MojoKid writes: Intel is taking the wraps off of its latest processors for enterprise server and pro workstation applications today, dubbed the Xeon E7-8800 / 4800 v3. Like its high-end desktop processors, the Xeon E7-8800 / 4800 v3 product families are based on the Haswell-EX CPU core. These new Xeons, however, offer a plethora of other enhancements and are packing significantly more cores than any current desktop processor. The highest-end Xeon E7-8800 series processors, for example, are 18 core chips. Previous generation Xeon E7 v2 processors were based on the Ivy Bridge-EX core, while the new E7 v3 parts are based on Haswell-EX, though both are manufactured on Intel's 22nm process node. Next generation Broadwell-EX based Xeons will make the move to 14nm. Xeon E7-8800 / 4800 v3 series processors have 32-lanes of PCIe 3.0 connectivity per socket, TSX is enabled in all SKUs, they offer support for both DDR3 and DDR4 memory (though, not simultaneously), and can address up to 6TB of memory in a 4-socket configuration or 12TB in an 8-socket setup. Intel has also goosed the chip's QPI interface speeds to 9.6GT/s.
Robotics

Mark and Joel Make Autonomous Drones in Their Spare Time (Video) 8

Posted by Roblimo
from the when-a-drone-hits-your-eye-like-a-big-pizza-pie-that's-a-lawsuit dept.
Mark F. Brown and Joel Rozenweig build autonomous drones; that is, drones that don't need an operator every second. You tell the autonomous drone, "Pick up package # 941A at the loading dock and deliver it to 451 Bradbury St.' and off it goes. It's going to be a while yet before that happens, but one day....

Back in the present, dronemaking is still a hobby for Mark and Joel, something they do for fun after spending their workdays as software engineers at Intel. Joel says there is 'remarkably little' crossover between their jobs and their hobby, and that (so far) Intel has contributed little beyond some Edison modules (which you can buy for less than $50) and travel to the Embedded Linux Conference, where they gave a talk accompanied by these slides. NOTE: We have a little bonus for you today. We try to keep videos to 10 minutes or less, but we have no such constraints on transcript length. So if you want the 'full' version of this interview, please read the transcript.
Mars

Opportunity Rover Reaches Martian Day 4,000 of Its 90-Day Mission 53

Posted by Soulskill
from the awesome-engineers-doing-awesome-work dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Let's take a moment to appreciate the incredible engineering, scientific, and planning skill that went into the construction and deployment of the Opportunity rover. It landed on Mars with the goal of surviving 90 sols (Martian days), and it has just logged its 4,000th sol of harvesting valuable data and sending it back to us. The Planetary Society blog has posted a detailed update on Opportunity's status, and its team's plans for the future. The rover's hardware, though incredibly resilient, is wearing down. They reformatted its flash drive to block off a corrupted sector, and that solved some software problems that had cropped up. They're currently trying to figure out why the rover unexpectedly rebooted itself. Those events are incredibly dangerous to the rover's survival, so their highest priority right now is diagnosing that issue.

Fortunately, weather on Mars is good where the rover is, and it's still able to harvest upwards of 500 Watt-hours of energy from its solar panels. Opportunity recently completed a marathon on Mars and took an impressive picture of the Spirit of St. Louis crater, and the rover will soon be on its way to enormous clay deposits that could provide valuable information about where we can look for water when we eventually put people on Mars. As always, you can look through Opportunity's images at the official website.
Portables

Ask Slashdot: Most Chromebook-Like Unofficial ChromeOS Experience? 59

Posted by Soulskill
from the get-your-company-to-pay-for-it-wink-wink dept.
An anonymous reader writes: I am interested in Chromebooks, for the reasons that Google successfully pushes them: my carry-around laptops serve mostly as terminals, rather than CPU-heavy workhorses, and for the most part the whole reason I'm on my computer is to do something that requires a network connection anyhow. My email is Gmail, and without particularly endorsing any one element, I've moved a lot of things to online services like DropBox. (Some offline capabilities are nice, but since actual Chromebooks have been slowly gaining offline stuff, and theoretically will gain a lot more of that, soon, I no longer worry much about a machine being "useless" if the upstream connection happens to be broken or absent. It would just be useless in the same way my conventional desktop machine would be.) I have some decent but not high-end laptops (Core i3, 2GB-4GB of RAM) that I'd enjoy repurposing as Chromebooks without pedigree: they'd fall somewhat short of the high-end Pixel, but at no out-of-pocket expense for me unless I spring for some cheap SSDs, which I might.

So: how would you go about making a Chromebook-like laptop? Yes, I could just install any Linux distro, and then restrain myself from installing most apps other than a browser and a few utilities, but that's not quite the same; ChromeOS is nicely polished, and very pared down; it also seems to do well with low-memory systems (lots of the current models have just 2GB, which brings many Linux distros to a disk-swapping crawl), and starts up nicely quick.

It looks like the most "authentic" thing would be to dive into building Chromium OS (which looks like a fun hobby), but I'd like to find something more like Cr OS — only Cr OS hasn't been updated in quite a while. Perhaps some other browser-centric pared-down Linux would work as well. How would you build a system? And should I go ahead and order some low-end 16GB SSDs, which I now see from online vendors for less than $25?
Twitter

Twitter Stops Users From Playing DOS Games Inside Tweets 41

Posted by Soulskill
from the no-fun-allowed dept.
jones_supa writes: Twitter has killed off an interesting trend of playing DOS games in tweets. Last week, users discovered they could use the new "Twitter Cards" embedding feature to bundle full DOS games within tweets. Running DOSBox inside the web browser is possible thanks to an Emscripten port of DOSBox called Em-DOSBox. The games were pulled from Internet Archive's collection of 2,600 classic titles, many of which still lack proper republishing agreements with the copyright holder. So, is embedding games within Twitter Cards, against the social network's terms of service? Either way, Twitter has now blocked such activity, likely after seeing the various news reports and a stream of Street Fighter II, Wolfenstein 3D and Zool cheering up people's timelines.
Microsoft

Microsoft: No More 'Patch Tuesday' For Windows 10 Home Users 105

Posted by Soulskill
from the no-more-patchy-coverage dept.
citpyrc writes: According to the Register, Microsoft is making some changes to how it rolls out updates in Windows 10. Home users will receive updates as they come out, rather than queueing them all up on "patch Tuesday." Business users will have the option to set their own update cycle, so they can see if any of the patches accidentally break anything for home users before trying them out. There will also be an optional peer-to-peer updating mechanism for Windows 10. Microsoft announced a service called Advanced Threat Analytics, which employs various machine learning techniques to identify malware on a network. As a premium service, top-dollar customers can pay for Microsoft to monitor black-hat forums and alert the company if any of its employees' identities are stolen.
Space

Extreme Exoplanet Volcanism Possibly Detected On 55 Cancri E 33

Posted by Soulskill
from the fun-place-to-visit-but-i-wouldn't-want-to-live-there dept.
astroengine writes: Using data from NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope, astronomers have revealed wild atmospheric changes on a well studied exoplanet — changes that they suspect are driven by extreme volcanic activity. Over a period of two years, the team, led by University of Cambridge researchers, noted a three-fold change in temperature on the surface of 55 Cancri e. The super-Earth planet orbits a sun-like star 40 light-years away in the constellation of Cancer. It is twice the size of Earth and 8-times our planet's mass. 55 Cancri e is well-known to exoplanet hunters as the "diamond planet" — a world thought to be carbon-rich, possibly covered in hydrocarbons. But this new finding, published in the arXiv pre-print service, has added a new dimension to the planet's weird nature. "This is the first time we've seen such drastic changes in light emitted from an exoplanet, which is particularly remarkable for a super-Earth," said co-author Nikku Madhusudhan, of Cambridge's Institute of Astronomy, in a press release. "No signature of thermal emissions or surface activity has ever been detected for any other super-Earth to date."
Input Devices

The Challenge of Getting a Usable QWERTY Keyboard Onto a Dime-sized Screen 127

Posted by timothy
from the you-will-fail-at-that-task dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Researchers from Spain and Germany are building on Carnegie Mellon's work to attempt to create workable text-input interfaces for wearables, smartwatches and a new breed of IoT devices too small to accomodate even the truncated soft keyboards familiar to phone users. In certain cases, the screen area in which the keyboard must be made usable is no bigger than a dime. Of all the commercial input systems I've used, Graffiti seems like it might be the most suited to such tiny surfaces.
Programming

Is It Worth Learning a Little-Known Programming Language? 219

Posted by timothy
from the worth-it-to-whom? dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes: Ask a group of developers to rattle off the world's most popular programming languages, and they'll likely name the usual suspects: JavaScript, Java, Python, Ruby, C++, PHP, and so on. Ask which programming languages pay the best, and they'll probably list the same ones, which makes sense. But what about the little-known languages and skill sets (Dice link) that don't leap immediately to mind but nonetheless support some vital IT infrastructure (and sometimes, as a result, pay absurdly well)? is it worth learning a relatively obscure language or skill set, on the hope that you can score one of a handful of well-paying jobs that require it? The answer is a qualified yes—so long as the language or skill set in question is clearly on the rise. Go, Swift, Rust, Julia and CoffeeScript have all enjoyed rising popularity, for example, which increases the odds that they'll remain relevant for at least the next few years. But a language without momentum behind it probably isn't worth your time, unless you want to learn it simply for the pleasure of learning something new.
Security

USBKill Transforms a Thumb Drive Into an "Anti-Forensic" Device 220

Posted by timothy
from the content-scrambling-system dept.
Orome1 writes with a snippet from a report at net-security.org; a hacker going by Hephaestos has shared with the world a Python script that, when put on an USB thumb drive, turns the device in an effective kill switch for the computer to which it's plugged in. USBkill, as the programmer dubbed it, "waits for a change on your USB ports, then immediately kills your computer." The device would be useful "in case the police comes busting in, or steals your laptop from you when you are at a public library," Hephaestos explained.
Communications

How the NSA Converts Spoken Words Into Searchable Text 139

Posted by timothy
from the message-could-not-be-lawfullly-transcribed dept.
Presto Vivace writes: Dan Froomkin reports at The Intercept: "Though perfect transcription of natural conversation apparently remains the Intelligence Community's 'holy grail,' the Snowden documents describe extensive use of keyword searching as well as computer programs designed to analyze and 'extract' the content of voice conversations, and even use sophisticated algorithms to flag conversations of interest." I am torn between admiration of the technical brilliance of building software like this and horror as to how it is being used. It can't just be my brother and me who like to salt all phone conversations with interesting keywords.
Bug

The BBC Looks At Rollover Bugs, Past and Approaching 54

Posted by timothy
from the ought-to-be-enough-for-anybody dept.
New submitter Merovech points out an article at the BBC which makes a good followup to the recent news (mentioned within) about a bug in Boeing's new 787. The piece explores various ways that rollover bugs in software have led to failures -- some of them truly disastrous, others just annoying. The 2038 bug is sure to bite some people; hopefully it will be even less of an issue than the Year 2000 rollover. From the article: It was in 1999 that I first wrote about this," comments [programmer William] Porquet. "I acquired the domain name 2038.org and at first it was very tongue-in-cheek. It was almost a piece of satire, a kind of an in-joke with a lot of computer boffins who say, 'oh yes we'll fix that in 2037' But then I realised there are actually some issues with this.
Earth

Recent Paper Shows Fracking Chemicals In Drinking Water, Industry Attacks It 269

Posted by timothy
from the they-never-factor-in-the-tastiness dept.
eldavojohn writes: A recent paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences turned up 2-Butoxyethanol from samples collected from three households in Pennsylvania. The paper's level headed conclusion is that more conservative well construction techniques should be used to avoid this in the future and that flowback should be better controlled. Rob Jackson, another scientist who reviewed the paper, stressed that the findings were an exception to normal operations. Despite that, the results angered the PR gods of the Marcellus Shale Gas industry and awoke beltway insider mouthpieces to attack the research — after all, what are they paying them for?