Technology

Sounds Can Knock Drones Out of the Sky

angry tapir writes: Next week at the USENIX Security Symposium, researchers at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology (KAIST) in Daejon, South Korea, are presenting research into knocking drones out of the sky using directed sound waves. They target a component crucial to every drone's ability to fly: its gyroscope. "A gyroscope keeps a drone balanced, providing information on its tilt, orientation and rotation, allowing for micro-adjustments that keep it aloft. Hobbyist and some commercial drones use inexpensive gyroscopes that are designed as integrated circuit packages." For some drones, the gyroscope and its housing have a resonant frequency that's within the audible spectrum. By targeting the drone with sound waves of that frequency, the gyroscope will begin to generate erroneous data, leading to a crash.
Debian

Largest DebConf Ever Will Hit Heidelberg In Mid-August 4

New submitter alfino writes: Less than two weeks away, DebConf15, the 16th Debian Conference, scheduled to take place 15–22 August in Heidelberg, Germany, has been officially announced. The organisers are expecting more than 550 participants from 53 countries (making it the largest DebConf so far, and the first in history that will be closing registrations early), and have presented a schedule packed with talks and events, including several prominent, invited speakers, and yet plenty of room for informal and ad-hoc collaboration. Most events will be streamed live to allow for remote participation, and archived for later consumption.

The celebrations of Debian's 22nd birthday on 16 August, the traditional "Cheese & Wine BoF", a screening of the Oscar-award-winning documentary Citizenfour (which mentions Debian in its end credits), and a day trip for all attendees top off the programme. Additionally, DebConf15 will be preceeded by DebCamp, a week of sprints, workshops and hacking sessions. It is expected that much progress will be made on Debian (gcc5 transition, planning of the next stable release "stretch", etc.), and of course Free Software in general. The conference itself begins with an Open Weekend geared to the public, and featuring a job fair.

Attendance is free of charge thanks to numerous sponsors, including Platinum Sponsor Hewlett-Packard. Registration is required nonetheless and only very few places are left.

The conference will be tracked on various social media sites using hashtag #DebConf15. Even though Debian does not endorse proprietary services, @DebConf will have the news.
The Media

Tech's Enduring Great-Man Myth 28

An anonymous reader writes: Did Steve Jobs deserve his reputation as a brilliant inventor? Since Jobs's death in 2011, Elon Musk has been thrust into the spotlight as a man who can shake the pillars of tech. Does he deserve that reputation? MIT's Technology Review argues that media and the industry have a habit of making legends out of notable leaders, while failing to acknowledge all the support that allowed them to execute their ideas. From the article: "Musk's success would not have been possible without, among other things, government funding for basic research and subsidies for electric cars and solar panels. Above all, he has benefited from a long series of innovations in batteries, solar cells, and space travel." While it may be fun to compare him to Iron Man, the myth has its perils: "The problem with such portrayals is not merely that they are inaccurate and unfair to the many contributors to new technologies. By warping the popular understanding of how technologies develop, great-man myths threaten to undermine the structure that is actually necessary for future innovations."
Medicine

FDA Approves First 3D-Printed Drug Tablet 15

An anonymous reader writes: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has for the first time approved a 3D-printed pill for human consumption. The printing technique allows higher and more precise dosages to be layered into a smaller tablet size. This is an early step toward a new method of drug distribution. Right now, pills are made in a factory and shipped to hospitals. With 3D printers, hospitals could simply store a bulk supply of the drug in a pure form, and then print out tablets — containing whatever dosage they desire — as they need them. If patients needs to increase or decrease their dosage, the hospital can do so without changing the appearance of the pills, which could help those with memory impairments.
Google

Google: Poor Kids Might Grasp Macbeth If They Code Like Kids At $43K/Yr School 61

theodp writes: While the CollegeBoard warned against drawing a causal link between learning computer science and improved learning in other subjects, Google has no such qualms. "CS is much more than computer programming and coding," writes the Google for Education blog in a post announcing a new gateway for Google's CS education opportunities. "It's a gateway to creativity and innovation not just in technology but in fields as diverse as music, sports, the arts, and health." Among the technology showcased at the gateway is Pencil Code, a programming tool for beginning coders that Google boasts is already helping kids attending the $43K-a-year Beaver Country Day School to brush up their Shakespeare by having students create interactive chatbots that play the part of characters like Lady Macbeth. "After completing this code I knew more and understood more of the play," begins one student's featured testimonial. "It allowed me to interpret Macbeth in a new way that I had never thought of before. I really enjoyed using Pencil Code because it made coding simpler for me and helped me try something new." Elsewhere on its CS gateway, Google laments that a new Google-Gallup Research Study shows that 'Blacks and low-income are less likely to have access' to such computer science opportunities.
OS X

OS X Bug Exploited To Infect Macs Without Need For Password 62

An anonymous reader writes: A new flaw has been discovered in the latest version of OS X which allows hackers to install malware and adware onto a Mac without the need for any system passwords, researchers say. The serious zero-day vulnerability was first identified last week and results from a modified error-logging feature in OS X Yosemite which hackers are able to exploit to create files with root privileges. The flaw is currently found in the 'fully patched' OS X 10.10.4, but is not in the newest 10.11 El Capitan beta – suggesting that Apple developers were aware of the issue and are testing a fix.
Transportation

Tilting 4WD 'Spider Car' Makes Light Work of Bizarre Terrain 43

Zothecula writes: The Swincar Spider is a remarkable tilting 4-wheeler concept that boasts absolutely ridiculous rough terrain capabilities. Each wheel has its own electric hub motor and is independently suspended on a spider-like limb. The result is a vehicle that leans into fast turns like a motorcycle, but can also happily go up or down a 70-percent gradient, ride across a 50-percent gradient that puts the left wheels a couple of feet higher than the right ones, or ride diagonally through ditches that send the wheels going up and down all over the place like a spider doing leg stretches.
Privacy

How Boing Boing Handled an FBI Subpoena Over Its Tor Exit Node 74

An anonymous reader writes: Cory Doctorow has posted an account of what happened when tech culture blog Boing Boing got a federal subpoena over the Tor exit node the site had been running for years. They received the subpoena in June, and the FBI demanded all logs relating to the exit node: specifically, "subscriber records" and "user information" for everybody associated with the exit node's IP address. They were also asked to testify before a federal grand jury. While they were nervous at first, the story has a happy ending. Their lawyer sent a note back to the FBI agent in charge, explaining that the IP address in question was an exit node. The agent actually looked into Tor, realized no logs were available, and cancelled the request. Doctorow considers this encouraging for anyone who's thinking about opening a new exit node: "I'm not saying that everyone who gets a federal subpoena for running a Tor exit node will have this outcome, but the only Tor legal stories that rise to the public's attention are the horrific ones. Here's a counterexample: Fed asks us for our records, we say we don't have any, fed goes away."
Earth

Why Bill Gates Is Dumping Another $1 Billion Into Clean Energy 178

An anonymous reader writes: A little over a month ago, Bill Gates made headlines when he decided to double down on his investments in renewable energy. Now, he's written an article for Quartz explaining why: "I think this issue is especially important because, of all the people who will be affected by climate change, those in poor countries will suffer the most. Higher temperatures and less-predictable weather would hurt poor farmers, most of whom live on the edge and can be devastated by a single bad crop. Food supplies could decline. Hunger and malnutrition could rise. It would be a terrible injustice to let climate change undo any of the past half-century's progress against poverty and disease — and doubly unfair because the people who will be hurt the most are the ones doing the least to cause the problem." He also says government is not doing enough to fund such research, and that energy markets aren't doing a good enough job of factoring the negative effects of carbon emissions.
Patents

IBM Locking Up Lots of Cloud Computing Patents 62

dkatana writes: In an article for InformationWeek Charles Babcock notes that IBM has been hoarding patents on every aspect of cloud computing. They've secured about 1,200 in the past 18 months, including ~400 so far this year. "For those who conceive of the cloud as an environment based on public standards with many shared elements, the grant of these patents isn't entirely reassuring." Babcock says, and he adds: "Whatever the intent, these patents illustrate how the cloud, even though it's conceived of as a shared environment following public standards, may be subject to some of the same intellectual property disputes and patent trolling as earlier, more directly proprietary environments."
Math

Using Math To Tune a Video Game's Economy 53

An anonymous reader writes: When the shipping deadline was approaching for The Witcher 3, designer Matthew Steinke knew there was a big part of the game still missing: its economy. A game's economy is one of the things that can make or break immersion — you want collection and rewards to feel progressive and meaningful. Making items to expensive gives the game a grindy feel, while making them too cheap makes progression trivial. At the Game Developers Conference underway in Germany, Steinke explained his solution.

"Steinke created a formula that calculated attributes like how much damage, defense, or healing that each item provided, and he placed them into an overall combat rating could be used to rank other items in the system. ... Steinke set about blending the sub-categories into nine generalized categories, allowing him to determine the final weighting for damage and the range of prices for each item. To test if it all worked, he used polynomial least squares (a form of mathematical statistics) to chart each category's price progression. The resultant curve (pictured below) showed the rate at which spending was increasing as the quality of each item approached the category's ceiling value."
Businesses

Amazon Cuts Down On Prime Sharing 58

An anonymous reader writes: Tech Crunch reports that Amazon quietly rolled out changes to how their Prime subscriptions can be shared. The good news is that existing members aren't immediately losing their current sharing setups. It used to be that Amazon would let Prime subscribers share free shipping and a few other benefits with up to four other "household" members, with little restriction on what counted as a "household." The bad news: as of last weekend, Amazon now limits sharing to one other adult and four "child" profiles. The adults will need to authorize each other to use credit/debit cards associated with the account. Amazon didn't make any announcement about this, so it's unknown how long existing Prime shares will stay in effect. They could disappear when the subscription is up for renewal, or earlier if Amazon decides to crack down on it.
Microsoft

Microsoft Makes Push To Get Back Into E-Sports 91

An anonymous reader writes: In October, Microsoft will publish Halo 5: Guardians, the first game in the series to be developed exclusively for the Xbox One. Microsoft is taking the opportunity to make a big play to become part of the e-sports market. They've announced a Halo competition with $1 million in prizes. As e-sports become more mainstream, and as game streaming has turned into a billion-dollar business, more and more development studios are seeing it as part of their marketing strategy. "When Halo fell out of favor among e-sports players, other games began to take off, often ones that were created with high-level competition in mind and that came from developers that invested heavily in events for professionals. Riot Games has turned League of Legends, its multiplayer online battle arena, into the most watched e-sport in the world, with 40,000 attendees at its finals in Korea last year." Microsoft wants back into that segment, and they're willing to spend big to do so.
Movies

Dungeons & Dragons Is Getting a Film Franchise 160

New submitter IT.luddite sends word that Hasbro and Warner Bros. have announced Dungeons & Dragons will be getting its own film franchise. They already have a script, and they'll be working with production company Sweetpea Entertainment, but they haven't picked a director, yet. They'll have at least some of the people on board who worked on the D&D movie from 2000, which was a flop. The deal between Hasbro and Warner Bros. comes after a prolonged legal battle about who owned the rights to a D&D movie. They note, "All rights for future Dungeons & Dragons productions have been unified and returned to Wizards of the Coast, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Hasbro."
Power

Giving Up Alternating Current 379

An anonymous reader writes: Yesterday we discussed Soylent, the artificial food substitute created by Rob Rhinehart and his team. As it turns out, this isn't Rhinehart's only unusual sustainability project. In a new post, he explains how he gave up on alternating current — a tough proposition for anyone living in the U.S. and still interested in using all sorts of modern technology. Rhinehart says, "Most power in the US is generated by burning coal, immediately squandering 67% of its energy, then run through a steam turbine, losing another 50%, then sent across transmission lines, losing another 5%, then to charge a DC device like a cell phone another 50% is lost in conversion. This means for 100 watts of coal or oil burned my phone gets a mere 16."

The biggest hindrance was the kitchen. As you might expect for the creator of Soylent, he doesn't cook, and was able to get rid of almost all kitchen appliances because of that. He uses a butane stove for hot beverages. He powers a small computer off batteries, which get their energy from solar panels. For intensive tasks, he remotes to more powerful machines. He re-wired his apartment's LED lighting to run off direct current. Have any of you made similar changes? How much of an effect does this really have?