Please create an account to participate in the Slashdot moderation system


Forgot your password?
Take advantage of Black Friday with 15% off sitewide with coupon code "BLACKFRIDAY" on Slashdot Deals (some exclusions apply)". ×

Submission + - NASA concludes that comets, not alien megastructures orbit KIC 8462852 ( 1

MarkWhittington writes: Back in October, findings from the Kepler Space Telescope suggested that something strange was going on around a star called KIC 8462852. Kepler was built to detect exoplanets by measuring the cycles of dimming light from other stars, indicating that a large object was passing between them and Earth. But the dimming light cycle from KIC 8462852 seemed to suggest a lot of smaller objects swarming around it. Scientists narrowed down the explanations to either a swarm of comets or alien megastructures. NASA announced evidence garnered by two other telescopes that pointed to the comet explanation.

Submission + - Tesla's NOx Problem: Model X Delay Explained? (

An anonymous reader writes: It may not have come as a surprise that the NOx emissions violations discovered in some of Volkswagen's diesel engines have led to similar findings in cars from several other manufacturers. However, Daily Kanban's Edward Niedermeyer has discovered that a seemingly unlikely car maker has also received a Notice of Violation for NOx emissions: a thermal oxidizer used in Tesla's Fremont, CA plant produces far more of the reactive gases than the permit allows. According to Niedermeyer, the device is located at the paint shop destined for the Model X production and this environmental problem could well be the leading cause for the delay.

Submission + - Dell Laptops Disclose Machine Information Via JavaScript Call (

An anonymous reader writes: A researcher has created a website where Dell owners can see for themselves the latest indiscretion from Dell's laptops, which it transpires run local webservers on TCP port 7779 and surrender information about the machine to any website that makes the right JavaScript call. The issue is unrelated to the controversy about the self-signed certificate found this week on Dell machines. The researcher's test-site is at (warning: very bad music), and has been confirmed as effective at pulling the information from Dell machines.

Submission + - Why Car Salesmen Don't Want to Sell Electric Cars writes: Matt Richtel writes in the NYT that one big reason there are only about 330,000 electric vehicles on the road is that car dealers show little enthusiasm for putting consumers into electric cars. Industry insiders say that electric vehicles do not offer dealers the same profits as gas-powered cars, they take more time to sell because of the explaining required, and electric vehicles may require less maintenance, undermining the biggest source of dealer profits — their service departments. Some electric car buyers have said they felt as if they were the ones doing the selling. Chelsea Dell made an appointment to test-drive a used Volt but when she arrived, she said, a salesman told her that the car hadn’t been washed, and that he had instead readied a less expensive, gas-powered car. “I was ready to pull the trigger, and they were trying to muscle me into a Chevy Sonic,” says Dell. “The thing I was baffled at was that the Volt was a lot more expensive.” Marc Deutsch, Nissan’s business development manager for electric vehicles says some salespeople just can’t rationalize the time it takes to sell the cars. A salesperson “can sell two gas burners in less than it takes to sell a Leaf,” Deutsch says. “It’s a lot of work for a little pay.”

Jared Allen says that service is crucial to dealer profits and that dealers didn’t want to push consumers into electric cars that might make them less inclined to return for service. Maybe that helps explains the experience of Robert Kast, who last year leased a Volkswagen e-Golf from a local dealer. He said the salesman offered him a $15-per-month maintenance package that included service for oil changes, belt repair and water pumps. “I said: ‘You know it doesn’t have any of those things,’” Mr. Kast recalled. He said the salesman excused himself to go confirm this with his manager. Of the whole experience, Mr. Kast, 61, said: “I knew a whole lot more about the car than anyone in the building.” "Until selling a plug-in electric car is as quick and easy as selling any other vehicle that nets the dealer the same profit, many dealers will avoid them, for very logical and understandable reasons," says John Voelker. "That means that the appropriate question should be directed to makers of electric cars: What are you doing to make selling electric cars as profitable and painless for your dealers as selling gasoline or diesel vehicles?"

Submission + - Green Light or No, Nest Cam Never Stops Watching ( 1

chicksdaddy writes: How do you know when the Nest Cam monitoring your house is “on” or “off”? It’s simple: just look at the little power indicator light on the front of the device — and totally disregard what it is telling you.

The truth is: the Nest Cam is never “off” despite an effort by Nest and its parent Google to make it appear otherwise, The Security Ledger reports ( That, according to an analysis of the Nest Cam by the firm ABI Research, which found that turning the Nest Cam “off” using the associated mobile application only turns off the LED power indicator light on the front of the device. ( Under the hood, the camera continues to operate and, according to ABI researcher Jim Mielke, to monitor its surroundings: noting movement, sound and other activity when users are led to believe it has powered down.

“Basically, you have an LED that says ‘on’ and ‘off ‘ that shuts off – and that’s about it,” Mielke said when asked to describe what happens when a user turns the Nest Cam off. Mielke is the Vice President of Teardowns at ABI Research and the author of a report: “Teardown Phone/Device: Nest Cam Works Around the Clock.”

Mielke reached that conclusion after analyzing Nest Cam's power consumption. Typically a shutdown or standby mode would reduce current by as much as 10 to 100 times, Mielke told Security Ledger. But the Google Nest Cam’s power consumption was almost identical in “shutdown” mode and when fully operational, dropping from 370 milliamps (mA) to around 340mA. The slight reduction in power consumption for the Nest Cam when it was turned “off” correlates with the disabling of the LED power light, given that LEDs typically draw 10-20mA.

In a statement to The Security Ledger, Nest Labs spokesperson Zoz Cuccias acknowledged that the Nest Cam does not fully power down when the camera is turned off from the user interface (UI).

“When Nest Cam is turned off from the user interface (UI), it does not fully power down, as we expect the camera to be turned on again at any point in time,” Cuccias wrote in an e-mail. “With that said, when Nest Cam is turned off, it completely stops transmitting video to the cloud, meaning it no longer observes its surroundings.”

The privacy and security implications are serious. “This means that even when a consumer thinks that he or she is successfully turning off this camera, the device is still running, which could potentially unleash a tidal wave of privacy concerns,” Mielke wrote.

Submission + - Self-portrait drawing machine by Aaron Kramer (

mikegilmore2015 writes: Check out artist Aaron Kramer\'s drawing machine. Using two large cams, a parallel linkage, and a great to deal of experimentation this machine is able to draw the artist\'s face with a single line over the course of about 15 seconds. It is still a self-portrait if a machine draws the picture? I think so...

Submission + - Lori Garver claims that NASA is 'wary' of Elon Musk's Mars plans (

MarkWhittington writes: Ars Technica reported that former NASA Deputy Administrator Lori Garver claimed, during a panel discussion at the Council for Foreign Relations, that many at NASA are “wary’ of the Mars ambitions of SpaceX’s Elon Musk. While the space agency has yielded low Earth operations to the commercial sector as part of the commercial crew program, it reserves for itself deep space exploration. As with many things that publically come out of Garver’s mouth, this statement has to be taken with a grain of salt.

Submission + - Fake Bomb Detector, Blamed for Hundreds of Deaths, Is Still in Use writes: Murtaza Hussain writes at The Intercept that although it remains in use at sensitive security areas throughout the world, the ADE 651 is a complete fraud and the ADE-651’s manufacturer sold it with the full knowledge that it was useless at detecting explosives. There are no batteries in the unit and it consists of a swivelling aerial mounted to a hinge on a hand-grip. The device contains nothing but the type of anti-theft tag used to prevent stealing in high street stores and critics have likened it to a glorified dowsing rod.

The story of how the ADE 651 came into use involves the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq. At the height of the conflict, as the new Iraqi government battled a wave of deadly car bombings, it purchased more than 7,000 ADE 651 units worth tens of millions of dollars in a desperate effort to stop the attacks. Not only did the units not help, the device actually heightened the bloodshed by creating “a false sense of security” that contributed to the deaths of hundreds of Iraqi civilians. A BBC investigation led to a subsequent export ban on the devices.

The device is once again back in the news as it was reportedly used for security screening at hotels in the Egyptian resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh where a Russian airliner that took off from that city’s airport was recently destroyed in a likely bombing attack by the militant Islamic State group. Speaking to The Independent about the hotel screening, the U.K. Foreign Office stated it would “continue to raise concerns” over the use of the ADE 651. James McCormick, the man responsible for the manufacture and sale of the ADE 651, received a 10-year prison sentence for his part in manufacture of the devices, sold to Iraq for $40,000 each. An employee of McCormick who later became a whistleblower said that after becoming concerned and questioning McCormick about the device, McCormick told him the ADE 651 “does exactly what it’s designed to. It makes money.”

Submission + - Gene drive turns mosquitoes into malaria fighters (

sciencehabit writes: The war against malaria has a new ally: a controversial technology for spreading genes throughout a population of animals. Researchers report today that they have harnessed a so-called gene drive to efficiently endow mosquitoes with genes that should make them immune to the malaria parasite—and unable to spread it. On its own, gene drive won’t get rid of malaria, but if successfully applied in the wild the method could help wipe out the disease, at least in some corners of the world. The approach “can bring us to zero [cases],” says Nora Besansky, a geneticist at the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, Indiana, who specializes in malaria-carrying mosquitoes. “The mosquitos do their own work [and] reach places we can’t afford to go or get to.”

Submission + - How tech led to the death of France's public enemy number 1 (

alphadogg writes: When one of the terrorists involved in the Paris shootings dropped his smartphone in a trashcan outside the Bataclan concert venue on Friday night, he wasn't worried about encrypting his text messages or stored documents. Why would he be? With a bomb strapped to his waist, he knew he was about to die. But that telephone, and wiretaps on another, led police to announce Thursday that the suspected organizer of the shootings and a string of other attacks, Abdel Hamid Abaaoud, was dead.

Submission + - Police Find Paris Attackers Coordinate Via Unencrypted SMS (

schwit1 writes: In the wake of the tragic events in Paris last week encryption has continued to be a useful bogeyman for those with a voracious appetite for surveillance expansion. Like clockwork, numerous reports were quickly circulated suggesting that the terrorists used incredibly sophisticated encryption techniques, despite no evidence by investigators that this was the case. These reports varied in the amount of hallucination involved, the New York Times even having to pull one such report offline. Other claims the attackers had used encrypted Playstation 4 communications also wound up being bunk.

Submission + - Julia Programming Language Receives $600k Donation

jones_supa writes: The Julia programming language has received a $600k donation from Moore Foundation. The foundation wants to get the language into a production version. This has a goal to create more efficient and powerful scientific computing tools to assist in data-driven research. The money will be granted over the next two years so the Julia Language team can move their core open computing language and libraries into the first production version. The Julia Language project aims to create a dynamic programming language that is general purpose but designed to excel at numerical computing and data science. It is especially good at running MATLAB and R style programs.

Submission + - Hedy Lamarr's Spread-Spectrum Engineering in Your Cellphone (

szczys writes: Hedy Lamarr is a household name for the wrong reason. Her name is known as a Hollywood actress, but her legacy is in your pocket and reaches far more people than her movies. She was a brilliant thinker who plied her skills during World War II, developing technology that could help to win the war. Her patent wasn't used at the time, but is a foundation of spread-spectrum which is used in the radio modules of your cellphone: WiFi, Bluetooth, GPS, and others. This frequency hopping concept sat unused for decades before being added to the most ubiquitous of wireless connectivity methods. Bravo Hedy!

Submission + - Grow Your Daily Protein at Home With an Edible Insect Desktop Hive writes: Fast Coexist reports on the Edible Insect Desktop Hive, a kitchen gadget designed to raise mealworms (beetle larva), a food that has the protein content of beef without the environmental footprint. The hive can grow between 200 and 500 grams of mealworms a week, enough to replace traditional meat in four or five dishes. The hive comes with a starter kit of "microlivestock," and controls the climate inside so the bugs have the right amount of fresh air and the right temperature to thrive. If you push a button, the mealworms pop out in a harvest drawer that chills them. You're supposed to pop them in the freezer, then fry them up or mix them into soup, smoothies, or bug-filled burgers. "Insects give us the opportunity to grow on small spaces, with few resources," says designer Katharina Unger, founder of Livin Farms, the company making the new home farming gadget. "A pig cannot easily be raised on your balcony, insects can. With their benefits, insects are one part of the solution to make currently inefficient industrial-scale production of meat obsolete."

Of course, that assumes people will be willing to eat them. Unger thinks bugs just need a little rebranding to succeed, and points out that other foods have overcome bad reputations in the past. "Even the potato, that is now a staple food, was once considered ugly and was given to pigs," says Unger adding that sushi, raw fish, and tofu were once considered obscure products. "Food is about perception and cultural associations. Within only a short time and the right measures, it can be rebranded. . . . Growing insects in our hive at home is our first measure to make insects a healthy and sustainable food for everyone."

Without life, Biology itself would be impossible.