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Mice Brainpower Boosted With Alteration of a Single Gene 105

Zothecula writes: By altering a single gene to inhibit the activity of an enzyme called phosphodiesterase (PDE4B), researchers have given mice the opportunity to see what an increase in intelligence is like. "They tended to learn faster, remember events longer and solve complex exercises better than ordinary mice. For example, the “brainy mice” showed a better ability than ordinary mice to recognize another mouse that they had been introduced to the day before (abstract). They were also quicker at learning the location of a hidden escape platform in a test called the Morris water maze. However, the PDE4B-inhibited mice also showed less recall of a fearful event after several days than ordinary mice." While many people would welcome such a treatment, the scientists say their research could lead to new treatments for those with cognitive disorders and age-related cognitive decline.

California Fights Drought With 96 Million "Shade Balls" 234 writes: Katie Rogers writes in the NY Times that the city of Los Angeles is releasing 96 million plastic "shade balls" into the 175-acre Los Angeles Reservoir to help block sunlight and UV rays that promote algae growth, which would help keep the city's drinking water safe. Officials also say the balls will help slow the rate of evaporation, which drains the water supply of about 300 million gallons a year. The balls cost $0.36 each and are part of a $34.5 million initiative to protect the water supply. Shade balls are the brainchild of Brian White, a biologist with the utility who based the idea on "bird balls" that he observed in waterways near airport runways to prevent airfield bird strikes. The Los Angeles Reservoir, which holds 3.3 billion gallons, or enough water to supply the city for up to three weeks, joins three other reservoirs already covered in the shade balls. "In the midst of California's historic drought, it takes bold ingenuity to maximize my goals for water conservation," says Mayor Eric Garcetti who was at the Los Angeles Reservoir to mark the addition of 20,000 of the small balls to the lake. "This effort by LADWP is emblematic of the kind of the creative thinking we need to meet those challenges."

Intel's Tick-Tock Cycle Skips a Beat 84

New submitter Ramze writes: Several outlets are reporting on Intel's confirmation that it will make three generations of 14nm processors, delaying the switch to 10nm. The planned 14nm Kaby Lake processor marks the first time Intel has skipped the "tick" of a die shrink on its regular "tick/tock" cycle. Production of Cannonlake processors on 10nm has been pushed back to the second half of 2017 — likely due to manufacturing difficulties. Intel reported earlier this year that it may have to switch away from silicon to exotic materials such as indium gallium arsenide to make the next shrink to 7nm.
United States

Proposed Regulation Could Keep 3D-printed Gun Blueprints Offline For Good 423

SonicSpike sends a report on a proposed update to the International Traffic in Arms (ITAR) regulations which could shut down the sharing of files for 3D printed gun parts over the internet. "Hidden within the proposal, which restricts what gear, technology, and info can and cannot be exported out of the U.S., is a ban on posting schematics for 3D printed gun parts online." This follows a lawsuit from Cody Wilson and Defense Distributed back in May fighting the federal government's command to remove blueprints for the "Liberator" 3D-printed gun from their website. A senior official at the U.S. State Department said, "By putting up a digital file, that constitutes an export of the data. If it's an executable digital file, any foreign interests can get a hold of it."

Philae's Lost Seven Months Were Completely Unnecessary 419

StartsWithABang writes: This past weekend, the Philae lander reawakened after seven dormant months, the best outcome that mission scientists could've hoped for with the way the mission unfolded. But the first probe to softly land on a comet ever would never have needed to hibernate at all if we had simply built it with the nuclear power capabilities it should've had. The seven months of lost data were completely unnecessary, and resulted solely from the world's nuclear fears.

Edward Snowden: the World Says No To Surveillance 176

An anonymous reader writes: Two years after his whistle-blowing, Edward Snowden finds that his action had profound effects on political decision making and on citizen's understanding of privacy issues. He writes in the NY Times, "In a single month, the N.S.A.’s invasive call-tracking program was declared unlawful by the courts and disowned by Congress. After a White House-appointed oversight board investigation found that this program had not stopped a single terrorist attack, even the president who once defended its propriety and criticized its disclosure has now ordered it terminated. This is the power of an informed public. ... We are witnessing the emergence of a post-terror generation, one that rejects a worldview defined by a singular tragedy. For the first time since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, we see the outline of a politics that turns away from reaction and fear in favor of resilience and reason."

Siri, Cortana and Google Have Nothing On SoundHound's Speech Recognition 235

MojoKid writes: Your digital voice assistant app is incompetent. Yes, Siri can give you a list of Italian restaurants in the area, Cortana will happily look up the weather, and Google Now will send a text message, if you ask it to. But compared to Hound, the newest voice search app on the block, all three of the aforementioned assistants might as well be bumbling idiots trying to outwit a fast talking rocket scientist. At its core, Hound is the same type of app — you bark commands or ask questions about any number of topics and it responds intelligently. And quickly. What's different about Hound compared to Siri, Cortana, and Google Now is that it's freakishly fast and understands complex queries that would have the others hunched in the fetal position, thumb in mouth. Check out the demo. It's pretty impressive.

Games Workshop At 40: How They Brought D&D To Britain 64

An anonymous reader writes: Following on the fortieth anniversary of Dungeons & Dragons last year, another formative influence on modern gaming is celebrating its fortieth birthday: Games Workshop. Playing at the World covers the story of how the founders, Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson (not the other Steve Jackson), started out as subscribers to the 1960s British gaming zine Albion playing Diplomacy by mail and (in Ian's case) publishing silly cartoons. When Albion folded at the beginning of 1975, Livingstone and Jackson formed Games Workshop with its own zine Owl & Weasel as a way to bring "progressive games" (as in "progressive rock") to the UK. Shortly thereafter, when they discovered Dungeons & Dragons, fantasy and role-playing games became their focus. After Owl & Weasel grew up into White Dwarf in 1977, its famous "Fiend Factory" column ended up populating the D&D Fiend Folio. And in the 1980s, of course, they brought us Warhammer and their retail stories brought stylish miniatures to many a needful gamer. Happy birthday to Games Workshop!
Star Wars Prequels

Homemade RC Millennium Falcon Is the Drone You've Always Dreamed of Flying 51

MojoKid writes Here's a dose of Rebel goodness to tide you over while you wait for the next Star Wars trailer. A drone enthusiast in France recently graced the web with a few videos of a self-built quadcopter with a shell designed to look like the Millennium Falcon. It's enough to make a Star Wars fan tear up. The drone features a blue thruster light, just like the real Millennium Falcon, and has bright front lights as well. Its creator, who goes by "Oliver C", has some serious modding skills. The shape of the Millennium Falcon presented Oliver with some challenges, but he has the balance more or less handled by the time the spaceship (or quadcopter) takes its first flight outside.

CIA on UFO Sightings: 'It Was Us' 197

mrflash818 sends word that the CIA has taken the blame for a majority of early UFO sightings. In a tweet, the agency said, "It was us," and linked to a document summarizing their use of U-2 spy planes from 1954-1974 (PDF). "High-altitude testing of the U-2led to an unexpected side effect — a tremendous increase in reports of unidentified flying objects," the CIA wrote in the document, which it wrote in 1998. "In the mid-1950s, most commercial airliners flew at altitudes between 10,000 and 20,000 feet and [many] military aircraftoperated at altitudes below 40,000 feet. Consequently, once U-2s started flying at altitudes above 60,000 feet, air-traffic controllers began receiving increasing numbers of UFO reports." [T]he CIA cross-referenced UFO sightings to U-2 flight logs. "This enabled the investigators to eliminate the majority of the UFO reports," the CIA wrote, "although they could not reveal to the letter writers the true cause of the UFO sightings."

Sony Leaks Reveal Hollywood Is Trying To Break DNS 388

schwit1 sends this report from The Verge: Most anti-piracy tools take one of two paths: they either target the server that's sharing the files (pulling videos off YouTube or taking down sites like The Pirate Bay) or they make it harder to find (delisting offshore sites that share infringing content). But leaked documents reveal a frightening line of attack that's currently being considered by the MPAA: What if you simply erased any record that the site was there in the first place? To do that, the MPAA's lawyers would target the Domain Name System that directs traffic across the internet.

The tactic was first proposed as part of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in 2011, but three years after the law failed in Congress, the MPAA has been looking for legal justification for the practice in existing law and working with ISPs like Comcast to examine how a system might work technically. If a takedown notice could blacklist a site from every available DNS provider, the URL would be effectively erased from the internet. No one's ever tried to issue a takedown notice like that, but this latest memo suggests the MPAA is looking into it as a potentially powerful new tool in the fight against piracy.

It's Easy To Hack Traffic Lights 144

An anonymous reader notes coverage of research from the University of Michigan into the ease with which attackers can hack traffic lights. From the article: As is typical in large urban areas, the traffic lights in the subject city are networked in a tree-type topology, allowing them to pass information to and receive instruction from a central management point. The network is IP-based, with all the nodes (intersections and management computers) on a single subnet. In order to save on installation costs and increase flexibility, the traffic light system uses wireless radios rather than dedicated physical networking links for its communication infrastructure—and that’s the hole the research team exploited. ... The 5.8GHz network has no password and uses no encryption; with a proper radio in hand, joining is trivial. ... The research team quickly discovered that the debug port was open on the live controllers and could directly "read and write arbitrary memory locations, kill tasks, and even reboot the device (PDF)." Debug access to the system also let the researchers look at how the controller communicates to its attached devices—the traffic lights and intersection cameras. They quickly discovered that the control system’s communication was totally non-obfuscated and easy to understand—and easy to subvert.

Ballmer Leaves Microsoft Board 142

jones_supa writes: After leaving his position as CEO of Microsoft a year ago, Steve Ballmer has still held a position as a member of the board of directors for the company. Now, he is leaving the board, explaining why in a letter to fresh Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. "I have become very busy," Ballmer explains. "I see a combination of Clippers, civic contribution, teaching and study taking up a lot of time." Despite his departure, the former-CEO is still invested in the company's success, and he spent most of the letter encouraging Nadella and giving advice. Nadella shot back a supportive, equally optimistic response, promising that Microsoft will thrive in "the mobile-first, cloud-first world."

Canada Halts Online Tax Returns In Wake of Heartbleed 50

alphadogg (971356) writes "Canada Revenue Agency has halted online filing of tax returns by the country's citizens following the disclosure of the Heartbleed security vulnerability that rocked the Internet this week. The country's Minister of National Revenue wrote in a Twitter message on Wednesday that interest and penalties will not be applied to those filing 2013 tax returns after April 30, the last date for filing the returns, for a period equal to the length of the service disruption. The agency has suspended public access to its online services as a preventive measure to protect the information it holds, while it investigates the potential impact on tax payer information, it said."

Ask Slashdot: Does Your Employer Perform HTTPS MITM Attacks On Employees? 572

New submitter Matt.Battey writes "I was recently on-site with a client and in the execution of my duties there, I needed to access web sites like Google Maps and my company's VPN. The VPN connection was rejected (which tends to be common, even though it's an HTTPS based VPN service). However, when I went to Google Maps I received a certificate error. It turns out that the client is intercepting all HTTPS traffic on the way out the door and re-issuing an internally generated certificate for the site. My client's employees don't notice because their computers all have the internal CA pushed out via Windows Group Policy & log-on scripts.

In essence, my client performs a Man-In-The-Middle attack on all of their employees, interrupting HTTPS communications via a network coordinated reverse-proxy with false certificate generation. My assumption is that the client logs all HTTPS traffic this way, capturing banking records, passwords, and similar data on their employees.

My question: How common is it for employers to perform MITM attacks on their own employees?"

In space, no one can hear you fart.