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Medicine

How to Maintain Lab Safety While Making Viruses Deadlier 218

Posted by timothy
from the this-one-goes-to-11 dept.
Lasrick (2629253) writes "A scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison published an article in June revealing that he had taken genes from the deadly human 1918 Spanish Flu and inserted them into the H5N1 avian flu to make a new virus—one which was both far deadlier and far more capable of spreading than the original avian strain. In July it was revealed that the same scientist was conducting another study in which he genetically altered the 2009 strain of flu to enable it to evade immune responses, 'effectively making the human population defenseless against re-emergence.' In the U.S. alone, biosafety incidents involving pathogens happen more than twice per week. These 'gain-of-function' experiments are accidents waiting to happen, with the possibility of starting deadly pandemics that could kill millions. It isn't as if it hasn't happened before: in 2009, a group of Chinese scientists created a viral strain of flu virus that escaped the lab and created a pandemic, killing thousands of people. 'Against this backdrop, the growing use of gain-of-function approaches for research requires more careful examination. And the potential consequences keep getting more catastrophic.' This article explores the history of lab-created pandemics and outlines recommendations for a safer approach to this type of research."

Comment: Encryption! (Score 1) 208

by Mini-Geek (#47274923) Attached to: Ask Slashdot: How To Bequeath Sensitive Information?

Encrypt the file with a secure password or key, maybe using AESCrypt. Email the encrypted file to the relevant parties. Put the password to the file in your will (keep it under appropriate trusted guard, to be released only on your death). As long as the will and the encrypted file are kept apart until after your death, the file will remain secure until then. You can also modify the encrypted file as things change, encrypt with the same password, and resend the file.

There's still the possibility that their computer is compromised after you die and they decrypt the file. They could reduce this risk by opening it only on a known-secure system (e.g. an Ubuntu LiveCD boot), if it really matters. In any case, this greatly reduces the security exposure by not have this file sitting around for years for anyone to read.

Robotics

John Hawley and His Dr. Who-Inspired Robot K-9 (Video) 23

Posted by Roblimo
from the my-dog-is-doggier-than-your-dog dept.
By day John Hawley is a mild-mannered open hardware evangelist for Intel. But after hours he is the master of K-9, a robot dog he works on a little at a time. Yes, this is a Whovian thing, which is why John's K-9 looks so much like the Doctor's. But K-9 is also a pretty good dog on his/her own. No vet bills, no constant hunger, no barking at feral cats in the middle of the night, obeys every command... so maybe Dr. Who and John Hawley have the right idea when it comes to canines. Except.... aww.... my dog, Terri the Terrorist Terrier, just licked my hand. What a sweetie! Terri may not take orders from a hand-held remote, but she has a lot of other fine characteristics, including affection. K-9 is very cute in a squared-off, mechanical way, though. Hard to resist, despite a lack of soft fur and no tongue for licking his/her master's hand. (Alternate Video Link)
Media

Virtual DVDs, Revisited 147

Posted by Soulskill
from the still-waiting-on-virtual-laserdiscs dept.
Bennett Haselton writes: "In March I asked why Netflix doesn't offer their rental DVD service in 'virtual DVD' form -- where you can 'check out' a fixed number of 'virtual DVDs' per month, just as you would with their physical DVDs by mail, but by accessing the 'virtual DVDs' in streaming format so that you could watch them on a phone or a tablet or a laptop without a DVD drive. My argument was that this is an interesting, non-trivial question, because it seems Netflix and (by proxy) the studios are leaving cash on the table by not offering this as an option to DVD-challenged users. I thought some commenters' responses raised questions that were worth delving into further." Read on for the rest of Bennett's thoughts.
Transportation

The Best Parking Apps You've Never Heard Of and Why You Haven't 163

Posted by samzenpus
from the park-that-anywhere dept.
Bennett Haselton writes "If you read no further, use either the BestParking or ParkMe app to search all nearby parking garages for the cheapest spot, based on the time you're arriving and leaving. I'm interested in the question of why so few people know about these apps, how is it that they've been partially crowded out by other 'parking apps' that are much less useful, and why our marketplace for ideas and intellectual properly is still so inefficient." Read below to see what Bennett has to say.
Communications

Goodbye, Google Voice 166

Posted by timothy
from the your-mileage-may-vary dept.
itwbennett writes "The trouble with Google Voice is that the way we use phones has changed — and it hasn't kept up with the times: 'Fewer people have a mobile phone and a business line and a home line that might make One Number For All so. Text message costs (which are actually close to nothing) are almost always bundled into contract costs. Automatic voice transcription, while still a mean feat, is no longer such a magic trick,' writes Kevin Purdy in a blog post explaining why he's breaking up with Google Voice. The main problem is that, despite some very cool features, Google Voice doesn't play well with others — even apps in its own family. And it doesn't look as though that's going to get better anytime soon." I've been very happy with Google Voice for a few years now, and one reason is the transcribed voice messages, which may get hilariously garbled sometimes, but are almost always correct enough to be useful.
Microsoft

Early Surface Sales Pitiful 251

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the things-no-one-wants dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes "Microsoft has earned $853 million from sales of its Surface tablets, according to the company's annual Form 10-K filed with the SEC. That's a bit of a disaster, to put it bluntly. Earlier estimates put Surface sales at roughly 1.5 million units; the $853 million figure reinforces that projection. By comparison, Apple sold 14.6 million iPads in its last quarter alone. Adding insult to injury, Microsoft spent quite a bit producing and marketing Surface. The Windows division's 'cost of revenue increased $1.8 billion, reflecting a $1.6 billion increase in product costs associated with Surface and Windows 8, including a charge for Surface RT inventory adjustments of approximately $900 million,' read the Form 10-K. 'Sales and marketing expenses increased $1.0 billion or 34 percent, reflecting an $898 million increase in advertising costs associated primarily with Windows 8 and Surface.' Overall, Microsoft's Windows division earned $19.2 billion in its fiscal 2013."

Comment: Re:And yet (Score 2) 768

by Mini-Geek (#43937993) Attached to: Seeking Fifth Amendment Defenders

There's a difference between something you have on you (e.g. a key to a lock, DNA, fingerprints), and something you know (e.g. combination to lock, password). It's easy for police to show whether you have something. It's not (currently) possible for police to determine whether you know something. I think that an encrypted drive should be treated like a locked safe. Given the proper warrant, AFAIK the police have the right to try to break into that on their own if you don't want to open it for them - but not to compel you to give them the combination to it. The same way, they should be able to try to break into encrypted files on their own, but not to compel you to give them the password. The only big difference between safes and encryption is that breaking encryption is far more difficult, so the courts will be more inclined to ask you for the password than just break in on their own.

Comment: Car analogy (Score 1) 558

by Mini-Geek (#43863615) Attached to: 'Smart Gun' Firm Wants You To Fund Its Prototype

This is the equivalent of a car with a steering wheel that has fingerprint sensors on it, at the 9 and 3 o'clock positions. If it is unable to read valid fingerprints, the engine stops and the steering wheel locks in place.

It's safer because it doesn't let someone steal your car (be it your child, or a thief), and it forces you to drive with both hands on the wheel at all times.

Programming

How Experienced And Novice Programmers See Code 238

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the m-x-run-direct-neural-interface dept.
Esther Schindler writes "We always talk about how programmers improve their skill by reading others' code. But the newbies aren't going to be as good at even doing that, when they start. There's some cool research underway, using eye tracking to compare how an experienced programmer looks at code compared to a novice. Seems to be early days, but worth a nod and a smile." Reader Necroman points out that if the above link is unreachable, try this one. The videos are also available on YouTube: Expert, Novice.
Security

The Man Who Hacked the Bank of France 184

Posted by timothy
from the whereas-6-5-4-3-2-1-would-have-stopped-him dept.
First time accepted submitter David Off writes "In 2008 a Skype user looking for cheap rate gateway numbers found himself connected to the Bank of France where he was asked for a password. He typed 1 2 3 4 5 6 and found himself connected to their computer system. The intrusion was rapidly detected but led to the system being frozen for 48 hours as a security measure. Two years of extensive international police inquiries eventually traced the 37-year-old unemployed Breton despite the fact he'd used his real address when he registered with Skype. The man was found not guilty in court today (Original, in French) of maliciously breaking into the bank."
Space

Search For Earth-Like Worlds Focuses On Sun's Siblings 64

Posted by Soulskill
from the all-in-the-family dept.
astroengine writes "The search for 'Earth-like' worlds just became even more Earth-like. Researchers from the University of Turku, Finland, have begun the search for the Sun's siblings in the hope that they may play host to exoplanets. Since these stars 'grew up' in close proximity to our Sun inside a stellar nursery some 4.5 billion years ago, they may have shared more than just star-building materials. Through the biology-spreading hypothesis 'panspermia,' they may have also shared the basic building blocks for life. Two sibling candidates have now been found and the researchers hope to survey the two stars — which contain similar metals and are of a similar age to our Sun — for bona fide Earth-like worlds. Could these worlds have life? If they do, extraterrestrial life may have more in common with us than we ever imagined."

It is impossible to travel faster than light, and certainly not desirable, as one's hat keeps blowing off. -- Woody Allen

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