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Submission + - US bridge condition data in Google Earth (

Simon Ilyushchenko writes: "I'm starting a blog called "The Days Are Numbered" that will talk about plotting large environment-related datasets. The first entries show 2007 US bridge condition data as collected by Department of Transportation. There are two views: the state percentages of structurally deficient and functionally obsoleted bridges are plotted using just-released Maker application from Fortius GeoCommons. Also, 189,000 out of 716,000 bridges with the lowest rankings are plotted in Google Earth using the regionator script.

Regionator scores data by a user-specified metric and arranges placemarks into KML regions so that only highest-scoring ones are shown at high zoom levels. The placemark size corresponds to the amount of daily traffic, and the color shows the bridge rating. Placemark description provides data about the bridges: names, detailed condition and appraisal ratings, year built, daily traffic and the name of the agency responsible for maintenance. Here's a sample image.

This might be of interest to people who work with presenting large datasets online, as well as to those who are curious about the condition of their local bridges. Let me know if you have any suggestions on improving the visualization or on ways to make the underlying data available to other tools."


Submission + - SPAM: Robot gas stations in the sky

Roland Piquepaille writes: "According to Aviation Week, U.S. engineers will soon demonstrate the first in-flight docking of two unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) while continuing the development of an autonomous aerial refueling system. Two specially designed UAVs, a tanker and a receiver, will perform their first test flights next month. 'One of the six-foot wingspan UAVs is equipped with an extendable refueling boom with drogue, or basket, and the other with a retractable probe.' These tests will check the autonomous rendezvous and docking processes, but will not involve actual fuel transfer, according to one of the companies involved. But read more for additional details and pictures of these UAV gas stations on the ground and in the sky."
Red Hat Software

Submission + - RedHat buys qumranet - makers of KVM (

calmond writes: "Red Hat has acquired Qumranet, Inc. The acquisition includes Qumranet's virtualization solutions, including its KVM (Kernel Virtual Machine) platform and SolidICE offering, a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) which together present a comprehensive virtualization platform for enterprise customers. In addition, Qumranet's talented team of professionals that develop, test and support Qumranet solutions, and its leaders of the open source community KVM project, will join Red Hat. What does this mean for virtualization under Linux, and especially the future of Xen and Linux..."

Submission + - UK Home Office losses thousands of criminal files

elguillelmo writes: In yet another case of British ill handling of sensitive data, The Times informs that "Confidential records and sensitive intelligence on tens of thousands of the country's most prolific criminals have been lost in a major breach of data security".
The details of the loss are stunning: "The data had been encrypted for security reasons but was decoded by staff at PA Consulting Group and placed on a computer memory stick that was subsequently lost".
As you might remember, it's not the first time a UK Government department losses sensitive data.

Submission + - KDE 4 uses 40% less memory despite 3D eye-candy

An anonymous reader writes: Pro-Linux reports that KDE 4, scheduled to be released in January 2008, consumes almost 40% less memory than KDE 3.5, despite the fact that version 4 of the Free and Open Source desktop system includes a composited window manager and a revamped menu and applet interface. KDE developer Will Stephenson showcased KDE 4's 3D eye-candy on a 256Mb laptop with 1Ghz CPU and run-of-the-mill integrated graphics, pointing out that mini-optimizations haven't even yet been started. Will this combination of resource efficiency and consumer appeal make KDE 4 the leader in the booming Linux-based ultra mobile laptop and energy efficient desktop markets?

Submission + - Arctic to be ice-free within FIVE years, not 40

OriginalArlen writes: The BBC is reporting new research into Arctic warming to be presented at the fall American Geophysical Union meeting which describes current models of arctic sea-ice response to warming as far too conservative. The work predicts that albedo feedback, together with a greater heat input from warmer ocean currents, will lead to ice-free summers as early as 2013. This would go a long way to explaining the dramatic and accelerating loss of sea-ice in the summer of 2007, which is merely the latest in a progressively widening gap between modeled and actual sea-ice loss (as well as presenting a nicely testable short-range prediction.)

Whilst sea-ice obviously doesn't raise the sea level when it melts, a similar runaway feedback that lead to significant reductions in the Greenland or Antarctica ice sheets would cause a 6-7m sea-level rise, indisputably catastrophic for human society as well as the polar bears.

Submission + - Hackers Launch Major Attack on US Military Labs (

Bazards writes:,140390/article.html Hackers have succeeded in breaking into the computer systems of two of the U.S.' most important science labs, the Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) in Tennessee and Los Alamos National Laboratory in New Mexico. In what a spokesperson for the Oak Ridge facility described as a "sophisticated cyber attack," it appears that intruders accessed a database of visitors to the Tennessee lab between 1990 and 2004, which included their social security numbers and dates of birth. Three thousand researchers reportedly visit the lab each year, a who's who of the science establishment in the U.S.

Submission + - Microsoft now owns ISO JTC 1 (

The Open Sourcerer writes: "Rob Weir replied to a couple of comments to an article he wrote about the plans for maintenance of OOXML should it become an ISO standard. His comment is very insightful, quite scary but ultimately pretty accurate I think... It is a scary proposition. I don't think people understand how much Microsoft now owns JTC1 in a very real and tangible way. Absolutely owns."

Submission + - OOXML and Poisonous Fish (

The Open Sourcerer writes: "Alex Brown, the chap who has the unenviable task of convening the forthcoming BRM in February for Microsoft/ECMA's OOXML document specification, has posted a few first snippets from the initial meeting of the body called the ISO/IEC JTC 1/SC34 — Document Description and Processing Languages... In his most recent blog post, covering the opening meetings in Kyoto Japan of the SC34, there are some interesting titbits. I was struck by the list of individuals resigning their posts or stepping down. It's quite a few people. I don't know if it is common to lose so many in one go, or how many they represent as a percentage of the total. But still, I found it odd that 4 senior figures all decide to go at the same time. The last one he mentioned is the now famous Martin Bryan... Let's hope that the Fugu was as well prepared as the SC34 needs to be next February."

Submission + - Electric Cars to Help Utilities Load Balance Grid

Reservoir Hill writes: "A team at the University of Delaware has created a system that enables vehicles to not only run on electricity alone, but also to generate revenue by storing and providing electricity for utilities. The technology, known as V2G, for vehicle-to-grid, lets electricity flow from the car's battery to power lines and back. When the car is in the V2G setting, the battery's charge goes up or down depending on the needs of the grid operator, which sometimes must store surplus power and other times requires extra power to respond to surges in usage. The ability of the V2G car's battery to act like a sponge provides a solution for utilities, which pay millions to generating stations that help balance the grid. Willett Kempton, who began developing the technology more than a decade ago, estimates the value for utilities could be up to $4,000 a year for the service, part of which could be paid to drivers. A car sitting there with a tank of gasoline in it, that's useless," says Kempton. "If it's a battery storing a lot of electricity and a big plug that allows moving power back and forth quickly, then it's valuable.""

Submission + - Organic Building Blocks Seen in Titan's Atmosphere (

Invisible Pink Unicorn writes: "Scientists analyzing data gathered by the Cassini spacecraft have confirmed the presence of heavy negative ions in the upper regions of Titan's atmosphere. These particles may act as organic building blocks for even more complicated molecules. This discovery was completely unexpected because of the chemical composition of the atmosphere, mainly consisting of nitrogen and methane. According to the lead researcher at the Mullard Space Science Laboratory, "Additional rings of carbon can build up on these ions, forming molecules called polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, which may act as a basis for the earliest forms of life." The article abstract is available from Geophysical Research Letters."

Submission + - Nuclear battery patent and tapping oil shale (

nanotrends writes: "The uranium hydride nuclear "battery" is a self-contained nuclear reactor. It is not a radioisotope thermal generator. With a good design it can achieve 50% fuel burnup instead of 0.7-2.0% for existing reactors. The company Hyperion claims that the first reactors will cost $1400 per KW (about the same as the claims for the latest conventional nuclear reactors). The patent info on the "nuclear battery" indicates how it will operate. The first target market is to help enhance recovery of oil shale, so this would address peak oil. They claim they can lower costs of insitu recovery down to 30% of the cost of using natural gas for the same purpose and no water is needed for reactor cooling. Thorium hydride could also be used. If the company is successful they would blunt peak oil. The USA could be generating several million barrels per day of oil from the oil shale fields in Colorado and the reactors could displace coal power which kills 30,000 americans each year from air pollution and 1 million people world wide. Teller tried to make a uranium hydride bomb but he could only get 200 tons of TNT equivalent out of it. Not much more than the recent russian father of all bombs."

Submission + - Google locates mobile phone users with cell towers ( 1

jbrodkin writes: "Google today launched a GPS-like service for smartphones that uses cell tower ID information to track the location of mobile phone users and direct them to nearby destinations. The technology, an extension of Google Maps, "takes information broadcast from cell towers and sifts it through Google-developed algorithms to approximate a user's current location on the map," Google says. Google seems to anticipate concerns from privacy rights advocates, and has promised not to associate location data with any personally identifiable information. This new mobile version of Google Maps is available in beta."

Submission + - Professor Breaks Bank Security to Prove Point

swehack writes: "Norweigan computer science professor Kjell Jørgen Hole was dissapointed at how his bank handled the security concerns he had. So he took matters into his own hands, and made it a project to break the security as a proof of concept. Along with his students he worked for approximately 100 hours and managed to successfully break the banks security measures, transfer money between accounts without the owner noticing and steal the identity of banking customers. Original article in Swedish."