Toe, The writes "It has long been understood that completely different animals can end up with very similar traits (convergent evolution), and even that genes can converge. But a new study shows an unbelievable level of convergence among entire groups of genes. The study shows that animals as diverse as bats and dolphins, which independently developed echolocation, converge in nearly 200 different genomic regions concentrated in several 'hearing genes'. The implications are rather deep, if you think about it, delving into interesting limitations on diversity or insights into the potential of DNA. And perhaps more importantly, this finding goes a long way toward explaining why almost aliens in the universe look surprisingly identical to humans (though still doesn't explain why they all speak English)."
Submission Summary: 0 pending, 26 declined, 15 accepted (41 total, 36.59% accepted)
Toe, The writes "In Microsoft Word or Excel (Mac or Windows, most versions), try clicking on a hyperlinked URL, and you will encounter a long delay and then see a message indicating "word is preparing to load this document" (or in Excel, you see "opening," and a percentage which slowly climbs). Now that's pretty interesting, because in any other application, when you click a URL, that's a system call that immediately loads that URL in the user's preferred browser. So why does Microsoft take such an ungodly amount of time to "process" something which needs no processing? And what, pray tell, are they doing with all that processing? Shall I bust out the tinfoil hat, or are they just incredibly bad programmers? Well I mean, is it just the latter, or both?"
Toe, The writes "Predator drones have now racked up over 10,000 hours of airtime in the U.S., largely for immigration enforcement. Homeland Security reports that drone operations lead to the apprehension of 4,865 undocumented immigrants and 238 drug smugglers in the past six years. Compare that to 327,577 illegal migrants caught at the southwest border in fiscal 2011. The only limits on their surveillance are FAA regulations keeping them away from crowded urban areas, and this is for safety reasons, not privacy. While the drones cannot see through windows, they certainly see a lot of what goes on in the (former) privacy of peoples' yards. The article cites Michael Kostelnik from the Office of Air and Marine for the Border Protection service saying he's never been challenged in Congress about the appropriate use of domestic drones. 'Instead the question is: Why can't we have more of them in my district?'"
Link to Original Source
Link to Original Source
Toe, The writes "Today NASA announced its imaginatively named Space Launch System or SLS: 'The Space Launch System, or SLS, will be designed to carry the Orion Multi-Purpose Crew Vehicle, as well as important cargo, equipment and science experiments to Earth's orbit and destinations beyond. Additionally, the SLS will serve as a back up for commercial and international partner transportation services to the International Space Station.' News stories abound, some focusing on the Saturn V-like heavy lifter, some on the elements borrowed from the Space Shuttle."
Link to Original Source
Link to Original Source
Toe, The writes "Of particular concern to couch potatoes, gamers, and anyone who spends an inordinate amount of time sitting and staring at a screen: a new study entitled " Minimum amount of physical activity for reduced mortality and extended life expectancy: a prospective cohort study." The conclusion: 92 minutes of moderate activity a week can extend your life by three years."
Toe, The writes "Windows used to own practically the entire tablet market, prior to the launch of the iPad. Today Microsoft manages to hold about 1%. While Microsoft makes a phone operating system, Windows Phone president Andy Lees stated that consumers 'want to be able to do the sort of things they do on a PC on a tablet.' Therefore, Windows Phone 7 isn't for tablets. But not to worry, Windows 8 will be for tablets and will deprecate Windows Phone as well. Just wait a year or so."
Toe, The writes "Earlier this week, Dutch-based NXP Semiconductors announced its GreenChip, which for the cost of about US$1.00, enables every light bulb to have its own wireless IP address. NXP has subsequently announced it is to make its JenNet-IP, ultra-low-power, IEEE 802.15.4-based, wireless network layer software available under an Open Source license in Q4, 2011. This may open the door to standardization in smart home technology."
Toe, The writes "The e-mails are going out in earnest now explaining the Epsilon security breach which may have affected, well, most people. The amazing part of the story is the tone of the letters from banks. The letters from Chase and Citi, both say effectively: "your data was stolen, here's what you should do to protect your data." They then go into a litany of minor data hygiene practices, failing to point out they themselves did not vet their vendor's security practices. There is no claim of culpability for bad security policy nor any indication that they will try to do better in the future. In other words, no reason why you should trust them with your data (and this response is sadly commonplace). Interestingly, while the banks take this tone, the letters from retailers such as Kroger and Brookstone do at least talk about trying to do better in the future."
Toe, The writes "Education Department officials are threatening school principals with lawsuits if they fail to monitor and curb students’ lunchtime chat and evening Facebook time for expressing ideas and words that are deemed by Washington special-interest groups to be harassment of some students. Under the new interpretation of civil rights laws, principals and their schools are legally liable if they fail to curb “harassment” of students, even if it takes place outside the school, on Facebook or in private conversation among a few youths. When children are concerned, where is the line between protection and censorship?"
Toe, The writes "Discovery News reports on what it aptly calls Terror Bots. These include DARPA's Atlas and Cheetah, one which walks like a human over rough terrain, and another which is super fast like, well, a cheetah. Then there is the Army's mini-bot Cougar which can detect activity 65-feet away... through walls. But don't worry. The article points they are being developed 'not with directly malicious intentions.' What do you think are the chances these bots obey Asimov's laws?"
Toe, The writes "In response to Microsoft's attempt to dismiss Apple's 'App Store' trademark application, Apple references Microsoft's claim to the Windows trademark. 'Having itself faced a decades-long genericness challenge to its claimed WINDOWS mark, Microsoft should be well aware that the focus in evaluating genericness is on the mark as a whole and requires a fact-intensive assessment of the primary significance of the term to a substantial majority of the relevant public.'"
Toe, The writes "Barclays Capital analyst Ben Reitzes follows up on a conference call with Forrester Research by concluding that the iPad is “running far ahead of its tablet competition and its their game to lose." He also notes that Apple is the "½Â½Âoewinner in the consumerization of IT," with hoards of enterprise workers bringing their Apple devices into work. He predicts Apple will claim over 70% of 47 million tablets sold in 2011. Recently, Apple announced that over 80% of Fortune 100 are already deploying or testing the iPad."
Toe, The writes "Earlier today, Website was reportedly hacked. It appears that 590 million customers' data (including but not limited to credit card information, user ID and password, shopping history, and shoe size) was obtained by hackers. The stolen data apparently was acquired when hackers called Company and asked the receptionist for passwords to their vpn and central database. Company says they were shocked this could have happened, that they doubt the hackers will find any use for this information, and that in any event there was little they could have done to prevent the breach. In response to the incident, Company sent a two-sentence apology e-mail to their customers and now considers the case to be closed. Company reportedly has no plans to upgrade their internal security, since again, these sorts of things "just happen." In other news, retailers around the globe are reporting fantastic sales today, most notably from customers paying by credit card."
Ed writes "Practically every computer system appears to be at the mercy of at least one individual who holds root or whatever other superuser identity can destroy (or subvert, etc.) that system. Each application on a system has the same weakness. However, making a system require multiple individuals for any root operation (think of the classic two-keys to launch a nuke) has shortcomings: simple operations sometimes require root, and would be enormously cumbersome if they needed a consensus of administrators to execute. A core principle of the Metagovernment project is that individuals should not be empowered over other individuals (collaborative governance), yet we repeatedly encounter scenarios where one individual has sweeping power over any technological system we use. We have the idea of a Distributed Administration Network, which is like a cluster of independently-administered servers, but this is a limited case for deployment of our governance applications... and anyway it is still (as far as we know) vaporware. Are there more sweeping yet practical solutions out there for avoiding the weakness of a singular empowered superuser?"