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Submission + - Let's Not Go to Mars writes: Ed Regis write in the NYT that today we an witnessing an outburst of enthusiasm over the literally outlandish notion that in the relatively near future, some of us are going to be living, working, thriving and dying on Mars. But unfortunately Mars mania reflects an excessively optimistic view of what it actually takes to travel to and live on Mars, papering over many of the harsh realities and bitter truths that underlie the dream. "First, there is the tedious business of getting there. Using current technology and conventional chemical rockets, a trip to Mars would be a grueling, eight- to nine-month-long nightmare for the crew," writes Regis. "Tears, sweat, urine and perhaps even solid waste will be recycled, your personal space is reduced to the size of an SUV., and you and your crewmates are floating around sideways, upside down and at other nauseating angles." According to Regis every source of interpersonal conflict, and emotional and psychological stress that we experience in ordinary, day-to-day life on Earth will be magnified exponentially by restriction to a tiny, hermetically sealed, pressure-cooker capsule hurtling through deep space and to top it off, despite these constraints, the crew must operate within an exceptionally slim margin of error with continuous threats of equipment failures, computer malfunctions, power interruptions and software glitches.

But getting there is the easy part says Regis. "Mars is a dead, cold, barren planet on which no living thing is known to have evolved, and which harbors no breathable air or oxygen, no liquid water and no sources of food, nor conditions favorable for producing any. For these and other reasons it would be accurate to call Mars a veritable hell for living things, were it not for the fact that the planet’s average surface temperature is minus 81 degrees Fahrenheit." These are only a few of the many serious challenges that must be overcome before anyone can put human beings on Mars and expect them to live for more than five minutes says Regis. "The notion that we can start colonizing Mars within the next 10 years or so is an overoptimistic, delusory idea that falls just short of being a joke."

Submission + - Microsoft refuses to answer questions about forced Windows 10 downloads (

Mark Wilson writes: Just last week Microsoft managed to piss off a lot of people by secretly downloading the Windows 10 installation files to their computers without permission. The comments from BetaNews readers were plentiful, but divided. Some didn't see the problem, while others thought it to be invasive and presumptive.

But there was one question that popped up again and again — just what the hell was Microsoft thinking? I decided to try to find out but found that the company was somewhat cagey with what it wanted to say on the matter. This is not on. People are more than a little annoyed, and they are demanding answers. They deserve them.

Submission + - Commodore PC still controls heat and A/C at 19 Michigan Public Schools ( 2

jmulvey writes: Think your SCADA systems are outdated? Environmental monitoring at 19 Grand Rapids Public Schools are still controlled by a Commodore Amiga. Programmed by a High School student in the 1980s, the system has been running 24/7 for decades. A replacement has been budgeted by the school system, estimated cost: Between $1.5 and 2 million. How much is your old Commodore Amiga worth?

Submission + - North Korea Tests Submarine Ballistic Missile writes: USA Today reports that under the watchful eyes of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, North Korea says it has conducted an underwater test-firing of a submarine ballistic missile. Kim called the missile a "world-level strategic weapon" and an "eye-opening success." Although American officials had suspected North Korea was developing such a missile system, the country had not previously claimed to have conducted a test launching. The test, if confirmed, would pose a new challenge to the United States and its regional allies, South Korea and Japan, which have been trying to build missile defense capabilities to guard against potential North Korean missile attacks. The news of a successful test-fire was most likely a surprise to South Korean military officials, who have privately told reporters that they believed it would take years for the North to develop such a submarine-launched ballistic missile. “North Korea’s development of a submarine-launched missile capability would eventually expand Pyongyang’s threat to South Korea, Japan and U.S. bases in East Asia" says Joseph S. Bermudez Jr. “Submarines carrying land-attack missiles would be challenging to locate and track, would be mobile assets able to attack from any direction, and could operate at significant distances from the Korean peninsula.”

Submission + - Microsoft, Chip Makers Working on Hardware DRM for Windows 10 PCs ( 1

writertype writes: Last month, Microsoft began talking about PlayReady 3.0, which adds hardware DRM to secure 4K movies. Intel, AMD, Nvidia, and Qualcomm are all building it in, according to Microsoft. Years back, a number of people got upset when Hollywood talked about locking down "our content". So how important is hardware DRM in this day and age?

Submission + - Popular android package uses just XOR. And that's not the worst part. ( 1

siddesu writes: A popular 'encryption' package for Android that even charges a yearly subscription fee of $8, actually does nothing more than give false sense of security to its users. Not only is the app using a worthless encryption method, it also uses weak keys and 'encrypts' only a small portion of the files. One wonders how much snake oil flows through the app stores, from 'battery savers' to 'antivirus'. What is the most worthless app purchase you made? Did you ask for a refund?

Submission + - NASA confirms results for 'impossible' space drive that uses no rocket fuel ( 1

MarkWhittington writes: Last August, NASA’s Eagleworks, an advanced space propulsion lab located at the Johnson Spaceflight Center south of Houston, created a great deal of excitement when it announced that it had tested a prototype of something called a Cannae Drive. Using microwaves, the device seemed to exert a minute but measurable degree of thrust when mounted on a pendulum in a vacuum chamber. NextBigFuture provided an update on the experiments on an engine that uses no fuel and seems to violate Newtonian physics.

In essence, the team at Eagleworks has been able to replicate the results of the original experiment, exerting a thrust in the area of 50 micro-Newtons. The team has been hampered by a lack of funding to fight through equipment failures. Nevertheless, they are working, very slowly, to scale up the thrust to 100 micro-Newtons. At that point, they intend to take the device to the Glenn Research Center for another replication effort.

Submission + - How Blind Programmers Can Outcode You With Their Eyes Closed

theodp writes: Yes, Slashdot, there are blind programmers. Ed Summers, for one, who lost his vision at age 30 and now ghostblogs for Willie the Seeing Eye Dog. And if you've ever wondered how the blind can code, blind-since-birth Florian Beijers explains that all he needs is a normal Dell Inspiron 15r SE notebook and his trusty open source NVDA screen reader software, and he's good-to-go. "This is really all the adaptation a blind computer user needs," Beijers adds, but he does ask one small favor: "If you're writing the next big application, with a stunning UI and a great workflow, I humbly ask you to consider accessibility as part of the equation. In this day and age, there's really no reason not to use the UI toolkits available."

Submission + - When the argument between science and industry was over ozone (

Lasrick writes: Thanks to the world’s first global environmental treaty, the ozone hole over the Antarctic has stopped growing. Yet for about a decade after Mario Molina and Sherwood Rowland published their 1974 journal article describing the chemical link between CFCs and stratospheric ozone, the fate of the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer was far from certain, right up to the moment when the Antarctic ozone hole was reported by Joseph Farman and his colleagues in 1985. The similarities to today's climate "debate" are depressing, as the pattern of acceptance, inaction, and the public trashing of scientists is the same: 'The vast majority of scientists who study the problem say that the weight of evidence shows that human activities are driving climate change. A few contrarians, businesses, and political and media pundits say otherwise. The majority of the public is confused by the conflicting messages and has low interest. The greenhouse gas producers, their lobbyists, and the governments that control their energy sectors are stalling, saying that the science is too unsettled and more proof is needed that humans are responsible. At the same time, corporations are examining new technologies and trying to find ways to achieve a competitive advantage and profits." All of this played out over 30 years ago, when ozone was the issue and human-created CFCs were the problem.

Submission + - Microsoft reveals Windows 10 will be a free upgrade (

mpicpp writes: Microsoft just took another big step toward the release of Windows 10 and revealed it will be free for many current Windows users.

The company unveiled the Windows 10 consumer preview on Wednesday, showcasing some of the new features in the latest version of the operating system that powers the vast majority of the world's desktop PCs. The developer preview has been available since Microsoft first announced Windows 10 in the fall, but it was buggy, limited in scope and very light on new features.

Importantly, Windows 10 will be free for existing Windows users running versions of Windows back to Windows 7. That includes Windows 7, 8, 8.1 and Windows Phone. Microsoft specified it would only be free for the first year, indicating Windows would be software that users subscribe to, rather than buy outright.

Microsoft Corporate Vice President of the Operating Systems Group Joe Belfiore showed off some of the new features in Windows 10. While Microsoft had already announced it would bring back the much-missed Start Menu, Belfiore revealed it would also have a full-screen mode that includes more of the Windows 8 Start screen. He said Windows machines would go back and forth between to two menus in a way that wouldn't confuse people.

Belfiore also showed a new notification center for Windows, which puts a user's notifications in an Action Center menu that can appear along the right side, similar to how notifications work in Apple OS X.

Microsoft Executive Vice President of Operating Systems Terry Myerson revealed that 1.7 million people had downloaded the Windows 10 developer preview, giving Microsoft over 800,000 individual piece of feedback.

Myerson explained that Windows 10 has several main intents: the give users a mobility of experience from device to device, instill a sense of trust in users, and provide the most natural ways to interact with devices.

Submission + - Google fund to pay for 1 million copies of Charlie Hebdo

BarbaraHudson writes: The Register is reporting that money set aside from a deal with France's publishers is going to pay for the printing of 1 million copies of next weeks' Charlie Hebdo, "Eight of the 12 people killed were journalists attending an editorial meeting, however, a senior editor and the magazine’s chief executive were in London at the time of the attack. They have vowed to do a massive 1 million copy print run next week – Charlie Hebdo’s circulation is normally around 60k.
The cash will come from €60m fund (€20m per year over three years) that supports digital publishing innovation. The fund was set up in 2013 following negotiations between Google and the French government as a remedy to demands from European publishers that Google pay for displaying news snippets in its search results.

"When it comes to humility, I'm the greatest." -- Bullwinkle Moose