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Comment: Re:Yay! (Score 2) 118

by devjoe (#47893187) Attached to: Software Patents Are Crumbling, Thanks To the Supreme Court
The first story about "on a computer" patents getting invalidated is a good thing. But the second story is perhaps even more important. People are taking notice that patent examiners are not doing their jobs. Too many of them are just working one day a week/month/whatever and just rubberstamping their quota of patents, allowing anything whatsoever through the system, and falsely reporting that they worked full time and even overtime, because there is a corrupt culture that lets them get away with it. Exposing this could lead to mass firings, and some sort of system to ensure real accountability.

It's a problem, though, because there's no simple metric to determine whether patent examiners are doing a good job. Using number of patents reviewed as that metric encourages examiners to do a shoddy job actually examining the patents (i.e. what has actually been happening). If they are expected to pass only a certain fraction of patents, this is slightly better since it forces them to actually come up with reasons to reject some patents, but what fraction should they use? Two examiners doing perfect jobs may have very different fractions of accepted patents simply because one got better patents to review than the other, especially if they have different focus areas. Does the patent office even know the fraction of submitted patents in various areas which are good? A better metric would be whether accepted patents survive in the courts, but this depends on somebody actually challenging the patents and takes years after the fact. It might help now throw out some of the patent examiners who clearly haven't been doing their jobs in the past.

I'm not sure what the right solution is. Blind peer review and multiple review? Assign each patent to 2 or 3 different reviewers and call to carpet the ones who most consistently differ from others? Does that even work if half your patent examiners are shirking?

Firefox

Mozilla Rolls Out Sponsored Tiles To Firefox Nightly's New Tab Page 171

Posted by timothy
from the now-how-much-would-you-pay? dept.
An anonymous reader writes Mozilla has rolled out directory tiles, the company's advertising experiment for its browser's new tab page, to the Firefox Nightly channel. We installed the latest browser build to give the sponsored ads a test drive. When you first launch Firefox, a message on the new tab page informs you of the following: what tiles are (with a link to a support page about how sponsored tiles work), a promise that the feature abides by the Mozilla Privacy Policy, and a reminder that you can turn tiles off completely and choose to have a blank new tab page. It's quite a lot to take in all at once.
Google

Finding an ISIS Training Camp Using Google Earth 134

Posted by Soulskill
from the bet-you-wished-you'd-stuck-to-word-of-mouth dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Terrorist organization ISIS has been in the news a lot lately for their hostile activities in Iraq and Syria. They've also been very active online, posting propaganda and photos on various social networking sites to try to recruit more members. Frequently, they'll have pictures of themselves in nondescript locations — but even carefully selected images give clues to a real location. Citizen journalists at Bellingcat analyzed a group of these photos, comparing buildings and bridges in the background to images from Google Earth. With very little to go on, they were able to pinpoint the location of a terrorist training camp.

Comment: Re:ESPN (Score 2) 401

by devjoe (#47460389) Attached to: Comcast Customer Service Rep Just Won't Take No For an Answer

About 4 or 5 years ago, all the broadcast TV in the US changed over to a digital format, and the digital format includes HDTV broadcasts. If you have an HDTV and an antenna, and you live in a place where you can receive the signals, you can get the HDTV of all the broadcast networks over the air (OTA) with no cable.

It has been reported that Comcast re-compresses the digital HDTV streams, cramming them into a smaller digital channel in their cable system, in order to fit more channels in. This leads to reduced quality in the picture you view on Comcast compared to the OTA HDTV broadcast. I don't know about other cable systems. Here is one such report, though it seems to be specifically about other non-OTA HD channels (where the FIOS broadcast was used for comparison).

Network

Philips Ethernet-Powered Lighting Transmits Data To Mobile Devices Via Light 104

Posted by Soulskill
from the build-it-now-figure-out-why-later dept.
llebeel writes Philips has shown off its Ethernet-powered connected lighting, which can transmit data to mobile devices through light via embedded code. Arriving in the form of LED "luminaires," Philips' connected office lighting will aim to not only save businesses money on energy costs, but also serve as a means of providing information and data about the general running of a building, transmitted through light, to improve the overall efficiency of business infrastructure. Philips' Onno Willemse said, "Over the light, we can project a code — its number, its IP address, its MAC address — making each fixture unique and recognizable. We can also receive that light on our mobile phones, so if you hold the lens of a mobile device under the luminaire, it actually reads the code and makes a connection to it over WiFi."
Canada

Krebs on Microsoft Suspending "Patch Tuesday" Emails and Blaming Canada 130

Posted by samzenpus
from the who's-to-blame dept.
tsu doh nimh writes In a move that may wind up helping spammers, Microsoft is blaming a new Canadian anti-spam law for the company's recent decision to stop sending regular emails about security updates for its Windows operating system and other Microsoft software. Some anti-spam experts who worked very closely on Canada's Anti-Spam Law (CASL) say they are baffled by Microsoft's response to a law which has been almost a decade in the making. Indeed, an exception in the law says it does not apply to commercial electronic messages that solely provide "warranty information, product recall information or safety or security information about a product, goods or a service that the person to whom the message is sent uses, has used or has purchased." Several people have observed that Microsoft likely is using the law as a convenient excuse for dumping an expensive delivery channel.
Space

Draper Labs Develops Low Cost Probe To Orbit, Land On Europa For NASA 79

Posted by samzenpus
from the heading-out dept.
MarkWhittington writes Ever since the House passed a NASA spending bill that allocated $100 million for a probe to Jupiter's moon Europa, the space agency has been attempting to find a way to do such a mission on the cheap. The trick is that the mission has to cost less than $1 billion, a tall order for anything headed to the Outer Planets. According to a Wednesday story in the Atlantic, some researchers at Draper Labs have come up with a cheap way to do a Europa orbiter and land instruments on its icy surface.

The first stage is to orbit a cubesat, a tiny, coffee can sized satellite that would contain two highly accurate accelerometers that would go into orbit around Europa and measure its gravity field. In this way the location of Europa's subsurface oceans would be mapped. Indeed it is possible that the probe might find an opening through the ice crust to the ocean, warmed it is thought by tidal forces.

The second stage is to deploy even smaller probes called chipsats, tiny devices that contain sensors, a microchip, and an antenna. Hundreds of these probes, the size of human fingernails, would float down on Europa's atmosphere to be scattered about its surface. While some might be lost, enough will land over a wide enough area to do an extensive chemical analysis of the surface of Europa, which would then be transmitted to the cubesat mothership and then beamed to Earth.
Biotech

Synthetic Chromosomes Successfully Integrated Into Brewer's Yeast 107

Posted by Soulskill
from the origin-story-for-superyeast dept.
New submitter dunnomattic writes: "Researchers at New York University School of Medicine have achieved a milestone in synthetic biology. A fully synthetic yeast chromosome, dubbed 'synIII,' has successfully replaced chromosome 3 of multiple living yeast cells. The researchers pieced together over 250,000 nucleotide bases to accomplish this feat. Dr. Jef Boeke, the lead author of the study, says, 'not only can we make designer changes on a computer, but we can make hundreds of changes through a chromosome and we can put that chromosome into yeast and have a yeast that looks, smells and behaves like a regular yeast, but this yeast is endowed with special properties that normal yeasts don't have.' Work is underway (abstract) to synthesize the remaining 15 chromosomes."
NASA

NASA Wants To Go To Europa 216

Posted by samzenpus
from the just-down-the-road dept.
MightyMartian writes "'NASA and the White House are asking Congress to bankroll a new intrastellar road trip to a destination that's sort of like the extraterrestrial Atlantis of our solar system — Jupiter's intriguing moon, Europa.' Since Europa seems one of the most likely worlds in the Solar System other than Earth where we have some hope of finding extant life, let's hope Congress gives the green light to this project."
Shark

Many Lasers Become One In Lockheed Martin's 30 kW Laser Weapon 202

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the ready-main-phaser-array dept.
Zothecula writes "In another step forward for laser weapons that brings to mind the Death Star's superlaser, Lockheed Martin has demonstrated a 30-kilowatt fiber laser produced by combining many lasers into a single beam of light. According to the company, this is the highest power laser yet that was still able to maintain beam quality and electrical efficiency, paving the way for a laser weapon system suitable, if not for a Death Star, for a wide range of air, land, and sea military platforms."

Comment: Re:3dnewsen article - auto translated? (Score 5, Informative) 155

by devjoe (#46082659) Attached to: $499 3-D Printer Drew Plenty of Attention at CES (Video)
Specifically, it appears to be a translation-and-back-again of the LA Times article which is the first link in the article, or an automated synonym-substitution (trying to avoid being detected as copyright violation for reposting stories in full, perhaps, though strangely they link to the original article at the bottom). The other articles on their site (see Latest USA News sidebar on the right) appear to have undergone the same process.
Science

Why Transitivity Violations Can Be Rational 169

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the error-axiom-broken dept.
ananyo writes "Organisms, including humans, are often assumed to be hard-wired by evolution to try to make optimal decisions, to the best of their knowledge. Ranking choices consistently — for example, in selecting food sources — would seem to be one aspect of such rationality. If A is preferred over B, and B over C, then surely A should be selected when the options are just A and C? This seemingly logical ordering of preferences is called transitivity. Furthermore, if A is preferred when both B and C are available, then A should 'rationally' remain the first choice when only A and B are at hand ... But sometimes animals do not display such logic. For example, honeybees and gray jays have been seen to violate the Independence of Irrational Alternatives, and so have hummingbirds ... Researchers have now used a theoretical model to show that, in fact, violations of transitivity can sometimes be the best choice (original paper) for the given situation, and therefore rational. The key is that the various choices might appear or disappear in the future. Then the decision becomes more complicated than a simple, fixed ranking of preferences. So while these choices look irrational, they aren't necessarily."
Shark

CES: Laser Headlights Edge Closer To Real-World Highways 295

Posted by samzenpus
from the shine-on dept.
jeffb (2.718) writes "Audi will display laser-headlight technology on a concept car at the 2014 Consumer Electronics Show, joining BMW, whose plug-in hybrid should reach production in 2014. A November article on optics.org describes the technology in more detail. This approach does not scan or project a 'laser beam' from the car; instead, it uses blue lasers as highly efficient light emitters, and focuses their light onto a yellow phosphor, producing an extremely intense and compact white light source and then forming that light into a conventional headlamp beam. The beam isn't coherent or point-sourced, so it won't produce the 'speckling' interference effects of direct laser illumination, and it won't pose specular-reflection hazards. It's just a very bright and very well-controlled beam of normal white light.
Government

Counterpoint: Why Edward Snowden May Not Deserve Clemency 573

Posted by Soulskill
from the issues-that-are-complicated dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Fred Kaplan, the Edward R. Murrow press fellow at the Council on Foreign Relation, writes at Slate that if Edward Snowden's stolen trove of beyond-top-secret documents had dealt only with the domestic surveillance by the NSA, then some form of leniency might be worth discussing. But Snowden did much more than that. 'Snowden's documents have, so far, furnished stories about the NSA's interception of email traffic, mobile phone calls, and radio transmissions of Taliban fighters in Pakistan's northwest territories; about an operation to gauge the loyalties of CIA recruits in Pakistan; about NSA email intercepts to assist intelligence assessments of what's going on inside Iran; about NSA surveillance of cellphone calls 'worldwide,' an effort that 'allows it to look for unknown associates of known intelligence targets by tracking people whose movements intersect.' Kaplan says the NYT editorial calling on President Obama to grant Snowden 'some form of clemency' paints an incomplete picture when it claims that Snowden 'stole a trove of highly classified documents after he became disillusioned with the agency's voraciousness.' In fact, as Snowden himself told the South China Morning Post, he took his job as an NSA contractor, with Booz Allen Hamilton, because he knew that his position would grant him 'to lists of machines all over the world [that] the NSA hacked.' Snowden got himself placed at the NSA's signals intelligence center in Hawaii says Kaplan for the sole purpose of pilfering extremely classified documents. 'It may be telling that Snowden did not release mdash; or at least the recipients of his cache haven't yet published — any documents detailing the cyber-operations of any other countries, especially Russia or China,' concludes Kaplan. 'If it turned out that Snowden did give information to the Russians or Chinese (or if intelligence assessments show that the leaks did substantial damage to national security, something that hasn't been proved in public), then I'd say all talk of a deal is off — and I assume the Times editorial page would agree.'"

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