Kligat writes "For the first time since 2003, the International Space Station has utilized the rockets on the European Space Agency's Automated Transfer Vehicle to dodge leftover remnants of a defunct satellite. The Russian Cosmos-2421 was launched in June 2006 to track Western Navy vessels and is believed by NASA to have exploded — 'likely due to a self-destruct command issued by Russian officials' according to the article — leaving 500 pieces of space debris. Ordinarily, the rockets on the ATV are used to take the ISS away from Earth's atmosphere and reduce drag. In this case, the 5-minute firing caused the ISS to move downward because it was already near the top of its acceptable range. Estimated probability of impact was 1 in 72, and an avoidance maneuver is called for if the probability is greater than 1 in 10,000. The space junk was predicted to pass the ISS within just a mile."
What is the name of your bank?
An anonymous reader writes "As you're probably already aware, Charlton Heston passed away yesterday. Wired has a piece looking back at Heston's extremely notable work in the sci-fi genre, with roles in films like "Planet of the Apes" and "Soylent Green". 'Heston also roared out some of sci-fi's greatest and most memorable lines, bringing his macho swagger and over-the-top intensity to the screen in movies like 1973's food freak-out flick Soylent Green and the Planet of the Apes series. In a pivotal scene from 1968's Planet of the Apes (see clip), Heston's character, time-traveling astronaut George Taylor, utters the first words spoken by a human to the simian rulers of a bizarro future Earth: "Take your stinking paws off me, you damn dirty ape!'"
Chroniton brings us a story about research into DNA which has shown that free-floating DNA strands are able to seek out similar strands without the assistance of other chemicals. From Imperial College London: "The researchers observed the behaviour of fluorescently tagged DNA molecules in a pure solution. They found that DNA molecules with identical patterns of chemical bases were approximately twice as likely to gather together than DNA molecules with different sequences. Understanding the precise mechanism of the primary recognition stage of genetic recombination may shed light on how to avoid or minimise recombination errors in evolution, natural selection and DNA repair. This is important because such errors are believed to cause a number of genetically determined diseases including cancers and some forms of Alzheimer's, as well as contributing to ageing."
dgan brings us a NYTimes piece about the development of speech recognition for common gadgets. Companies such as Vlingo and Yap are marketing their software to cellular carriers to give consumers a hands-free option for tasks like finding directions and text messaging. Quoting: "Vlingo's service lets people talk naturally, rather than making them use a limited number of set phrases. Dave Grannan, the company's chief executive, demonstrated the Vlingo Find application by asking his phone for a song by Mississippi John Hurt (try typing that with your thumbs), for the location of a local bakery and for a Web search for a consumer product. It was all fast and efficient. Vlingo is designed to adapt to the voice of its primary user, but I was also able to use Mr. Grannan's phone to find an address. The Find application is in the beta test phase at AT&T and Sprint. Consumers who use certain cellphones from those companies can download the application from vlingo.com."
Amazon announced in a press release today their plans to sell DRM-free music worldwide through the Amazon MP3 store beginning later this year. This news is being viewed by some as the latest volley in Amazon's digital music sales war with Apple's iTunes. Since Amazon has completed its plans to offer DRM-free music from all four major record labels (most recently, Sony and Warner), the global availability of the MP3s can only be excellent news for customers.
Tokonamu sends a note about the release to a private testing group of a new build of Windows Vista SP1, possibly presaging the imminent release of the long-awaited service pack. Speculation about a Feb. 15 release date has been fueled by a report out of Taiwan, according to the article. Microsoft also issued a new build of Windows XP SP3 this week, but it's getting next to no publicity out of Redmond, what with XP being the main competition for Vista and all.
E5Rebel sends in an article from Computerworld.uk article that reports: "IBM believes Linux on the enterprise desktop is finally ready for widespread adoption. To meet future demand it is preparing to deliver its next versions of Lotus Notes enterprise collaboration software and Lotus Symphony office productivity applications for the first time with full support for Ubuntu Linux 7.0... The Ubuntu support for Notes and Symphony were a direct response to demand from customers."
An anonymous reader suggests we go over to Slyck for news that The Pirate Bay has cracked 10 million users. The publicity from the upcoming court case probably helped. "Today, The Pirate Bay asserts itself as the self-proclaimed 'World's Largest Tracker' by topping over 10 million peers, while managing over 1 million torrents. Peter Sunde of The Pirate Bay told Slyck, 'We're very happy to be part of all of this and we hope our users keep sharing those files!... And we're looking to break 20 million as well.'"
Microsoft CRM recommends a long AP article laying out the nightmare scenario of RFID chips in everything tracking not only things but people. The darker possibilities of a technology capable of enabling ubiquitous surveillance are not news to this community, but it's not so common to see them spelled out for a wider audience. "Microchips with antennas embedded in virtually everything you buy, wear, drive and read, allowing retailers and law enforcement to track consumer items and consumers wherever they go. Much of the radio frequency identification technology that enables objects and people to be tagged and tracked wirelessly already exists and potentially intrusive uses of it are being patented, perfected and deployed... [A director at FTI Consulting] said:] 'It's going to be used in unintended ways by third parties — not just the government, but private investigators, marketers, lawyers building a case against you.'"
Ebon Praetor writes "The BBC reports that Blizzard and Activision have announced an $18.8bn merger. Activision's CEO, Bobby Kotick, will become the head of the joint company, while Vivendi, Blizzard's current parent company, will become the largest single investor in the new group. Even with the size of the merger, the combined company will still be smaller than the industry giant EA. 'As part of the merger plan, Blizzard will invest $2bn in the new company, while Activision is putting up $1bn. The merged business will be called Activision Blizzard ... Vivendi will be the biggest shareholder in the group.'"
What happens when you take the dour attitude and put-upon demeanor of an RPG NPC to the mean streets of ... Bath, England? Rock, Paper, Shotgun highlights John Walker's attempt to get the good citizens of Bath to do a quest for a kindly old wizard. As you can imagine, hilarity ensues. "In this time of rejection, I did learn a few useful things, however. Older people are much less likely to see the funny side of something, even when the safety of the universe is in the balance. Couples are far better at avoiding the magically hindered than individuals. Men with grey beards really don't like to be called, 'fellow wizard.' (Although, their wives are likely to find it funny.) And then, hope was restored in the form of a man in his 40s. His reaction was certainly the most peculiar of the day. He resigned himself to helping me as if he had to. Could this man have been a true adventurer? Someone who is aware of the demands of being a hero? Perhaps his acquiescent attitude was due to the low level of the quest, and the relatively poor reward for a man of such experience. But something about the simplicity of the task, and the accompanying XP, must have been enough."
exeme writes "Ubuntu developer Matthew Garrett has recently analyzed famed Ubuntu illegal software installer Automatix, and found it to be actively dangerous to Ubuntu desktop systems. In a detailed report which only took Garrett a couple of hours he found many serious, show-stopper bugs and concluded that Ubuntu could not officially support Automatix in its current state. Garrett also goes on to say that simple Debian packages could provide all of the functionality of Automatix without any of the problems it exhibits."
athloi writes "Researchers have made a computer program that learns to decode sounds from different languages in the same way that a baby does. The program will help to shed new light on how people learn to talk. It has already raised questions as to how much specific information about language is hard-wired into the brain."
An anonymous reader writes "Ars Technica has an article on the mother of all adware patents filed by Microsoft: 'It's such a tremendously bad idea that it's almost bound to succeed. Microsoft has filed another patent, this one for an "advertising framework" that uses "context data" from your hard drive to show you advertisements and "apportion and credit advertising revenue" to ad suppliers in real time.' Ars discusses this disturbing concept, which was originally unearthed by Information Week and we first discussed last week."