An anonymous reader writes "Since the NSA's phone metadata program broke last summer, politicians have trivialized the privacy implications. It's 'just metadata,' Dianne Feinstein and others have repeatedly emphasized. That view is no longer tenable: Stanford researchers crowdsourced phone metadata from real users, and easily identified calls to 'Alcoholics Anonymous, gun stores, NARAL Pro-Choice, labor unions, divorce lawyers, sexually transmitted disease clinics, a Canadian import pharmacy, strip clubs, and much more.' Looking at patterns in call metadata, they correctly diagnosed a cardiac condition and outed an assault rifle owner. 'Reasonable minds can disagree about the policy and legal constraints,' the authors conclude. 'The science, however, is clear: phone metadata is highly sensitive.'"
jfruh writes "Android apps sold through the Google Play app store require the user to enter their username and password before making an in-app purchase — but once they've done that, they can continue to do so for half an hour without re-authenticating. Now a lawsuit is claiming this loophole allows children to run up in-app purchases on their parents' credit cards, 'causing Google to pocket millions of dollars.'"
sciencehabit writes "A 40 micrometer crystal trapped inside a diamond unearthed by magma in Brazil could help settle a long-standing debate about the amount of water in Earth's mantle. Spectroscopic analysis reveal that the crystal contains hydrogen-oxygen bonds, which suggests it's composed of at least 1.4% water. The place where the diamond was produced--Earth's lower mantle--may not be typical of the entire lower mantle, but if it is then there could be a lot of water down there. This would be important, as changes in the temperature in the mantle could cause it to expel highly pressurized steam, which could lead to volcanic eruptions."
astroengine writes "NASA's baseline budget for the year beginning Oct. 1 pulls the plug on the 10-year-old Mars rover Opportunity, newly released details of the agency's fiscal 2015 spending plan show. The plan, which requires Congressional approval, also anticipates ending the orbiting Mars Odyssey mission on Sept. 30, 2016. 'There are pressures all over the place,' NASA's planetary science division director Jim Green said during an advisory council committee teleconference call on Wednesday."
itwbennett writes "Researchers at the Free University of Bozen-Bolzano in Italy have found that happier programmers (or, more specifically, computer science students at the university) were significantly more likely to score higher on a problem solving assessment. The researchers first measured the emotional states of study participants using a measure devised by psychologists called the Scale of Positive and Negative Experience Affect Balance (SPANE-B) score. They then tested participants' creativity (ability to write creative photo captions) and problem-solving ability (playing the Tower of London game). The results: happiness didn't affect creativity, but did improve problem-solving ability."
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Jose Pagliery reports at CNN that the 68-year-old rock star unveiled his startup, Pono, at the South by Southwest festival in Austin, Texas raising $1.4 million in a single day. Young has developed a portable music player that stores high-resolution recordings and promises to deliver all the delicate details that get chopped out of modern-day formats, like MP3s and CDs. 'Pono' is Hawaiian for righteous. 'What righteous means to our founder Neil Young is honoring the artist's intention, and the soul of music. That's why he's been on a quest, for a few years now, to revive the magic that has been squeezed out of digital music.' With 128 GB of space, the PonoPlayer can carry about 3,200 tracks of high-resolution recordings while an MP3 player of the same size can hold maybe 10 times that many songs. Young says the MP3 files we're all listening to actually are pretty poor from an audio-quality standpoint and only contains about five percent of the audio from an original recording. But isn't FLAC already lossless? What makes Pono better?"
MojoKid writes "The power efficiency of NVIDA's Maxwell architecture make it ideal for mobile applications, so today's announcement by NVIDIA of a new top-to-bottom line-up of mobile GPUs—most of them featuring the Maxwell architecture—should come as no surprise. Though a couple of Kepler and even Fermi-based GPUs still exist in NVIDIA's new line-up, the heart of the product stack leverages Maxwell. The entry-level parts in the GeForce 800M series consist of the GeForce GT 820M, 830M, and 840M. The 820M is a Fermi-based GPU, but the 830M and 840M are new chips that leverage Maxwell. The meat of the GeForce GTX 800M series consist of Kepler-based GPUs, though Maxwell is employed in the more mainstream parts. NVIDIA is claiming the GeForce GTX 880M will be fastest mobile GPU available, but the entire GTX line-up will offer significantly higher performance then any integrated graphics solution. The GeForce GTX 860M and 850M are essentially identical to the desktop GeForce GTX 750 Ti, save for different frequencies and memory configurations. There are a number of notebooks featuring NVIDIA's GeForce 800M series GPUs coming down the pipeline from companies like Alienware, Asus, Gigabyte, Lenovo, MSI and Razer, though others are sure the follow suit. Some of the machines will be available immediately."
theodp writes "President Obama, it would seem, does not get his news from Slashdot. CNET reports that while making a get-out-the-healthcare-enrollees appearance on Funny or Die, Zach Galifianakis teased the President:: "You said if you had a son you would not let him play football. What makes you think that he would want to play football? What if he was a nerd like you?" In response, the President quipped, "Do you think a woman like Michelle would marry a nerd?""
theodp writes ""I want to explain why Common Core is among the most important education ideas in years," wrote Bill Gates in a USA Today op-ed last month that challenged the "dangerous misconceptions" of those who oppose the initiative (pretty confident for a guy who conceded there wasn't much to show for his earlier $5B education reform effort!). "The Gates Foundation helped fund this process," acknowledged Gates in quite an understatement of his influence. Receiving $6.5M in Gates Grants was Student Achievement Partners, whose founder David Coleman was dubbed the 'Architect of the Common Core.' So it's not too surprising that at last week's SXSWedu, Coleman — now President and CEO of The College Board (no stranger to Gates money itself) — announced a dramatic overhaul of the SAT that includes a new emphasis on evidence-based reading and writing and evidence analysis, which the AJC's Maureen Downey calls "reflective of the approach of the Common Core State Standards". And over at The Atlantic, Lindsey Tepe reports that the Common Core is driving the changes to the SAT. "Neither Coleman nor the national media," writes Tepe, "have really honed in on how the standards are driving the College Board-as well as the ACT-to change their product." In conjunction with the redesigned SAT, The College Board also announced it would exclusively team with Khan Academy (KA) to make comprehensive, best-in-class SAT prep materials open and free in an effort to level the playing field between those who can and can't afford test prep services. In a conversation with KA founder Sal Khan — aka Bill Gates' favorite teacher and a beneficiary of $10+ million in Gates Foundation grants (much earmarked for Common Core) — Coleman stressed that Khan Academy and CollegeBoard will be the only places in the world that students will be able to encounter free materials for the exam that are "focused on the core of the math and literacy that matters most." "There will be no other such partnerships", Coleman reiterated. Game, set, and match, Gates?"
Former chairman of VA Software and venture capitalist, Larry Augustin, co-founded VA Research in 1993 and was one of the driving forces behind the creation of Sourceforge. VA bought Andover.net in 2000, acquiring a number of media sites, including Slashdot. He serves on the board of several companies and is currently the CEO of SugarCRM. Larry has agreed to take some time and answer your questions about the world of venture capital, open source software, and surviving the dotcom bubble. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one question per post
theodp writes ""The Common Core State Standards [CCSS] exist because the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation wanted them," Susan Ohanian wrote in 2011. Last August, education activist Mercedes Schneider took a look at Bill Gates' spending on the controversial CCSS Initiative — $147.9 million to the four organizations primarily responsible for CCSS by her reckoning — and worried, "Can Bill Gates buy a foundational democratic institution? Will America allow it?" A commenter added that "David Coleman, 'Architect' of the Common Core and founder of Student Achievement Partners that received $6.5 million from Gates, was also mysteriously appointed as head of the College Board and is aligning the SAT to Common Core." Last week at SXSWedu 2014, Coleman announced a dramatic overhaul of the SAT that includes a new emphasis on evidence-based reading and writing and evidence analysis, which AJC reporter Maureen Downey calls "reflective of the approach of the Common Core State Standards". And over at The Atlantic, Lindsey Tepe reports that The Common Core Is Driving the Changes to the SAT. "Neither Coleman nor the national media," writes Tepe, "have really honed in on how the standards are driving the College Board-as well as the ACT-to change their product." In conjunction with the redesigned SAT, The College Board (no stranger to Gates Grants itself) also announced it would team with Khan Academy (KA) to make comprehensive, best-in-class SAT prep materials open and free. In a conversation with KA founder Sal Khan — aka Bill Gates' favorite teacher and a beneficiary of $10+ million in Gates Foundation grants (much earmarked for Common Core) — College Board CEO Coleman stresses that, apart from the one with KA, "there will be no other such partnerships" that are "focused on the core math and literacy that matters most". Game, set, and match, Gates? Or could the SAT changes actually spell trouble for Common Core?"
sciencehabit writes "Whether we realize it, African elephants are listening to us. The pachyderms can tell certain human languages apart and even determine our gender, relative age, and whether we're a threat, according to a new study. The work illustrates how elephants can sometimes protect themselves from human actions. The work may be helpful in preventing 'human-elephant conflicts where the species co-exist,' says Joshua Plotnik, a behavioral ecologist at Mahidol University, Kanchanaburi, in Thailand. For instance, elephants might be deterred from entering farmland or encouraged to stick to the corridors designed for their use. 'The trouble is elephants are too smart to be fooled by us for long.'"
KentuckyFC writes "One of the more ambitious projects at the South Pole is the Askaryan Radio Array, a set of radio antennas under the ice that will listen for the tell tale signals of high energy neutrinos passing by. This array will eventually be over a thousand times bigger than the current largest neutrino detector: Icecube, which monitors a cubic kilometer of ice next door to the planned new observatory. But there's a problem. How do you supply 24/7 power to dozens of detectors spread over such a vast area in the middle of the Antarctic? The answer is renewable energy power stations that exploit the sun during the summer and the wind all year round. The first of these stations is now up and running at the South Pole and producing power. It is also helping to uncover and iron out the various problems that these stations are likely to encounter. For example; where to put the batteries needed to supply continuous power when all else fails. The team's current approach is to bury the battery to protect it from temperature extremes. That works well but makes maintenance so difficult that scaling this approach to dozens of power stations doesn't seem feasible. That's a problem for the future but for the moment, green power has finally come to the white continent."
colinneagle writes "Speaking at the SXSW Conference recently, Dr. Peter W. Singer, director of the Center for 21st Century Security and Intelligence, recalled one U.S. official who was 'about to negotiate cybersecurity with China' asking him to explain what the term 'ISP' (Internet Service Provider) means. This wasn't the only example of this lack of awareness. 'That's like going to negotiate with the Soviets and not knowing what "ICBM" means,' Dr. Singer said. 'And I've had similar experiences with officials from the UK, China and Abu Dhabi.' Similarly, Dr. Singer recalled one account in which Janet Napolitano, the Secretary of the U.S. Homeland Security Department from 2009 to 2013, admitted that she didn't use email 'because she just didn't think it was useful.' 'A Supreme Court justice also told me "I haven't got round to email yet" — and this is someone who will get to vote on everything from net neutrality to the NSA negotiations,' Dr. Singer said."
EwanPalmer writes "China has begun using its orbiting satellites in a bid to find the missing Malaysian Airlines flight. The Xi'an Satellite Monitor and Control Center is said to have launched an emergency response to search for Flight MH370 after it went off radar over the South China Sea in the early hours of Saturday. The center is reported to have adjusted up to 10 of its high-res satellites to help search for the plane."