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Transportation

Drunk Drivers in California May Get Mandated Interlock Devices 6

Posted by timothy
from the as-punishments-go dept.
Convicted drunk drivers all over California may soon be required to install and pay for the use of ignition interlock devices, at a cost of $50-100 per month, plus installation. Says the article: "State Sen. Jerry Hill, D-San Mateo, wants to expand a program already in place in four California counties, including Alameda, and 24 other states. Under the proposed state law Hill will introduce Monday, anyone convicted of driving under the influence would be required to install an ignition interlock device in their car for six months on a first offense and a year on a second conviction." Though interlock devices could be fitted to check for other conditions as well, the usual case (as described on this Wikipedia page) is that they base the ability to operate a car on blood alcohol content. Already in California, interlock devices are mandatory for those re-arrested for DUI while "driving on a suspended license due to a DUI conviction."
Facebook

Facebook Apologizes For 'Year In Review' Photos 100

Posted by timothy
from the how-was-the-parade-otherwise? dept.
Facebook this year showed users a compilation of photos drawn from their own gallery of uploaded images, but the automatic nature of the collation and display of those photos inspired the need for an apology on Facebook's part to at least one reader who was upset by the compiled pictures. That may sound silly, but even innocent data-mashing can touch real nerves. "Eric Meyer, a web design consultant and writer, is one of those people. Earlier this year, he lost his daughter to brain cancer on her sixth birthday. For that reason, Meyer wrote in a blog post, he had actively avoided looking at previews of his own automatically generated summary post. But Facebook put a personalized prompt advertising the feature in his newsfeed, he wrote, prominently featuring the face of his dead daughter -- surrounded by what appears to be clip art figures having a party."

+ - Know Your Type: Five Mechanical Keyboards Compared->

Submitted by MojoKid
MojoKid (1002251) writes "As a power user, you notice certain things that the average person might not. One of those is the difference between typing on a sweet mechanical keyboard with luxurious key action, versus pounding away on a run-of-the-mill squishy plank that relies on membrane switches to register your keystrokes. The difference may seem subtle to the uninitiated, though even casual typists can recognize that there's something inherently superior about a mechanical keyboard. Of course, it's the mechanical key switches that are responsible for elevating the typing experience. These are better than the rubber domes found in membrane keyboards in a number of ways, including feel, responsiveness, and durability. Mechanical keyboards are growing in popularity, as word is spreading about how good they are. In turn, keyboard manufacturers have responded by feeding more mechanical models into what was once a niche market. If you go out in search of a mechanical keyboard, you'll now find a mountain of options. This roundup further reinforced something we've known for a long time, which is that mechanical keyboards are the superior choice for both gaming and daily typing chores. That doesn't mean they're all created equal — there are different key switches to choose from, and features vary from one plank to the next. The choice of key switch type is highly subjective but we can say that Cherry MX key switches are indeed of higher quality than knock-offs like the Kailh switch. That's not to say Kailh switches are bad, just that you can discern a difference when going from one to the other."
Link to Original Source
AMD

Phoronix Lauds AMD's Open Source Radeon Driver Progress For 2014 16

Posted by timothy
from the parity-looms dept.
Phoronix has taken an in-depth look at progress on AMD's open source Radeon driver, and declares 2014 to have been a good year. There are several pages with detailed benchmarks, but the upshot is overwhelmingly positive: Across the board there's huge performance improvements to find out of the open-source AMD Linux graphics driver when comparing the state at the end of 2013 to the current code at the end of this year. The performance improvements and new features presented (among them are OpenMAX / AMD video encode, UVD for older AMD GPUs, various new OpenGL extensions, continued work on OpenCL, power management improvements, and the start of open-source HSA) has been nothing short of incredible. Most of the new work benefits the Radeon HD 7000 series and newer (GCN) GPUs the most but these tests showed the Radeon HD 6000 series still improving too. ... Coming up before the end of the year will be a fresh comparison of these open-source Radeon driver results compared to the newest proprietary AMD Catalyst Linux graphics driver.
Education

White House Touts Obama's 1-Liner as 2014 Tech Highlight 46

Posted by timothy
from the wrestling-bears-for-their-usb-keys-#2 dept.
theodp (442580) writes That President Obama became the first President to write a line of code (as a top Microsoft lobbyist looked on) is #1 on the White House's Top 9 science and technology highlights from 2014. To kick off this year's Hour of Code, the President 'learned to code' by moving a Disney Princess Elsa character 100 pixels on a screen, first by dragging-and-dropping Blockly puzzle pieces and then by coding 1 line of JavaScript. Interestingly, Bill Clinton might have been The First President To Write Code had Microsoft seen fit to use its patented, circa-1995 Graphical Programming System and Method for Enabling a Person to Learn Text-Based Programming — which describes how kids as young as 8-12 years of age can be taught to program by progressing from creating a program using graphical objects to doing so using text-based programming — to teach President Clinton to code some 20 years ago!
Censorship

The Interview Bombs In US, Kills In China, Threatens N. Korea 175

Posted by timothy
from the spoiler-alert dept.
First time accepted submitter twitnutttt (2958183) writes "While it has been broadly panned in the U.S. as not very funny, The Interview is surprisingly getting good reviews in China. And the North Korean government's fears of the threat posed by this movie are apparently merited: "It is powerful because it depicts Kim Jong-un as a vain, buffoonish despot, alternating between threats and weeping that he's been misunderstood. The people around him have all the signs of fear you might expect with a despot — they second-guess his likes and dislikes. Maybe he — and they — were right to fear the film. North Korean defectors sometimes smuggle USB sticks with films and soaps into the closed-off country, and there is a view in the south that these are a particularly powerful means of undermining the regime in Pyongyang. If that's so, The Interview might be a good candidate for inclusion." If you've seen the movie, and have your own reactions, please label any real spoilers out of courtesy.
The Internet

Google and Apple Weaseling Out of "Do Not Track" 68

Posted by timothy
from the except-for-the-following-circumstances dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Per an op-ed in today's New York Times, Google, Apple, and others would be effectively exempt from "Do not track": "[T]he rules would allow the largest Internet giants to continue scooping up data about users on their own sites and on other sites that include their plug-ins, such as Facebook's 'Like' button or an embedded YouTube video. This giant loophole would make 'Do Not Track' meaningless."

+ - Google and Apple weasling out of "Do not track"->

Submitted by Anonymous Coward
An anonymous reader writes "Per an op-ed in today's New York Times, Google, Apple, and others would be effectively exempt from "Do not track":

[T]he rules would allow the largest Internet giants to continue scooping up data about users on their own sites and on other sites that include their plug-ins, such as Facebook’s “Like” button or an embedded YouTube video. This giant loophole would make “Do Not Track” meaningless.

"

Link to Original Source

+ - The Interview bombs in US, kills in China, threatens N. Korea->

Submitted by twitnutttt
twitnutttt (2958183) writes "While it has been broadly panned in the U.S. as not very funny, The Interview is surprisingly getting good reviews in China. And the North Korean government's fears of the threat posed by this movie are apparently merited:

It is powerful because it depicts Kim Jong-un as a vain, buffoonish despot, alternating between threats and weeping that he's been misunderstood. The people around him have all the signs of fear you might expect with a despot — they second-guess his likes and dislikes.

Maybe he — and they — were right to fear the film. North Korean defectors sometimes smuggle USB sticks with films and soaps into the closed-off country, and there is a view in the south that these are a particularly powerful means of undermining the regime in Pyongyang. If that's so, The Interview might be a good candidate for inclusion.

"

Link to Original Source
Space

Hubble Reveals a Previously Unknown Dwarf Galaxy Just 7 Million Light Years Away 53

Posted by timothy
from the hey-neighbor dept.
The L.A. Times reports that the Hubble Space Telescope's ongoing survey work has discovered a dwarf universe a mere 7 million light years away: While only just recently discovered using Hubble's Advanced Camera for Surveys, the galaxy known as KKs3 has been around for a long while. Astronomers led by Igor Karachentsev of the Special Astrophysical Observatory in Karachai-Cherkessia, Russia, showed that some 74% of KKs3’s star mass was formed in the universe’s early years, at least 12 billion years ago. Most of the tiny galaxy’s stars are old and dim, making it a fascinating fossil that could help astronomers understand what ancient galactic environments looked like.

+ - White House: President Obama Writing a Line of Code #1 SciTech Highlight of 2014

Submitted by theodp
theodp (442580) writes "That President Obama became the first President to write a line of code (as a top Microsoft lobbyist looked on) is #1 on the White House's Top 9 science and technology highlights from 2014. To kick off this year's Hour of Code, the President 'learned to code' by moving a Disney Princess Elsa character 100 pixels on a screen, first by dragging-and-dropping Blockly puzzle pieces and then by coding 1 line of JavaScript. Interestingly, Bill Clinton might have been The First President To Write Code had Microsoft seen fit to use its patented, circa-1995 Graphical Programming System and Method for Enabling a Person to Learn Text-Based Programming — which describes how kids as young as 8-12 years of age can be taught to program by progressing from creating a program using graphical objects to doing so using text-based programming — to teach President Clinton to code some 20 years ago!"
Crime

13,000 Passwords, Usernames Leaked For Major Commerce, Porn Sites 120

Posted by timothy
from the watch-your-bill dept.
The Daily Dot reports that yesterday a "group claiming affiliation with the loose hacker collective Anonymous released a document containing approximately 13,000 username-and-password combinations along with credit card numbers and expiration dates." Most of the sites listed are distinctly NSFW, among other places, but the list includes some of the largest retailers, too, notably Amazon and Wal-Mart.

+ - 5,200 Days Aboard ISS and the Surprising Reason the Mission is Still Worthwhile

Submitted by HughPickens.com
HughPickens.com (3830033) writes "Spaceflight has faded from American consciousness even as our performance in space has reached a new level of accomplishment. In the past decade, America has become a truly, permanently spacefaring nation. All day, every day, half a dozen men and women, including two Americans, are living and working in orbit, and have been since November 2000. Charles Fishman has a long, detailed article about life aboard the ISS in The Atlantic that is well worth the read where you are sure to learn something you didn't already know about earth's permanent outpost in space. Some excerpts:

The International Space Station is a vast outpost, its scale inspiring awe even in the astronauts who have constructed it. From the edge of one solar panel to the edge of the opposite one, the station stretches the length of a football field, including the end zones. The station weighs nearly 1 million pounds, and its solar arrays cover more than an acre. It’s as big inside as a six-bedroom house, more than 10 times the size of a space shuttle’s interior. Astronauts regularly volunteer how spacious it feels. It’s so big that during the early years of three-person crews, the astronauts would often go whole workdays without bumping into one another, except at mealtimes.

On the station, the ordinary becomes peculiar. The exercise bike for the American astronauts has no handlebars. It also has no seat. With no gravity, it’s just as easy to pedal furiously, feet strapped in, without either. You can watch a movie while you pedal by floating a laptop anywhere you want. But station residents have to be careful about staying in one place too long. Without gravity to help circulate air, the carbon dioxide you exhale has a tendency to form an invisible cloud around your head. You can end up with what astronauts call a carbon-dioxide headache.

Even by the low estimates, it costs $350,000 an hour to keep the station flying, which makes astronauts’ time an exceptionally expensive resource—and explains their relentless scheduling: Today’s astronauts typically start work by 7:30 in the morning, Greenwich Mean Time, and stop at 7 o’clock in the evening. They are supposed to have the weekends off, but Saturday is devoted to cleaning the station—vital, but no more fun in orbit than housecleaning down here—and some work inevitably sneaks into Sunday.

Life in space is so complicated that a lot of logistics have to be off-loaded to the ground if astronauts are to actually do anything substantive. Just building the schedule for the astronauts in orbit on the U.S. side of the station requires a full-time team of 50 staffers.

Almost anyone you talk with about the value of the Space Station eventually starts talking about Mars. When they do, it’s clear that we don’t yet have a very grown-up space program. The folks we send to space still don’t have any real autonomy, because no one was imagining having to “practice” autonomy when the station was designed and built. On a trip to Mars, the distances are so great that a single voice or email exchange would involve a 30-minute round-trip. That one change, among the thousand others that going to Mars would require, would alter the whole dynamic of life in space. The astronauts would have to handle things themselves.

That could be the real value of the Space Station—to shift NASA’s human exploration program from entirely Earth-controlled to more astronaut-directed, more autonomous. This is not a high priority now; it would be inconvenient, inefficient. But the station’s value could be magnified greatly were NASA to develop a real ethic, and a real plan, for letting the people on the mission assume more responsibility for shaping and controlling it. If we have any greater ambitions for human exploration in space, that’s as important as the technical challenges. Problems of fitness and food supply are solvable. The real question is what autonomy for space travelers would look like—and how Houston can best support it. Autonomy will not only shape the psychology and planning of the mission; it will shape the design of the spacecraft itself.

"
Robotics

An Open Source Flat Pack Robot Arm That's As Easy To Build As Ikea Furniture 31

Posted by timothy
from the fold-here-snip-there dept.
An anonymous reader writes The MeArm is a flat-pack robot arm. It has been developed in a very short time frame as the creators have been able to tap into crowd development by open sourcing all of the designs. Because of this it's exploded around the world with builders on every continent (bar Antarctica) and there are even people manufacturing them to sell in Peru, Taiwan and South Africa. MeArm manufacture them in the UK and export to distributors around the world, including Open Source pioneers like Adafruit and Hackaday in the USA. They're currently running a Kickstarter for a controller to take it out of the 'Hackersphere' and into the living room. They doubled their target in the first week and are still going strong so it's looking like they will be the first consumer flat pack robot kit in the world! Controller or not, you can download the arm from Thingiverse, and follow the project at Hackaday.
Facebook

Startup Acquisitions Herald Virtual, Augmented Reality Apps From Facebook 10

Posted by timothy
from the taking-a-farmville-to-the-face dept.
giulioprisco writes Oculus VR, the Virtual Reality (VR) technology company acquired by Facebook earlier this year, announced recently that they are acquiring two small start-up companies, Nimble VR and 13th Lab, to fill gaps in their virtual reality capabilities. The acquisitions may indicate that, besides VR games and social worlds, Facebook may target Augmented Reality (AR) applications, like Google is doing with Google Glass.

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