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XBox (Games)

Microsoft Closes Gap Between Windows 10 and Xbox One With "Crossplay" Plans 65

Posted by samzenpus
from the all-in-one dept.
An anonymous reader writes In its attempt to make console gaming more accessible, Microsoft has announced that it will be developing universal apps which can run across Xbox One and Windows 10, as well as smartphones and other mobile devices using the upcoming OS. At the Game Developers Conference in San Francisco yesterday, Phil Spencer, head of Microsoft's video games branch, said that the end-goal was to allow people to play games wherever they are over whichever platform they wish to use. Microsoft also announced that an adapter was currently being developed to hook up wireless Xbox One controllers to PCs. This latest move from the tech giant shows its push to grapple back its position in the mobile computing revolution, as the booming smartphone and tablet market shadows its longstanding desktop and laptop business.
Science

Oldest Human Fossil Fills In 2.8-Million-Year-Old Gap In Evolution 87

Posted by samzenpus
from the filling-in-the-story dept.
GeekyKhan writes Archaeologists have unearthed a human jawbone—with teeth-- that is believed to be the oldest remains ever found from early humans. It belonged to the earliest specimen of Homo and dates back 2.8 million years. From NPR: "Although it's risky to say you've got the first or oldest of anything, Brian Villmoare, a paleoanthropologist at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, is sure he and his team have the earliest specimen of Homo, the human genus. 'Oh, yeah, it definitely is,' he says. 'We were looking for it — and by miraculous chance we happened to find it.' Villmoare and an international team from the U.S. and Ethiopia found a lower jaw with five teeth in a region of Ethiopia called Afar. They were working a hill that was full of fossils. 'I was on the other side of the hill,' he recalls, 'and they said, 'Brian! Brian! Come over here.' The partial jawbone — just the left side – was lying on the ground, having eroded out of the hill. Several dating methods confirmed its age as roughly 400,000 years older than the previous record for a human-related fossil."
Space

How Activists Tried To Destroy GPS With Axes 229

Posted by samzenpus
from the here's-johnny dept.
HughPickens.com writes Ingrid Burrington writes in The Atlantic about a little-remembered incident that occurred in 1992 when activists Keith Kjoller and Peter Lumsdaine snuck into a Rockwell International facility in Seal Beach, California and in what they called an "act of conscience" used wood-splitting axes to break into two clean rooms containing nine satellites being built for the US government. Lumsdaine took his axe to one of the satellites, hitting it over 60 times. The Brigade's target was the Navigation Satellite Timing And Ranging (NAVSTAR) Program and the Global Positioning System (GPS). Both men belonged to the Lockheed Action Collective, a protest group that staged demonstrations and blockaded the entrance at the Lockheed Missiles & Space Co. test base in Santa Cruz in 1990. They said they intentionally took axes to the $50-million Navstar Global Position System satellite to bring the public's attention to what they termed the government's attempt to control the world through modern technology. "I had to slow the deployment of this system (which) makes conventional warfare much more lethal and nuclear war winnable in the eyes of some," an emotional Kjoller told the judge before receiving an 18-month sentence. "It's something that I couldn't let go by. I tried to do what was right rather than what was convenient."

Burrington recently contacted Lumsdaine to learn more about the Brigade and Lumsdaine expresses no regrets for his actions. Even if the technology has more and more civilian uses, Lumsdaine says, GPS remains "military in its origins, military in its goals, military in its development and [is still] controlled by the military." Today, Lumsdaine views the thread connecting GPS and drones as part of a longer-term movement by military powers toward automated systems and compared today's conditions to the opening sequence of Terminator 2, where Sarah Connor laments that the survivors of Skynet's nuclear apocalypse "lived only to face a new nightmare: the war against the machines." "I think in a general way people need to look for those psychological, spiritual, cultural, logistical, technological weak points and leverage points and push hard there," says Lumsdaine. "It is so easy for all of us as human beings to take a deep breath and step aside and not face how very serious the situation is, because it's very unpleasant to look at the effort and potential consequences of challenging the powers that be. But the only thing higher than the cost of resistance is the cost of not resisting."
Space

Hubble Discovers Quadruple Lensed Ancient Supernova 19

Posted by samzenpus
from the covering-the-angles dept.
astroengine writes Astronomer Patrick Kelly, with the University of California Berkeley, and colleagues report this week about four different routes light from an ancient supernova took to reach the Hubble telescope after being deflected around an intervening elliptical galaxy. The phenomenon is known as an Einstein cross. "Basically, we get to see the supernova four times and measure the time delays between its arrival in the different images, hopefully learning something about the supernova and the kind of star it exploded from, as well as about the gravitational lenses," Kelly said in a statement. The supernova will appear again in the next 10 years, as its light takes different paths around and through the gravitational lens.
Music

Musician Releases Album of Music To Code By 174

Posted by samzenpus
from the brian-eno dept.
itwbennett writes Music and programming go hand-in-keyboard. And now programmer/musician Carl Franklin has released an album of music he wrote specifically for use as background music when writing software. "The biggest challenge was dialing back my instinct to make real music," Franklin told ITworld's Phil Johnson. "This had to fade into the background. It couldn't distract the listener, but it couldn't be boring either. That was a particular challenge that I think most musicians would have found maddening."
Businesses

Apple, Google, Bringing Low-Pay Support Employees In-House 92

Posted by samzenpus
from the come-on-into-the-house dept.
jfruh writes One of the knocks against Silicon Valley giants as "job creators" is that the companies themselves often only hire high-end employees; support staff like security guards and janitors are contracted out to staffing agencies and receive lower pay and fewer benefits, even if they work on-site full time. That now seems to be changing, with Apple and Google putting security guards on their own payroll.
Technology

First Fully Digital Radio Transmitter Built Purely From Microprocessor Tech 85

Posted by samzenpus
from the new-way-to-listen dept.
Zothecula writes For the first time in history, a prototype radio has been created that is claimed to be completely digital, generating high-frequency radio waves purely through the use of integrated circuits and a set of patented algorithms without using conventional analog radio circuits in any way whatsoever. This breakthrough technology promises to vastly improve the wireless communications capabilities of everything from 5G mobile technology to the multitude devices aimed at supporting the Internet of Things (IoT).
Security

Anthem Blocking Federal Auditor From Doing Vulnerability Scans 97

Posted by samzenpus
from the suspicious-behavior dept.
chicksdaddy writes Anthem Inc., the Indiana-based health insurer, has informed a federal auditor, the Office of Personnel Management, that it will not permit vulnerability scans of its network — even after acknowledging that it was the victim of a massive breach that leaked data on tens of millions of patients. According to this article, Anthem is citing "company policy" that prohibits third party access to its network in declining to let auditors from OPM's Office of the Inspector General (OIG) conduct scans for vulnerable systems. OPM's OIG performs a variety of audits on health insurers that provide health plans to federal employees under the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program, or FEHBP. Insurers aren't mandated to comply — though most do. This isn't Anthem's first time saying "no thanks" to the offer of a network vulnerability scan. The company also declined to let OIG scan its network in 2013. A partial audit report issued at the time warned that the company, then known as WellPoint, "provided us with conflicting statements" on issues related to information security, including Wellpoint's practices regarding regular configuration audits and its plans to shift to IBM's Tivoli Endpoint Manager (TEM) platform.
Books

Lauren Ipsum: A Story About Computer Science and Other Improbable Things 43

Posted by samzenpus
from the read-all-about-it dept.
MassDosage writes As the full title to Lauren Ipsum: A story about Computer Science and Other Improbable Things indicates, this is a book about Computer Science but what's surprising about it is that it manages to be about Computer Science without actually ever directly referring to the subject or even to computers at all. It is in fact a fictional story about a young girl called Lauren who gets lost after wandering into a forest near her house after an argument with her mother. She stumbles into a world populated with all kinds of strange creatures and colorful characters some of whom she befriends in order to figure out how to get back to her home. The "figuring out" part of the plot is where things get interesting as she has many attempts at solving this problem with different characters giving her often contradictory advice and Lauren then has to decide what exactly she's trying to do and which of the various possible solutions is the best. This involves a fair amount of trial and error, learning from certain mistakes and trying different approaches. If this is starting to sound familiar to those who have written software then that's the whole point. Lauren Ipsum is cunningly littered with references to Computer Science and in particular to things like algorithms, logic puzzles and many other of the theoretical underpinnings of the subject. Read below to see what MassDosage has to say about the book.

+ - Book Review: Lauren Ipsum

Submitted by MassDosage
MassDosage (1967508) writes "Lauren Ipsum (A Story About Computer Science and Other Improbable Things) Book Review by Mass Dosage

As the full title to Lauren Ipsum (A story about Computer Science and Other Improbable Things) indicates, this is a book about Computer Science but what’s surprising about it is that it manages to be about Computer Science without actually ever directly referring to the subject or even to computers at all. It is in fact a fictional story about a young girl called Lauren who gets lost after wandering into a forest near her house after an argument with her mother. She stumbles into a world populated with all kinds of strange creatures and colourful characters some of whom she befriends in order to figure out how to get back to her home. The “figuring out” part of the plot is where things get interesting as she has many attempts at solving this problem with different characters giving her often contradictory advice and Lauren then has to decide what exactly she’s trying to do and which of the various possible solutions is the best. This involves a fair amount of trial and error, learning from certain mistakes and trying different approaches. If this is starting to sound familiar to those who have written software then that’s the whole point. Lauren Ipsum is cunningly littered with references to Computer Science and in particular to things like algorithms, logic puzzles and many other of the theoretical underpinnings of the subject.

In the course of her adventures Lauren encounters characters like Xor the chameleon, Hugh Rustic the shop owner, a flock of round Robins and a Wandering Salesman. Anyone who knows a bit about computer science will be aware of the topics that are being alluded to here. This is also evident in some of the places she visits — a forest made up of red and black trees, the Island of Byzantium and a Garden of Forking Paths. All these insider references are obviously more enjoyable if you know the subject but it doesn’t really matter if you don’t get them as the story itself is separate from all the in-jokes. It’s also almost certainly the intention of the authors to stimulate people to look up some of the things they refer to and thus learn more about computer science. Lauren Ipsum can thus be read on two levels — one as a straightforward adventure story and the other as a “find and research the hidden references” book. The title of the book is itself a play on words of “Lorem Ipsum” which I’ll leave you to read up on on your own.

The chapter I enjoyed the most was one that covered building up a solution to a problem by breaking it down into smaller pieces and then combining these to come up with the final answer. In the book Lauren first learns how to draw a line and then that she can then draw and connect four of these to make a square. Even better is the discussion of the seemingly simple task of how to draw a circle which demonstrates that there are different ways of doing this, each having their own pros and cons. The solutions can be easily described as a set of steps and the question of how to control the size of the circle can be specified separately from the steps themselves. This is done without referring to any of the technical terms directly (one of the first chapters in the book is all about avoiding jargon) however what is actually being described will be instantly recognisable to anyone who has written some code — namely algorithms,algorithmic complexity, variables and parameter passing. This is quite a different way of illustrating programming concepts instead of the usual manner which involves lots of theory and code examples. Lauren Ipsum’s approach offers a much lower learning curve with simple story driven metaphors that can then be applied practically later.

The target audience of the book is probably children from around the age of 8 and up with the intention being to spark an interest in computers without the intimidation and possible connotations of boredom that a textbook might evoke. The story is entertaining but relatively simple and most of the more serious subject matter is just touched on in passing. There is an Appendix at the end which covers a few of the topics in more technical and mathematical detail but there is plenty that isn’t covered and it is up to the reader whether they want to find out more in their own way.

I found Lauren Ipsum an entertaining read, even though some of the computer science references are a bit forced. I ended up looking up a few things I wasn’t entirely sure about and learnt something new in the process and I can imagine this being even more the case for someone new to the subject. Even if the reader isn’t an aspiring geek-to-be there should be enough in the story here for them to enjoy and maybe help convince them that Computer Science can actually be fun or at the very least give them a taste for why problem solving is interesting and useful.

Full disclosure: I was given a copy of this book free of charge by the publisher for review purposes. They placed no restrictions on what I could say and left me to be as critical as I wanted so the above review is my own honest opinion."
Biotech

Inside the Weird World of 3D Printed Body Parts 60

Posted by samzenpus
from the pick-a-spleen-any-spleen dept.
An anonymous reader writes Last November a news report in Russia Today sent a shudder of excitement through the tech blogs that cover 3D printing: an eccentric Russian provocateur claimed he would this month start printing functioning thyroids. Tech reporter Andrew Leonard set out to fact-check that claim, and along the way discovered an unlikely relationship between a Russian mad scientist and the U.S.'s most advanced, most respected 3d bioprinting companies—TeVido, which aims to 3D print custom nipples, and Organovo, which sells samples of 3D printed liver tissue. In the field of 3D printing, the line between science fiction and peer-reviewed research is very, very thin.
Medicine

Ubisoft Has New Video Game Designed To Treat Lazy Eye 55

Posted by samzenpus
from the setting-things-straight dept.
wired_parrot writes Ubisoft, in partnership with McGill university, has developed a game designed to treat lazy eye. The game works as a treatment by training both eyes using different levels of contrast of red and blue that the patient sees through stereoscopic glasses. It is hopeful that the new treatment will bring a more effective way of addressing a condition that affects 1-5% of the population.
Businesses

French Nuclear Industry In Turmoil As Manufacturer Buckles 379

Posted by samzenpus
from the bad-times dept.
mdsolar writes with bad news for France and its nuclear industry. "France's nuclear industry is in turmoil after the country's main reactor manufacturer, Areva, reported a loss for 2014 of 4.8 billion euros ($5.3 billion) — more than its entire market value. The government of France, the world's most nuclear dependent country, has a 29% stake in Areva, which is among the biggest global nuclear technology companies. The loss puts its future — and that of France as a leader in nuclear technology — at risk. Energy and Environment Minister Segolene Royal said Wednesday she asked Areva and utility giant Electricite de France to work together on finding solutions, amid reports of a possible merger or other link-up. The government said in a statement that it's working closely with Areva to restructure and secure financing, and would 'take its responsibility as a shareholder' in future decisions about its direction. Areva reported Wednesday 1 billion euros in losses on three major nuclear projects in Finland and France, among other hits. Areva has lost money for years, in part linked to delays on those projects and to a global pullback from nuclear energy since the 2011 Fukushima accident."
Biotech

NASA Ames Reproduces the Building Blocks of Life In Laboratory 135

Posted by samzenpus
from the build-it-yourself dept.
hypnosec writes "Scientists at NASA's Ames Research Center have reproduced non-biologically the three basic components of life found in both DNA and RNA — uracil, cytosine, and thymine. For their experiment scientists deposited an ice sample containing pyrimidine — a ring-shaped molecule made up of carbon and nitrogen — on a cold substrate in a chamber with space-like conditions such as very high vacuum, extremely low temperatures, and irradiated the sample with high-energy ultraviolet photons from a hydrogen lamp. Researchers discovered that such an arrangement produces these essential ingredients of life. "We have demonstrated for the first time that we can make uracil, cytosine, and thymine, all three components of RNA and DNA, non-biologically in a laboratory under conditions found in space," said Michel Nuevo, research scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center, Moffett Field, California. "We are showing that these laboratory processes, which simulate conditions in outer space, can make several fundamental building blocks used by living organisms on Earth."
Transportation

Would You Need a License To Drive a Self-Driving Car? 350

Posted by samzenpus
from the easy-driver dept.
agent elevator writes Not as strange a question as it seems, writes Mark Harris at IEEE Spectrum : "Self-driving cars promise a future where you can watch television, sip cocktails, or snooze all the way home. But what happens when something goes wrong? Today's drivers have not been taught how to cope with runaway acceleration, unexpected braking, or a car that wants to steer into a wall." The California DMV is considering something that would be similar to requirements for robocar test-driver training." Hallie Siegel points out this article arguing that we need to be careful about how many rules we make for self-driving cars before they become common. Governments and lawmakers across the world are debating how to best regulate autonomous cars, both for testing, and for operation. Robocar expert Brad Templeton argues that that there is a danger that regulations might be drafted long before the shape of the first commercial deployments of the technology take place.

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