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+ - What Northern Hemisphere Astronomers Are Missing From The Southern Hemisphere->

Submitted by creimer
creimer (824291) writes "The New York Times Sunday Review has an interesting article on the astronomical night life when viewed from Sao Paulo, Brazil, featuring a treasure trove not visible to astronomers in the Northern Hemisphere: "Yet the Southern Hemisphere claims the three brightest stars of the night sky: Sirius, Canopus and Alpha Centauri. Canopus belongs to the Carina constellation, notorious for two things: the Carina Nebula, four times as large and even brighter than the famous Orion Nebula, and the star system Eta Carinae, which is expected to burst as a supernova or hypernova sometime in the next thousand years. (A scientist told the BBC that the explosion would be so bright that you would see it during the day, and you could even read a book by its light at night.) Alpha Centauri and Beta Centauri, the 11th-brightest star, are called “The Pointers,” as they form a line in the sky to the constellation Crux (the Southern Cross). Crux is the smallest of all 88 constellations but one of the most distinctive. It is visible at practically any time of the year in all of the Southern Hemisphere.""
Link to Original Source
Sony

Sony Hack Reveals MPAA's Big '$80 Million' Settlement With Hotfile Was a Lie 16

Posted by timothy
from the 4-80-whattsa-difference? dept.
An anonymous reader writes with this excerpt from Tech Dirt: For years, we've pointed out that the giant 'settlements' that the MPAA likes to announce with companies it declares illegal are little more than Hollywood-style fabrications. Cases are closed with big press releases throwing around huge settlement numbers, knowing full well that the sites in question don't have anywhere near that kind of money available. At the end of 2013, it got two of these, with IsoHunt agreeing to 'pay' $110 million and Hotfile agreeing to 'pay' $80 million. In both cases, we noted that there was no chance that those sums would ever get paid. And now, thanks to the Sony hack, we at least know the details of the Hotfile settlement. TorrentFreak has been combing through the emails and found that the Hotfile settlement was really just for $4 million, and the $80 million was just a bogus number agreed to for the sake of a press release that the MPAA could use to intimidate others.

+ - OpenBSD forked to remove non-free firmware

Submitted by Anonymous Coward
An anonymous reader writes "LibertyBSD, a fork of OpenBSD that is committed to only distributing 100% free software, has been announced.

OpenBSD, while mostly free, distributes binary-only firmware and often downloads more on first boot.

LibertyBSD is pending review by the Free Software Foundation, which maintains a list of free system distributions. Other distributions on their list include Trisquel, which is based on Ubuntu, and Parabola, which is based on Arch.

To ensure the continued development of LibertyBSD, releases will not be available for download until 3 BTC has been raised. After that, future releases will be available at no cost. 10% of the money raised will be donated to the OpenBSD Foundation.

For more information, see http://www.libertybsd.net/

Contributions can be sent to 1BFQEqzhxTbvfjZ3f9eoTbeEBgJdkVcj4m"
Christmas Cheer

School Defied Google and US Government, Let Boys Program White House Xmas Trees 66

Posted by timothy
from the sexist-not-to-select-by-sex dept.
theodp writes This holiday season, Google and the National Parks partnered to let girls program the White House Christmas tree lights. While the initiative earned kudos in Fast Company's 9 Giant Leaps For Women In Science and Technology In 2014, it also prompted an act of civil disobedience of sorts from St. Augustine of Canterbury School, which decided Google and the U.S. government wouldn't determine which of their kids would be allowed to participate in the coding event. "We decided to open it up to all our students, both boys and girls so that they could be a part of such an historic event, and have it be the kickoff to our Hour of Code week," explained Debra Knox, a technology teacher at St. Augustine.

Comment: Re: Shut it down (Score 1) 179

By picking the shape and trajectory, we can have quite good accuracy on where to land the debris. Pick a piece of federal desert land and there you go.

Seriously, the scenario as I understand it is: we'd park an asteroid in a high orbit

Bad assumption right from the beginning. That's a terrible waste of energy. You mine an earth-crossing asteroid. Chunks mined off an earth-crossing asteroid can be put onto an earth-intersecting trajectory with only the tiniest of delta-V (you might have to wait a long time your payloads, but no problem there). The amount of delta-V is so low (dozens to hundreds of m/s) that you wouldn't even need to use a rocket, you could just kick it off with a railgun or similar. Then you don't brake it when it gets to earth - it brakes itself by crossing through Earth's atmosphere ("aerocapture"). There are various optional things one could do with the reentry chunks to assist, such as small rockets for trajectory adjustment en-route or small high-speed chutes to keep the asteroids from completely obliterating themselves on reentry / landing (no need for a soft landing, it's fine for them to hit moving at hundreds of meters per second). Both of these would be dwarfed orders of magnitude over by the mass of the return chunk.

All you, as a mining operation, need to do is get your operation up to the asteroid. You need to be able to mine off chunks, shaped appropriately for optimal reentry, and kick them off onto an ideal reentry trajectory toward your target impact zone - potentially with the various hardware systems described as above, but in the base case, not with anything at all. You need a source of power (solar, nuclear) for mining and to kick your chunks into their Earth-intercept trajectory. And of course you have to deal with a million and one details, starting with how to mine at all in microgravity and what targets would actually have commercially viable quantities of valuable minerals.

Comment: Re: Shut it down (Score 1) 179

Which is why you send as optimal of a size and shape as possible. Note that asteroids normally come in randomly and have random shapes. Humans can have a huge impact on the behavior by choosing an optimal shape and trajectory. And, as mentioned, drogue chutes could be used to further reduce the free fall velocity - not for a gentle impact, simply to keep the velocity down to a level that it won't completely obliterate itself in the atmosphere or on impact.

Comment: Re:I think its gonna be a long long time (Score 2) 47

Yeah, but experience with gigantic hypersonic parachutes is also rather limited.

Again, it's really doubtful that there's any show stoppers here. But there's a lot that needs to be done before you can bet a whole mission on these sort of things. There's many thousands of little details that could kill the crew if they go wrong, so the odds of any one doing so must be kept to the tiniest fraction of a percent.

Security

Chaos Computer Club Claims It Can Reproduce Fingerprints From People's Photos 29

Posted by timothy
from the fonzie's-were-particularly-easy dept.
An anonymous reader writes Chaos Computer Club, Europe's largest association of hackers, claims it can reproduce your fingerprints from a couple of photos that show your fingers. At the 31st annual Chaos Computer Club convention in Hamburg, Germany, Jan Krissler, also known by his alias "Starbug," explained how he copied the thumbprint of German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen. Because these fingerprints can be used for biometric authentication, Starbug believes that after his talk, "politicians will presumably wear gloves when talking in public." Even better than gummi bears.

Comment: Re:Anyone can intercept SSH some of the time (Score 1) 122

by AmiMoJo (#48686043) Attached to: Snowden Documents Show How Well NSA Codebreakers Can Pry

This attack looks like something else though, judging by the numbers they are attacking. I speculate:

- They have fake certificates from trusted authorities for some major sites, and use MITM attacks to serve up fake pages with them. We know that GCHQ loves doing the latter, so it's a question of working out which certificate authorities have been compromised and deleting them. We can also potentially defend against this by using more certificate pinning and warnings which certificates change unexpectedly, as well as distributed certificate checks (to make sure the one you get is the same one everyone else gets).

- They capture a lot of encrypted data but don't decrypt all of it. They store the data and crack it later if it seems interesting. Much of the cracking probably relies on flaws in the implementation of the encryption - small RSA keys, bad PRNGs (we know that the NSA compromised at least a few of them) and the like. They seem to have massive amounts of computing power available too, which is hardly surprising given what we know of their budget and data centres (really supercomputing centres dedicated to violated your privacy and various laws).

Comment: Re: Shop elsewhere... (Score 1) 77

There is some truth in that, but a lot depends on the exact circumstances. For example, in some cases, the default position is now that the provider musn't actually provide until the end of the 14 day cancellation window, and if you want to get around that then various explicit acknowledgements are required from the customer about immediate supply and giving up the right to cancel once provision has started. Moreover, if the provider gets any of this stuff wrong, the penalties can be heavily one-sided in favour of the customer. As usual, whether any of this actually matters depends a lot on whether the amount of money or other risks involved are significant enough to take meaningful action. Also, if we're talking about privacy/security/data protection concerns, the consumer protection rules might not be the most relevant part of the law anyway.

(I spent a significant part of this year taking legal advice about these changes, but I'm not a lawyer myself, so you shouldn't trust the above any more than any other random legal commentary you find on the Internet.)

Comment: Re:I think its gonna be a long long time (Score 2) 47

Except that your terminal velocity on Mars is orders of magnitude higher than on Earth. Decelerate to subsonic then fall and you'll be back supersonic in no time.

I'm sure this is possible to do, but it absolutely requires more research and testing.

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