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Submission + - Taking the census, with cellphones (

sciencehabit writes: If you want to figure out how many people live in a particular part of your country, you could spend years conducting home visits and mailing out questionnaires. But a new study describes a quicker way. Scientists have figured out how to map populations using cellphone records—an approach that doesn’t just reveal who lives where, but also where they go every day. The researchers also compared their results to population density data gathered through remote sensing technologies, a widely used method that relies on satellite imaging to gather detailed information on population settlement patterns and estimate population counts. They found that the two methods are comparable in accuracy when checked against actual survey-based census data, but estimates from mobile phone data can provide more timely information, down to the hours.

Submission + - 2600 Profiled: 'A Print Magazine for Hackers' writes: Nicolas Niarchos has a profile of 2600 in The New Yorker that is well worth reading. Some excerpts:

2600—named for the frequency that allowed early hackers and “phreakers” to gain control of land-line phones—is the photocopier to Snowden’s microprocessor. Its articles aren’t pasted up on a flashy Web site but, rather, come out in print. The magazine—which started as a three-page leaflet sent out in the mail, and became a digest-sized publication in the late nineteen-eighties—just celebrated its thirtieth anniversary. It still arrives with the turning of the seasons, in brown envelopes just a bit smaller than a 401k mailer.

“There’s been now, by any stretch of the imagination, three generations of hackers who have read 2600 magazine,” Jason Scott, a historian and Web archivist who recently reorganized a set of 2600’s legal files, said. Referring to Goldstein, whose real name is Eric Corley, he continued: “Eric really believes in the power of print, words on paper. It’s obvious for him that his heart is in the paper.”

2600 provides an important forum for hackers to discuss the most pressing issues of the day—whether it be surveillance, Internet freedom, or the security of the nation’s nuclear weapons—while sharing new code in languages like Python and C.* For example, the most recent issue of the magazine addresses how the hacking community can approach Snowden’s disclosures. After lampooning one of the leaked N.S.A. PowerPoint slides (“whoever wrote this clearly didn’t know that there are no zombies in ‘1984’ ”) and discussing how U.S. government is eroding civil rights, the piece points out the contradictions that everyone in the hacking community currently faces. “Hackers are the ones who reveal the inconvenient truths, point out security holes, and offer solutions,” it concludes. “And this is why hackers are the enemy in a world where surveillance and the status quo are the keys to power.”

Submission + - NASA's Poor Treatment of an Independent Inventor (

LoadWB writes: Jed Margolin holds patents spanning four decades. When he attempted to contact NASA about possible infringement upon one of his patents he was met with numerous years of stone-walling, insults, and dubious agency and legal shenanigans, including and detailed within a 4,000-page FOIA answer. So frequently we hear of corporate juggernauts ripping the very life out of consumers (his site is also not devoid of corporate mistreatment,) but read on to see what happens when Goliath is the agency of an ever-growing and increasingly ubiquitous government.

Submission + - Ask Slashdot: Easy Programming Environment For Processing Video And Audio?

An anonymous reader writes: Dear Slashdotters: Me and a couple of pals want to test out a few ideas we have for processing video and audio files using code. We are looking for a programming language that is a) uncomplicated to learn b) runs reasonably fast (compiled, not interpreted please) and c) can read and write video and audio files with relative ease. Read/write support for common file formats like AVI, Video For Windows, Quicktime, MP3, WAV would make our job much easier. The icing on the cake would be if the IDE/language/compiler used is free and runs on Windows as well as MacOS (we may try Linux further down the line as well). Any suggestions? Please note that we are looking for a rapid prototyping language that is quick to setup, makes it easy to throw some working video/audio code together, and test it against an array of digital test footage/audio, rather than a language for creating a final consumer release (which would likely be C++, Assembly or similar). The ability to build a basic user interface for our experimental video/audio algos — sliders, buttons, data entry fields — would also be a plus, although we wouldn't be building hugely complex UIs at this stage. And one more bonus question — are some of the visual/node-based audio & video processing environments available, like any good for this kind of algorithm prototyping? (We want the final algos resulting from the effort available in code or flowchart form). Thanks for any help — Five Anonymous Video/Audio Processing Freaks =)

Submission + - Contact between Native Americans and Easter Islanders before 1500 C.E (

sciencehabit writes: Polynesians from Easter Island and natives of South America met and mingled long before Europeans voyaged the Pacific, according to a new genetic study of living Easter Islanders. In this week’s issue of Current Biology, researchers argue that the genes point to contact between Native Americans and Easter Islanders before 1500 C.E., 3 centuries after Polynesians settled the island also known as Rapa Nui, famous for its massive stone statues. Although circumstantial evidence had hinted at such contact, this is the first direct human genetic evidence for it.

Submission + - How the Big Bang's alternatives died

StartsWithABang writes: It’s such a part of our cosmic and scientific history, that it’s difficult to remember that it’s only been for the past 50 years that the Big Bang has been the leading theory-and-model that describes our Universe. Ever since the 1920s, when Edwin Hubble discovered the apparent expansion of our Universe, we’ve recognized that it’s a much bigger place than simply what’s in the Milky Way. But the Big Bang was hardly the only game in town. Yet the discovery of not only the Cosmic Microwave Background, but the detailed measurement of its temperature and spectrum, was able to rule out every single alternative as a non-viable model.

Submission + - 32 Cities Want to Challenge Big Telecom, Build Their Own Gigabit Networks

Jason Koebler writes: More than two dozen cities in 19 states announced today that they're sick of big telecom skipping them over for internet infrastructure upgrades and would like to build gigabit fiber networks themselves and help other cities follow their lead.
The Next Centuries Cities coalition, which includes a couple cities that already have gigabit fiber internet for their residents, was devised to help communities who want to build their own broadband networks navigate logistical and legal challenges to doing so.

Submission + - Comcast Drops Spurious Fees When Customer Reveals Recording

An anonymous reader writes: In yet another example of the quality of Comcast's customer service, a story surfaced today of a Comcast customer who was over-charged for a service that was never provided. At first, the consumer seemed to be on the losing end of a customer service conversation, with Comcast insisting that the charges were fair. But then, the consumer whipped out a recording of a previous conversation that he had with another Comcast representative in which not only was the consumer promised that he wouldn't be charged for services not rendered, but the reason why was explained. Suddenly Comcast conceded, and the fees were dropped. But most telling of all, the Comcast rep implied that she only dropped them because he had taped his previous interaction with Comcast customer service.

Submission + - Techno-Archaeologists Used an Abandoned McDonald's to Hijack a Satellite (

Daniel_Stuckey writes: From an abandoned McDonald's in the backyard of NASA's Ames Research Center in Mountain View, California, a dozen or so volunteer scientists and engineers have taken control of a decommissioned, still running, 70s-era space satellite, currently some 20,000 kilometers away, by using discarded vintage space computers and a few sweet eBay finds. The so-named "McMoon's" Control Center is some sort of bizarre testament to human ingenuity and what a bunch of very smart people with virtually no budget or proper authorization can pull off. A bit of context: The International Sun-Earth Explorer (ISEE-3) satellite was launched on August 12, 1978, and was originally meant to study the Earth’s magnetosphere from the L1 Lagrangian point between the Sun and the Earth, where the gravity of both bodies cancel each other out.

Submission + - WSJ: Computer Programming Is a Trade; Let's Act Like It (

An anonymous reader writes: From the story "Fortunately, it turns out that a computer-science degree isn't necessary to get a job in programming. Fourteen percent of the members of some teams at Google don't have a college degree, and 67% of the programming jobs in the U.S. are at nontech companies where other kinds of industry experience are more likely to be valued.

Computer programming, in other words, has become a trade. Like nursing or welding, it's something in which a person can develop at least a basic proficiency within weeks or months. And once budding coders learn enough to get their first jobs, they get onto the same path to upward mobility offered to their in-demand, highly paid peers."

Submission + - Cringley: IBM not a viable company, propping itself up by trippling its debt (

McGruber writes: Robert X. Cringely has a new ebook out, titled "The Decline and Fall of IBM" ( Cringely believes that IBM is in deep trouble and has been since before the Great Recession of 2008. He also says that the company has probably been doomed since 2010.

On Sunday, Cringley was interviewed on the nationally syndicated talkradio program Moneytalk. Program host Bob Brinker ( pointed out that Warren Buffett bought almost $11 billion worth of IBM common stock, then asked Cringley "what did he miss?" Cringley answered that IBM is in a downward spiral because it is focused on maintaining and increasing earnings per share (EPS). IBM is borrowing money to buy back shares, propping up EPS but adding debt. IBM's debt has tripled in the last 5 years.

Cringley also told Brinker that IBM has gone from hardware sales to selling services but they have poor customer retention, having lost the state of Texas and The Walt Disney Company. Their sales culture tends to bid low to win the contract and then extract more dollars by selling extra services. IBM also lost a contract with the CIA to Amazon. A person who called-in to the program pointed out that IBM lost its leadership in product development, lost sales of its core products to Fortune 500 companies, and its software business is eroding because of open source applications. Cringely concurred with the caller and told him "you made my point."(

Submission + - U.S. Marshals Seize Cops' Spying Records to Keep Them From the ACLU

schwit1 writes: A routine request in Florida for public records regarding the use of a surveillance tool known as stingray took an extraordinary turn recently when federal authorities seized the documents before police could release them.

The surprise move by the U.S. Marshals Service stunned the American Civil Liberties Union, which earlier this year filed the public records request with the Sarasota, Florida, police department for information detailing its use of the controversial surveillance tool.

The ACLU had an appointment last Tuesday to review documents pertaining to a case investigated by a Sarasota police detective. But marshals swooped in at the last minute to grab the records, claiming they belong to the U.S. Marshals Service and barring the police from releasing them.

Also but unrelated, serving as an outgoing United States magistrate judge, Brian Owsley had decided that one of his final judicial acts would be to unseal more than 100 of his own judicial orders involving digital surveillance that he himself had sealed at the government’s request.

But not long after Owsley's move last year, a US district judge vacated Owsley’s order and resealed them all. That order itself was then sealed.

"I don't think it's that normal," Owsley told Ars.

Submission + - The Forensic Dentist Who's Reviving Mexico's Unidentified Corpses (NSFW) (

Daniel_Stuckey writes: CIUDAD JUAREZ — The man cuts a striking profile. He’s been dead for two years—a nameless hit-and-run victim, I’m told, left to bleed out on the side of some dusty road in this Mexico-US border town of 1.5 million people. The accident punched a hole in his forehead. From where I’m standing, hunched over an autopsy stretcher on which his body is strewn akimbo, I can see through to his pickled brain. If I didn’t know any better, there's still life in this man. It’s been 120 hours since Dr. Alejandro Hernández Cárdenas got to work. That’s when Hernández Cárdenas, an unassuming local dentist who splits his time practicing, teaching graduate forensic odontology courses at the Universidad Autónoma de Ciudad Juárez, and identifying the unidentified at the Juarez Forensic Science Lab, submerged this man’s gnarled, sun-scorched body into what Hernández Cárdenas affectionately calls the “Jacuzzi.”

Submission + - Should ISPs Quarantine Infected Computers? (

itwbennett writes: Notifying Internet users of malware infections, especially when their computers become part of known botnets, has become a relatively common practice for some ISPs in recent years. But some security researchers think ISPs should actively quarantine infected computers identified on their networks. '[Infected] systems should be moved to quarantine, the account owners should be contacted and directed to resources which will enable them to clean up and rectify the situation. Until such time as the infection is remediated the computer should be able to access only limited Internet resources' said Trend Micro's Rik Ferguson in a blog post. 'Don't care will be made to care.'

Submission + - Game of Thrones: The dragons and nuclear weapons nexus (

Lasrick writes: Yes, Game of Thrones has deep meanings with a surprising number of lessons about peace and security for real life, and Timothy Westmyer of the Rising Powers Initiative explores the dragon metaphor here: 'One parallel, however, has escaped analysis: dragons as living, fire-breathing metaphors for nuclear weapons. Despite the fantasy setting, the story teaches a great deal about the inherent dangers that come with managing these game-changing agents, their propensity for accidents, the relative benefits they grant their masters, and the strain these weapons impose upon those wielding them.' As Thrones creator George R.R. Martin has said: 'Dragons are the nuclear deterrent...but is that sufficient?'

Use the Force, Luke.