Lasrick writes "The Bulletin has an interesting article about the likelihood of terrorists obtaining nuclear material. 'Since 1993, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has logged roughly 2,000 cases of illicit or unauthorized trafficking of nuclear and radioactive material. Thirty illicit radioactive trafficking incidents were reported in the former Soviet region alone from 2009 to 2011. As Obama said in December, "Make no mistake, if [terrorists] get [nuclear material], they will use it."'"
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coondoggie writes "The Federal Communications Commission said it wants to make up to 195 megahertz of additional spectrum in the 5 GHz band available to unlicensed wireless devices with the idea that such a move would enable Wi-Fi equipment that can offer faster speeds of one gigabit per second or more, increase overall capacity, and reduce congestion. 'Unlicensed National Information Infrastructure devices today operate in 555 megahertz of spectrum in the 5 GHz band, and are used for short range, high speed wireless connections including Wi-Fi enabled local area networks and fixed outdoor broadband transceivers used by wireless Internet service providers to connect smart phones, tablets and laptops to the broadband network,' the FCC stated."
NeverVotedBush writes in with the latest installment of the Dreamliner: Boeing 787 saga. "A probe into the overheating of a lithium ion battery in an All Nippon Airways Boeing 787 that made an emergency landing found it was improperly wired, Japan's Transport Ministry said Wednesday. The Transport Safety Board said in a report that the battery for the aircraft's auxiliary power unit was incorrectly connected to the main battery that overheated, although a protective valve would have prevented power from the auxiliary unit from causing damage. Flickering of the plane's tail and wing lights after it landed and the fact the main battery was switched off led the investigators to conclude there was an abnormal current traveling from the auxiliary power unit due to miswiring."
As many expected, Sony has officially announced the PS4 at the Sony PlayStation Meeting today. The new PlayStation will have an X86 processor, "state of the art" GPU, 8 GB of high-speed unified memory, and a hard drive for local storage. The PS4 will allow gamers to share their gameplay stream and even remotely take control of friend's games. Along with the PS4, Sony has unveiled a new DualShock 4 controller which features a built-in touchpad at the center of the controller, and a built-in microphone jack.
Hugh Pickens writes "The NY Times reports that while online college classes are already common, on the whole, the record is not encouraging because there are two big problems with online teaching. First, student attrition rates — around 90 percent for some huge online courses — appear to be a problem even in small-scale online courses when compared with traditional face-to-face classes. Second, courses delivered solely online may be fine for highly skilled, highly motivated people, but they are inappropriate for struggling students who make up a significant portion of college enrollment and who need close contact with instructors to succeed. Research has shown that community college students who enroll in online courses are significantly more likely to fail or withdraw than those in traditional classes, which means that they spend hard-earned tuition dollars and get nothing in return. Worse still, low-performing students who may be just barely hanging on in traditional classes tend to fall even further behind in online courses. 'Colleges need to improve online courses before they deploy them widely,' says the Times. 'Moreover, schools with high numbers of students needing remedial education should consider requiring at least some students to demonstrate success in traditional classes before allowing them to take online courses.' Interestingly, research found that students in hybrid classes — those that blended online instruction with a face-to-face component — performed as well academically as those in traditional classes. But hybrid courses are rare, and teaching professors how to manage them is costly and time-consuming. 'The online revolution offers intriguing opportunities for broadening access to education. But, so far, the evidence shows that poorly designed courses can seriously shortchange the most vulnerable students.'"
Several readers sent word of a new addition to the 3-D printing industry. Most 3-D printers are roughly the size of regular printers, and require design files on the computer to guide the extruder. Now there's a much smaller and much simpler alternative: the 3Doodler pen, which lets you draw 3-D objects by hand. The people making the pen set up a Kickstarter project yesterday with a $30,000 goal. They reached that within hours, and now have pledges exceeding $800,000. "The 3Doodler pen is 180mm by 24mm. The pen weighs less than 200 grams or 7 ounces (the weight of a typical apple), although the exact weight will depend on the final shell specifications once in production. And we are using a universal power supply, so provided you have the correct adapter for your country, 3Doodler will work just fine on 110v or 240v. ... While the plastic extruded from 3Doodler is safe to touch once it has left the pen, the pen itself has a metal tip that can get as hot as 270C." The pen uses the same ABS/PLA plastic as most 3-D printers, and they're planning to host stencil designs on their website so that users have patterns to sketch from.
On January 26th, unlocking a cell phone that is under contract became illegal in the U.S. Just before that went into effect, a petition was started at whitehouse.gov to have the Librarian of Congress revisit that decision. "It reduces consumer choice, and decreases the resale value of devices that consumers have paid for in full. The Librarian noted that carriers are offering more unlocked phones at present, but the great majority of phones sold are still locked." The 30 days time limit on the petition is almost up, and it's about 11,000 signatures shy of the amount necessary to ensure a response from the Obama administration (100,000 total, recently increased from 25,000). The creator of the petition received a Cease & Desist letter from Motorola in 2005 for selling software that would allow users to unlock their phones, and he thinks it's only a matter of time before such legal threats begin again. This is part of a larger battle to protect the way consumers can use their devices. While it's still legal for people to root their phones, the Librarian of Congress failed to expand that legal protection to tablets, even though the devices are incredibly similar. The Librarian's decision (PDF) needs further review, and if the White House petition doesn't get enough signatures by February 23, such a review may not happen.
An anonymous reader writes "Whether or not you're an owner of Microsoft's Xbox 360, chances are you find the Kinect accessory intriguing, since you don't even need the company's console to use it. That's why there's so much excitement surrounding the console's successor, codenamed Durango: it will feature Kinect 2.0, the specifications for which allegedly leaked today. The new device will reportedly be able to track players with a height of one meter, feature a mode for both seated and standing players, detect hand states (such as open or closed), as well as extra and rotated joints. As for improved features, it will be able to supposedly track six rather than two active players, occluded joints, and sideways poses. This will all be possible thanks to an increased field of vision, 1920×1080 color stream, 512×424 depth stream, an added infrared stream, USB 3.0, and 60ms latency."
An anonymous reader writes "Recently, I had found out (through my log files) that my wireless router was subject to a Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) brute force PIN attack. After looking on the Internet and discovering that there are indeed many vulnerabilities to WPS, I disabled it. After a few days, I noticed that I kept intermittently getting disconnected at around the same time every day (indicative of a WPA deauthentication handshake capture attempt). I also noticed that an evil twin has been set up in an effort to get me to connect to it. Through Wi-Fi monitoring software, I have noticed that certain MAC addresses are connected to multiple WEP and WPA2 access points in my neighborhood. I believe that I (and my neighbors) may be dealing with an advanced Wi-Fi leech. What can I do in this situation? Should I bother purchasing a directional antenna, figuring out exactly where the clients are situated, and knocking on their door? Is this something the local police can help me with?"
The Bad Astronomer writes "A team of astronomers has announced the discovery of the smallest exoplanet orbiting a Sun-like star yet found: Kepler-37b, which has a diameter of only 3865 kilometers — smaller than Mercury, and only a little bigger than our own Moon. It was found using the transit method; as it orbits its star, it periodically blocks a bit of the starlight, revealing its presence (abstract). Interestingly, the planet has been known for some time, but only new advances in asteroseismology (studying oscillations in the star itself) have allowed the star's size to be accurately found, which in turn yielded a far better determination of the planet's diminutive size. Also, the asteroseismology research was not funded by NASA, but instead crowd funded by a non-profit, which raised money by letting people adopt Kepler target stars."
kkleiner writes "Planetary Resources last year boldly claimed that they would build a futuristic business out of mining space asteroids. To that end, the firm recently completed the Arkyd-100 satellite prototype. The satellite will use its telescope to look for suitable near-Earth asteroids from low-Earth orbit. Later expeditions will rocket out to prospective real estate, do spectral analysis, and if the asteroid contains valuable resources, lay claim with a beacon."
coondoggie writes "Communications and effective system control are still big challenges unmanned aircraft developers are facing if they want unfettered access to U.S. airspace. Those were just a couple of the conclusions described in a recent Government Accountability Office report on the status of unmanned aircraft (PDF) and the national airspace. The bottom line for now seems to be that while research and development efforts are under way to mitigate obstacles to safe and routine integration of unmanned aircraft into the national airspace, these efforts cannot be completed and validated without safety, reliability, and performance standards, which have not yet been developed because of data limitations." The FAA and others seem mostly concerned about the drones hitting things if their GPS and ground communications are both disrupted.
Nerval's Lobster writes "If you live in Hawaii, congratulations: according to a new study (PDF) by researchers at the University of Vermont, you live in the happiest state in the union — at least as far as Twitter sentiment is concerned. (Hat tip to The Atlantic for posting about the research.) The researchers — affiliated with the University's Department of Mathematics & Statistics, Complex Systems Center, Computational Story Lab, and Advanced Computing Core — collected 10 million geo-tagged Tweets from 373 urban areas across the United States in 2011 and ran them through a system designed to tag each on a scale from 1 (sad) to 9 (happy). According to the study, the five happiest states include Hawaii, Maine, Nevada, Utah and Vermont; the five saddest are Louisiana, Mississippi, Maryland, Delaware and Georgia. In general, the West and Northeast seemed much happier than the Mid-Atlantic and South—with the exception of Florida, which shaded 'happier' than many of the surrounding states. While the researchers admitted their study's limitations, there are certainly a lot of opportunities for refining the model: for example, if Hawaii's status as a vacation state affects its rate of 'happy' Tweets, or if incorporating languages other than English into the dataset would affect the ultimate results."
KermMartian writes "The TI-84 Plus C Silver Edition isn't the first color-screen graphing calculator, or even TI's first color calculator, but it's a refresh of a 17-year-old line that many have mocked as antiquated and overpriced. From an advanced review model, the math features look familiar, solid, and augmented with some new goodies, while programming looks about on par with its siblings. The requisite teardown uncovers the new battery, Flash, ASIC/CPU, and LCD used in the device. Although there are some qualms about its speed and very gentle hardware upgrades beyond the screen, it looks to be an indication that TI will continue this inveterate line for years to come." Lots of screenshots and pictures of the innards too.
Bennett Haselton writes "Evgeny Morozov's forthcoming book To Save Everything, Click Here describes how an overly helpful 'kitchen of the future' might stifle the learning process and threaten culinary innovation. True, but we could certainly do better than the current state of how-to directions (in cooking and most other subjects) that you can find today on Google. I suggest that the answer lies not in intelligent kitchen technology, but in designing an algorithm that would produce the best possible how-to directions -- where the 'best' directions are judged according to the results that are achieved by genuine beginners who attempt to follow the directions without help." Read below for the rest of Bennett's review.
Editor's Note: This article was not intended as a full review, but rather a commentary on one point in the book. The author's actual review of the book will appear in March.
Editor's Note: This article was not intended as a full review, but rather a commentary on one point in the book. The author's actual review of the book will appear in March.
Two years ago Guile Scheme, the official extension language of the GNU project, released version 2.0, a major upgrade to the implementation. As part of the two year anniversary, the maintainers organized a challenge to hack a small project using Guile in 30 days as part of a birthday software potluck. The two coolest dishes appear to be OpenGL support using the FFI, and XCB bindings built using the XML specification for XCB: "guile-xcb is a language implemented in the Guile VM that parses the XML files used by the xcb project to specify the X protocol and compiles them into Guile modules containing all the methods and data needed to send requests to the X server and receive replies/events back. If new X extensions are added to the xcb library, guile-xcb can compile and add them with no additional work. " See the release announcement for details on the other dishes.
New submitter BetterThanCaesar writes "The Swedish Pirate Party and their ISP Serious Tubes have received a letter from 'The Rights Alliance' (formerly Antipiratbyrån, The Swedish Anti-Piracy Bureau), demanding they cease supplying Internet access to The Pirate Bay. Referring to the final sentence on the four Pirate Bay profiles, they threaten with legal action if access is not removed by February 26. On her blog, party leader Anna Troberg calls the letter 'extortion,' pointing out that (translated from Swedish) '[i]t is not illegal to provide The Pirate Bay with Internet access. There is no list of illegal sites that ISPs cannot provide access to.' (google translation to English)." The letter sent (in Swedish). Update: 02/20 14:58 GMT by U L : richie2000 notes that hosting isn't quite right; they're just routing traffic to TPB: "We're not hosting TPB, we're just routing traffic to them. Just like an ISP. Serious Tubes routes traffic to the Pirate Party, so they're even more removed. But, last night, Portlane, one of the ISPs that routes traffic to Serious Tubes, was pressured into cutting their transit to ST, even if they were just a provider to a provider to a provider to TPB."
rtoz writes with a quick bite from rtoz.org about Google's latest news about Project Glass: "Google has released video preview of its forthcoming Google Glass wearable headset, providing a fresh, and more realistic look at the device's user interface. Based on the demo, Google Glass will allow users to receive and execute onscreen directions, send voice-controlled messages, and search the web through speech. The UI also includes voice-controlled photos, and suggests that the device will offer onscreen translation support. And, it looks like the Google Glass will be water-resistant. Google has previously said it is aiming to launch Glass by early 2014, though it is already pushing out developer editions priced at $1,500." They're looking for developers, but only if you're hip enough.
Following up on yesterday's news that Ubuntu for Tablets has been announced, Mark Shuttleworth answered questions about the purpose of the new version of Canonical's OS and what its intended strengths will be. He made special note of how Canonical wants the transition between desktop-Ubuntu and mobile-Ubuntu to be smooth. "When you transition from the tablet to the desktop, things don't move around. Your indicators, things like network status and time, they don't jump around on screen, they stay in the same place. That's what's really different certainly between our approach to convergence and for example Windows 8, where when you're in the desktop mode, which looks like Windows 7, and suddenly you get the new tile-based interface, it's a stark transition that can be jarring for users. In our case, you can almost think of those as gentle phase changes. When you go from phone to tablet you're stretching the device in very obvious ways. People who've used iOS on both phones and tablets would expect that. What's nice about Ubuntu is the phase change to the PC experience up from the tablet really just introduces window management, and it also introduces things like menus and dialog boxes. You aren't moving things around in dramatic ways." He added that they expect the user experiences to converge in Ubuntu 14.04. Shuttleworth also addressed the fragmentation problem faced by Android. He says manufacturers and carriers don't want to fall into that trap again, and that they've been receptive to the idea of leaving the core of Ubuntu alone while tweaking their individual services instead.
An anonymous reader writes "We've watched patents slow down the smartphone and tablet markets. We've seen patent claims thrown against Linux, Android, and countless other software projects. Now, as 3-D printing becomes more capable and more affordable, it seems a number of patents threaten to do the same to the hobbyist and tinkerer crowd. Wired has highlighted some of the most dangerous ones, including: a patent on soluble print materials that support a structure while it's being printed; a ridiculously broad patent on distributed rapid prototyping, which could affect "every 3-D printing service that has launched in the past few years"; and an 18-year-old patent on 3-D printing using a powder and a binding material, held by MIT."
An anonymous reader writes "Microsoft watcher Mary Jo Foley has been collecting tips on Microsoft's accelerated Windows development schedule, codenamed 'Blue.' She reports that the program, which is attempting to replace the multiyear product drops for the Windows-branded desktop, server, phone, and network services products with a more agile release cycle, with better continuity across the suite, has just hit the first of two scheduled milestone builds. What's in the build? As with North Korea's nuclear program, details are scarce, but so far we have a Chinese Windows start screen; indications that the kernel number has been bumped from 'NT 6.2' (Windows 8) to 'NT 6.3'; and a job posting for a Windows Blue SDET (test engineer). Slashdot reported on Windows Blue in November."
An anonymous reader writes "A study done by a Hungarian physicist found that of the billions of websites and over a trillion objects on the web, any given two are separated by no more than 19 clicks. 'Distributed across the entire web, though, are a minority of pages—search engines, indexes and aggregators—that are very highly connected and can be used to move from area of the web to another. These nodes serve as the "Kevin Bacons" of the web, allowing users to navigate from most areas to most others in less than 19 clicks. Barabási credits this "small world" of the web to human nature—the fact that we tend to group into communities, whether in real life or the virtual world. The pages of the web aren't linked randomly, he says: They're organized in an interconnected hierarchy of organizational themes, including region, country and subject area. Interestingly, this means that no matter how large the web grows, the same interconnectedness will rule.'"
pigrabbitbear writes "It's the most modern lament in retail: Brick-and-mortar shopping has gone the way of the dodo as everyone buys their junk online. But for the once-booming online gambling market, salvation may require a reversal of that trend. For one online gaming giant, buying a casino in Atlantic City is the first step to bring Internet poker back to the U.S. In 2006, playing online poker for real cash was deemed illegal. While that didn't stop more serious players from playing, especially once the big hosts started funneling cash offshore, the FBI and DoJ's crackdown on April 15, 2011 did. The big trio of online poker – PokerStars, Full Tilt, and Absolute Poker – were all shut down, domains seized, and executives arrested on charges related to fraud, money laundering, and illegal gambling. While PokerStars and others continued operations in foreign, legal markets, the U.S. poker craze pretty much collapsed. That doesn't mean the lucrative market has gone away. Now, the Rational Group, which owns both PokerStars and Full Tilt, may be hinting at a workaround: the company is looking to buy a struggling casino in Atlantic City. Rational faces a rather large mess of regulatory hurdles, but if it does end up acquiring the Atlantic Club Casino Hotel, it would have a huge foothold in New Jersey's young market for internet gambling."