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The Math of Gamification 36

An anonymous reader writes "The Foursquare blog has an interesting post about some of the math they use to evaluate and verify the massive amount of user-generated data that enters their database. They need to figure out the likelihood that any given datapoint accurately represents reality, so they've worked out a complicated formula that will minimize abuse. Quoting: 'By choosing the points based on a user's accuracy, we can intelligently accrue certainty about a proposed update and stop the voting process as soon as the math guarantees the required certainty. ... The parameters are automatically trained and can adapt to changes in the behavior of the userbase. No more long meetings debating how many points to grant to a narrow use case. So far, we've taken a very user-centric view of p-sub-k (this is the accuracy of user k). But we can go well beyond that. For example, p-sub-k could be "the accuracy of user k's vote given that they have been to the venue three times before and work nearby." These clauses can be arbitrarily complicated and estimated from a (logistic) regression of the honeypot performance. The point is that these changes will be based on data and not subjective judgments of how many "points" a user or situation should get."

Cairo 2D Graphics May Become Part of ISO C++ 430

An anonymous reader sends this news from Phoronix: "The C++ standards committee is looking at adopting a Cairo C++ interface as part of a future revision to the ISO C++ standard to provide 2D drawing. Herb Sutter, the chair of the ISO C++ standards committee, sent out a message to the Cairo developers this week about their pursuit to potentially standardize a basic 2D drawing library for ISO C++. The committee right now is looking at using a C++-ified version of Cairo. Sutter wrote, 'we are currently investigating the direction of proposing a mechanically C++-ified version of Cairo. Specifically, "mechanically C++-ified" means taking Cairo as-is and transforming it with a one-page list of mechanical changes such as turning _create functions into constructors, (mystruct*, int length) function parameters to vector<struct>& parameters, that sort of thing — the design and abstractions and functions are unchanged.'"

Intel's Knights Landing — 72 Cores, 3 Teraflops 208

New submitter asliarun writes "David Kanter of Realworldtech recently posted his take on Intel's upcoming Knights Landing chip. The technical specs are massive, showing Intel's new-found focus on throughput processing (and possibly graphics). 72 Silvermont cores with beefy FP and vector units, mesh fabric with tile based architecture, DDR4 support with a 384-bit memory controller, QPI connectivity instead of PCIe, and 16GB on-package eDRAM (yes, 16GB). All this should ensure throughput of 3 teraflop/s double precision. Many of the architectural elements would also be the same as Intel's future CPU chips — so this is also a peek into Intel's vision of the future. Will Intel use this as a platform to compete with nVidia and AMD/ATI on graphics? Or will this be another Larrabee? Or just an exotic HPC product like Knights Corner?"

The Far Future of Our Solar System 122

An anonymous reader writes "Sure, the Universe is expanding, the galaxies are accelerating away from one another, and it's looking more and more like they'll never re-collapse. The timeline of the far future looks pretty grim on large scales. But what's to come of our Solar System: of the Earth, our Moon and our Sun? This tour of the far future of the Solar System, scaling the timescales to the Big Bang being '1 Universe year' ago, puts it all in perspective."

First US Public Library With No Paper Books Opens In Texas 212

cold fjord writes "Bexar Country in Texas has opened a new $2.3 million library called BiblioTech. It doesn't have physical books, only computers and e-reader tablets. It is the first bookless public library system in the U.S. The library opened in an area without nearby bookstores, and is receiving considerable attention. It has drawn visitors from around the U.S. and overseas that are studying the concept for their own use. It appears that the library will have more than 100,000 visitors by year's end. Going without physical books has been cost effective from an architecture standpoint, since the building doesn't have to support the weight of books and bookshelves. A new, smaller library in a nearby town cost $1 million more than Bexar Country's new library. So far there doesn't appear to be a problem with returning checked out e-readers. A new state law in Texas defines the failure to return library books as theft."

Rap Genius Returns To Google Search Rankings 115

theodp writes "After being punished by Google for manipulative SEO tactics, a contrite Rap Genius says it's back in Google's good graces. 'It takes a few days for things to return to normal, but we're officially back!' reads a post by the Rap Genius founders. 'First of all, we owe a big thanks to Google for being fair and transparent and allowing us back onto their results pages. We overstepped, and we deserved to get smacked.' Rap Genius credits some clever trackback scraping programming for its quick redemption, but a skeptic might suggest it probably didn't hurt that Rap Genius' biggest investor, Andreessen Horowitz, is tight with Google."

Augmented-Reality Contact Lens Prototype Coming To CES 38

schwit1 writes with news that one of the big presentations at next week's Consumer Electronics Show will be a set of contact lenses that are designed to augment a user's vision. A company called iOptik will be demonstrating a functioning prototype. The lenses themselves are actually only part of the display — they're paired with eyeglasses that are fitted with micro-projectors which generate the imagery shown on the lenses. "[B]y utilizing the specialized lenses to help users focus on both close and faraway objects — an issue when putting panoramic images inches from the eyes — in conjunction with the glasses to project the media and overlays, Innovega is able to do two things when most wearables do just one. First, it can project 'glance-able' displays, like Google Glass does exclusively where data is pushed to the periphery. But by utilizing the contact lenses with the glasses, it can also project a full-screen HUD, in other words operate in a heads-up display mode similar to what goggle wearables like the gaming-focused Oculus Rift offer. ... 'All the usual optics in the eyewear are taken away and there is a sub-millimeter lens right in the center,' [iOptik CEO Stephen Willey] explained. 'It's shaped, so the outside of the lens is shaped to your prescription if you need one and the very center of the lens is a bump that allows you to see incredibly well half an inch from your eye.' The second component involved is the optical filter that directs light. 'Light coming from outside the world is shunted to your normal prescription. Light from that very near display goes through the center of the lens, the optical filter,' Willey said."

Object Blocking Giant Tunnel Borer Was an 8" Diameter Pipe 141

An anonymous reader writes "A few weeks ago we discussed news that a tunnel boring machine measuring 57.5 feet in diameter was halted underneath Seattle after running into a mysterious object. Project engineers have now figured out what the object is: an 8-inch-diameter pipe. In 2002, researchers for another project — the replacement of the Alaskan Way viaduct — drilled down into the ground to take water samples. They used the 115-ft-long pipe as a well casing. As it turns out, this well site was listed in the contract specifications given to all bidders for the tunnel's construction. In addition, the crew manning the machine noticed that it was chewing up pieces of metal, and they removed part of the pipe and kept going. Only later did they realize that significant damage had been done to the machine's cutting face. Officials aren't sure how long repairs will take, or how much they will cost."

Reverse Engineering a Bank's Security Token 55

An anonymous reader writes "An engineer from Brazil has posted a technical walkthrough of how he was able to reverse engineer his bank's code-generating security token. He found a way to accurately generate his unlock codes with some custom code and an Arduino clone. (Don't worry: his method doesn't give him access to anybody else's codes.) 'Every exception thrown by this piece of code is obfuscated, as well as many of the strings used throughout the code. That is a major roadblock, since exception messages and strings in general are a great way of figuring out what the code is doing when reverse engineering something. Luckily, their developers decided to actually show useful text when a problem occurs and an exception gets thrown, so they wrapped those obfuscated strings with a.a, presumably a decryption routine that returns the original text. That routine is not too straightforward, but it is possible to get a high level understanding of what it is doing.'"
The Military

U.S. Waived Laws To Keep F-35 On Track With China-made Parts 348

An anonymous reader sends this report from Reuters: "The Pentagon repeatedly waived laws banning Chinese-built components on U.S. weapons in order to keep the $392 billion Lockheed Martin Corp F-35 fighter program on track in 2012 and 2013, even as U.S. officials were voicing concern about China's espionage and military buildup. According to Pentagon documents reviewed by Reuters, chief U.S. arms buyer Frank Kendall allowed two F-35 suppliers, Northrop Grumman Corp and Honeywell International Inc, to use Chinese magnets for the new warplane's radar system, landing gears and other hardware. Without the waivers, both companies could have faced sanctions for violating federal law and the F-35 program could have faced further delays."

Hacker Barnaby Jack Died of Drug Overdose 195

DrDevil writes "Barnaby Jack, the computer security expert who died mysteriously a few days before he was due to give a presentation on hacking pacemakers at last year's Black Hat, died of a drug overdose. The coroner initially withheld the report, which led to much speculation given the timing of his death. Mr. Jack appears to have taken a cocktail of drugs (PDF) and was found dead by his girlfriend. His girlfriend stated that he had used drugs regularly."

Senator Bernie Sanders Asks NSA If Agency Is Spying On Congress 363

cold fjord writes with this excerpt from Fox News: "A U.S. senator on Friday pressed the National Security Agency on whether its controversial spying practices extend to monitoring members of Congress. 'Has the NSA spied, or is the NSA currently spying, on members of Congress or other American elected officials?' Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., asked in a letter to NSA Director Gen. Keith Alexander released from the senator's office. Sanders, a self-described 'democratic socialist,' defines spying as monitoring the phone calls, emails and internet traffic of elected officials."

Snapchat Update Addresses Security Hole 58

Snapchat has released an update to address the security problems exposed recently by Gibson Security and subsequently (and quickly) exploited. From the article: "Snapchat also said researchers could email the firm at for any vulnerability discoveries. 'We want to make sure that security experts can get a hold of us when they discover new ways to abuse our service so that we can respond quickly to address those concerns. The best way to let us know about security vulnerabilities is by emailing us:,' Snapchat said."

Boeing Moving X-37B Operations To the Kennedy Space Center 35

schwit1 writes "A spy plane used by the U.S. Air Force is about to get a new home: a garage at Kennedy Space Center that once housed NASA orbiters during the space shuttle era. The move was announced Friday by Boeing, the Chicago-based company that built the X-37B orbital test vehicle and is in charge of repairing the spacecraft whenever it returns to Earth. Previously, Boeing had refurbished the 29-foot-long spacecraft at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, but the company decided to relocate its fix-up shop in Florida, where the vehicle now launches."

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