Daniel_Stuckey writes "Ross Ulbricht, the alleged administrator behind the illegal online drug marketplace the Silk Road, will get his day in court on November 3rd, according to a blueprint laid out today in New York's Southern District Court by Judge Katherine Forrest. Ulbrict, alleged by the government to be Silk Road founder Dread Pirate Roberts, is facing four charges (PDF via Wired) related to narcotics conspiracy, running a criminal enterprise, conspiracy to commit computer hacking, and money laundering (other charges have been brought against him regarding murder for hire in Maryland). Appearing today in court—clean-shaven, in a navy blue prison uniform—he pleaded "not guilty" to all charges. Next week, on February 13th, Josh Dratel, Ulbricht's defense attorney, will be handing over hard drives sufficient to hold eight to 10 terabytes of data, which is the approximate size of the evidence which the government has said it may use against Ulbricht. By Feb. 27, two weeks later, the prosecution must return the drives with Silk Road data the FBI collected from computers in a foreign and unnamed country, as well as a drive that holds the contents of the defendant's laptop, which was seized during his dramatic arrest at a San Francisco library in October."
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First time accepted submitter Rasberry Jello writes "I consider myself someone who 'gets code,' but I'm not a programmer. I enjoy thinking through algorithms and writing basic scripts, but I get bogged down in more complex code. Maybe I lack patience, but really, why are we still writing text based code? Shouldn't there be a simpler, more robust way to translate an algorithm into something a computer can understand? One that's language agnostic and without all the cryptic jargon? It seems we're still only one layer of abstraction from assembly code. Why have graphical code generators that could seemingly open coding to the masses gone nowhere? At a minimum wouldn't that eliminate time dealing with syntax errors? OK Slashdot, stop my incessant questions and tell me what I'm missing." Of interest on this topic, a thoughtful look at some of the ways that visual programming is often talked about.
An anonymous reader writes "Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA), are leaning on the United States government to discourage India from allowing the production and sale of affordable generic drugs to treat diseases such as cancer, diabetes, HIV/AIDS and hepatitis. India is currently on the U.S. government's Priority Watch List — countries whose practices on protecting intellectual property Washington believes should be monitored closely. Last year Novartis lost a six-year legal battle after the Indian Supreme court ruled that small changes and improvements to the drug Glivec did not amount to innovation deserving of a patent. Western drugmakers Pfizer, GlaxoSmithKline, Novartis, Roche Holding, Sanofi, and others have a bigger share of the fast-growing drug market in India. But they have been frustrated by a series of decisions on patents and pricing, as part of New Delhi's push to increase access to life-saving treatments in a place where only 15 percent of 1.2 billion people are covered by health insurance. One would certainly understand and probably agree with the need for for cheaper drugs. But don't forget that big pharma, for all its problems still is the number one creator of new drugs. In 2012 alone, the U.S. government and private companies spent a combined $130 billion (PDF) on medical research."
An anonymous reader writes "Mozilla has officially launched the Gigabit Community Fund, an organization that seeks to 'advance the development, experimentation and implementation of learning and workforce opportunities enhanced by new, super powerful Internet technologies.' The intent is to provide funding around cities like Kansas City and Chattanooga (and more, as fiber networks spread) for people to build open source applications that take advantage of super-fast fiber connections. 'The new $300,000 fund aims to bring discoveries out of the lab and into the field to help move prototypes to Minimum Viable Pilots and get tools in the hands of users. In each city, two, 12-week pilot periods will run, with up to 10 projects receiving awards between $5,000 and $30,000.'"
Monoman writes "The Washington Post reports, 'The 2014 Sochi Winter Olympics start tonight. But if you're among the 9 percent of U.S. households who have broadband but don't subscribe to paid television, it will be nearly impossible to (legally) watch the games online this year. ... That's because while NBC is streaming all of the events live online, full access to the livestream will only be available to paying cable subscribers. And thanks to a $4.38 billion exclusive deal NBC struck with the International Olympics Committee (IOC) in 2011 for the privilege of broadcasting the Olympic games in the U.S. through 2020, cord-cutters don't have a lot of options.' Is this a money play by Comcast/NBC to get some subscribers back? Should the FCC step in and require NBC to at least provide a stream of their OTA content?"
Daniel_Stuckey writes "Not content with the 27-kilometer-round Large Hadron Collider, researchers at CERN have their sights set on a new beast of a particle collider that could have a circumference of 80 to 100 kilometers. The nuclear research organization announced that it was hatching plans for an ambitious successor to the LHC with an international study called the Future Circular Colliders program, which will kick off with a meeting next week. The idea is to consider different hadron collider designs similar to the existing LHC but more powerful — much more powerful. CERN wrote it was looking for a collider 'capable of reaching unprecedented energies in the region of 100 TeV.' The existing LHC will reach a maximum of around 14 TeV."
New submitter kc123 writes: "The team that runs the HiRISE camera on the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter has released a photo showning a new impact crater on Mars, formed sometime early this decade. The crater at the center is about 30 meters in diameter, and the material ejected during its formation extends out as far as 15 kilometers. The impact was originally spotted by the MRO's Context Camera, a wide-field imaging system that provides the context—an image of the surrounding terrain—for the high-resolution images taken by HiRISE. The time window on the impact, between July 2010 and May 2012, simply represents the time between two different Context Camera photos of the same location. Once the crater was spotted, it took until November of 2013 for another pass of the region, at which point HiRISE was able to image it." Reader astroengine adds some more Mars news: "On Thursday at 3:41 p.m. EST (20:41 UTC), Mars rover Curiosity beamed back a photo from its rear hazard avoidance camera (Hazcam). In the shot we see wheel tracks in the downward slope of the dune bridging "Dingo Gap" with the peak of Curiosity's eventual goal, Mount Sharp, on the horizon. This can mean only one thing; the one-ton robot has successfully conquered its first Mars dune! Curiosity has also taken a picture of Earth."
Nerval's Lobster writes "Renault's new concept car gives drivers an unusual companion: a small flying drone, controllable via tablet or preset GPS waypoints, which scans the area ahead for obstacles and traffic. The so-called 'flying companion' can exit the vehicle via a retractable hatch in the roof, and buzz around the immediate vicinity shooting video and photos; as this is a concept, actual hardware and software specs aren't available, although Renault's engineers envision something closer to the size of a small bird than some of the larger drones currently available. But how practical is a 'driving drone'? Considering all the accidents caused by people texting or Web-surfing while driving, it seems questionable to introduce a piece of hardware that could prove even more distracting—imagine trying to successfully guide a drone with touch-screen controls while navigating a fast-paced roadway, and you can see why the idea of a "flying companion" would raise the collective blood pressure of traffic-safety officials. Yes, it would be safer for a passenger to handle drone-flying duties while the driver concentrates on the road; but it's also a near-certainty, if such a concept ever went into production, that more than one driver would attempt to multi-task the navigation of two vehicles at once. Do you think this idea is feasible?"
An anonymous reader writes "The Diplomat's Zachary Keck wonders why the U.S. government is doubling down on missile defense systems even as hypersonic missiles threaten to render them obsolete. Keck notes that hypersonic missiles pose two distinct challenges to current missile defense systems. First, they travel far faster than the missiles the defense systems are designed to intercept. Second, they travel at lower altitudes and possess greater maneuverability than the missiles the current systems have been built to destroy. Nonetheless, the U.S. was planning on spending $2 billion a year on missile defense through 2017, and now the Pentagon is asking for an additional $4.5 billion over the next five years."
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Bob Sutton reports that in 2012 Adobe moved from yearly performance rankings to frequent "check-ins" where managers provide employees targeted coaching and advice. There is no prescribed format or frequency for these conversations, and managers don't complete any forms or use any technologies to guide or document what happens during such conversations. They are simply expected to have regular check-ins to convey what is expected of employees, give and get feedback, and help employees with their growth and development plans. 'The aim is to give people information when they need it rather than months after teachable moments have passed,' writes Sutton. Donna Morris, Adobe's senior vice president for People and Places, says her team calculated that annual reviews required 80,000 hours of time from the 2000 managers at Adobe each year, the equivalent of 40 full-time employees. After all that effort, internal surveys revealed that employees felt less inspired and motivated afterwards—and turnover increased. According to Sutton, Adobe's bold move seems to be working. Surveys indicates that most Adobe managers and employees find the new system to be less cumbersome and more effective than the old stack-ranking system where managers must divide employees into groups — for example, maybe 15 percent of people can be assigned the highest rating. 'That goes against our core value of being genuine,' says Ellie Gates, director of management effectiveness at Adobe. 'Our goal should be to inspire people to do their best work.' Since the new system was implemented, voluntary attrition has decreased substantially, while involuntary departures have increased by 50% because the new system requires executives and managers to have regular 'tough discussions' with employees who are struggling with performance issues—rather than putting them off until the next performance review cycle comes around. 'It is reducing unnecessary cognitive load, while at the same time, nudging managers to engage more often and more candidly with direct reports to help them develop their skills and plan their careers,' concludes Sutton. 'It also bolsters accountability because managers have far more responsibility for setting employee compensation than under the old system.'"
jfruh writes "Having already gotten out of the low-end server market, IBM appears to be trying to get out of the chip business as well. The company currently manufactures Power Architecture chips for its own use and for other customers. Big Blue wants to sell off its manufacturing operations, but will continue to design its own chips."
ananyo writes "Physicists have produced nanoribbons of graphene — the single-atom-thick carbon — that conduct electrons better than theory predicted even for the most idealized form of the material (abstract). The finding could help graphene realize its promise in high-end electronics, where researchers have long hoped it could outperform traditional materials such as silicon. In graphene, electrons can move faster than in any other material at room temperature. But techniques that cut sheets of graphene into the narrow ribbons needed to form wires of a nano-scale circuit leave ragged edges, which disrupt the electron flow. Now a team led by physicist Walt de Heer at the Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta has made ribbons that conduct electric charges for more than 10 micrometres without meeting resistance — 1,000 times farther than in typical graphene nanoribbons. The ribbons made by de Heer's team in fact conduct electrons ten times better than standard theories of electron transport they should, say the authors."
alphadogg writes "Politicians and law enforcement officials in California will introduce a bill on Friday that requires all smartphones and tablet PCs sold in the state be equipped with a digital 'kill-switch' that would make the devices useless if stolen. The bill is a response to a rise in thefts of portable electronics devices, often at knife or gunpoint, being seen across the state. Already half of all robberies in San Francisco and 75 percent of those in Oakland involve a mobile device and the number is rising in Los Angeles, according to police figures. The trend is the same in major cities across the U.S. and the California bill, if it passes, could usher in kill-switch technology nationwide if phone makers choose not to produce custom devices for California. California Senate bill 962 says all smartphones and tablet PCs sold from Jan. 1, 2015, should have 'a technological solution that can render the essential features of the device inoperable when the device is not in possession of the rightful owner.'"
schwit1 writes "According to the Inspector General, NASA and HP Enterprise Services have encountered significant problems implementing the $2.5 billion Agency Consolidated End-User Services (ACES) contract, which provides desktops, laptops, computer equipment and end-user services such as help desk and data backup. Those problems include 'a failed effort to replace most NASA employees' computers within the first six months and low customer satisfaction,' the report states (PDF). It adds that NASA lacked the technical and cultural readiness for an agencywide IT delivery model and did not offer clear contract requirements, while HP failed to deliver on multiple promises."
mask.of.sanity writes "Russia has banned digital currency Bitcoin under existing laws and dubbed use of the crypto-currency as 'suspicious'. The Central Bank of Russia considers Bitcoin as a form of 'money substitute' or 'money surrogate' (statement in Russian) which is restricted under Russian law. However, unlike use of restricted foreign currencies, Bitcoin has been outright banned. The US Library of Congress has issued a report examining the regulatory approaches national financial authorities have taken to the currency."
littlekorea writes "Australia's weather bureau has racked up bills of $38 million for a water data system, based on Red Hat Linux, MySQL and Java, that was originally scheduled to cost somewhere between $2 million and $5 million. The Bureau's supplier, an ASX-listed IT services provider SMS Management and Technology, did a good job of embedding itself in the bureau, with all changes having to be made by the original consultant that built it."
sciencehabit writes "How an electron interacts with other matter depends on which way it's spinning as it zips along—to the right like a football thrown by a right-handed quarterback or the left like a pigskin thrown by a lefty. Now, physicists have confirmed that quarks—the particles that join in trios to form the protons and neutrons in atomic nuclei—exhibit the same asymmetry. The result could give physics a new weapon in the grand hunt for new particles and forces. Or they can search for subtle hints of exotic new things beyond their tried-and-true standard model by studying familiar particles in great detail. In the latter approach, the new experiment gives physicists a way to probe for certain kinds of new forces."
Nerval's Lobster writes "In a video report posted Feb. 4, NBC News reporter Richard Engel, with the help of a security analyst, two fresh laptops, a new cell phone, and a fake identity, pretended to go online with the technical naiveté of a Neanderthal housepet. (Engel's video blog is here.) Almost as soon as he turned on the phone in the Sochi airport, Engel reported hackers snooping around, testing the security of the machines. Engel's story didn't explain whether 'snooping around' meant someone was port-scanning his device in particular with the intention of cracking its security and prying out its secrets, no matter how much effort it took, or if the 'snooping' was other WiFi devices looking for access points and trying automatically to connect with those that were unprotected. Judging from the rest of his story, it was more likely the latter. Engel also reported hackers snooping around a honeypot set up by his security consultant which, as Gartner analyst Paul Proctor also pointed out in a blog posting, is like leaving the honey open and complaining when it attracts flies. When you try to communicate with anything, it also tries to communicate with you; that's how networked computers work: They communicate with each other. None of the 'hacks' or intrusions Engel created or sought out for himself have anything to do with Russia or Sochi, however; those 'hacks' he experienced could have happened in any Starbucks in the country, and does almost every day, Proctor wrote. That's why there is antivirus software for phones and laptops. It's why every expert, document, video, audio clip or even game that has anything at all to do with cybersecurity makes sure to mention you should never open attachments from spam email, or in email from people you don't know, and you should set up your browser to keep random web sites from downloading and installing anything they want on your computer. But keep up the fear-mongering."