Ars Technica takes a look at the next generation of TrackingPoint's automatically aimed rifles (not "automatic" in the usual sense), and visited the shooting range where they're tested out. Like the company's previous generation of gun (still in production, and increasingly being sold to government buyers), TrackingPoint's offerings integrate a Linux computer that makes acquiring and tracking a target far easier and more accurate than it would otherwise be. Unlike the older models, though, this year TrackingPoint is concentrating on AR-15s, rather than longer, heavier bolt-action rifles. A slice: The signature "Tag-Track-Xact" system has gained additional functionality on the AR models, too. With the bolt-action guns, there was only one way to put a round onto a target: first, you sighted in on the thing you wanted to hit and depressed the red tagging button just above the trigger. A red pip would appear in the scope’s crosshairs, and you’d place the pip onto the target and release the button. The scope’s rangefinding laser would then illuminate the target to measure its distance, and the image processor would fix on the object; if you moved, or if the target moved, the red pip would remain atop the target. Then, to fire, you squeezed the trigger and lined the crosshairs up with the target’s pip. When the two coincided, the weapon fired. This method works fine for a bolt-action rifle where every round has to be manually chambered, but it’s less than ideal for a carbine, which one might want to fire off-hand (i.e., standing up and aiming) or from the hip. With this in mind, the AR PGFs have a new "free fire mode," in which you can tag a target once and then shoot at it as many times as you want by pulling the trigger directly, with all the shots using the ballistic data from the first shot’s tag. That means, says writer Lee Hutchinson, a rifle "with essentially 100 percent accuracy at 250 yards."
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As reported by Discovery News, After Toledo had to temporarily ban residents from using tap water last weekend because of a toxic algae bloom on Lake Erie, you probably figured that we’d filled the quota of bad algae-related news for the summer. No such luck, unfortunately. Off the Gulf Coast of Florida, the biggest red tide bloom seen in Florida in nearly a decade already has killed thousands of fish. The bloom, which contains the microorganism Karenia brevis, may pose a public health threat to Floridians if it washes ashore, which is expected to happen in the next two weeks, according to Reuters. NBC News says this is the largest such bloom seen since 2006 — approximately 50 x 80 miles.
MojoKid (1002251) writes "Security researcher Gene Bransfield, with the help of his wife's grandmother's cat, decided to see how many neighborhood WiFi access points he could map and potentially compromise. With a collar loaded with a Spark chip, a Wi-Fi module, a GPS module, and a battery, Coco the cat helped Gene identify Wi-Fi networks around the neighborhood and then reported back. The goal here is obvious: Discover all of the unsecured, or at least poorly-secured, wireless access points around the neighborhood. During his journey, Coco identified dozens of Wi-Fi networks, with four of them using easily-broken WEP security, and another four that had no security at all. Gene has dubbed his collar the "WarKitteh", and it cost him less than $100 to make. He admits that such a collar isn't a security threat, but more of a goofy hack. Of course, it could be used for shadier purposes." (Here's Wired's article on the connected cat-collar.)
An anonymous reader writes Have you heard of personalized postage stamps? You pay the value of the stamps plus a fee and the post office prints official stamps usable for postage which show (almost) anything you can put into a jpeg file. An Austrian Tibet supporter found out what 'almost' means. He submitted a picture of the Dalai Lama with the text 'His Holiness the Dalai Lama,' but the Austrian post office refused to produce these stamps. Stampnews and the Neue Zuercher Zeitung (autotranslation) reported that this had been due to pressure from the Chinese embassy in Vienna. Now there is a video showing how visual cryptography has been used to get around this attempt at censorship [caution: organ music] .
An anonymous reader writes "The dam break which flooded toxic mining sediments into Quesnel Lake, British Columbia will affect the food web of a very important fisheries ecosystem for many years to come. Here is the challenge; I am asking the people here to come up with suggestions for new and inventive ways to monitor and or help mitigate this horrendous ecological disaster. A large portion of a huge world famous food and sport fishery is at stake. The challenges ahead will take thinking outside the box and might not just be effectively done by conventional means." What would you do, and what kind of budget would it take?
New submitter shervinemami writes (starting with a pretty big disclaimer: "I'm an Engineer at NVIDIA.") The latest CompuBench GPU benchmarks show NVIDIA's Tegra K1 running whole OpenCL algorithms around 5x faster than any other mobile device, and individual instructions around 20x faster! This huge jump is because mobile companies have been saying they support OpenCL on mobile devices since early 2013, but what they don't mention is that they only have software API support, not hardware-accelerated OpenCL running faster on their GPUs than CPUs. Now that NVIDIA's Tegra-K1 chip has started shipping in devices and thus is available for full benchmarking, it is clearly the only mobile chip that actually gives you proper hardware-accelerated OpenCL (and CUDA of course!). The K1 is also what's in Google's Project Tango 3-D mapping tablet.
mikejuk (1801200) writes "Microsoft Researcher Andrew Begel, together with academic and industry colleagues have been trying to detect when developers are struggling as they work, in order to prevent bugs before they are introduced into code. A paper presented at the 36th International Conference on Software Engineering, reports on a study conducted with 15 professional programmers to see how well an eye-tracker, an electrodermal activity (EDA) sensor, and an electroencephalography (EEG) sensor could be used to predict whether developers would find a task difficult. Difficult tasks are potential bug generators and finding a task difficult is the programming equivalent of going to sleep at the wheel. Going beyond this initial investigation researchers now need to decide how to support developers who are finding their work difficult. What isn't known yet is how developers will react if their actions are approaching bug-potential levels and an intervention is deemed necessary. Presumably the nature of the intervention also has to be worked out. So next time you sit down at your coding station consider that in the future they may be wanting to wire you up just to make sure you aren't a source of bugs. And what could possibly be the intervention?"
Def Con shows no mercy. As gleefully reported by sites several Blackberry-centric sites, researcher Justin Case yesterday demonstrated that he could root the much-heralded Blackphone in less than five minutes. From n4bb.com's linked report: "However, one of the vulnerabilities has already been patched and the other only exploitable with direct user consent. Nevertheless, this only further proves you cannot add layers of security on top of an underlying platform with security vulnerabilities." Case reacts via Twitter to the crowing: "Hey BlackBerry idiots, stop miss quoting me on your blogs. Your phone is only "secure" because it has few users and little value as a target."
Ars Technica reports that "J. Michael Straczynski will shortly begin work on a rebooted big-screen version of his 1990s sci-fi TV series [ Babylon 5]." From the article: According to JMS's latest announcement, the new script will be targeted at a 2016 theatrical release and will be a reboot of the series rather than a continuation. This is necessary for both dramatic and practical purposes—the series was in regular production from 1994-1998, and the cast has simply aged too far to credibly play themselves again during the series’ main timeline. Additionally, several of the foundational cast members — Michael O'Hare, Andreas Katsulas, Richard Biggs, and Jeff Conaway — have passed away. ... The movie rights to the Babylon 5 property remain in JMS's hands, but the creator is hopeful that this time around, Warner Bros. will choose to finance the film instead of passing on it. Nonetheless (at least according to TV Wise), JMS is prepared to fund the movie through his own production company if necessary — something that wasn't a possibility ten years ago — suggesting that B5 will in fact come to the big screen at last.
An anonymous reader writes with a link to a story in the LA Times: "Few places in the country are so warm and bright as Mary Wilkerson's property on the beach near St. Petersburg, Fla., a city once noted in the Guinness Book of World Records for a 768-day stretch of sunny days. But while Florida advertises itself as the Sunshine State, power company executives and regulators have worked successfully to keep most Floridians from using that sunshine to generate their own power. Wilkerson discovered the paradox when she set out to harness sunlight into electricity for the vintage cottages she rents out at Indian Rocks Beach. She would have had an easier time installing solar panels, she found, if she had put the homes on a flatbed and transported them to chilly Massachusetts. While the precise rules vary from state to state, one explanation is the same: opposition from utilities grown nervous by the rapid encroachment of solar firms on their business."
theodp (442580) writes "Google earned kudos from Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel this week for teaming up with Staples to fund the projects of 367 of the city's 22,519 public school teachers on "begfunding" site DonorsChoose.org. "Everything that you asked for...every project that the teachers put on to help their students learn, exceed and excel here in the city of Chicago, you now have fully funded," Mayor Emanuel said. "Chicago's hardworking public school teachers are doing all that they can-and more-to support their students, but they need more help," said Rob Biederman, head of Chicago Public Affairs at Google. "We jumped at the chance to join with DonorsChoose.org and Staples to make Chicago's local classroom wishes come true." So what kind of dreams did Google make possible? Ironically, a look at Google Chicago's Giving Page shows that the biggest project funded by Google was to outfit a classroom with 32 Microsoft Surface RT tablets for $12,531, or about 6.5% of the $190,091 Google award. Other big ticket projects funded by Google included $5,931 for a personal home biodiesel kit and $5,552 for a marimba (in the middle of the spectrum was $748 for "Mindfulness Education"). In addition to similar "flash-funding" projects in Atlanta (paper towels!) and the Bay Area, Google and DonorsChoose have also teamed up this year to reward teachers with $400,000 for recruiting girls to learn to code (part of Google's $50 million Made With Code initiative) and an unknown amount for AP STEM teachers who passed Google muster (part of Google's $5 million AP STEM Access grant)."
Taco Cowboy (5327) writes Nine days before the announcement from WHO regarding the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, an online tool had the incident flagged. HealthMap, a team of 45 researchers, epidemiologists and software developers at Boston Children's Hospital founded in 2006, hosting an online tool that uses algorithms to scour tens of thousands of social media sites, local news, government websites, infectious-disease physicians' social networks and other sources to detect and track disease outbreaks. Sophisticated software filters irrelevant data, classifies the relevant information, identifies diseases and maps their locations with the help of experts. The tool was introduced in 2006 with a core audience of public health specialists, but that changed as the system evolved and the public became increasingly hungry for information during the swine flu pandemic. To get a feel of how HealthMap works, in the case of the Ebola outbreak, visit the site.
StartsWithABang (3485481) writes "Back in the 1960s, after the discovery of the Cosmic Microwave Background, the Big Bang reigned supreme as the only game in town. But back then, we also assumed that what we consider as "normal matter" — i.e., protons, neutrons and electrons — was, along with photons and neutrinos, the only stuff that made up the Universe. But the last 50 years have shown us that dark matter and dark energy actually make up 95% of the energy composition of our cosmos. Given that, is there any wiggle room to possibly invalidate the Big Bang?"
They may be well reviewed and China's new top selling phone, but reader DavidGilbert99 writes with reason to be cautious about Xiaomi's phones: Finnish security firm F-Secure has seemingly proven that Xiaomi smartphones do in fact upload user data without their permission/knowledge despite the company strongly denying these allegations as late as 30 July. Between commercial malware and government agencies, how do you keep your phone's data relatively private?