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Biotech

Brain Cancer Patients Live Longer By Sending Electric Fields Through Their Heads (ieee.org) 74

IEEE Spectrum reports on a "radical new weapon" against brain tumors -- only available since 2015. They profile a typical patient who "wears electrodes on her head all day and night to send an electric field through her brain, trying to prevent any leftover tumor cells from multiplying [and] goes about her business with a shaved head plastered with electrodes, which are connected by wires to a bulky generator she carries in a shoulder bag." the_newsbeagle writes: The Optune system, which bathes the brain tumor in an AC electric field, is the first new treatment to come along that seems to extend some patients' lives. New data on survival rates from a major clinical trial showed that 43% of patients who used Optune were still alive at the 2-year mark, compared to 30% of patients on the standard treatment regimen. At the 4-year mark, the survival rates were 17% for Optune patients and 10% for the others.
Patients have to re-shave their heads every few days and re-apply all the electrodes, but that's never been a problem, according to one patient. "If you have a condition which has no cure, it's a great motivator."
Intel

Intel's 4004 Microprocessor Turns 45 (4004.com) 74

mcpublic writes: Tuesday marked the 45th anniversary of the 4004, Intel's first microprocessor chip, announced to the world in the November 15, 1971 issue of Electronic News . It seems that everyone (except Intel) loves to argue whether it was truly the "first microprocessor"... But what's indisputable is that the 4004 was the computer chip that started Intel's pivot from a tiny semiconductor memory company to the personal computing giant we know today. Federico Faggin, an Italian immigrant who invented the self-aligned, silicon gate MOS transistor and buried contacts technology, joined Intel in 1970. He needed both his inventions to squeeze the 4004's roughly 2,300 transistors into a single 3x4mm silicon die. He later went on to design the Intel 8080 and the Zilog Z80 with Masatoshi Shima, a Japanese engineer with a "steel trap mind," the once-unsung hero of the 4004 team [YouTube].
Long-time Slashdot reader darkharlequin also flags the " fascinating, if true" story of Wayne D. Pickette, who was hired by Intel in 1970, worked on the 4004 project, and according to ZDNet "claims that prior to that, during his job interview with Intel founder Bob Noyce, he showed the company a block diagram of a microprocessor he'd started to work on three years previously when he was 17."
Communications

Re-Discovering The 'Lost Civilization' of Dial-Up BBS's (ieee.org) 181

An anonymous Slashdot reader writes: Two new articles take a look at "social media's dial-up ancestor" from back in the 20th century. First a new article in IEEE Spectrum remembers a time when tens of thousands of dial-up bulletin board systems kept modems busy all around the world playing chintzy "door" games, downloading textfiles and ANSI art, and reading messages left on FidoNet's "echo" forums. "To understand how the Internet became a medium for social life, you have to widen your view beyond networking technology and peer into the makeshift laboratories of microcomputer hobbyists of the 1970s and 1980s...amateurs tinkering in their free time to build systems for computer-mediated collaboration and communication." And the former sysop at "The Cave" has also written a new article about visiting the few surviving BBSes, some still in operation since 1983, many now accessible via telnet, and some still even delivering messages over FidoNet's phone-to-phone network.
Anyone else have fond memories of visiting (or running) a BBS?
Facebook

Facebook Achieves 20Gbps Data Rate Over MMW Radio Spectrum (thestack.com) 61

An anonymous reader writes: Facebook's Connectivity Lab has announced that it has achieved data transmission rates of 20Gbps over the millimetre-wave (MMW) section of the radio spectrum; however, the transceiving stations need to be incredibly tightly calibrated to each other, with the team describing the margin for error as equivalent to 'a baseball pitcher aiming for a strike zone the size of a quarter'.
AI

IBM's Project Intu brings Watson's Capabilities To Any Device (siliconangle.com) 17

IBM has launched a new system-agnostic platform called Project Intu with which it aims to bring "embodied cognition" to a range of devices. From a report on SiliconAngle: In IBM's parlance, "cognitive computing" refers to machine learning. The idea behind Project Intu is that developers will be able to use the platform to embed the various machine learning functions offered by IBM's Watson service into various applications and devices, and make them work across a wide spectrum of form factors. So, for example, developers will be able to use Project Intu's capabilities to embed machine learning capabilities into pretty much any kind of device, from avatars to drones to robots and just about any other kind of Internet of Things' device. As a result, these devices will be able to "interact more naturally" with users via a range of emotions and behaviors, leading to more meaningful and immersive experiences for users, IBM said. What's more, because Project Intu is system-agnostic, developers can use it to build cognitive experiences on a wide range of operating systems, be it Raspberry PI, MacOS, Windows or Linux. Project Intu is still an experimental platform, and it can be accessed via the Watson Developer Cloud, the Intu Gateway and also on GitHub.
Communications

Computer Scientists Believe a Trump Server Was Communicating With a Russian Bank (slate.com) 548

In light of the Democratic National Committee hack by the Russians earlier this year, a "tightly knit community of computer scientists" working in a variety of fields came up with the hypothesis, "which they set out to rigorously test: If the Russians were worming their way into the DNC, they might very well be attacking other entities central to the presidential campaign, including Donald Trump's many servers." In late July, one of the scientists who asked to be referred to as Tea Leaves discovered possible malware emanating from Russia, with the destination domain having Trump in its name. What the researcher saw "was a bank in Moscow that kept irregularly pinging a server registered to the Trump Organization on Fifth Avenue": Slate Magazine reports: More data was needed, so he began carefully keeping logs of the Trump server's DNS activity. As he collected the logs, he would circulate them in periodic batches to colleagues in the cybersecurity world. Six of them began scrutinizing them for clues. The researchers quickly dismissed their initial fear that the logs represented a malware attack. The communication wasn't the work of bots. The irregular pattern of server lookups actually resembled the pattern of human conversation -- conversations that began during office hours in New York and continued during office hours in Moscow. It dawned on the researchers that this wasn't an attack, but a sustained relationship between a server registered to the Trump Organization and two servers registered to an entity called Alfa Bank. The server was first registered to Trump's business in 2009 and was set up to run consumer marketing campaigns. It had a history of sending mass emails on behalf of Trump-branded properties and products. Researchers were ultimately convinced that the server indeed belonged to Trump. But now this capacious server handled a strangely small load of traffic, such a small load that it would be hard for a company to justify the expense and trouble it would take to maintain it. That wasn't the only oddity. When the researchers pinged the server, they received error messages. They concluded that the server was set to accept only incoming communication from a very small handful of IP addresses. A small portion of the logs showed communication with a server belonging to Michigan-based Spectrum Health.
Medicine

Harvard Scientists Invent Cigarette-Smoking Robot For Better Lung Disease Research (ieee.org) 46

the_newsbeagle writes: Harvard scientists have invented a nifty lab robot that can smoke 10 cigarettes at a time, lighting up for the benefit of medical research on chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). The bot channels smoke into a "lung on a chip," a small device with microfluidic channels lined by human lung cells. This setup enables researchers to realistically replicate the action of taking regular pulls from a cigarette, and to watch the effects on the lung cells. Researchers can't achieve the same realism with cells cultured in a petri dish or with lab mice -- which, interestingly, are "obligate nasal breathers" that typically take in air through their noses. The invention was announced yesterday by the Wyss Institute for Biologically Inspired Engineering.
Network

Wi-Fi Alliance Begins Certification Process For Short-Range Wireless Standard WiGig (802.11ad) (cnet.com) 69

The stars have finally aligned for WiGig, an ultra-fast, short-range wireless network. The Wi-Fi Alliance has launched a certification process for WiGig products, which it claims, can go as fast as 8Gbps. The technology was first announced in 2009, and it is based on IEEE 802.11ad standard that is supported by many new products. CNET adds:That speed is good enough to replace network cables today. And tomorrow, WiGig should be good for beaming high-resolution video from your phone to your 4K TV or linking a lightweight virtual-reality headset to its control computer. VR and its cousin, augmented reality, work better when you don't have a thick cable tethering your head to a PC. New speed is especially helpful when conventional wireless networks clog up. We're all streaming video at higher resolutions, hooking up new devices like cars and security cameras to the network, and getting phones for our kids. Another complication: Phones using newer mobile data networks can barge in on the same radio airwaves that Wi-Fi uses. Saturation of regular Wi-Fi radio channels "will create a demand for new spectrum to carry this traffic," said Yaron Kahana, manager of Intel's WiGig product line. "In three years we expect WiGig to be highly utilized for data transfer." WiGig and Wi-Fi both use unlicensed radio spectrum available without government permission -- 2.4 gigahertz and 5GHz in the case of Wi-Fi. Unlicensed spectrum is great, but airwaves are already often crowded. WiGig, though, uses the 60GHz band that's unlicensed but not so busy. You will want to check for WiGig sticker in the next gear you purchase.
Network

Amid Major Internet Outages, Affected Websites Have Lessons To Learn (zdnet.com) 135

Earlier today, Dyn, an internet infrastructure company, was hit by several DDoS attacks, which interestingly affected several popular websites including The New York Times, Reddit, Spotify, and Twitter that were directly or indirectly using Dyn's services. The attack is mostly visible across the US eastern seaboard with rest of the world noticing a few things broken here and there. Dyn says it's currently investigating a second round of DDoS attacks, though the severity of the outage is understandably less now. In the meantime, the Homeland Security said that it is aware of the attack and is investigating "all potential causes." Much of who is behind these attacks is unknown for now, and it is unlikely that we will know all the details until at least a few days. The attacks however have revealed how unprepared many websites are when their primary DNS provider goes down. ZDNet adds: The elephant in the room is that this probably shouldn't have happened. At very least there's a lot to learn already about the frailty of the internet DNS system, and the lack of failsafes and backups for websites and tech companies that rely on outsourced DNS service providers. "It's also a reminder of one risk of relying on multi-tenant service providers, be they DNS, or a variety of many other managed cloud service providers," said Steve Grobman, chief technology officer at Intel Security. Grobman warned that because this attack worked, it can be exploited again. "Given how much of our connected world must increasingly rely upon such cloud service providers, we should expect more such disruptions," he said. "We must place a premium of service providers that can present backup, failover, and enhance security capabilities allowing them to sustain and deflect such attacks." And that's key, because even though Dyn is under attack, it's the sites and services that rely on its infrastructure who should rethink their own "in case of emergency" failsafes. It may only be the east coast affected but lost traffic means lost revenue. Carl Levine, senior technical evangelist for NS1, another major managed DNS provider, said that the size and scale of recent attacks "has far exceeded what the industry thought was the upper end of the spectrum." "Large companies need to constantly upgrade their flood defenses. Some approaches that worked just a few years ago are now basically useless," said Kevin Curran, senior member with IEEE.We also recommend reading security reporter Brian Krebs's take on this.
Earth

Stanford Researchers Release Virtual-Reality Simulation That Transports Users To Ocean of the Future (ieee.org) 83

Tekla Perry writes: Stanford's Jeremy Bailenson and his Virtual Human Interaction Lab have for more than a decade been testing whether experiences from virtual reality can change real-world behavior. Now they are using their knowledge -- and expertise at developing VR software -- in what they hope will be a large-scale move towards making people behave better. The lab this week released, for free, a VR experience for the HTC Vive. It's aimed at giving people the sense of diving down to a coral reef -- but the real goal is getting them to consider how carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere is killing the oceans. He hopes, with the dearth of good VR content available, this software will proliferate at least as fast as VR hardware does. Next up for the lab, a deep dive into homelessness. The experience is formally called "The Ocean Acidification Experience" and it's "intended to teach users about the chemistry behind ocean acidification, as well as the problems it causes, and what they can do to help prevent it," according to IEEE Spectrum. Bailenson describes the general story line by saying, "It starts with a globe. We talk about how we can see climate on the coastlines, but nobody can see how carbon dioxide affects the oceans. We then take you into a crowded city. You touch an exhaust pipe, and you then see carbon dioxide go into the atmosphere, and you're told to follow one particular molecule. Then you are in a boat, on the ocean, you see your molecule come towards you. You touch it and push it into the water; when it lands you see the chemical reaction that creates acid; that's the chemistry lesson. Then you are underwater, at this special reef in Ischia, Italy. This reef has naturally occurring carbon dioxide from underwater volcanoes; it shows how all our oceans will look by 2100. We take you to a normal reef, where you see coral, and count sea snails and species of fish. Then you go to an acidified reef; you see that algae have taken over the reef, there is no coral; there are fewer fish species, and no sea snails. The final scene tells you what you can do to help, prevent this future, including managing your own carbon footprint, talking to decision makers, and supporting research organizations."
Network

Millimeter-wave 5G Modem Coming Mid-2018 With 5Gbps Peak Download (arstechnica.com) 39

Qualcomm is promising to launch its first 5G modem in 2018, even though basic standards for 5G have yet to be established, nor even which part of the radio spectrum it will use. From an ArsTechnica report: Dubbed the Snapdragon X50, the San Diego chipmaker says its new modem will be able to deliver blindingly fast peak download speeds of around 5Gbps. The X50 5G will at first operate with a bandwidth of about 800MHz on the 28GHz millimetre wave (mmWave in Qualcomm jargon) spectrum, a frequency that's also being investigated by Samsung, Nokia, and Verizon. However, the powers that be have far from settled on this area of the spectrum, with 73GHz also being mooted. In the UK, Ofcom is investigating several bands in a range between 6GHz and 100GHz. As the industry as a whole is a long way from consensus, this could be Qualcomm's bid to get the final frequency locked down well before 2020 -- the year that 5G is expected to reach any kind of consumer penetration. "The Snapdragon X50 5G modem heralds the arrival of 5G as operators and OEMs reach the cellular network and device testing phase," said Qualcomm exec veep Cristiano Amon. "Utilising our long history of LTE and Wi-Fi leadership, we are thrilled to deliver a product that will help play a critical role in bringing 5G devices and networks to reality. This shows that we're not just talking about 5G, we're truly committed to it."
Medicine

Proud Cyborg Athletes Compete In The World's First Cybathlon (ieee.org) 19

IEEE Spectrum reports: Last Saturday, in a sold-out stadium in Zurich, Switzerland, the world's first cyborg Olympics showed the world a new science-fiction version of sports. At the Cybathlon, people with disabilities used robotic technology to turn themselves into cyborg athletes. They competed for gold and glory in six different events... [B]y skillfully controlling advanced technologies, amputees navigated race courses using powered prosthetic legs and arms. Paraplegics raced in robotic exoskeletons, bikes, and motorized wheelchairs, and even used their brain waves to race in the virtual world...
the_newsbeagle writes: While the competitors struggled with mundane tasks like climbing stairs, those exertions underlined the point: "Like the XPrize Foundation, the Cybathlon's organizers wanted to harness the motivating power of competition to spur technology development...they hoped to encourage inventors to make devices that can eventually provide winning moves beyond the arena."
The Almighty Buck

2016 Has Been an Ugly Year For Tech Layoffs, and It's Going To Get Worse, Says Analyst (ieee.org) 272

IEEE Spectrum writer Tekla Perry writes: Early this year, analyst Trip Chowdhry from Global Equities Research predicted that the tech world was going to see big layoffs in 2016 -- some 330,000 in all at major tech companies. At the time, these numbers seemed way over the top. Then IBM started slashing jobs in March -- and continued to wield the ax over and over as the year progressed. Yahoo began layoffs of some 15 percent of its employees in February. Intel announced in April that it would lay off 12,000 this year. So, was Chowdhry right? "Yes," he told me when I asked him this week. "The layoffs I predicted have been occurring." And worse, he says, these laid-off workers are never again going to find tech jobs: "They will always remain unemployed," at least in tech, he said. "Their skills will be obsolete." Some of these layoffs are due to a sea change in the industry, as it transforms to the world of mobile and cloud. But some are signs of a bubble about to pop. It's all going to get worse in 2017, he predicts, because that's when the tech bubble will burst. Chowdhry, someone who has never been reluctant to go out on a limb, is predicting that'll happen in March.
Communications

Outage Knocks Out All Major Phone Providers On the East Coast (dailydot.com) 121

Every major phone carrier experience outages on United States' east coast this morning at around 11am local time. The outage lasted for about 45 minutes. DownDetector, which monitors outages of services, confirmed AT&T, Verizon, Charter Spectrum, Comcast, Sprint, Time Warner Cable, US Cellular, and Vonage among others were affected. From a DailyDot report: T-Mobile CEO John Legare tweeted about the incident, pointing to issues with Level 3, a major internet backbone. Other tech firms quickly pointed to a Level 3 outage as well. No specific information has been released on potential causes of the outage or consequences that may result from it.
Programming

Which Programming Language Is Most Popular - The Final Answer? (zdnet.com) 401

An anonymous Slashdot reader writes: Following a common technique among political pollsters, a technology columnist combined the results from various measures of programming language popularity for a more definitive answer about the most important languages to study. He used IEEE Spectrum's interactive list of the top programming languages, which lets you adjust the weight given to the number of job listings and number or open source projects, then combined it with the TIOBE Index (which is based on search engine results), and the PYPL Index, which checks the number of tutorials for each programming language on Google.

The results? "The top cluster contains Java, C, Python, and C++. Without a doubt, you should attain familiarity with these four languages." He points out they're not tied to a specific programming platform, unlike languages in the second cluster -- JavaScript, C#, PHP, and Swift -- while the last two languages in the top 10 were Objective-C and R. "The C-family of languages still dominates. Java, C++, C, C#, and even Objective-C are all C-based languages. If you're only going to learn one language, you should pick one of those." But his ultimate advice is to "learn multiple languages and multiple frameworks... Programming is not just an intellectual exercise. You have to actually make stuff."

Medicine

Hackers Offer a DIY Alternative To The $600 EpiPen (ieee.org) 327

After the pharmaceutical company Mylan raised the price of a 2-pen set of EpiPens by nearly $500 over the course of 9 years, Michael Laufer and his "pharma-hacking confederates at the Four Thieves Vinegar Collective," decided to make their own budget-friendly EpiPens. IEEE Spectrum reports: Today they released a video and instructions showing DIYers how to make a generic EpiPen using materials that can be bought online for about $30. They call it the EpiPencil. "It functions just as well as an EpiPen," Laufer says in the video, after demonstrating the assembly and showing that it works. "With no special training, anybody can use it." An EpiPen is just a spring-loaded syringe filled with the pharmaceutical epinephrine. Laufer's video shows how to assemble the "open source medical device" and provides links for where to buy the components online. He stops short of telling viewers how to get their hands on the drug, noting that you need a prescription for it. But Laufer tells IEEE Spectrum in an interview that it's easy to buy epinephrine online from a chemical supplier, and he hopes viewers will do just that. "There's a small but hopefully growing subculture of people who are buying the active ingredients of drugs," he says. "It's encouraging to see people take control of their own health."
Space

Pluto Is Emitting X-Rays (digitaltrends.com) 106

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Digital Trends: Scientists have noticed the tiny trans-Neptunium object emitting X-rays, which, if it is confirmed, is both a baffling and exciting discovery. Carey Lisse and Ralph McNutt from Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory and a team of colleagues detected the X-rays by pointing the Chandra X-Ray Obervatory telescope in Pluto's direction four different times between February 2014 and August 2015. Seven photons of X-ray light were detected during these observations, confirming the team's hypothesis that the dwarf planet is detectable on the X-ray spectrum, potentially due to the presence of an atmosphere. Their findings have been published in the scientific journal Icarus. Why is this such a big deal? First of all, it would challenge what scientists have previously believed to be true of Pluto's nature. Until now, the popular description of the dwarf planet is as a tiny ball of frozen rock slowly meandering around the sun some 3.6-billion miles away. One of the possible explanations for why Pluto is emanating X-rays would be that the high energy particles emitted by the sun are stripping away and reacting with Pluto's atmosphere, producing the X-rays that are visible to Chandra. There are other potential explanations, such as haze particles in Pluto's atmosphere scattering the sun's X-rays are possible, though unlikely given the temperature of the X-rays observed. It is also possible that these X-rays are actually bright auroras produced by the atmosphere, but that would require Pluto to have a magnetic field -- something that would have been detected during New Horizon's flyby, yet no evidence of one was found.
Biotech

Brain-Zapping Gadgets Need Regulation, Say Scientists (ieee.org) 51

the_newsbeagle writes: You can now buy gadgets online that send electric current through your scalp to stimulate your brain. Why would you want to do that? Because the easy technique, called transcranial direct current stimulation (tDCS), is being investigated as a treatment for depression, a rehab aid for stroke patients, a learning enhancer for healthy people, and for many other neuropsychiatric applications.

However, the technique is so new that companies selling brain-zapping gadgets aren't bound by any regulations, and experts are worried that consumers will end up buying devices that aren't safe or simply aren't effective. So scientists and some manufacturers recently got together to discuss the scope of the problem, and what can be done about it.

Earlier IEEE reported that "Professional basketball, baseball, and American football teams are also experimenting with it," adding that some Olympic athletes, including sprinters and swimmers, even used a premarket version of one brain-zapping device to prepare for the Olympics in Rio.
Facebook

Facebook Engineers Crash Data Centers In Real-World Stress Test (ieee.org) 52

An anonymous reader writes: In a report via IEEE Spectrum, Facebook's VP of Engineering Jay Parikh described the company's "Project Storm" -- regular takedowns of Facebook's data center intended to stress test the company's disaster recovery efforts. The first few didn't go so well, he reports. (Perhaps doing a test during a World Cup final was not such a good idea). Months and months of planning went into the initial effort, though up until the actual moment, other Facebook leaders didn't think he'd actually take out an active data center. "In 2014, Parikh decided Project Storm was ready for a real-world test: The team would take down an actual data center during a normal working day and see if they could orchestrate the traffic shift smoothly," reports IEEE Spectrum. Parikh recalls: "I was having coffee with a colleague just before the first drill. He said, 'You're not going to go through with it; you've done all the prep work, so you're done, right?' I told him, 'There's only one way to find out'" if it works. (Parikh made the remarks at this week's @Scale conference in San Jose.) Parikh says there never seemed to be a good time to perform the live takedowns. "Something always ended up happening in the world or the company. One was during the World Cup final, another during a major product launch." The report adds, "The live takedowns continue today, with the Project Storm team members coming up with crazier and crazier ambitions for just what to take offline, Parikh says.
Windows

Microsoft To Add Flux Like Night Mode In Windows 10, Rendering 3rd-Party App's Existence Useless (arstechnica.com) 88

An anonymous reader writes: With suggestions that bluish lights disrupt our sleep, software that shifts screen white balance towards the red end of the spectrum in the evening -- cutting back that potentially sleep-disrupting light -- has gained quite a following. f.lux is the big name here with many people enjoying its gradual color temperature shifts. Apple recently built a color shifting feature into iOS, under the name Night Shift, and there are now signs that Microsoft is doing the same in Windows 10. Twitter user tfwboredom has been poking around the latest Windows insider build and found hints that the operating system will soon have a "blue light reduction" mode. Similarly to f.lux, this will automatically reduce the color temperature in the evenings as the sun sets and increase it in the mornings when the sun rises. Signs are that the feature will have a quick access button in the Action Center when it is eventually enabled.The feature is expected to arrive with Redstone, which is Windows 10's next major update expected to arrive next year.

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