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Smart Self-Service Scales 279

Roland Piquepaille writes "German researchers have developed intelligent self-service scales for supermarkets, able to recognize fruit or vegetables placed on them (photo). The scales automatically recognize the item being weighed and ask the customer to choose between only those icons that are relevant, such as various kinds of tomatoes. The scales are equipped with a camera and an image evaluation algorithm that compares the image of the item on the scale with images stored in its database. Store managers can add items to the database. The scales are now being tested in about 300 supermarkets across Europe."

Tin Whiskers — Fact Or Fiction? 459

bLanark writes "Some time ago, most electronics were soldered with old-fashioned lead solder, which has been tried and tested for decades. In 2006, the EU banned lead in solder, and so most manufacturers switched to a lead-free solder. Most made the switch in advance, I guess due to shelf-life of products and ironing out problems working with the new material. Lead is added to solder as it melts at low temperature, but also, it prevents the solder from growing 'whiskers' — crystalline limbs of metal. The effect of whiskers on soldered equipment would include random short-circuits and strange RF-effects. Whiskers can grow fairly quickly and become quite long. Robert Cringley wrote this up this some time ago, but it seems that the world has not been taking notice. I guess cars (probably around 30 processors in a modern car) and almost every appliance would be liable to fail sooner than expected due to tin whiskers. Note that accelerated life-expectancy tests can't simulate the passing of time for whiskers to grow. I've googled, and there is plenty of research into the effects of tin whiskers. I should point out that the Wikipedia page linked to above states that tin whisker problems 'are negligible in modern alloys,' but can we trust Wikipedia? So: was the tin whisker problem overhyped, was it an initial problem that has been solved in the few years since lead-free solder came into use, or is it affecting anyone already?"

McCain Supports Warrantless Domestic Surveillance 650

I Don't Believe in Imaginary Property writes "While there have been shifting reports about McCain's view on warrantless wiretapping, nothing could be clearer than the latest comment by McCain adviser Doug Holtz-Eakin, who said, 'We do not know what lies ahead in our nation's fight against radical Islamic extremists, but John McCain will do everything he can to protect Americans from such threats, including asking the telecoms for appropriate assistance to collect intelligence against foreign threats to the United States as authorized by Article II of the Constitution.' Article II, of course, is what Bush has argued gives the President virtually unlimited power during war, and McCain has already voted in favor of Telecom Immunity, though he sometimes mentions, to those asking for accountability, wanting to hold hearings about what the telecoms did."
The Internet

Wikipedia Breeds Unwitting Trust (Says IT Professor) 441

kingston writes ""As I say to my students 'if you had to have brain surgery would you prefer someone who has been through medical school, trained and researched in the field, or the student next to you who has read Wikipedia'?" So says Deakin University associate professor of information systems, Sharman Lichtenstein, who believes Wikipedia, where anyone can edit a page entry, is fostering a climate of blind trust among people seeking information. Professor Lichtenstein says the reliance by students on Wikipedia for finding information, and acceptance of the practice by teachers and academics, was "crowding out" valuable knowledge and creating a generation unable to source "credible expert" views even if desired. "People are unwittingly trusting the information they find on Wikipedia, yet experience has shown it can be wrong, incomplete, biased, or misleading," she said. "Parents and teachers think it is [okay], but it is a light-weight model of knowledge and people don't know about the underlying model of how it operates.""

New ATC System To Rely On AT&T Cell Towers 109

longacre writes "The FAA has awarded the long-anticipated first contract for development of its NextGen air traffic control system: a $1.8 billion deal with ITT Corporation, beating out bids from aerospace heavyweights such as Raytheon and Lockheed Martin. ITT's design will make use of hundreds of specially modified AT&T cellular phone towers which, in addition to their normal communications duties, will relay an aircraft's position to air traffic controllers and other aircraft in real time. The initial contract is only enough to wire and test the so-called ADS-B system in the Philadelphia area and around the Gulf of Mexico — hooking up the rest of the country will take an estimated 20 years and $20 billion."

How to Dodge the Chinese Internet Censor 119

eweekhickins writes "A report written by a tech worker in China describes the pervasive censorship, abetted by ample manpower and funding estimated at $27 billion in US dollars. The author, who calls himself Mr. Tao, also writes that plenty of Chinese are finding ways to resist censorship, and offers tips on how to keep evading Big GeGe (that's Older Brother). Not surprisingly, self-censorship is very prevalent. Also not surprisingly, the authorities are starting to catch on to things like RSS feeds. It's another race for survival between the tiny mammals and the lumbering dinosaurs." Here's Mr. Tao's report (PDF), written under the auspices of Reporters Without Borders.

Unisys Investigated For Covering Up Cyber-Attacks 114

Stony Stevenson writes "Unisys, a major government IT contractor, is reportedly being investigated for failing to detect cyber-attacks, and then covering up its failings. Two US congressmen have called for an investigation into cyber-attacks aimed at the Department of Homeland Security, along with a contractor (that would be Unisys) charged with securing those networks. 'The House Committee on Homeland Security's investigations led them to believe the department is under attack by foreign powers, and could be at risk because of "incompetent and possibly illegal activity" by a US contractor. The congressmen didn't name the contractor in the letter. However, the Washington Post on Monday reported that the FBI is investigating Unisys, a major information technology firm with a $1.7 billion Department of Homeland Security contract, for allegedly failing to detect cyber break-ins traced to a Chinese-language Web site and then trying to cover up its deficiencies.'" Unisys denies it all.

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