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Businesses

Panasonic Wants Employees To Relax, Limits Work Days To 11 hours (cnet.com) 147

Japan is notorious for its long working hours, which have been blamed for a national health crisis known as "karoshi" -- death from overwork. From a report on CNET: Panasonic hopes to curb this, instructing its 100,000-ish employees to work no later than 8 p.m. each day, reports Asahi Shimbun. This hour reduction still enables a 55-hour working week, but the directive from Panasonic President Kazuhiro Tsuga also limited overtime to 80 hours a month.

Submission + - Malaysian Police: VX nerve gas killed N Korea leader's brother in airport attack (reuters.com)

An anonymous reader writes: Malaysian police have announced their finding that Kim Jong Nam, half-brother of North Korean leader Kim Jon Un, was killed by assassins using VX nerve gas in an attack in the busy Kuala Lumpur airport. Malaysian authorities plan to decontaminate the airport and other sites visited by the attackers. Police are holding the two female attackers, one of whom was affected by the chemical agent, as well as two other men. They are seeking seven more North Koreans connected to the case. VX is the most toxic of the nerve gasses and the UN has declared it a weapon of mass destruction. The manufacture and stockpiling of more than 100 grams of VX per year is prohibited by the Chemical Weapons Convention of 1993. It has no commercial uses. The Malaysian police are trying to discover if it was smuggled into their country, or manufactured there. The Malaysian government has recalled its ambassador to North Korea for consultation. North Korea is blaming the death of Kim Jong Nam on Malaysia. North Korea is believed to have major stockpiles of chemical weapons, and is alleged to conduct experiments on prisoners and social undesirables.

Submission + - The race for autonomous cars is over. Silicon Valley lost. (autoblog.com)

schwit1 writes: Up until very recently the talk in Silicon Valley was about how the tech industry was going to broom Detroit into the dustbin of history. Companies such as Apple, Google, and Uber — so the thinking went -were going to out run, out gun, and out innovate the automakers. Today that talk is starting to fade. There's a dawning realization that maybe there's a good reason why the traditional car companies have been around for more than a century.

Last year Apple laid off most of the engineers it hired to design its own car. Google (now Waymo) stopped talking about making its own car. And Uber, despite its sky high market valuation, is still a long, long way from ever making any money, much less making its own autonomous cars.

To paraphrase Elon Musk, Silicon Valley is learning that "Making rockets is hard, but making cars is really hard." People outside of the auto industry tend to have a shallow understanding of how complex the business really is. They think all you have to do is design a car and start making it. But most startups never make it past the concept car stage because the move to mass production proves too daunting.

Submission + - World's only sample of 'holy grail' metallic hydrogen lost in laboratory mishap (ibtimes.co.uk)

drunkdrone writes: A piece of rare meta poised to revolutionise modern technology and take humans into deep space has been lost in a laboratory mishap. The first and only sample of metallic hydrogen ever created on earth was the rarest material on the planet when it was developed by Harvard scientists in January this year, and had been dubbed "the holy grail of high pressure physics".

The metal was created by subjecting liquid hydrogen to pressures greater that those at the centre of the Earth. At this point, the molecular hydrogen breaks down and becomes an atomic solid.

Scientists theorised that metallic hydrogen – when used as a superconductor – could have a transformative effect on modern electronics and revolutionise medicine, energy and transportation, as well as herald in a new age of consumer gadgets.

Sadly, an attempt to study the properties of metallic hydrogen appears to have ended in catastrophe after one of the two diamonds being used like a vice to hold the tiny sample was obliterated.

Submission + - Judge Rules Against Forced Fingerprinting

An anonymous reader writes: A federal judge in Chicago has ruled against a government request which would require forced fingerprinting of private citizens in order to open a secure, personal phone or tablet. In the ruling, the judge stated that while fingerprints in and of themselves are not protected, the government’s method of obtaining the fingerprints would violate the Fourth and Fifth amendments. The government’s request was given as part of a search warrant related to a child pornography ring. The court ruled that the government could seize devices, but that it could not compel people physically present at the time of seizure to provide their fingerprints ‘onto the Touch ID sensor of any Apple iPhone, iPad, or other Apple brand device in order to gain access to the contents of any such device.’

Submission + - Climate Models Are Warming Earth Two Times Faster Than Reality (dailycaller.com)

schwit1 writes: “So far in the 21st century, the GCMs are warming, on average, about a factor of 2 faster than the observed temperature increase,” Dr. Judith Curry, a former Georgia Tech climate scientist who now runs her own climate forecasting company, wrote in a report for the U.K.-based Global Warming Policy Foundation.

Curry has been one of the foremost critics of climate models, arguing that while they can be useful, there are too many uncertainties and issues to rely on models for public policy decisions.

Curry’s report gives a detailed rundown of why models can be useful for modeling complex climate systems, but also points out that GCMs fail to capture natural variability in the climate.

“The reason for the discrepancy between observations and model simulations in the early 21st century appears to be caused by a combination of inadequate simulations of natural internal variability and oversensitivity of the models to increasing carbon dioxide,” wrote Curry.

Submission + - Software Vendor Who Hid Supply Chain Breach Outed (krebsonsecurity.com)

tsu doh nimh writes: Researchers at RSA released a startling report last week that detailed a so-called "supply chain" malware campaign that piggybacked on a popular piece of software used by system administrators at some of the nation's largest companies. This intrusion would probably not be that notable if the software vendor didn't have a long list of Fortune 500 customers, and if the attackers hadn't also compromised the company's update servers — essentially guaranteeing that customers who downloaded the software prior to the breach were infected as well. Incredibly, the report did not name the affected software, and the vendor in question has apparently chosen to bury its breach disclosure as a page inside of its site — not linking to it anywhere. Brian Krebs went and digged it up.

Submission + - Algorithms and how they may affect you (phys.org)

Muckluck writes: An interesting look via phys.org at how algorithms may be shaping your life:

When you browse online for a new pair of shoes, pick a movie to stream on Netflix or apply for a car loan, an algorithm likely has its word to say on the outcome. The complex mathematical formulas are playing a growing role in all walks of life: from detecting skin cancers to suggesting new Facebook friends, deciding who gets a job, how police resources are deployed, who gets insurance at what cost, or who is on a "no fly" list.


Submission + - Prosthetic Arm Control Improved Using Spinal Nerve Signals

CanadianRealist writes: Current prosthetic arms are usually controlled by detecting signals from the user twitching muscles in the shoulder or arm. This allows only a limited number of possible movements, such as grasp and release. Researchers have developed a new technique that interprets signals from motor neurons in the spinal cord, allowing for a greater range of control of an arm. Signals from nerves associated with hand and arm movements were mapped to the corresponding movements. Test subjects were able to move a virtual prosthetic arm with greater freedom than has been achieved with muscle-controlled prosthetics. (A virtual prosthetic arm was used rather than a real one as this work is still in the early stages.)

Submission + - Lockheed Martin screwup delays delivery of Air Force GPS satellites (bloomberg.com)

schwit1 writes: Incompetence by a Lockheed Martin subcontractor will delay the delivery of 32 new Air Force GPS satellites and will likely cost the government millions.

Lockheed has a contract to build the first 10 of the satellites designed to provide a more accurate version of the Global Positioning System used for everything from the military’s targeting of terrorists to turn-by-turn directions for civilians’ smartphones. The program’s latest setback may affect a pending Air Force decision on whether to open the final 22 satellites to competition from Lockheed rivals Boeing Co. and Northrop Grumman Corp. “This was an avoidable situation and raised significant concerns with Lockheed Martin subcontractor management/oversight and Harris program management,” Teague said in a Dec. 21 message to congressional staff obtained by Bloomberg News.

The parts in question are ceramic capacitors that have bedeviled the satellite project. They take higher-voltage power from the satellite’s power system and reduce it to a voltage required for a particular subsystem. Last year, the Air Force and contractors discovered that Harris hadn’t conducted tests on the components, including how long they would operate without failing, that should have been completed in 2010.

Now, the Air Force says it found that Harris spent June to October of last year doing follow-up testing on the wrong parts instead of samples of the suspect capacitors installed on the first three satellites. Harris “immediately notified Lockheed and the government” after a post-test inspection, Teague said in his message.

So, the subcontractor first failed to do the required tests, then it did the tests on the wrong parts. Sounds like the kind of quality control problems we have seen recently in Russia and Japan.

The worst part? The contract is a cost-plus contract, which means the US tax payer has to absorb the additional costs for fixing the screw-up, not Lockheed Martin or its subcontractor.

Submission + - Cybersecurity Firm's Own Blog Is Hacked With Fake Articles

Mickeycaskill writes: In an era of unprecedented cyberthreats, many organisations turn to security firms for guidance on how to prevent and respond to incidents, and to their researchers for information about the latest threats.

But just to illustrate that you can never be too careful, cybersecurity specialist Trend Micro has confirmed that one of the blogs it uses to communicate with customers was itself the victim of a content spoofing attack.

The culprits exploited a vulnerability in WordPress to inject fake content onto the blog before it was removed by Trend Micro and the bug fixed.

“Unfortunately there are many different URLs attackers can use to carry out the same attack, so a couple of fake ‘articles’ ended up posted on CounterMeasures," head of security research Rik Ferguson told Silicon. "We have responded and shut down the vulnerability completely to resolve the issue."

Submission + - Police Use Pacemaker Data To Charge Homeowner With Arson And Insurance Fraud

JustAnotherOldGuy writes: If you're dependent upon an embedded medical device, the device that helps keep you alive may also be used to incriminate you in a crime. Ross Compton, a 59-year-old homeowner in Ohio called 911 in September 2016 to say that his house was on fire, however there were many irregularities to the blaze that investigators found suspicious, such as contradictory statements from Compton and the way that the fire had started. In the ensuing investigation, the police secured a warrant for the logs from his pacemaker, specifically, "Compton’s heart rate, pacer demand and cardiac rhythms before, during and after the fire." They subsequently filed charges of felony aggravated arson and insurance fraud. Middletown Police said this was the first time it had used data from a heart device to make an arrest, but the pacemaker data proved to be an “excellent investigative tool;” the data from the pacemaker didn’t correspond with Compton’s version of what happened. The retrieved data was used to help indict Compton. Lt. Jimmy Cunningham stated, “It was one of the key pieces of evidence that allowed us to charge him.”

Submission + - Adblock-Blockers 'Ineffective', Adblocking Up 30% Globally In Two Years

An anonymous reader writes: A new survey reveals that the countermeasures taken by various publishers in response to the rise of adblocking cause nearly three-quarters of users to simply abandon the sites which block adblockers. The report, from pro-ad organisation Playfair, estimates that adblocking has risen by 30% in two years, and by 40% in Asia in 2016 alone. The report predicts that a growing trend towards pre-service agreements by providers and hardware manufacturers will cause adblocking usage to rise further, practically becoming a 'default' position, unless the ad industry responds practically to users' dislike of unpopular ad formats such as unskippable video and autoplaying audio ads.

Submission + - GitLab.com Melts Down After Wrong Directory Deleted, Backups Fail (theregister.co.uk)

An anonymous reader writes: Source-code hub Gitlab.com is in meltdown after experiencing data loss as a result of what it has suddenly discovered are ineffectual backups. On Tuesday evening, Pacific Time, the startup issued the sobering series of tweets, starting with "We are performing emergency database maintenance, GitLab.com will be taken offline" and ending with "We accidentally deleted production data and might have to restore from backup. Google Doc with live notes [link]." Behind the scenes, a tired sysadmin, working late at night in the Netherlands, had accidentally deleted a directory on the wrong server during a frustrating database replication process: he wiped a folder containing 300GB of live production data that was due to be replicated. Just 4.5GB remained by the time he canceled the rm -rf command. The last potentially viable backup was taken six hours beforehand. That Google Doc mentioned in the last tweet notes: "This incident affected the database (including issues and merge requests) but not the git repos (repositories and wikis)." So some solace there for users because not all is lost. But the document concludes with the following: "So in other words, out of 5 backup/replication techniques deployed none are working reliably or set up in the first place." At the time of writing, GitLab says it has no estimated restore time but is working to restore from a staging server that may be “without webhooks” but is “the only available snapshot.” That source is six hours old, so there will be some data loss.

Submission + - Researcher Develops Explosion-Proof Lithium Metal Battery, 2X Power Of Li-Ion (hothardware.com)

MojoKid writes: Tufts University professor and founder of Ionic Materials, Mike Zimmerman, hopes that his resilient ionic battery technology will finally replace Lithium Ion. The reason scientists and researchers pay so much attention to battery design is because today's lithium-ion technologies have several downsides, as we saw recently with Samsung's Galaxy Note 7 recall. If you were to take apart a lithium-ion battery, you'd find a positive electrode called the anode and a negatively charged electrode called the cathode. There's a thin separator that sits between the anode and cathode. Everything else is filled up with liquid, or electrolyte. Charging the battery causes positively charged ions to flow through the liquid from the negative side to the positive side. As you use the battery, the ions flow in the opposite direction. However, the electrolyte is extremely flammable and they can explode when pierced or overheated. Zimmerman's ionic battery trades the flammable liquid for a piece of plastic film to serve as the electrolyte. It isn't prone to overheating and catching fire. The same goes for piercing, cutting or otherwise destroying the battery. Also, unlike lithium-ion batteries, Zimmerman's ionic batteries use actual lithium-metal, which can store twice as much power. Lithium-ion batteries don't contain lithium-metal because they're even more prone to overheating and exploding than lithium-ion, but that risk is removed by Zimmerman swapping out the liquid electrolyte for a solid.

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