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Submission + - Zuckerberg, Google Double-Down on Pet K-12 Personalized Learning Projects

theodp writes: Tech billionaires love the idea of K-12 personalized learning. Last week, Mark Zuckerberg announced that the Facebook-Summit Public Schools personal learning partnership would henceforth be the Zuckerberg/Chan-Summit Public Schools partnership, as Zuck and wife Priscilla let it be known that their nonprofit is "building a world-class engineering team" to build out the Summit Learning Platform and make it "available for free to any educator who wants to use it." Not to be outdone, Google this week added another $5 million to its Khan Academy investment. Both Summit and Khan Academy are supported and advised by a Who's Who of tech's richest individuals and their companies (and both organizations eat their benefactors' dog food). Later this year, Brian Dear's The Friendly Orange Glow will explain that Google's and Zuckerberg's New New Personalized Learning Thing actually has roots in the '60s and '70s.

Submission + - Quicken Bill Pay is No Longer Safe to Use (perens.com) 1

Bruce Perens writes: I don't usually make security calls, but when a company makes egregious and really clueless security mistakes, it's often the case that the only way to attract their attention and get the issue fixed is to publicize it. This one is with Quicken Bill Pay, a product of Metavante (not Intuit). It's from personal observation rather than an expert witness case, and the company has been unresponsive through their customer support channel.

Submission + - Researchers develop app that accurately determines sperm quality (sciencemag.org)

omaha393 writes: A team of researchers at Harvard Medical School have developed a point-of-care microfluidic detector capable of determining sperm quality using the simple device and a standard smartphone. Typical male fertility screens require a team of trained laboratory professionals and a screening process taking days to weeks and incurring high costs. The alternative home sperm measuring kits rely on chemical probes and only give measurements of quantity, not quality.The new method offers an easier, cheaper approach, with processing time taking about 5 seconds with no sample processing or wash steps required.

The team found their device meets WHO guidelines with 98% accuracy of sperm quality measurements and is comparable to clinical results. The new device uses 35 microliters of sample to accurately measure both concentration and motility at a manufacturing cost of less than $5 per device. The device must still undergo FDA evaluations before being available to consumers, and the technology has yet to be named. Full article may be paywalled.

Submission + - Japanese Company Develops a Solar Cell With Record-Breaking 26%+ Efficiency (arstechnica.com)

An anonymous reader writes: The silicon-based cells that make up a solar panel have a theoretical efficiency limit of 29 percent, but so far that number has proven elusive. Practical efficiency rates in the low-20-percent range have been considered very good for commercial solar panels. But researchers with Japanese chemical manufacturer Kaneka Corporation have built a solar cell with a photo conversion rate of 26.3 percent, breaking the previous record of 25.6 percent. Although it’s just a 2.7 percent increase in efficiency, improvements in commercially viable solar cell technology are increasingly hard-won. Not only that, but the researchers noted in their paper that after they submitted their article to Nature Energy, they were able to further optimize their solar cell to achieve 26.6 percent efficiency. That result has been recognized by the National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL). In the Nature Energy paper, the researchers described building a 180.4 cm2 cell using high-quality thin-film heterojunction (HJ)—that is, layering silicon within the cell to minimize band gaps where electron states can’t exist. Controlling heterojunctions is a known technique among solar cell builders—Panasonic uses it and will likely incorporate it into cells built for Tesla at the Solar City plant in Buffalo, and Kaneka has its own proprietary heterojunction techniques. For this record-breaking solar cell, the Kaneka researchers also placed low-resistance electrodes toward the rear of the cell, which maximized the number of photons that collected inside the cell from the front. And, as is common on many solar cells, they coated the front of the cell with a layer of amorphous silicon and an anti-reflective layer to protect the cell’s components and collect photons more efficiently.

Submission + - LastPass Bugs Allow Malicious Websites to Steal Passwords (bleepingcomputer.com)

An anonymous reader writes: LastPass patched three bugs that affected the Chrome and Firefox browser extensions, which if exploited, would have allowed a third-party to extract passwords from users visiting a malicious website. All bugs were reported by Google security researcher Tavis Ormandy, and all allowed the theft of user credentials, one bug affecting the LastPass Chrome extension, while two impacted the LastPass Firefox extension [1, 2].

The exploitation vector was malicious JavaScript code that could be very well hidden in any online website, owned by the attacker or via a compromised legitimate site.

Submission + - 17,000 AT&T Workers Go On Strike In California and Nevada (fortune.com)

An anonymous reader writes: Approximately 17,000 workers in AT&T's traditional wired telephone business in California and Nevada walked out on strike on Wednesday, marking the most serious labor action against the carrier in years. The walkout—formally known as a grievance strike—occurred after AT&T changed the work assignments of some of the technicians and call center employees in the group, the Communications Workers of America union said. The union would not say how long the strike might last. A contract covering the group expired last year and there has been little progress in negotiations over sticking points like the outsourcing of call center jobs overseas, stagnant pay, and rising health care costs. The union said it planned to file an unfair labor charge with the National Labor Relations Board over the work assignment changes. "A walkout is not in anybody’s best interest and it's unfortunate that the union chose to do that," an AT&T spokesman told Fortune. "We're engaged in discussion with the union to get these employees back to work as soon as possible."

Submission + - 'Dig Once' Bill Could Bring Fiber Internet To Much of the US (arstechnica.com)

An anonymous reader writes: If the U.S. adopts a "dig once" policy, construction workers would install conduits just about any time they build new roads and sidewalks or upgrade existing ones. These conduits are plastic pipes that can house fiber cables. The conduits might be empty when installed, but their presence makes it a lot cheaper and easier to install fiber later, after the road construction is finished. The idea is an old one. U.S. Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.) has been proposing dig once legislation since 2009, and it has widespread support from broadband-focused consumer advocacy groups. It has never made it all the way through Congress, but it has bipartisan backing from lawmakers who often disagree on the most controversial broadband policy questions, such as net neutrality and municipal broadband. It even got a boost from Rep. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), who has frequently clashed with Democrats and consumer advocacy groups over broadband—her "Internet Freedom Act" would wipe out the Federal Communications Commission's net neutrality rules, and she supports state laws that restrict growth of municipal broadband. Blackburn, chair of the House Communications and Technology Subcommittee, put Eshoo's dig once legislation on the agenda for a hearing she held yesterday on broadband deployment and infrastructure. Blackburn's opening statement (PDF) said that dig once is among the policies she's considering to "facilitate the deployment of communications infrastructure." But her statement did not specifically endorse Eshoo's dig once proposal, which was presented only as a discussion draft with no vote scheduled. The subcommittee also considered a discussion draft that would "creat[e] an inventory of federal assets that can be used to attach or install broadband infrastructure." Dig once legislation received specific support from Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden (R-Ore.), who said that he is "glad to see Ms. Eshoo’s 'Dig Once' bill has made a return this Congress. I think that this is smart policy and will help spur broadband deployment across the country."

Submission + - Trump team communications intercepted w/o foreigners in conversation (cnn.com)

bongey writes: The intelligence community is coming clean. Telling congress there was "incidental collection" of the Trump transition team from Nov-2016-Jan-2017. The intercepts included reports of communications between Trump team members, with team members being unmasked that were wildly disseminated throughout the intelligence community. The intercepts had little to no foreign intelligence value, and the intercepts had nothing to do with Russian investigation.

Submission + - SpaceX disapointed in lack of NASA Mars funding & looks for own landing site

frank249 writes: Elon Musk says that NASA legislation 'changes almost nothing about what NASA is doing. Existing programs stay in place and there is no added funding for Mars,' Musk is absolutely correct on two counts. First, an "authorization" bill does not provide funding. That comes from appropriations committees. Secondly, while Congress has been interested in building rockets and spacecraft, it is far less interested in investing in the kinds of technology and research that would actually enable a full-fledged Mars exploration program.

In other news, Spacenews reports that SpaceX has been working with NASA to identify potential landing sites on Mars for both its Red Dragon spacecraft starting in 2020 and future human missions. SpaceX, working with scientists at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory and elsewhere, had identified several potential landing sites, including one that looks particularly promising — Arcadia Planitia. Those landing sites are of particular interest, he said, for SpaceX’s long-term vision of establishing a human settlement on Mars, but he said the company wouldn’t rule our sending Red Dragon spacecraft elsewhere on the planet to serve other customers. “We’re quite open to making use of this platform to take various payloads to other locations as well,” he said. “We’re really looking to turn this into a steady cadence, where we’re sending Dragons to Mars on basically every opportunity.” The Red Dragon spacecraft, he said, could carry about one ton of useful payload to Mars, with options for those payloads to remain in the capsule after landing or be deployed on the surface. “SpaceX is a transportation company,” he said. “We transport cargo to the space station, we deliver payloads to orbit, so we’re very happy to deliver payloads to Mars.” Fans of the book/movie "The Martian" would be happy if SpaceX does select Arcadia Planitia for their first landing site as that was the landing site of the Ares 3.

Submission + - A 21st Century Version Of OS/2 Warp Appears To Be About To Be Released (arcanoae.com)

dryriver writes: A company named Arca Noae is working on a new release of the X86 OS/2 operating system code named "Blue Lion" and likely called ArcaOS 5 in its final release. Blue Lion wants to be a modern 21st Century OS/2 Warp, with support for the latest hardware and networking standards, a modern accelerated graphics driver, support for new cryptographic security standards, full backward compatibility with legacy OS/2, DOS and Windows 3.1 applications, suitability for use in mission-critical applications, and also, it appears, the ability to run "ported Linux applications". Blue Lion, which appears to be in closed Beta with March 31st 2017 cited as the target release date, will come with up to date Firefox browser and Thunderbird mail client, Apache OpenOffice, other productivity tools, a new package manager, and software update and support subscription to ensure system stability. It is unclear from the information provided whether Blue Lion will be able to run modern Windows applications.

Submission + - Firefox for Linux is now Netflix compatible (betanews.com)

BrianFagioli writes: For a while, Netflix was not available for traditional Linux-based operating systems, meaning users were unable to enjoy the popular streaming service without booting into Windows. This was due to the company's reliance on Microsoft Silverlight. Since then, Netflix adopted HTML5, and it made Google Chrome and Chromium for Linux capable of playing the videos. Unfortunately, Firefox — the open source browser choice for many Linux users — was not compatible. Today this changes, however, as Mozilla's offering is now compatible with Netflix!

"About four years ago, we shared our plans for playing premium video in HTML5, replacing Silverlight and eliminating the extra step of installing and updating browser plug-ins. Since then, we have launched HTML5 video on Chrome OS, Chrome, Internet Explorer, Safari, Opera, Firefox, and Edge on all supported operating systems. And though we do not officially support Linux, Chrome playback has worked on that platform since late 2014. Starting today, users of Firefox can also enjoy Netflix on Linux. This marks a huge milestone for us and our partners, including Google, Microsoft, Apple, and Mozilla that helped make it possible," says Netflix.

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