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Why BART Is Falling Apart 474

HughPickens.com writes: Matthias Gafni writes in the San Jose Mercury News that the engineers who built BART, the rapid transit system serving the San Francisco Bay Area that started operation in 1972, used principles developed for the aerospace industry rather than tried-and-true rail standards. And that's the trouble. "Back when BART was created, (the designers) were absolutely determined to establish a new product, and they intended to export it around the world," says Rod Diridon. "They may have gotten a little ahead of themselves using new technology. Although it worked, it was extremely complex for the time period, and they never did export the equipment because it was so difficult for other countries to install and maintain." The Space Age innovations have made it more challenging for the transit agency to maintain the BART system from the beginning. Plus, the aging system was designed to move 100,000 people per week and now carries 430,000 a day, so the loss of even a single car gets magnified with crowded commutes, delays and bus bridges. For example, rather than stick to the standard rail track width of 4 feet, 8.5 inches, BART engineers debuted a 5-foot, 6-inch width track, a gauge that remains to this day almost exclusive to the system. Industry experts say the unique track width necessitates custom-made wheel sets, brake assemblies and track repair vehicles.

Another problem is the dearth of readily available replacement parts for BART's one-of-a-kind systems. Maintenance crews often scavenge parts from old, out-of-service cars to avoid lengthy waits for orders to come in; sometimes mechanics are forced to manufacture the equipment themselves. "Imagine a computer produced in 1972," says David Hardt. "No one is supporting that old equipment any longer, but those same microprocessors are what we have controlling our logic systems." Right now BART needs 100 thyristors at a total cost of $100,000. BART engineers said it could take 22 weeks to ship them to the San Francisco Bay Area to replace in BART's "C" cars, which make up the older cars in the fleet. Right now, the agency has none. Nick Josefowitz says it makes no sense to dwell on design decisions made a half-century ago. "I think we need to use what we have today and build off that, rather than fantasize what could have been done in the past. The BART system was state of the art when it was built, and now it's technologically obsolete and coming to the end of its useful life."
AT&T

Zero-Rating Harms Poor People, Public Interest Groups Tell FCC (vice.com) 205

An anonymous reader links to an article on Motherboard: The nation's largest internet service providers are undermining US open internet rules, threatening free speech, and disproportionately harming poor people by using a controversial industry practice called "zero-rating," a coalition of public interest groups wrote in a letter to federal regulators on Monday. Companies like Comcast, Verizon and AT&T use zero-rating, which refers to a variety of practices that exempt certain services from monthly data caps, to undercut "the spirit and the text" of federal rules designed to protect net neutrality, the principle that all content on the internet should be equally accessible, the groups wrote. Zero-rated plans "distort competition, thwart innovation, threaten free speech, and restrict consumer choice -- all harms the rules were meant to prevent," the groups wrote. "These harms tend to fall disproportionately on low-income communities and communities of color, who tend to rely on mobile networks as their primary or exclusive means of access to the internet."
Cellphones

Ask Slashdot: How Do You Deal With Glare On Cellphones? 135

An anonymous reader writes: As far as I know, I am not particularly sensitive to glare; I've used CRTs in offices full of overhead fluorescent lights, and just ignored the terrible reflections, and I've worked in places where the natural sunlight cleverly funneled in by architects was bounced around by glass walls and mirrors in just the right way to irritate. Still, I never found it much of a problem. Now, though, I work in a field that has me both working outdoors a lot, and traveling by car a fair amount, too. Now that days are getting longer, especially up here in the Pacific Northwest, I know that I'll be squinting and cursing a lot at my phone. My question(s): Are there are any modern smart phones you can recommend with a truly or even passably day-light readable screen? I don't care if it's e-ink (that would be cool), transflective (long promised!) or maybe just a secondary screen with some daylight-readable technology. Barring that, how do you deal with glare on a phone, when you need to use it on a sunny day? Same answer could apply to laptop use, I suppose. Do you build a little glare shield, of the kind that camera operators use? Wear a giant hood of privacy and darkness? I know I'm not alone — I see lots of others squinting and cursing at their cell phones, cupping it with their hands at their eyes, or ducking into scant shade just to see whether the call that's coming is one they need to take, or to read a text. I've tried quite a few phones that have been praised by reviewers for their bright, crisp, daylight-friendly displays, but I think those reviewers probably lived in New York or San Francisco, and were reading in either shadow or fog, because even the brightest Samsungs, Motorolas, and LGs I've seen cannot hold a candle to the summer sun north of Seattle.
Handhelds

Ubuntu Tablet Now Available For Pre-Order 81

prisoninmate writes: During last month's MWC 2016 event, Canonical had the BQ Aquaris M10 Ubuntu Edition tablet on display at their huge booth, along with the superb Meizu PRO 5 Ubuntu Edition smartphone, and the Sony Xperia Z1 and OnePlus One Ubuntu Phones. The company teased users last week with the availability for pre-order of the first ever Ubuntu tablet for March 28, and that day has arrived. Probably the most important aspect of the BQ Aquaris M10 Ubuntu Edition tablet, which interested many users, was the price, and we can tell you now that it costs €289.90 for the Full HD version, and €249.90 for the HD model. It can be pre-ordered now from BQ's online store.
The Military

Slaughter At The Bridge: Uncovering A Colossal Bronze Age Battle (sciencemag.org) 135

schwit1 quotes a report from the American Association for the Advancement of Science via Sciencemag.org: About 3200 years ago, two armies clashed at a river crossing near the Baltic Sea. The confrontation can't be found in any history books -- the written word didn't become common in these parts for another 2000 years -- but this was no skirmish between local clans. Thousands of warriors came together in a brutal struggle, perhaps fought on a single day, using weapons crafted from wood, flint, and bronze, a metal that was then the height of military technology. "If our hypothesis is correct that all of the finds belong to the same event, we're dealing with a conflict of a scale hitherto completely unknown north of the Alps," says dig co-director Thomas Terberger, an archaeologist at the Lower Saxony State Service for Cultural Heritage in Hannover. "There's nothing to compare it to." It may even be the earliest direct evidence -- with weapons and warriors together -- of a battle this size anywhere in the ancient world.
Media

Redbox Plans To Launch New Streaming Service 'Redbox Digital' (consumerreports.org) 62

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Consumer Reports: Redbox, the movie and game-rental kiosk service, might be getting back into the streaming game a few years after its digital streaming service, Redbox Instant, failed. The new Redbox streaming service could be a pay-per-view option for rentals and purchases like Apple iTunes or Vudu. The trade publication Variety -- which broke the story, citing "multiple sources" familiar with the company -- said that the new service will be called Redbox Digital and that Redbox is close to launching a beta of the service. Compared to a subscription service, negotiating the rights to pay-per-view titles should be easier for Redbox. And since many Redbox streaming customers already use their site to search for and reserve titles, it would be much more convenient for them to be able to immediately order a digital version. Another potential benefit would be the price of the rentals. The reason why physical Redbox kiosks are popular is because the $1.50 rental price for DVDs, and $2 rental price for Blu-ray discs are relatively cheap. Redbox Digital may gain some attraction if, and only if, there are considerable savings for users, otherwise there would be little reason to choose Redbox over a more established pay-per-view service, such as Amazon Instant, Google Play, or Vudu.
Space

Japan's Space Agency Loses Contact With New X-Ray Telescope Satellite "Hitomi" 77

As carried here by the San Francisco Chronicle, The Associated Press reports that Japanese space agency JAXA reports that it has lost contact with its new satellite "Hitomi," deployed last month and designed to explore deep space with X-ray telescopes. The AP story linked quotes Harvard astronomer Jonathan McDowell, who surmises that an "energetic event" has sent the craft into a tumble. The agency's release on the failure is terse, but leaves some room for hope: The Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) found that communication with the X-ray Astronomy Satellite âoeHitomiâ (ASTRO-H), launched on February 17, 2016 (JST), failed from the start of its operation originally scheduled at 16:40, Saturday March 26 (JST). Up to now, JAXA has not been able to figure out the state of health of the satellite. While the cause of communication failure is under investigation, JAXA received short signal from the satellite, and is working for recovery.
Democrats

NJ Legislator Proposes Fine For Walking While Phone-Distracted (philly.com) 194

schwit1 writes: A bill proposed this week by Assemblywoman Pamela R. Lampitt (D., Camden) would impose a fine of up to $50 and possibly 15 days in jail for pedestrians caught using their cellphones without hands-free devices while walking on public sidewalks and along roadways. If the bill becomes law, 'petextrians' — people who text while walking — would face the same penalties as jaywalkers in New Jersey. From the article: Researchers say distracted walkers are more likely to ignore traffic lights or fail to look both ways before crossing the street. ... Lampitt said she wants that message to hit home in New Jersey for pedestrians and motorists who could easily be distracted while looking at mobile devices. Her bill, however, faces an uncertain future in the Legislature. It has not been posted for a vote and Lampitt acknowledged she might have a tough time getting it passed." Distracted pedestrians surely pose some risks, but they don't budge the needle compared to overbearing officialdom.
Medicine

Fruit Drinks Aren't Much Better For You Than Soda: Study (vox.com) 221

An anonymous reader cites a study on Vox: One of the biggest public health wins of recent decades has been America's slow shift away from soda. But there's pretty good evidence that Americans are still getting hoodwinked by juices and other sugary beverages. Data from Euromonitor, which analyzed U.S. retail beverage sales over the past five years, shows that while the soda category is shrinking, juice sales have held steady, and sales of energy and sports drinks have been growing. An article in BMJ Open demonstrates the extent of the problem: The researchers looked at how much of the American diet is composed of ultra-processed foods and added sugars. They found that 58 percent of total energy intake -- more than half of the calories Americans consume! -- came from foods that are packed with lots of flavors, colors, and sweeteners. And almost 90 percent of the added sugars Americans consume came from heavily processed foods -- the two main sources being soft drinks (17 percent) closely followed by fruit drinks (14 percent). (In this case, 'fruit drinks' refers to processed juices with added sugars.)
Open Source

New Attack Discovered On Node.js Package Manager npm (softpedia.com) 90

An anonymous reader writes: A Google researcher has discovered a way in which he could exploit some npm registry design flaws to propagate a malicious package to other packages, and in the projects that load them. The exploit leverages things such as npm's persistent authentication, developers who never lock down dependencies (and often use version number ranges), npm lifecycle scripts that run with the user's privileges (sometimes as root), and npm's centralized registry, which doesn't review or scan code. Attackers can compromise other projects with malicious code, can compromise Node apps used in corporate environments, or they can launch worm-like viruses that poison npm packages at random.
Communications

Messaging Giant Line Becomes a Phone Carrier in Japan 10

Popular instant messaging service, Line, is entering the mobile carrier business in Japan. The company says that its carrier will utilise telecommunications infrastructure of major Japanese carrier NTT DoCoMo and start at an affordable price of 500 yen (roughly $4.40) a month. Jon Fingas reports for Engadget: As of this summer, Japanese residents can subscribe to Line Mobile and get unlimited use of not only Line's chat and call services, but the "main features" (browsing and posts) of Facebook and Twitter.
Medicine

Tribeca Film Festival, Robert De Niro Pull Anti-Vaccination Film 279

theodp writes: USA Today reports that one day after defending the scheduled screening of a controversial documentary linking vaccinations to autism, Tribeca Film Festival co-founder Robert De Niro announced that the film is being pulled from the event. The film, Vaxxed: From Cover-Up to Catastrophe, was scheduled to debut April 24. It is directed by Andrew Wakefield, known to many as the father of the anti-vaccine movement. Wakefield authored a 1998 report on vaccinations and autism that was later retracted, He also had his medical license revoked. The decision to include the film in the festival resulted in outrage from many who are upset that the film's inclusion could offer legitimacy to a study debunked by leading scientists. "My intent in screening this film was to provide an opportunity for conversation around an issue that is deeply personal to me and my family," said De Niro, who has a child with autism. "But after reviewing it over the past few days with the Tribeca Film Festival team and others from the scientific community, we do not believe it contributes to or furthers the discussion I had hoped for."
Bug

Sony Fixes Flubbed Dash Download (sony.com) 39

New submitter FourG writes: Not much fanfare (which is to be expected given the niche of the device now) but it looks like Sony posted a fix for the much maligned "can't download dashboard" error. It requires a USB key and can't be done over-the-air. My Dash required a factor reset afterward before it successfully downloaded the dashboard, but YMMV...
Entertainment

How To Solve VR Simulation Sickness: Strap People Into Rollercoasters 36

An anonymous reader writes: Theme park owners are trying to breathe new life into old rides by adding VR headsets, according to IEEE Spectrum. In the latest such ride from the UK's Alton Towers, sensors in the seats allow the virtual action to be synched with the rollercoaster's movements on a per-headset basis. As a side effect, this also eliminates the simulation sickness some VR users suffer from when making rapid movements through a virtual space, because the user's body is actually experiencing those movements. Is this cheating or the future of action VR? Counterexample: I haven't (yet!) gotten sick from VR, and generally love roller coasters, but had trouble keeping down my lunch (and then felt bad for for hours) after a vigorous flight simulator at the -- highly recommended! -- Strategic Air & Space Museum, near Omaha, Nebraska.
Earth

Yellowstone Supervolcano Eruptions Even Bigger Than Originally Thought (csmonitor.com) 104

schwit1 writes: A recent study published in the Geological Society of America Bulletin identifies an area of great volcanic activity along the Snake River Plain between Oregon and Yellowstone. While scientists have long known that the supervolcano now under Yellowstone left a trail of mega-eruptions across the Pacific Northwest, an international research team has found evidence of only 12 distinct eruptions, contradicting earlier theories that the eruptions were more numerous and less extreme. "The size and magnitude of this newly defined eruption is as large, if not larger, than better known eruptions at Yellowstone," said the study's lead author, Dr. Thomas Knott, in a University of Leicester press release, "and it is just the first in an emerging record of newly discovered super-eruptions during a period of intense magmatic activity between 8 and 12 million years ago."

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