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Submission + - Light Sail propulsion could reach Sirius sooner than Alpha Centauri (arxiv.org)

RockDoctor writes: A recent proposition to launch probes to other star systems driven by lasers which remain in the Solar system has garnered considerable attention. But recently published work suggests that there are unexpected complexities to the system.

One would think that the closest star systems would be the easiest to reach. But unless you are content with a fly-by examination of the star system, with much reduced science returns, you will need to decelerate the probe at the far end, without any infrastructure to assist with the braking.

By combining both light-pressure braking and gravitational slingshots, a team of German, French and Chilean astronomers discover that the brightness of the destination star can significantly increase deceleration, and thus travel time (because higher flight velocities can be used. Sling-shotting around a companion star to lengthen deceleration times can help shed flight velocity to allow capture into a stable orbit.

The 4.37 light year distant binary stars Alpha Centauri A and B could be reached in 75 years from Earth. Covering the 0.24 light year distance to Proxima Centauri depends on arriving at the correct relative orientations of Alpha Centauri A and B in their mutual 80 year orbit for the sling shot to work. Without a companion star, Proxima Centauri can only absorb a final leg velocity of about 1280km/s, so that leg of the trip would take an additional 46 years.

Using the same performance characteristics for the light sail the corresponding duration for an approach to the Sirius system, almost twice as far away (8.58ly), is a mere 68.9 years, making it (and it's white dwarf companion) possibly a more attractive target.

Of course, none of this addresses the question of how to get any data from there to here. Or, indeed, how to manage a project that will last longer than a working lifetime. There are also issues of aiming — the motion of the Alpha Centauri system isn't well-enough known at the moment to achieve the precise manoeuvring needed without course corrections (and so, data transmission from there to here) en route.

Submission + - SeqBox - Container format that can survive total loss of file system structures (github.com)

MarcoPon writes: SeqBox let you encode a file in such a way that, even if the file system become completely toasted, partition info are lost, and so on, it's still possible to reconstruct the SBX container just by looking at the raw sectors themselves.
The tools have been tested in a variety of platform and with different file systems.

Standard disclaimer: I'm the author.

Submission + - Phone Bot to Target Windows Support Scammers

Trailrunner7 writes: he man who developed a bot that frustrates and annoys robocallers is planning to take on the infamous Windows support scam callers head-on.

Roger Anderson last year debuted his Jolly Roger bot, a system that intercepts robocalls and puts the caller into a never-ending loop of pre-recorded phrases designed to waste their time. Anderson built the system as a way to protect his own landlines from annoying telemarketers and it worked so well that he later expanded it into a service for both consumers and businesses. Users can send telemarketing calls to the Jolly Roger bot and listen in while it chats inanely with the caller.

Now, Anderson is targeting the huge business that is the Windows fake support scam. This one takes a variety of forms, often with a pre-recorded message informing the victim that technicians have detected that his computer has a virus and that he will be connected to a Windows support specialist to help fix it. The callers have no affiliation with Microsoft and no way of detecting any malware on a target’s machine. It’s just a scare tactic to intimidate victims into paying a fee to remove the nonexistent malware, and sometimes the scammers get victims to install other unwanted apps on their PCs, as well.

Anderson plans to turn the tables on these scammers and unleash his bots on their call centers.

Submission + - What is the most useful nerd watch today?

students writes: For about 20 years I have used Casio Databank 150 watches. They were handy because they kept track of my schedule and the current time. They were very cheap. They require very little maintenance, since the battery lasts more than a year and the bands last even longer. Since they were waterproof, I do not even have to take them off (or remember where I put them!). They were completely immune to malicious software, surveillance, and advertising. However, their waterproof gaskets have worn out so they no longer work for me. Casio no longer makes them or any comparable product (their website is out of date). I don't want a watch that duplicates the function of my cell phone or computer. What is the best choice now?

Submission + - Nearly 80 Percent of Long Reddit Threads End Up Mentioning Hitler (breitbart.com)

Tulsa_Time writes: A statistical analysis of Reddit has revealed that nearly 80% of threads with over 1,000 comments on the site end up containing the word “Hitler.”

Gnu admits his findings aren’t necessarily proof of Godwin’s law, as his database fails to consider the context in which comparisons to Hitler are made.
Godwin’s law is the idea that the longer an online discussion goes on, the greater the likelihood of users comparing someone or something to Nazism or Hitler.

Submission + - Government to bring forward law to close BBC 'iPlayer loophole' (theguardian.com)

An anonymous reader writes: The government is to rush through legislation to close the “iPlayer loophole”, which allows people to watch BBC shows on catchup services without having a TV licence.

In a speech on Wednesday, culture secretary John Whittingdale also asked whether popular BBC1 programmes such as Strictly Come Dancing were “distinctive” enough and launched a new initiative on the devastating impact of adblockers on the newspaper industry.

After the speech at the Oxford Media Convention, Whittingdale said closing the loophole could not wait for legislation was passed to renew the BBC’s royal charter by the end of the year. Instead, it would be done “as soon as practicable” through secondary legislation that could be put before parliament as early as this summer.

Submission + - If Star Wars Keeps Girls Out of CS, Why is Code.org Putting it in Classrooms?

theodp writes: Eliminating Star Wars items and videogames from classrooms, suggests a widely-publicized research paper entitled Computing Whether She Belongs: Stereotypes Undermine Girls’ Interest and Sense of Belonging in Computer Science, "may play a significant role in communicating a feeling of belonging to girls and help to reduce current gender disparities in STEM courses." But now — just a month after the New York Times repeated the warnings of the dangers of Star Wars in the classroom — tech billionaire-backed Code.org has announced a partnership with Lucasfilm to make Star Wars videogame-themed coding tutorials available to every U.S. classroom during this December's Hour of Code (a week before The Force Awakens premieres) in an effort to encourage more girls to code. Which certainly seems to contradict the conventional unconscious bias wisdom. "Items such as stacked soda cans, Star Trek and Star Wars images and paraphernalia, video game boxes, comics, science fiction books, electronics, and computer parts communicate a lower sense of belonging to women than men," explains the National Center for Women & Information Technology (NCWIT). "Attracting more female high school students to computer science classes might be as easy as tossing out the Star Wars posters," NCWIT added in an Aug. 29th Facebook post. So, why was NCWIT dissing Star Wars in the classroom at the same time its partner Code.org was working on the mother-of-all Star Wars classroom events? Well, it could simply be that NCWIT was clueless about the Star Wars: Building a Galaxy with Code project. "We began the work at the beginning of the summer," explained Code.org CEO Hadi Partovi, "and due to Lucasfilm’s strict requirements on secrecy we had only a few people at Code.org who even knew about the project, and they had to work in a locked room with no windows so that nobody else could find out." By the way, a cynic might suggest that Lucasfilm and Disney — which provided the Code.org Frozen-themed tutorial used by President Obama last year — might have 435 million good reasons for wanting to see more kids code.

Submission + - User Interface Deevolution

BrendaEM writes: Cell phones and tablets brought challenges with user interface design. Their hardware and screen real-estate was limited, but now small hardware has advanced to where the average cellphone or tablet is often comparable in power and resolution to some current laptops and desktops. Now, the user interface compensations we used on devices are encroaching on the desktop.

We still have square rectangles on our screen like we did in the 1990's. Now we put a fingers on virtual objects depicted with pointy corners that look like an even older vintage Timex Sinclair application. Or, perhaps we have a large dissociated circle floating in space, a GUI widget not near any others for some reason.

Both IOS and Android are starting to do multiple windows now. We got cut and paste a long time back. Soon, we may even edit a URL in a browser without it easily disappearing. Maybe even we can have a forward delete key on our virtual keyboards without replacing the original.

We have a lot less icons, and a lot more text because we need 1,000 words to be remind us that 1,000 words are better, and quicker. There is often have no borders around our icons to make it harder to fathom where one idea ends and another idea begins. There are fewer colors in the icons. Now it is just a little harder to tell an apple from an orange, from a billiard ball, because when you are in a hurry, you want to carefully examine the edges of things, and not just look for a quick splotch of color.

When we do have color, we may have white text on a bright yellow background, but more importantly, there are just random colors applied to things, instead of anything that would hint at anything we might want to know.

You open a menu, and we are greeted with an assortment of little overlays with a choice in each instead of a single overlay filled with choices, because someone was infatuated with the way an OS deals out overlay items internally. Like a map we see our application peeking out through the streets, and we can almost make out the information they portray.

Most of the drop shadows are gone now because we never lifted a paper from our desk to read it. Objects in the real world cast no shadows. Apparently it's pretty hard to darken part of an image, as if they removed the OpenGL multiply routine, and there is no Directx equivalent.

A search box takes place of meaningful organization. We are not supposed to arrange what information we gather with our computer in any useful context. Perhaps, files and folders will be replaced by a flat file scheme, like CPM had. If people who are confused by files and folders ever saw a physical filing cabinet, or had a coloring book when they were a child, it would all make sense to them. Perhaps if I never had to put things away at home, I would understand them.

Everything is "clean," now. Usefulness, features, power, and functionality must have been dirt. We have single pane file managers because we only move things from place--to a thing no one seem to understand: another place. We only have one or two power schemes because we never really wanted a little extra speed or time.

First, we had programs, then "managers," and now the "managers" have "centers," because they aren't paying for their--I mean: our computers. They aren't paying for memory, SSDs, or hard drives. They don't care how long we need to wait, not when their program is most important, ever. Perhaps they have lost their facilities, or have a complex.

They are just devices. They are more powerful than any affordable computer from ten years back, but they are just devices, so don't expect too much from the software. We are only supposed to consume on our devices, not create content.

Yet, there are times when I create content on my devices, in spite of everything they have done.

Submission + - How much did your biggest "tech" mistake cost?

NotQuiteReal writes: What is the most expensive piece of hardware you broke (I fried a $2500 disk drive once, back when 400MB was $2500) or what software bug did you let slip that caused damage? (No comment on the details — but about $20K cost to a client.)

Did you lose your job over it?

If you worked on the Mars probe that crashed, please try not to be the First Post, that would scare off too many people!

Submission + - Snipping HIV-1 Out From Human Cells Achieved

William Robinson writes: Scientists from Temple University School of Medicine have achieved a way to snip out the integrated HIV-1 genes for the very first time. They created molecular tools to delete the HIV-1 proviral DNA. When deployed, a combination of a DNA-snipping enzyme called a nuclease and a targeting strand of RNA called a guide RNA (gRNA) hunt down the viral genome and excise the HIV-1 DNA. From there, the cell's gene repair machinery takes over, soldering the loose ends of the genome back together – resulting in virus-free cells.

Submission + - The Future Will Be Modular: Tinkertoy-Like Blocks Will Build Bridges, Planes

cartechboy writes: Does that sketchy bridge on your commute to work freak you out? How about that budget airplane seat your boss puts you in once a month? If you're nervous about that, then you'll probably freak out about this: Future airplanes, bridges, boats, even spacecraft may be built from modular blocks that snap together like Tinkertoys. While the idea seems strange, the parts are claimed to be up to 10 times stiffer than existing ultralight materials and the construction work will be done by tiny robots crawling along the structure as it's built. It would even be possible to disassemble one structure, say, a bridge, and repurpose it into a new building. Imagine taking apart one wing of your office building and turning it into a boat--just be sure to bring your life jacket.

Submission + - iPhone Hacked in Under 60 Seconds Using Malicious Charger (ibtimes.co.uk)

DavidGilbert99 writes: Apple's iOs has been known as a bastion of security for many years, but three researchers have now shown iPhones and iPads can be hacked in just under 60 seconds using nothing more than a charger. OK so it's not just a charger but the Mactans charger does delete an official app (say Facebook) replacing it with an official-looking one which is actually malware which could access your contacts, messages, emails, phone calls and even capture your passwords. Apple says it will fix the flaw, but not until the release of iOS 7, the date of which hasn't been confirmed yet. So watch out for chargers left lying around.....

Submission + - Why Video Game Piracy is good business for the PC Gaming Industry (airbornegamer.com)

AirborneGamer writes: "Adam writes: "How in the world could ripping off someone else’s Intellectual Property and receiving digital content (a gameor two or three) for free rather than paying for it be a good thing for the PC Gaming Industry? I’m glad your inquisitive young mind is seeking answers to such deep questions in life, let me explain." Crysis 2 was the most pirated game of 2011, does that mean EA or Crytek actually lost money? Does piracy equal lost sales? Adam attempts to explain how PC Game Piracy actually helps the PC Market"

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