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Updated: 16 hours 14 min ago

Leading the Computer Revolution In a Totalitarian State

Mon, 08/03/2015 - 10:09
szczys writes: How do you enter the information age when computers, and the components that go into them, are embargoed by other countries and imports of any value are restricted by your own? This and a myriad of other barriers didn't stop Voja Antonic from building his own computers and teaching others how to do so during the 70s, 80s, 90s, and beyond. He managed to get a TRS-80 into Yugoslavia by having a friend cut the cables between the two boards and send them separately to avoid getting caught in customs. He bootstrapped his own personal computer and published the plans in the country's first computer magazine. It was built by over 8000 people. Check out these stories and his experience of living in the Eastern Bloc and through the war in '90s, all while continuing to build and promote computers in what is now Serbia.

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Researchers Create Mac "Firmworm" That Spreads Via Thunderbolt Ethernet Adapters

Mon, 08/03/2015 - 09:27
BIOS4breakfast writes: Wired reports that later this week at BlackHat and Defcon, Trammel Hudson will show the Thunderstrike 2 update to his Thunderstrike attack on Mac firmware (previously covered on Slashdot). Trammel teamed up with Xeno Kovah and Corey Kallenberg from LegbaCore, who have previously shown numerous exploits for PC firmware. They found multiple vulnerabilities that were already publicly disclosed were still present in Mac firmware. This allows a remote attacker to break into the Mac over the network, and infect its firmware. The infected firmware can then infect Apple Thunderbolt to Ethernet adapters' PCI Option ROM. And then those adapters can infect the firmware of any Mac they are plugged into — hence creating the self-propagating Thunderstrike 2 "firmworm." Unlike worms like Stuxnet, it never exists on the filesystem, it only ever lives in firmware (which no one ever checks.) A video showing the proof of concept attack is posted on YouTube.

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Inside the Failure of Google+

Mon, 08/03/2015 - 08:44
An anonymous reader writes: An article at Mashable walks through the rise and fall of Google+, from the company's worries of being displaced by Facebook to their eventual realization that Google services don't need social hooks. There are quotes from a number of employees and insiders, who mostly agree that the company didn't have the agility to build something so different from their previous services. "Most Google projects started small and grew organically in scale and importance. Buzz, the immediate predecessor to Plus, had barely a dozen people on staff. Plus, by comparison, had upwards of 1,000, sucked up from divisions across the company." Despite early data indicating users just weren't interested in Google+, management pushed for success as the only option. One employee said, "The belief was that we were always just one weird feature away from the thing taking off." Despite a strong feature set, there was no acknowledgment that to beat Facebook, you had to overcome the fact that everybody was already on Facebook.

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Pictures of a Comet From 9 Meters Away

Mon, 08/03/2015 - 08:02
An anonymous reader writes: Back in November, the European Space Agency triumphantly put a lander on the surface of a comet and then tragically lost contact with it when it failed to anchor and couldn't harvest enough energy to stay operational. In June, the lander awoke and for a short time was able to send more data back. Now the ESA has published a bunch of pictures and scientific papers about the data gleaned from Philae's short windows of activity, including images of its descent to the surface. Phil Plait summarizes and analyzes the release. The most impressive image is from a mere 9 meters over the surface of comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. An animated gif shows the lander's descent near the surface through a handful of pictures. Two shots of the same area from the Rosetta probe show where Philae bounced off the surface, ejecting an estimated 180kg of material in the process. It's a fascinating, close-up look at a very distant and unusual world.

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The Web We Have To Save

Mon, 08/03/2015 - 07:19
An anonymous reader writes: Hossein Derakhshan endured a six-year prison term in Iran for doing something most of us would take for granted: running a blog. He has a unique perspective — he was heavily involved in internet culture, becoming known as Iran's "blogfather," before suddenly being completely shut off from the online world in 2008. Seven months ago, he was released. When he got settled, he took up his old work of blogging, but was surprised by how much the web has changed in just a few years. Now he decries our reliance on monolithic social streams that prioritize image and meme sharing over the thing that makes the web the web: links. "The hyperlink represented the open, interconnected spirit of the world wide web—a vision that started with its inventor, Tim Berners-Lee. The hyperlink was a way to abandon centralization—all the links, lines and hierarchies—and replace them with something more distributed, a system of nodes and networks. Blogs gave form to that spirit of decentralization: They were windows into lives you'd rarely know much about; bridges that connected different lives to each other and thereby changed them. ... Since I got out of jail, though, I've realized how much the hyperlink has been devalued, almost made obsolete."

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Tiny Black Holes Could Trigger Collapse of Universe—Except That They Don't

Mon, 08/03/2015 - 06:37
sciencehabit writes: If you like classic two-for-one monster movies such as King Kong vs. Godzilla, then a new paper combining two bêtes noires of pseudoscientific scaremongers—mini black holes and the collapse of the vacuum—may appeal to you. Physicists working with the world's biggest atom-smasher—Europe's Large Hadron Collider (LHC)—have had to reassure the public that, even if they can make them, mini black holes, infinitesimal version of the ones that form when jumbo stars implode, won't consume the planet. They've also had to dispel fears that blasting out a particle called the Higgs boson will cause the vacuum of empty space to collapse. Now, however, three theorists calculate that in a chain reaction, a mini black hole could trigger such collapse after all.

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Nokia's HERE Maps Sold For $3.2 Billion To Audi, BMW and Daimler

Mon, 08/03/2015 - 05:54
vivaoporto writes: Nokia announced an agreement to sell its HERE digital mapping and location services business to a consortium of leading automotive companies, comprising AUDI AG, BMW Group and Daimler AG (Mercedes brand owner). The transaction values HERE at €2.8 billion ($3.2 billion) with a normalized level of working capital, and is expected to close in the first quarter of 2016, subject to customary closing conditions and regulatory approvals. Once the mapping unit is sold, Nokia will consist of two businesses: Nokia Networks and Nokia Technologies. The first will continue to provide broadband services and infrastructure while the second will work on "advanced technology development and licensing." Reader jppiiroinen notes that Nokia originally acquired digital mapping provider Navteq in 2007 for $8.1 billion. Once it merged with Nokia, it became the foundation of Nokia's HERE unit.

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CollegeBoard: Analyses of CS Study Benefits Shouldn't Be Interpreted As Causal

Mon, 08/03/2015 - 05:12
theodp writes: Code.org, backed by some of tech's wealthiest individuals and their companies, is this close to getting computer science declared a 'core subject' in K-12 public schools. So, when the non-profit recently asked CollegeBoard for more evidence that learning computer science is linked to improved learning in other subjects, it must have been disheartened by the study results. "The purpose of this brief note," wrote the CollegeBoard, "is to document some exploratory analyses linking participation in AP Computer Science to subsequent performance in SAT Mathematics and AP Calculus and Statistics. None of these analyses should be interpreted as causal. Although there appears to be a relationship between AP CS participation and subsequent outcomes, it is highly likely that this is the result of one or more omitted and confounding characteristics of students that are not able to be controlled for given this research design."

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Tesla Presses Its Case On Fuel Standards

Mon, 08/03/2015 - 02:01
An anonymous reader writes: Tesla is preparing their case to leave federal mileage and emissions regulations intact, or make them even more strict. In addition, the company is fighting other car makers from loosening more stringent regulations in California. The WSJ reports: "Tougher regulations could benefit Tesla, while challenging other auto makers that make bigger profits on higher-margin trucks and sport-utility vehicles. Tesla's vice president of development, Dairmuid O'Connell, plans to argue to auto executives and other industry experts attending a conference on the northern tip of Michigan that car companies can meet regulations as currently written. 'We are about to hear a lot of rhetoric that Americans don't want to buy electric vehicles,' Mr. O'Connell said in an interview ahead of a Tuesday presentation in Traverse City, Mich. 'From an empirical standpoint, the [regulations] are very weak, eminently achievable and the only thing missing is the will to put compelling products on the road.'"

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Modding Community Putting HD Textures Into Resident Evil 4

Sun, 08/02/2015 - 23:03
jones_supa writes: The Ultimate HD Edition of Resident Evil 4 does not fully adhere to its name, as terrain textures are actually not in high definition. A couple of fans called Cris and Albert are chipping in to help fix this deficiency. The pair is working for free to create the RE4 HD Project, a mod which is cleaning up the game's chunky textures and producing some nice and sharp screenshots. At present, it looks like the project is already about half complete, and an HD texture pack for the Village section of the game is available at the project website.

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Girls Catfish ISIS On Social Media For Travel Money

Sun, 08/02/2015 - 20:00
MarkWhittington writes: Yahoo Travel reported that three women in Chechnya took ISIS for $3,300 before getting caught. They are now under investigation for Internet fraud, which seems to be illegal even when committed against the most fearsome terrorist army in modern times. The scam seems to be a combination of the Nigerian Prince con, in which a mark is fooled into giving the con artist large sums of money and catfishing, in which the mark strikes up an online romance with someone he thinks is an attractive woman (or man depending on the gender and preference of the mark.)

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Unicode Consortium Looks At Symbols For Allergies

Sun, 08/02/2015 - 17:03
AmiMoJo writes: A proposal (PDF) submitted by a Google engineer to the Unicode Consortium asks that food allergies get their own emojis and be added to the standard. The proposal suggests the addition of peanuts, soybeans, buckwheat, sesame seeds, kiwi fruit, celery, lupin beans, mustard, tree nuts, eggs, milk products and gluten. According to TNW: "This proposal will take a little longer to become reality — it's still in very early stages and needs to be reviewed by the Unicode Consortium before it can move forward, but it'll be a great way for those with allergies to quickly express them."

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Research Scientists To Use Network Much Faster Than Internet

Sun, 08/02/2015 - 16:05
nickweller writes with this story from the Times about the Pacific Research Platform, an ultra-high-speed fiber-optic research infrastructure that will link together dozens of top research institutions. The National Science Foundation has just awarded a five-year $5 million dollar grant for the project. The story reports:The network is meant to keep pace with the vast acceleration of data collection in fields such as physics, astronomy and genetics. It will not be directly connected to the Internet, but will make it possible to move data at speeds of 10 gigabits to 100 gigabits among 10 University of California campuses and 10 other universities and research institutions in several states, tens or hundreds of times faster than is typical now.

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Sociologist: Job Insecurity Is the New Normal

Sun, 08/02/2015 - 15:07
Mr.Intel writes: Allison Pugh, professor of Sociology at University of Virginia, and author of The Tumbleweed Society: Working and Caring in an Age of Insecurity, says workers in the U.S. are caught up in a "one-way honor system," in which workers are beholden to employers. She says that the golden era when Americans could get a job, keep it, and expect to retire with an adequate pension are over. JP Morgan Chase has cut 20,000 from its workforce in the past 5 years, last year HP cut 34,000 jobs, and many others have announced layoffs. In this interview Pugh talks about the social effects of this "insecurity culture."

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Non-Invasive Spinal Cord Stimulation Gets Paralyzed Legs Moving Again

Sun, 08/02/2015 - 14:12
schwit1 writes: A new technique called transcutaneous stimulation has allowed five men with complete motor paralysis regain the ability to move their legs voluntarily and produce step-like movements. The treatment requires no surgery and adds to prior work to help paralyzed people gain voluntary movement through electrical stimulation (one completed in 2011, the other in 2014). Gizmag reports: "The new treatment uses a technique called transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation, which involves strategically placing electrodes on the skin of the lower back. While receiving stimulation, the men's legs were supported by braces that hung from the ceiling. At first their legs only moved involuntarily, if at all. But they soon found they could voluntarily extend the distance their legs moved during stimulation. They doubled their range of voluntary motion after four treatment sessions."

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Lennart Poettering Announces the First Systemd Conference

Sun, 08/02/2015 - 09:23
jones_supa writes: Lennart Poettering, the creator of the controversial init system and service manager for Linux-based operating systems has announced the first systemd conference. The systemd.conf will take place November 5-7, in Berlin, Germany. systemd developers and hackers, DevOps professionals, and Linux distribution packagers will be able to attend various workshops, as well as to collaborate with their fellow developers and plan the future of the project. Attendees will also be able to participate in an extended hackfest event, as well as numerous presentations held by important names in the systemd project, including Poettering himself.

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Epic Mega Bridge To Connect America With Russia Gets Closer To Reality

Sun, 08/02/2015 - 08:25
Sepa Blackforesta writes: A plan for an epic bridge connecting Russia's easternmost border with Alaska's westernmost border could soon be a reality, as Russia seeks to partner with China. Sijutech reports: "If this mega bridge come to reality, it would be Planet Earth’s most epic mega-road trip ever. The plans have not been officially accepted since specific details of the highway still need to be discussed, including the large budget. Allegedly the plan will cost upwards in the trillions of dollars range."

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Hitchhiking Robot's Cross-Country Trip Ends In Philadelphia

Sun, 08/02/2015 - 07:28
An anonymous reader writes: A hitchhiking robot that successfully traveled across Canada in 26 days last year and parts of Europe, has met its demise in Philly. Created as a "social experiment," hitchBOT started its journey in the U.S. in Marblehead, Massachusetts, on July 17 with its thumb raised up and tape wrapped around its head that read "San Francisco or bust." After about two weeks in the U.S., someone in Philadelphia damaged the robot beyond repair. "Sadly, sadly it's come to an end," said Frauke Zeller, one of its co-creators. The Independent reports: "The robot was designed to be a talking travel companion and could toss out factoids and carry limited conversation. A GPS in the robot tracked its location, and a camera randomly snapped photos about every 20 minutes to document its travels."

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New Telemetry Suggests Shot-Down Drone Was Higher Than Alleged

Sun, 08/02/2015 - 06:30
AmiMoJo writes: The pilot of the drone shot down Sunday evening over a Kentucky property has now come forward with video seemingly showing that the drone wasn't nearly as close as the property owner made it out to be. The data also shows that it was well over 200 feet above the ground before the fatal shots fired. The shooter, meanwhile, continues to maintain that the drone flew 20 feet over a neighbour's house before ascending to "60 to 80 [feet] above me."

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Death Toll at 4 In NYC Legionnaire's Outbreak

Sun, 08/02/2015 - 05:33
Reuters reports that four people have died of Legionnaire's Disease in an outbreak in the Bronx, and 65 more have exhibited symptoms of the disease. The Bronx was also home to the most recent flare-up of the disease, in December of last year. Says the article, In response to the outbreak, the city's health department has inspected 22 buildings in the Bronx, 17 of which have cooling towers. Five buildings, including the historic Opera House Hotel, Lincoln Medical Center and the Concourse Plaza mall and movie complex, tested positive for Legionella. Disinfection efforts are ongoing or have already been completed at all five sites. ... The people who died from the disease were older adults with underlying medical problems, according to a city press release. The department said the city's drinking water supply, fountains and pools have not been affected.

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