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Updated: 36 weeks 4 days ago

Scientists Discover Evidence of a 'Lost Continent' Under the Indian Ocean

Mon, 02/06/2017 - 20:30
Scientists at Wits University in Johannesburg, South Africa say they've discovered evidence of a "lost continent" beneath the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean. According to EarthSky, the evidence of the "lost continent" may be leftover from the breakup of the ancient supercontinent Gondwana, which started to break up around 200 million years ago. The evidence itself "takes the form of ancient zircon minerals found in much-younger rocks." From the report: Geologist Lewis Ashwal of Wit University led a group studying the mineral zircon, found in rocks spewed up by lava during volcanic eruptions. Zircon minerals contain trace amounts of radioactive uranium, which decays to lead and can thus be accurately dated. Ashwal and his colleagues say they've found remnants of this mineral far too old to have originated on the relatively young island of Mauritius. They believe their work shows the existence of an ancient continent, which may have broken off from the island of Madagascar, when Africa, India, Australia and Antarctica split up and formed the Indian Ocean. Ashwal explained in a statement: "Earth is made up of two parts -- continents, which are old, and oceans, which are "young." On the continents you find rocks that are over four billion years old, but you find nothing like that in the oceans, as this is where new rocks are formed. Mauritius is an island, and there is no rock older than 9 million years old on the island. However, by studying the rocks on the island, we have found zircons that are as old as 3 billion years. The fact that we have found zircons of this age proves that there are much older crustal materials under Mauritius that could only have originated from a continent." The study has been published in the journal Nature Communications.

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French Politician Uses Hologram To Hold Meetings In Two Cities At the Same Time

Mon, 02/06/2017 - 18:25
neutrino38 writes: The French presidential election is approaching fast. One of the candidates, Jean-Luc Melanchon, used a hologram to hold two public meetings at once. With a political program that is mostly socialist and very left leaning, some people pointed out that he used private innovation to stand out from the crowd. Reuters notes that this is "not the first politician to employ such technology," adding that "in 2014, then-Turkish prime minister Tayyip Erdogan used a huge hologram of himself to attract wider support, while India's Narendra Modi trounced the opposition with a campaign that included holograms of his speeches in villages across the country." You can watch part of one of Melanchon's virtual meetings here.

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DC Inauguration Protestors Are Being Hit With Facebook Data Searches

Mon, 02/06/2017 - 17:45
During the protests over the inauguration of Donald Trump, more than 230 protestors were arrested -- many of which were charged with rioting and had their phones seized by Washington, D.C., police. One of the individuals who was arrested received an email from Facebook's "Law Enforcement Response Team," which begs the question: Did D.C. police ask Facebook to reveal information about this arrestee? CityLab reports: In an emailed response to CityLab's request for more information, Rachel Reid, a spokesperson for the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department, responded that "MPD does not comment on investigative tactics." The District of Columbia United States Attorney's Office -- the agency leading the prosecution of Inauguration protesters -- has not yet responded to CityLab's inquiry. CityLab also asked Facebook about the email. "We don't comment on individual requests," company spokesperson Jay Nancarrow said. He referred CityLab to the site's law enforcement guidelines page and to its Government Requests Report database, where the public can see how many legal processes it receives from countries worldwide. According to this database, U.S. law enforcement requested information on the accounts of 38,951 users over January to June of 2016, and they received some type of data in 80 percent of cases. Which "legal process" authorities sent to Facebook for information on the protester matters considerably in terms of how much data they can seize for investigation. According to Facebook's legal guidelines, a search warrant, for example, could allow Facebook to give away content data including "messages, photos, videos, timeline posts, and location information." A subpoena or a court order would give authorities less information, but would still include the individual's "name, length of service, credit card information, email address(es), and a recent login/logout IP address(es)."

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US House Passes Bill Requiring Warrants To Search Old Emails

Mon, 02/06/2017 - 17:25
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: The U.S. House of Representatives voted on Monday to require law enforcement authorities to obtain a search warrant before seeking old emails from technology companies, a win for privacy advocates fearful the Trump administration may work to expand government surveillance powers. The House passed the measure by a voice vote. But the legislation was expected to encounter resistance in the Senate, where it failed to advance last year amid opposition by a handful of Republican lawmakers after the House passed it unanimously. Currently, agencies such as the Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission only need a subpoena to seek such data from a service provider.

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Western Digital Unveils First-Ever 512Gb 64-Layer 3D NAND Chip

Mon, 02/06/2017 - 17:05
BrianFagioli quotes a report from BetaNews: As great as these solid state drives are now, they are only getting better. For example, SATA-based SSDs were once viewed as miraculous, but they are now looked at as slow -- PCIe-based NVMe drives are all the rage. To highlight the steady evolution of flash storage, Western Digital today unveiled the first-ever 512 gigabit 64-layer 3D NAND chip. "The launch of the industry's first 512Gb 64-layer 3D NAND chip is another important stride forward in the advancement of our 3D NAND technology, doubling the density from when we introduced the world's first 64-layer architecture in July 2016. This is a great addition to our rapidly broadening 3D NAND technology portfolio. It positions us well to continue addressing the increasing demand for storage due to rapid data growth across a wide range of customer retail, mobile and data center applications," says Dr. Siva Sivaram, executive vice president, memory technology, Western Digital. Western Digital further explains that it did not develop this new technology on its own. The company shares, "The 512Gb 64-layer chip was developed jointly with the company's technology and manufacturing partner Toshiba. Western Digital first introduced initial capacities of the world's first 64-layer 3D NAND technology in July 2016 and the world's first 48-layer 3D NAND technology in 2015; product shipments with both technologies continue to retail and OEM customers."

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China Is Now the World's Largest Solar Power Producer

Mon, 02/06/2017 - 16:20
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Digital Trends: Not only is it the world's most populous country, it's now also the world's biggest producer of solar energy. On Saturday, the National Energy Administration (NEA) noted that the nation officially claimed the title after doubling its installed photovoltaic (PV) capacity last year. By the end of 2016, China's capacity hit 77.42 gigawatts, and while this is great in terms of raw numbers, it's a lot less impressive relative to the country's massive population. As it stands, solar energy represents only one percent of the country's energy output. But this may soon change as China devotes more and more of its attention towards clean energy. The NEA says that China will seek to add more than 110 gigawatts within the next three years, which could help the nation up the proportion of its renewable energy use to 20 percent by 2030. Today, it stands at 11 percent.

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'We Need Robots To Take Our Jobs,' Veteran Tech Reporter John Markoff Explains Why

Mon, 02/06/2017 - 15:40
Former New York Times technology reporter John Markoff used to think robots taking jobs was cause for alarm. Then, he found out that the working-age population in China, Japan, Korea and the U.S. was declining. From a report on Recode: "We need the robots for two reasons: On the one side, there are not enough workers," Markoff said on the latest episode of Recode Decode. "The demographic trends are more important than the technological trends, and they happen more quickly. On the other side, there's this thing called the dependency ratio, the ratio between caregivers and people who need care," he added. "For the first time last year, there were more people in the world who are over 65 than under five. First time ever in history. By the middle of the century, the number of people over 80 will double. By the end of the century, it'll be up sevenfold, globally."

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Overwatch Director Speaks Out Against Console Mouse/keyboard Adapters

Mon, 02/06/2017 - 15:00
Striek quotes a report from Ars Technica: Regardless of where you fall in the long-running debate between keyboard/mouse and analog stick controls, you could historically be relatively sure that everyone on a single platform would be playing with the same control scheme. Recently, though, third-party adapters have started allowing console players to use a mouse and keyboard effectively on dedicated consoles, throwing off the competitive balance in a way that Overwatch director Jeff Kaplan doesn't appreciate. "The Overwatch team objects to the use of mouse and keyboard on console," Kaplan wrote on the Battle.net forums. "We have contacted both first-party console manufacturers and expressed our concern about the use of mouse and keyboard and input conversion devices. We have lobbied and will continue to lobby for first-party console manufacturers to either disallow mouse and keyboard and input conversion devices or openly and easily support mouse and keyboard for all players," he continued. "I encourage you to reach out to the hardware manufacturers and express your concerns (but please do so in a productive and respectful way)." Kaplan is talking about products like the XIM4, a $125 hub that lets certain USB keyboards and mice work natively with some Xbox One and PS4 games (as well as PS3 and Xbox 360 titles). IoGear's $100 Keymander does much the same thing, claiming to be "compatible with all console games." These devices essentially emulate a standard controller through a combination of hardware and software settings, disguising the keyboard and mouse inputs in a way that makes them hard for a developer to detect. This is a problem in competitive online games like Overwatch, where the quickness and precision of mouse aiming can give a decisive advantage over players using a slower and clunkier analog stick.

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US Navy Decommissions the First Nuclear-Powered Aircraft Carrier

Mon, 02/06/2017 - 14:20
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Engadget: The Navy has decommissioned the USS Enterprise (CVN-65), the world's first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. The vessel launched in 1961 and is mainly known for playing a pivotal role in several major incidents and conflicts, including the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Vietnam War and the 2003 Iraq War. However, it also served as the quintessential showcase for what nuclear ships could do. Its eight reactors let it run for years at a time, all the while making more room for the aircraft and their fuel. As you might guess, the decommissioning process (which started when the Enterprise went inactive in 2012) is considerably trickier than it would be for a conventional warship. It wasn't until December 2016 that crews finished extracting nuclear fuel, and the ship will have to be partly dismantled to remove the reactors. They'll be disposed of relatively safely at Hanford Site, home of the world's first plutonium reactor. Whatever you think of the tech, the ship leaves a long legacy on top of its military accomplishments. It proved the viability of nuclear aircraft carriers, leading the US to build the largest such fleet in the world. Also, this definitely isn't the last (real-world) ship to bear the Enterprise name -- the future CVN-80 will build on its predecessor with both more efficient reactors and systems designed for modern combat, where drones and stealth are as important as fighters and bombers. It won't be ready until 2027, but it should reflect many of the lessons learned over the outgoing Enterprise's 55 years of service.

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Uber Hires a Nasa Veteran Who Thinks We'll Start Seeing Flying Cars In Next Three Years

Mon, 02/06/2017 - 13:40
Uber is getting serious about its intentions of building a flying car. Uber's plan involves airborne taxis that will travel 50 to 100 miles between "vertiports" that connect passengers between their homes and offices, according to a report on Bloomberg. Now it is hiring the right leader for this project. From the report: In 2010, an advanced aircraft engineer at NASA's Langley Research Center named Mark Moore published a white paper outlining the feasibility of electric aircrafts that could take off and land like helicopters but were smaller and quieter. The vehicles would be capable of providing a speedy alternative to the dreary morning commute. Moore's research into so-called VTOL -- short for vertical takeoff and landing, or more colloquially, flying cars -- inspired at least one billionaire technologist. After reading the white paper, Google co-founder Larry Page secretly started and financed two Silicon Valley startups, Zee Aero and Kitty Hawk, to develop the technology. Now Moore is leaving the confines of the U.S. National Aeronautics and Space Administration, where he has spent the last 30 years, to join one of Google's rivals: Uber Technologies Inc. Moore is taking on a new role as director of engineering for aviation at the ride-hailing company, working on a flying car initiative known as Uber Elevate. "I can't think of another company in a stronger position to be the leader for this new ecosystem and make the urban electric VTOL market real," he says.

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Ask Slashdot: How To Get Started With Programming? [2017 Edition]

Mon, 02/06/2017 - 13:00
Reader joshtops writes: I know this is a question that must have been asked -- and answered -- on Slashdot several times, but I am hoping to listen from the community again (fresh perspective, if you will). I'm in my 20s, and have a day job that doesn't require any programming skills. But I want to learn it nonetheless. I have done some research but people have varied opinions. Essentially my question is: What is perhaps the best way to learn programming for my use case? I am looking for best possible resources -- perhaps tutorials on the internet, the right books and the order in which I should read/watch them. Some people have advised me to start with C language, but I was wondering if I could kickstart things with other languages such as perhaps Apple's Swift as well?

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RethinkDB Gets Acquired By the Cloud Native Compute Foundation; Joins the Linux Foundation

Mon, 02/06/2017 - 12:20
An anonymous reader writes:The Cloud Native Compute Foundation (CNCF) today announced that it has acquired the RethinkDB copyright and assets, including its code, and contributed it to The Linux Foundation. RethinkDB, which had raised about $12.2 million in venture capital for its open-source database, went out of business in October 2016. The CNCF says it paid $25,000 to complete this transaction. The code will now be available under the Apache license.

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Vizio Settles With FTC, Will Pay $2.2 Million and Delete User Data

Mon, 02/06/2017 - 11:40
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) today announced that smart TV maker Vizio has agreed to pay $2.2 million to settle a case involving the TVs' data collection techniques. From a report on VentureBeat: Vizio allegedly collected data on what people viewed on 11 million of its TVs and then shared the data with third parties, without informing people about the data collection or receiving consent. As part of the settlement with the FTC and the New Jersey Attorney General, Vizio must also delete data that it collected prior to March 1, 2016, and implement a data privacy program that is to be evaluated twice a year, according to a statement. The commission voted 3-0 in favor of the ruling, according to the statement.

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Chrome 56 Quietly Added Bluetooth Snitch API

Mon, 02/06/2017 - 11:00
Richard Chirgwin, writing for The Register: When Google popped out Chrome 56 at the end of January it was keen to remind us it's making the web safer by flagging non-HTTPS sites. But Google made little effort to publicise another feature that's decidedly less friendly to privacy, because it lets websites ask about users' Bluetooth devices and harvest information from them through the browser. That's more a pitch to developers, as is clear in this YouTube video from Pete LePage of the Chrome Developers team. "Until now, the ability to communicate with Bluetooth devices has been possible only for native apps. With Chrome 56, your Web app can communicate with nearby Bluetooth devices in a private and secure manner, using the Web Bluetooth API," Google shares in the video. "The Web Bluetooth API uses the GATT [Generic Attribute Profile - ed] protocol, which enables your app to connect to devices such as light bulbs, toys, heart-rate monitors, LED displays and more, with just a few lines of JavaScript." In other words, the API lets websites ask your browser "what Bluetooth devices can you see," find out what your fridge, and so on, is capable of, and interact with it.

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Patent Troll With Good Record in Past Sues Netflix, SoundCloud, Vimeo, Others Over Offline Downloads

Mon, 02/06/2017 - 10:20
Netflix added the ability to download movies and TV episodes for offline viewing in November last year. Music streaming service SoundCloud, and video hosting service Vimeo have had this feature for quite some time, too. But they are all being sued now by a patent troll. From an ArsTechnica report: The plaintiff is a company few have heard of: Blackbird Technologies, a company with no products or assets other than patents. Blackbird's business is to buy up patent rights and file lawsuits over them, a business known colloquially as "patent trolling." Last week, Blackbird (who tells potential clients about being "able to litigate at reduced costs and achieve results") filed lawsuits against Netflix, SoundCloud, Vimeo, Starz, Mubi, and Studio 3 Partners, which owns the Epix TV channel. [...] The patent-holding company, which filed the lawsuits in Delaware federal court, has good reason to hope for success. The '362 patent already has a track record of squeezing settlement cash out of big companies.

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Studies Link Some Stomach Drugs To Alzheimer's Disease and Kidney Problems

Sun, 02/05/2017 - 20:04
While the recommended dosage for Nexium, Prevacid and Prilose is just two weeks, doctors often advise patients to continue taking them for years. But now Scientific American reports that "Chronic use of popular heartburn medicines may be riskier than was thought," citing two papers linking the drugs to an increase risk of dementia, including Alzheimer's disease, and a greater risk of kidney problems. schwit1 quotes their report: The papers did not prove that PPIs cause the problems. But some researchers have nonetheless suggested possible mechanisms by which long-term use of the drugs could trigger dementia or kidney problems. A reduction in vitamin B12, for example, might leave the brain more vulnerable to damage, says Britta Haenisch, an author of the JAMA Neurology study and a neuropharmacologist at the Bonn campus of the German Center for Neurodegenerative Diseases. Last spring clinicians at the Houston Methodist Research Institute reported another plausible explanation for how PPIs might lead to these unexpected health issues: they picked up signs that the drugs act not only in the stomach but elsewhere in the body, too. The article ends on an ambiguous note. "Without conclusive data, physicians and patients have to balance the need to prevent the ill effects of excess stomach acid and reflux with the desire to avoid potentially serious -- if theoretical -- side effects from long-term use of PPIs."

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A Super Bowl Koan: Does The NFL Wish It Were A Tech Company?

Sun, 02/05/2017 - 18:04
Are tech companies cashing in on the popularity of Super Bowl -- or is the Super Bowl trying to get into the world of tech? An anonymous reader writes: The NFL hosted a startup pitch competition before the game. And they also ran tech-themed "future of football" ads during the game which showcased the robot tackling dummies that provide moving targets for training players. Lady Gaga's halftime show is even expected to feature hundreds of drones. But Microsoft was also hovering around outside the stadium, pushing the concept of "social autographs" (digital signatures drawn onto images) with their Surface tablets. Intel ran ads during the game touting their 360-degree replay technology. Besides the usual game-day ads for beer, there were also several for videogames -- Arnold Schwarzenegger endorsed Mobile Strike, and a reality TV show parody suddenly turned into an ad for World of Tanks. So is technology subtly changing the culture of the Super Bowl -- or is the Super Bowl turning into a massive pageant of technology? Are any Slashdot readers even watching the Super Bowl? All I know is the Bay Area Newsgroup reported that a Silicon Valley engineer ultimately earns more over their lifetime than the average NFL football player.

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How Open Sourcing Made Apache Kafka A Dominant Streaming Platform

Sun, 02/05/2017 - 16:39
Open sourced in 2010, the Apache Kafka distributed streaming platform is now used at more than a third of Fortune 500 companies (as well as seven of the world's top 10 banks). An anonymous reader writes: Co-creator Neha Narkhede says "We saw the need for a distributed architecture with microservices that we could scale quickly and robustly. The legacy systems couldn't help us anymore." In a new interview with TechRepublic, Narkhede explains that while working at LinkedIn, "We had the vision of building the entire company's business logic as stream processors that express transformations on streams of data... [T]hough Kafka started off as a very scalable messaging system, it grew to complete our vision of being a distributed streaming platform." Narkhede became the CTO and co-founder of Confluent, which supports enterprise installations of Kafka, and now says that being open source "helps you build a pipeline for your product and reduce the cost of sales... [T]he developer is the new decision maker. If the product experience is tailored to ensure that the developers are successful and the technology plays a critical role in your business, you have the foundational pieces of building a growing and profitable business around an open-source technology... Kafka is used as the source-of-truth pipeline carrying critical data that businesses rely on for real-time decision-making."

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Disney Thinks High Schools Should Let Kids Take Coding In Place of Foreign Languages

Sun, 02/05/2017 - 15:39
theodp writes: Florida lawmakers are again proposing a contentious plan that would put coding and foreign language on equal footing in a public high school student's education. Under a proposed bill students who take two credits of computer coding and earn a related industry certification could then count that coursework toward two foreign language credits. "I sort of comically applaud that some would want to categorize coding as a foreign language," said Miami-Dade Schools Superintendent Alberto Carvalho. "Coding cannot be seen as an equivalent substitute." Disclosure records show that Walt Disney Parks and Resorts has three lobbyists registered to fight in support of the bill. Disney did not return an email seeking comment, but State Senator Jeff Brandes said the company's interest is in a future workforce... Disney has provided signature tutorials for the nation's Hour of Code over the past three years, including Disney's Frozen princess-themed tutorial.

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14,000 Domains Dropped Dyn's DNS Service After Mirai Attack

Sun, 02/05/2017 - 14:39
chicksdaddy New data suggests that some 14,500 web domains stopped using Dyn's Managed DNS service in the immediate aftermath of an October DDoS attack by the Mirai botnet. That's around 8% of the web domains using Dyn Managed DNS... "The data show that Dyn lost a pretty big chunk of their customer base because they were affected by (Mirai)," said Dan Dahlberg, a research scientist at BitSight Technologies in Cambridge, Massachusetts... BitSight, which provides security rating services for companies, analyzed a set of 178,000 domains that were hosted on Dyn's managed DNS infrastructure before and immediately after the October 21st attacks. It's possible some of those domains later returned to Dyn -- and the number of actual customers may be smaller than the number of hosted domains. But in the end it may not have mattered much, since Dyn was acquired by Oracle the next month, and TechCrunch speculates that the deal had already been set in motion before the attack. They also add that "Oracle, of course, is no stranger to breaches itself: in August it was found that hundreds of its own computer systems were breached."

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