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Updated: 42 min 39 sec ago

Astronomers Find Brightest Pulsar Ever Observed

Wed, 22/10/2014 - 18:17
An anonymous reader writes: Astronomers using the Chandra X-ray Observatory and the NuSTAR satellite have discovered a pulsar so bright that it challenges how scientists think pulsars work. While observing galaxy M82 in hopes of spotting supernovae, the researchers found an unexpected source of X-rays very close to the galaxy's core. It was near another source, thought to be a black hole. But the new one was pulsing, which black holes don't do. The trouble is that according to known pulsar models, it's about 100 times brighter than the calculated limits to its luminosity (abstract). Researchers used a different method to figure out its mass, and the gap shrank, but it's still too bright to fit their theories.

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Raspberry Pi Founder Demos Touchscreen Display For DIY Kits

Wed, 22/10/2014 - 17:34
An anonymous reader writes: Over 4 million Raspberry Pis have been sold so far, and now founder Eben Upton has shown off a touchscreen display panel that's designed to work with it. It's a 7" panel, roughly tablet sized, but slightly thicker. "With the incoming touchscreen panel The Pi Foundation is clearly hoping to keep stoking the creative fires that have helped drive sales of the Pi by slotting another piece of DIY hardware into the mix." Upton also discussed the Model A+ Raspberry Pi board — an updated version they'll be announcing soon.

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Shooting At Canadian Parliament

Wed, 22/10/2014 - 16:55
CBC reports that a man pulled up to the War Memorial in downtown Ottawa, got out of his car, and shot a soldier with a rifle. The Memorial is right next to the Canadian Parliament buildings. A shooter (reportedly the same one, but unconfirmed) also approached Parliament and got inside before he was shot and killed. "Scott Walsh, who was working on Parliament Hill, said ... the man hopped over the stone fence that surrounds Parliament Hill, with his gun forcing someone out of their car. He then drove to the front doors of Parliament and fired at least two shots, Walsh said." Canadian government officials were quickly evacuated from the building, while the search continues for further suspects. This comes a day after Canada raised its domestic terrorism threat level. Most details of the situation are still unconfirmed -- CBC has live video coverage here. They have confirmed that there was a second shooting at the Rideau Center, a shopping mall nearby.

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Shooting At Canadian Parliament

Wed, 22/10/2014 - 16:55
CBC reports that a man pulled up to the War Memorial in downtown Ottawa, got out of his car, and shot a soldier with a rifle. The Memorial is right next to the Canadian Parliament buildings. A shooter (reportedly the same one, but unconfirmed) also approached Parliament and got inside before he was shot and killed. "Scott Walsh, who was working on Parliament Hill, said ... the man hopped over the stone fence that surrounds Parliament Hill, with his gun forcing someone out of their car. He then drove to the front doors of Parliament and fired at least two shots, Walsh said." Canadian government officials were quickly evacuated from the building, while the search continues for further suspects. This comes a day after Canada raised its domestic terrorism threat level. Most details of the situation are still unconfirmed -- CBC has live video coverage here. They have confirmed that there was a second shooting at the Rideau Center, a shopping mall nearby.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.


What It Took For SpaceX To Become a Serious Space Company

Wed, 22/10/2014 - 16:47
An anonymous reader writes: The Atlantic has a nice profile of SpaceX's rise to prominence — how a private startup managed to successfully compete with industry giants like Boeing in just a decade of existence. "Regardless of its inspirations, the company was forced to adopt a prosaic initial goal: Make a rocket at least 10 times cheaper than is possible today. Until it can do that, neither flowers nor people can go to Mars with any economy. With rocket technology, Musk has said, "you're really left with one key parameter against which technology improvements must be judged, and that's cost." SpaceX currently charges $61.2 million per launch. Its cost-per-kilogram of cargo to low-earth orbit, $4,653, is far less than the $14,000 to $39,000 offered by its chief American competitor, the United Launch Alliance. Other providers often charge $250 to $400 million per launch; NASA pays Russia $70 million per astronaut to hitch a ride on its three-person Soyuz spacecraft. SpaceX's costs are still nowhere near low enough to change the economics of space as Musk and his investors envision, but they have a plan to do so (of which more later)."

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Software Glitch Caused 911 Outage For 11 Million People

Wed, 22/10/2014 - 16:05
HughPickens.com writes: Brian Fung reports at the Washington Post that earlier this year emergency services went dark for over six hours for more than 11 million people across seven states. "The outage may have gone unnoticed by some, but for the more than 6,000 people trying to reach help, April 9 may well have been the scariest time of their lives." In a 40-page report (PDF), the FCC found that an entirely preventable software error was responsible for causing 911 service to drop. "It could have been prevented. But it was not," the FCC's report reads. "The causes of this outage highlight vulnerabilities of networks as they transition from the long-familiar methods of reaching 911 to [Internet Protocol]-supported technologies." On April 9, the software responsible for assigning the identifying code to each incoming 911 call maxed out at a pre-set limit; the counter literally stopped counting at 40 million calls. As a result, the routing system stopped accepting new calls, leading to a bottleneck and a series of cascading failures elsewhere in the 911 infrastructure. Adm. David Simpson, the FCC's chief of public safety and homeland security, says having a single backup does not provide the kind of reliability that is ideal for 911. "Miami is kind of prone to hurricanes. Had a hurricane come at the same time [as the multi-state outage], we would not have had that failover, perhaps. So I think there needs to be more [distribution of 911 capabilities]."

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Windows 0-Day Exploited In Ongoing Attacks

Wed, 22/10/2014 - 15:23
An anonymous reader writes: Microsoft is warning users about a new Windows zero-day vulnerability that is being actively exploited in the wild and is primarily a risk to users on servers and workstations that open documents with embedded OLE objects. The vulnerability is currently being exploited via PowerPoint files. These specially crafted files contain a malicious OLE (Object Linking and Embedding) object. This is not the first time a vulnerability in OLE has been exploited by cybercriminals, however most previous OLE vulnerabilities have been limited to specific older versions of the Windows operating system. What makes this vulnerability dangerous is that it affects the latest fully patched versions of Windows.

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DHS Investigates 24 Potentially Lethal IoT Medical Devices

Wed, 22/10/2014 - 14:39
An anonymous reader writes: In the wake of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration's recent recommendations to strengthen security on net-connected medical devices, the Department of Homeland Security is launching an investigation into 24 cases of potential cybersecurity vulnerabilities in hospital equipment and personal medical devices. Independent security researcher Billy Rios submitted proof-of-concept evidence to the FDA indicating that it would be possible for a hacker to force infusion pumps to fatally overdose a patient. Though the complete range of devices under investigation has not been disclosed, it is reported that one of them is an "implantable heart device." William Maisel, chief scientist at the FDA's Center for Devices and Radiological Health, said, "The conventional wisdom in the past was that products only had to be protected from unintentional threats. Now they also have to be protected from intentional threats too."

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Hungary To Tax Internet Traffic

Wed, 22/10/2014 - 13:57
An anonymous reader writes: The Hungarian government has announced a new tax on internet traffic: 150 HUF ($0.62 USD) per gigabyte. In Hungary, a monthly internet subscription costs around 4,000-10,000 HUF ($17-$41), so it could really put a constraint on different service providers, especially for streaming media. This kind of tax could set back the country's technological development by some 20 years — to the pre-internet age. As a side note, the Hungarian government's budget is running at a serious deficit. The internet tax is officially expected to bring in about 20 billion HUF in income, though a quick look at the BIX (Budapest Internet Exchange) and a bit of math suggests a better estimate of the income would probably be an order of magnitude higher.

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Xerox Alto Source Code Released To Public

Wed, 22/10/2014 - 13:15
zonker writes: In 1970, the Xerox Corporation established the Palo Alto Research Center (PARC) with the goal to develop an "architecture of information" and lay the groundwork for future electronic office products. The pioneering Alto project that began in 1972 invented or refined many of the fundamental hardware and software ideas upon which our modern devices are based, including raster displays, mouse pointing devices, direct-manipulation user interfaces, windows and menus, the first WYSIWYG word processor, and Ethernet. The first Altos were built as research prototypes. By the fall of 1976 PARC's research was far enough along that a Xerox product group started to design products based on their prototypes. Ultimately, ~1,500 were built and deployed throughout the Xerox Corporation, as well as at universities and other sites. The Alto was never sold as a product but its legacy served as inspiration for the future. With the permission of the Palo Alto Research Center, the Computer History Museum is pleased to make available, for non-commercial use only, snapshots of Alto source code, executables, documentation, font files, and other files from 1975 to 1987. The files are organized by the original server on which they resided at PARC that correspond to files that were restored from archive tapes. An interesting look at retro-future.

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Ask Slashdot: Aging and Orphan Open Source Projects?

Wed, 22/10/2014 - 10:12
osage writes: Several colleagues and I have worked on an open source project for over 20 years under a corporate aegis. Though nothing like Apache, we have a sizable user community and the software is considered one of the de facto standards for what it does. The problem is that we have never been able to attract new, younger programmers, and members of the original set have been forced to find jobs elsewhere or are close to retirement. The corporation has no interest in supporting the software. Thus, in the near future, the project will lose its web site host and be devoid of its developers and maintainers. Our initial attempts to find someone to adopt the software haven't worked. We are looking for suggestions as to what course to pursue. We can't be the only open source project in this position.

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First Evidence of Extrasolar Planets Discovered In 1917

Wed, 22/10/2014 - 07:12
KentuckyFC writes: Earth's closest white dwarf is called van Maanen 2 and sits 14 light-years from here. It was discovered by the Dutch astronomer Adriaan van Maanen in 1917, but it was initially hard to classify. That's because its spectra contains lots of heavy elements alongside hydrogen and helium, the usual components of a white dwarf photosphere. In recent years, astronomers have discovered many white dwarfs with similar spectra and shown that the heavy elements come from asteroids raining down onto the surface of the stars. It turns out that all these white dwarfs are orbited by a large planet and an asteroid belt. As the planet orbits, it perturbs the rocky belt, causing asteroids to collide and spiral in toward their parent star. This process is so common that astronomers now use the heavy element spectra as a marker for the presence of extrasolar planets. A re-analysis of van Maanen's work shows that, in hindsight, he was the first to discover the tell-tale signature of extrasolar planets almost a century ago.

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Internet Broadband Through High-altitude Drones

Wed, 22/10/2014 - 05:16
mwagner writes: Skynet is coming. But not like in the movie: The future of communications is high-altitude solar-powered drones, flying 13 miles above the ground, running microwave wireless equipment, delivering broadband to the whole planet. The articles predicts this technology will replace satellites, fiber, and copper, and fundamentally change the broadband industry. The author predicts a timescale of roughly 20 years — the same amount of time between Arthur C. Clarke predicting geosynchronous satellites and their reality as a commercial business. "Several important technology milestones need to be reached along the way. The drones that will make up Skynet have a lot more in common with satellites than the flippy-flappy helicopter drone thingies that the popular press is fixated on right now. They're really effing BIG, for one thing. And, like satellites, they go up, and stay up, pretty much indefinitely. For that to happen, we need two things: lighter, higher-capacity wireless gear; and reliable, hyper-efficient solar tech."

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Isaac Asimov: How Do People Get New Ideas?

Wed, 22/10/2014 - 03:13
HughPickens.com writes: Arthur Obermayer, a friend of the Isaac Asimov, writes that he recently rediscovered an unpublished essay by Asimov written in 1959 while cleaning out some old files. Obermayer says it is "as broadly relevant today as when he wrote it. It describes not only the creative process and the nature of creative people but also the kind of environment that promotes creativity." Here's an excerpt from Asimov's essay, which is well worth reading in its entirety: "A person willing to fly in the face of reason, authority, and common sense must be a person of considerable self-assurance. Since he occurs only rarely, he must seem eccentric (in at least that respect) to the rest of us. A person eccentric in one respect is often eccentric in others. Probably more inhibiting than anything else is a feeling of responsibility. The great ideas of the ages have come from people who weren't paid to have great ideas, but were paid to be teachers or patent clerks or petty officials, or were not paid at all. The great ideas came as side issues."

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Fiber Optics In Antarctica Will Monitor Ice Sheet Melting

Wed, 22/10/2014 - 01:06
sciencehabit writes: Earth is rapidly being wired with fiber-optic cables — inexpensive, flexible strands of silicon dioxide that have revolutionized telecommunications. They've already crisscrossed the planet's oceans, linking every continent but one: Antarctica. Now, fiber optics has arrived at the continent, but to measure ice sheet temperatures rather than carry telecommunication signals. A team of scientists using an innovative fiber-optic cable–based technology has measured temperature changes within and below the ice over 14 months. This technology, they say, offers a powerful new tool to observe and quantify melting at the base of the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.

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Microsoft Introduces Build Cadence Selection With Windows 10

Wed, 22/10/2014 - 00:24
jones_supa writes: Microsoft has just released Windows 10 TP build 9860. Along with the new release, Microsoft is introducing an interesting cadence option for how quickly you will receive new builds. The "ring progression" goes from development, to testing, to release. By being in the slow cadence, you will get more stable builds, but they will arrive less often. By choosing the fast option, it allows you to receive the build on the same day that it is released. As a quick stats update, to date Microsoft has received over 250,000 pieces of feedback through the Windows Feedback tool, 25,381 community forum posts, and 641 suggestions in the Windows Suggestion Box.

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Ebola Does Not Require an "Ebola Czar," Nor Calling Up the National Guard

Tue, 21/10/2014 - 23:41
Lasrick writes: David Ropeik explores risk-perception psychology and Ebola in the U.S. "[O]fficials are up against the inherently emotional and instinctive nature of risk-perception psychology. Pioneering research on this subject by Paul Slovic, Baruch Fischhoff, and others, vast research on human cognition by Daniel Kahneman and colleagues, and research on the brain's fear response by neuroscientists Joseph LeDoux, Elizabeth Phelps, and others, all make abundantly clear that the perception of risk is not simply a matter of the facts, but more a matter of how those facts feel. ... People worry more about risks that are new and unfamiliar. People worry more about risks that cause greater pain and suffering. People worry more about threats against which we feel powerless, like a disease for which there is no vaccine and which has a high fatality rate if you get it. And people worry more about threats the more available they are to their consciousness—that is, the more aware people are of them."

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Google Leads $542m Funding Round For Augmented Reality Wearables Company

Tue, 21/10/2014 - 22:58
An anonymous reader writes: After rumors broke last week, Magic Leap has officially closed the deal on a $542 million Series B investment led by Google. The company has been extremely tight-lipped about what they're working on, but some digging reveals it is most likely an augmented reality wearable that uses a lightfield display. "Using our Dynamic Digitized Lightfield Signal, imagine being able to generate images indistinguishable from real objects and then being able to place those images seamlessly into the real world," the company teases. Having closed an investment round, Magic Leap is now soliciting developers to create for their platform and hiring a huge swath of positions.

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The Future of Stamps

Tue, 21/10/2014 - 22:15
New submitter Kkloe writes: Wired is running a profile of a gadget called Signet, which is trying to bring postage stamps into the age of high technology. Quoting: "At its core, it is a digital stamp and an app. If you want to send a parcel, you'd simply stamp it with a device that uses a laser to etch it with your name and a unique identifying pattern. After that, the USPS would pick up your package; from there, the app would prompt you to provide the name of the person you're trying to reach." I'm curious whether such a finely-detailed etching can even survive a journey. How far can you expect it to travel before all the handling and sorting make the mark unreadable to the sorting machines in the delivery office? Then you'd have to worry the post office would mark it as a fraudulent stamp (as someone has to pay for the shipping in some way) and either return it or throw it away.

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The Bogus Batoid Submarine is Wooden, not Yellow (Video)

Tue, 21/10/2014 - 21:32
This is a "wet" submarine. It doesn't try to keep water out. You wear SCUBA gear while pedaling it. And yes, it is powered by a person pushing pedals. That motion, through a drive train, makes manta-style wings flap. This explains the name, since rays are Batoids, and this sub is a fake Batoid, not a real one. It's a beautiful piece of work, and Martin Plazyk is obviously proud to show it off. He and his father, Bruce, operate as Faux Fish Technologies. Follow that link and you'll see many photos, along with a nice selection of videos showing their creations not just in static above-water displays, but in their natural (underwater) element. Meanwhile, here on Slashdot, Martin tells how Faux Fish subs are made. (Alternate Video Link)

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