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Updated: 5 days 17 hours ago

Open-Source Gear For Making Mind-Controlled Gadgets

Mon, 11/08/2014 - 19:25
the_newsbeagle writes If you've been hankering to control a robotic battle spider with your mind but haven't known how to begin, you're in luck. A startup called OpenBCI is now selling an Arduino-compatible board that any reasonably competent DIYer can use to build a brain-computer interface. The board takes in data from up to 8 EEG scalp electrodes, and hackers are already using it to pull of some good tricks. There's the guy with the battle spiders, and there's a group in L.A. building a paint-by-brain system for a paralyzed graffiti artist.

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Geneticists Decry Book On Race and Evolution

Mon, 11/08/2014 - 16:15
sciencehabit writes "A best-seller by former New York Times science writer Nicholas Wade about recent human evolution and its potential effects on human cultures has drawn critical reviews since its spring publication. Now, nearly 140 senior human population geneticists around the world, many of whose work was cited in the book, have signed a letter to The New York Times Book Review stating that Wade has misinterpreted their work. The letter criticizes "Wade's misappropriation of research from our field to support arguments about differences among human societies."

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Hackers Demand Automakers Get Serious About Security

Mon, 11/08/2014 - 15:27
wiredmikey writes: In an open letter to Automotive CEOs, a group of security researchers has called on automobile industry executives to implement five security programs to improve car safety and build cyber-security safeguards inside the software systems powering various features in modern cars. As car automation systems become more sophisticated, they need to be locked down to prevent tampering or unauthorized access. The Five Star Automotive Cyber Safety Program outlined in the letter asked industry executives for safety by design, third-party collaboration, evidence capture, security updates, and segmentation and isolation. Vehicles are "computers on wheels," said Josh Corman, CTO of Sonatype and a co-founder of I am the Cavalry, the group who penned the letter (PDF). The group aims to bring security researchers together with representatives from non-security fields, such as home automation and consumer electronics, medical devices, transportation, and critical infrastructure, to improve security.

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About Half of Kids' Learning Ability Is In Their DNA

Mon, 11/08/2014 - 14:40
Taco Cowboy writes with this story about new research that finds a strong genetic component to a child's ability in math and reading. "You may think you're better at reading than you are at math (or vice versa), but new research suggests you're probably equally good (or bad) at both. The reason: The genes that determine a person's ability to tackle one subject influence their aptitude at the other, accounting for about half of a person's overall ability. The study, published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications, used nearly 1,500 pairs of 12-year-old twins to tease apart the effects of genetic inheritance and environmental variables on math and reading ability. The researchers administered a set of math and verbal tests to the children and then compared the performance of different sets of twins. They found that the twins' scores — no matter if they were high or low — were twice as similar among pairs of identical twins as among pairs of fraternal twins. The results indicated that approximately half of the children's math and reading ability stemmed from their genetic makeup. A complementary analysis of unrelated kids corroborated this conclusion — strangers with equivalent academic abilities shared genetic similarities. What's more, the genes responsible for math and reading ability appear to be numerous and interconnected, not specifically targeted toward one set of skills. These so-called 'generalist genes' act in concert to determine a child's aptitude across multiple disciplines. The finding that one's propensities for math and reading go hand in hand may come as a surprise to many, but it shouldn't. People often feel that they possess skills in only one area simply because they perform slightly worse in the other."

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DARPA Wants To Kill the Password

Mon, 11/08/2014 - 13:53
jfruh writes Many security experts agree that our current authentication system, in which end users are forced to remember (or, more often, write down) a dizzying array of passwords is broken. DARPA, the U.S. Defense Department research arm that developed the Internet, is trying to work past the problem by eliminating passwords altogether, replacing them with biometric and other cues, using off-the-shelf technology available today.

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Elementary OS "Freya" Beta Released

Mon, 11/08/2014 - 13:06
jjoelc (1589361) writes One year after their last release "Luna", Elementary OS (a Linux distribution with a very heavy emphasis on design and usability which draws a lot of comparisons to Mac OS X) Has released the public beta of their latest version "Freya." Using core components from Ubuntu 14.04, "Freya" sports many improvements including the usual newer kernel, better hardware support and newer libraries.Other updates include a GSignon-based online accounts system, improved searches, Grub-free uEFI booting, GTK+ 3.12, an updated theme, and much more. This being a beta, the usual warnings apply, but I would also point out that the Elementary OS Team also has over $5,000 worth of bugs still available on Bountysource which can be a great way to contribute to the project and make a little dough while you are at it.

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Microsoft Surface Drowning?

Mon, 11/08/2014 - 10:02
hcs_$reboot (1536101) writes Again, not much good news for the MS Surface. Computerworld reports a Microsoft's losses on the tablet device at $US1.7 billion so far. But, still, Microsoft is serene: "It's been exciting to see the response to the Surface Pro 3 from individuals and businesses alike. In fact, Surface Pro 3 sales are already outpacing prior versions of Surface Pro. The Surface business generated more than $2B in revenue for the fiscal year 2014 and $409 million in revenue during Q4 FY14 alone, the latter of which included just ten days of Intel Core i5 Surface Pro 3 sales in Canada and the US." Should Microsoft pull the plug on the tablet? Or maybe it's just a matter of users getting used to the Surface? Even if they're losing money on the Pro 3, Microsoft has seemingly little to be ashamed of when it comes to reviews of the hardware.

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Connected Collar Lets Your Cat Do the War-Driving

Sun, 10/08/2014 - 22:55
MojoKid (1002251) writes "Security researcher Gene Bransfield, with the help of his wife's grandmother's cat, decided to see how many neighborhood WiFi access points he could map and potentially compromise. With a collar loaded with a Spark chip, a Wi-Fi module, a GPS module, and a battery, Coco the cat helped Gene identify Wi-Fi networks around the neighborhood and then reported back. The goal here is obvious: Discover all of the unsecured, or at least poorly-secured, wireless access points around the neighborhood. During his journey, Coco identified dozens of Wi-Fi networks, with four of them using easily-broken WEP security, and another four that had no security at all. Gene has dubbed his collar the "WarKitteh", and it cost him less than $100 to make. He admits that such a collar isn't a security threat, but more of a goofy hack. Of course, it could be used for shadier purposes." (Here's Wired's article on the connected cat-collar.)

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Wiring Programmers To Prevent Buggy Code

Sun, 10/08/2014 - 18:30
mikejuk (1801200) writes "Microsoft Researcher Andrew Begel, together with academic and industry colleagues have been trying to detect when developers are struggling as they work, in order to prevent bugs before they are introduced into code. A paper presented at the 36th International Conference on Software Engineering, reports on a study conducted with 15 professional programmers to see how well an eye-tracker, an electrodermal activity (EDA) sensor, and an electroencephalography (EEG) sensor could be used to predict whether developers would find a task difficult. Difficult tasks are potential bug generators and finding a task difficult is the programming equivalent of going to sleep at the wheel. Going beyond this initial investigation researchers now need to decide how to support developers who are finding their work difficult. What isn't known yet is how developers will react if their actions are approaching bug-potential levels and an intervention is deemed necessary. Presumably the nature of the intervention also has to be worked out. So next time you sit down at your coding station consider that in the future they may be wanting to wire you up just to make sure you aren't a source of bugs. And what could possibly be the intervention?"

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Silent Circle's Blackphone Exploited at Def Con

Sun, 10/08/2014 - 17:19
Def Con shows no mercy. As gleefully reported by sites several Blackberry-centric sites, researcher Justin Case yesterday demonstrated that he could root the much-heralded Blackphone in less than five minutes. From n4bb.com's linked report: "However, one of the vulnerabilities has already been patched and the other only exploitable with direct user consent. Nevertheless, this only further proves you cannot add layers of security on top of an underlying platform with security vulnerabilities." Case reacts via Twitter to the crowing: "Hey BlackBerry idiots, stop miss quoting me on your blogs. Your phone is only "secure" because it has few users and little value as a target."

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Babylon 5</em> May Finally Get a Big-Screen Debut

Sun, 10/08/2014 - 16:20
Ars Technica reports that "J. Michael Straczynski will shortly begin work on a rebooted big-screen version of his 1990s sci-fi TV series [ Babylon 5]." From the article: According to JMS's latest announcement, the new script will be targeted at a 2016 theatrical release and will be a reboot of the series rather than a continuation. This is necessary for both dramatic and practical purposes—the series was in regular production from 1994-1998, and the cast has simply aged too far to credibly play themselves again during the series’ main timeline. Additionally, several of the foundational cast members — Michael O'Hare, Andreas Katsulas, Richard Biggs, and Jeff Conaway — have passed away. ... The movie rights to the Babylon 5 property remain in JMS's hands, but the creator is hopeful that this time around, Warner Bros. will choose to finance the film instead of passing on it. Nonetheless (at least according to TV Wise), JMS is prepared to fund the movie through his own production company if necessary — something that wasn't a possibility ten years ago — suggesting that B5 will in fact come to the big screen at last.

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F-Secure: Xiaomi Smartphones Do Secretly Steal Your Data

Sun, 10/08/2014 - 07:12
They may be well reviewed and China's new top selling phone, but reader DavidGilbert99 writes with reason to be cautious about Xiaomi's phones: Finnish security firm F-Secure has seemingly proven that Xiaomi smartphones do in fact upload user data without their permission/knowledge despite the company strongly denying these allegations as late as 30 July. Between commercial malware and government agencies, how do you keep your phone's data relatively private?

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Slashdot Asks: Should Schooling Be Year-Round?

Sat, 09/08/2014 - 23:58
Around the world, American schools' long summer break is viewed as an anomaly, and the long summer seems to be getting shorter. While most American primary and secondary schools used to start after Labor Day, more and more of them now open sometime in August (and that's not counting the ones that have gone to a year-round schedule). Some of my younger relatives started a new school year last week (in Indiana), while Baltimore schools start later this month. Both Seattle and Portland's kids have until after Labor Day (with start dates of the 3rd and 4th of September, respectively). The 4th is also the start date for students in New York City's public schools, the country's largest district. Colleges more often start in September, but some get a jump start in August, especially with required seminars or orientation programs for new students. Whether you're in school, out of school, or back in school by proxy (packing lunches or paying tuition), what time does (or did) your school-year start? Would you prefer that your local public schools run all year round, if they're of the long-summer variety? (And conversely, if your local schools give short shrift to summer, whether that's in the U.S. or anywhere else, do you think that's a good idea?)

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Slashdot Asks: Should Schooing Be Year-Round?

Sat, 09/08/2014 - 23:58
Around the world, American schools' long summer break is viewed as an anomaly, and the long summer seems to be getting shorter. While most American primary and secondary schools used to start after Labor Day, more and more of them now open sometime in August (and that's not counting the ones that have gone to a year-round schedule). Some of my younger relatives started a new school year last week (in Indiana), while Baltimore schools start later this month. Both Seattle and Portland's kids have until after Labor Day (with start dates of the 3rd and 4th of September, respectively). The 4th is also the start date for students in New York City's public schools, the country's largest district. Colleges more often start in September, but some get a jump start in August, especially with required seminars or orientation programs for new students. Whether you're in school, out of school, or back in school by proxy (packing lunches or paying tuition), what time does (or did) your school-year start? Would you prefer that your local public schools run all year round, if they're of the long-summer variety? (And conversely, if your local schools give short shrift to summer, whether that's in the U.S. or anywhere else, do you think that's a good idea?)

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For Fast Internet in the US, Virginia Tops the Charts

Sat, 09/08/2014 - 18:53
According to data gathered by Akamai, an analysis from Broadview Networks comes to the conclusion that the top five U.S. states for broadband speed are Virginia (at the top of the list, with an average transfer speed of 13.78 Mbps), Delaware, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Washington, with Washington, D.C. slightly edging out the similarly-named state; Alaska comes in dead last. These are average speeds, though, and big states have more variation to account for, including connections in the hinterlands. You could still have a fast connection in Chattanooga, or be stuck on dial-up in the Texas panhandle.

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New Process Promises Ammonia From Air, Water, and Sunlight

Sat, 09/08/2014 - 07:21
The synthesis of ammonia is one of the globe's most significant industrial applications of chemistry. PhysOrg reports the publication in the August issue of Science (sadly, article is paywalled) the description of a low-energy process to syntheize ammonia for fertilizer using just air, water, and sunlight, by zapping with electricity water bubbling through a matrix of iron oxide, and sodium and potassium hyroxide. Electricity isn't free, though — "Low energy" in this case means two-thirds the energy cost of the long-in-use Haber-Bosch process. Researcher Stuart Licht is getting some of the energy to run this reaction from a high-efficiency solar cell he's created, which creates hydrogen as a byproduct. Along with the elimination of the need to produce hydrogen from natural gas, the overall emissions are reduced quite significantly. The whole process also takes place at milder conditions, not requiring 450C and 200 times atmospheric pressure as the Haber-Bosch process does. ... But even with Licht's method, [University of Bristol electrochemistry professor David] Fermin points out that we are far away from being able to replicate nature's efficiency at converting nitrogen from the air to useful chemicals, which is done by nitrogen-fixing bacteria. "What is truly remarkable is that nature does it incredibly efficiently at low-temperature," Fermin added. And yet, if something more efficient can replace the Haber-Bosch process, it would lower the energy input of the production of one of the worlds most important chemicals and lead to a notable reduction in global CO2 emissions.

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Leaked Docs Show Spyware Used To Snoop On US Computers

Fri, 08/08/2014 - 23:51
Advocatus Diaboli writes Software created by the controversial UK-based Gamma Group International was used to spy on computers that appear to be located in the United States, the UK, Germany, Russia, Iran, and Bahrain, according to a leaked trove of documents analyzed by ProPublica. It's not clear whether the surveillance was conducted by governments or private entities. Customer e-mail addresses in the collection appeared to belong to a German surveillance company, an independent consultant in Dubai, the Bosnian and Hungarian Intelligence services, a Dutch law enforcement officer, and the Qatari government.

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Can We Call Pluto and Charon a 'Binary Planet' Yet?

Fri, 08/08/2014 - 23:10
astroengine writes The debate as to whether Pluto is a planet or a dwarf planet rumbles on, but in a new animation of the small world, one can't help but imagine another definition for Pluto. As NASA's New Horizons spacecraft continues its epic journey into the outer solar system, its Kuiper Belt target is becoming brighter and more defined. Seen through the mission's Long Range Reconnaissance Imager (LORRI) camera, this new set of observations clearly shows Pluto and its biggest moon Charon locked in a tight orbital dance separated by only 11,200 miles. (Compared with the Earth-moon orbital separation of around 240,000 miles, you can see how compact the Pluto-Charon system really is.) Both bodies are shown to be orbiting a common point — the "barycenter" is located well above Pluto's surface prompting a new debate on whether or not Pluto and Charon should be redefined as a "binary planet".

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Study Finds That Astronauts Are Severely Sleep Deprived

Fri, 08/08/2014 - 22:28
sciencehabit (1205606) writes "Researchers tracked the sleep patterns of 85 crew members aboard the International Space Station and space shuttle and found that despite an official flight schedule mandating 8.5 hours of sleep per night, they rarely got more than five. In fact, getting a full night's rest was so difficult that three-quarters of shuttle mission crew members used sleep medication, and sometimes entire teams were sedated on the same night. Given that sleep deprivation contributes to up to 80% of aviation accidents, it's important to better understand why sleep is so difficult in space, the authors say."

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Ask Slashdot: Life Beyond the WRT54G Series?

Fri, 08/08/2014 - 21:46
First time accepted submitter jarmund (2752233) writes "I first got a WRT54GL in 2007. Now, 7 years later, it's still churning along, despite only having one of its antennae left after an encounter with a toddler. As it is simply not up to date to today's standards (802.11N for example), what is a worthy successor? I enjoyed the freedom to choose the firmware myself (I've run Tomato on it since 2008), in addition to its robustness. A replacement will be considered second-rate unless it catered for the same freedom as its predecessor." Is there a canonical best household router nowadays?

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