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Updated: 1 day 8 hours ago

ISS Earth at Night Photos Crowdsourced For Science

Sun, 17/08/2014 - 19:03
teleyinex writes The Complutense University of Madrid (UCM) is leading a project called Cities at Night to catalog the images taken by astronauts from the ISS. The project uses the platform Crowdcrafting powered by the open source software PyBossa to catalog images in cities, stars or other objects, as well as geo-reference them."

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Is Dolby Atmos a Flop For Home Theater Like 3DTV Was?

Sun, 17/08/2014 - 01:03
An anonymous reader writes: Object-based audio is supposed to be the future of surround sound. The ability to pan sound around the room in 3D space as opposed to fixed channel assignments of yesterday's decoders. While this makes a lot of sense at the cinema, it's less likely consumers rush to mount speakers on their ceilings or put little speaker modules on top of their existing ones to bounce sound around the room. ">Leading experts think this will be just a fad like 3DTV was. What do you think?

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Broadband Subscribers Eclipsing Cable TV Subscribers

Sat, 16/08/2014 - 19:47
An anonymous reader writes: High-speed internet has become an everyday tool for most people, and cord-cutters have dramatically slowed the growth of cable TV, so this had to happen eventually: broadband internet subscribers now outnumber cable TV subscribers among the top cable providers in the U.S. According to a new report, these providers account for 49,915,000 broadband subscribers, edging out the number of cable subscribers by about 5,000. As Re/code's Peter Kafka notes, this means that for better or worse, the cable guys are now the internet guys. Kafka says their future is "selling you access to data pipes, and pay TV will be one of the things you use those pipes for."

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Fukushima's Biological Legacy

Sat, 16/08/2014 - 18:44
An anonymous reader sends this report from Eurekalert: Scientists began gathering biological information only a few months after the disastrous 2011 meltdown of the Fukushima power plant in Japan. Results of these studies are now beginning to reveal serious biological effects of the Fukushima radiation on non-human organisms ranging from plants to butterflies to birds. A series of articles summarizing these studies has been published in the Journal of Heredity describing impacts ranging from population declines to genetic damage (abstract 1, abstract 2, abstract 3, abstract 4). Most importantly, these studies supply a baseline for future research on the effects of ionizing radiation exposure to the environment. Common to all of the published studies is the hypothesis that chronic (low-dose) exposure to ionizing radiation results in genetic damage and increased mutation rates in reproductive and non-reproductive cells. Meanwhile, efforts to restart Japan's nuclear power program are dead in the water.

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Email Is Not Going Anywhere

Sat, 16/08/2014 - 17:40
An anonymous reader writes: It seems the latest trend sweeping the online world is the idea that email is on its way out. Kids are eschewing email for any of the hundreds of different instant messaging services, and startups are targeting email as a system they can "disrupt." Alexis C. Madrigal argues that attempts to move past email are shortsighted and faddish, as none of the alternatives give as much power to the user. "Email is actually a tremendous, decentralized, open platform on which new, innovative things can and have been built. In that way, email represents a different model from the closed ecosystems we see proliferating across our computers and devices. Email is a refugee from the open, interoperable, less-controlled 'web we lost.' It's an exciting landscape of freedom amidst the walled gardens of social networking and messaging services." Madrigal does believe that email will gradually lose some of its current uses as new technologies spring up and mature, but the core functionality is here to stay.

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Processors and the Limits of Physics

Sat, 16/08/2014 - 16:34
An anonymous reader writes: As our CPU cores have packed more and more transistors into increasingly tiny spaces, we've run into problems with power, heat, and diminishing returns. Chip manufacturers have been working around these problems, but at some point, we're going to run into hard physical limits that we can't sidestep. Igor Markov from the University of Michigan has published a paper in Nature (abstract) laying out the limits we'll soon have to face. "Markov focuses on two issues he sees as the largest limits: energy and communication. The power consumption issue comes from the fact that the amount of energy used by existing circuit technology does not shrink in a way that's proportional to their shrinking physical dimensions. The primary result of this issue has been that lots of effort has been put into making sure that parts of the chip get shut down when they're not in use. But at the rate this is happening, the majority of a chip will have to be kept inactive at any given time, creating what Markov terms 'dark silicon.' Power use is proportional to the chip's operating voltage, and transistors simply cannot operate below a 200 milli-Volt level. ... The energy use issue is related to communication, in that most of the physical volume of a chip, and most of its energy consumption, is spent getting different areas to communicate with each other or with the rest of the computer. Here, we really are pushing physical limits. Even if signals in the chip were moving at the speed of light, a chip running above 5GHz wouldn't be able to transmit information from one side of the chip to the other."

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Why the Universe Didn't Become a Black Hole

Sat, 16/08/2014 - 15:30
StartsWithABang writes: With some 10^90 particles in the observable Universe, even stretched across 92 billion light-years today, the Universe is precariously close to recollapsing. How, then, is it possible that back in the early stages after the Big Bang, when all this matter-and-energy was concentrated within a region of space no bigger than our current Solar System, the Universe didn't collapse down to a black hole? Not only do we have the explanation, but we learn that even if the Universe did recollapse, we wouldn't get a black hole at all!

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Knocking Down the Great Firewall of China

Sat, 16/08/2014 - 14:28
New submitter Nocturrne writes: The FOSS project Lantern is having great success in unblocking the internet for many users in oppressive regimes, like China and Iran. Much like Tor and BitTorrent, Lantern is using peer-to-peer networking to overcome firewalls, but with the additional security of a trusted network of friends. "If you download Lantern in an uncensored region, you can connect with someone in a censored region, who can then access whatever content they want through you. What makes the system so unique is that it operates on the basis of trust. ... Through a process called consistent routing, the amount of information any single Lantern user can learn about other users is limited to a small subset, making infiltration significantly more difficult." The network of peers is growing, but we need more friends in uncensored countries to join us.

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Apple Begins Storing Chinese User Data On Servers In China

Sat, 16/08/2014 - 10:13
An anonymous reader writes Reuters reported on Friday that Apple "has begun keeping the personal data of some Chinese users on servers in mainland China." Apple has claimed that the move is meant "to improve the speed and reliability of its iCloud service", but given China's track record with censorship and privacy, the explanation rings hollow for some skeptics. Nevertheless, Apple assures its Chinese users that their personal data on China Telecom is encrypted and that the encryption keys will be stored offshore. Only time will tell if Apple will be able to resist Chinese government requests to access its China-based servers.

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Tesla Removes Mileage Limits On Drive Unit Warranty Program

Sat, 16/08/2014 - 01:10
Ars Technica reports that Elon Musk today wrote that Tesla will remove mileage limits on its warranty policy for all Tesla Model S drive units. The warranty, which will still span eight years, won't have a cap on the number of owners for each vehicle. People who purchased Teslas before today were told that the warranty period for the drive unit expired after eight years or once the car logged over 125,000 miles. The revised warranty applies to new vehicles and Model S cars that are already on the road. The article mentions that quite a few Tesla owners have had to have their drive units replaced; out of warranty, that runs about $15,000. Musk's announcement acknowledges that the change may cost the company some money, but says he's "confident it will work out well in the long run."

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Google Brings Chrome OS User Management To Chrome

Sat, 16/08/2014 - 00:23
An anonymous reader writes "Google is toying with a complete revamp of the user account system in its browser. Google is essentially pulling the user management system from Chrome OS back into Chrome. The company's thinking is likely two-layered. First, it wants users to stay in the browser for as long as possible, and thus it wants the switching process to be part of Chrome as opposed to Windows, Mac, or Linux. Second, if it can teach users to have accounts in Chrome (as well as use incognito and guest modes), the learning curve will have been flattened for when they encounter Chrome OS."

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Project Aims To Build a Fully Open SoC and Dev Board

Fri, 15/08/2014 - 23:42
DeviceGuru (1136715) writes "A non-profit company is developing an open source 64-bit system-on-chip that will enable fully open hardware, 'from the CPU core to the development board.' The 'lowRISC' SoC is the brainchild of a team of hardware and software hackers from the University of Cambridge, with the stated goal of implementing a 'fully open computing eco-system, including the instruction set architecture (ISA), processor silicon, and development boards.' The lowRISC's design is based on a new 64-bit RISC-V ISA, developed at UC Berkeley. The RISC-V core design has now advanced enough for the lowRISC project to begin designing an SoC around it. Prototype silicon of a 'RISC-V Rocket' core itself has already been benchmarked at UC Berkeley, with results results (on GitHub) suggesting that in comparison to a 32-bit ARM Cortex-A5 core, the RISC-V core is faster, smaller, and uses less power. And on top of that it's open source. Oh, and there's a nifty JavaScript-based RISC-V simulator that runs in your browser."

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Switching Game Engines Halfway Through Development

Fri, 15/08/2014 - 23:23
An anonymous reader writes: Third-party game engines are wonderful creations, allowing developers to skip a lengthy and complicated part of the development process and spend more time on content creation. But each engine has its own strengths and weaknesses, and they may not be apparent at the beginning of a project. If you realize halfway through that your game doesn't work well on the engine you picked, what do you do? Jeff LaMarche describes how he and his team made the difficult decision to throw out all their work with Unity and start over with Unreal. He describes some technical limitations, like Unity's 32-bit nature, and some economic ones, like needing to pay $500 per person for effective version control. He notes that Unreal Engine 4 has its problems, too, but the biggest reason to switch was this: "Our team just wasn't finding it easy to collaborate. We weren't gelling as a cohesive team and we often felt like the tools were working against us."

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Groundwork Laid For Superfast Broadband Over Copper

Fri, 15/08/2014 - 23:01
itwbennett writes: Telecom equipment vendor Adtran has developed a technology that will make it easier for operators to roll out broadband speeds close to 500Mbps over copper lines. Adtran's FDV (Frequency Division Vectoring), enhances the capabilities of two technologies — VDSL2 with vectoring and G.fast — by enabling them to better coexist over a single subscriber line, the company said. VDSL2 with vectoring, which improves speeds by reducing noise and can deliver up to 150Mbps, is currently being rolled out by operators, while G.fast, which is capable of 500Mbps, is still under development, with the first deployments coming in mid-2015. FDV will make it easier for operators to roll out G.fast once it's ready and expand where it can be used, according to Adtran. Meanwhile, Ars Technica has an article about how Verizon is letting its copper network rot in order to passively encourage customers to switch to fiber.

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Supervalu Becomes Another Hacking Victim

Fri, 15/08/2014 - 22:18
plover sends this news about another possible exposure of customer data: Supervalu is the latest retailer to experience a data breach, announcing today that cybercriminals had accessed payment card transactions at some of its stores. The Minneapolis-based company said it had "experienced a criminal intrusion" into the portion of its computer network that processes payment card transactions for some of its stores. There was no confirmation that any cardholder data was in fact stolen and no evidence the data was misused, according to the company. The event occurred between June 22 and July 17, 2014 at 180 Supervalu stores and stand-alone liquor stores. Affected banners include Cub Foods, Farm Fresh, Hornbacher's, Shop 'n Save and Shoppers Food & Pharmacy.

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Watch a Cat Video, Get Hacked: the Death of Clear-Text

Fri, 15/08/2014 - 21:34
New submitter onproton writes: Citizen Lab released new research today on a targeted exploitation technique used by state actors involving "network injection appliances" installed at ISPs. These devices can target and intercept unencrypted YouTube traffic and replace it with malicious code that gives the operator control over the system or installs a surveillance backdoor. One of the researchers writes, "many otherwise well-informed people think they have to do something wrong, or stupid, or insecure to get hacked—like clicking on the wrong attachments, or browsing malicious websites...many of these commonly held beliefs are not necessarily true." This technique is largely designed for targeted attacks, so it's likely most of us will be safe for now — but just one more reminder to use https.

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How California's Carbon Market Actually Works

Fri, 15/08/2014 - 20:52
Lasrick writes: Almost 10 years ago, California's legislature passed Assembly Bill 32, the Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. AB 32 set the most ambitious legally binding climate policy in the United States, requiring that California's greenhouse gas emissions return to 1990 levels by the year 2020. The centerpiece of the state's efforts — in rhetorical terms, if not practical ones — is a comprehensive carbon market, which California's leaders promote as a model policy for controlling carbon pollution. Over the course of the past 18 months, however, California quietly changed its approach to a critical rule affecting the carbon market's integrity. Under the new rule, utilities are rewarded for swapping contracts on the Western electricity grid, without actually reducing greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere. Now that the Environmental Protection Agency is preparing to regulate greenhouse gases from power plants, many are looking to the Golden State for best climate policy practices. On that score, California's experience offers cautionary insights into the challenges of using carbon markets to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

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World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor Launches Nov. 13th

Fri, 15/08/2014 - 14:51
An anonymous reader writes: Yesterday at Gamescom, Blizzard announced the release date for the latest expansion to World of Warcraft, titled Warlords of Draenor. The expansion will launch on Thursday, November 13th. The launch date is 10 days prior to the game's 10th anniversary, and both will be celebrated by a lengthy incursion event in-game. Blizzard also released the cinematic trailer for Warlords of Draenor.

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Web Trolls Winning As Incivility Increases

Fri, 15/08/2014 - 14:30
mdsolar sends this story from the NY Times: The Internet may be losing the war against trolls. At the very least, it isn't winning. And unless social networks, media sites and governments come up with some innovative way of defeating online troublemakers, the digital world will never be free of the trolls' collective sway. That's the dismal judgment of the handful of scholars who study the broad category of online incivility known as trolling, a problem whose scope is not clear, but whose victims keep mounting. "As long as the Internet keeps operating according to a click-based economy, trolls will maybe not win, but they will always be present," said Whitney Phillips, a lecturer at Humboldt State University and the author of This Is Why We Can't Have Nice Things, a forthcoming book about her years of studying bad behavior online. "The faster that the whole media system goes, the more trolls have a foothold to stand on. They are perfectly calibrated to exploit the way media is disseminated these days."

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The Billion-Dollar Website

Fri, 15/08/2014 - 13:47
stoborrobots writes: The Government Accountability Office has investigated the cost blowouts associated with how the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) handled the Healthcare.gov project. It has released a 60-page report entitled Healthcare.gov: Ineffective Planning and Oversight Practices Underscore the Need for Improved Contract Management, with a 5 page summary. The key takeaway messages are: CMS undertook the development of Healthcare.gov and its related systems without effective planning or oversight practices... [The task] was a complex effort with compressed time frames. To be expedient, CMS issued task orders ... when key technical requirements were unknown... CMS identified major performance issues ... but took only limited steps to hold the contractor accountable.CMS awarded a new contract to another firm [and the new contract's cost has doubled] due to changes such as new requirements and other enhancements...

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