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Updated: 23 hours 21 min ago

The Quiet Before the Next IT Revolution

Wed, 13/08/2014 - 07:20
snydeq writes: Now that the technologies behind our servers and networks have stabilized, IT can look forward to a different kind of constant change, writes Paul Venezia. "In IT, we are actually seeing a bit of stasis. I don't mean that the IT world isn't moving at the speed of light — it is — but the technologies we use in our corporate data centers have progressed to the point where we can leave them be for the foreseeable future without worry that they will cause blocking problems in other areas of the infrastructure. What all this means for IT is not that we can finally sit back and take a break after decades of turbulence, but that we can now focus less on the foundational elements of IT and more on the refinements. ... In essence, we have finally built the transcontinental railroad, and now we can use it to completely transform our Wild West."

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Apple's Diversity Numbers: 70% Male, 55% White

Wed, 13/08/2014 - 05:15
An anonymous reader writes: Apple has released a diversity report on the genders and races of its employees. As is common in the tech industry, the majority of Apple's workforce is male — only three out of 10 employees around the globe are female. Broken down, males compose 65 percent of non-tech workers, 80 percent of tech workers, and 72 percent of Apple's leadership. According to CEO Tim Cook, he's unhappy with Apple's diversity numbers and says Apple is working to improve them: "Apple is committed to transparency, which is why we are publishing statistics about the race and gender makeup of our company. Let me say up front: As CEO, I'm not satisfied with the numbers on this page. They're not new to us, and we've been working hard for quite some time to improve them. We are making progress, and we're committed to being as innovative in advancing diversity as we are in developing our products."

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Scientists Who Smuggle Radioactive Materials

Wed, 13/08/2014 - 03:13
Lasrick writes: Although the complicity of scientists in the smuggling of radioactive materials has been a long-standing concern, smuggling-prevention efforts have so far failed to recognize a key aspect to the problem: scientists are often sought out to test the quality and level of the material well before it is taken to the black market. Egle Murauskaite of the U.S. National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) describes why concentrating on this aspect of the smuggling process, long considered less egregious than the actual selling of the material, could really make a difference in keeping radioactive materials off the black market in the first place.

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Reversible Type-C USB Connector Ready For Production

Tue, 12/08/2014 - 23:47
orasio writes: One of the most frustrating first-world problems ever (trying to connect an upside-down Micro-USB connector) could disappear soon. The Type-C connector for USB has been declared ready for production by the USB Promoter Group (PDF). "With the Type-C spec finalized, it now comes down to the USB-IF to actually implement the sockets, plugs, cables, adapters, and devices. The problem is that there are billions of existing USB devices and cables that will need adapters and new cables to work with new Type-C devices. It’s a lot like when Apple released the Lightning connector, but on an even grander scale. Further exacerbating the issue is the fact that China, the EU, and the GSMA have all agreed that new mobile devices use Micro-USB for charging — though it might be as simple as including a Micro-USB-to-Type-C adapter with every new smartphone."

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Is "Scorpion" Really a Genius?

Tue, 12/08/2014 - 06:25
An anonymous reader writes CBS's upcoming hacker show Scorpion is pitched as based on the real life of Irish 'eccentric genius' Walter O'Brien a.k.a. "Scorpion". Some of the claims made for the real Scorpion are extraordinary. A child prodigy with an IQ of 197, hacking Nasa at age 13, [supplying] Ireland with more Personal Computers than DELL and Gateway together. Searching online I wasn't able to find anything which, for me, clearly backed up any of these (or other) claims. For example, rather than being the sixth fastest programmer in the world in 1993, his team ranked 90th out of 250 teams. Curiously, his degree grade was an ok, but hardly stellar B+ (II-I). Does anyone know anything to back up the genius claims being made about Scorpion?

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Patents That Kill

Tue, 12/08/2014 - 04:15
wabrandsma (2551008) writes From The Economist: "The patent system, which was developed independently in 15th century Venice and then in 17th century England, gave entrepreneurs a monopoly to sell their inventions for a number of years. Yet by the 1860s the patent system came under attack, including from The Economist. Patents, critics argued, stifled future creativity by allowing inventors to rest on their laurels. Recent economic research backs this up."

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Chile Earthquake Triggered Icequakes In Antarctica

Tue, 12/08/2014 - 00:33
sciencehabit (1205606) writes In 2010, a powerful magnitude-8.8 earthquake struck off the coast of central Chile, rocking much of the country and producing tremor as far away as Argentina and Peru. But a new study suggests its effects were felt even farther away—in Antarctica. In the wake of the Maule temblor, the scientists found, several seismic stations on the frozen continent registered 'icequakes,' probably due to fracturing of the ice as the planet's crust shook.

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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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