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npower now offering free Nest thermostats with its new energy tariff

Engadget - Fri, 26/09/2014 - 18:18
And so the battle for smart thermostat supremacy wages on. No sooner have we welcomed another warrior to the battlefield than energy provider npower's decided to start giving Nest thermostats away for free. As you may remember, Nest struck up a...

How Did the 'Berlin Patient' Rid Himself of HIV?

Slashdot - Fri, 26/09/2014 - 18:10
sciencehabit writes: Researchers are closer to unraveling the mystery of how Timothy Ray Brown, the only human cured of HIV, defeated the virus, according to a new study. Although the work doesn't provide a definitive answer, it rules out one possible explanation. [R]esearchers point to three different factors that could independently or in combination have rid Brown’s body of HIV. The first is the process of conditioning, in which doctors destroyed Brown’s own immune system with chemotherapy and whole body irradiation to prepare him for his bone marrow transplant. His oncologist, Gero Hütter, who was then with the Free University of Berlin, also took an extra step that he thought might not only cure the leukemia but also help rid Brown’s body of HIV. He found a bone marrow donor who had a rare mutation in a gene that cripples a key receptor on white blood cells the virus uses to establish an infection. (For years, researchers referred to Brown as "the Berlin patient.") The third possibility is his new immune system attacked remnants of his old one that held HIV-infected cells, a process known as graft versus host disease.

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The gospel of virtual reality according to Oculus

Engadget - Fri, 26/09/2014 - 18:01
This past Saturday, I found myself in the front row of what felt like an old-time revival, only instead of religious zealots, I was surrounded by roughly 800 disciples of virtual reality. Onstage at the inaugural Oculus Connect VR developer...

Nikola Tesla Museum could have a brick with your name on it

Engadget - Fri, 26/09/2014 - 17:33
After running a successful initial round of crowdfunding, The Oatmeal is now looking to put the finishing touches on its plans to build a Nikola Tesla Museum. To do so, it needs a bit more help from kind souls on the internet. Despite hitting the...

Security Collapse In the HTTPS Market

Slashdot - Fri, 26/09/2014 - 17:23
CowboyRobot writes: HTTPS has evolved into the de facto standard for secure Web browsing. Through the certificate-based authentication protocol, Web services and Internet users first authenticate one another ("shake hands") using a TLS/SSL certificate, encrypt Web communications end-to-end, and show a padlock in the browser to signal that a communication is secure. In recent years, HTTPS has become an essential technology to protect social, political, and economic activities online. At the same time, widely reported security incidents (such as DigiNotar's breach, Apple's #gotofail, and OpenSSL's Heartbleed) have exposed systemic security vulnerabilities of HTTPS to a global audience. The Edward Snowden revelations (notably around operation BULLRUN, MUSCULAR, and the lesser-known FLYING PIG program to query certificate metadata on a dragnet scale) have driven the point home that HTTPS is both a major target of government hacking and eavesdropping, as well as an effective measure against dragnet content surveillance when Internet traffic traverses global networks. HTTPS, in short, is an absolutely critical but fundamentally flawed cybersecurity technology.

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Say Ello to the anti-Facebook

Engadget - Fri, 26/09/2014 - 17:00
Ello seems to have come out of nowhere. The creators are designers and artists. Its CEO, Paul Budnitz, makes toys. There's no big marketing push and no obvious ties to Silicon Valley. These are not the typical building blocks of a hot new social...

How the NSA Profits Off of Its Surveillance Technology

Slashdot - Fri, 26/09/2014 - 16:41
blottsie writes: The National Security Agency has been making money on the side by licensing its technology to private businesses for more than two decades. It's called the Technology Transfer Program, under which the NSA declassifies some of its technologies that it developed for previous operations, patents them, and, if they're swayed by an American company's business plan and nondisclosure agreements, rents them out. The products include tools to transcribe voice recordings in any language, a foolproof method to tell if someone's touched your phone's SIM card, or a version of email encryption that isn't available on the open market.

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Where to buy Sony's Xperia Z3 and Z3 Compact

Engadget - Fri, 26/09/2014 - 16:35
It's a pretty interesting time to be in the market for a new mobile. Over the past month, we've seen Samsung's Galaxy Alpha and Apple's iPhone 6 and 6 Plus launch, not to mention Samsung's Galaxy Note 4 will join that list in a few weeks. And as if...

2015 Corvette Valet Mode Recorder Illegal In Some States

Slashdot - Fri, 26/09/2014 - 15:59
innocent_white_lamb writes: The 2015 Corvette has a Valet Mode that records audio and video when someone other than the owner is driving the car. Activating the Valet Mode allows you to record front-facing video as well as capture audio from within the car so you can help keep your Corvette safe when it's in the hands of others. Well, it turns out that recording audio from within the car may be considered a felony in some states that require notice and consent to individuals that they are being recorded. Now GM is sending notices out to dealerships and customers alerting them to this fact as well as promising a future update to the PDR system.

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PostgreSQL Outperforms MongoDB In New Round of Tests

Slashdot - Fri, 26/09/2014 - 15:15
New submitter RaDag writes: PostgreSQL outperformed MongoDB, the leading document database and NoSQL-only solution provider, on larger workloads than initial performance benchmarks. Performance benchmarks conducted by EnterpriseDB, which released the framework for public scrutiny on GitHub, showed PostgreSQL outperformed MongoDB in selecting, loading and inserting complex document data in key workloads involving 50 million records. This gives developers the freedom to combine structured and unstructured data in a single database with ACID compliance and relational capabilities.

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The Great Lightbulb Conspiracy

Slashdot - Fri, 26/09/2014 - 14:32
HughPickens.com writes: Markus Krajewski reports that today, with many countries phasing out incandescent lighting in favor of more-efficient and pricier LEDs, it's worth revisiting the history of the Phoebus cartel — not simply as a quirky anecdote from the annals of technology, but as a cautionary tale about the strange and unexpected pitfalls that can arise when a new technology vanquishes an old one. Prior to the Phoebus cartel's formation in 1924, household light bulbs typically burned for a total of 1,500 to 2,500 hours; cartel members agreed to shorten that life span to a standard 1,000 hours. Each factory regularly sent lightbulb samples to the cartel's central laboratory in Switzerland for verification. If any factory submitted bulbs lasting longer or shorter than the regulated life span for its type, the factory was obliged to pay a fine. Though long gone, the Phoebus cartel still casts a shadow today because it reduced competition in the light bulb industry for almost twenty years, and has been accused of preventing technological advances that would have produced longer-lasting light bulbs. Will history repeat itself as the lighting industry is now going through its most tumultuous period of technological change since the invention of the incandescent bulb? "Consumers are expected to pay more money for bulbs that are up to 10 times as efficient and that are touted to last a fantastically long time—up to 50,000 hours in the case of LED lights. In normal usage, these lamps will last so long that their owners will probably sell the house they're in before having to change the bulbs," writes Krajewski. "Whether or not these pricier bulbs will actually last that long is still an open question, and not one that the average consumer is likely to investigate." There are already reports of CFLs and LED lamps burning out long before their rated lifetimes are reached. "Such incidents may well have resulted from nothing more sinister than careless manufacturing. But there is no denying that these far more technologically sophisticated products offer tempting opportunities for the inclusion of purposefully engineered life-shortening defects.""

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DHL Goes Live With 'Parcelcopter' Drone Delivery Service

Slashdot - Fri, 26/09/2014 - 13:50
jones_supa writes: In December, Amazon announced it intends to deliver packages to customers using drones. But its initiative was widely ridiculed for being an over-hyped announcement with little to show for it. This summer, Google demonstrated its own drone-based delivery service, using a fixed-wing aircraft to deliver little packages to farmers in the Australian outback. But now, German delivery firm DHL has beaten the tech firms to the punch, announcing a regular drone delivery service for the first time, nine months after it launched its "parcelcopter" research project in December 2013. The service will use an quadcopter to deliver small parcels to the German island of Juist, a sandbar island 12km into the North Sea from the German coast, inhabited by 2,000 people. Deliveries will include medication and other urgently needed goods. Flying below 50 meters to avoid entering regulated air traffic corridors, the drone takes a fully automated route, carrying a special air-transport container that is extremely lightweight as well as weatherproof.

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Forest Service Wants To Require Permits For Photography

Slashdot - Fri, 26/09/2014 - 05:28
An anonymous reader points out this story about new regulations for media who wish to take pictures or video in federally designated wilderness areas. "The U.S. Forest Service has tightened restrictions on media coverage in vast swaths of the country's wild lands, requiring reporters to pay for a permit and get permission before shooting a photo or video in federally designated wilderness areas. Under rules being finalized in November, a reporter who met a biologist, wildlife advocate or whistleblower alleging neglect in 36 million acres of wilderness would first need special approval to shoot photos or videos even on an iPhone. Permits cost up to $1,500, says Forest Service spokesman Larry Chambers, and reporters who don't get a permit could face fines up to $1,000. First Amendment advocates say the rules ignore press freedoms and are so vague they'd allow the Forest Service to grant permits only to favored reporters shooting videos for positive stories.

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Indian Mars Mission Beams Back First Photographs

Slashdot - Fri, 26/09/2014 - 00:58
astroengine writes India's Mars Orbiter Mission (MOM) got straight to work as it closed in on Martian orbit on Tuesday — it began taking photographs of the Red Planet and its atmosphere and surface as it slowed down to reach its ultimate destination. After a two day wait, those first images are slowly trickling onto the Internet.

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First Shellshock Botnet Attacking Akamai, US DoD Networks

Slashdot - Fri, 26/09/2014 - 00:40
Bismillah writes The Bash "Shellshock" bug is being used to spread malware to create a botnet, that's active and attacking Akamai and Department of Defense networks. "The 'wopbot' botnet is active and scanning the internet for vulnerable systems, including at the United States Department of Defence, chief executive of Italian security consultancy Tiger Security, Emanuele Gentili, told iTnews. 'We have found a botnet that runs on Linux servers, named “wopbot", that uses the Bash Shellshock bug to auto-infect other servers,' Gentili said."

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Drones Reveal Widespread Tax Evasion In Argentina

Slashdot - Thu, 25/09/2014 - 19:46
Tailhook (98486) writes "The Argentine government has used drones to reveal 200 homes and 100 pools in an upper class area about ten miles south of Buenos Aires that had not been detailed on tax returns. Tax officials said the drones took pictures of luxury houses standing on lots registered as empty. The evasions found by the drones amounted to missing tax payments of more than $2 million and owners of the properties have been warned they now face large fines."

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Ask Slashdot: Is Reporting Still Relevant?

Slashdot - Thu, 25/09/2014 - 18:04
New submitter MrWHO (68268) writes A while ago we switched for monitoring our systems to the ELK (ElasticSearch, LogStash and Kibana) stack. Our management wanted to keep the reports they got — and possibly never read — flowing in at the beginning of every week with statistics like sites traffic, servers downtime, security alerts and the works. As we migrated some of our clients to the same stack they kept all asking for the same thing: reporting. There was no way for us to create and schedule reports from ElasticSearch — searches for ElasticSearch and Jasper Reports returned nothing apart from people asking how to do it — so we created our own Jasper Reports plugin to create reports from ElasticSearch data, which we released on GitHub a while ago, and we promptly moved along. None of our clients were easily convinced that a dashboard — Kibana — was a substitute for mail delivered PDFs, even if all the information was there, with custom created panels and selectable date ranges. On the other hand, on the ElasticSearch mailing list when questions were asked about "how do I do reports?" the answer was, and I sum it up here, "Why would you want reports when you have a dashboard?" Are reports still relevant — the PDF, templated, straight in to your mail kind — or the subset of my clients — we operate mainly in Italy — is a skewed sample of what's the actual reality of access to summary data? Are dashboards — management targeted ones — the current accepted solution or — in your experience — reports are still a hot item for management?

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Miss a Payment? Your Car Stops Running

Slashdot - Thu, 25/09/2014 - 17:20
HughPickens.com writes Auto loans to borrowers considered subprime, those with credit scores at or below 640, have spiked in the last five years with roughly 25 percent of all new auto loans made last year subprime, a volume of $145 billion in the first three months of this year. Now the NYT reports that before they can drive off the lot, many subprime borrowers must have their car outfitted with a so-called starter interrupt device, which allows lenders to remotely disable the ignition. By simply clicking a mouse or tapping a smartphone, lenders retain the ultimate control. Borrowers must stay current with their payments, or lose access to their vehicle and a leading device maker, PassTime of Littleton, Colo., says its technology has reduced late payments to roughly 7 percent from nearly 29 percent. "The devices are reshaping the dynamics of auto lending by making timely payments as vital to driving a car as gasoline." Mary Bolender, who lives in Las Vegas, needed to get her daughter to an emergency room, but her 2005 Chrysler van would not start. Bolender was three days behind on her monthly car payment. Her lender remotely activated a device in her car's dashboard that prevented her car from starting. Before she could get back on the road, she had to pay more than $389, money she did not have that morning in March. "I felt absolutely helpless," said Bolender, a single mother who stopped working to care for her daughter. Some borrowers say their cars were disabled when they were only a few days behind on their payments, leaving them stranded in dangerous neighborhoods. Others said their cars were shut down while idling at stoplights. Some described how they could not take their children to school or to doctor's appointments. One woman in Nevada said her car was shut down while she was driving on the freeway. Attorney Robert Swearingen says there's an old common law principle that a lender can't "breach the peace" in a repossession. That means they can't put a person in harm's way. To Swearingen, that would mean "turning off a car in a bad neighborhood, or for a single female at night."

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Euclideon Teases Photorealistic Voxel-Based Game Engine

Slashdot - Thu, 25/09/2014 - 16:34
MojoKid writes Not many would argue that current console and PC graphics technologies still haven't reached a level of "photo-realism." However, a company by the name of Euclideon is claiming to be preparing to deliver that holy grail based on laser scanning and voxel engine-based technologies. The company has put together a six-minute video clip of its new engine, and its genuinely impressive. There's a supposed-to-be-impressive unveil around the two minute mark where the announcer declares he's showing us computer-generated graphics rather than a digital photo — something you'll probably have figured out long before that point. Euclideon's proprietary design purportedly uses a laser scanner to create a point cloud model of a real-world area. That area can then be translated into a voxel renderer and drawn by a standard GPU. Supposedly this can be done so efficiently and with such speed that there's no need for conventional load screens or enormous amounts of texture memory but rather by simply streaming data off conventional hard drives. Previously, critiques have pointed to animation as one area where the company's technique might struggle. Given the ongoing lack of a demonstrated solution for animation, it's fair to assume this would-be game-changer has some challenges still to solve. That said, some of the renderings are impressive.

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Where Whistleblowers End Up Working

Slashdot - Thu, 25/09/2014 - 13:03
HughPickens.com writes Jana Kasperkevic writes at The Guardian that it's not every day that you get to buy an iPhone from an ex-NSA officer. Yet Thomas Drake, former senior executive at National Security Agency, is well known in the national security circles for leaking information about the NSA's Trailblazer project to Baltimore Sun. In 2010, the government dropped all 10 felony charges against him and he pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge for unauthorized use of a computer and lost his livelihood. "You have to mortgage your house, you have to empty your bank account. I went from making well over $150,000 a year to a quarter of that," says Drake. "The cost alone, financially — never mind the personal cost — is approaching million dollars in terms of lost income, expenses and other costs I incurred." John Kiriakou became the first former government official to confirm the use of waterboarding against al-Qaida suspects in 2009. "I have applied for every job I can think of – everything from grocery stores to Toys R Us to Starbucks. You name it, I've applied there. Haven't gotten even an email or a call back," says Kiriakou. According to Kasperkevic, this is what most whistleblowers can expect. The potential threat of prosecution, the mounting legal bills and the lack of future job opportunities all contribute to a hesitation among many to rock the boat. "Obama and his attorney general, Eric Holder, declared a war on whistleblowers virtually as soon as they assumed office," says Kiriakou. "Washington has always needed an "ism" to fight against, an idea against which it could rally its citizens like lemmings. First, it was anarchism, then socialism, then communism. Now, it's terrorism. Any whistleblower who goes public in the name of protecting human rights or civil liberties is accused of helping the terrorists."

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