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Microsoft Lays Off 2,100, Axes Silicon Valley Research

Slashdot - Fri, 19/09/2014 - 01:06
walterbyrd writes with news of Microsoft layoffs. Microsoft Corp will close its Silicon Valley research-and-development operation as part of 2,100 layoffs announced on Thursday, as it moves toward its new CEO's goal of cutting 18,000 staff, or about 14 percent of its workforce. News of the closure of the Microsoft Research lab at the company's campus in Mountain View, California, was first made public on Twitter by employees. The company later confirmed the move and said it would involve the loss of 50 jobs.

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Apple's "Warrant Canary" Has Died

Slashdot - Fri, 19/09/2014 - 00:34
HughPickens.com writes When Apple published its first Transparency Report on government activity in late 2013, the document contained an important footnote that stated: "Apple has never received an order under Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act. We would expect to challenge such an order if served on us." Now Jeff John Roberts writes at Gigaom that Apple's warrant canary has disappeared. A review of the company's last two Transparency Reports, covering the second half of 2013 and the first six months of 2014, shows that the "canary" language is no longer there suggesting that Apple is now part of FISA or PRISM proceedings. Warrant canaries are a tool used by companies and publishers to signify to their users that, so far, they have not been subject to a given type of law enforcement request such as a secret subpoena. If the canary disappears, then it is likely the situation has changed — and the company has been subject to such request. This may also give some insight into Apple's recent decision to rework its latest encryption in a way that makes it almost impossible for the company to turn over data from most iPhones or iPads to police.

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Mystery Signal Could Be Dark Matter Hint In ISS Detector

Slashdot - Thu, 18/09/2014 - 23:51
astroengine writes Analysis of 41 billion cosmic rays striking the Alpha Magnetic Spectrometer particle detector aboard the International Space Station shows an unknown phenomena that is "consistent with a dark matter particle" known as a neutralino, researchers announced Thursday. Key to the hunt is the ratio of positrons to electrons and so far the evidence from AMS points in the direction of dark matter. The smoking gun scientists look for is a rise in the ratio of positrons to electrons, followed by a dramatic fall — the telltale sign of dark matter annihilating the Milky Way's halo, which lies beyond its central disk of stars and dust. However, "we have not found the definitive proof of dark matter," AMS lead researcher Samuel Ting, with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and CERN in Switzerland, wrote in an email to Discovery News. "Whereas all the AMS results point in the right direction, we still need to measure how quickly the positron fraction falls off at the highest energies in order to rule out astrophysical sources such as pulsars." But still, this new finding is a tantalizing step in the dark matter direction.

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Dremel Releases 3D Printer

Slashdot - Thu, 18/09/2014 - 23:08
Lucas123 writes Power tool maker Dremel today announced it's now selling a desktop 3D printer that it said is targeted at "the masses" with a $1,000 price tag and intuitive software. Dremel's 3D Idea Builder is a fused deposition modeling (FDM) machine that can use only one type of polymer filament, polylactide (PLA) and that comes in 10 colors. The new 3D printer has a 9-in. x 5.9-in. x 5.5-in. build area housed in a self-contained box with a detachable lid and side panels. Dremel's currently selling its machine on Amazon and The Home Depot's website, but it plans brick and mortar store sales this November.

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A Beginner's Guide To Programming With Swift

Slashdot - Thu, 18/09/2014 - 22:46
Nerval's Lobster (2598977) writes Earlier this year, Apple executives unveiled Swift, which is meant to eventually replace Objective-C as the programming language of choice for Macs and iOS devices. Now that iOS 8's out, a lot of developers who build apps for Apple's platforms will likely give Swift a more intensive look. While Apple boasts that Swift makes programming easy, it'll take some time to learn how the language works. A new walkthrough by developer David Bolton shows how to build a very simple app in Swift, complete with project files (hosted on SourceForge) so you can follow along. A key takeaway: while some Swift features do make programming easier, there's definitely a learning curve here.

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New Study Projects World Population of 11B by 2100

Slashdot - Thu, 18/09/2014 - 20:18
vinces99 (2792707) writes Using modern statistical tools, a new study led by the University of Washington and the United Nations finds that world population is likely to keep growing throughout the 21st century. The number of people on Earth is likely to reach 11 billion by 2100, the study concludes, about 2 billion higher than widely cited previous estimates. The paper published online Sept. 18 in the journal Science includes the most up-to-date numbers for future world population, and describes a new method for creating such estimates. "The consensus over the past 20 years or so was that world population, which is currently around 7 billion, would go up to 9 billion and level off or probably decline," said corresponding author Adrian Raftery, a UW professor of statistics and of sociology. ... The paper explains the most recent United Nations population data released in July. This is the first U.N. population report to use modern statistics, known as Bayesian statistics, that combines all available information to generate better predictions. Most of the anticipated growth is in Africa, where population is projected to quadruple from around 1 billion today to 4 billion by the end of the century. The main reason is that birth rates in sub-Saharan Africa have not been going down as fast as had been expected. There is an 80 percent chance that the population in Africa at the end of the century will be between 3.5 billion and 5.1 billion people.

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Apple Will No Longer Unlock Most iPhones, iPads For Police

Slashdot - Thu, 18/09/2014 - 17:59
SternisheFan writes with this selection from a story at the Washington Post: Apple said Wednesday night that it is making it impossible for the company to turn over data from most iPhones or iPads to police — even when they have a search warrant — taking a hard new line as tech companies attempt to blunt allegations that they have too readily participated in government efforts to collect user data. The move, announced with the publication of a new privacy policy tied to the release of Apple's latest mobile operating system, iOS 8, amounts to an engineering solution to a legal dilemma: Rather than comply with binding court orders, Apple has reworked its latest encryption in a way that makes it almost impossible for the company – or anyone else but the device's owner – to gain access to the vast troves of user data typically stored on smartphones or tablet computers. The key is the encryption that Apple mobile devices automatically put in place when a user selects a passcode, making it difficult for anyone who lacks that passcode to access the information within, including photos, e-mails, recordings or other documents. Apple once kept possession of encryption keys that unlocked devices for legally binding police requests, but will no longer do so for iOS8, it said in a new guide for law enforcement. "Unlike our competitors, Apple cannot bypass your passcode and therefore cannot access this data," Apple said on its Web site. "So it's not technically feasible for us to respond to government warrants for the extraction of this data from devices in their possession running iOS 8."

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Alice Is Killing Trolls But Patent Lawyers Will Strike Back

Slashdot - Thu, 18/09/2014 - 17:17
snydeq writes The wheels of justice spin slowly, but they seem finally to be running software patents out of town, writes Simon Phipps in his analysis of how Alice Corp. v CLS Bank is becoming a landmark decision for patent cases in the U.S. 'In case after case, the Court of Appeals is using Alice to resolve patent appeals. In each case so far, the Court of Appeals has found the software patents in question to be invalid. ... As PatentlyO points out, the Alice effect is even reaching to lower courts, saving the Court of Appeals from having to strike down patent findings on appeal.' Although the patent industry broadly speaking sees the Alice verdict as a death knell for many existing patents, some expect Alice to turn software patents into 'draftsmen's art because as you and I have seen over the years, every time there's a court ruling it just means that you have to word the patent claims differently.'

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London's Crime Hot Spots Predicted Using Mobile Phone Data

Slashdot - Thu, 18/09/2014 - 14:26
KentuckyFC (1144503) writes A growing number of police forces around the world are using data on past crimes to predict the likelihood of crimes in the future. These predictions can be made more accurate by combining crime data with local demographic data about the local population. However, this data is time consuming and expensive to collect and so only updated rarely. Now a team of data experts have shown how combing crime data with data collected from mobile phones can make the prediction of future crimes even more accurate. The team used an anonymised dataset of O2 mobile phone users in the London metropolitan area during December 2012 and January 2013. They then used a small portion of the data to train a machine learning algorithm to find correlations between this and local crime statistics in the same period. Finally, they used the trained algorithm to predict future crime rates in the same areas. Without the mobile phone data, the predictions have an accuracy of 62 per cent. But the phone data increases this accuracy significantly to almost 70 per cent. What's more, the data is cheap to collect and can be gathered in more or less real time. Whether the general population would want their data used in this way is less clear but either way Minority Report-style policing is looking less far-fetched than when the film appeared in 2002.

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IOCCC 2014 Now In Progress

Slashdot - Thu, 18/09/2014 - 13:26
leob (154345) writes In case you haven't noticed yet, the 23rd International Obfuscated C Code Contest is now in progress. A pre-announcement was made on Twitter in the end of August; the online submission tool is now available until 2014-Oct-19 18:17:16 UTC.

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Apple Locks iPhone 6/6+ NFC To Apple Pay Only

Slashdot - Thu, 18/09/2014 - 08:08
Ronin Developer writes From the Cnet article: "At last week's Apple event, the company announced Apple Pay — a new mobile payments service that utilizes NFC technology in conjunction with its Touch ID fingerprint scanner for secure payments that can be made from the iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus or Apple Watch. Apple also announced a number of retailers that would accept Apple Pay for mobile payments at launch. However, Cult of Mac reports that NFC will be locked to the Apple Pay platform, meaning the technology will not be available for other uses. An Apple spokesperson confirmed the lock down of the technology, saying developers would be restricted from utilizing its NFC chip functionality for at least a year. Apple declined to comment on whether NFC capability would remain off limits beyond that period." So, it would appear, for at least a year, that Apple doesn't want competing mobile payment options to be available on the newly released iPhone 6 and 6+. While it's understandable that they want to promote their payment scheme and achieve a critical mass for Apple Pay, it's a strategy that may very well backfire as other other mobile payment vendors gain strength on competing platforms.

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Are Matt's Robot Hexapods Creepy or Cute? (Video)

Slashdot - Wed, 17/09/2014 - 23:03
University of Arizona grad student Matt Bunting doesn't come across as a mad scientist. That's a very good thing, because his robot hexapod creations are easy to imagine crawling across the USA in large hordes, devouring everything in their path and using all the electricity they come across to feed their Queen Hexapod, a 3-D printer mounted on a hexapod chassis that turns everything fed to it into more robots. Luckily, the real life Matt is an affable (self-described) "Roboticist, Electrical Engineer, Musician, and Rock Crawler" who freely admits that at this time his robotic creations have no practical application whatsoever. This is probably true, except for the fact that they can liven up a music video like mad, as you can see on YouTube in Pedals Music Video (featuring REAL robots) . Our little video is a lot simpler, of course. In it, we interview Matt and he tells us what he's up to with his robots, and gives some 'how to get started with robotics' advice for budding young engineers. (Alternate Video Link)

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Use of Forced Labor "Systemic" In Malaysian IT Manufacturing

Slashdot - Wed, 17/09/2014 - 22:18
itwbennett (1594911) writes "The use of forced labor is so prevalent in the Malaysian electronics manufacturing industry that there is hardly a major brand name that isn't touched by the illegal practice, according to a report funded by the U.S. Department of Labor and undertaken by Verité, a nonprofit organization focused on labor issues. The two-year study surveyed more than 500 migrant workers at around 200 companies in Malaysia's IT manufacturing sector and found one in three were working under conditions of forced labor."

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eBay Redirect Attack Puts Buyers' Credentials At Risk

Slashdot - Wed, 17/09/2014 - 21:35
mrspoonsi points out this BBC story about an eBay breach that was directing users to a spoof site. "eBay has been compromised so that people who clicked on some of its links were automatically diverted to a site designed to steal their credentials. The spoof site had been set up to look like the online marketplace's welcome page. The firm was alerted to the hack on Wednesday night but removed the listings only after a follow-up call from the BBC more than 12 hours later. One security expert said he was surprised by the length of time taken. 'EBay is a large company and it should have a 24/7 response team to deal with this — and this case is unambiguously bad,' said Dr Steven Murdoch from University College London's Information Security Research Group. The security researcher was able to analyze the listing involved before eBay removed it. He said that the technique used was known as a cross-site scripting (XSS) attack."

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How Flickr Is Courting the Next Generation of Photographers

Slashdot - Wed, 17/09/2014 - 20:52
First time accepted submitter Molly McHugh writes Flickr Vice President Bernardo Hernandez explains how the beloved photo platform is targeting a new generation that's addicted to smartphones. “10 or 15 years ago it was expensive and complicated to explore the world of photography,” Hernandez said. "Very few people could afford that—[it is] no surprise the best photographers 20 years ago were older people. We believe all of that is changing with the mobile [photography] revolution."

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Obama Presses Leaders To Speed Ebola Response

Slashdot - Wed, 17/09/2014 - 20:10
mdsolar writes with the latest plan from the U.S. government to fight the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, and a call for more help from other nations by the President. President Obama on Tuesday challenged world powers to accelerate the global response to the Ebola outbreak that is ravaging West Africa, warning that unless health care workers, medical equipment and treatment centers were swiftly deployed, the disease could take hundreds of thousands of lives. "This epidemic is going to get worse before it gets better," Mr. Obama said here at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, where he met with doctors who had just returned from West Africa. The world, he said, "has the responsibility to act, to step up and to do more. The United States intends to do more." Even as the president announced a major American deployment to Liberia and Senegal of medicine, equipment and 3,000 military personnel, global health officials said that time was running out and that they had weeks, not months, to act. They said that although the American contribution was on a scale large enough to make a difference, a coordinated assault in Africa from other Western powers was essential to bringing the virus under control.

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Is the Tesla Model 3 Actually Going To Cost $50,000?

Slashdot - Wed, 17/09/2014 - 19:28
cartechboy writes How low can battery costs go, and how fast? That's the question automakers are dealing with when it comes to the future of electric cars. Tesla is betting big on electric and has already proven many skeptics wrong with its Model S sedan. The company is making even bolder claims with its upcoming Model 3 stating it'll have about 200 miles of range and a base price of $35,000. That's a nice goal, but is it possible. Battery skeptic Menahem Anderman wrote a new report suggesting that the pace of cost reduction for electric car batteries won't be as swift as Tesla's CEO Elon Musk suggests. This leads Anderman to predict the actual price of the upcoming Model 3 will be in the range of $50,000-$80,000.

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Wave Power Fails To Live Up To Promise

Slashdot - Wed, 17/09/2014 - 18:46
the_newsbeagle writes: One of the leading companies developing wave power devices, Ocean Power Technologies, has dramatically scaled down its ambitions. The company had planned to install the world's first commercial-scale wave farms off the coast of Australia and Oregon, but has now announced that it's ending those projects. Instead it will focus on developing next-gen devices. Apparently the economics of wave power just don't make sense yet.

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ISIS Bans Math and Social Studies For Children

Slashdot - Wed, 17/09/2014 - 16:43
mpicpp sends this news from CNN: In swaths of Syria now controlled by ISIS, children can no longer study math or social studies. Sports are out of the question. And students will be banned from learning about elections and democracy. Instead, they'll be subjected to the teachings of the radical Islamist group. And any teacher who dares to break the rules "will be punished." ISIS revealed its new educational demands in fliers posted on billboards and on street poles. The Sunni militant group has captured a slew of Syrian and Iraqi cities in recent months as it tries to establish a caliphate, or Islamic state, spanning Sunni parts of both countries. Books cannot include any reference to evolution. And teachers must say that the laws of physics and chemistry "are due to Allah's rules and laws."

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Logitech Aims To Control the Smart Home

Slashdot - Wed, 17/09/2014 - 16:00
An anonymous reader writes: Household devices are getting smarter these days: the so-called internet of things is bringing software-controlled thermostats, lighting, and other appliances into the mainstream. Many companies are fighting for a piece of the pie, but Logitech is taking a different approach. They're mostly known for computer peripherals, but they also make multi-function remote controls, and now they're trying to build remotes that will control all of a home's smart devices. "Logitech doesn't want to own the device, it wants to own the app experience. But to do that, it had to build a software overlay and a controller that would convince people to put it in their homes. So it's offering a $100 hub that combines IR, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and RF that will let you use the Logitech Harmony app to control gear that uses those protocols. This means if you have a SmartThings, a Peq or a Lutron hub, the Wi-Fi in the Logitech device will let you control the others' gear from Logitech, which so far seems to have a much nicer interface." They've worked out partnerships with a lot of companies that are big in the home, like Nest, Honeywell, and Philips, all of whom seem to want this extra layer of control for the user.

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