News for nerds, stuff that mattersURL: http://slashdot.org/Updated: 3 hours 1 min agoWed, 2015-06-10 04:17An anonymous reader writes: Last week saw the release of an open letter written to President Obama by a committee of notable political, security and defense experts — which includes past and present members of Congress, ambassadors, CIA directors, and others — on the country's concerning level of vulnerability to a natural or man-made Electro-Magnetic Pulse (EMP). An EMP has very real potential for crippling much of our electrical grid instantaneously. Not only would that immediately throw the social order into chaos, but the timeline to repair and restart the grid in most estimated scenarios would take months to a year or more. Executive Director of the EMP Task Force Dr Peter Pry said, "Well, the short answer to [why we aren't defending against EMPs] is called the North American Electric Reliability Corporation. They used to be a trade association or a lobby for the 3,000 electric utilities that exist in this country. ... There is no part of the U.S. government that has the legal powers to order them to protect the grid. This is unusual, because in the case of every other critical infrastructure, there's an agency in the U.S. government that can require them to take actions for public safety. For example, the Food & Drug Administration can order certain medicines kept off shelves to protect the public safety. ... The U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission doesn't have those legal powers or authorities."
Read more of this story at Slashdot.Wed, 2015-06-10 01:19itwbennett writes: At Apple's WWDC 2015 event yesterday, Craig Federighi, Apple's senior vice president of software engineering, announced that the company planned to open source the Swift language. Reaction to this announcement so far has sounded more or less like this: Deafening applause with undertones of "we'll see." As a commenter on this Ars Technica story points out, "Their [Apple's] previous open-source efforts (Darwin, WebKit, etc) have generally tended to be far more towards the Google style of closed development followed by a public source dump." Simon Phipps, the former director of OSI, also expressed some reservations, saying, "While every additional piece of open source software extends the opportunities for software freedom, the critical question for a programming language is less whether it is itself open source and more whether it's feasible to make open source software with it. Programming languages are glue for SDKs, APIs and libraries. The real value of Swift will be whether it can realistically be used anywhere but Apple's walled garden."
Read more of this story at Slashdot.Tue, 2015-06-09 23:18stowie writes: The DARPA Robots Challenge concluded recently, and three teams were given prizes for completing all the tasks. The other robots in the competition struggled — not only were they unable to complete the required tasks, many of them were unable to even stay standing the entire time. So why did these robots have such a hard time? "DARPA deliberately degraded communications (low bandwidth, high latency, intermittent connection) during the challenge to truly see how a human-robot team could collaborate in a Fukushima-type disaster. And there was no standard set for how a human-robot interface would work. So, some worked better than others. The winning DRC-Hubo robot used custom software designed by Team KAIST that was engineered to perform in an environment with low bandwidth. It also used the Xenomai real-time operating system for Linux and a customized motion control framework. The second-place finisher, Team IHMC, used a sliding scale of autonomy that allowed a human operator to take control when the robot seemed stumped or if the robot knew it would run into problems." If nothing else, the competition's true legacy may lie in educating the public on the realistic capabilities of high-tech robots.
Read more of this story at Slashdot.Tue, 2015-06-09 21:14sciencehabit writes: The cupboards of the Natural History Museum in London hold spectacular dinosaur fossils, from 15-centimeter, serrated Tyrannosaurus rex teeth to a 4-meter-long hadrosaur tail. Now, researchers are reporting another spectacular find, buried in eight nondescript fossils from the same collection: what appear to be ancient red blood cells and fibers of ancient protein. Using new methods to peer deep inside fossils, the study in this week's issue of Nature Communications backs up previous, controversial reports of such structures in dinosaur bones. It also suggests that soft tissue preservation may be more common than anyone had guessed.
Read more of this story at Slashdot.Tue, 2015-06-09 19:25Okian Warrior notes a Stanford project to build a basic computer that operates on water droplets. One of its creators, Manu Prakash, says the goal is not to compete with digital computers for manipulating data (though they can theoretically perform all of the same computations). Instead, "Our goal is to build a completely new class of computers that can precisely control and manipulate physical matter. Imagine if when you run a set of computations that not only information is processed but physical matter is algorithmically manipulated as well." The biggest obstacle in creating the water computer was figuring out a way to develop a clock mechanism. The team decided to use a rotating magnetic field, which is both precise and easy to control. To get it to interact with the water, they put arrays of tiny iron bars on glass slides, and then added a layer of oil, and finally another glass slide. Magnetized water droplets are injected into this scaffolding, and the magnetic field can then easily push them along paths created by the iron. "It's about manipulating matter faster," Prakash said.
Read more of this story at Slashdot.Tue, 2015-06-09 18:00Mark Wilson writes: Anyone using the Windows 10 preview has had a chance to use the HTTP Strict Transport Security (HSTS) in Microsoft Edge, and today the security feature comes to Internet Explorer 11 in Windows 7 and Windows 8.1. This security protocol protects against man-in-the-middle attacks and is being delivered to users of older version of Windows through an update in the form of KB 3058515.
Read more of this story at Slashdot.Tue, 2015-06-09 17:18schwit1 sends news that the Obama Administration has made a legal request to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance court to ignore a ruling from the Second Circuit Court of Appeals making bulk surveillance illegal. The government says it's doing so to create an "orderly transition" between now and the beginning of USA Freedom Act provisions in six months. Their legal argument is that the Circuit Court's rulings are only binding for lower courts — the FISA court is secretive and separated from the normal legal process, so it doesn't necessarily fit in the normal court hierarchy. ACLU deputy legal director Jameel Jaffer said, "While the FISA court isn’t formally bound by the second circuit’s ruling, it will certainly have to grapple with the second circuit’s interpretation of the ‘relevance’ requirement. The [court] will also have to consider whether Congress effectively adopted the second circuit’s interpretation of the relevance requirement when it passed the USA Freedom Act." The issue is further complicated because the Circuit Court did not actually issue an injunction against bulk surveillance, deferring instead to the congressional debate already underway about the Patriot Act and USA Freedom Act.
Read more of this story at Slashdot.Tue, 2015-06-09 16:35msm1267 writes: If the proposed U.S. Wassenaar rules are enacted, researchers who make a living contributing to and participating in the numerous industry bug bounties may feel the pinch in their wallets. Worse may be the impact on the security of software worldwide since many independent researchers find a good number of the bugs that get patched. Researchers are starting to speak out, not only about the rules' broad definition of intrusion software, but also about the potential need to share vulnerability details with a government if forced to apply for the required export license. Many may soon question whether it's worth the time and effort to go through the export process if governments are acting as a clearinghouse.
Read more of this story at Slashdot.Tue, 2015-06-09 15:54schwit1 writes: Facebook and Google have both cancelled their plans to build satellite systems to provide global internet access. It appears Google pulled out earlier this year, while Facebook's decision was revealed today (paywalled). Google remains a partner in Skybox, a space imaging company, as well as O3b, which is trying to provide internet using satellites. "While Facebook’s cancelled project comes from the more traditional approach to satellite internet, the current hope of Wyler and other satellite entrepreneurs is that constellations made up of many small satellites could solve those two problems. They would offer faster service, since they are closer to earth than the typical communication satellites, which fly at high altitudes to maximize coverage; and they would cost less, since tiny satellites are typically less expensive than their larger siblings. But even this plan may over-promise—one of the pioneers of the satellite business, Martin Sweeting, chairman of Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd., compared interest in small satellites to the froth on top of a cappuccino. The technical challenges to flying and operating a full-fledged constellation of them may still prove too difficult to surmount."
Read more of this story at Slashdot.Tue, 2015-06-09 15:12This is our second video excerpt from Erik Moeller's PassionateVoices.org. In this one, Erik talks to professional artist Devid Revoy, of Toulouse, France. David distributes his art under an open source license, and he uses open source tools (especially Krita) to make it. Here's a twist for you: if you like David's webcomic, Pepper & Carrot, you can become a patron, just like Catherine de' Medici in the 16th century. And, of course, just like the people who looked at art sponsored by Catherine but did not support it financially, you are free to simply enjoy David's work. To learn more about David, his art, his business model, and the tools he uses to make his art, go to Passionate Voices Episode 2: David Revoy. That's where you'll find Erik's full-length interview with David, along with a transcript of that interview.
Read more of this story at Slashdot.Tue, 2015-06-09 14:26An anonymous reader writes: A grand jury subpoena, obtained by Ken White of the law blog Popehat, demands that libertarian news magazine Reason hand over "any and all identifying information" about certain commenters posting on an article published May 31st, "Silk Road Trial: Read Ross Ulbricht's Haunting Sentencing Letter to Judge." The subpoena cites a law against "interstate threats" as the reason for demanding the information, which the Supreme Court very recently decided must include real intent. As White points out, the comments — repugnant as they are — may very well not constitute a true threat, as they aren't directed at the judge and don't detail any real plans for violence. The kicker: although it's possible to fight the subpoena, precedent suggests the U.S. Attorney's office may have the power to obtain the information anyway. However the situation shakes out, this isn't nearly the first fight over commenter anonymity and the First Amendment, and certainly won't be the last.
Read more of this story at Slashdot.Tue, 2015-06-09 13:45Iddo Genuth writes: 4K videos and movies are still far from common and now 8K seems to start making its appearance online. A few days ago, what might be the first 8K video entitled "Ghost Towns" was published on Youtube and you can now watch it for yourself in its full 7680 × 4320 pixel glory — that is if you happen to have access to a 8K display (or projector). The video was created by cinematographer Luke Neumann who used a 6K EPIC DRAGON camera using some advanced and complex techniques such as shooting in portrait orientation and then stitched the video together in Adobe After Effects. Some shots simply scaled up by 125% from 6.1K to meet the 7.6K standard and handheld stuff was 6K scaled up by 125% and sharpened up. Youtube is now offering an 8K option and according to Google: "8K video has been supported since 2010, but that labeling for 8K video (the 4320p/8K quality setting like pictured above) was added "earlier this year — but presumably there was noting to view — until now...
Read more of this story at Slashdot.Tue, 2015-06-09 13:09VoiceOfDoom writes: I'm leaving my current position in a few weeks and it looks unlikely that a replacement will be found in time. My job is very specialized and I'm the only person in the organization who is qualified or experienced in how to do it. I'd like to share as much of my accumulated knowledge with my successor as possible but at the moment, it mostly exists in my email archive which will be deleted after I've been gone for 90 days. The organization doesn't have any knowledge management systems so the only way it seems I can pass on this information is by copying all the info into a series of documents, which isn't much fun to do in Outlook. Can my fellow Slashdotters can suggest a better approach? By the way, there's quite a lot of confidential stuff in there that my successor needs to know but which cannot leave the organization's existing systems.
Read more of this story at Slashdot.Tue, 2015-06-09 12:25An anonymous reader writes: Last week, Mozilla updated Firefox to add Pocket integration — software that lets you save web articles to read later. Over the weekend, some Firefox users began to voice their displeasure over the move on public forums like Bugzilla, Google Groups, and Hacker News. The complaints center around Pocket being a proprietary third-party service, which already exists as an add-on, and is not a required component for a browser. Integrating Pocket directly into Firefox means it cannot be removed, only disabled. In response, Mozilla has released a statement saying users like the integration and the integration code is open source.
Read more of this story at Slashdot.Tue, 2015-06-09 11:42itwbennett writes: Although it 'believes the action has no merit,' HP today announced it will pay $100 million in a settlement with PGGM Vermogensbeheer B.V., the lead plaintiff in the securities class action arising from the impairment charge taken by HP following its acquisition of Autonomy. This is just the latest episode in the fallout from HP's Autonomy acquisition.
Read more of this story at Slashdot.Tue, 2015-06-09 11:01Nerval's Lobster writes: For video game developers, life can be tough. The working hours are long, with vicious bursts of so-called "crunch time," in which developers may pull consecutive all-nighters in order to finish a project—all without overtime pay. According to the International Game Developers Association (IGDA) Developer Satisfaction Survey (PDF), many developers aren't enduring those work conditions for the money: Nearly 50 percent of respondents earned less than $50,000 annually. Faced with what many perceive as draconian working conditions, many developers are taking their skills and leaving video games for another technology sector. The hard and soft skills that go into producing video games—from knowledge of programming languages to aptitude for handling irate managers—will work just as well in many aspects of conventional software-building. Fortunately, leaving the video-game industry doesn't have to be a permanent exile; many developers find themselves pulled back in at some point, out of simple passion for the craft.
Read more of this story at Slashdot.Tue, 2015-06-09 10:20jones_supa writes: TempleOS has become somewhat of a legend in the operating system community. Its sole author, Terry A. Davis, is a special kind of person, who has a tendency to appear in various places with a burst of strange comments. Nevertheless, he has spent the past 12 years creating a new operating system from scratch, and has shipped a functional product. An article takes a constructive technical look at the internals of TempleOS: installation, shell, file explorer, hypertext system, custom HolyC programming language, and interaction with hardware. The OS ships with a suite of several tools and demos as well. To see the sheer amount of content that's been written here over the years, to see such effort expended on a labor of love, is wonderfully heart-warming. In many ways TempleOS seems similar to systems such as the Xerox Alto, Oberon, and Plan 9; an all-inclusive system that blurs the lines between programs and documents.
Read more of this story at Slashdot.Tue, 2015-06-09 09:26An anonymous reader writes: Mozilla's VR research team is hard at work making virtual reality native to the web. The group wants more than a few experimental VR-only websites, they want responsive VR websites that can adapt seamlessly between VR and non-VR, from mobile to desktop, built with HTML and CSS . Experimental work is already underway, and now the team says that they 'aim to have support for the WebVR API shipping with our release channel builds of Firefox Desktop by end of this year.' Those with the Oculus Rift developer kit can already try out a few native WebVR experiences using Firefox Nightly.
Read more of this story at Slashdot.Tue, 2015-06-09 08:57kooky45 writes: On July 14th 2015, Microsoft will stop supporting Windows 2003. If your company is anything like mine then they're in a panic to update Windowns 2003 systems that have been ignored for years. But what will happen to Windows 2003 systems still in use after the cut-off date? Company Security warns us that the world will end, but they said the same thing when Microsoft stopped supporting Windows XP -- and yet we survived. Did you experience an increase in successful attacks against XP shortly after its support ended, or expect to see one against Windows 2003 this time round?
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