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FAA Clears Movie and TV Drones For Takeoff

slashdot - Thu, 09/25/2014 - 21:47
alphadogg (971356) writes "The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration is taking its first major step toward opening up the skies for commercial drone use, allowing six TV and movie production companies to use drones to shoot video. Commercial flight of drones has been effectively banned by the FAA as it grapples with how to integrate drone traffic into controlled airspace while not compromising the safety of existing air traffic. But as the months have passed, it has come under increasing pressure from U.S. companies to make a ruling."

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John Carmack's Oculus Connect Keynote Probably Had Samsung Cringing

slashdot - Thu, 09/25/2014 - 21:05
An anonymous reader writes John Carmack, famed keystone developer of 3D networked gaming, has now been working with virtual reality company Oculus for over a year. Much of that time has been spent collaborating with Samsung on the forthcoming Gear VR headset. At his keynote presentation during Oculus Connect, Carmack took to the stage with 90 unscripted minutes of no holds barred discussion of the last 12 months in VR. 'I believe pretty strongly in being very frank and open about flaws and limitations so this is kind of where I go off message a little bit from the standard PR plan and talk very frankly about things,' he said to applause from the audience.

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Artificial General Intelligence That Plays Video Games: How Did DeepMind Do It?

slashdot - Thu, 09/25/2014 - 20:20
First time accepted submitter Hallie Siegel writes Last December, an article named 'Playing Atari with Deep Reinforcement Learning' was uploaded to arXiv by employees of a small AI company called DeepMind. Two months later Google bought DeepMind for 500 million euros, and this article is almost the only thing we know about the company. A research team from the Computational Neuroscience Group at University of Tartu's Institute of Computer Science is trying to replicate DeepMind's work and describe its inner workings.

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Catch Oil Polluters With Open Source Tools Using the Homebrew Oil Testing Kit

slashdot - Thu, 09/25/2014 - 19:39
First time accepted submitter jywarren writes Ever wish you could investigate pollution yourself? Public Lab's recently announced open source kit aims to make it possible for anyone to become a "pollution detective" by comparing samples of oil contamination. Under the hood, the kit is pretty interesting. It uses the ultraviolet fluorescence caused by a Blu-Ray laser pen in oil samples, and includes a "papercraft" spectrometer to scan and classify oil types. The group's Kickstarter campaign is also seeking 50 early-access beta testers to help test and refine the kit before release.

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Drones Reveal Widespread Tax Evasion In Argentina

slashdot - Thu, 09/25/2014 - 18:46
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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Solar System's Water Is Older Than the Sun

slashdot - Thu, 09/25/2014 - 18:20
astroengine writes Next time you're swimming in the ocean, consider this: part of the water is older than the sun. So concludes a team of scientists who ran computer models comparing the ratios of hydrogen isotopes over time. Taking into account new insights that the solar nebula had less ionizing radiation than previously thought, the models show that at least some of the water found in the ocean, as well as in comets, meteorites and on the moon, predate the sun's birth.

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Flurry of Scans Hint That Bash Vulnerability Could Already Be In the Wild

slashdot - Thu, 09/25/2014 - 17:52
The recently disclosed bug in bash was bad enough as a theoretical exploit; now, reports Ars Technica, it could already be being used to launch real attacks. In a blog post yesterday, Robert Graham of Errata Security noted that someone is already using a massive Internet scan to locate vulnerable servers for attack. In a brief scan, he found over 3,000 servers that were vulnerable "just on port 80"—the Internet Protocol port used for normal Web Hypertext Transfer Protocol (HTTP) requests. And his scan broke after a short period, meaning that there could be vast numbers of other servers vulnerable. A Google search by Ars using advanced search parameters yielded over two billion web pages that at least partially fit the profile for the Shellshock exploit. More bad news: "[T]he initial fix for the issue still left Bash vulnerable to attack, according to a new US CERT National Vulnerability Database entry." And CNET is not the only one to say that Shellshock, which can affect Macs running OS X as well as Linux and Unix systems, could be worse than Heartbleed.

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Ask Slashdot: Is Reporting Still Relevant?

slashdot - Thu, 09/25/2014 - 17:04
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, 09/25/2014 - 16:20
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, 09/25/2014 - 15:34
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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Amazon Forced To Reboot EC2 To Patch Bug In Xen

slashdot - Thu, 09/25/2014 - 14:52
Bismillah writes AWS is currently emailing EC2 customers that it will need to reboot their instances for maintenance over the next few days. The email doesn't explain why the reboots are being done, but it is most likely to patch for the embargoed XSA-108 bug in Xen. ZDNet takes this as a spur to remind everyone that the cloud is not magical. Also at The Register.

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Facebook To Start Testing Internet-Beaming Drones In 2015

slashdot - Thu, 09/25/2014 - 14:10
Zothecula writes There was an understandable amount of skepticism when Amazon announced its grand plans for delivery drones last year. But if the last twelve months are any indication, Jeff Bezos and his fellow tech heavyweights are actually kinda serious about the potential of unmanned aerial vehicles. Speaking at the Social Good Summit in New York on Monday, engineering director at Facebook Connectivity Lab, Yael Maguire, has further detailed the company's vision of internet-carrying drones, with plans to begin testing in 2015.

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Why India's Mars Probe Was So Cheap

slashdot - Thu, 09/25/2014 - 13:29
schwit1 (797399) writes "Alan Boyle has some interesting thoughts on why it cost India so little, less than the budget of the movie Gravity, to build and send its probe Mangalyaan to Mars: 'The $74 million Mars Orbiter Mission, also known by the acronym MOM or the Hindi word Mangalyaan ("Mars-Craft"), didn't just cost less than the $100 million Hollywood blockbuster starring Sandra Bullock. The price tag is a mere one-ninth of the cost of NASA's $671 million Maven mission, which also put its spacecraft into Mars orbit this week. The differential definitely hints at a new paradigm for space exploration — one that's taking hold not only in Bangalore, but around the world. At the same time, it hints at the dramatically different objectives for MOM and Maven, and the dramatically different environments in which those missions took shape.' Read it all. It gives us a hint at the future of space exploration.

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Microsoft On US Immigration: It's Our Way Or the Canadian Highway

slashdot - Thu, 09/25/2014 - 12:48
theodp writes Even as it cuts about 14% of its workforce, Microsoft is complaining that the company might be denied some of the "roughly" 1,000 H-1B visas for foreign workers it intends to seek, and made it clear that the company could shift some work to Canada or overseas if it can't get talent on its terms. "If I need to move 400 people to Canada or Northern Ireland or Hyderabad or Shanghai, we can do that," said William Kamela, a senior federal policy lead at Microsoft, who later explained that about 60% of Microsoft's workforce is in the U.S., yet it makes 68% of its profits overseas (where it also stashes its cash out of IRS reach). Kamela made the statements on a panel at a two-day conference on high-skilled immigration policy, where he sat next to Felicia Escobar, special assistant to President Barack Obama on immigration. The day before the conference, Mark Zuckerberg's FWD.us PAC — which counts Bill Gates as a Founder and Steve Ballmer and Microsoft General Counsel Brad Smith as Major Contributors — posted its "MythBusters" video on H-1B visas.

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Where Whistleblowers End Up Working

slashdot - Thu, 09/25/2014 - 12:03
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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Ask Slashdot: How To Keep Students' Passwords Secure?

slashdot - Thu, 09/25/2014 - 09:32
First time accepted submitter bigal123 writes My son's school is moving more and more online and is even assigning Chromebooks or iPads to students (depending on the grade). In some cases they may have books, but the books stay home and they have user names and passwords to the various text book sites. They also have user names/passwords to several other school resources. Most all the sites are 3rd party. So each child may have many user names (various formats) and passwords. They emphasized how these elementary kids needed to keep their passwords safe and not share them with other kids. However when asked about the kids remembering all the user names and passwords the school said they are going to have the kids write them down in a notebook. This seemed like a very bad practice for a classroom and to/from home situation. Do others have good password management suggestions or suggestions for a single sign-on process (no/minimal cost) for kids in school accessing school provisioned resources?

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Australian Senate Introduces Laws To Allow Total Internet Surveillance

slashdot - Thu, 09/25/2014 - 07:08
First time accepted submitter Marquis231 writes New laws due to be passed in Australia allow intelligence agency ASIO to spy on domestic internet traffic like never before. The Sydney Morning Herald reports: "Spy agency ASIO will be given the power to monitor the entire Australian internet and journalists' ability to write about national security will be curtailed when new legislation – expected to pass in the Senate as early as Wednesday – becomes law, academics, media organisations, lawyers, the Greens party and rights groups fear."

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Device Allows Paralyzed Rats To Walk, Human Trials Scheduled Next Summer

slashdot - Thu, 09/25/2014 - 04:30
An anonymous reader writes "A new technique pioneered by scientists working on project NEUWalk at the Swiss Federal Institute for Technology (EPFL) have figured out a way to reactivate the severed spinal cords of fully paralyzed rats, allowing them to walk again via remote control. Human trials are scheduled for next summer. "We have complete control of the rat's hind legs," EPFL neuroscientist Grégoire Courtine said. "The rat has no voluntary control of its limbs, but the severed spinal cord can be reactivated and stimulated to perform natural walking. We can control in real-time how the rat moves forward and how high it lifts its legs."

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Water Discovered In Exoplanet Atmosphere

slashdot - Thu, 09/25/2014 - 02:07
PattonPending sends news of the discovery of the smallest exoplanet yet to have water vapor in its atmosphere. Astronomers have detected water vapor in the atmosphere of a planet that orbits a star far beyond our solar system. Observations of the Neptune-sized planet, which lies 120 light years from Earth in the constellation of Cygnus, revealed that its atmosphere was mostly hydrogen with around 25% made up from water va-pour. Until now, researchers have been frustrated in their efforts to study the atmospheres of planets much smaller than Jupiter because their skies were thick with clouds. The problem was so persistent that astronomers had begun to think that all warm, small planets formed with substantial cloud cover. But writing in the journal Nature, scientists in the U.S. describe how they found a Neptune-sized planet with cloud-free skies, enabling them to make detailed measurements of a small planet's atmosphere for the first time.

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GNOME 3.14 Released

slashdot - Wed, 09/24/2014 - 23:58
An anonymous reader writes "GNOME 3.14 was released today and it includes some interesting changes such as re-worked default theme, multi-touch gestures for both the system and applications, and new animations. Information including details on all the new features, can be found here."

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