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High-Tech Walkers Could Help Japan's Elderly Stay Independent

slashdot - Fri, 10/17/2014 - 19:50
jfruh writes: You may have heard that Japan will deal with its aging population by relying more on robots. Osaka startup RT Works is showing what that might mean in practice: not humanoid robotic caregivers, but tech-enhanced versions of traditional tools like walkers. RT Works's walker automatically adjusts to help its user deal with hilly terrain, and can call for help if it moves outside a predefined range.

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Fusion and Fission/LFTR: Let's Do Both, Smartly

slashdot - Fri, 10/17/2014 - 19:08
TheRealHocusLocus writes: Disaster preppers have a saying, "two is one and one is none," which might also apply to 24x7 base load energy sources that could sustain us beyond the age of fossil fuel. I too was happy to see Skunkworks' Feb 2013 announcement and the recent "we're still making progress" reminder. I was moved by the reaction on Slashdot: a groundswell of "Finally!" and "We're saved!" However, fusion doesn't need to be the only solution, and it's not entirely without drawbacks. All nuclear reactors will generate waste via activation as the materials of which they are constructed erode and become unstable under high neutron flux. I'm not pointing this out because I think it's a big deal — a few fusion advocates disingenuously tend to sell the process as if it were "100% clean." A low volume of non-recyclable waste from fusion reactors that is walk-away safe in ~100 years is doable. Let's do it. And likewise, the best comparable waste profile for fission is a two-fluid LFTR, a low volume of waste that is walk-away safe in ~300 years. Let's do it. Why pursue both, with at least the same level of urgency? Because both could carry us indefinitely. LFTR is less complicated in theory and practice. It is closer to market. There is plenty of cross-over: LFTR's materials challenges and heat engine interface — and the necessity for waste management — are the same as they will be for commercial-scale fusion reactors. To get up to speed please see the 2006 fusion lecture by Dr. Robert Bussard on the Wiffle ball 6 plasma containment, likely the precursor to the Skunkworks approach. And see Thorium Remix 2011 which presents the case for LFTR.

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Lead Mir Developer: 'Mir More Relevant Than Wayland In Two Years'

slashdot - Fri, 10/17/2014 - 18:25
M-Saunders writes Canonical courted plenty of controversy with it announced Mir, its home-grown display server. But why did the company choose to go it alone, and not collaborate with the Wayland project? Linux Voice has an interview with Thomas Voss, Mir's lead developer. Voss explains how Mir came into being, what it offers, and why he believes it will outlast Wayland.

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Tesla Teardown Reveals Driver-facing Electronics Built By iPhone 6 Suppliers

slashdot - Fri, 10/17/2014 - 17:44
Lucas123 writes: The Tesla Model S gets attention because it's an EV that can go from from 0 to 60 mph (96 km/h) in 4.2 seconds and can travel 265 miles on a single charge. But, a teardown of the vehicle by IHS Technology has also revealed that Elon Musk avoided third-party design and build routes used traditionally by auto makers and spared no expense on the instrument cluster and infotainment (head unit) system, which is powered by two 1.4Ghz, quad-core NVIDIA Tegra processors. IHS called the Tesla's head unit the most sophisticated it's ever seen, with 1,000 more components than any it has previously analyzed. A bill of materials for the virtual instrument cluster and the premium media control unit is also roughly twice the cost of the highest-end infotainment unit examined by IHS.

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Python-LMDB In a High-Performance Environment

slashdot - Fri, 10/17/2014 - 17:01
lkcl writes: In an open letter to the core developers behind OpenLDAP (Howard Chu) and Python-LMDB (David Wilson) is a story of a successful creation of a high-performance task scheduling engine written (perplexingly) in Python. With only partial optimization allowing tasks to be executed in parallel at a phenomenal rate of 240,000 per second, the choice to use Python-LMDB for the per-task database store based on its benchmarks, as well as its well-researched design criteria, turned out to be the right decision. Part of the success was also due to earlier architectural advice gratefully received here on Slashdot. What is puzzling, though, is that LMDB on Wikipedia is being constantly deleted, despite its "notability" by way of being used in a seriously-long list of prominent software libre projects, which has been, in part, motivated by the Oracle-driven BerkeleyDB license change. It would appear that the original complaint about notability came from an Oracle employee as well.

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How Curved Spacetime Can Be Created In a Quantum Optics Lab

slashdot - Fri, 10/17/2014 - 16:21
KentuckyFC writes: One way to explore the link between quantum mechanics and general relativity is to study the physics that occurs on a small scale in highly curved spacetimes. However, these conditions only occur in the most extreme environments such as at the edge of black holes or in the instants after the Big Bang. But now one physicist has described how it is possible to create curved spacetime in an ordinary quantum optics lab. The idea is based on optical lattices, which form when a pair of lasers interfere to create an eggbox-like interference pattern. When ultracold atoms are dropped into the lattice, they become trapped like ping pong balls in an eggbox. This optical trapping technique is common in labs all over the world. However, the ultracold atoms do not stay at a fixed location in the lattice because they can tunnel from one location to another. This tunneling is a form of movement through the lattice and can be controlled by changing the laser parameters to make tunneling easier or more difficult. Now, a physicist has shown that on a large scale, the tunneling motion of atoms through the lattice is mathematically equivalent to the motion of atoms in a quantum field in a flat spacetime. And that means it is possible to create a formal analogue of a curved spacetime by changing the laser parameters across the lattice. Varying the laser parameters over time even simulates the behavior of gravitational waves. Creating this kind of curved spacetime in the lab won't reveal any new physics but it will allow researchers to study the behavior of existing laws under these conditions for the first time. That's not been possible even in theory because the equations that describe these behaviors are so complex that they can only be solved in the simplest circumstances.

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Debian Talks About Systemd Once Again

slashdot - Fri, 10/17/2014 - 15:40
An anonymous reader writes: A couple of months ago the technical committee for Debian decided in favor of systemd. This is now a subject for discussion once again, and Ian Jackson says he wants a general resolution, so every developer within the Debian project can decide. After a short time, the required amount of supporters was reached, and the discussion can start once again.

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Chemists Grow Soil Fungus On Cheerios, Discover New Antifungal Compounds

slashdot - Fri, 10/17/2014 - 14:58
MTorrice writes: Many drugs that treat bacterial and fungal infections were found in microbes growing in the dirt. These organisms synthesize the compounds to fend off other bacteria and fungi around them. To find possible new drugs, chemists try to coax newly discovered microbial species to start making their arsenal of antimicrobial chemicals in the lab. But fungi can be stubborn, producing just a small set of already-known compounds. Now, one team of chemists has hit upon a curiously effective and consistent trick to prod the organisms to start synthesizing novel molecules: Cheerios inside bags. Scientists grew a soil fungus for four weeks in a bag full of Cheerios and discovered a new compound that can block biofilm formation by an infectious yeast. The chemists claim that Cheerios are by far the best in the cereal aisle at growing chemically productive fungi.

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OS X 10.10 Yosemite Review

slashdot - Fri, 10/17/2014 - 14:15
An anonymous reader writes: With the release of OS X 10.10 Yosemite, Ars Technica has posted one of their extremely thorough reviews of the OS's new features and design changes. John Siracusa writes that Yosemite is particularly notable because it's the biggest step yet in Apple's efforts to bring OS X and iOS together — new technologies are now being added to Apple's two operating systems simultaneously. "The political and technical battles inherent in the former two-track development strategy for OS X and iOS left both products with uncomfortable feature disparities. Apple now correctly views this as damage and has set forth to repair it." Yosemite's look and feel has undergone significant changes as well, generally moving toward the flat and compact design present in iOS 7 & 8. Spotlight and the Notifications Center have gotten some needed improvements, as did many tab and toolbar interfaces. Siracusa also takes a look a Swift, Apple's new programming language: "Swift is an attempt to create a low-level language with high-level syntax and semantics. It tackles the myth of the Sufficiently Smart Compiler by signing up to create that compiler as part of the language design process." He concludes: "Viewed in isolation, Yosemite provides a graphical refresh accompanied by a few interesting features and several new technologies whose benefits are mostly speculative, depending heavily on how eagerly they're adopted by third-party developers. But Apple no longer views the Mac in isolation, and neither should you. OS X is finally a full-fledged peer to iOS; all aspects of sibling rivalry have been banished."

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Mixing Agile With Waterfall For Code Quality

slashdot - Fri, 10/17/2014 - 13:33
jones_supa writes: The 2014 CAST Research on Application Software Health (CRASH) report states that enterprise software built using a mixture of agile and waterfall methods will result in more robust and secure applications than those built using either agile or waterfall methods alone. Data from CAST's Appmarq benchmarking repository was analyzed to discover global trends in the structural quality of business application software. The report explores the impact of factors such as development method, CMMI maturity level, outsourcing, and other practices on software quality characteristics that are based upon good architectural and coding practices. InfoQ interviewed Bill Curtis, Senior Vice President and Chief Scientist at CAST, about the research done by CAST, structural quality factors, and mixing agile and waterfall methods.

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An Air Traffic Control System For Drones

slashdot - Fri, 10/17/2014 - 12:51
An anonymous reader writes: Personal drones are become more popular, and many companies are trying to figure out ways to incorporate them into their business. So what do we do in 10 years, when the skies are full of small, autonomous vehicles? NASA and a startup called Airware are working on a solution: air traffic control for drones. "The first prototype to be developed under NASA's project will be an Internet-based system. Drone operators will file flight plans for approval. The system will use what it knows about other drone flights, weather forecasts, and physical obstacles such as radio masts to give the go-ahead. Later phases of the project will build more sophisticated systems that can actively manage drone traffic by sending out commands to drones in flight. That could mean directing them to spread out when craft from multiple operators are flying in the same area, or taking action when something goes wrong, such as a drone losing contact with its operator, says Jonathan Downey, CEO of Airware. If a drone strayed out of its approved area, for example, the system might automatically send a command that made it return to its assigned area, or land immediately."

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As Prison Population Sinks, Jails Are a Steal

slashdot - Fri, 10/17/2014 - 12:05
HughPickens.com writes After rising rapidly for decades, the number of people behind bars peaked at 1.62 Million in 2009, has been mostly falling ever since down, and many justice experts believe the incarceration rate will continue on a downward trajectory for many years. New York, for example, saw an 8.8% decline in federal and state inmates, and California, saw a 20.6% drop. Now the WSJ reports on an awkward byproduct of the declining U.S. inmate population: empty or under-utilized prisons and jails that must be cared for but can't be easily sold or repurposed. New York state has closed 17 prisons and juvenile-justice facilities since 2011, following the rollback of the 1970s-era Rockefeller drug laws, which mandated lengthy sentences for low-level offenders. So far, the state has found buyers for 10 of them, at prices that range from less than $250,000 to about $8 million for a facility in Staten Island, often a fraction of what they cost to build. "There's a prisoner shortage," says Mike Arismendez, city manager for Littlefield, Texas, home of an empty five-building complex that sleeps 383 inmates and comes with a gym, maintenence shed, armory, and parking lot . "Everybody finds it hard to believe." The incarceration rate is declining largely because crime has fallen significantly in the past generation. In addition, many states have relaxed harsh sentencing laws passed during the tough-on-crime 1980s and 1990s, and have backed rehabilitation programs, resulting in fewer low-level offenders being locked up. States from Michigan to New Jersey have changed parole processes, leading more prisoners to leave earlier. On a federal level, the Justice Department under Attorney General Eric Holder has pushed to reduce sentences for nonviolent drug offenders. Before 2010, the U.S. prison population increased every year for 30 years, from 307,276 in 1978 to a high of 1,615,487 in 2009. "This is the beginning of the end of mass incarceration," says Natasha Frost. "People don't care so much about crime, and it's less of a political focus."

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Making Best Use of Data Center Space: Density Vs. Isolation

slashdot - Fri, 10/17/2014 - 09:28
jfruh writes The ability to cram multiple virtual servers on a single physical computer is tempting — so tempting that many shops overlook the downsides of having so many important systems subject to a single point of physical failure. But how can you isolate your servers physically but still take up less room? Matthew Mobrea takes a look at the options, including new server platforms that offer what he calls "dense isolation."

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Making Best Use of Data Center Space: Density Vs. Isolation

slashdot - Fri, 10/17/2014 - 09:28
jfruh writes The ability to cram multiple virtual servers on a single physical computer is tempting — so tempting that many shops overlook the downsides of having so many important systems subject to a single point of physical failure. But how can you isolate your servers physically but still take up less room? Matthew Mobrea takes a look at the options, including new server platforms that offer what he calls "dense isolation."

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The Guardian Reveals That Whisper App Tracks "Anonymous" Users

slashdot - Fri, 10/17/2014 - 07:02
New submitter qqod writes this story at The Guardian that raises privacy concerns over the Whisper app. "The company behind Whisper, the social media app that promises users anonymity and claims to be the “the safest place on the internet”, is tracking the location of its users, including some who have specifically asked not to be followed. The practice of monitoring the whereabouts of Whisper users – including those who have expressly opted out of geolocation services – will alarm users, who are encouraged to disclose intimate details about their private and professional lives. Whisper is also sharing information with the US Department of Defense gleaned from smartphones it knows are used from military bases, and developing a version of its app to conform with Chinese censorship laws."

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OpenStack Juno Released

slashdot - Fri, 10/17/2014 - 05:39
darthcamaro writes The OpenStack Juno release is now generally available. This the 10th major release for the open-source cloud platform and introduces the Sahara Data Processing Service as the major new project. That's not the only new feature in Juno though, with 310 new features in total. The new features include cloud storage policy, improved IPv6 support, a rescue mode and improved multi-cloud federation capabilities."

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Trans-Pacific Partnership May Endanger World Health, Newly Leaked Chapter Shows

slashdot - Fri, 10/17/2014 - 04:29
blottsie writes WikiLeaks has released an updated version of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) chapter on intellectual property. The new version of the texts, dated May 2014, show that little improvement has been made to sections critics say would hurt free speech online. Further, some of the TPP's stipulations could have dire consequences for healthcare in developing nations. The Daily Dot reports: "Nearly all of the changes proposed by the U.S. advantage corporate entities by expanding monopolies on knowledge goods, such as drug patents, and impose restrictive copyright policies worldwide. If it came into force, TPP would even allow pharmaceutical companies to sue the U.S. whenever changes to regulatory standards or judicial decisions affected their profits. Professor Brook K. Baker of Northeastern U. School of Law [said] that the latest version of the TPP will do nothing less than lengthen, broaden, and strengthen patent monopolies on vital medications."

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Trans-Pacific Partnership May Endanger World Health, Newly Leaked Chapter Shows

slashdot - Fri, 10/17/2014 - 04:29
blottsie writes WikiLeaks has released an updated version of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) chapter on intellectual property. The new version of the texts, dated May 2014, show that little improvement has been made to sections critics say would hurt free speech online. Further, some of the TPP's stipulations could have dire consequences for healthcare in developing nations. The Daily Dot reports: "Nearly all of the changes proposed by the U.S. advantage corporate entities by expanding monopolies on knowledge goods, such as drug patents, and impose restrictive copyright policies worldwide. If it came into force, TPP would even allow pharmaceutical companies to sue the U.S. whenever changes to regulatory standards or judicial decisions affected their profits. Professor Brook K. Baker of Northeastern U. School of Law [said] that the latest version of the TPP will do nothing less than lengthen, broaden, and strengthen patent monopolies on vital medications."

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Google Fiber To Launch In Austin, Texas In December

slashdot - Fri, 10/17/2014 - 02:00
retroworks writes WSJ blog reports on Austin, the third city to get fiber-optic high speed internet networks laid down by Google (Kansas City and Provo, UT were the first and second). The service averages 1 gigabit per second, about 100X the average US household speed, and costs $70-120 per month (depending on television). Google promotes the roll-outs by holding "rallies" in small neighborhoods. The sign-up process starts in December, focusing on south and southeastern parts of Austin, a Google spokeswoman said Wednesday. It was announced that fiber was coming to Austin back in April.

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White House Wants Ideas For "Bootstrapping a Solar System Civilization"

slashdot - Fri, 10/17/2014 - 00:00
MarkWhittington writes Tom Kalil, the Deputy Director for Policy for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and Senior Advisor for Science, Technology and Innovation for the National Economic Council, has an intriguing Tuesday post on the OSTP blog. Kalil is soliciting ideas for "bootstrapping a solar system civilization." Anyone interested in offering ideas along those lines to the Obama administration can contact a special email address that has been set up for that purpose. The ideas that Kalil muses about in his post are not new for people who have studied the question of how to settle space at length. The ideas consist of sending autonomous robots to various locations in space to create infrastructure using local resources with advanced manufacturing technology, such as 3D printing. The new aspect is that someone in the White House is publicly discussing these concepts.

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