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State Department Joins NOAA, USPS In Club of Hacked Federal Agencies

slashdot - Mon, 11/17/2014 - 13:08
Hot on the heels of recent cyber attacks on NOAA, the USPS, and the White House, the New York Times Reports that the U.S. State Department has also suffered an online security breach, though it's not clear who to blame. “This has impacted some of our unclassified email traffic and our access to public websites from our main unclassified system,” said one senior State Department official, adding that the department expected its systems to be up soon. ....The breach at the White House was believed to be the work of hackers in Russia, while the breaches at NOAA and the Postal Service were believed to the work of hackers inside China. Attributing attacks to a group or nation is difficult because hackers typically tend to route their attack through compromised web servers all over the world. A senior State Department official said the breach was discovered after “activity of concern” was detected on portions of its unclassified computer system. Officials did not say how long hackers may have been lurking in those systems, but security improvements were being added to them on Sunday.

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World's Youngest Microsoft Certificated Professional Is Five Years Old

slashdot - Mon, 11/17/2014 - 10:56
HughPickens.com writes Gurvinder Gill writes at BBC that Ayan Qureshi is the world's youngest Microsoft Certified Professional after passing the tech giant's exam when he was just five years old. Qureshi's father introduced his son to computers when he was three years old. He let him play with his old computers, so he could understand hard drives and motherboards. "I found whatever I was telling him, the next day he'd remember everything I said, so I started to feed him more information," Qureshi explained. "Too much computing at this age can cause a negative effect, but in Ayan's case he has cached this opportunity." Ayan has his own computer lab at his home in Coventry, containing a computer network which he built and spends around two hours a day learning about the operating system, how to install programs, and has his own web site. Microsoft Certified Professional (MCP) is a certification that validates IT professional and developer technical expertise through rigorous, industry-proven, and industry-recognized exams. MCP exams cover a wide range of Microsoft products, technologies, and solutions. When the boy arrived to take the Microsoft exam, the invigilators were concerned that he was too young to be a candidate. His father reassured them that Ayan would be all right on his own. "There were multiple choice questions, drag and drop questions, hotspot questions and scenario-based questions," Ayan's father told the BBC Asian Network. "The hardest challenge was explaining the language of the test to a five-year-old. But he seemed to pick it up and has a very good memory."

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Preview Jaunt's Made-for-VR 360 Degree, 3D Short Films

slashdot - Mon, 11/17/2014 - 07:51
An anonymous reader writes Jaunt, a company that's raised more than $34 million to create a platform for live-action cinematic virtual reality experiences, has set out to demonstrate their toolset by producing three made-for-VR short films that are shot in 360 degrees and in 3D. Road to VR has an exclusive preview of the films, which the company says will have interactive trailers released very soon for Oculus Rift and Android (for use with Cardboard and other smartphone VR adapters).

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Leonid Meteor Shower Hits Tonight, Peaks Tomorrow

slashdot - Mon, 11/17/2014 - 04:46
Though expectations for a spectacular show may be low, the Leonid meteor shower is on the way. For those in the continental U.S., late Monday night into Tuesday early morning will be your best chance to catch a few glimpses. Space.com explains why you might see only a smattering of meteors: This year finds Comet Tempel-Tuttle nearing the far end of its elongated orbit. In 2010, the comet crossed the orbit of Uranus and in 2016 it will be as far from the sun as it can get: 1.84 billion miles (2.96 billion km). That's not only where the comet is, but also where the heaviest concentrations of meteoroids are as well. In contrast, at the point in the comet's orbit where we will be passing by on Tuesday morning, there is nothing save for a scattered few particles; stragglers likely loosed from the comet's nucleus a millennium or two ago. So the 2014 Leonids are expected to show only low activity this year; "maybe" at best 5 to 10 Leonids per hour might be seen.

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Scientists Discover Diamond Nanothreads

slashdot - Mon, 11/17/2014 - 02:59
First time accepted submitter sokol815 writes Penn State University scientists discovered diamond nanothreads can be created from benzene when compressed. The compression brings the benzene molecules into a highly reactive state. It was expected that the molecules would create a non-ordered glass-like material, but due to the slow speed of decompression used, the benzene molecules ordered themselves into a naturally repeating crystal. The experiment took place at room-temperature. Early results indicate that these nanothreads are stronger than previously produced carbon nanotubes, and may have applications throughout the engineering industry.

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A Worm's Mind In a Lego Body

slashdot - Mon, 11/17/2014 - 01:37
mikejuk writes The nematode worm Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans) is tiny and only has 302 neurons. These have been completely mapped, and one of the founders of the OpenWorm project, Timothy Busbice, has taken the connectome and implemented an object oriented neuron program. The neurons communicate by sending UDP packets across the network. The software works with sensors and effectors provided by a simple LEGO robot. The sensors are sampled every 100ms. For example, the sonar sensor on the robot is wired as the worm's nose. If anything comes within 20cm of the 'nose' then UDP packets are sent to the sensory neurons in the network. The motor neurons are wired up to the left and right motors of the robot. It is claimed that the robot behaved in ways that are similar to observed C. elegans. Stimulation of the nose stopped forward motion. Touching the anterior and posterior touch sensors made the robot move forward and back accordingly. Stimulating the food sensor made the robot move forward. The key point is that there was no programming or learning involved to create the behaviors. The connectome of the worm was mapped and implemented as a software system and the behaviors emerge. Is the robot a C. elegans in a different body or is it something quite new? Is it alive? These are questions for philosophers, but it does suggest that the ghost in the machine is just the machine. The important question is does it scale?

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Battlestar Galactica Creator Glen A. Larson Dead At 77

slashdot - Sun, 11/16/2014 - 23:59
schwit1 writes Glen A. Larson, the wildly successful television writer-producer whose enviable track record includes 'Six Million Dollar Man', Quincy M.E., Magnum, P.I., Battlestar Galactica, Knight Rider and The Fall Guy, has died. He was 77. From the article: Battlestar Galactica lasted just one season on ABC from 1978-79, yet the show had an astronomical impact. Starring Lorne Greene and Richard Hatch as leaders of a homeless fleet wandering through space, featuring special effects supervised by Star Wars’ John Dykstra and influenced by Larson’s Mormon beliefs, Battlestar premiered as a top 10 show and finished the year in the top 25. But it was axed after 24 episodes because, Larson said, each episode cost “well over” $1 million.

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Battlestar Galactica Creato, Glen A. Larson Dead At 77

slashdot - Sun, 11/16/2014 - 23:59
schwit1 writes Glen A. Larson, the wildly successful television writer-producer whose enviable track record includes 'Six Million Dollar Man', Quincy M.E., Magnum, P.I., Battlestar Galactica, Knight Rider and The Fall Guy, has died. He was 77. From the article: Battlestar Galactica lasted just one season on ABC from 1978-79, yet the show had an astronomical impact. Starring Lorne Greene and Richard Hatch as leaders of a homeless fleet wandering through space, featuring special effects supervised by Star Wars’ John Dykstra and influenced by Larson’s Mormon beliefs, Battlestar premiered as a top 10 show and finished the year in the top 25. But it was axed after 24 episodes because, Larson said, each episode cost “well over” $1 million.

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Ars Dissects Android's Problems With Big Screens -- Including In Lollipop

slashdot - Sun, 11/16/2014 - 23:46
When it comes to tablets, Google doesn't even follow its own design guidelines." That's the upshot of Ars Technica writer Andew Cunningham's detailed, illustrated look at how Android handles screens much larger than seven inches, going back to the first large Android tablets a few years ago, but including Android 5.0 (Lollipop) on the Nexus 10 and similar sized devices. Cunningham is unimpressed with the use of space for both practical and aesthetic reasons, and says that problems crop up areas that are purely under Google's control, like control panels and default apps, as well as (more understandably) in third party apps. The Nexus 10 took 10-inch tablets back to the "blown-up phone" version of the UI, where buttons and other UI stuff was all put in the center of the screen. This makes using a 10-inch tablet the same as using a 7-inch tablet or a phone, which is good for consistency, but in retrospect it was a big step backward for widescreen tablets. The old interface put everything at the edges of the screen where your thumbs could easily reach them. The new one often requires the pointer finger of one of your hands or some serious thumb-stretching. ... If anything, Lollipop takes another step backward here. You used to be able to swipe down on the left side of the screen to see your notifications and the right side of the screen to see the Quick Settings, and now those two menus have been unified and placed right in the center of the screen. The Nexus 10 is the most comfortable to use if it's lying flat on a table or stand and Lollipop does nothing to help you out there.

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Billionaire Donors Lavish Millions On Code.org Crowdfunding Project

slashdot - Sun, 11/16/2014 - 22:48
theodp (442580) writes "Whether it's winning yacht races, assembling the best computer science faculty, or even dominating high school basketball, billionaires like to win. Which may help explain why three tech billionaires — Code.org backers (and FWD.us founders) Mark Zuckerberg, VC John Doerr, and Sean Parker — stepped up to the plate and helped out Code.org's once-anemic Hour of Code Indiegogo crowdfunding project with $500k donations. When matched by Code.org's largest donors (Bill Gates, Reid Hoffman and others), the three donations alone raised $3,000,000, enough to reach the organization's goal of becoming the most funded crowdfunding campaign ever on Indiegogo. On its campaign page, Code.org remarked that "to sustain our organization for the long haul, we need to engage parents and community members," which raises questions about how reliant the K-12 learn-to-code movement might be on the kindness of its wealthy corporate and individual donors. Code.org started shedding some light on its top donors a few months back, but contributor names are blank in the 2013 IRS 990 filing posted by the organization on its website, although GuideStar suggests the biggest contributors in 2013 were Microsoft ($3,149,411) and Code.org founders Hadi and Ali Partovi ($1,873,909 in Facebook stock). Coincidentally, in a Reddit AMA at Code.org's launch, CEO and Founder Hadi Partovi noted that his next-door-neighbor is Microsoft General Counsel and Code.org Board member Brad Smith, whose FWD.us bio notes is responsible for Microsoft's philanthropic work. Just months before Code.org and FWD.us emerged on the lobbying scene, Smith announced Microsoft's National Talent Strategy, which called for "an increase in developing the American STEM pipeline in exchange for these new [H-1B] visas and green cards," a wish that President Obama is expected to grant shortly via executive action."

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Longtime Debian Developer Tollef Fog Heen Resigns From Systemd Maintainer Team

slashdot - Sun, 11/16/2014 - 21:51
An anonymous reader writes Debian developer Tollef Fog Heen submitted his resignation to the Debian Systemd package maintainers team mailing list today (Sun. Nov. 16th, 2014). In his brief post, he praises the team, but claims that he cannot continue to contribute due to the "load of continued attacks...becoming just too much." Presumably, he is referring to the heated and, at times, even vitriolic criticism of Debian's adoption of Systemd as the default init system for its upcoming Jessie release from commenters inside and outside of the Debian community. Currently, it is not known if Tollef will cease contributing to Debian altogether. A message from his twitter feed indicates that he may blog about his departure in the near future.

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Ask Slashdot: Dealing With VoIP Fraud/Phishing Scams?

slashdot - Sun, 11/16/2014 - 20:55
An anonymous reader writes I run the IT department for a medium-sized online retailer, and we own a set of marketing toll-free numbers that route to our VoIP system for sales. Yesterday we began receiving dozens and now hundreds of calls from non-customers claiming that we're calling out from our system and offering them $1 million in prizes and asking for their checking account details (a classic phishing scheme). After verifying that our own system wasn't compromised, we realized that someone was spoofing the Caller ID of our company on a local phone number, and then they were forwarding call-backs to their number to one of our 1-800 numbers. We contacted the registered provider of the scammer's phone number, Level3, but they haven't been able to resolve the issue yet and have left the number active (apparently one of their sub-carriers owns it). At this point, the malicious party is auto-dialing half of the phone book in the DC metro area and it's causing harm to our business reputation. Disabling our inbound 800 number isn't really possible due to the legitimate marketing traffic. Do you have any suggestions?

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After Four Days, Philae Team Gets to Rest

slashdot - Sun, 11/16/2014 - 19:43
The Associated Press reports on one happy consequence of the inevitable shutdown of the Philae lander, after its incredible landing on Rosetta: the team that was in control of the lander here on earth finally gets to take a well-deserved break, after four nearly sleepless days and nights. It seems unlikely -- though it's not impossible -- that Philae will get enough solar energy to briefly wake up again; its bouncy landing and harpoon malfunction mean that the craft is in shadow rather than the sunlight that it was hoped to bask in. From CNN: Originally, it was supposed to have seven hours of light per comet day -- which lasts just 12.4 hours. Now it is exposed only 1.5 hours a day. That's likely not enough to juice up Philae's rechargeable secondary battery, ESA said. There is one last hope. "Mission controllers sent commands to rotate the lander's main body, to which the solar panels are fixed," ESA says in on its blog. "This may have exposed more panel area to sunlight."

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Open Source Self-Healing Software For Virtual Machines

slashdot - Sun, 11/16/2014 - 18:46
An anonymous reader writes Computer scientists have developed Linux based software that not only detects and eradicates never-before-seen viruses and other malware, but also automatically repairs damage caused by them. If a virus or attack stops the service, A3 could repair it in minutes without having to take the servers down. The software then prevents the invader from ever infecting the computer again. "It's pretty cool when you can pick the Bug of the Week and it works." (Here's a paper with more details.)

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MARS, Inc: We Are Running Out of Chocolate

slashdot - Sun, 11/16/2014 - 18:04
schwit1 writes There's no easy way to say this: You're eating too much chocolate, all of you. And it's getting so out of hand that the world could be headed towards a potentially disastrous (if you love chocolate) scenario if it doesn't stop. ... Chocolate deficits, whereby farmers produce less cocoa than the world eats, are becoming the norm. Already, we are in the midst of what could be the longest streak of consecutive chocolate deficits in more than 50 years. It also looks like deficits aren't just carrying over from year-to-year—the industry expects them to grow. Last year, the world ate roughly 70,000 metric tons more cocoa than it produced. By 2020, the two chocolate-makers warn that that number could swell to 1 million metric tons, a more than 14-fold increase; by 2030, they think the deficit could reach 2 million metric tons.

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Apple Disables Trim Support On 3rd Party SSDs In OS X

slashdot - Sun, 11/16/2014 - 17:44
MojoKid (1002251) writes One of the disadvantages to buying an Apple system is that it generally means less upgrade flexibility than a system from a traditional PC OEM. Over the last few years, Apple has introduced features and adopted standards that made using third-party hardware progressively more difficult. Now, with OS X 10.10 Yosemite, the company has taken another step down the path towards total vendor lock-in and effectively disabled support for third-party SSDs. We say "effectively" because while third-party SSDs will still work, they'll no longer perform the TRIM garbage collection command. Being able to perform TRIM and clean the SSD when its sitting idle is vital to keeping the drive at maximum performance. Without it, an SSD's real world performance will steadily degrade over time. What Apple did with OS X 10.10 is introduce KEXT (Kernel EXTension) driver signing. KEXT signing means that at boot, the OS checks to ensure that all drivers are approved and enabled by Apple. It's conceptually similar to the device driver checks that Windows performs at boot. However, with OS X, if a third-party SSD is detected, the OS will detect that a non-approved SSD is in use, and Yosemite will refuse to load the appropriate TRIM-enabled driver.

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GTK+ Developers Call For Help To Finish Cross-Platform OpenGL Support

slashdot - Sun, 11/16/2014 - 16:29
jones_supa writes OpenGL support under GTK is getting into good shape for providing a nice, out-of-the-box experience by default on key platforms for the GTK+ 3.16 / GNOME 3.16 release in March. For a few weeks now within mainline GTK+ has been native OpenGL support and as part of that a new GtkGLArea widget for allowing OpenGL drawing within GTK applications. Since that initial work landed, there's been more GTK+ OpenGL code progressing that right now primarily benefits Linux X11 and Wayland users. While good progress is being made and improvements still ongoing to the GNOME toolkit, GNOME developers are requesting help in ensuring other GTK+ backends can benefit from this OpenGL support. If you are using or planning to use GTK+ 3 on Windows or OS X, and you know how to use OpenGL on those two platforms, please consider helping out the GTK+ developers by implementing the GdkGLContext API using WGL and AppleGL.

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Can the US Actually Cultivate Local Competition in Broadband?

slashdot - Sun, 11/16/2014 - 15:32
New submitter riskkeyesq writes with a link to a blog post from Dane Jasper, CEO of Sonic.net, about what Jasper sees as the deepest problem in the U.S. broadband market and the Internet in general: "There are a number of threats to the Internet as a system for innovation, commerce and education today. They include net neutrality, the price of Internet access in America, performance, rural availability and privacy. But none of these are the root issue, they're just symptoms. The root cause of all of these symptoms is a disease: a lack of competition for consumer Internet access." Soft landings for former legislators, lobbyists disguised as regulators, hundreds of thousands of miles of fiber sitting unused, the sham that is the internet provider free market is keeping the US in a telecommunications third-world. What, exactly, can American citizens do about it? One upshot,iIn Jasper's opinion (hardly disinterested, is his role at CEO at an ISP that draws praise from the EFF for its privacy policies) is this: "Today’s FCC should return to the roots of the Telecom Act, and reinforce the unbundling requirements, assuring that they are again technology neutral. This will create an investment ladder to facilities for competitive carriers, opening access to build out and serve areas that are beyond our reach today."

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For Some Would-Be Google Glass Buyers and Devs, Delays May Mean Giving Up

slashdot - Sun, 11/16/2014 - 14:27
ErnieKey writes with a Reuters story that says Google's Glass, not yet out for general purchase, has been wearing on the patience of both developers and would-be customers: "After an initial burst of enthusiasm, signs that consumers are giving up on Glass have been building.' Is it true that Google Goggles are simply not attractive to wear? Or perhaps it's the invasion of privacy that is deterring people from wearing them. Regardless, Google needs to change something quickly before they lose all their potential customers. From the article: Of 16 Glass app makers contacted, nine said that they had stopped work on their projects or abandoned them, mostly because of the lack of customers or limitations of the device. Three more have switched to developing for business, leaving behind consumer projects. Plenty of larger developers remain with Glass. The nearly 100 apps on the official website include Facebook and OpenTable, although one major player recently defected: Twitter. "If there was 200 million Google Glasses sold, it would be a different perspective. There's no market at this point," said Tom Frencel, the chief executive of Little Guy Games, which put development of a Glass game on hold this year and is looking at other platforms, including the Facebook-owned virtual-reality goggles Oculus Rift. Several key Google employees instrumental to developing Glass have left the company in the last six months, including lead developer Babak Parviz, electrical engineering chief Adrian Wong, and Ossama Alami, director of developer relations.

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Machine Learning Used To Predict Military Suicides

slashdot - Sun, 11/16/2014 - 13:26
HughPickens.com (3830033) writes David Wagner writes that a predictive computer model using machine learning methods is helping to identify soldiers in the United States Army most likely to commit suicide. Computers combed through data on more than 40,000 soldiers who'd been hospitalized for mental health problems looking at 421 variables on each soldier drawn from 38 military data systems. Using a method known as "machine learning," the researchers identified roughly two dozen factors that are most important in predicting soldiers most likely to commit suicide. The soldiers most likely to take their own lives were men with past suicidal behavior and a history of psychiatric disorders and criminal offenses, including weapons possession and verbal assaults. Soldiers with hearing loss also faced heightened risk — a strong indicator that they had suffered a head injury. So did enlisting in the Army after age 27, most likely because those soldiers had already experienced trouble finding their way in life. "There's this group that comes to the Army later in life — they're smart, they have skills, they tend not to be married and they have no career or have left a career to join," Dr. Kessler said. "We don't know why they should be at higher risk, but they appear to be." Murray Stein, co-author of the new study, found that among soldiers recently discharged from psychiatric hospitals, more than half of suicides were committed by just five percent of patients. "The most impressive thing is that they identified this high-risk group in the hospital, and by just focusing on one in 20 of them, you're really dramatically improving your ability to predict," says Dr. Mark Olfson, a professor of psychiatry at Columbia University who was not involved in the study. "Clinicians don't do a very good job predicting suicide risk, even though we think we do."

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