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Robot Ranchers Monitor Animals On Giant Australian Farms

slashdot - Mon, 05/23/2016 - 17:15
An anonymous reader writes: Sheep and cattle farms in the Australian outback are vast as well as remote. For example, the country's most isolated cattle station, Suplejack Downs in the Northern Territory, extends across 4000 square kilometres and takes 13 hours to reach by car from the nearest major town, Alice Springs. But robots are coming to the rescue. A two-year trial, which starts next month, will train a 'farmbot' to herd livestock, keep an eye on their health, and check they have enough pasture to graze on. Sick and injured animals will be identified using thermal and vision sensors that detect changes in body temperature and walking gait, says Salah Sukkarieh of the University of Sydney, who will carry out the trial on several farms in central New South Wales. The robot, which has not yet been named, is a more sophisticated version of an earlier model, Shrimp, which was designed to herd groups of 20 to 150 dairy cows.

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Space Updates From Three Countries

slashdot - Mon, 05/23/2016 - 07:30
The Indian Space Research Organisation continues developing a reusable launch vehicle, which could cut the costs of satellite launches by 90%. William Robinson quotes the Business Times: India will use a mini-rocket with a booster to fly a winged reusable launch vehicle into lower earth orbit on May 23... If everything goes well, it will reach about 70 kilometers from earth, and will plunge into the Bay of Bengal...to demonstrate hypersonic and aero-thermodynamics of the winged re-entry vehicle with autonomous mission management Meanwhile, Thelasko shares this reminder from BlastingNews that the U.S. Air Force's mysterious X-37B celebrated the one-year anniversary of its launch: Today, the maneuverable craft operates in a 220-mile orbit, a higher altitude it briefly held last fall and roughly the same perch occupied twice by the previous X-37B mission, according to satellite-tracking hobbyist Ted Molczan. This X-37B carries at least two payloads, revealed by the military before the ship took off â" an experimental electric propulsion thruster to be tested in orbit and a pallet to expose sample materials to the space environment. And MarkWhittington writes that "The latest Chinese space station, the Tiangong 2, is slated to be launched later in 2016 and will be visited by Chinese astronauts in a Shenzhou spacecraft. But, according to Spaceflight Insider, the Chinese are already looking ahead to their permanent low Earth orbit space facility, the Tiangong 3, slated to begin construction in 2018."

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Code Quality Predicted Using Biometrics

slashdot - Mon, 05/23/2016 - 03:30
An anonymous reader writes: Swiss researchers are unveiling "a not at all sinister-sounding system capable of predicting the quality of code produced by developers based on their biometric data," according to Motherboard. "By looking at the programmer as they program, rather than the code after the programmer is done writing it, the system described by the Zurich researchers finds code quality issues as the code is being produced... By using heart rate information, for example, they were able to quantify the difficulty a given programmer had in producing a piece of software. This information could then be used to identify likely sections of bad code..." In a paper to be presented at an Austin engineering conference this week, the researchers write that "Delaying software quality concerns, such as defects or poor understandability of the code, increases the cost of fixing them," calling their system an improvement over code reviews, even automated ones. "Biometrics helped to automatically detect 50 percent of the bugs found in code reviews and outperformed traditional metrics in predicting all quality concerns found in code reviews." On the other hand, Motherboard likened the stress level for programmers to "a coding interview that never ends where you also happen to be naked. "

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Microsoft Urged to Open Source Classic Visual Basic

slashdot - Mon, 05/23/2016 - 01:30
"On the 25th anniversary of classic Visual Basic, return it to its programmers..." reads the plea at UserVoice.com from Sue Gee -- drawing 85 upvotes. "The new Microsoft claims to back open source, why not in this case? There is no need for Microsoft to do any more work on the code base - simply open source it and allow the community to keep it alive." In an essay at i-programmer.info, Gee shares a video of young Bill Gates building an app with Visual Basic in 1991, and complains that in the 25 years since Microsoft has open sourced .NET Core and the .NET Compiler Platform Roslyn, "but it has explicitly refused to open source VB6." She notes that Friday Visual Basic's program manager announced a "Visual Basic Silver Anniversary Celebratiathon," promising he's reaching out to the VB team members from the last 25 years for a behind-the-scenes retrospective, and adding "this is a party, so feel free to be interactive." "What the post glosses over is that this history was blighted by the fork in the road that was .NET and that many Visual Basic fans are highly unsatisfied that the programming environment they cherished is lost to them..." writes Gee. "Vote for the proposal not because you want to use VB6 or that you think it is worth having -- Vote for it because a company like Microsoft should not take a language away from its users."

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How the Pentagon Punished NSA Whistleblowers

slashdot - Sun, 05/22/2016 - 23:30
10 years before Edward Snowden's leak, an earlier whistle-blower on NSA spying "was fired, arrested at dawn by gun-wielding FBI agents, stripped of his security clearance, charged with crimes that could have sent him to prison for the rest of his life, and all but ruined financially and professionally," according to a new article in The Guardian. "The only job he could find afterwards was working in an Apple store in suburban Washington, where he remains today... The supreme irony? In their zeal to punish Drake, these Pentagon officials unwittingly taught Snowden how to evade their clutches when the 29-year-old NSA contract employee blew the whistle himself." But today The Guardian reveals a new story about John Crane, a senior official at the Department of Defense "who fought to provide fair treatment for whistleblowers such as Thomas Drake -- until Crane himself was forced out of his job and became a whistleblower as well..." Crane told me how senior Defense Department officials repeatedly broke the law to persecute whistleblower Thomas Drake. First, he alleged, they revealed Drake's identity to the Justice Department; then they withheld (and perhaps destroyed) evidence after Drake was indicted; finally, they lied about all this to a federal judge... Crane's failed battle to protect earlier whistleblowers should now make it very clear that Snowden had good reasons to go public with his revelations... if [Crane's] allegations are confirmed in court, they could put current and former senior Pentagon officials in jail. (Official investigations are quietly under way.) Meanwhile, George Maschke writes: In a presentation to a group of Texas law students, a polygraph examiner for the U.S. Department of Defense revealed that in the aftermath of Edward Snowden's revelations, the number of polygraphs conducted annually by the department tripled (to over 120,000). Morris also conceded that mental countermeasures to the polygraph are a "tough thing."

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Rovio's Desperate Push For 'Angry Birds' Movie

slashdot - Sun, 05/22/2016 - 22:30
An anonymous reader writes:Last year Rovio "cut 213 jobs, affecting all departments except those working on the film and its related projects," remembers VentureBeat, describing their effort to make a movie about three outcast birds on an island of happier birds who all meet in an anger management class. But "Since Rovio funded the entire film, the directors didn't have to answer to an executive committee or a board of trustees..." reports VentureBeat, quoting director Clay Kaytis as saying "We had to make ourselves happy... We were making the films for [ourselves] instead of for a larger entity that expects something in return." After working for four years from a script by Jon Vitti (a writer for both The Simpsons and The Office), and funding a marketing onslaught that lasted nine months, Rovio finally saw their Angry Birds movie open in this weekend's #1 spot, according to the New York Times. "Most of the 'Angry Birds' financial risk fell to Rovio, the Finnish video game company, which paid $173 million to make and market the movie. As such, Rovio will receive the bulk of any profit." In China, McDonald's released special Angry Birds burgers with red or green buns...which at least one patron complained made the buns look moldy.

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Hundreds of Drupal Sites Targeted With Fake Ransomware

slashdot - Sun, 05/22/2016 - 21:30
An anonymous reader writes: A group of hackers have created a ransomware strain that specifically targets Drupal sites. Infection occurs thanks to an automated bot which scans Drupal sites and then uses an SQL injection (CVE-2014-3704) to change the site admin's password. The bot also dumps any emails it finds on the server, and then overwrites the site's main page to show a typical ransomware note. Over 400 sites have been infected until now, but nobody has paid the ransom yet. This case yet again proves why "Web ransomware" will never work because even the worst Web hosting service provides automatic backups from where they could retrieve a clean version of their site.

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Netflix and Amazon Could Face Content Quotas In Europe

slashdot - Sun, 05/22/2016 - 20:30
jader3rd quotes an articles from The Daily Mail about a new EU proposal to be published next week: Netflix and Amazon could be forced to make French, German and even Estonian films and TV shows by the EU. The US companies could also be hit with taxes to raise funds to support the work of film-makers in Europe. The proposal is thought to be driven by the French, who are particularly fearful of their cinema and TV programmes being eclipsed by English language productions... One draft says the aims is to create 'a more level playing field in the promotion of European works by obliging on-demand services to reserve at least 20 percent share for European works in their catalogues and to ensure adequate prominence of such works'. French may become the world's most-spoken language by 2050 (due to its popularity among the fast-growing population of Africa). But even so, should U.S.-based companies be facing "regional quotas" for the content they're offering?

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Ask Slashdot: Have You Migrated To Node.js?

slashdot - Sun, 05/22/2016 - 19:30
A developer maintaining his company's "half-assed LAMP / WordPress stack pipeline for web and web application development" is considering something more scalable that could eventually be migrated into the cloud. Qbertino asks Slashdot: Have you moved from LAMP (PHP) to Node.js for custom product development and if so, what's your advice? What downsides of JS on the server and in Node.js have a real-world effect? Is callback hell really a thing? And what is the state of free and open-source Node products...? Is there any trend inside the Node.js camp on building a platform and CMS product that competes with the PHP camp whilst maintaining a sane architecture, or is it all just a ball of hype with a huge mess of its own growing in the background, Rails-style? Condensing Qbertino's original submission: he wants to be able to quickly deliver "pretty, working, and half-way reliable products that make us money" -- and to build a durable pipeline. So leave your educated opinions in the comments. What did you experience moving to Node.js?

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Segway Inventor To Build Powerful Wheelchair With Toyota

slashdot - Sun, 05/22/2016 - 18:30
Toyota is working with Segway PT inventor Dean Kamen on advanced wheelchairs for the aged and disabled. Slashdot reader necro81 writes: Most people don't know that the two-wheeled balancing technology was first developed by Kamen's company in the early 2000s for the iBot -- an advanced wheelchair that could climb stairs and curbs, had four-wheel drive, and could balance on its rear wheels... it was also a commercial flop: the iBot was discontinued in 2009 after selling hundreds of units (many still in operation a decade later). Today, however, Toyota announced a partnership with Dean Kamen to upgrade the iBot and bring it back to market. I wonder if they'll be used in more than just the obvious ways. 15 years after the introduction of the first Segways, Steve Wozniak is participating in the Segway polo world championships (which are named the "Woz Cup" in his honor). And the Australian army once even had a fleet of Segways which they dressed up like enemy soldiers to practice field maneuvers.

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Attackers Steal $12.7M In Massive ATM Heist

slashdot - Sun, 05/22/2016 - 17:30
Within two hours $12.7 million in cash was stolen from 1,400 ATMs located at convenience stores all across Japan, investigators announced Sunday. An anonymous reader quotes a Japanese newspaper: Police suspect that the cash was withdrawn at ATMs using counterfeit credit cards containing account information leaked from a South African bank. Japanese police will work with South African authorities through the International Criminal Police Organization to look into the major theft, including how credit card information was leaked, the sources said. Over the two hours attackers withdrew the equivalent of $907 in 14,000 different transactions.

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Student Exposes Bad Police Encryption, Gets Suspended Sentence

slashdot - Sun, 05/22/2016 - 16:30
An anonymous reader shares a story about Dejan Ornig, a security analyst in Slovenia who warned the Slovenian police department about vulnerabilities in their supposedly secure communication system TETRA in 2013. (Here's Google's English translation of the article, and the Slovenian original.) He discovered that the system, which was supposed to provide encrypted communication, was incorrectly configured. As a result lots of communication could be intercepted with a $25 piece of equipment and some software. To make matters worse, the system is not used just by the police, but also by the military, military police, IRS, Department of Corrections and a few other governmental institutions which rely on secure communications. After waiting for more than two years for a reaction, from police or Ministry of Interior and getting in touch with security researchers at the prestigious institute Jozef Stefan, he eventually decided to go public with his story... The police and Ministry of interior then launched an internal investigation, which then confirmed Ornig's findings and revealed internal communications problems between the departments... Ornig has been subject to a house search by the police, during which his computers and equipment that he used to listen in on the system were seized. Police also found a "counterfeit police badge" during the investigation. All along Ornig was offering his help with securing the system. On May 11th Ornig received a prison sentence of 15 months suspended for duration of three years, provided that he doesn't repeat any of the offenses for which he was found guilty (illegal access of the communications system). He can appeal this judgment.

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Researchers Generate Electricity Using Seawater and Sunlight

slashdot - Sun, 05/22/2016 - 15:30
Slashdot reader sosume writes: Scientists at Osaka University have created a new method to use sunlight to turn seawater into hydrogen peroxide which can then be used in fuel cells to generate electricity. It's the first photocatalytic method of H2O2 production that achieves a high enough efficiency so that the H2O2 can be used in a fuel cell. It's easier and safer to transport liquid H2O2, according to the article, and while its total efficiency is much lower than conventional solar cells, the researchers hope to get better results by using better materials.

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Ransomware Adds DDoS Attacks To Annoy More People

slashdot - Sun, 05/22/2016 - 14:30
An anonymous reader writes: Ransomware developers have found another method of monetizing their operations by adding a DDoS component to their malicious payloads. So instead of just encrypting your files and locking your screen, new ransomware versions seen this week also started adding a DDoS bot that quietly blasts spoofed network traffic at various IPs on the Internet. Softpedia points out that "Renting out DDoS botnets on the Dark Web is a very lucrative business, even if prices have gone down in recent years."

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Google-Backed Solar Plant Catches on Fire

slashdot - Sun, 05/22/2016 - 13:30
An anonymous reader writes:"The world's largest solar plant just torched itself," read the headline at Gizmodo, reporting on a fire Thursday at the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System. Built on 4,000 acres of public land in the Mojave Desert, the $2.2 billion plant "has nearly 350,000 computer controlled mirrors -- each roughly the size of a garage door," according to the Associated Press, which reports that misaligned mirrors focused the sunlight on electrical cables, causing them to burst into flames, according to the local fire department. The facility was temporarily shut down, and the fire damaged one of the facility's three towers, according to the Associated Press, while another tower is closed for maintenance, "leaving the sprawling facility on the California-Nevada border operating at only a third of its capacity." The New York Times reported that by 2011 Google had invested $168 in the facility.

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Node.js Now Runs COBOL and FORTRAN

slashdot - Sun, 05/22/2016 - 11:30
Last summer a developer created a plugin which made it possible to run snippets of COBOL code embedded in JavaScript using the Node.js interpreter. Now Slashdot reader techfilz writes: Romanian developer Bizau Ionica has engineered a software bridge called node.cobol which can execute Node.js scripts from within COBOL programs. The link shows COBOL code executing a Node.js script that launches a Web server and creates ASCII art from a JPEG image -- in this case, Admiral Grace Hopper, who helped create COBOL in 1959. And Ars Technica points out the same developer has also built a Node.js bridge for FORTRAN.

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Japanese Startup Wants To Rain Down Man-Made Meteor For Tokyo Olympics

slashdot - Sun, 05/22/2016 - 07:30
A startup called Star-ALE wants to create a man-made meteor shower over the city of Tokyo for the 2020 Olympics opening ceremonies. The pyrotechnics show, Star-ALE says, will be visible from an area 200km across Japan, and the pyrotechnics will actually shower from space. Starting next year, Star-ALE will begin sending a fleet of microsatellites carrying 500 to 1000 specially-developed pellets that ignite and intensely glow as they re-enter the earth's atmosphere. ScienceAlert reports: But wonderment comes at a cost, and in this case, that cost isn't cheap. Each combustible pellet comes in at about $8,100 to produce, and that's not including the costs involved in actually launching the Sky Canvas satellite. The company has tested its source particles in the lab, using a vacuum chamber and hot gases to simulate the conditions the pellets would encounter upon re-entering Earth's atmosphere. In its testing, the particles burn with an apparent magnitude of -1, which should ensure they're clearly visible in the night sky, even in the polluted skyline of a metropolis like Tokyo.

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How Militarized Cops Are Zapping Rights With Stingray

slashdot - Sun, 05/22/2016 - 03:29
"Police nationwide are secretly exploiting intrusive technologies with the feds' complicity," argues a new article on Alternet -- calling out Stingray, which mimics a cellphone tower to identify every cellphone nearby. "It gathers information not only about a specific suspect, but any bystanders in the area as well... Some Stingrays are capable of collecting not only cell phone ID numbers but also numbers those phones have dialed and even phone conversations." The ACLU says requests for more information have been meeting heavy resistance from police departments since 2011, with many departments citing nondisclosure agreements with Stingray's manufacturer and with the FBI, and "often, the police get a judge's sign-off for surveillance without even bothering to mention that they will be using a Stingray...claiming that they simply can't violate those FBI nondisclosure agreements. "More often than not, police use Stingrays without bothering to get a warrant, instead seeking a court order on a more permissive legal standard. This is part of the charm of a new technology for the authorities: nothing is settled on how to use it." Stingray is more than a 1960s TV series with puppets. Several state judges estimate there have been hundreds of instances where police have used the Stingray tool without a warrant or telling a judge. Slashdot reader Presto Vivace writes: This is why it matters who wins the mayor and city council races. Localities do not have to accept this technology.

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Abrams Says Paramount Will Drop Star Trek/Axenar Lawsuit

slashdot - Sun, 05/22/2016 - 01:29
An anonymous reader writes:At a fan event Friday for the upcoming Star Trek movie, producer J. J. Abrams said Paramount Pictures' lawsuit against Axanar Productions was "going away." Director Justin Lin had been outraged by the lawsuit against the crowdfunded fan Star Trek film, and when he'd started discussing the situation with Abrams, the two "realized this was not an appropriate way to deal with the fans. The fans should be celebrating this thing. Fans of Star Trek are part of this world. So he went to the studio and pushed them to stop this lawsuit and now, within the next few weeks, it will be announced this is going away, and that fans would be able to continue working on their project." In a statement, Axanar said they still "want to make sure we go through all the proper steps to make sure all matters are settled with CBS and Paramount..." adding "There is still a lot of work to do, but receiving this kind of public support helps immensely."

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Fake Facebook Event Draws Police, Spawns New Meme

slashdot - Sat, 05/21/2016 - 23:29
An anonymous reader writes: A fake event announcement on Facebook has now launched "a long string of viral jokes featuring fake concert events for music acts at oddly appropriate venues," according to CNET -- for example, a Radiohead concert at Radio Shack or a Sunday Brunch with Insane Clown Posse. It began with a fake announcement touting an upcoming concert with Limp Bizkit on April 20 at a Sunoco gas station. "The event got so much viral attention and local and national news coverage that the Dayton Police Department had to issue a statement to the local press and on its Twitter page on April 19 that there would be no Limp Bizkit concert..." CNET reports. "That still didn't stop a crowd of 100 Limp Bizkit fans from going to the Sunoco and chanting 'Fred! Fred! Fred!' in front of the station. The station had to close up for the night and police were called to the scene to disperse the crowd. Since then, other Facebook users decided to try their luck at tricking the more gullible people on the Internet into going to concerts that don't exist." In an unrelated development, 12 Facebook employees and their guests were stuck in an elevator at Facebook's California headquarters for more than two hours on Friday, until being rescued by local firefighters using the Jaws of Life.

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