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TPP Fast Track Passes Key Vote In the Senate, Moves On To the House

Slashdot - Sat, 05/23/2015 - 15:32
onproton writes: The Senate voted yesterday to reauthorize the controversial Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), which expedites, or 'Fast Tracks,' the passage of trade agreements through Congress. If also approved by the House, it will grant the authority to decide and negotiate the terms of agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) to the executive branch, significantly limiting congressional involvement and leaving little room for debate. Proponents of the bill, namely the USTR, claim that Fast Tracking the TPP is critical to successfully negotiating its terms internationally, and will "ensure that Congress, stakeholders and the public are closely involved before, during and after the conclusion of trade agreement negotiations." Though in reality, it does not introduce significant changes in the transparency or reporting requirements that are currently in place, which have allowed the negotiations of this deal to be held in secret since 2009. With concerns being raised about the deal's impacts on everything from intellectual property rights to government sovereignty, it is surprising to many that Congress would abdicate their role in determining the specifics of agreements that may have far reaching implications for their constituents.

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Cute Or Creepy? Google's Plan For a Sci-Fi Teddy Bear

Slashdot - Sat, 05/23/2015 - 14:28
HughPickens.com writes: Time Magazine reports that Google has designed and patented an "anthropomorphic device" that could take the form of a "doll or toy" and interact both with people as well as tech gadgets echoing the "super toy" teddy bear featured in Stephen Spielberg's 2001 movie AI. This could be one of Google's creepiest patents yet — especially if movies like "Chuckie" still give you nightmares. The patent filing diagrams a stuffed teddy bear and a bunny rabbit outfitted with microphones, speakers, cameras and motors as well as a wireless connection to the internet. If it senses you're looking at it, the fuzzy toy will rotate its head and look back at you. Once it receives and recognizes a voice command prompt, you can then tell it to control media devices in your home (e.g. turn on your music or TV). According to the patent filing: "To express interest, an anthropomorphic device may open its eyes, lift its head, and/or focus its gaze on the user or object of its interest. To express curiosity, an anthropomorphic device may tilt its head, furrow its brow, and/or scratch its head with an arm. To express boredom, an anthropomorphic device may defocus its gaze, direct its gaze in a downward fashion, tap its foot, and/or close its eyes. To express surprise, an anthropomorphic device may make a sudden movement, sit or stand up straight, and/or dilate its pupils." The patent adds that making the device look "cute" should encourage even the youngest members of a family to interact with it. But Mikhail Avady, from SmartUp, said he thought it belonged in "a horror film", and the campaign group Big Brother Watch has also expressed dismay. "When those devices are aimed specifically at children, then for many this will step over the creepy line," says Avady. "Children should be able to play in private and shouldn't have to fear this sort of passive invasion of their privacy."

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Bank of England Accidentally E-mails Top-Secret "Brexit" Plan To the Guardian

Slashdot - Sat, 05/23/2015 - 11:17
schwit1 writes: The first rule of "Project Bookend" is that you don't talk about "Project Bookend." In retrospect, maybe the first rule should have been "you don't accidentally e-mail 'Project Bookend' to a news agency," because as the Guardian reports, one of its editors opened his inbox and was surprised to find a message from the BOE's Head of Press Jeremy Harrison outlining the UK financial market equivalent of the Manhattan project. Project Bookend is a secret (or 'was' a secret) initiative undertaken by the BOE to study what the fallout might be from a potential 'Brexit', but if anyone asked what Sir Jon Cunliffe and a few senior staffers were up to, they were instructed to say that they were busy investigating "a broad range of European economic issues." And if you haven't heard the term before, "Brexit" refers to the possibility of Britain leaving the EU -- one of the possible outcomes of an upcoming referendum.

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NSA-Reform Bill Fails In US Senate

Slashdot - Sat, 05/23/2015 - 08:39
New submitter Steven King writes with a link to The Daily Dot's report that the U.S. Senate has rejected a controversial bill, thus "all but guaranteeing that key provisions of the USA Patriot Act will expire"; had it passed, the bill would have allowed continued use of some mass data-collection practices, but with the addition of stronger oversight. From the article: The Senate failed to reach agreement on passage of the USA Freedom Act, a bill to reauthorize and reform Section 215 of the USA Patriot Act, which the government has used to conduct bulk surveillance of Americans' phone records. The House of Representatives passed the bill last week by an overwhelming bipartisan majority, but Senate Democrats, who unified behind the bill, did not get enough Republican votes to assure passage. The linked piece also mentions that the EFF shifted its position on this bill, after a panel of Federal judges ruled that the Feds at the NSA had overstepped their bounds in collecting a seemingly unlimited trove of metadata relating to American citizen's phone calls.

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25 Years Today - Windows 3.0

Slashdot - Sat, 05/23/2015 - 05:10
An anonymous reader writes: Windows 3.0 was launched on 22 May 1990 — I know, 'coz I was there as a SDE on the team. I still have, um, several of the shrink-wrapped boxes of the product — with either 3.5 inch and 5.25 floppies rattling around inside them — complete with their distinctive 'I witnessed the event' sticker! It was a big deal for me, and I still consider Win 3 as *the* most significant Windows' release, and I wonder what other Slashdotters think, looking back on Win 3?

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Epic's VR Demo Scene For the GTX 980 Now Runs On Morpheus PS4 Headset At 60 FPS

Slashdot - Sat, 05/23/2015 - 02:44
An anonymous reader writes: Originally created as a Unreal Engine 4 demo scene to push the limits of VR-capable graphics on the Oculus Rift 'Crescent Bay' prototype VR headset, Showdown is now running flawlessly at 60 FPS on Morpheus, Sony's PS4 VR headset. The demo was previously only able to run at Oculus' 90 FPS target VR framerate on the Nvidia GTX 980, a GPU which costs nearly $200 more than the PS4 itself. To the delight of UE4 developers, the performance improvement comes from general optimizations to UE4 on PS4, rather than specific optimizations to Showdown.

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California Votes To Ban Microbeads

Slashdot - Sat, 05/23/2015 - 01:55
New submitter Kristine Lofgren writes: The California Assembly just passed a vote to ban toxic microbeads, the tiny flecks found in toothpastes and exfoliants. Microbeads cause a range of problems, from clogging waterways to getting stuck in gums. The ban would be the strictest of its kind in the nation. As the article notes, the California Senate would need to pass a bill as well, for this ban to take effect, and if that happens, the resulting prohibition will come into place in 2020. From the article: Last year, Illinois became the first state in the U.S. to pass a ban on the usage of microbeads in cosmetics, approving a law that will go into effect in 2018, and earlier this year two congressmen introduced a bipartisan bill to outlaw the use of microbeads nationwide. And for exceptionally good reason; the beads, which serve as exfoliants and colorants are a massive source of water pollution, with scientists estimating that 471 million plastic microbeads are released into San Francisco Bay alone every single day.

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WSJ Crowdsources Investigation of Hillary Clinton Emails

Slashdot - Sat, 05/23/2015 - 01:10
PvtVoid writes: The Wall Street Journal now has a page up that encourages readers to sift through and tag Hillary Clinton's emails on Benghazi. Users can click on suggested tags such as "Heated", "Personal", "Boring", or "Interesting", or supply their own tags. What could possibly go wrong? I'm tagging this story "election2016."

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Protons Collide At 13 TeV For the First Time At the LHC

Slashdot - Sat, 05/23/2015 - 00:30
An anonymous reader writes to let everyone know the LHC has now smashed protons together at 13 TeV, the highest energy level yet achieved. They've posted the first images captured from the collisions, and explained the testing process as well. Jorg Wenninger of the LHC Operations team says, "When we start to bring the beams into collision at a new energy, they often miss each other. The beams are tiny – only about 20 microns in diameter at 6.5 TeV; more than 10 times smaller than at 450 GeV. So we have to scan around – adjusting the orbit of each beam until collision rates provided by the experiments tell us that they are colliding properly." Spokesperson Tiziano Camporesi adds, "The collisions at 13 TeV will allow us to further test all improvements that have been made to the trigger and reconstruction systems, and check the synchronisation of all the components of our detector."

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How Cities: Skylines Beat SimCity At Its Own Game

Slashdot - Fri, 05/22/2015 - 23:49
An anonymous reader writes: Maxis, the studio behind SimCity, was shuttered earlier this year. Fortunately, another studio has taken up its mantle. The small team at Colossal Order has already won acclaim for city-builder game Cities: Skylines (and sold millions), earning a great reputation with the modding community by avoiding all the mistakes the last SimCity release made, such as enforced online/multiplayer. A new behind the scenes feature looks at how the game came about — it was not a response to SimCity, surprisingly — as well as what's next from the studio. "We are planning to start another game project sometime soon," says Colossal CEO Mariina Hallikainen. "We definitely want to focus on old-school simulator games and definitely PC. PC, Mac and Linux, those are our 'thing.' But I think we're maybe going to do something a little bit different."

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'Prisonized' Neighborhoods Make Recidivism More Likely

Slashdot - Fri, 05/22/2015 - 23:10
sciencehabit writes: One of the most important questions relating to incarceration and rehabilitation is how to discourage recidivism. After a prison stint, about half of convicts wind up back in the slammer within three years. But sociologist David Kirk noticed a pattern: convicts who moved away from their old neighborhood when released from prison had a much smaller recidivism rate. Kirk found that the concentration of former prisoners in a neighborhood had a dramatic effect on the likelihood of committing another offense (abstract). "So if an ex-con’s average chance of returning to prison after just 1 year was 22%—as it was in 2006—an additional new parolee in the neighborhood boosted that chance to nearly 25%. The numbers climb for each new parolee added. In some of the most affected neighborhoods—where five of every thousand residents were recent parolees—nearly 35% were back behind bars within a year of getting out." The rates stayed consistent even when controlling for chronic poverty and other neighborhood characteristics.

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A Conversation with Druva Co-Founder Jaspreet Singh (Video)

Slashdot - Fri, 05/22/2015 - 22:30
This was originally going to be an interview about the state of enterprise-level backup software in an increasingly edge computing-focused world, but we rapidly drifted into talking about how Druva started in Pune (near Bangalore) and ended up moving to Silicon Valley. We hear plenty about American software companies moving to India, but not a lot about Indian software companies moving here. Druva had good reasons for the move, the chief one being a financing deal with Sequoia Capital. Aside from that, though, Jaspreet says the talent pool -- not just developers but software marketing people and other important staffers -- is more concentrated in Silicon Valley than almost anywhere else in the world. 'It's like Hollywood for geeks,' Jaspreet says. This doesn't mean business is necessarily easy in the USA: Jaspreet ended up laying off his entire staff. Twice. And he made other mistakes as a young, new CEO bringing a company to life in a crowded field. Those mistakes, which Jaspreet shares freely with us, are like a business school 'Start-Up Pitfalls' class. You may never want to do your own startup, but if you're a developer or otherwise involved with the software industry, there's a good chance that you'll have a chance to work for one at some point. And if you have that chance, you'll be glad you watched this video (or read the transcript) before you take the startup plunge.

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Ask Slashdot: What's the Best Dumb Phone?

Slashdot - Fri, 05/22/2015 - 21:29
An anonymous reader writes: For those of us who don't need or want a smartphone, what would be the best dumb phone around? Do you have a preference over flip or candy bar ones? What about ones that have FM radio? Do any of you still use dumb phones in this smart phone era? Related question: What smart phones out now are (or can be reasonably outfitted to be) closest to a dumb phone, considering reliability, simplicity, and battery life? I don't especially want to give up a swiping keyboard, a decent camera, or podcast playback, but I do miss being able to go 5 or more days on a single charge.

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Video Games: Gateway To a Programming Career?

Slashdot - Fri, 05/22/2015 - 20:46
Nerval's Lobster writes: Want more people to program? Encourage them to play more video games, at least according to Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. In an online Q&A, Zuckerberg suggested that a lifetime spent playing video games could prep kids and young adults for careers as programmers. "I actually think giving people the opportunity to play around with different stuff is one of the best things you can do," he told the audience. "I definitely would not have gotten into programming if I hadn't played games as a kid." A handful of games, most notably Minecraft, already have a reputation for encouraging kids to not only think analytically, but also modify the gaming environment — the first steps toward actually wrestling with code. Those of you who have done programming work in your career: did video games influence your path?

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Chrome For Android Is Now Almost Entirely Open Source

Slashdot - Fri, 05/22/2015 - 20:04
jones_supa writes: After lots of work by Chrome for Android team and a huge change, Chrome for Android is now almost entirely open source, a Google engineer announced in Reddit. Over 100,000 lines of code, including the Chrome's entire user interface layer, has been made public, allowing anyone with the inclination to do so to look at, modify, and build the browser from source. Licensing restrictions prevent certain media codecs, plugins and Google service features form being included, hence the "almost." This is on par with the open source Chromium browser that is available on the desktop.

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The Body Cam Hacker Who Schooled the Police

Slashdot - Fri, 05/22/2015 - 19:20
New submitter Cuillere writes: In the fall of 2014, a hacker demanded the Seattle Police Department release all of their body and dash cam video footage, prompting chaos within the institution. Although it was a legal request per Washington state's disclosure laws, Seattle's PD wasn't prepared to handle the repercussions of divulging such sensitive material — and so much of it. The request involved 360 TB of data spread across 1.6 million recordings over 6 years. All recordings had to be manually reviewed and redacted to cut out "children, medical or mental health incidents, confidential informants, or victims or bystanders who did not want to be recorded," so fulfilling the request was simply not within the department's capabilities. Thus, they took a different strategy: they hired the hacker and put him to work on developing an automated redaction system. "Their vision is of an officer simply docking her body cam at the end of a shift. The footage would then be automatically uploaded to storage, either locally or in the cloud, over-redacted for privacy and posted online for everyone to see within a day."

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Asteroid Risk Greatly Overestimated By Almost Everyone

Slashdot - Fri, 05/22/2015 - 18:28
StartsWithABang writes: When it comes to risk assessment, there's one type that humans are notoriously bad at: the very low-frequency but high-consequence risks and rewards. It's why so many of us are so eager to play the lottery, and simultaneously why we're catastrophically afraid of ebola and plane crashes, when we're far more likely to die from something mundane, like getting hit by a truck. One of the examples where science and this type of fear-based fallacy intersect is the science of asteroid strikes. With all we know about asteroids today, here's the actual risk to humanity, and it's much lower than anyone cares to admit.

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New Class of "Non-Joulian" Magnets Change Volume In Magnetic Field

Slashdot - Fri, 05/22/2015 - 17:45
Zothecula notes an announcement from the University of Maryland saying they have developed a new class of magnets, called "Non-Joulian" magnets, which physically expand in the presence of a magnetic field. "In the 1840s, physicist James Prescott Joule discovered that iron-based magnetic materials changed their shape but not their volume when placed in a magnetic field. This phenomenon is referred to as "Joule Magnetostriction," and since its discovery 175 years ago, all magnets have been characterized on this basis." Another significant property of these new magnets is that they can harvest or convert energy with very little waste heat (abstract). The magnets are created when thermally-treated, iron-based alloys are heated in a furnace, then rapidly cooled. When they reach room temperature, they have an odd, almost cellular shape on the microscopic level. The researchers say the magnets have numerous applications for energy-efficient sensors and actuators.

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Adult Dating Site Hack Reveals Users' Sexual Preference, Extramarital Affairs

Slashdot - Fri, 05/22/2015 - 17:03
An anonymous reader notes this report from Channel 4 News that Adult FriendFinder, one of the largest dating sites in the world, has suffered a database breach that revealed personal information for 3.9 million of its users. The leaked data includes email addresses, IP addresses, birth dates, postal codes, sexual preferences, and information indicating which of them are seeking extramarital affairs. There even seems to be data from accounts that were supposedly deleted. Channel 4 saw evidence that there were plans for a spam campaign against these users, and others are worried that a blackmail campaign will follow. "Where you've got names, dates of birth, ZIP codes, then that provides an opportunity to actually target specific individuals whether they be in government or healthcare for example, so you can profile that person and send more targeted blackmail-type emails," said cybercrime specialist Charlie McMurdy.

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ESA Satellite Shows Sudden Ice Loss In Southern Antarctic Peninsula

Slashdot - Fri, 05/22/2015 - 16:20
ddelmonte tips news that the ESA's CryoSat spacecraft has detected a sharp increase in the rate at which ice is being lost in a previously stable section of Antarctica. In 2009, glaciers at the Southern Antarctic Peninsula began rapidly shedding ice into the ocean, at a rate of roughly 60 cubic kilometers per year (abstract). From the ESA's press release: This makes the region one of the largest contributors to sea-level rise in Antarctica, having added about 300 cubic km of water into the ocean in the past six years. Some glaciers along the coastal expanse are currently lowering by as much as four m each year. Prior to 2009, the 750 km-long Southern Antarctic Peninsula showed no signs of change. ... The ice loss in the region is so large that it has even caused small changes in Earth’s gravity field, detected by NASA’s GRACE mission. Climate models show that the sudden change cannot be explained by changes in snowfall or air temperature. Instead, the team attributes the rapid ice loss to warming oceans.

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