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The State of Linux Gaming In the SteamOS Era

Slashdot - Thu, 02/26/2015 - 18:06
An anonymous reader writes: It's been over a year since Valve announced its Linux-based SteamOS, the biggest push yet from a huge company to bring mainstream gaming to Linux. In this article, Ars Technica takes a look at how their efforts are panning out. Game developers say making Linux ports has gotten dramatically easier: "There are great games shipping for Linux from development teams with no Linux expertise. They hit the 'export to Linux' button in the Unity editor and shipped it and it worked out alright. We didn't get flying cars, but the future is turning out OK so far." Hardware drivers are still a problem, getting in the way of potential performance gains due to Linux's overall smaller resource footprint than Windows. And while the platform is growing, it's doing so slowly. Major publishers are still hesitant to devote time to Linux, and Valve is taking their time building for it. Their Steam Machine hardware is still in development, and some of their key features are being adopted by other gaming giants, like Microsoft. Still, Valve is sticking with it, and that's huge. It gives developers faith that they can work on supporting Linux without fear that the industry will re-fragment before their game is done.

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Categories: Tech/Science News

Lizard Squad Claims Attack On Lenovo Days After Superfish

Slashdot - Thu, 02/26/2015 - 17:23
Amanda Parker writes with news that hacker group Lizard Squad has claimed responsibility for a defacement of Lenovo's website. This follows last week's revelations that Lenovo installed Superfish adware on consumer laptops, which included a self-signed certificate authority that could have allowed man-in-the-middle attacks. The hackers seemingly replaced the manufacturer's website with images of an unidentified youth, displayed with a song from the Disney film High School Musical playing in the background. Taking to a new Twitter account that has only been active a matter of days, the Lizards also posted emails alleged to be from Lenovo, leading some to speculate that the mail system had been compromised. While some have seen the attack as retaliation for the Superfish bug, it is also possible that Lizard Squad are jumping on the event merely to promote their own hacking services.

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Categories: Tech/Science News

Lawmakers Seek Information On Funding For Climate Change Critics

Slashdot - Thu, 02/26/2015 - 16:40
HughPickens.com writes: John Schwartz reports at the NY Times that prominent members of the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate are demanding information from universities, companies and trade groups about funding for scientists who publicly dispute widely held views on the causes and risks of climate change. In letters sent to seven universities, Representative Raúl M. Grijalva, an Arizona Democrat who is the ranking member of the House committee on natural resources, sent detailed requests to the academic employers of scientists who had testified before Congress about climate change. "My colleagues and I cannot perform our duties if research or testimony provided to us is influenced by undisclosed financial relationships." Grijalva asked for each university's policies on financial disclosure and the amount and sources of outside funding for each scholar, "communications regarding the funding" and "all drafts" of testimony. Meanwhile Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts, Barbara Boxer of California and Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island. sent 100 letters to fossil fuel companies, trade groups and other organizations asking about their funding of climate research and advocacy asking for responses by April 3. "Corporate special interests shouldn't be able to secretly peddle the best junk science money can buy," said Senator Markey, denouncing what he called "denial-for-hire operations." The letters come after evidence emerged over the weekend that Wei-Hock Soon, known as Willie, a scientist at the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics, had failed to disclose the industry funding for his academic work. The documents also included correspondence between Dr. Soon and the companies who funded his work in which he referred to his papers and testimony as "deliverables." Soon accepted more than $1.2 million in money from the fossil-fuel industry over the last decade while failing to disclose that conflict of interest in most of his scientific papers. At least 11 papers he has published since 2008 omitted such a disclosure, and in at least eight of those cases, he appears to have violated ethical guidelines of the journals that published his work. "What it shows is the continuation of a long-term campaign by specific fossil-fuel companies and interests to undermine the scientific consensus on climate change," says Kert Davies.

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Categories: Tech/Science News

12-Billion-Solar-Mass Black Hole Discovered

Slashdot - Thu, 02/26/2015 - 15:58
sciencehabit writes: A team of astronomers has discovered what is, in galactic terms, a monstrous baby: a gigantic black hole of 12 billion solar masses in a barely newborn galaxy, just 875 million years after the big bang. It's roughly 3000 times the size of our Milky Way's central black hole. To have grown to such a size in so short a time, it must have been munching matter at close to the maximum physically possible rate for most of its existence. Its large size and rate of consumption also makes it the brightest object in that distant era, and astronomers can use its bright light to study the composition of the early universe: how much of the original hydrogen and helium from the big bang had been forged into heavier elements in the furnaces of stars.

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Categories: Tech/Science News

Drones Cost $28,000 Per Arrest, On Average

Slashdot - Thu, 02/26/2015 - 15:16
mpicpp sends this report from CNN: They are sleek, mostly silent converted weapons of war: Drones used by the Border Patrol to scan the skies in the empty deserts of the Southwest to spot illegal immigrants and then, if things work out, have agents arrest them. That's the idea, and the agents who use them say the drones give them a vantage point they never had before. Flying at 18,000 feet, the drones view the landscape below, lock onto potential suspects crossing the Arizona desert, and agents on the ground move into make the arrests. But it's outrageously expensive: $28,000 for a single arrest.

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Categories: Tech/Science News

Intel To Rebrand Atom Chips Along Lines of Core Processors

Slashdot - Thu, 02/26/2015 - 14:09
angry tapir writes Intel has announced that going forward it will use style of branding for its Atom chips that is similar to its branding for Core chips. Atom CPUs will have the X3, X5 and X7 designations, much like with the Core i3, i5 and i7 brands. An Atom X3 will deliver good performance, X5 will be better and X7 will be the best, an Intel spokeswoman said.

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Categories: Tech/Science News

Consultant Designed Success

The Daily WTF - Thu, 02/26/2015 - 13:00

Circa 2005, using XML and XSLT to generate HTML was all the rage. It was cool. It was the future. Anyone who was anyone was using it to accomplish all-things-web. If you were using it, you were among the elite. You were automatically worth hiring for any programming-related task.

Back then, Richard was working at a small web development company. In this case, "small" means the boss, whoe was a bright guy, but who had absolutely no knowledge of anything -web, -computer or -technology related would make all decisions relating to hiring, purchasing technology and creating technology procedures.

Although Richard was trained as a developer, he had been doing some integration work on small client web sites while the company pursued bigger goals of developing a web portal framework that would allow them to pump out dozens of web portals. To help with the overall architecture, the boss hired an Architect who specialized in intelligent transactional agents. One of his claims to fame was a system he had previously built to map data to presentation HTML via XML and XSLT. The boss was impressed by his understanding and use of these technologies, and based almost entirely on just that, hired him.

The architect spent several months analyzing the underlying data and all the state transitions that would be required, as well as the target HTML into which it had to be morphed. Then he spent several more months coding up the framework. One of the key pillars on which this framework was built was the extensive use of XML and XSLT to convert all the data into something a browser could interpret to render.

When the consultant began to integrate his work with the rest of the infrastructure, lots of little problems started to pop up. For example, source control was really just copying the source tree to a dedicated directory on one developer's laptop. When the consultant had to deploy his latest jar, he would copy it to a network share, from which the developers would copy it locally to use it. However, at some point, the moving of the jar file became significantly less important than the using of the contents of the jar file, and the bug reports began to pile up.

This particular application was basically a corporate directory categorized by region, commerce-type and category/sub-category/actual-category. There were 13 regions with about 4000 businesses, 4 commerce-types and about 300 categories. Any experienced developer would expect that searching for a specific business in region A, type B and category C would be quite fast. It would be reasonable to expect the query to complete in far less than one second. In practice, when all criteria were used, the web server timed out most search queries at 30 seconds.

Apparently, the consultant decided that every little thing should be its own class. No matter how small. A data object containing a Date was insufficient. No, there were separate objects to hold day, month and year, all of which were wrapped in a MyDate object. Ditto for time. Ditto for day of week. Ditto for everything else you could imagine. Then, to really test the capabilities of the IO subsystem, network and silicon, he would query every record in the entire database, construct objects for every component, sub-component, sub-sub-component, and so forth via Hibernate, and scan the list using the slowest possible mechanism in the Java language: instanceof, to see if an object was of a particular type before attempting to use it for purposes of comparison. To make matters worse, it repeated this entire process three times for each query; once to check if each business was of the proper instance for the region, once for the commerce-type and once more for the category.

Richard replaced the whole thing with a simple stored procedure that ran in less than 100ms.

Having dealt with that, Richard and peers told their boss what they went through and asked him to fire the consultant. He agreed, but only after the consultant would modify his framework to support multiple portals on the same system.

After two weeks, the consultant proudly proclaimed that the system now supported as many portals as they wanted. The procedure to enable this capability was to copy the entire project and rename it for each additional web portal.

Having ripped out all of that framework, they never even got to try out the part of the framework that morphed data into XML to be XSLT'd into HTML.

In the end, everything that the consultant did was trashed and rewritten by Richard and his peers in about a month.

Upon reflection, Richard learned that just because you have knowledge of how to use one tool doesn't mean that you are an expert in everything. He also learned that an otherwise intelligent boss can make really stupid decisions if he doesn't have the requisite experience in the relevant field.

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Categories: Fun/Other

Users Decry New Icon Look In Windows 10

Slashdot - Thu, 02/26/2015 - 11:29
jones_supa writes A lot of people got upset about the flat looks of Modern UI presented in Windows 8. Recent builds of Windows 10 Technical Preview have now started replacing the shell icons, and to some people they are just too much to bear. Basically, Microsoft opted to change the icons in search of a fresh and modern look, but there are plenty of people out there who claim that all these new icons are actually very ugly and the company would better stick to the previous design. To find out what people think about these icons, Softpedia asked its readers to tell their opinion and the messages received in the last couple of days pretty much speak for themselves. There are only few testers who think that these icons look good, but the majority wants Microsoft to change them before the final version of the operating system comes out.

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Categories: Tech/Science News

The Believers: Behind the Rise of Neural Nets

Slashdot - Thu, 02/26/2015 - 09:59
An anonymous reader writes Deep learning is dominating the news these days, but it's quite possible the field could have died if not for a mysterious call that Geoff Hinton, now at Google, got one night in the 1980s: "You don't know me, but I know you," the mystery man said. "I work for the System Development Corporation. We want to fund long-range speculative research. We're particularly interested in research that either won't work or, if it does work, won't work for a long time. And I've been reading some of your papers." The Chronicle of Higher Ed has a readable profile of the minds behind neural nets, from Rosenblatt to Hassabis, told primarily through Hinton's career.

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Categories: Tech/Science News

Uber Offers Free Rides To Koreans, Hopes They Won't Report Illegal Drivers

Slashdot - Thu, 02/26/2015 - 08:59
itwbennett writes Uber Technologies is offering free rides on its uberX ride-sharing service in the South Korean capital of Seoul, after city authorities intensified their crackdown on illegal drivers by offering a reward to residents who report Uber drivers to police. South Korean law prohibits unregistered drivers from soliciting passengers using private or rented vehicles and carries a penalty of up to two years in prison or fines of up to 20 million won.

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Categories: Tech/Science News

5 White Collar Jobs Robots Already Have Taken

Slashdot - Thu, 02/26/2015 - 06:26
bizwriter writes University of Oxford researchers Carl Benedikt Frey and Michael Osborne estimated in 2013 that 47 percent of total U.S. jobs could be automated and taken over by computers by 2033. That now includes occupations once thought safe from automation, AI, and robotics. Such positions as journalists, lawyers, doctors, marketers, and financial analysts are already being invaded by our robot overlords. From the article: "Some experts say not to worry because technology has always created new jobs while eliminating old ones ones, displacing but not replacing workers. But lately, as technology has become more sophisticated, the drumbeat of worry has intensified. 'What’s different now?' asked Leigh Watson Healy, chief analyst at market research firm Outsell. 'The pace of technology advancements plus the big data phenomenon lead to a whole new level of machines to perform higher level cognitive tasks.' Translated: the old formula of creating more demanding jobs that need advanced training may no longer hold true. The number of people needed to oversee the machines, and to create them, is limited. Where do the many whose occupations have become obsolete go?"

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Categories: Tech/Science News

Reddit Imposes Ban On Sexual Content Posted Without Permission

Slashdot - Thu, 02/26/2015 - 04:03
Mark Wilson writes If you want to post naked pictures or videos of people on Reddit without their consent, you only have a couple of weeks to do so. As of March, the site is imposing a ban on content of an explicit nature that the subject has not given permission to be posted. The cleanup of the site comes hot on the heels of news from Google that explicit content will be banned from Blogger. It also comes in the wake of last year's Fappening which saw a glut of naked celebrity photos leaked online.

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Categories: Tech/Science News

Argonne National Laboratory Shuts Down Online Ask a Scientist Program

Slashdot - Thu, 02/26/2015 - 02:10
itamblyn writes In a surprising decision, Argonne National Laboratory has decided to pull the plug on its long-standing NEWTON Ask A Scientist Program. NEWTON is (soon to be was) an on online repository of science questions submitted by school children from around the world. A volunteer group of scientists contributed grade-level appropriate answers to these questions. For the past 25 years, a wide range of topics ranging have been covered, including the classic "why is the sky blue" to "is there way to break down the components of plastics completely into their original form". Over the years, over 20,000 questions have been answered. According to ANL, the website will be shut down permanently on 1 March. There is no plan to make the content available in an alternate form or to hand over stewardship to another organization. When contacted about transferring the repository to another institution or moving to a donation model, the response from ANL was simply: "Thank you again for all your support for Newton. Unfortunately, moving Newton to another organization is not a possibility at this time. Thank you again for your energy and support."

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Categories: Tech/Science News

Ceres' Mystery Bright Dots May Have Volcanic Origin

Slashdot - Thu, 02/26/2015 - 01:28
astroengine writes As NASA's Dawn mission slowly spirals in on its dwarf planet target, Ceres' alien landscape is becoming sharper by the day. And, at a distance of only 29,000 miles (46,000 kilometers), the robotic spacecraft has revealed multiple bright patches on the surface, but one of the brightest spots has revealed a dimmer bright patch right next door. "Ceres' bright spot can now be seen to have a companion of lesser brightness, but apparently in the same basin," said Chris Russell, of the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) and principal investigator for the Dawn mission. "This may be pointing to a volcano-like origin of the spots, but we will have to wait for better resolution before we can make such geologic interpretations."

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Categories: Tech/Science News

Developers Disclose Schematics For 50-1000 MHz Software-Defined Transceiver

Slashdot - Thu, 02/26/2015 - 01:06
Bruce Perens writes Chris Testa KD2BMH and I have been working for years on a software-defined transceiver that would be FCC-legal and could communicate using essentially any mode and protocol up to 1 MHz wide on frequencies between 50 and 1000 MHz. It's been discussed here before, most recently when Chris taught gate-array programming in Python. We are about to submit the third generation of the design for PCB fabrication, and hope that this version will be salable as a "developer board" and later as a packaged walkie-talkie, mobile, and base station. This radio is unique in that it uses your smartphone for the GUI, uses apps to provide communication modes, contains an on-board FLASH-based gate-array and a ucLinux system. We intend to go for FSF "Respects Your Freedom" certification for the device. My slide show contains 20 pages of schematics and is full of ham jargon ("HT" means "handi-talkie", an old Motorola product name and the hams word for "walkie talkie") but many non-hams should be able to parse it with some help from search engines. Bruce Perens K6BP

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Categories: Tech/Science News

3 Million Strong RAMNIT Botnet Taken Down

Slashdot - Thu, 02/26/2015 - 00:45
An anonymous reader writes The National Crime Agency's National Cyber Crime Unit worked with law enforcement colleagues in the Netherlands, Italy and Germany, co-ordinated through Europol's European Cybercrime Centre, to shut down command and control servers used by the RAMNIT botnet. Investigators believe that RAMNIT may have infected over three million computers worldwide, with around 33,000 of those being in the UK. It has so far largely been used to attempt to take money from bank accounts.

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Categories: Tech/Science News

US Govt and Private Sector Developing "Precrime" System Against Cyber-Attacks

Slashdot - Thu, 02/26/2015 - 00:05
An anonymous reader writes A division of the U.S. government's Intelligence Advanced Research Projects Activity (IARPA) unit, is inviting proposals from cybersecurity professionals and academics with a five-year view to creating a computer system capable of anticipating cyber-terrorist acts, based on publicly-available Big Data analysis. IBM is tentatively involved in the project, named CAUSE (Cyber-attack Automated Unconventional Sensor Environment), but many of its technologies are already part of the offerings from other interested organizations. Participants will not have access to NSA-intercepted data, but most of the bidding companies are already involved in analyses of public sources such as data on social networks. One company, Battelle, has included the offer to develop a technique for de-anonymizing BItcoin transactions (pdf) as part of CAUSE's security-gathering activities.

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Categories: Tech/Science News

Artificial Intelligence Bests Humans At Classic Arcade Games

Slashdot - Wed, 02/25/2015 - 23:23
sciencehabit writes The dream of an artificially intelligent computer that can study a problem and gain expertise all on its own is now reality. A system debuted today by a team of Google researchers is not clever enough to perform surgery or drive a car safely, but it did master several dozen classic arcade games, including Space Invaders and Breakout. In many cases, it surpassed the best human players without ever observing how they play.

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Categories: Tech/Science News

Intel Updates NUC Mini PC Line With Broadwell-U, Tested and Benchmarked

Slashdot - Wed, 02/25/2015 - 23:00
MojoKid writes Intel recently released its latest generation of NUC small form factor systems, based on the company's new low-power Broadwell-U series processors. The primary advantages of Intel's 5th Generation Core Series Broadwell-U-based processors are better performance-per-watt, stronger integrated graphics, and a smaller footprint, all things that are perfectly suited to the company's NUC (Next Unit of Computing) products. The Intel NUC5i5RYK packs a Core i5-5250U processor with on-die Intel HD 6000 series graphics. The system also sports built-in 802.11ac Wi-Fi, Gigabit Ethernet, USB 3.0 and USB 2.0, M.2 SSD support, and a host of other features, all in a 115mm x 111mm x 32.7mm enclosure. Performance-wise the new 5th Gen Core Series-powered NUC benchmarks like a midrange notebook and is actually up for a bit of light-duty gaming, though it's probably more at home as a Home Theater PC, media streamer or kiosk desktop machine.

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Categories: Tech/Science News

The Peculiar Economics of Developing New Antibiotics

Slashdot - Wed, 02/25/2015 - 22:40
HughPickens.com writes Every year at least two million people are infected with bacteria that can't be wiped out with antibiotics but the number of F.D.A.-approved antibiotics has decreased steadily in the past two decades. Now.Ezekiel J. Emanuel writes at the NYT that the problem with the development of new antibiotics is profitability. "There's no profit in it, and therefore the research has dried up, but meanwhile bacterial resistance has increased inexorably and there's still a lot of inappropriate use of antibiotics out there," says Ken Harvey. Unlike drugs for cholesterol or high blood pressure, or insulin for diabetes, which are taken every day for life, antibiotics tend to be given for a short time so profits have to be made on brief usage. "Even though antibiotics are lifesaving, they do not command a premium price in the marketplace," says Emanuel. "As a society we seem willing to pay $100,000 or more for cancer drugs that cure no one and at best add weeks or a few months to life. We are willing to pay tens of thousands of dollars for knee surgery that, at best, improves function but is not lifesaving. So why won't we pay $10,000 for a lifesaving antibiotic?" Emanuel says that we need to use prize money as an incentive. "What if the United States government — maybe in cooperation with the European Union and Japan — offered a $2 billion prize to the first five companies or academic centers that develop and get regulatory approval for a new class of antibiotics?" Because it costs at least $1 billion to develop a new drug, the prize money could provide a 100 percent return — even before sales. "From the government perspective, such a prize would be highly efficient: no payment for research that fizzles. Researchers win only with an approved product. Even if they generated just one new antibiotic class per year, the $2-billion-per-year payment would be a reasonable investment for a problem that costs the health care system $20 billion per year." Unless payers and governments are willing to provide favorable pricing for such a drug, the big companies are going to focus their R&D investments in areas like cancer, depression, and heart disease where the return-on-investments are much higher.

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Categories: Tech/Science News

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