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UK Company Wants To Deliver Parcels Through Underground Tunnels

Slashdot - Fri, 04/17/2015 - 09:01
Zothecula writes Drones flown by Amazon aren't the only way we could be getting our parcels delivered in the near future. UK firm Mole Solutions is exploring the possibility of using small robot trains running on underground tracks to manage deliveries, and it's just received funding from the British government to help test the viability of the proposal.

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Newly Discovered Sixth Extinction Rivals That of the Dinosaurs

Slashdot - Fri, 04/17/2015 - 06:31
sciencehabit writes Earth has seen its share of catastrophes, the worst being the 'big five' mass extinctions scientists traditionally talk about. Now, paleontologists are arguing that a sixth extinction, 260 million years ago, at the end of a geological age called the Capitanian, deserves to be a member of the exclusive club. In a new study, they offer evidence for a massive die-off in shallow, cool waters in what is now Norway. That finding, combined with previous evidence of extinctions in tropical waters, means that the Capitanian was a global catastrophe.

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Microsoft's Role As Accuser In the Antitrust Suit Against Google

Slashdot - Fri, 04/17/2015 - 04:05
HughPickens.com writes Danny Hakim reports at the NYT that as European antitrust regulators formally accuse Google of abusing its dominance, Microsoft is relishing playing a behind-the-scenes role of scold instead of victim. Microsoft has founded or funded a cottage industry of splinter groups to go after Google. The most prominent, the Initiative for a Competitive Online Marketplace, or Icomp, has waged a relentless public relations campaign promoting grievances against Google. It conducted a study that suggested changes made by Google to appease regulators were largely window dressing. "Microsoft is doing its best to create problems for Google," says Manfred Weber, the chairman of the European People's Party, the center-right party that is the largest voting bloc in the European Parliament. "It's interesting. Ten years ago Microsoft was a big and strong company. Now they are the underdog." According to Hakim, Microsoft and Google are the Cain and Abel of American technology, locked in the kind of struggle that often takes place when a new giant threatens an older one. Microsoft was frustrated after American regulators at the Federal Trade Commission didn't act on a similar antitrust investigation against Google in 2013, calling it a "missed opportunity." It has taken the fight to the state level, along with a number of other opponents of Google. Microsoft alleges that Google's anti-competitive practices include stopping Bing from indexing content on Google-owned YouTube; blocking Microsoft Windows smartphones from "operating properly" with YouTube; blocking access to content owned by book publishers; and limiting the flow of ad campaign information back to advertisers, making it more expensive to run ads with rivals. "Over the past year, a growing number of advertisers, publishers, and consumers have expressed to us their concerns about the search market in Europe," says Brad Smith, Microsoft's general counsel. "They've urged us to share our knowledge of the search market with competition officials."

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Enceladus Spreads Ghostly Ice Tendrils Around Saturn

Slashdot - Fri, 04/17/2015 - 02:06
astroengine writes A ghostly apparition has long been known to follow Saturn moon Enceladus in its orbit around the gas giant. But until now, scientists have had a hard time tracking its source. Using images from NASA's Cassini mission, the source of these tendrils have been tracked down and they originate from the icy moon's famous geysers. But even better than that, scientists have been able to track the tendril shapes down to the specific geysers that produce them. "We've been able to show that each unique tendril structure can be reproduced by particular sets of geysers on the moon's surface," said Colin Mitchell, a Cassini imaging team associate at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo., and lead author of a paper published int he Astrophysical Journal. The study of these features are helping scientists understand how much ice is being transported into Saturn's E ring from Enceladus as well as helping us understand the evolution of the moon's sub-surface ocean.

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Google Helps Homeless Street Vendors Get Paid By Cashless Consumers

Slashdot - Fri, 04/17/2015 - 01:18
An anonymous reader writes Starting today Seattle pedestrians can no longer pat their pockets and claim to have no cash when offered a copy of the ironically-named Real Change weekly newspaper by a homeless street vendor. Google has spent two years working with the Real Change organization to develop a barcode-scanning app which lets passers-by purchase a digital edition with their mobile phones. Google's Meghan Casserly believes the Real Change app — available on Android and iOs — represents the first of its kind in North America.

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GNU Hurd 0.6 Released

Slashdot - Fri, 04/17/2015 - 00:55
jrepin writes It has been roughly a year and a half since the last release of the GNU Hurd operating system, so it may be of interest to some readers that GNU Hurd 0.6 has been released along with GNU Mach 1.5 (the microkernel that Hurd runs on) and GNU MIG 1.5 (the Mach Interface Generator, which generates code to handle remote procedure calls). New features include procfs and random translators; cleanups and stylistic fixes, some of which came from static analysis; message dispatching improvements; integer hashing performance improvements; a split of the init server into a startup server and an init program based on System V init; and more.

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MIT Researchers Develop Wireless Trackpad For Your Thumbnail

Slashdot - Fri, 04/17/2015 - 00:35
itwbennett writes: Called NailO, the prototype trackpad is similar to the stick-on nails sometimes used as a fashion accessory. It attaches to the user's thumb and can be controlled by running a finger over its surface. The processor, battery, sensing chip and Bluetooth radio are included on a circuit board that sits under the capacitive trackpad. The two are connected via a small ribbon cable, which means the trackpad is not quite as thin as a stick-on nail, but reducing the size is one of the aims of the researchers.

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An Engineering Analysis of the Falcon 9 First Stage Landing Failure

Slashdot - Thu, 04/16/2015 - 23:53
schwit1 writes: AviationWeek has posted an analysis of SpaceX's latest attempt to land its Falcon 9 rocket on an ocean barge. Quoting: "SpaceX founder and chief technology officer Elon Musk tweeted that "excess lateral velocity caused it [the booster] to tip over post landing." In a later tweet that was subsequently withdrawn, Musk then indicated that "the issue was stiction in the biprop throttle valve, resulting in control system phase lag." In this statement, Musk was referring to "stiction" — or static friction — in the valve controlling the throttling of the engine. The friction appears to have momentarily slowed the response of the engine, causing the control system to command more of an extreme reaction from the propulsion system than was required. As a result, the control system entered a form of hysteresis, a condition in which the control response lags behind changes in the effect causing it. Despite the failure of the latest attempt, SpaceX will be encouraged by the landing accuracy of the Falcon 9 and the bigger-picture success of its guidance, navigation and control (GNC) system in bringing the booster back to the drone ship. The GNC also worked as designed during the prior landing attempt in January, which ended in the destruction of the vehicle following a hard touchdown on the edge of the platform." In related news, SpaceX is hoping to attempt its next landing on solid ground.

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Embedded Linux Takes to the Skies (Video)

Slashdot - Thu, 04/16/2015 - 23:12
This is an interview with Clay McClure. He makes his living designing 'custom Linux software solutions for technology start-ups in Atlanta and the San Francisco Bay area.' He also works on Embedded Linux for autonomous drones. Here's a link to slides from a talk he gave on exactly that topic: Flying Penguins - Embedded Linux Applications for autonomous UAVs, and that's far from all he has to say about making Linux-controlled drones. However, for some reason Timothy and Clay didn't talk about using drones for target practice. Perhaps they can discuss that another time. NOTE: We urge you to read the transcript of this interview even if you prefer watching videos; it contains material we left out of the video due to sound problems.

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NASA's MESSENGER Mission To Crash Into Mercury In 2 Weeks

Slashdot - Thu, 04/16/2015 - 22:26
astroengine writes: NASA's MESSENGER spacecraft is in the final days of an unprecedented and unexpectedly long-lived, close-up study of the innermost planet of the solar system, with a crashing finale expected in two weeks. Out of fuel, the robotic Mercury Surface, Space Environment, Geochemistry and Ranging, or MESSENGER, probe on April 30 will succumb to the gravitational pull of this strange world that has been its home since March 2011. The purpose of the mission, originally designed to last one year, is to collect detailed geochemical and other data that will help scientists piece together of how Mercury formed and evolved. "MESSENGER is going to create a new crater on Mercury sometime in the near future ... let's not be sad about that," NASA associate administrator John Grunsfeld said Thursday. The Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory has an excellent site for looking through the pictures MESSENGER has taken and the science it's done.

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A 2-Year-Old Has Become the Youngest Person Ever To Be Cryonically Frozen

Slashdot - Thu, 04/16/2015 - 21:44
merbs writes: After losing a long battle with brain cancer, 2-year-old Matheryn Naovaratpong became the first minor ever to be cryogenically frozen. This article is the story of how a Thai girl was frozen in Bangkok and shipped to Arizona to have her brain preserved in liquid nitrogen, while medical science works on a cure. "Typically we’d move the head from the trunk of the body. We didn't know what their reaction would be from the family, the mortuary, from border officials; this has to go through a number of shipping venues, customs, the TSA and so on. To see a frozen head in a box might have raised a number of red flags. In the U.S. that’s not a big deal, but there, they may not be accustomed."

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Cyanogen Partners With Microsoft To Replace Google Apps

Slashdot - Thu, 04/16/2015 - 21:01
Unknown Lamer writes: Microsoft and Cyanogen Inc have announced a partnership to bring Microsoft applications to Cyanogen OS. "Under the partnership, Cyanogen will integrate and distribute Microsoft's consumer apps and services across core categories, including productivity, messaging, utilities, and cloud-based services. As part of this collaboration, Microsoft will create native integrations on Cyanogen OS, enabling a powerful new class of experiences." Ars Technica comments, "If Cyanogen really wants to ship a Googleless Android, it will need to provide alternatives to Google's services, and this Microsoft deal is a small start. Microsoft can provide alternatives for Search (Bing), Google Drive (OneDrive and Office), and Gmail (Outlook). The real missing pieces are alternatives to Google Play, Google Maps, and Google Play Services." Rather than distribute more proprietary services, how about ownCloud for Drive, K-9 Mail for Gmail, OsmAnd for Maps, and F-Droid for an app store? Mozilla and DuckDuckGo provide Free Software search providers for Android, too. With Google neglecting the Android Open Source Project and Cyanogen partnering with Microsoft, the future for Free Software Android as anything but a shell for proprietary software looks bleak.

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New Chemical Tools Lead To Targeted Cancer Drugs

Slashdot - Thu, 04/16/2015 - 20:20
New submitter caudex writes: Proteins are encoded in DNA, and while the degeneracy of the genetic code works to minimize errors, a single DNA basepair mutation can change the structure of the encoded protein. When a mutated protein causes uncontrolled cell growth, we call it cancer. Unfortunately, proteins typically contain hundreds of amino acids, and developing a drug that will target the version of a protein containing one amino acid mutation is difficult. For this reason, most anticancer agents indiscriminately attack both mutant and healthy proteins and tissues. Researchers at Caltech have come up with a potentially general method for selectively drugging only the mutant protein at fault for cancerous activity, even in the crowded and complex milieu of living cells. Their proof of concept study published in Nature Chemistry targets the E17K mutation, which can be the causative mutation of many types of cancer.

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LA Schools Seeking Refund Over Botched iPad Plan

Slashdot - Thu, 04/16/2015 - 19:38
SternisheFan sends news that Los Angeles Unified School District is asking Apple for a refund of the district's effort to equip students with iPads. The project was budgeted at around $1.3 billion to equip its 650,000 students, though only about 120,000 iPads have been purchased so far. After the program went bad, the FBI launched an investigation into their procurement practices. The iPads weren't standalone education devices — they were supposed to work in conjunction with another device carrying curriculum from a company named Pearson. But the district now says the combined tech didn't meet their needs, and they want their money back. Lawyers for the local Board of Education are looking into litigation options. They've also notified Apple and Pearson they won't pay for any new products or services.

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2K, Australia's Last AAA Studio, Closes Its Doors

Slashdot - Thu, 04/16/2015 - 18:55
beaverdownunder writes 2K Australia, the Canberra studio that most recently developed Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel, is closing its doors. The entire studio is closing, and all staff members will lose their jobs. "All hands are gone," said a source for Kotaku Australia. 2K Canberra was the last major AAA-style studio operating out of Australia. The costs of operating in Australia are apparently to blame for the decision. This raises questions as to the viability of developing major video games in Australia.

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IT Worker's Lawsuit Accuses Tata of Discrimination

Slashdot - Thu, 04/16/2015 - 18:16
dcblogs writes An IT worker is accusing Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) of discriminating against American workers and favoring "South Asians" in hiring and promotion. It's backing up its complaint, in part, with numbers. The lawsuit, filed this week in federal court in San Francisco, claims that 95% of the 14,000 people Tata employs in the U.S. are South Asian or mostly Indian. It says this practice has created a "grossly disproportionate workforce." India-based Tata achieves its "discriminatory goals" in at least three ways, the lawsuit alleges. First, the company hires large numbers of H-1B workers. Over from 2011 to 2013, Tata sponsored nearly 21,000 new H-1B visas, all primarily Indian workers, according to the lawsuit's count. Second, when Tata hires locally, "such persons are still disproportionately South Asian," and, third, for the "relatively few non-South Asians workers that Tata hires," it disfavors them in placement, promotion and termination decisions.

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Calling Out a GAO Report That Says In-Flight Wi-Fi Lets Hackers Access Avionics

Slashdot - Thu, 04/16/2015 - 17:34
An anonymous reader writes A new report from the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) warns that in-flight W-Fi, including wireless entertainment and internet-based cockpit communications, may allow hackers to gain remote access to avionics systems and take over navigation. At the same time, a cyber expert and pilot called the report "deceiving" and said that "To imply that because IP is used for in-flight WiFi and also on the avionics networks means that you can automatically take over the avionics network makes about as much sense as saying you can take over the jet engines because they breathe air like the passengers and there is no air gap between passengers who touch the plane and the engines which are attached to the plane."

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KDE Plasma 5.3 Beta Brings Lot of Improvements

Slashdot - Thu, 04/16/2015 - 16:53
jones_supa writes: The KDE project today announced the release of KDE Plasma 5.3 beta. It brings better power management, improved Bluetooth support, improved widgets, Wayland support, new media center, and nearly 350 bugfixes. The power management improvements include settings that can be independently configured per activity, there is a new energy usage monitor available in KInfoCenter, and a battery applet identifies applications that hog power. Bluetooth applet brings added support for blocking and unblocking devices. New touchpad module has been added as well. The combined window manager and compositor KWin is now able to start a nested XWayland server, which acts as a bridge between the old X11 and the new Wayland world.

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Google Sunsetting Old Version of Google Maps

Slashdot - Thu, 04/16/2015 - 16:26
New submitter Robertgilberts writes with word that Google is dropping the old version of Maps. The new version of Google Maps came out of preview back in February 2014 and was in beta for several months before that. The only way to access the old version of Google Maps was via a special URL or if you had a very old browser that did not support the new version of Google Maps. Consolation prize: There will still be a lighter-weight version, which "drops out many of the neat Google Maps features in exchange for speed and compatibility."

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Seattle CEO Cuts $1 Million Salary To $70K, Raises Employee Salaries

Slashdot - Thu, 04/16/2015 - 16:11
First time accepted submitter fluffernutter writes Dan Price started his company, Gravity Payments, out of university when he was 19. Now he is cutting his $1 million salary to $70,000 and promising to raise all his employees' salaries. Dan is quoted as saying he made the move because "I think this is just what everyone deserves."Good business practice? Silly boosterism? Enlightened self-interest?

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