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It's Not Just You, iCloud Calendar Spam is On the Rise

Slashdot - Tue, 11/29/2016 - 19:00
New submitter petersike writes: If you're using iCloud to sync your calendar across your devices, chances are you just received a bunch of spammy invites over the last few days. Many users are reporting fake events about Black Friday 'deals' coming from Chinese users. If you're looking for cheap Ray-Ban or Louis Vuitton knockoffs, you might find these invites useful. Otherwise, you might be wondering: why is this a thing? If you use your calendar for work, you already rely on calendar invites to invite other people to meetings and events. All major calendar backends support this feature -- Google Calendar, Microsoft Exchange and Apple's iCloud. And it's quite a convenient feature as you only need to enter an email address to send these invitations. You don't need to be in the same company or even in your recipient's address book. But it's also yet another inbox -- and like every inbox out there, it can get abused.

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Categories: Tech/Science News

Russia Falls Behind In Annual Space Launches For First Time Ever

Slashdot - Tue, 11/29/2016 - 18:20
From a report on the Moscow Times: This year, for the first time in history, Russia has fallen behind the United States and China as the world's leading launcher of space rockets. Russia will finish 2016 with just 18 launches, according to open source data, compared to China's 19 and America's 20 launches. Alexander Ivanov, deputy chief of Russia's Roscosmos space agency, said on Nov. 29 that the launch rate has decreased because Moscow's space strategy has changed. Currently, it's top priority is reviving existing and aging satellite groupings. But there are other reasons Russia's launch rate may be falling behind. Since the 1957 launch of Sputnik, the world's first satellite, Russia has been the undisputed leader in annual launch rates -- a figure that spoke to the general health of its space program and aerospace industry. At the peak of the Soviet space program, Russia often launched around 100 rockets a year. Since 1957, Russia has launched over 3,000 rockets -- roughly twice as many as the U.S. But with the Russian economy in crisis, space budgets have plummeted. Funding for the next decade of Russian space activity stands at just 1.4 trillion rubles ($21.5 billion), a figure that was only finalized after three rounds of cuts to proposed funding, which began at 3.4 trillion rubles ($52.3 billion). The U.S. space agency, NASA, received a budget of $19.3 billion in 2016 alone. To make matters worse, Russian rockets are becoming uncharacteristically undependable.

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Categories: Tech/Science News

Uber Drivers Demand Higher Pay in Nationwide Protest

Slashdot - Tue, 11/29/2016 - 17:40
Uber drivers will join forces with fast food, home care and airport workers in a nationwide protest on Tuesday. Their demand: higher pay. From a report on CNET: Calling it the "Day of Disruption," drivers for the ride-hailing company in two dozen cities, including Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco, will march at airports and in shopping areas carrying signs that read, "Your Uber Driver is Arriving Striking." The protest underscores the dilemma Uber faces as it balances the needs of its drivers with its business. Valued at $68 billion, Uber is the highest-valued venture-backed company worldwide. But as it has cut the cost of rides to compete with traditional taxi services, Uber reportedly has experienced trouble turning a profit. Unlike many other workers involved in Tuesday's protests, Uber drivers are not members of a union. In fact, Uber doesn't even classify its drivers as employees. Instead the company considers drivers independent contractors. This classification means the company isn't responsible for many costs, including health insurance, paid sick days, gas, car maintenance and much more. However, Uber still sets drivers' rates and the commission it pays itself, which ranges between 20 percent and 30 percent. "I'd like a fair day's pay for my hard work," Adam Shahim, a 40-year-old driver from Pittsburgh, California, said in a statement. "So I'm joining with the fast-food, airport, home care, child care and higher education workers who are leading the way and showing the country how to build an economy that works for everyone, not just the few at the top."

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Categories: Tech/Science News

This Cyber Monday Was the Biggest Online Shopping Day, Ever

Slashdot - Tue, 11/29/2016 - 17:00
Cyber Monday is likely to have been the biggest online shopping day in history, according to an analysis of visits to US retail websites. Online spending in the US yesterday hit a new record with $3.39bn spent online, a 10.2 percent increase year-over-year -- ahead even of Black Friday, when $3.34bn was spent. ZDNet adds:Cyber Monday is expected to generate slightly less mobile revenue than Black Friday at $1.19bn, but that's still a 48 percent increase on last year, according to the analysis by Adobe. Consumers have spent a total of $39.9bn online so far this month, it said, up 7.4 percent on last November, with 27 out of 28 days seeing online sales of over $1bn. The five best-selling toys in terms of quantity sold on Cyber Monday were Lego, Shopkins, Nerf, Barbie, and Little Live Pets. The five best-selling electronic products were Sony PlayStation 4, Microsoft Xbox, Samsung 4K TVs, Apple iPads, and Amazon Fire tablets, the company said.

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Categories: Tech/Science News

Amazon Worker Jumps Off Company Building After Email Note

Slashdot - Tue, 11/29/2016 - 16:20
An anonymous reader writes: An Amazon employee was injured when he leaped off a building at the company's Seattle headquarters in what police characterized as a suicide attempt. The man, who wasn't identified by authorities, sent an e-mail visible to hundreds of co-workers, including Chief Executive Officer Jeff Bezos, before the incident occurred, according to a report on Bloomberg. The man survived the fall from Amazon's 12-story Apollo building at about 8:45 a.m. local time Monday and was taken to a Seattle hospital, police said. The man had recently put in a request to transfer to a different department, but was placed on an employee improvement plan, a step that can lead to termination if performance isn't improved, said the person, who asked not to be identified discussing company personnel matters. More than 20,000 people work in multiple buildings at Amazon's headquarters.

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Categories: Tech/Science News

The UK Is About to Legalize Mass Surveillance

Slashdot - Tue, 11/29/2016 - 15:40
From a report on Motherboard: On Tuesday, the UK is due to pass its controversial new surveillance law, the Investigatory Powers Act, according to the Home Office. The Act, which has received overwhelming support in both the House of Commons and Lords, formally legalizes a number of mass surveillance programs revealed by Edward Snowden in 2013. It also introduces a new power which will force internet service providers to store browsing data on all customers for 12 months. Civil liberties campaigners have described the Act as one of the most extreme surveillance laws in any democracy, while law enforcement agencies believe that the collection of browsing data is vital in an age of ubiquitous internet communications. "The Investigatory Powers Act 2016 will ensure that law enforcement and the security and intelligence agencies have the powers they need in a digital age to disrupt terrorist attacks, subject to strict safeguards and world-leading oversight," a statement from the Home Office reads. Much of the Act gives stronger legal footing to the UK's various bulk powers, including "bulk interception," which is, in general terms, the collection of internet and phone communications en masse. In June 2013, using documents provided by Edward Snowden, The Guardian revealed that the GCHQ taps fibre-optic undersea cables in order to intercept emails, internet histories, calls, and a wealth of other data.

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Categories: Tech/Science News

Amazon Said to Plan Premium Alexa Speaker With Large Screen

Slashdot - Tue, 11/29/2016 - 15:00
Amazon's Echo speakers have garnered a lot of interest over the past few months. Many people believe that they like Amazon Echo because of how easy it's to operate -- there is no display, you talk with Alexa, Amazon's digital assistant, which is reasonably good at understanding your queries. But in what seems like a deviation from the idea that made Echos so popular, Amazon is reportedly working on an Echo-like speaker, only this time it is more premium and has a 7-inch display, too. From a report on Bloomberg: The new device will have a touchscreen measuring about seven inches, a major departure from Amazon's existing cylindrical home devices that are controlled and respond mostly through the company's voice-based Alexa digital assistant, according to two people familiar with the matter. This will make it easier to access content such as weather forecasts, calendar appointments, and news, the people said. The latest Amazon speaker will be larger and tilt upwards so the screen can be seen when it sits on a counter and the user is standing, one of the people said.

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Categories: Tech/Science News

CNN Acquires Social-Video Startup Beme, Co-Founded By YouTube Star Casey Neistat

Slashdot - Tue, 11/29/2016 - 14:00
CNN announced Monday that it has purchased video-sharing app Beme, and will work with its founder, Casey Neistat, to build a new media brand next year focused on storytelling for a younger audience. Casey Neistat is a YouTube celebrity and tech entrepreneur who launched Beme last year. Variety reports: CNN said the new venture that it's forming out of the acquisition -- aimed at reaching millennial viewers with the street cred of Neistat's reporting and commentary -- will launch in the summer of 2017. All 11 of Beme's employees will join CNN; the cable news network will be shutting down Beme, which had garnered more than 1 million downloads. New York-based filmmaker Neistat, who has more than 5.8 million subscribers on YouTube, announced earlier this month on his channel that he would be suspending his personal vlog to focus on new projects, one of which turns out is the pact with CNN. His daily vlog dispatches cover current political and news events as well as action sequences like his viral "Snowboarding With the NYPD" video last winter. Led by Hackett, formerly VP of engineering at Yahoo's Tumblr, Beme's development team will "build technology to enable the new company and also develop mobile video capabilities for CNN's portfolio of digital properties," according to the Turner-owned cable news network. Neistat, 35, will lead the new venture's "editorial vision" as executive producer. CNN said it will employ its global resources to launch the new media brand, and plans to hire dozens of producers, builders, developers, designers and content creators for the new company. CNN said the new Beme-based company will operate as a standalone business under the CNN Digital umbrella.

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Categories: Tech/Science News

Awful On Purpose

The Daily WTF - Tue, 11/29/2016 - 12:30

Studying his new work contract, Stewart felt like he'd found a golden ticket. After 2 long and tedious years in the local university's IT department, he was happy for any opportunity to escape that hellhole. TLA Technologies looked like the Garden of Eden by comparison. Instead of being the only person responsible for anything vaguely computer-related—from putting up websites to plugging in power strips—he'd now be working with a "dynamic team of programmers" in a "rapidly growing company tapping into the web development market". Instead of dealing with tools and languages forgotten by history itself, he'd be using "modern, cutting-edge solutions" under "agile and customer-oriented methodologies". And instead of reporting to a pointy-haired supervisor who couldn't tell a computer from a toaster, he'd be working directly under Dave.

Dave was a large part of why Stewart decided to take the job. Like most small company owners, Dave had taken it upon himself to personally interview the new hire—but unlike many of them, he had enough technical skills to make the interview feel less like a trivia game show and more like a friendly talk between fellow programmers. When Stewart's answers had strayed off the beaten path, Dave had been eager to discuss the solutions instead of just dismissing them, and when Stewart had started asking about the inner workings of the company, it'd been difficult for him to stump Dave with even the most precise questions. He seemed to know what his company was doing and what the coders need to deal with. What more was there to ask for from a boss?

Stewart quickly scribbled his signature on the contract and handed it back to Dave.

"Welcome aboard!" Dave stood and extended his hand to Stewart. "You'll start next Monday."

"Thanks for the opportunity," Stewart replied.

Dave smiled. "Hopefully you'll prove yourself out on the battlefield. If you pull that off, maybe you'll stick around for a while!"

In hindsight, the statement should've tripped an alarm in Stewart's mind, but being overjoyed with the prospect of a real job, he dismissed it as yet another cheerful promise. He left firmly convinced that all that glittered in TLA Technologies was gold.

While Dave hadn't exactly lied, there were a few things he'd neglected to bring up during the interview. For example, when talking about "cutting-edge solutions", he hadn't mentioned TLA Technologies was using all of them. No two applications used the same tech stack. Each used whatever was popular at the time, with languages and databases from completely different ecosystems blended together until they worked. Luckily, Stewart got off easy with an only somewhat bizarre combination of a Node.js service running against a SQL Server database.

The reason lay in what Dave had meant by a "dynamic team of programmers". Out of almost 20 developers, only 2 or 3 had any seniority. The rest were interns and juniors who came and went before anyone even learned their names. There was hardly a week that wasn't marked by desks being emptied, only to be filled by new hires within days. Everyone brought their own favorite technology to the potluck—sometimes introducing it through legitimate channels, sometimes sneaking it into parts of the application that'd be deemed untouchable once the original developer left.

There was exactly one person in the company with enough authority to rein the developers in. Unfortunately, Dave spent most of his hours at water cooler discussions, exchanging the latest IT gossip and encouraging the devs to explore new tools. Occasionally, he retired to his office to explain to one of the people he'd just been chatting up that they were "no longer a good fit for the company".

Stewart restrained himself from asking questions for quite a while, until one day he saw an empty desk a little too close to his own.

"Hi, boss," he said, entering Dave's office. "Do you know where Rob is?"

"Who's Rob?" Dave asked in a dry, uncaring voice, barely looking up from his monitor.

"Um ... Rob the front-end developer? He was supposed to finish a feature by today, and—"

"Oh, that Rob. We had to let him go. He wasn't pulling his weight on the new project."

"What do you mean? He's only been on that project for 2 weeks!" Stewart fought the urge to start shouting. "We'd just started introducing him to the codebase. Surely you don't expect—"

"Look, Stewart." Dave interrupted him again. "When we bring a new developer into a project, even an intern like Rob, the customer expects our performance to grow. They want results, and it's our job to deliver them. Unfortunately, with Rob, the entire team slowed down as soon as he started working. I'm sure you understand why it had to be done."

Stewart understood perfectly. With a polite nod, he scooted back to his desk, thinking about an escape plan.

The days kept passing, and Stewart was still gathering the courage to hand in his notice. In the meantime, he struggled to figure out the twisted logic of the service he was working with; one of the previous developers apparently figured that Unix timestamps made great database primary keys. This worked well in development and crashed hard in production. To "patch" it, at every insert, the application would sneak a blank record in between other requests to lock the row for itself. Once it reserved the row, it would then update it column by column—and with some tables having up to 40 columns, that meant 40 UPDATE queries per record.

It was a bizarre, Goldbergian design. Stewart decided to ask Dave to allow him to refactor it into something sane.

"Yeah, that is terrible," Dave agreed. "Why wouldn't they just use an identity field?"

"Exactly!" Stewart felt like he and Dave were finally on the same page. "It shouldn't take too long to fix, and it would certainly be much better for performance and development."

"But the current code works, doesn't it?"

"Um ... for now it does, yes. But it's already a performance killer, and once more people start using the service, it's going to be much worse."

"They aren't using it now," Dave said. "And the client hasn't complained. As a developer, I understand where you're coming from—but as a company owner, I can't agree to spending time on something that delivers no value."

Stewart's eyes widened in shock. It was a catastrophe waiting to happen. At the current rate, the performance would get unbearable in a matter of months. And Dave was just dismissing it like it was nothing? What had happened to the "customer-oriented" company?

"Besides, this is an opportunity to cash in on our support contract," Dave answered, as if reading Stewart's mind. "That's how it works in this business. If it ain't broke, don't fix it—unless the customer's paying."

"I see," Stewart muttered. As he left Dave's office, he decided to take the advice to heart. Not only was he not going to fix the application, but more importantly, he also wasn't going to spend any more time trying to fix TLA Technologies. He walked towards his desk, unlocked one of the drawers, and pulled out a piece of paper that'd been waiting there for far too long.

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Categories: Fun/Other

Spinal Fluid Changes In Space May Impair Astronauts' Vision, Study Finds

Slashdot - Tue, 11/29/2016 - 12:00
A condition called visual impairment inter cranial pressure syndrome (VIIP) that has been impairing astronauts' vision on the International Space Station is believed to be caused by a build up of cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in their brains. The long-duration astronauts had significantly more CSF in their brains than the short-trip astronauts. Previously, NASA suspected that the condition was caused by the lack of gravity in space. Science Alert reports: The researchers compared before and after brain scans from seven astronauts who had spent many months in the ISS, and compared them to nine astronauts who had just made short trips to and from the U.S. space shuttle, which was decommissioned in 2011. The one big difference between the two was that the long-duration astronauts had significantly more cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in their brains than the short-trip astronauts, and the researchers say this - not vascular fluid - is the cause of the vision loss. Under normal circumstances, CSF is important for cushioning the brain and spinal cord, while also distributing nutrients around the body and helping to remove waste. It can easily adjust to changes in pressure that our bodies experience when transitioning from lying down to sitting or standing, but in the constant microgravity of space, it starts to falter. "On earth, the CSF system is built to accommodate these pressure changes, but in space the system is confused by the lack of the posture-related pressure changes," says one of the team, Noam Alperin. Based on the high-resolution orbit and brain MRI scans taken of their 16 astronauts, the team found that the long-duration astronauts had far higher orbital CSF volume - CSF pooling around the optic nerves in the part of the skull that holds the eye. They also had significantly higher ventricular CSF volume, which means they had more CSF accumulating in the cavities of the brain where the fluid is produced.

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Categories: Tech/Science News

Microbiome Changes Drive the Dieting Yo-Yo Effect, Study Finds

Slashdot - Tue, 11/29/2016 - 10:00
wheelbarrio writes: We've known for a long time that diet-induced weight loss is rarely permanent but until now what has been a frustration for dieters has also been largely a mystery to scientists. A paper published today in the prestigious journal Nature presents good evidence that your gut microbiome may be to blame. Studying mice fed cycles of high-fat and normal diets, the authors found that the particular bacterial population that thrives in the high-fat regime persists in the gut even once the mice have returned to normal weight and normal metabolic function after a dieting cycle. This leaves them more susceptible to weight gain than control mice who were never overweight, when both populations are exposed to a cycle of high-fat diet. The details are fascinating, including the suggestion that dietary flavonoid supplementation might mitigate the effect. My guess is that this may end up being one of the most cited papers of the year, if not the decade.

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Categories: Tech/Science News

NASA X-Ray Tech Could Enable Superfast Communication In Deep Space

Slashdot - Tue, 11/29/2016 - 08:00
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Space.com: New technology could use X-rays to transmit data at high rates over vast distances in outer space, as well as enable communications with hypersonic vehicles during re-entry, when radio communications are impossible, NASA scientists say. The technology would combine multiple NASA projects currently in progress to demonstrate the feasibility of X-ray communications from outside the International Space Station. The radio waves used by mobile phones, Wi-Fi and, of course, radios, are one kind of light. Other forms of light can carry data as well; for instance, fiber-optic telecommunications rely on pulses of visible and near-infrared light. The effort to use another type of light, X-rays, for communication started with research on NASA's proposed Black Hole Imager. That mission is designed to analyze the edges of the supermassive black holes that previous research suggested exist at the centers of most, if not all, large galaxies. One potential strategy to enable the Black Hole Imager was to develop a constellation of precisely aligned spacecraft to collect X-rays emitted from the edges of those black holes. Keith Gendreau, an astrophysicist at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, thought of developing X-ray emitters that these spacecraft could use as navigational beacons to make sure they stayed in position relative to one another. The system would keep them aligned down to a precision of just 1 micron, or about one-hundredth the average width of a human hair. Gendreau then reasoned that by modulating or varying the strength or frequency of these X-ray transmissions on and off many times per second, these navigational beacons could also serve as a communication system. Such X-ray communication, or XCOM, might, in theory, permit gigabit-per-second data rates throughout the solar system, he said. One advantage that XCOM has compared to laser communication in deep space is that X-rays have shorter wavelengths than the visible or infrared light typically used in laser communication. Moreover, X-rays can penetrate obstacles that impede radio communication.

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Categories: Tech/Science News

Great Barrier Reef Has Worst Coral Die-Off Ever, Report Finds

Slashdot - Tue, 11/29/2016 - 04:30
Australia's Great Barrier Reef has suffered from its worst coral die-off ever recorded, according to a new study from the Australian Research Council Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies based at James Cook University. "Stress from the unusually warm ocean water heated by man-made climate change and the natural El Nino climate pattern caused the die-off," reports USA Today. At more than 1,400 miles long, Australia's Great Barrier Reef is the world's largest coral reef and the planet's biggest structure made by living organisms. In the northernmost section of the reef, which had been considered the most "pristine," some 67% of the coral died. The good news, scientists said, was that central and southern sections of the reef fared far better, with "only" 6% and 1% of the coral dead, respectively. Coral reefs result from the work of little polyps, creatures only a few millimeters long, budded on top of one another. Over centuries, the shells of these creatures combine to form the exotic shapes of coral reefs. Tiny differences in the anatomy of each polyp species affect the shape of their shells and produce the exotic shapes of each reef. The vibrant colors that draw thousands of tourists to the Great Barrier Reef each year come from algae that live in the corals tissue. When water temperatures become too high, coral becomes stressed and expels the algae, which leave the coral a bleached white color. Mass coral bleaching is a new phenomenon and was never observed before the 1980s as global warming ramped up. Besides their beauty, reefs shelter land from storms, and are also a habitat for myriads of species.

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Categories: Tech/Science News

Japan Fukushima Nuclear Plant 'Clean-Up Costs Double,' Approaching $200 Billion

Slashdot - Tue, 11/29/2016 - 03:05
An anonymous reader quotes a report from BBC: Japan's government estimates the cost of cleaning up radioactive contamination and compensating victims of the 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster has more than doubled, reports say. The latest estimate from the trade ministry put the expected cost at some 20 trillion yen ($180 billion). The original estimate was for $50 billion, which was increased to $100 billion three years later. The majority of the money will go towards compensation, with decontamination taking the next biggest slice. Storing the contaminated soil and decommissioning are the two next greatest costs. The compensation pot has been increased by about 50% and decontamination estimates have been almost doubled. The BBC's Japan correspondent, Rupert Wingfield-Hayes, says it is still unclear who is going to pay for the clean up. Japan's government has long promised that Tokyo Electric Power, the company that owns the plant, will eventually pay the money back. But on Monday it admitted that electricity consumers would be forced to pay a portion of the clean up costs through higher electricity bills. Critics say this is effectively a tax on the public to pay the debt of a private electricity utility.

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Categories: Tech/Science News

Scientists Turn Nuclear Waste Into Diamond Batteries

Slashdot - Tue, 11/29/2016 - 02:25
Scientists at the University of Bristol have found a way to convert thousands of tons of nuclear waste into man-made diamond batteries that can generate a small electric current for thousands of years. New Atlas reports: How to dispose of nuclear waste is one of the great technical challenges of the 21st century. The trouble is, it usually turns out not to be so much a question of disposal as long-term storage. Disposal, therefore is more often a matter of keeping waste safe, but being able to get at it later when needed. One unexpected example of this is the Bristol team's work on a major source of nuclear waste from Britain's aging Magnox reactors, which are now being decommissioned after over half a century of service. These first generation reactors used graphite blocks as moderators to slow down neutrons to keep the nuclear fission process running, but decades of exposure have left the UK with 104,720 tons of graphite blocks that are now classed as nuclear waste because the radiation in the reactors changes some of the inert carbon in the blocks into radioactive carbon-14. Carbon-14 is a low-yield beta particle emitter that can't penetrate even a few centimeters of air, but it's still too dangerous to allow into the environment. Instead of burying it, the Bristol team's solution is to remove most of the c-14 from the graphite blocks and turn it into electricity-generating diamonds. The nuclear diamond battery is based on the fact that when a man-made diamond is exposed to radiation, it produces a small electric current. According to the researchers, this makes it possible to build a battery that has no moving parts, gives off no emissions, and is maintenance-free. The Bristol researchers found that the carbon-14 wasn't uniformly distributed in the Magnox blocks, but is concentrated in the side closest to the uranium fuel rods. To produce the batteries, the blocks are heated to drive out the carbon-14 from the radioactive end, leaving the blocks much less radioactive than before. c-14 gas is then collected and using low pressures and high temperatures is turned into man-made diamonds. Once formed, the beta particles emitted by the c-14 interact with the diamond's crystal lattice, throwing off electrons and generating electricity. The diamonds themselves are radioactive, so they are given a second non-radioactive diamond coating to act as a radiation shield.

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Categories: Tech/Science News

Morgan Stanley: Pixel Phone Will Generate Google Almost $4 Billion In Revenue Next Year

Slashdot - Tue, 11/29/2016 - 01:45
An anonymous reader quotes a report from 9to5Google: With initial Pixel pre-orders exceeding expectations and promising activation numbers from Verizon, Google is on track to sell three million phones with revenues of $2 billion in 2016. The Morgan Stanley estimate comes as the Pixel reportedly captured 10% of the premium smartphone market in India. Unsurprisingly, the 128GB Pixel XL has the largest gross profit margin at 25%, while the cheapest 32GB Pixel is at 22%. Morgan Stanley also estimates that, compared to the iPhone, the Pixel will be half as profitable. Morgan Stanley expects Google to sell 5-6 million Pixel and Pixel XL devices in 2017 to the tune of $3.8 billion in revenue. Google is also expected to make money from increased usage of services like Android Pay and mobile search. Google's big gains were possibly due in part to Samsung's Note 7 debacle, with the company's marketshare falling to 23%. Apple captured the number one position at 66%. Additionally, Google benefitted from running a number of promotions, including cashback and exchange programs. The company also heavily advertised in newspapers, with billboards, and for the first time displays in large retail stores.

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Categories: Tech/Science News

'DroneGun' Can Take Down Aircraft From Over 1.2 Miles Away

Slashdot - Tue, 11/29/2016 - 01:05
The more drones being sold around the world increases the likelihood of them being used as part of a criminal act. For example, ISIS has been using drones in Iraq to carry and drop explosives. In an effort to protect consumers, an Australian and U.S. company called DroneShield has announced a product called the DroneGun. The DroneGun "allows for a controlled management of drone payload, such as explosives, with no damage to common drone models or the surrounding environment," the maker says on its website, "due to the drones generally responding via a vertical controlled landing on the spot, or returning back to the starting point (assisting to track the operator)." The Next Web reports: DroneGun, a handheld anti-drone device, has a range of 1.2 miles. It also looks like an unlockable item in a first-person shooter. The "gun" uses a jammer to disable electronic communication across the 2.4 and 5.8 GHz frequencies. Blocking these frequencies cuts off communication between the drone and pilot (or GPS) and forces it to land safely or return to its operator -- which assists in tracking the offending party. At 13 pounds, it's a bit cumbersome, but still capable of being operated by one person. It's also mostly a point-and-shoot device and doesn't require specialized training to use. DroneGun isn't approved for use in the United States -- thanks, FCC. If approved the device could provide a useful tool for taking down drones at airports, over crowded spaces, and in war zones.

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Categories: Tech/Science News

EU's Law Enforcement Agency Closes 4,500 Websites Peddling Fake Brands

Slashdot - Tue, 11/29/2016 - 00:20
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Phys.Org: In a massive crackdown, police and law enforcement agencies across Europe have seized more than 4,500 website domains trading in counterfeit goods, often via social networks, officials said on Monday. The operation came as Europol, Europe's police agency, unveiled its newest campaign dubbed "Don't F***(AKE) Up" to stop scam websites selling fake brand names online. In the crackdown, agencies from 27 countries mostly in Europe but including from the U.S. and Canada, joined forces to shut down over 4,500 websites. They were selling everything from "luxury goods, sportswear, spare parts, electronics, pharmaceuticals, toiletries and other fake products," Europol said in a statement, without saying how long the crackdown took. An annual operation run in collaboration with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and Homeland Security, there was "a significant increase in the number of seized domain names compared to last year," said Europol director Rob Wainwright. As part of the crackdown, Dutch anti-fraud police arrested 12 people across The Netherlands over the past two weeks as they searched homes and warehouses. Most of the raids were prompted by online sales of counterfeit goods on social networking sites such as Facebook and Instagram. More than 3,500 items of clothing and fake luxury goods were seized in Holland, including shoes, bags and perfumes purporting to be such brands as Nike, Adidas, and Kenzo, with a market value of tens of thousands euros. Publishing a guide on how to spot fake websites and social media scams, Europol warned consumers had to be on their guard.

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Categories: Tech/Science News

AT&T Unveils DirecTV Now Streaming TV Service With Over 100 Channels

Slashdot - Mon, 11/28/2016 - 23:40
ATT has officially unveiled its DirecTV Now internet TV streaming service, which launches Wednesday, November 30th, in the U.S. on iPhone, Android, Amazon Fire TV, Chromecast, and PC/Mac, starting at $35 per month. The Verge reports: Like its over-the-top rivals, DirecTV Now will let customers stream live programming on smartphones, tablets, and PCs -- no cable box necessary -- and requires no long-term contracts or commitments. For a limited time, ATT will offer the "Go Big" channel tier with 100 channels for $35 per month. If you sign up in time, the offer will remain valid each month until you cancel. But that $35 rate is not the long-term pricing for 100+ channels. DirecTV Now offers step-up subscriptions that include other channels and content for a higher monthly cost. ATT has signed programming agreements with nearly all major networks with the exception of CBS and Showtime; negotiations with those companies remain ongoing. DirecTV Now allows customers to watch up to two streams simultaneously. HBO and Cinemax can be added to any of these packages for just $5 extra (each) per month. DirecTV Now is "zero rated" for the company's wireless customers, so regardless of how much time they spend streaming, that activity will have no impact on data usage for their monthly bill. Importantly, while these are the subscription rates as of today, the company is being straightforward about the possibility of increases in the future. ATT also plans to air original shows including a Taylor Swift series.

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Categories: Tech/Science News

EPA Increases Amount of Renewable Fuel To Be Blended Into Gasoline

Slashdot - Mon, 11/28/2016 - 23:00
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Last week the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced its final renewable fuel standards for 2017, requiring that fuel suppliers blend an additional 1.2 billion gallons of renewable fuel into U.S. gas and diesel from 2016 levels. The rule breaks down the requirements to include quotas for cellulosic biofuels, biomass-based diesel, advanced biofuel, and traditional renewable fuel. Reuters points out that the aggressive new biofuel standards will create a dilemma for an incoming Trump administration, given that his campaign courted both the gas and corn industries. While the EPA under the Obama administration has continually increased so-called renewable fuel standards (RFS), the standards were first adopted by a majority-Republican Congress in 2005 and then bolstered in 2007 with a requirement to incorporate 36 billion gallons of renewable fuel into the fuel supply by 2022, barring "a determination that implementation of the program is causing severe economic or environmental harm," as the EPA writes. Some biofuels are controversial not just for oil and gas suppliers but for some wildlife advocates as well. Collin O'Mara, CEO of the National Wildlife Federation, said in a statement that the corn ethanol industry that most stands to benefit from the EPA's expansion of the renewable fuel standards "is responsible for the destruction of millions of acres of wildlife habitat and degradation of water quality." Still, the EPA contends that biofuels made from corn and other regenerating plants offer reductions in overall fuel emissions, if the processes used to make and transport the fuels are included. "Advanced biofuels" will offer "50 percent lifecycle carbon emissions reductions," and their share of the new standards will grow by 700 million gallons in 2017 from 2016 requirements, the EPA says. Cellulosic biofuel will be increased by 81 million gallons and biomass-based diesel will be increased by 100 million gallons. "Non-advanced or 'conventional' renewable fuel" will be increased to 19.28 billion gallons from 18.11 billion gallons in 2016. Conventional renewable fuel "typically refers to ethanol derived from corn starch and must meet a 20 percent lifecycle GHG [greenhouse gas] reduction threshold," according to EPA guidelines. Other kinds of renewable fuels include sugarcane-based ethanol, cellulosic ethanol derived from the stalks, leaves, and cobs leftover from a corn harvest, and compressed natural gas gleaned from wastewater facilities.

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