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An Engineer's Eureka Moment With a GM Flaw

Slashdot - Mon, 03/31/2014 - 05:02
theodp (442580) writes "Hired by the family of Brooke Melton in their wrongful-death lawsuit against GM, engineer Mark Hood was at a loss to explain why the engine in Melton's 2005 Chevy Cobalt had suddenly shut off, causing her fatal accident in 2010. Hood had photographed, X-rayed and disassembled the two-inch ignition switch, focusing on the tiny plastic and metal switch that controlled the ignition, but it wasn't until he bought a replacement for $30 from a local GM dealership that the mystery quickly unraveled. Eyeing the old and new parts, Hood quickly figured out a problem now linked to 13 deaths that GM had known about for a decade. Even though the new switch had the same identification number — 10392423 — Hood found big differences — a tiny metal plunger in the switch was longer in the replacement part, the switch's spring was more compressed, and most importantly, the force needed to turn the ignition on and off was greater. 'It's satisfying to me because I'm working on behalf of the Meltons,' Hood said. 'It won't bring their daughter back, but if it goes toward a better understanding of the problem, it might save someone else.' Next week, GM CEO Mary Barra will testify before Congress about events leading up to the wide-ranging recall of 2.6 million vehicles."

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OpenSUSE To Offer Rolling Release KDE Experience

Slashdot - Mon, 03/31/2014 - 02:06
sfcrazy (1542989) writes "openSUSE and KDE teams are working on creating four KDE SC repositories for openSUSE which will enable users to get the the kind of experience they want. Users can stick to the default repos that come with openSUSE if they want to use what openSUSE offers. Those users who want to stay updated with the latest KDE SC releases can use the "KDE:Current" repository which will always remain updated. 3rd repo "KDE:Distro:Factory" will offer KDE packages which are being tested and prepared before they are pushed to the 'Current' repo. The fourth repo "KDE:Unstable:SC" will offer early builds as they are being devloped."

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Typo Keyboard For iPhone Faces Sales Ban

Slashdot - Mon, 03/31/2014 - 00:55
time_lords_almanac (3527081) writes "BlackBerry is trying to put the kibosh on the Typo, a physical keyboard attachment for iPhone. And they've won the first round, in the form of a sales ban on the attachment. From the article: '"BlackBerry is pleased that its motion for a preliminary injunction against Typo Products LLC was granted. This ruling will help prevent further injury to BlackBerry from Typo's blatant theft of our patented keyboard technology," a spokeswoman for BlackBerry told the news agency in an email.'"

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Million Jars of Peanut Butter Dumped In New Mexico Landfill

Slashdot - Sun, 03/30/2014 - 23:53
Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "The Guardian reports that a million jars of peanut butter are going to be dumped in a New Mexico landfill and bulldozed over after retailer Costco refused to take shipment of the peanut butter and declined requests to let it be donated to food banks or repackaged or sold to brokers who provide food to institutions like prisons. The peanut butter comes from a bankrupt peanut-processing plant that was at the heart of a salmonella outbreak in 2012 and although 'all parties agreed there's nothing wrong with the peanut butter from a health and safety issue,' court records show that on a 19 March conference call Costco said 'it would not agree to any disposition ... other than destruction.' The product was tested extensively and determined to be safe. Costco initially agreed to allowing the peanut butter to be sold, but rejected it as 'not merchantable' because of leaking peanut oil. So instead of selling or donating the peanut butter, with a value estimated at $2.6m, the estate is paying about $60,000 to transport 950,000 jars – or about 25 tons – to the Curry County landfill in Clovis, where public works director Clint Bunch says it 'will go in with our regular waste and covered with dirt'. Despite the peanut butter being safe, Curry County landfill employee Tim Stacy says that no one will be able to consume the peanut butter once it's dumped because it will be immediately rolled over with a bulldozer, destroying the supply. Stacy added more trash will then be dumped on top of the pile. Sonya Warwick, spokeswoman for New Mexico's largest food bank, declined to comment directly on the situation, but she noted that rescued food accounted for 74% of what Roadrunner Food Bank distributed across New Mexico last year. 'Access to rescued food allows us to provide a more well-rounded and balanced meal to New Mexicans experiencing hunger.'"

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What Apple's iWatch Can Learn From Pebble

Slashdot - Sun, 03/30/2014 - 22:45
redletterdave (2493036) writes "Many believe Apple's iWatch will marry the looks of a luxury wristwatch with the powerful sensors found in today's fitness wristbands, and, of course, familiar elements from the iPhone and iPad shrunken down and reconfigured to work from your wrist. Apple is undoubtedly full of its own ideas. But it would also benefit from looking at the progenitor of the modern smartwatch—or rather, its steely successor—both as inspiration and as a model to surpass."

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Mt. Gox Questioned By Employees For At Least 2-Years Before Crisis

Slashdot - Sun, 03/30/2014 - 21:42
Rambo Tribble (1273454) writes "Reuters reports that Mt. Gox employees began to question the handling of funds at least two years ago. Although only CEO Mark Karpeles had full access to financial records, a group of a half-dozen employees began to suspect client funds were being diverted to cover operating costs, which included Karpeles' toys, such as 'racing version of the Honda Civic imported from Britain'. Employees confronted Karpeles in early 2012, only to be given vague assurances with a 'pay no attention to the man behind the curtain' ring. Unfortunately, since Mt. Gox was not regulated as a financial institution under Japanese law, it is unclear what recourse might be gained in pursuing this question."

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West Nile Virus May Have Met Its Match: Tobacco

Slashdot - Sun, 03/30/2014 - 20:37
An anonymous reader writes in with news about a compound produced using genetically altered tobacco plants that may prove useful in battling the West Nile virus. "Some people think of tobacco as a drug, whereas others think of it as a therapy — or both. But for the most part, it's hard to find people who think of the tobacco plant in terms of its medical applications. Qiang Chen, an infectious disease researcher at Arizona State University, is one such person. His team of scientists conducted an experiment, published today in PLOS ONE, that demonstrates how a drug produced in tobacco plants can be used to prevent death in mice infected with a lethal dose of West Nile virus. The study represents an important first step in the development of a treatment for the mosquito-borne disease that has killed 400 people in the US within the last two years."

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Daylight Saving Time Linked To Heart Attacks

Slashdot - Sun, 03/30/2014 - 19:33
jones_supa (887896) writes "Switching over to daylight saving time, and hence losing one hour of sleep, raised the risk of having a heart attack the following Monday by 25 percent, compared to other Mondays during the year, according to a new U.S. study released on Saturday. By contrast, heart attack risk fell 21 percent later in the year, on the Tuesday after the clock was returned to standard time, and people got the extra hour of sleep. The not-so-subtle impact of moving the clock forward and backward was seen in a comparison of hospital admissions from a database of non-federal Michigan hospitals. It examined admissions before the start of daylight saving time and the Monday immediately after, for four consecutive years. Researchers cited limitations to the study, noting it was restricted to one state and heart attacks that required artery-opening procedures, such as stents."

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Samsung SSD 840 EVO MSATA Tested

Slashdot - Sun, 03/30/2014 - 18:32
MojoKid (1002251) writes "Shortly after 2.5-inch versions of Samsung's SSD 840 EVO drives hit the market, the company prepared an array of mSATA drives featuring the same controller and NAND flash. The Samsung SSD 840 EVO mSATA series of drives are essentially identical to their 2.5" counterparts, save for the mSATA drives' much smaller form factor. Like their 2.5" counterparts, Samsung's mSATA 840 EVO series of drives feature an updated, triple-core Samsung MEX controller, which operates at 400MHz. The 840 EVO's MEX controller has also been updated to support the SATA 3.1 spec, which incorporates a few new features, like support for queued TRIM commands. Along with the MEX controller, all of the Samsung 840 EVO mSATA series drives feature LPDDR2-1066 DRAM cache memory. The 120GB drive sports 256MB of cache, the 250GB and 500GB drive have 512MB of cache, and the 750GB and 1TB drives have 1GB of cache. Performance-wise, SSD 840 EVO series of mSATA solid state drives performs extremely well, whether using synthetic benchmarks, trace-based tests like PCMark, or highly-compressible or incompressible data."

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How Ford's Virtual Reality Lab Helps Engineers

Slashdot - Sun, 03/30/2014 - 17:30
cartechboy (2660665) writes "Facebook bought OculusVR and the world tilted a little on its axis. But good old Ford has been using VR all along without much fanfare. VR tech effectively gives Ford engineers X-ray vision, so they can — virtually — see through a vehicle's structure, which helps to design mechanical hardware, and spot issues with designs that might interfere with vehicle 'hard points.' Ford's engineers also use VR headsets to check out exterior and interior designs of cars that don't exist in the physical world — at least not yet. Team members walk around virtual cars to preview designs, or "get in" to check if interior layouts will work in the real world."

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Famous Paintings Help Study the Earth's Past Atmosphere

Slashdot - Sun, 03/30/2014 - 16:26
houghi (78078) writes "From European Geosciences Union: 'A team of Greek and German researchers has shown that the colours of sunsets painted by famous artists can be used to estimate pollution levels in the Earth's past atmosphere. In particular, the paintings reveal that ash and gas released during major volcanic eruptions scatter the different colours of sunlight, making sunsets appear more red.' The original paper can be found here. In the last 150 years, the sunsets have become redder, likely reflecting increased man-made pollution."

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Researchers: Rats Didn't Spread Black Death, Humans Did

Slashdot - Sun, 03/30/2014 - 15:25
concertina226 (2447056) writes "Scientists studying the human remains of plague victims found during excavations for London's new Crossrail train line have concluded that humans spread the Black Death rather than rats, a fact that could rewrite history books. University of Keele scientists, working together with Crossrail's lead archaeologist Jay Carver and osteologists from the Museum of London, analyzed the bones and teeth of 25 skeletons dug up by Crossrail. They found DNA of Yersinia pestis, which is responsible for the Black Death, on the teeth of some of the victims."

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How Facebook and Oculus Could Be a Great Combination

Slashdot - Sun, 03/30/2014 - 14:23
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes: "Nate Swammer writes at Slashgear that with Facebook's purchase of Oculus for a cool $2 billion, the fervor surrounding virtual reality headwear quickly turned to disdain. Betrayal, confusion, and anger became the order of the day for contributors who gave Oculus $2.4 million through its Kickstarter campaign. But now that passions have cooled and looking at the issues dispassionately, the Facebook acquisition may turn out much better than anticipated for users. While many may have a fervent distrust for Facebook, this deal bodes well for Oculus, and by virtue, us. First Oculus wasn't flush, and although Oculus may have had some hustle behind it, it may not have been enough. John Carmack, Oculus CTO, said via Twitter, 'I expect the FB deal will avoid several embarrassing scaling crisis for VR.' The headwear already famously suffered from a supply chain issue not long ago, which actually stopped it dead in its tracks. Next, in their official announcement of the Facebook deal, gaming was barely a blip on the radar. It wasn't until the very end that gaming was even mentioned, with the bulk of the post discussing 'culture' and driving virtual reality forward. There was little to indicate any big titles were coming for Oculus. The fact is, Oculus needed help. Not technical assistance, but someone who could be their Sony, more or less. John Carmack says he has 'a deep respect for the technical scale that FB operates at. The cyberspace we want for VR will be at this scale.' Perhaps Facebook isn't the most popular choice, but they are the partner Oculus chose for their future says Swammer. 'Like Google purchasing Android in 2005, it all seems so strange right now [remember this story we discussed in 2009] — but we see how that turned out. If VR really is the next frontier, Facebook just staked their claim to a big slab of land in the heart of some virtual country they'll likely let us see someday — via Oculus.""

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Ultima Online</em> Devs Building Player-Run MMORPG

Slashdot - Sun, 03/30/2014 - 12:27
An anonymous reader writes: "A group of former developers for Ultima Online has created a game company called Citadel Studios, and they're working on a new MMORPG called Shards Online. '[CEO Derek] Brinkmann described the game as a player-run MMO, which means at the highest level they can run their own servers and change the settings of that world, altering how long nighttime lasts or how quickly players can gain skills. On the next level down, server administrators can take the form of god characters, who can spawn monsters in the world, create items and launch live events. And in the level below that, players can modify the gameplay code. ... The game is set in a multiverse, where players can travel through different worlds. While all the worlds are unified by the same rule-set, Cotten told Polygon that they are each themed differently, and these themes will offer players a different experience. There's a world inspired by high fantasy. There's a world that is coming out of a steampunk industrial revolution. There's a world that consists of a coliseum in which players can fight each other in player-versus-player battles.'"

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Aaron Swartz and MIT: The Inside Story

Slashdot - Sun, 03/30/2014 - 11:19
An anonymous reader writes: "The Boston Globe has reviewed over 7,000 pages of documents from Aaron Swartz's court case, shedding light on the activities that got him in trouble and how MIT reacted to his case. Quoting: 'Most vividly, the e-mails underscore the dissonant instincts the university grappled with. There was the eagerness of some MIT employees to help investigators and prosecutors with the case, and then there was, by contrast, the glacial pace of the institution's early reaction to the intruder's provocation. MIT, for example, knew for 2½ months which campus building the downloader had operated out of before anyone searched it for him or his laptop — even as the university told JSTOR they had no way to identify the interloper. And once Swartz was unmasked, the ambivalence continued. MIT never encouraged Swartz's prosecution, and once told his prosecutor they had no interest in jail time. However, e-mails illustrate how MIT energetically assisted authorities in capturing him and gathering evidence — even prodding JSTOR to get answers for prosecutors more quickly — before a subpoena had been issued. ... But a number of JSTOR's internal e-mails show a much angrier face in the months that Swartz eluded capture, with employees sharing frustration about MIT's "rather tepid level of concern." JSTOR officials repeatedly raised the prospect, among themselves, of going to the police, e-mails show."

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WSJ: Prepare To Hang Up the Phone &mdash; Forever

Slashdot - Sun, 03/30/2014 - 08:11
retroworks writes: "Telecom giants AT&T and Verizon Communications are lobbying states, one by one, to hang up the plain, old telephone system, what the industry now calls POTS — the copper-wired landline phone system whose reliability and reach made the U.S. a communications powerhouse for more than 100 years. Is landline obsolete, and should be immune from grandparents-era social protection? The article continues, 'Last week, Michigan joined more than 30 other states that have passed or are considering laws that restrict state-government oversight and eliminate "carrier of last resort" mandates, effectively ending the universal-service guarantee that gives every U.S. resident access to local-exchange wireline telephone service, the POTS. (There are no federal regulations guaranteeing Internet access.) ... In Mantoloking, N.J., Verizon wants to replace the landline system, which Hurricane Sandy wiped out, with its wireless Voice Link. That would make it the first entire town to go landline-less, a move that isn't sitting well with all residents."

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China Prosecuted Internet Policeman In Paid Deletion Cases

Slashdot - Sun, 03/30/2014 - 05:05
hackingbear writes: "In China, censorship is not just about politics; it's also a vibrant business. Police in Beijing have detained at least ten people, including employees at web giant Baidu and a web censor working at the Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau (cached version), over allegations that they deleted defamatory online posts about companies and government enterprises in return for money, the Beijing News reports. The case was first surfaced when Baidu noticed and reported several of its workers' illegal activities. From 2010 to 2012, Gu, an ex-Baidu employee, is believed to have deleted over 2,000 posts on Baidu, 500 on news site Sohu and 20 posts on qianlong.com, with over 2 million yuan ($322,000) reportedly changing hands. While Gu can delete negative Internet posts for topics ranging from environmental issues to product quality problems on behalf of companies, he could not delete posts relating to his government clients. So he paid and asked Liu, a Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau web censor, to issue official orders to the web sites to remove the posts (Google translation of Chinese original). Liu was found to have accepted 770,000 yuan ($124,000) from Gu for deleting posts. He also received 150,000 yuan ($24,000) from other sources."

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Apple, Google Go On Trial For Wage Fixing On May 27

Slashdot - Sun, 03/30/2014 - 01:04
theodp writes: "PandoDaily's Mark Ames reports that U.S. District Judge Lucy Koh has denied the final attempt by Apple, Google, Intel, and Adobe to have the class action lawsuit over hiring collusion practices tossed. The wage fixing trial is slated to begin on May 27. 'It's clearly in the defendants' interests to have this case shut down before more damaging revelations come out,' writes Ames. (Pixar, Intuit and LucasFilm have already settled.) The wage fixing cartel, which allegedly involved dozens of companies and affected one million employees, also reportedly affected innovation. 'One the most interesting misconceptions I've heard about the "Techtopus" conspiracy,' writes Ames of Google's agreement to cancel plans for an engineering center in Paris after Jobs expressed disapproval, 'is that, while these secret deals to fix recruiting were bad (and illegal), they were also needed to protect innovation by keeping teams together while avoiding spiraling costs.' Ames adds, 'In a field as critical and competitive as smartphones, Google's R&D strategy was being dictated, not by the company's board, or by its shareholders, but by a desire not to anger the CEO of a rival company.'"

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Security Evaluation of the Tesla Model S

Slashdot - Sat, 03/29/2014 - 23:58
An anonymous reader writes: "Nitesh Dhanjani has written a paper outlining the security mechanisms surrounding the Tesla Model S, as well as its shortcomings, titled 'Cursory Evaluation of the Tesla Model S: We Can't Protect Our Cars Like We Protect Our Workstations.' Dhanjani says users are required to set up an account secured by a six-character password when they order the car. This password is used to unlock a mobile phone app and to gain access to the user's online Tesla account. The freely available mobile app can locate and unlock the car remotely, as well as control and monitor other functions. The password is vulnerable to several kinds of attacks similar to those used to gain access to a computer or online account. An attacker might guess the password via a Tesla website, which Dhanjani says does not restrict the number of incorrect login attempts. Dhanjani said there is also evidence that Tesla support staff can unlock cars remotely, leaving car owners vulnerable to attackers impersonating them, and raising questions about the apparent power of such employees to locate and unlock any car with or without the owner's knowledge or permission. In his paper, Dhanjani also describes the issue of Tesla's REST APIs being used by third parties without Tesla's permission, causing Tesla owners' credentials to be sent to those third parties, who could misuse the information to locate and unlock cars."

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Why Darmok</em> Is a Good Star Trek: TNG</em> Episode

Slashdot - Sat, 03/29/2014 - 22:55
An anonymous reader writes: "Last week, the Ars Technica ran an article listing their staff's least favorite Star Trek: the Next Generation episodes. They hit a few of the predictable ones, like Angel One — wherein Riker's chest hair takes center stage — and Up the Long Ladder — featuring space-Irish. But a surprising suggestion came from Peter Bright, who denounced Darmok, a fan favorite. (You remember: 'Darmok and Jalad, at Tanagra.') Now, Ars's Lee Hutchinson has (jokingly) taken Bright to task, showing how IMDB ratings mark Darmok (5x02) as one of the best episodes of season 5, and among the strongest in the series. He also points out a trend in some of the bad episodes they didn't pick: 'According to the data, the worst episode of TNG by a significant margin is the season 2 finale Shades of Gray, a clipshow episode famously hobbled by the 1988 Writers Guild of America strike. We also managed to not pick season 6's Man of the People (the one where Troi falls in love with a brain vampire and gets really old) or season 4's The Loss (the one where Troi loses her empathic abilities and gets really whiny) or season 2's The Child (the one where Troi has dream sex with a space anomaly and gets really pregnant).' What are your picks for best and worst TNG episode?"

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