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NSA Spying Wins Another Rubber Stamp

Slashdot - Sat, 02/28/2015 - 16:32
schwit1 sends this report from the National Journal: A federal court has again renewed an order allowing the National Security Agency to continue its bulk collection of Americans' phone records, a decision that comes more than a year after President Obama pledged to end the controversial program. The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court approved this week a government request to keep the NSA's mass surveillance of U.S. phone metadata operating until June 1, coinciding with when the legal authority for the program is set to expire in Congress. The extension is the fifth of its kind since Obama said he would effectively end the Snowden-exposed program as it currently exists during a major policy speech in January 2014. Obama and senior administration officials have repeatedly insisted that they will not act alone to end the program without Congress.

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Hyperloop Testing Starts Next Year

Slashdot - Sat, 02/28/2015 - 15:30
neanderslob writes: In 2013, Elon Musk told us about a theoretical transportation system he'd been thinking about for a while. It was called "hyperloop," and it was a tube-based system capable of sending people and things at speeds of up to 800mph. Now, a company called Hyperloop Transportation Technologies plans to start construction on an actual hyperloop next year. The idea is to build it to serve Quay Valley (a proposed 75,000-resident solar power city in Kings County, California). The project will be paid for with $100 million the company expects to raise through a direct public offering in the third quarter of this year. The track itself will be a 5-mile loop and won't reach anywhere close to the 800mph Musk proposed in his white paper — but it's a start.

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Is That Dress White and Gold Or Blue and Black?

Slashdot - Sat, 02/28/2015 - 14:31
HughPickens.com writes Color scientists already have a word for it: Dressgate. Now the Washington Post reports that a puzzling thing happened on Thursday night consuming millions — perhaps tens of millions — across the planet and trending on Twitter ahead of even Jihadi John's identification. The problem was this: Roughly three-fourths of people swore that this dress was white and gold, according to BuzzFeed polling but everyone else said it's dress was blue. Others said the dress could actually change colors. So what's going on? According to the NYT our eyes are able to assign fixed colors to objects under widely different lighting conditions. This ability is called color constancy. But the photograph doesn't give many clues about the ambient light in the room. Is the background bright and the dress in shadow? Or is the whole room bright and all the colors are washed out? If you think the dress is in shadow, your brain may remove the blue cast and perceive the dress as being white and gold. If you think the dress is being washed out by bright light, your brain may perceive the dress as a darker blue and black. According to Beau Lotto, the brain is doing something remarkable and that's why people are so fascinated by this dress. "It's entertaining two realities that are mutually exclusive. It's seeing one reality, but knowing there's another reality. So you're becoming an observer of yourself. You're having tremendous insight into what it is to be human. And that's the basis of imagination." As usual xkcd has the final word. It would make the comments more informatively scannable if you include your perceived color pair in the title of any comments below.

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We Stopped At Two Nuclear Bombs; We Can Stop At Two Degrees.

Slashdot - Sat, 02/28/2015 - 11:43
Lasrick writes Dawn Stover writes in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists that climate change is irreversible but not unstoppable. She describes the changes that are happening already and also those likely to happen, and compares what is coming to the climate of the Pliocene: 'Even if countries reduce emissions enough to keep temperatures from rising much above the internationally agreed-upon "danger" threshold of 2 degrees Celsius (which seems increasingly unlikely), we can still look forward to conditions similar to those of the mid-Pliocene epoch of 3 million years ago. At that time, the continents were in much the same positions that they are today, carbon dioxide levels ranged between 350 and 400 ppm, the global average temperature was 2 to 3 degrees Celsius higher than it is today (but up to 20 degrees higher than today at the northernmost latitudes), the global sea level was about 25 meters higher, and most of today's North American forests were grasslands and savanna.' Stover agrees with two scientists published in Nature Geoscience that 'Future warming is therefore driven by socio-economic inertia," and points the way toward changing a Pliocene future.

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BlackPhone, In Wake of Gemalto Fallout, Receives $50 Million In Funding

Slashdot - Sat, 02/28/2015 - 08:48
An anonymous reader writes The BlackPhone, a $600-plus encrypted Android handset designed to keep the prying eyes of criminals and the government out of mobile communications, is now fully owned by Silent Circle thanks to the company raking in investment cash. Terms of the buyout deal with Spanish smartphone maker Geeksphone, the phone's hardware manufacturer, were not disclosed. Silent Circle said Thursday that it has raised $50 million and plans on showing off an encrypted 'enterprise privacy ecosystem' at World Mobile Congress next week. A BlackPhone tablet is on the way, too.

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Twitter Adds "Report Dox" Option

Slashdot - Sat, 02/28/2015 - 06:01
AmiMoJo writes Twitter announced that its abuse-report system, which was recently refined to simplify and shorten the reporting process, has now expanded to allow users to report content such as self-harm incidents and "the sharing of private and confidential information" (aka doxing). The announcement, posted by Twitter Vice President of User Services Tina Bhatnagar, explained that December's report-process update was met with a "tripling" of the site's abuse support staff, which has led to a quintupling of abuse report processing. Chat logs recently revealed how Twitter is used by small groups to create vast harassment campaigns, thanks to sock puppet account and relative anonymity.

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Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Facebook Press WA For $40M For New UW CS Building

Slashdot - Sat, 02/28/2015 - 03:13
theodp (442580) writes "Nice computer industry you got there. Hate to see something bad happen to it." That's the gist of a letter sent by Microsoft, Amazon, Facebook, Google, Code.org, and other tech giants earlier this week asking the WA State Legislature to approve $40M in capital spending to help fund a new $110M University of Washington computer science building ($70M will be raised privately). "As representatives of companies and businesses that rely on a ready supply of high quality computer science graduates," wrote the letter's 23 signatories, "we believe it is critical for the State to invest in this sector in a way that ensures its vibrancy and growth. Our vision is for Washington to continue to lead the way in technology and computer science, but we must keep pace with the vast demand." The UW Dept. of Computer Science & Engineering profusely thanked tech leaders for pressing for a new building, which UW explained "will accommodate a doubling of our enrollment." Coincidentally, the corporate full-press came not long after the ACM Education Council Diversity Taskforce laid out plans "to get companies to press universities to use more resources to create more seats in CS classes" to address what it called "the desperate gap between the rising demand for CS education and the too-few seats available.

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Google Reverses Stance, Allows Porn On Blogger After Backlash

Slashdot - Sat, 02/28/2015 - 01:22
mpicpp writes In a reversal, Google says that porn will continue to be allowed on its Blogger site. Google said it has received a big backlash after deciding earlier in the week that bloggers will no longer be able to "publicly share images and video that are sexually explicit or show graphic nudity." The ban was to have taken place on March 23. Instead, Google said that the company would simply double down on its crackdown of bloggers who use their sites to sell porn.In July, Google stopped porn from appearing in its online ads that appear on Blogger. And in 2013, Google decided to remove blogs from its Blogger network that contained advertisements for online porn sites. "We've had a ton of feedback, in particular about the introduction of a retroactive change (some people have had accounts for 10+ years), but also about the negative impact on individuals who post sexually explicit content to express their identities," wrote Jessica Pelegio, Google's social product support manager, in a post on Google product forums. "So rather than implement this change, we've decided to step up enforcement around our existing policy prohibiting commercial porn.

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Vandalism In Arizona Shuts Down Internet and Phone Service

Slashdot - Sat, 02/28/2015 - 00:30
schwit1 sends news that vandalism on the outskirts of Phoenix, Arizona knocked out internet and telephone service for hours across much of the state's northern region. ATMs, credit card functionality, and emergency services were all affected. Officers are trying to determine who cut through a pipe containing a fiber-optic cable on the outskirts of the city, leading to the outage on Wednesday, which hit northern Phoenix and large parts of the north of Arizona. ... The four-inch-thick pipe, which carries a CenturyLink cable, was found sliced through in an area where it is exposed to the elements as it crosses a desert wash about a quarter of a mile from a residential area, Holmes said. Police said the investigation is in its early stages, but that the pipe may have been vandalized by thieves looking to steal metal.

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Verizon Posts Message In Morse Code To Mock FCC's Net Neutrality Ruling

Slashdot - Fri, 02/27/2015 - 23:38
HughPickens.com writes: Chris Matyszczyk reports at Cnet that Verizon has posted a message to the FCC titled: FCC's 'Throwback Thursday' Move Imposes 1930s Rules on the Internet" written in Morse code. The first line of the release dated February 26, 1934 in old typewriter font (PDF) reads: "Today (Feb.26) the Federal Communications Commission approved an order urged by President Obama that imposes rules on broadband Internet services that were written in the era of the steam locomotive and the telegraph." The Federal Communications Commission voted 3-2 along party lines in favor of new Internet service rules that prohibit blocking, slowing or prioritizing traffic. The rules, which have not yet been released, are opposed by cable and telephone companies that fear it will curb Internet growth and stifle payback on network investment. "It isn't a surprise that Verizon is a touch against Thursday's order. In 2012, it insisted that the very idea of Net neutrality squished its First and Fifth Amendment right," writes Matyszczyk. "I wonder, though, who will be attracted by this open mockery. Might this be a sign that Verizon doesn't think the fight is over at all?"

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Microsoft Finally Allows Customers To Legally Download Windows 7 ISOs

Slashdot - Fri, 02/27/2015 - 22:56
MojoKid writes: It's long been a pet peeve of many end users that Microsoft has made it such a challenge to procure a legitimate ISO image of its various operating systems. It seems like the company should have no problem offering them in an easy-to-find spot on its website, because after all, it's not like they can be taken utilized without a legal key. Sometimes, people simply lose the disc or ISO they had, and so it shouldn't be such a challenge to get a replacement. Fortunately, with a new feature on the Microsoft site, you are now able to get that replacement Windows 7 ISO. However, it's behind a bit of protection. You'll need to provide your legal product code, and then the language, in order to go through to the download page. If you've somehow lost your key but are still using the OS that it's tied to, you can retrieve it through a few different third party tools. However, it does seem like not all valid keys work properly just yet, since some users are reporting valid keys throwing errors or not enabling a download for some reason.

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Simple IT Security Tactics for Small Businesses (Video)

Slashdot - Fri, 02/27/2015 - 22:14
Adam Kujawa is the lead person on the Malwarebytes Malware Intelligence Team, but he's not here to sell software. In fact, he says that buying this or that software package is not a magic bullet that will stop all attacks on your systems. Instead, he stresses coworker education. Repeatedly. Adam says phishing and other social engineering schemes are now the main way attackers get access to your company's information goodies. Hacking your firewall? Far less likely than it used to be, not only because firewalls are more sophisticated than ever, but also because even the least computer-hip managers know they should have one.

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Lenovo Saying Goodbye To Bloatware

Slashdot - Fri, 02/27/2015 - 21:30
An anonymous reader writes: "Lenovo today announced that it has had enough of bloatware. The world's largest PC vendor says that by the time Windows 10 comes out, it will get rid of bloatware from its computer lineups. The announcement comes a week after the company was caught for shipping Superfish adware with its computers. The Chinese PC manufacturer has since released a public apology, Superfish removal tool, and instructions to help out users. At the sidelines, the company also announced that it is giving away 6-month free subscription to all Superfish-affected users.

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Can the Guitar Games Market Be Resurrected?

Slashdot - Fri, 02/27/2015 - 20:48
donniebaseball23 writes: Thanks to a glut of titles, hardware and precious little innovation, the Guitar Hero and Rock Band craze all but died out by 2010. Now, however, strong rumors are swirling that one if not both franchises will be making a return on the new consoles. But will players care? And will the market once again support these games? Charles Huang, co-creator of Guitar Hero, weighed in, outlining some of the challenges. "First, the music genre attracts a more casual and female audience versus other genres. But the casual gamer has moved from console to mobile," he warned. "Second, the high price point of a big peripheral bundle might be challenging. Casual gamers have a lot of free-to-play options." That said, there could be room for a much smaller guitar games market now, analyst Michael Pachter noted: "It was a $2 billion market in 2008, so probably a $200 million market now. The games are old enough that they might be ready for a re-fresh, and I would imagine there is room for both to succeed if they don't oversaturate the way they did last time."

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Adjusting To a Martian Day More Difficult Than Expected

Slashdot - Fri, 02/27/2015 - 20:06
schwit1 writes: Research and actual experience have found that adjusting to the slightly longer Martian day is not as easy as you would think. "If you're on Mars, or at least work by a Mars clock, you have to figure out how to put up with the exhausting challenge of those extra 40 minutes. To be exact, the Martian day is 24 hours, 39 minutes, and 35 seconds long, a length of day that doesn't coincide with the human body's natural rhythms. Scientists, Mars rover drivers, and everyone else in the space community call the Martian day a "sol" to differentiate it from an Earth day. While it doesn't seem like a big difference, that extra time adds up pretty quickly. It's like heading west by two time zones every three days. Call it 'rocket lag.'"

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VLC Gets First Major Cross-Platform Release

Slashdot - Fri, 02/27/2015 - 19:24
An anonymous reader writes VideoLAN today launched what is arguably the biggest release of VLC to date: an update for the desktop coordinated with new versions across all major mobile platforms. The world's most-used media player just got a massive cross-platform push. The company says the releases are the result of more than a year of volunteer work on the VLC engine and the libVLC library. As a result, VLC has gained numerous new features, has seen more than 1,000 bugs fixed, and has significantly increased its scope of supported formats.

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Leonard Nimoy Dies At 83

Slashdot - Fri, 02/27/2015 - 18:34
Esther Schindler writes: According to the NY Times, Leonard Nimoy died on Friday morning at his home in the Bel Air section of Los Angeles. He was 83 years old. He was, and always shall be, our friend. From the article: His wife, Susan Bay Nimoy, confirmed his death, saying the cause was end-stage chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Mr. Nimoy announced last year that he had the disease, which he attributed to years of smoking, a habit he had given up three decades earlier. He had been hospitalized earlier in the week. His artistic pursuits — poetry, photography and music in addition to acting — ranged far beyond the United Federation of Planets, but it was as Mr. Spock that Mr. Nimoy became a folk hero, bringing to life one of the most indelible characters of the last half century: a cerebral, unflappable, pointy-eared Vulcan with a signature salute and blessing: “Live long and prosper” (from the Vulcan “Dif-tor heh smusma”).

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Invented-Here Syndrome

Slashdot - Fri, 02/27/2015 - 17:45
edA-qa writes: Are you afraid to write code? Does the thought linger in your brain that somewhere out there somebody has already done this? Do you find yourself trapped in an analysis cycle where nothing is getting done? Is your product mutating to accommodate third party components? If yes, then perhaps you are suffering from invented-here syndrome. Most of use are aware of not-invented-here syndrome, but the opposite problem is perhaps equally troublesome. We can get stuck in the mindset that there must be a product, library, or code sample, that already does what we want. Instead of just writing the code we need a lot of effort is spent testing out modules and trying to accommodate our own code. At some point we need to just say, 'stop!', and write the code ourselves.

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Banned Weight-loss Drug Could Combat Liver Disease, Diabetes

Slashdot - Fri, 02/27/2015 - 17:03
sciencehabit writes: A drug the U.S. government once branded "extremely dangerous and not fit for human consumption" deserves a second chance, a study of rats suggests. Researchers report (abstract) that a slow-release version of the compound reverses diabetes and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), an untreatable condition that can lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer.

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Researchers Create World's First 3D-Printed Jet Engines

Slashdot - Fri, 02/27/2015 - 16:20
Zothecula writes: Working with colleagues from Deakin University and CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization), researchers from Australia's Monash University have created the world's first 3D-printed jet engine. While they were at it, they created the world's second one, too. One of them is currently on display at the International Air Show in Avalon, Australia, while the other can be seen at the headquarters of French aerospace company Microturbo, in Toulouse.

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