An anonymous reader writes: In 2000, NASA began taking satellite images of the Aral Sea in central Asia, which was once the fourth-largest inland lake in the world. At that time, there was an expansive eastern basin, and smaller basins to the north and west. In images recorded just last week, we see that the eastern basin is completely gone, and the western basin just a thin strip of water. The local fishing industry has been devastated, old ship graveyards now rest on dry ground, and salt-heavy sand is being blown around the region, causing health issues.
Most of the lake's decline is attributable to human intervention: "In the 1950s, two of the region's major rivers – the Amu Darya and and the Syr Darya – were diverted by the Soviet government to provide irrigation for cotton production in Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan, starving the Aral. It has been diminishing ever since, with the sea level dropping 16 meters between 1960 and 1996, according to the World Bank. Water levels are believed to be down to less than 10 per cent of what they were five decades ago." Low levels of rain and snow didn't help.
sandbagger writes: " ...it is often the case that one can be led astray by relying on the generic or commonly understood definition of a particular word." That quote apparently applies to words offering constitutional protections against unreasonable search and seizure. TechDirt looks at the redefinition of the term "collection" as redefined by Executive Order 12333 to allow basically every information dragnet, provided no-one looks at it. "Collection" is now defined as "collection plus action." According to this document, it still isn't collected, even if it has been gathered, packaged and sent to a "supervisory authority." No collection happens until examination. It's Schrodinger's data, neither collected nor uncollected until the "box" has been opened. This leads to the question of aging off collected data/communications: if certain (non) collections haven't been examined at the end of the 5-year storage limit, are they allowed to be retained simply because they haven't officially been collected yet? Does the timer start when the "box" is opened or when the "box" is filled?
An anonymous reader writes: Contrary to what we were sometimes taught in high school physics, the Earth's gravity is not constant. It actually shows slight variations on different parts of the Earth's surface, and the variations correlate with the density of the material on that surface. The European Space Agency has been measuring gravity for four years, mapping these variations and recording the changes those variations have undergone. Its data indicates "a significant decrease [in gravity] in the region of Antarctica where land ice is melting fastest. Further analysis is, of course, planned so that the whole of Antarctica can be taken into account and "the clearest picture yet of the pace of global warming" can be determined on that continent.
upontheturtlesback writes: The Arducorder Mini, an Arduino-compatible pocket-sized handheld sensing tool and the next in line of open source science tricorder-like devices designed by Dr. Peter Jansen, is nearing completion. Where the previous models have included about a dozen sensors spanning atmospheric, electromagnetic, and spatial readings, an exciting video of the new prototype shows this model includes sensors for spectroscopy, low-resolution thermal imaging, and radiation sensing. The development is open with the project build logs and most recent source schematics, board layouts, and firmware available on github. This project is an entry in the Hack a Day Prize for a trip to space.
Andy Updegrove writes: The Linux Foundation this morning announced the latest addition to its family of major hosted open source initiatives: the Open Platform for NFV Project (OPNFV). Its mission is to develop and maintain a carrier-grade, integrated, open source reference platform for the telecom industry. Importantly, the thirty-eight founding members include not only cloud and service infrastructure vendors, but telecom service providers, developers and end users as well. The announcement of OPNFV highlights three of the most significant trends in IT: virtualization (the NFV part of the name refers to network function virtualization), moving software and services to the cloud, and collaboratively developing complex open source platforms in order to accelerate deployment of new business models while enabling interoperability across a wide range of products and services. The project is also significant for reflecting a growing recognition that open source projects need to incorporate open standards planning into their work programs from the beginning, rather than as an afterthought.
An anonymous reader writes Matchstick and Mozilla today announced their open-source take on the Chromecast: a $25 Firefox OS-powered HDMI dongle. The streaming Internet and media stick will be available first through Kickstarter, in the hopes to drive down the price tag. Jack Chang, Matchstick General Manager in the US, described the device to me as "essentially an open Chromecast." He explained that while the MSRP is $25 (Google's Chromecast retails for $35), the Kickstarter campaign is offering a regular price of $18, and an early bird price of $12.
jones_supa (887896) writes Apple has released the OS X Bash Update 1.0 for OS X Mavericks, Mountain Lion, and Lion, a patch that fixes the "Shellshock" bug in the Bash shell. Bash, which is the default shell for many Linux-based operating systems, has been updated two times to fix the bug, and many Linux distributions have already issued updates to their users. When installed on an OS X Mavericks system, the patch upgrades the Bash shell from version 3.2.51 to version 3.2.53. The update requires the OS X 10.9.5, 10.8.5, or 10.7.5 updates to be installed on the system first. An Apple representative told Ars Technica that OS X Yosemite, the upcoming version of OS X, will receive the patch later.
An anonymous reader writes: After a recent article about breaking the CAPTCHA on the latest incarnation of Silk Road (the darknet-enabled drug market place), Darryl Lau decided to investigate exactly what narcotics people were buying and selling online. He found roughly 13,000 separate listings. Some sellers identify the country they're in, and the top six are the U.S., Australia, England, Germany, and the Netherlands, and Canada. The site also has a bunch of product reviews. If you assume that each review comes from a sale, and multiply that by the listed prices, reviewed items alone represent $20 million worth of business. Lau also has some interesting charts, graphs, and assorted stats. MDMA is the most listed and reviewed drug, and sellers are offering it in quantities of up to a kilogram at a time. The average price for the top 1000 items is $236. Prescription drugs represent a huge portion of the total listings, though no individual prescription drugs have high volume on their own.
An anonymous reader writes: The founders of the African School for Excellence have an ambitious goal — nothing less than redefining low cost, scalable teaching that brings international standards to the poorest schools in Africa. Their first model school is off to a good start: in just 18 months, all grade 9 students are achieving scores higher than 50% on Cambridge Curriculum Checkpoint tests, and only one student scored less than 50% in math. The national average score in math is 13%. The school relies on a locally designed piece of marking software to function. Their teach-to-pupil ratios are not great, but the teachers are committed to using technology to stretch themselves as far as they can. What's most remarkable is that the school's running costs are already half the cost of a traditional government school, and the quality of education is much, much better. All this, and they're only a year and a half into the program.
blottsie writes: Several major tech firms are in talks with Tor to include the software in products that can potentially reach over 500 million Internet users around the world. One particular firm wants to include Tor as a "private browsing mode" in a mainstream Web browser, allowing users to easily toggle connectivity to the Tor anonymity network on and off. "They very much like Tor Browser and would like to ship it to their customer base," Tor executive director Andrew Lewman wrote, explaining the discussions but declining to name the specific company. "Their product is 10-20 percent of the global market, this is of roughly 2.8 billion global Internet users." The product that best fits Lewman's description, by our estimation, is Mozilla Firefox, the third-most popular Web browser online today and home to, you guessed it, 10 to 20 percent of global Internet users.
An anonymous reader writes Nokia must pay damages to consumers in Mexico who reported malfunctioning handsets, following a court ruling for a trial that has lasted four years. The case was brought to court by Mexican watchdog Profeco in 2010, before the Finnish manufacturer was acquired by Microsoft – that deal was only completed earlier this year. Profeco added that the court has ordered Nokia to either replace the faulty handsets and/or reimburse their cost. On top of that, Nokia must also pay compensation totaling at least 20 percent of the damages resulting from malfunctioning. Customers that had been affected by faulty Nokia equipment would be able to seek damages even if they had not yet presented complaints.
KentuckyFC writes One way of predicting the future is to study data about events in the past and build a statistical model that generates the same pattern of data. Statisticians can then use the model to generate data about the future. Now one statistician has taken this art to new heights by predicting the content of the soon-to-be published novels in the Song of Ice and Fire series by George R R Martin. The existing five novels are the basis of the hit TV series Game of Thrones. Each chapter in the existing books is told from the point of view of one of the characters. So far, 24 characters have starred in this way. The statistical approach uses the distribution of characters in chapters in the first five books to predict the distribution in the forthcoming novels. The results suggest that several characters will not appear at all and also throw light on whether one important character is dead or not, following an ambiguous story line in the existing novels. However, the model also serves to highlight the shortcomings of purely statistical approaches. For example, it does not "know" that characters who have already been killed off are unlikely to appear in future chapters. Neither does it allow for new characters that might appear. Nevertheless, this statistical approach to literature could introduce the process of mathematical modelling to more people than any textbook.
An anonymous reader writes Writing on Opensource.com, Matt Micene shares his thoughts on getting started with an open source project. "I came back from OSCON this year with a new fire to contribute to an open source project. I've been involved in open source for years, but lately I've been more of an enthusiast-evangelist than a hands-on-contributor to an open source community. So, I started some thinking about what to do next. When I was involved in projects before, it was due to a clear progression from user to forum guru to contributor. It's a great path to take but what do you do if you just want to jump into something?" Matt goes on to lay out several steps to help new contributors get started.
HughPickens.com writes Reuters reports that your medical information, including names, birth dates, policy numbers, diagnosis codes and billing information, is worth 10 times more than your credit card number on the black market. Fraudsters use this data to create fake IDs to buy medical equipment or drugs that can be resold, or they combine a patient number with a false provider number and file made-up claims with insurers, according to experts who have investigated cyber attacks on healthcare organizations. Medical identity theft is often not immediately identified by a patient or their provider, giving criminals years to milk such credentials. That makes medical data more valuable than credit cards, which tend to be quickly canceled by banks once fraud is detected. Stolen health credentials can go for $10 each, about 10 or 20 times the value of a U.S. credit card number, says Don Jackson, director of threat intelligence at PhishLabs, a cyber crime protection company. He obtained the data by monitoring underground exchanges where hackers sell the information. Plus "healthcare providers and hospitals are just some of the easiest networks to break into," says Jeff Horne. "When I've looked at hospitals, and when I've talked to other people inside of a breach, they are using very old legacy systems — Windows systems that are 10 plus years old that have not seen a patch."
An anonymous reader writes Parents in China's Zhejiang province can give their own blood to earn some extra points on their child's high school entrance exam. Four liters of donated blood will get your child one extra point; 6 liters adds two points; and 8 liters, three. From the article: "The policy burst into the national limelight this week, when a Weibo user posted a photo of a bandaged arm, saying, 'For my future child, I say one thing: Relax when you take the high school entrance exam. Your dad's already helped you gain points.' The post was widely shared. Though the user declined to be interviewed by China Real Time, he also clarified his original post, saying that he had in fact been giving blood since age 18."