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Off the Florida Coast, Astronauts Train For Asteroid Mission

timothy posted 13 hours ago | from the in-space-no-one-can-hear-you-access-facebook dept.

NASA 62

Space.com gives an overview of the training that four astronauts are undergoing over 9 days submerged off the coast of Florida near Key Largo. The training mission, dubbed NEEMO 18, is one step toward a proposed (mid-2020s) mission to actually visit a captured asteroid in lunar orbit. In addition to the complications of working outside their school-bus sized habitat while awkwardly suited up in a low-gravity (or at least high buoyancy) environment, their mission also includes a 10-minute communications delay, to simulate the high-latency communications with mission control that would be inevitable for an actual asteroid mission. The experiments astronauts are doing during the mission, which began Monday (July 21), range from the physical to the behavioral. For example, each of the crew members sports a sensor that records how close the crew members work with each other inside the school-bus-size habitat. ... Communications with NEEMO Mission Control is usually constant, and there is the ability to send items to and from the habitat as needed. Also living inside the habitat are two support staff who are assisting with Aquarius maintenance and systems, as required. The crew members also have Internet and phone service to talk with family and friends.

Valencia Linux School Distro Saves 36 Million Euro

timothy posted yesterday | from the oh-no-big-deal dept.

Education 103

jrepin (667425) writes "The government of the autonomous region of Valencia (Spain) earlier this month made available the next version of Lliurex, a customisation of the Edubuntu Linux distribution. The distro is used on over 110,000 PCs in schools in the Valencia region, saving some 36 million euro over the past nine years, the government says." I'd lke to see more efforts like this in the U.S.; if mega school districts are paying for computers, I'd rather they at least support open source development as a consequence.

A Router-Based Dev Board That Isn't a Router

timothy posted yesterday | from the hook-it-to-anything dept.

Networking 47

An anonymous reader writes with a link to an intriguing device highlighted at Hackaday (it's an Indiegogo project, too, if it excites you $90 worth, and seems well on its way to meeting its modest goal): The DPT Board is something that may be of interest to anyone looking to hack up a router for their own connected project or IoT implementation: hardware based on a fairly standard router, loaded up with OpenWRT, with a ton of I/O to connect to anything.

It's called the DPT Board, and it's basically an hugely improved version of the off-the-shelf routers you can pick up through the usual channels. On board are 20 GPIOs, USB host, 16MB Flash, 64MB RAM, two Ethernet ports, on-board 802.11n and a USB host port. This small system on board is pre-installed with OpenWRT, making it relatively easy to connect this small router-like device to LED strips, sensors, or whatever other project you have in mind.

Satellite Images Show Russians Shelling Ukraine

timothy posted yesterday | from the one-for-all-and-what's-the-password? dept.

United States 344

U.S. officials today made public satellite imagery which they say proves that Russian forces have been shelling eastern Ukraine in a campaign to assist rebel groups fighting Ukraine’s government. The U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which released the civilian-taken satellite images Sunday, said they show visual evidence that Russia has been firing shells across the border at Ukrainian military forces. Officials also said the images show that Russia-backed separatists have used heavy artillery, provided by Russia, in attacks on Ukrainian forces from inside Ukraine. One image dated July 25/26 shows what DNI claims is “ground scarring” on the Russian side of the border from artillery aimed at Ukrainian military units in Ukraine, as well as the resultant ground craters on the Ukrainian side of the border:

SpaceX Executive Calls For $22-25 Billion NASA Budget

timothy posted yesterday | from the only-tax-dollars-after-all dept.

NASA 83

MarkWhittington (1084047) writes "While participating in a panel called "The US Space Enterprise Partnership" at the NewSpace Conference that was held by the Space Frontier Foundation on Saturday, SpaceX Chief Operating Officer Gwynne Shotwell opined that NASA's budget should be raised to $22-25 billion, according to a tweet by Space Policy Online's Marcia Smith. The theory is that a lot of political rancor has taken place in the aerospace community because of the space agency's limited budget. If the budget were to be increased to pay for everything on the space wish list, the rancor will cease.

The statement represents something of a departure of the usual mutual antagonism that exists between some in the commercial space community and some at NASA. Indeed Space Politics' Jeff Foust added a tweet, "Thought: a panel at a Space Frontier Foundation conf is talking about how to increase NASA budget. Imagine that in late 90s." The Space Frontier Foundation has been a leading voice for commercializing space, sometimes at the expense of NASA programs."

Amputee Is German Long Jump Champion

timothy posted yesterday | from the we-are-all-augmented dept.

Medicine 153

hweimer (709734) writes "German long jumper Markus Rehm has written sports history yesterday, becoming the first disabled athlete to win a national able-bodied championship. His jump to 8.24 meters put him on the 9th place of the current season rankings and make him egligible to compete in the upcoming European championships, further sparking the debate whether his prosthetic leg provides him with an unfair advantage."

Nasty Business: How To Drain Competitors' Google AdWords Budgets

timothy posted yesterday | from the this-one-weird-trick dept.

Advertising 89

tsu doh nimh (609154) writes KrebsOnSecurity looks at a popular service that helps crooked online marketers exhaust the Google AdWords budgets of their competitors.The service allows companies to attack competitors by raising their costs or exhausting their ad budgets early in the day. Advertised on YouTube and run by a guy boldly named "GoodGoogle," the service employs a combination of custom software and hands-on customer service, and promises clients the ability to block the appearance of competitors' ads. From the story: "The prices range from $100 to block between three to ten ad units for 24 hours to $80 for 15 to 30 ad units. For a flat fee of $1,000, small businesses can use GoodGoogle's software and service to sideline a handful of competitors' ads indefinitely."

In France, Most Comments on Gaza Conflict Yanked From Mainstream News Sites

timothy posted yesterday | from the national-brotherhood-week dept.

The Internet 393

An anonymous reader writes with an unpleasant statistic from France, quoting David Corchia, who heads a service employed by large French news organizations to sift through and moderate comments made on their sites. Quoting YNet News: Corchia says that as an online moderator, generally 25% to 40% of comments are banned. Moderators are assigned with the task of filtering comments in accordance with France's legal system, including those that are racist, anti-Semitic or discriminatory. Regarding the war between the Israelis and Hamas, however, Corchia notes that some 95% of online comments made by French users are removed. "There are three times as many comments than normal, all linked to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," added Jeremie Mani, head of another moderation company Netino. "We see racist or anti-Semitic messages, very violent, that also take aim at politicians and the media, sometimes by giving journalists' contact details," he added. "This sickening content is peculiar to this conflict. The war in Syria does not trigger these kinds of comments."

When Spies and Crime-Fighters Squabble Over How They Spy On You

timothy posted yesterday | from the we-may-or-may-not-have-done-that dept.

United States 118

The Washington Post reports in a short article on the sometimes strange, sometimes strained relationship between spy agencies like the NSA and CIA and law enforcement (as well as judges and prosecutors) when it comes to evidence gathered using technology or techniques that the spy agencies would rather not disclose at all, never mind explain in detail. They may both be arms of the U.S. government, but the spy agencies and the law enforcers covet different outcomes. From the article: [S]sometimes it's not just the tool that is classified, but the existence itself of the capability — the idea that a certain type of communication can be wiretapped — that is secret. One former senior federal prosecutor said he knew of at least two instances where surveillance tools that the FBI criminal investigators wanted to use "got formally classified in a big hurry" to forestall the risk that the technique would be revealed in a criminal trial. "People on the national security side got incredibly wound up about it," said the former official, who like others interviewed on the issue spoke on condition of anonymity because of the topic’s sensitivity. "The bottom line is: Toys get taken away and put on a very, very high shelf. Only people in the intelligence community can use them." ... The DEA in particular was concerned that if it came up with a capability, the National Security Agency or CIA would rush to classify it, said a former Justice Department official.

Ask Slashdot: Where Do You Get (or Share) News About Open Source Projects?

timothy posted yesterday | from the just-start-typing-random-ips dept.

Open Source 83

An anonymous reader writes "Now that freshmeat.net / freecode.com doesn't accept any updates, I wonder how the Slashdot crowd gets news about new projects, and even new versions of existing projects. For project managers, where could you announce new versions of your project, so that it can reach not just those who already know the project. Freshmeat / Freecode had all the tools to explore and discover projects, see screenshots (a mandatory feature for any software project, even with only a console interface or no interface at all) and go to the homepage of the project. I subscribed years ago to the RSS feed and sometimes found interesting projects this way. You could replace these tools by subscribing to newsletters or feeds from the projects you follow, but that doesn't cover the discovery part." And do any of the major development / hosting platforms for Free / Open Source projects (GitHub, Launchpad, or Slashdot sister-site SourceForge) have tools you find especially useful for skimming projects of interest?

Apple Acquires "Pandora For Books" Booklamp For $15 Million

timothy posted 2 days ago | from the we-know-why-you're-reading-it dept.

Books 23

Nate the greatest (2261802) writes with news made public Friday that Apple has acquired a little known ebook company called Booklamp, a small Idaho-based ebook startup which is best known for the Book Genome Project. First shown off to the world in 2008, this project was conceived by Booklamp founder and CEO Aaron Stanton as a way of analyzing a book's pacing, dialog, perspective, genre, and other details in order to identify a book's unique DNA. Booklamp has been using the tech to sell various services to publishers, tech companies, and the like, but Booklamps's existing contracts were apparently cancelled earlier this year.

According to one industry insider the deal happened in April, but Apple managed to keep the news under wraps until just last night. No one knows for sure how Apple will use booklamp but there is speculation that Apple could launch an ebook subscription service similar to the week-old Kindle Unlimited, or they could just use Booklamp to drive ebook recommendations in what some are speculating is the world's second largest ebookstore.

AP Computer Science Test Takers Up 8,000; Pass Rate Down 6.8%

timothy posted 2 days ago | from the everything-that-rises dept.

Education 117

theodp (442580) writes "Code.org reports that preliminary data on students who took the Advanced Placement (AP) Computer Science Exam in 2014 show an increase of 8,276 students over 2013 and represent what the College Board called "the first real indication of progress in AP CS enrollment for women and underserved minorities in years." Girls made up 20% of the 39,393 total test takers, compared to 18.7% of the 31,117 test takers in 2013. Black or African American students saw their share increase by 0.19%, from 3.56% to 3.75% (low, but good enough to crush Twitter). Code.org credits the increased enrollment to its celebrity-studded CS promo film starring Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg ("I even made a personal bet (reflected in my contractual commitment to Code.org donors) that our video could help improve the seemingly immovable diversity numbers in computer science," Code.org founder Hadi Partovi notes). However, some of the increase is likely attributable to the other efforts of Code.org's donors. Microsoft ramped up its TEALS AP CS program in 2013-2014, and — more significantly — Google helped boost AP CS study not only through its CS4HS program, but also by funding the College Board's AP STEM Access program, which offered $5 million to schools and teachers to encourage minority and female students to enroll in AP STEM courses. This summer, explains the College Board, "All AP STEM teachers in the participating schools (not just the new AP STEM teachers), who increase diversity in their class, receive a [$100] DonorsChoose.org gift card for each student in the course who receives a 3, 4, or 5 on the AP Exam." The bad news for AP CS teachers anticipating Google "Excellence Funding" bounties (for increasing course enrollment and completion "by at least five underrepresented students") is that AP CS pass rates decreased to 60.8% in 2014 (from 67.6% in 2013), according to Total Registration. Using these figures and a back-of-the-envelope calculation, while enrollment saw a 26.6% increase over last year, the total number of students passing increased by 13.9%."

Nightfall: Can Kalgash Exist?

timothy posted 2 days ago | from the burning-questions dept.

Books 82

First time accepted submitter jIyajbe (662197) writes Two researchers from the Indian Institute of Astrophysics investigate the imaginary world of Kalgash, a planetary system based on the novel 'Nightfall' (Asimov & Silverberg, 1991). From the arXiv paper: "The system consists of a planet, a moon and an astonishing six suns. The six stars cause the wider universe to be invisible to the inhabitants of the planet. The author explores the consequences of an eclipse and the resulting darkness which the Kalgash people experience for the first time. Our task is to verify if this system is feasible, from the duration of the eclipse, the 'invisibility' of the universe to the complex orbital dynamics." Their conclusion? "We have explored several aspects of Asimov's novel. We have found that the suns, especially Dovim are bright enough to blot out the stars. Kalgash 2 can eclipse Dovim for a period of 9 hours. We also tested one possible star configuration and after running some simulations, we found that the system is possible for short periods of time."

Greenpeace: Amazon Fire Burns More Coal and Gas Than It Should

timothy posted 2 days ago | from the not-enough-greenwashing dept.

Cellphones 275

Jason Koebler (3528235) writes "The biggest thing that sets the Amazon Fire Phone apart from its Android and Apple competitors probably isn't the clean interface or the unlimited photo storage—it's the dirty power behind it. When Fire users upload their photos and data to Amazon's cloud, they'll be creating a lot more pollution than iPhone owners, Greenpeace says. Apple has made a commitment to running its iCloud on 100 percent clean energy. Amazon, meanwhile, operates the dirtiest servers of any major tech giant that operates its own servers—only 15 percent of its energy comes from clean sources, which is about the default national average." Greenpeace's jaundiced eye is on Amazon more generally; the company's new phone is just an example. Maybe Amazon or some other provider could take a page from some local utilities and let users signal their own preferences with a (surcharged) "clean energy" option.

Household Robot Jibo Nets Over $1 Million On Indiegogo

timothy posted 2 days ago | from the one-meeeelion-dollars dept.

Communications 61

mikejuk (1801200) writes After seven days the Jibo project has over $1.1 million. What is surprising is that Jibo isn't a complex piece of hardware that will do the dishes and pick up clothes. It doesn't move around at all. It just sits and interacts with the family using a camera, microphones and a voice. It is a social robot, the speciality of the founder, MIT's, Cynthia Breazeal. The idea is that this robot will be your friend, take photos, remind you of appointments, order takeaway and tell the kids a story. If you watch the promo video then you can't help but think that this is all too polished and the real thing will fall flat on its face when delivered. If it does work then worry about the hundreds of kids needing psychiatric counselling — shades of Robbie in I, Robot. Even if it is hopelessly hyped — there is a development system and I want one. It is the early days of the home computer all over again.

Enraged Verizon FiOS Customer Seemingly Demonstrates Netflix Throttling

timothy posted 2 days ago | from the choking-hard dept.

Media 364

MojoKid (1002251) writes The ongoing battle between Netflix and ISPs that can't seem to handle the streaming video service's traffic, boiled over to an infuriating level for Colin Nederkoon, a startup CEO who resides in New York City. Rather than accept excuses and finger pointing from either side, Nederkoon did a little investigating into why he was receiving such slow Netflix streams on his Verizon FiOS connection. What he discovered is that there appears to be a clear culprit. Nederkoon pays for Internet service that promises 75Mbps downstream and 35Mbps upstream through his FiOS connection. However, his Netflix video streams were limping along at just 375kbps (0.375mbps), equivalent to 0.5 percent of the speed he's paying for. On a hunch, he decided to connect to a VPN service, which in theory should actually make things slower since it's adding extra hops. Speeds didn't get slower, they got much faster. After connecting to VyprVPN, his Netflix connection suddenly jumped to 3000kbps, the fastest the streaming service allows and around 10 times faster than when connecting directly with Verizon. Verizon may have a different explanation as to why Nederkoon's Netflix streams suddenly sped up, but in the meantime, it would appear that throttling shenanigans are taking place. It seems that by using a VPN, Verizon simply doesn't know which packets to throttle, hence the gross disparity in speed.

Cable Companies: We're Afraid Netflix Will Demand Payment From ISPs

timothy posted 2 days ago | from the who-pays-whom-for-what dept.

Businesses 192

Dega704 (1454673) writes While the network neutrality debate has focused primarily on whether ISPs should be able to charge companies like Netflix for faster access to consumers, cable companies are now arguing that it's really Netflix who holds the market power to charge them. This argument popped up in comments submitted to the FCC by Time Warner Cable and industry groups that represent cable companies. (National Journal writer Brendan Sasso pointed this out.) The National Cable & Telecommunications Association (NCTA), which represents many companies including Comcast, Time Warner Cable, Cablevision, Cox, and Charter wrote to the FCC:

"Even if broadband providers had an incentive to degrade their customers' online experience in some circumstances, they have no practical ability to act on such an incentive. Today's Internet ecosystem is dominated by a number of "hyper-giants" with growing power over key aspects of the Internet experience—including Google in search, Netflix and Google (YouTube) in online video, Amazon and eBay in e-commerce, and Facebook in social media. If a broadband provider were to approach one of these hyper-giants and threaten to block or degrade access to its site if it refused to pay a significant fee, such a strategy almost certainly would be self-defeating, in light of the immediately hostile reaction of consumers to such conduct. Indeed, it is more likely that these large edge providers would seek to extract payment from ISPs for delivery of video over last-mile networks."
Related: an article at Gizmodo explains that it takes surprisingly little hardware to replicate (at least most of) Netflix's current online catalog in a local data center.

The Truth About Solar Storms

timothy posted 2 days ago | from the deepen-the-basement dept.

Communications 90

StartsWithABang (3485481) writes On Wednesday, The Washington Post ran a story about a very large solar flare two years ago that missed Earth, but not by too much. From a scientific point of view, what is it that happens when a solar flare interacts with Earth, and what are the potential dangers to both humans and humanities infrastructure? A very good overview, complete with what you can do — as both an individual and a power company — to minimize the risk and the damage when the big one comes. Unlike asteroids, these events happen every few centuries, and in our age of electronics, would now create a legitimate disaster.

The Army Is 3D Printing Warheads

Soulskill posted 2 days ago | from the do-not-try-this-at-your-local-makerspace dept.

The Military 138

Jason Koebler writes: In its latest bid to kill more people, more efficiently, and at less cost, the army is planning to print warhead components, according to the latest issue of Army Technology (PDF). "3D printing of warheads will allow us to have better design control and utilize geometries and patterns that previously could not be produced or manufactured," James Zunino, a researcher at the Armament Research, Engineering and Design Center said. "Warheads could be designed to meet specific mission requirements whether it is to improve safety to meet an Insensitive Munitions requirement, or it could have tailorable effects, better control, and be scalable to achieve desired lethality."

The NSA's New Partner In Spying: Saudi Arabia's Brutal State Police

Soulskill posted 2 days ago | from the with-friends-like-these dept.

Government 124

Advocatus Diaboli sends this news from The Intercept: The National Security Agency last year significantly expanded its cooperative relationship with the Saudi Ministry of Interior, one of the world's most repressive and abusive government agencies. An April 2013 top secret memo provided by NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden details the agency's plans "to provide direct analytic and technical support" to the Saudis on "internal security" matters. The Saudi Ministry of Interior—referred to in the document as MOI— has been condemned for years as one of the most brutal human rights violators in the world. In 2013, the U.S. State Department reported that "Ministry of Interior officials sometimes subjected prisoners and detainees to torture and other physical abuse," specifically mentioning a 2011 episode in which MOI agents allegedly "poured an antiseptic cleaning liquid down [the] throat" of one human rights activist. The report also notes the MOI's use of invasive surveillance targeted at political and religious dissidents.

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