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Updated: 5 min 31 sec ago

Microsoft-Backed Think Tank: K-12 CS Education Cure For Sagging US Productivity

Sat, 09/05/2015 - 4:55pm
theodp writes: On May 6, notes think tank Brookings, the Department of Labor released labor productivity data showing that output per worker fell by 1.9 percent during the first quarter of 2015. But fear not — the Metropolitan Policy Program of [Microsoft-backed] Brookings says K-12 computer science education is the cure for what ails U.S. productivity: "So how can the United States reverse this trend? First, states, metropolitan areas, and school districts must recognize that basic digital literacy is no longer sufficient preparation for the 21st century workforce. Familiarity with higher-level skills such as coding will be critical as the role of technology continues to grow. The 60-plus school districts that have partnered with [Microsoft-backed] Code.org have already begun to move in this direction. By introducing students to computer science fundamentals early on, Code.org and its partner districts will help get more people on pathways to well-paying jobs in computer programming and other fields." Creating a national K-12 CS and tech immigration crisis was proposed as Microsoft introduced its 'two-pronged' National Talent Strategy to increase K-12 CS education and the number of H-1B visas at a Brookings event in 2012. While creating a K-12 CS crisis fell to Code.org, fanning the flames of a tech immigration crisis is the purvey of [Microsoft exec-backed] FWD.us, the PAC formed by Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg, which recently sent an email blast warning U.S. citizens they're in 'A Gigantic Global Talent War', adding that China and India citizens are "just laughing [at the US], saying it's so easy to pick from you guys... we just take all the talent."

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Brainwave-Reading Patents Spike On Increase In Commercial Mind-Reading Apps

Sat, 09/05/2015 - 3:56pm
smaxp writes: Consumer market researcher Nielsen leads the pack, with patents describing ways to detect brain activity with EEG and translate it into what someone truly thinks about, say, a new product, advertising, or packaging. Microsoft Corp. holds patents that assess mental states, with the goal of determining the most effective way to present information. "Neurotech has gone well beyond medicine, with non-medical corporations, often under the radar, developing neurotechnologies to enhance work and life," said SharpBrains Chief Executive Alvaro Fernandez at the NeuroGaming conference in San Francisco.

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Uber Wants To Buy Nokia's Mapping Services

Sat, 09/05/2015 - 2:28pm
jfruh writes: When Nokia sold its handset business to Microsoft, one of the services left that it intended to rebuild the company on was Here, its rival to Google Maps. But now a deal is said to be in the works to sell Here to Uber, a company that relies heavily on navigation services and that doesn't want to end up too reliant on Google, a potential rival in the futuristic self-driving car business.

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MIT Report Says Current Tech Enables Future Terawatt-Scale Solar Power Systems

Sat, 09/05/2015 - 1:30pm
Lucas123 writes: Even with today's inefficient wafer-based crystalline silicon photovoltaics, terawatt-scale solar power systems are coming down the pike, according to a 356-page report from MIT on the future of solar energy. Solar electricity generation is one of "very few low-carbon energy technologies" with the potential to grow to very large scale, the study states. In fact, solar resources dwarf current and projected future electricity demand. The report, however, also called out a lack of funds for R&D on newer solar technology, such as thin-film wafers that may be able to achieve lower costs in the long run. Even more pressing than the technology are state and federal policies that squelch solar deployment. For example, government subsidies to solar are dwarfed by subsidies to other energy sources, and trade policies have restricted PV module and other commodity product imports in order to aid domestic industry. Additionally, even though PV module and inverter costs are essentially identical in the United States and Germany, total U.S.residential system costs are substantially above those in Germany.

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Critics Say It's Time To Close La Guardia Airport

Sat, 09/05/2015 - 12:31pm
HughPickens.com writes: George Haikalis writes in the NYT that last week, the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey put off, yet again, deciding between two proposals for a nearly $4 billion project to rehabilitate the dilapidated Central Terminal Building at La Guardia Airport. But piling billions of taxpayer dollars into upgrading La Guardia, which has been likened to an experience "in a third world country," won't solve its fundamental problems. "It can't easily expand," says Haikalis. "Its two runways and four terminals are surrounded on three sides by water, making landing difficult and hazardous. Parking is a nightmare." There are precedents for replacing airports close to the center city with modern, more outlying airports. Hong Kong and Denver are two examples; Berlin will soon follow suit. With the consolidation of the major United States airlines and the sluggishness in the global economy, the much larger Kennedy and Newark airports could accommodate La Guardia's passenger load, by adding more frequent service and using larger aircraft, if the F.A.A. were to lift the caps on the number of flights allowed there. Kennedy, with its two sets of parallel runways, could handle many more flights, particularly as new air-traffic control technology is introduced in the next few years. The money budgeted for the La Guardia upgrades would be better used to create a long-proposed one-ride express-rail link between Manhattan and J.F.K., by reviving a long-disused, 3.5-mile stretch of track in central Queens and completing the modernization of the terminals at Kennedy. "By avoiding the costly replacement of outmoded terminals at La Guardia and by creating a new express rail link and upgrading terminals at Kennedy, the increased economic activity could more than make up for the lost jobs," concludes Haikalis. "New York's importance to America's economy demands a first world vision to shutter this third world airport."

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What Might Have Happened To Windows Media Center

Sat, 09/05/2015 - 9:18am
Phopojijo writes: Microsoft has officially dropped Windows Media Center but, for a time, it looked like Microsoft was designing both Windows and the Xbox around it. That changed when Vista imploded and the new leadership took Windows in a different direction. Meanwhile, Valve Software and others appear to be tiptoeing into the space that Microsoft sprinted away from.

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Shape of the Universe Determined To Be Really, Really Flat

Sat, 09/05/2015 - 6:02am
StartsWithABang writes: You might imagine all sorts of possibilities for how the Universe could have been shaped: positively curved like a higher-dimensional sphere, negatively curved like a higher-dimensional saddle, folded back on itself like a donut/torus, or spatially flat on the largest scales, like a giant Cartesian grid. Yet only one of these possibilities matches up with our observations, something we can probe simply by using our knowledge of how light travels in both flat and curved space, and measuring the CMB, the source of the most distant light in the Universe. The result? A Universe that's so incredibly flat, it's indistinguishable from perfection. Which means it's probably even flatter than Kansas.

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From Commune To Sharing Economy Startup

Sat, 09/05/2015 - 3:08am
gthuang88 writes: Willy Schlacks grew up in a conservative commune in Missouri without technology like phones or computers. At age 27, he and his brother left and started a construction business. That led to their founding a Web startup called EquipmentShare that helps contractors rent and share construction machinery. The startup went through the Y Combinator program and just raised $2 million from venture capitalists. The Schlacks worldview, coming from a communal society where they never owned property, fits in an interesting way with the digital sharing economy of Uber and Airbnb that's seeping into other industries. But there's one big difference. "I appreciate capitalism," Schlacks says. "I definitely prefer it."

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Senators Demand CIA Director Admit He Lied About Spying On Senate Computers

Sat, 09/05/2015 - 12:24am
blottsie writes with a link to a story at The Daily Dot which begins: CIA Director John Brennan lied when he denied ordering agency employees to search Senate computers to trace a leak. Frustrated with his unwillingness to admit the obvious, three Senate Democrats on Friday called on Brennan to admit that his agency crossed the line. The Senate Intelligence Committee was preparing a report on the CIA's Bush-era torture programs when the spy agency discovered that the committee had somehow acquired an internal CIA report on the program. To determine how the report had leaked, Brennan ordered CIA officers to pry into the computers used by committee staffers. The heart of the story is in the letter in which the Senators call for Brennan to 'fess up, also linked from the story. Drawing from that letter: When you were asked publicly about the CIA's search in March 2014, you denied that any improper access had occurred, stating that "As fas the allegations of, you know, CIA hacking into, you know, Senate computers, nothing could be further from the truth. I mean, that's -- that's just beyond the -- you know, the scope of reason in terms of what we could do." The reports of both the Inspector General and your review board demonstrate that this denial was at odds with the facts. In June 2014, senior officials from the FBI, NSA, and the Office of the Director of National Intelligence all testified that it would be inappropriate for their agencies to secretly search Senate files without external authorization. To date, however, there has been no public acknowledgement from you or any other CIA official (outside the Office of Inspector General) that this search was improper, nor even a commitment that the CIA will not conduct such searches in the future. This is entirely unacceptable.

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Fastest 4.5 Watt Core M 5Y71 In Asus T300 Chi Competitive With Full Core i5 CPUs

Fri, 08/05/2015 - 11:33pm
MojoKid writes: Asus unveiled its latest addition to the Transformer series at CES in January, the Transformer Book Chi, which just recently began shipping. Available in three sizes, the new Transformer Book Chi Series features a 2-in-1 detachable design. The flagship Transformer Book T300 Chi offers a 12.5-inch screen, an Intel Core M processor, and a fanless cooling solution. The 2-in-1 detachable design employs a magnetic hinge that supports four usage modes: Attached, Detached, Flipped, and Tented. The T300 Chi measures about 0.65 inches when docked, making it slightly thinner than an Apple Macbook Air. Asus claims the T300 Chi is the world's thinnest Windows tablet, measuring just 0.28 inches thick. More interestingly, perhaps, is that Asus built this machine with Intel's fastest Core M chip, the Core M 5Y71. In the benchmarks, it competes well even with full-sized ultrabooks, though battery life does take a hit due to the system's mechanical limitations and smaller 31Whr battery. At prices from $400 to $900, this might be an interesting choice for anyone considering the new Surface 3, too.

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Dropbox Moves Accounts Outside North America To Ireland

Fri, 08/05/2015 - 10:51pm
monkeyzoo writes: Similar to a previous announcement by Twitter, Dropbox has changed its Terms of Service for users outside of North America (USA/Canada/Mexico) such that services will now be provided out of Ireland. Will other companies follow this trend and leave the USA (and the jurisdiction of the NSA)? Note, the announcement states that North American users are not able to opt into the Irish Terms of Service.

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Is IT Work Getting More Stressful, Or Is It the Millennials?

Fri, 08/05/2015 - 10:10pm
dcblogs writes: A survey of IT professionals that has been conducted in each of the last four years is showing an increase in IT work stress levels. It's a small survey, just over 200 IT workers, and it doesn't account for the age of the respondents. But some are asking whether Millennials, those ages 18 to 34, are pushing up stress levels either as IT workers or end users. The reason Millennials may be less able to handle stress is that they interact with others in person far less than other generations do, since most of their social interactions have been through Internet-based, arms-length contact, said Billie Blair, who holds a doctorate in organizational psychology. This generation has also been protected from many real-life situations by their parents, "so the workplace tends to be more stressful for them than for others," she said. Others are wondering if Millennials are more demanding of IT workers. Millennials are also expert users, and "are no longer in awe of technology specialists and therefore demand higher service levels," said Mitch Ellis, managing director of executive search firm Sanford Rose Associates in St. Louis.

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Ebola Lurked In Cured Patient's Eye

Fri, 08/05/2015 - 9:29pm
An anonymous reader writes: During the Ebola outbreak last year, Dr. Ian Crozier was infected. He was eventually airlifted to Emory University for treatment, and a couple months later he was cured of the disease — or so physicians thought. Not long after he was released, his left eye began bothering him. His sight faded, and he felt intense pressure and pain in his eye. Examination of the eye found it teeming with Ebola. His doctors were surprised. Cured patients frequently deal with health issues long after the virus is gone, but this adds a new dimension to the course of the disease. Doctors say Crozier posed no threat to others through casual contact; the virus did not exist in his tears or on the surface of his eye. But in addition to the new symptoms, his eye turned from blue to green. And doctors had to rush to disinfect the exam area used for what they thought was an Ebola-free patient. Research is ongoing to determine whether and how to protect from this lingering ebola infection. One theory suggests the virus survived, but was damaged somehow. Crozier was treated with antiviral drugs, and his eye improved, but doctors aren't sure whether the drug actually helped. Either way, it's made the medical community realize this is a longer battle than they had thought.

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Going Beyond the 'Stock' Arduino with Justin Mclean (Video)

Fri, 08/05/2015 - 8:46pm
Justin McLean is probably best-known for his work with Apache Flex. He also started playing with open source hardware before Arduino, and now works with systems like Fritzing, an open source hardware intiative that can take you all the way from initial concept to production-ready PCBs you can have made by a production house -- or make yourself if that's the way you roll. This can be an educational activity, a way to make prototype boards for potential Internet of Things products or even just a fun way to occupy yourself by making LEDs light up.

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Poor, Homegrown Encryption Threatens Open Smart Grid Protocol

Fri, 08/05/2015 - 8:00pm
An anonymous reader writes: Millions of smart meters, solar panels, and other grid-based devices rely on the Open smart grid protocol for communication and control — it's similar to SCADA's role for industrial systems. But new research shows that its creators made the common mistake of rolling their own encryption, and doing a poor job of it. The researchers believe this threatens the entire system. They say, "This function has been found to be extremely weak, and cannot be assumed to provide any authenticity guarantee whatsoever." Security analyst Adam Crain added, "Protocol designers should stick to known good algorithms or even the 'NIST-approved' short list. In this instance, the researchers analyzed the OMA digest function and found weaknesses in it. The weaknesses in it can be used to determine the private key in a very small number of trials."

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Subsurface Ocean Waves Can Be More Than 500 Meters High

Fri, 08/05/2015 - 7:17pm
An anonymous reader writes: New field studies out of MIT found that "internal waves" — massive waves below the surface of the ocean — can reach enormous sizes. The most powerful internal waves known to science are in the South China Sea, and they can be over 500 meters high. These waves mix disparate layers of ocean water, and contribute to evening temperatures between various bodies of water (abstract). The waves grow larger as they propagate, and carry on all year. These waves have enough mass to affect the earth-moon system: "To cut a long story short, it's not unreasonable to say internal waves play a role in the moon moving away or receding from the Earth. They are big enough that they affect large-scale celestial motions."

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