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Updated: 16 min 59 sec ago

Apple Faces Class Action Lawsuit Over iOS Wi-Fi Assist

Sun, 25/10/2015 - 12:22pm
An anonymous reader writes: A class-action suit has been filed against Apple in U.S. District Court over Wi-Fi Assist being turned on by default in iOS 9. Wi-Fi Assist is designed to switch to cellular data when a user is trying to perform an action over the internet on a poor Wi-Fi signal. This has the natural side effect of using cellular data. Since iOS 9 turned it on for many users, they weren't necessarily expecting that extra use, causing some of them to exceed their data caps. A former Apple employee who was in a leadership position for Mac OS X Wi-Fi software has commented on the issue, saying that the Wi-Fi Assist mess was unavoidable given how Apple's management treats that part of the business. Quoting :"[O]ne particular directorial edict which I pushed back against at the end of my tenure sticks out as not just particularly telling, but deeply misguided: 'Make it self-healing.' Self healing in this context meaning that the networking system, Wi-Fi in particular, should try to correct problems that caused the network to fail, which, if you have spent any time trying to diagnose networking issues is a clear misunderstanding of the issues involved. ... Asking the devices which connect to this vast complex network of networks to detect, and then transparently fix problems in the infrastructure without the permission of the administrators is, well, it's absolutely the pinnacle of buzzword driven product management. Real pointy-haired boss territory."

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Engineers Create the Blackest Material Yet

Sun, 25/10/2015 - 9:32am
schwit1 writes: Researchers have created the least reflective material ever made, using as inspiration the scales on the all-white cyphochilus beetle. The result was an extremely tiny nanoparticle rod resting on an equally tiny nanoparticle sphere (30 nm diameter) which was able to absorb approximately 98 to 99 percent of the light in the spectrum between 400 and 1,400nm, which meant it was able to absorb approximately 26 percent more light than any other known material — and it does so from all angles and polarizations.

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Comet Lovejoy Giving Away Alcohol

Sun, 25/10/2015 - 6:13am
Thorfinn.au writes: Comet Lovejoy lived up to its name by releasing large amounts of alcohol as well as a type of sugar into space, according to new observations by an international team. The discovery marks the first time ethyl alcohol, the same type in alcoholic beverages, has been observed in a comet. The finding adds to the evidence that comets could have been a source of the complex organic molecules necessary for the emergence of life. 'We found that comet Lovejoy was releasing as much alcohol as in at least 500 bottles of wine every second during its peak activity,' said Nicolas Biver of the Paris Observatory, France, lead author of a paper on the discovery published Oct. 23 in Science Advances. The team found 21 different organic molecules in gas from the comet, including ethyl alcohol and glycolaldehyde, a simple sugar. Comets are frozen remnants from the formation of our solar system. Scientists are interested in them because they are relatively pristine and therefore hold clues to how the solar system was made. Most orbit in frigid zones far from the sun. However, occasionally, a gravitational disturbance sends a comet closer to the sun, where it heats up and releases gases, allowing scientists to determine its composition.

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New Algorithm Provides Huge Speedups For Optimization Problems

Sun, 25/10/2015 - 3:07am
An anonymous reader writes: MIT graduate students have developed a new "cutting-plane" algorithm, a general-purpose algorithm for solving optimization problems. They've also developed a new way to apply their algorithm to specific problems, yielding orders-of-magnitude efficiency gains. Optimization problems look to find the best set of values for a group of disparate parameters. For example, the cost function around designing a new smartphone would reward battery life, speed, and durability while penalizing thickness, cost, and overheating. Finding the optimal arrangement of values is a difficult problem, but the new algorithm shaves a significant amount of operations (PDF) off those calculations. Satoru Iwata, professor of mathematical informatics at the University of Tokyo, said, "This is indeed an astonishing paper. For this problem, the running time bounds derived with the aid of discrete geometry and combinatorial techniques are by far better than what I could imagine."

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