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Updated: 6 min 42 sec ago

Google-Backed Solar Plant Catches on Fire

Sun, 22/05/2016 - 1:30pm
An anonymous reader writes:"The world's largest solar plant just torched itself," read the headline at Gizmodo, reporting on a fire Thursday at the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System. Built on 4,000 acres of public land in the Mojave Desert, the $2.2 billion plant "has nearly 350,000 computer controlled mirrors -- each roughly the size of a garage door," according to the Associated Press, which reports that misaligned mirrors focused the sunlight on electrical cables, causing them to burst into flames, according to the local fire department. The facility was temporarily shut down, and the fire damaged one of the facility's three towers, according to the Associated Press, while another tower is closed for maintenance, "leaving the sprawling facility on the California-Nevada border operating at only a third of its capacity." The New York Times reported that by 2011 Google had invested $168 in the facility.

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Node.js Now Runs COBOL and FORTRAN

Sun, 22/05/2016 - 11:30am
Last summer a developer created a plugin which made it possible to run snippets of COBOL code embedded in JavaScript using the Node.js interpreter. Now Slashdot reader techfilz writes: Romanian developer Bizau Ionica has engineered a software bridge called node.cobol which can execute Node.js scripts from within COBOL programs. The link shows COBOL code executing a Node.js script that launches a Web server and creates ASCII art from a JPEG image -- in this case, Admiral Grace Hopper, who helped create COBOL in 1959. And Ars Technica points out the same developer has also built a Node.js bridge for FORTRAN.

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Japanese Startup Wants To Rain Down Man-Made Meteor For Tokyo Olympics

Sun, 22/05/2016 - 7:30am
A startup called Star-ALE wants to create a man-made meteor shower over the city of Tokyo for the 2020 Olympics opening ceremonies. The pyrotechnics show, Star-ALE says, will be visible from an area 200km across Japan, and the pyrotechnics will actually shower from space. Starting next year, Star-ALE will begin sending a fleet of microsatellites carrying 500 to 1000 specially-developed pellets that ignite and intensely glow as they re-enter the earth's atmosphere. ScienceAlert reports: But wonderment comes at a cost, and in this case, that cost isn't cheap. Each combustible pellet comes in at about $8,100 to produce, and that's not including the costs involved in actually launching the Sky Canvas satellite. The company has tested its source particles in the lab, using a vacuum chamber and hot gases to simulate the conditions the pellets would encounter upon re-entering Earth's atmosphere. In its testing, the particles burn with an apparent magnitude of -1, which should ensure they're clearly visible in the night sky, even in the polluted skyline of a metropolis like Tokyo.

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How Militarized Cops Are Zapping Rights With Stingray

Sun, 22/05/2016 - 3:29am
"Police nationwide are secretly exploiting intrusive technologies with the feds' complicity," argues a new article on Alternet -- calling out Stingray, which mimics a cellphone tower to identify every cellphone nearby. "It gathers information not only about a specific suspect, but any bystanders in the area as well... Some Stingrays are capable of collecting not only cell phone ID numbers but also numbers those phones have dialed and even phone conversations." The ACLU says requests for more information have been meeting heavy resistance from police departments since 2011, with many departments citing nondisclosure agreements with Stingray's manufacturer and with the FBI, and "often, the police get a judge's sign-off for surveillance without even bothering to mention that they will be using a Stingray...claiming that they simply can't violate those FBI nondisclosure agreements. "More often than not, police use Stingrays without bothering to get a warrant, instead seeking a court order on a more permissive legal standard. This is part of the charm of a new technology for the authorities: nothing is settled on how to use it." Stingray is more than a 1960s TV series with puppets. Several state judges estimate there have been hundreds of instances where police have used the Stingray tool without a warrant or telling a judge. Slashdot reader Presto Vivace writes: This is why it matters who wins the mayor and city council races. Localities do not have to accept this technology.

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Abrams Says Paramount Will Drop Star Trek/Axenar Lawsuit

Sun, 22/05/2016 - 1:29am
An anonymous reader writes:At a fan event Friday for the upcoming Star Trek movie, producer J. J. Abrams said Paramount Pictures' lawsuit against Axanar Productions was "going away." Director Justin Lin had been outraged by the lawsuit against the crowdfunded fan Star Trek film, and when he'd started discussing the situation with Abrams, the two "realized this was not an appropriate way to deal with the fans. The fans should be celebrating this thing. Fans of Star Trek are part of this world. So he went to the studio and pushed them to stop this lawsuit and now, within the next few weeks, it will be announced this is going away, and that fans would be able to continue working on their project." In a statement, Axanar said they still "want to make sure we go through all the proper steps to make sure all matters are settled with CBS and Paramount..." adding "There is still a lot of work to do, but receiving this kind of public support helps immensely."

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Fake Facebook Event Draws Police, Spawns New Meme

Sat, 21/05/2016 - 11:29pm
An anonymous reader writes: A fake event announcement on Facebook has now launched "a long string of viral jokes featuring fake concert events for music acts at oddly appropriate venues," according to CNET -- for example, a Radiohead concert at Radio Shack or a Sunday Brunch with Insane Clown Posse. It began with a fake announcement touting an upcoming concert with Limp Bizkit on April 20 at a Sunoco gas station. "The event got so much viral attention and local and national news coverage that the Dayton Police Department had to issue a statement to the local press and on its Twitter page on April 19 that there would be no Limp Bizkit concert..." CNET reports. "That still didn't stop a crowd of 100 Limp Bizkit fans from going to the Sunoco and chanting 'Fred! Fred! Fred!' in front of the station. The station had to close up for the night and police were called to the scene to disperse the crowd. Since then, other Facebook users decided to try their luck at tricking the more gullible people on the Internet into going to concerts that don't exist." In an unrelated development, 12 Facebook employees and their guests were stuck in an elevator at Facebook's California headquarters for more than two hours on Friday, until being rescued by local firefighters using the Jaws of Life.

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The World's Largest Cruise Ship and Its Supersized Pollution Problem

Sat, 21/05/2016 - 10:30pm
An anonymous reader cites a report on the Guardian: When the gargantuan Harmony of the Seas slips out of Southampton docks on Sunday afternoon on its first commercial voyage, the 16-deck-high floating city will switch off its auxiliary engines, fire up its three giant diesels and head to the open sea. But while the 6,780 passengers and 2,100 crew on the largest cruise ship in the world wave goodbye to England, many people left behind in Southampton say they will be glad to see it go. They complain that air pollution from such nautical behemoths is getting worse every year as cruising becomes the fastest growing sector of the mass tourism industry and as ships get bigger and bigger. According to its owners, Royal Caribbean, each of the Harmony's three four-storey high 16-cylinder Wartsila engines will, at full power, burn 1,377 US gallons of fuel an hour, or about 96,000 gallons a day of some of the most polluting diesel fuel in the world.

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Did A German Nuclear Plant Intentionally Leak Radioactive Waste?

Sat, 21/05/2016 - 9:29pm
mdsolar shares this report from a Berlin news site: A former engineer at one of Germanyâ(TM)s nuclear reactors has made an astonishing claim: that the plant intentionally pumped radioactive waste into the atmosphere in 1986. Speaking to the Westfalischer Anzeiger, 83-year-old retired engineer Hermann Schollmeyer apparently decided it was time to come clean, three decades after the incident he describes. The official story had always been that radioactive waste was unintentionally leaked into the air at the THTR reactor in Hamm in May 1986, the western German newspaper reports. But Schollmeyer now claims that the plant used the cover of the Chernobyl -- which had released a cloud of radioactive waste over western Europe -- to pump their own waste into the atmosphere, believing no one would notice. "It was done intentionally," Schollmeyer said. "We had problems at the plant and I was present at a few of the meetings."

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Linux Advocate Suggests Using More Closed-Source Software

Sat, 21/05/2016 - 8:29pm
An anonymous reader writes: Open Source advocate Jack Wallen is a writer for Linux.com and Tech Republic. He predicts that both Windows and OS X will be Open Source within 5 years, writing that "neither Microsoft nor Apple make serious money from operating systems any longer" (with both companies giving away major OS upgrades), but argues that smaller software companies still see close-sourced code as a profit center. So yesterday Wallen wrote a surprising column urging Linux fans to begin considering closed-source software. "That doesn't mean, in any way, you are giving up on the idea of freedom. What it means is that the best tool for the job is the one you should be using...be that open, closed, or somewhere in between. Should you close your mind to close sourced tools, you could miss out on some seriously amazing applications. On top of that (and this is something I've harped on for decades), the more you use closed source applications on open source environments, the more will be made available." I'd be curious to hear how many Slashdot readers agree with Mr. Wallen...

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'Eat, Sleep, Code, Repeat' Approach Is Such Bullshit

Sat, 21/05/2016 - 7:30pm
At its I/O developer conference, Google had the message "Eat. Sleep. Code. Repeat." spread everywhere -- walls, t-shirts you name it. Dan Kim, a programmer at Basecamp, has shared an interesting view on the same. He says while he gets the "coding is awesome and we want to do it all the time!" enthusiasm from the company, but he doubts if that's the approach a programmer should take, adding that the company is wittingly or not promoting an "unhealthy perspective that programming is an all or nothing endeavor -- that to excel at it, you have to go all in." He writes: Whether it's racing cars, loving art, reading, hiking, spending time in nature, playing with their dog, running, gardening, or just hanging out with their family, these top-notch programmers love life outside of code. That's because they know that a truly balanced lifestyle -- one that gives your brain and your soul some space to breath non-programming airâS -- actually makes you a better programmer. Life outside of code helps nurture important qualities: inspiration, creative thinking, patience, flexibility, empathy, and many more. All of these skills make you a better programmer, and you can't fully realize them by just coding.

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Civil Liberties Expert Argues Snowden Was Wrong

Sat, 21/05/2016 - 6:29pm
An anonymous reader writes that in 2014, Geoffrey Stone was given access to America's national security apparatus as a member of the President's Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technologies. Last week Stone, a staunch civil liberties supporter, moderated a live discussion with Edward Snowden from Russia, and this week he actually praised the NSA in a follow-up interview: "The more I worked with the NSA, the more respect I had for them as far as staying within the bounds of what they were authorized to do. And they were careful and had a high degree of integrity... I came to the view that [the programs] were well intentioned, that they were designed in fact to collect information for the purpose of ferreting out potential terrorist plots both in the U.S. and around the world and that was their design and purpose... "I don't doubt that Snowden was courageous and did what he did for what he thought were good reasons. But I think he was unduly arrogant, didn't understand the limitations of his own knowledge and basically decided to usurp the authority of a democracy." Meanwhile, a new documentary about Julian Assange opened at the Cannes film festival this week, revisiting how Wikileaks warned Apple that iTunes could be used as a backdoor for spies to infiltrate computers and phones.

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TV Journalists Try Buying AK-47 On Dark Web, Fail

Sat, 21/05/2016 - 5:29pm
An anonymous reader writes: "It was supposed to be a great story about terrorism, uncertainty and the evils of the DarkNet," writes Deep Dot Web, describing an investigative report titled "Fear of Terror -- How Endangered is Germany?" After interviewing security experts, federal investigators, and a survivor of the Paris terrorist attack, a TV news crew in Germany attempted to buy an AK-47 on the dark web -- only to be scammed out of $800. "If he had done a little research he could have known that most weapon dealers on the DarkNet are actually scams," the article points out, adding that German customs officers say they would have intercepted any AK-47 had a delivery been attempted. Motherboard reported in November that the high number of scams -- some of which are undercover agents -- prompted several dark web markets to stop offering guns altogether, though they suggest the German news crew was trying to recreate the purchases of "disabled" weapons which were then converted back into their original form.

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Motorola's Legendary RAZR Flip Phone Is Making a Comeback

Sat, 21/05/2016 - 4:30pm
An anonymous reader shares an Engadget article: The year was 2004, and Motorola had just announced what was then an insanely thin flip phone, the RAZR V3. It was -- and still is -- a head-turner, and eventually over 130 million units were sold in total. Such were the glorious days of Motorola. Twelve years later, the now Lenovo-owned brand appears to be prepping a relaunch of this legendary model, according to its teaser video of a nostalgic walkthrough at a high school.The teaser is available on YouTube. Nice of Motorola to try doing something different from most of its rivals. However, a flip phone -- with a tiny display and those buttons (assumption) -- may not have much of practical case in 2016.

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New Clues About Why Mt. Gox Failed

Sat, 21/05/2016 - 3:29pm
An anonymous reader writes: The Daily Beast is investigating internal emails, contracts, and new information provided by a former accounting employee at Mt. Gox for clues about how and why the world's largest bitcoin exchange failed in 2014. They conclude that CEO Mark Karpeles "bought a company already missing tens of thousands of bitcoins" in 2011, leading to an email exchange a few months later where the previous owner suggested ways to make up the $800,000 shortfall. Unfortunately, Karpeles "had signed a non-disclosure agreement that left him unable to discuss the loss," and after a second larger hack, he moved the majority of bitcoins offline into "cold storage," leaving only enough online to complete transactions. According to the article, former Mt. Gox employees "claim rogue U.S. government agents seized $5 million of Mt. Gox funds in summer 2013 in retaliation for Karpeles's refusal to cooperate with them. This seizure supposedly cut into the firm's operating reserves, which may have been the beginning of the end, at least according to the former Mt. Gox accountant." While $450 million eventually disappeared, Thursday ZDNet reported that a class-action lawsuit brought against the bitcoin exchange by investors "has been dismissed."

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Terrorists No Longer Welcome On OneDrive, Outlook, Xbox Live

Sat, 21/05/2016 - 2:30pm
Microsoft has updated its anti-terrorism policies. In a blog post, the Redmond, Washington-based company said that it would remove "terrorist content" from a fleet of its services including OneDrive, Outlook and Xbox Live, reports BetaNews. For its search engine Bing, however, Microsoft says that it would only remove links when it is required by local law, citing free expression for all. The company adds that it would fund research for a tool that could help it better scan such content and flag image, audio and video. From company's blog post: There is no universally accepted definition of terrorist content. For purposes of our services, we will consider terrorist content to be material posted by or in support of organizations included on the Consolidated United Nations Security Council Sanctions List that depicts graphic violence, encourages violent action, endorses a terrorist organization or its acts, or encourages people to join such groups. The UN Sanctions List includes a list of groups that the UN Security Council considers to be terrorist organizations.

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Ask Slashdot: Can You Have A Smart Home That's Not 'In The Cloud'?

Sat, 21/05/2016 - 1:29pm
With the announcement of Google Home on Wednesday, one anonymous Slashdot reader asks a timely question about cloud-based "remote control" services that feed information on your activities into someone else's advertising system: In principle, this should not be the case, but it is in practice. So how hard is it, really, to do 'home automation' without sending all your data to Google, Samsung, or whoever -- just keep it to yourself and share only what you want to share? How hard would it be, for instance, to hack a Nest thermostat so it talks to a home server rather than Google? Or is there something already out there that would do the same thing as a Nest but without 'the cloud' as part of the requirement? Yes, a standard programmable thermostat does 90% of what a Nest does, but there are certain things that it won't do like respond to your comings and goings at odd hours, or be remotely switchable to a different mode (VPN to your own server from your phone and deal with it locally, perhaps?) Fundamentally, is there a way to get the convenience and not expose my entire life and home to unknown actors who by definition (read the terms of service) do not have my best interest in mind? Yesterday one tech company asked its readers, "What company do you trust most to always be listening inside your home?" The winner was "nobody", with 63% of the votes -- followed by Google with 16%, and Apple with 13%. (Microsoft scored just 3%, while Amazon scored 2%.) So share your alternatives in the comments. What's the best way to set up home automation without sending data into the cloud?

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Scientists Say Nuclear Fuel Pools Pose Safety, Health Risks

Sat, 21/05/2016 - 9:30am
mdsolar quotes a report from NBC News: Ninety-six aboveground, aquamarine pools around the country that hold the nuclear industry's spent reactor fuel may not be as safe as U.S. regulators and the nuclear industry have publicly asserted, a study released May 20 by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine warned. Citing a little-noticed study by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, the academies said that if an accident or an act of terrorism at a densely-filled pool caused a leak that drains the water away from the rods, a cataclysmic release of long-lasting radiation could force the extended evacuation of nearly 3.5 million people from territory larger than the state of New Jersey. It could also cause thousands of cancer deaths from excess radiation exposure, and as much as $700 billion dollars in costs to the national economy. The report is the second and final study of Japan's Fukushima Daiichi power plant, which was pummeled from a tsunami on March 11, 2011. The authors suggest the U.S. examine the benefits of withdrawing the spent fuel rods from the pools and storing them instead in dry casks aboveground in an effort to avoid possible catastrophes. The idea is nothing new, but it's been opposed by the industry because it could cost as much as $4 billion. The latest report contradicts parts of a study by Nuclear Regulatory Commission staff released two years after the Fukushima incident. The NRC staff in its 2014 study said a major earthquake could be expected to strike an area where spent fuel is stored in a pool once in 10 million years or less, and even then, "spent fuel pools are likely to withstand severe earthquakes without leaking."

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DARPA Extreme DDOS Project Transforming Network Attack Mitigation

Sat, 21/05/2016 - 6:15am
coondoggie quotes a report from Networkworld: Researchers with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) have quickly moved to alter the way the military, public and private enterprises protect their networks from high-and low-speed distributed denial-of-service attacks with a program called Extreme DDoS Defense (XD3). The agency has since September awarded seven XD3 multi-million contracts to Georgia Tech, George Mason University, Invincea Labs, Raytheon BBN, Vencore Labs (two contracts) and this week to the University of Pennsylvania to radically alter DDOS defenses. One more contract is expected under the program. [DARPA says the XD3 program looks to develop technologies that: Thwart DDos attacks by dispersing cyber assets (physically and/or logically) to complicate adversarial targeting, disguise the characteristics and behaviors of those assets to confuse or deceive the adversary, blunt the effects of attacks that succeed in penetrating other defensive measures by using adaptive mitigation techniques on endpoints such as mission-critical servers.]

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Microsoft Finds Legal Path To Launch Minecraft In China

Sat, 21/05/2016 - 2:30am
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Minecraft's PC and smartphone versions are finally coming to China. On Friday, Microsoft and Mojang announced the beginning of a "five-year exclusive partnership" with Chinese software publisher NetEase, Inc to roll the game out onto Chinese computer and smartphone marketplaces. Microsoft was able to publish the game on Xbox One consoles late last year, but those consoles have yet to penetrate the Chinese market to the extent that PCs and smartphones have, and the fact that even Microsoft had to license the game to someone else as opposed to launching it from its own Shanghai campus is a stern reminder of what roadblocks stand in the way of Western software developers. "The most challenging aspect of doing business in China by far is dealing with the government," former PopCap executive James Gwertzman said at the 2010 Game Developers Conference. Game publishers must acquire a combined six permits to launch a game in China, and most of those permits cannot be acquired by foreign-operated companies. Microsoft is presumably in the exact same regulatory boat, and its choice of partner is telling; NetEase already has a major Western-gaming reputation thanks to its partnership with megawatt game makers Blizzard. Gwertzman guessed that Minecraft will probably avoid such undue attention with its upcoming launch. "Minecraft is on the good side as it encourages teamwork and learning," he said. "I see Minecraft as the perfect example of a game that will receive public support [in China]." Meanwhile, American technology companies like Apple and Microsoft are undergoing security reviews in the communist country.

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A Third Of Cash Is Held By 5 US Tech Companies

Sat, 21/05/2016 - 12:40am
An anonymous reader writes: Moody's Investors Service released an analysis Friday that shows Apple, Microsoft, Alphabet, Cisco Systems, and Oracle are sitting on $504 billion, which is roughly 30% of the $1.7 trillion in cash and cash equivalents held by U.S. non-financial companies in 2015. Almost all of their earnings ($1.2 trillion) are stashed overseas in an effort to avoid paying taxes on moving profits back to the U.S. under the country's complex tax code. Apple has more than 90 percent of its money located outside of the U.S., according to its most recent filings. Moody's said in its report that "we expect that overseas cash balances will continue to grow unless tax laws are changed to encourage companies to repatriate money." Some of the other tech and Silicon Valley companies in the top 50 include Intel, Gilead Sciences, Facebook, Amazon, Qualcomm, eBay, Hewlett-Packard and Yahoo.

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