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Updated: 13 min 39 sec ago

What If You Could Eat Chicken Without Killing a Chicken?

Fri, 17/03/2017 - 6:40pm
From a report on The Outline: San Francisco-based startup Memphis Meats announced this week that it had grown chicken in a lab -- chicken strips, to be precise. The strips, which were grown using self-reproducing cells, are technically "meat," but because the cells were not from an animal, the process by which this "meat" was "raised" is much cleaner, resulting in animal food that has the potential to sate both environmental groups as well as animal rights activists and vegetarians. Memphis Meats says it's hoping the product is ready for commercial sale by 2021. The company is part of an ever-increasing horde of Silicon Valley startups trying to solve the complicated problems of the meat industry, which range from cultural ideas about food to industrial and environmental issues to, increasingly, discussions about animal cruelty. [...] About 99 percent of animals raised for slaughter in the U.S. come from factory farms, and about a third of the land mass of the Earth is used in raising livestock. More so than chicken, livestock is incredibly inefficient to raise: It takes about 2,500 gallons of water to produce just a pound of beef.

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Firefox Goes PulseAudio Only, Leaves ALSA Users With No Sound

Fri, 17/03/2017 - 6:00pm
An anonymous reader shares a report: If you're a Linux user who upgraded to Firefox 52 only to find that the browser no longer plays sound, you're not alone. Firefox 52 saw release last week and it makes PulseAudio a hard dependency -- meaning ALSA only desktops are no longer supported. Ubuntu uses PulseAudio by default (as most modern Linux distributions do) so the switch won't affect most -- but some Linux users and distros do prefer, for various reasons, to use ALSA, which is part of the Linux kernel. Lubuntu 16.04 LTS is one of the distros that use ALSA by default. Lubuntu users who upgraded to Firefox 52 through the regular update channel were, without warning, left with a web browser that plays no sound. Lubuntu 16.10 users are not affected as the distro switched to PulseAudio.

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Miniature Lab Begins Science Experiments in Outer Space

Fri, 17/03/2017 - 5:20pm
An anonymous reader shares a Reuters report: Orbiting the earth at more than 500 kilometers (300 miles), a tiny satellite with a laboratory shrunk to the size of a tissue box is helping scientists carry out experiments that take gravity out of the equation. The technology was launched into space last month by SpacePharma, a Swiss-Israeli company, which on Thursday announced that its first experiments have been completed successfully. In space, with hardly any interference from earth's gravity, cells and molecules behave differently, helping researchers make discoveries in fields from medicine to agriculture. Nestle turned to zero gravity -- or what scientists refer to as microgravity -- to perfect the foam in its chocolate mousse and coffee, while drugmakers like Eli Lilly have used it to improve drug designs.

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Google's Allo App Can Reveal To Your Friends What You've Searched

Fri, 17/03/2017 - 4:40pm
Google's new messaging app Allo can reveal your search history and other personal information when you include the Google Assistant bot in chats, according to a report. From the article: My friend directed Assistant to identify itself. Instead of offering a name or a pithy retort, it responded with a link from Harry Potter fan website Pottermore. The link led to an extract from "Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix," the fifth book in J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series. But the response was not merely a nonsequitur. It was a result related to previous searches my friend said he had done a few days earlier. [...] When I asked "What is my job?" in my conversation with my friend, Assistant responded by sharing a Google Maps image showing the address at which I used to work -- the address of a co-working space, not the publicly listed address of my previous employer. Google had the address on file because I had included it in my personal Google Maps settings. It did not ask my permission to share that.

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Elderly 'Hit by Line Rental Charges'

Fri, 17/03/2017 - 4:00pm
An anonymous reader shares a BBC report: Recent increases in line rental charges have hit elderly people the hardest, according to an Ofcom report. Between December 2009 and December 2016, line rental prices had increased by as much as 49% for some customers, the regulator said. And of the people with standalone landlines in their homes, 71% were aged 65 or over. Ofcom recently revealed plans to make BT -- with nearly 80% of the UK market -- cut line rental costs by 5 British Pound ($6.1). A huge proportion (43%) of the 2.9 million households with a landline only are occupied by people aged 75 and over. "Older consumers are particularly affected, as they are more likely to be dependent on fixed voice services if they do not have a mobile phone or an internet connection," the report said.

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Ebook Pirates Are Relatively Old and Wealthy, Study Finds

Fri, 17/03/2017 - 3:20pm
A new study has found that people who illegally download ebooks are older and wealthier than most people's perception of the average pirate. From a report on TorrentFreak: Commissioned by anti-piracy company Digimarc, the study suggests that people aged between 30 and 44 years old with a household income of between $60k and $99k are most likely to grab a book without paying for it. [...] In previous studies, it has been younger downloaders that have grabbed much of the attention, and this one is no different. Digimarc reveals that 41 percent of all adult pirates are aged between 18 and 29 but perhaps surprisingly, 47 percent fall into the 30 to 44-year-old bracket. At this point, things tail off very quickly, as the remaining 13 percent are aged 45 or up.

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A US Ally Shot Down a $200 Drone With a $3 Million Patriot Missile

Fri, 17/03/2017 - 2:40pm
An anonymous reader shares a report on The Verge: Earlier this week, General David Perkins, the commander of the US Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) spoke at the Association of the US Army's Global Force symposium, where he discussed the threats that the US military would begin to face in the coming years. One notable example is how a US ally recently shot down a $200 consumer drone with a $3.4 million worth Patriot Missile. Perkins' talk during the symposium focused on the complexity of a military organization in the field, and how the interconnected nature of air, ground, and sea forces can lead to a fragmented response to a threat between the commanders who are in charge of specific areas. [...] "The gut instinct was," he explains, "that's an air defense problem, because they're in the air." "In fact," he went on to say, "we have a very close ally of ours that was dealing with an adversary using small quadcopter UASs, and they shot it down with a Patriot missile." The problem, he said, wasn't effectiveness: the tiny drone didn't stand a chance -- the issue is economics.

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Lack of Oxford Comma Could Cost Maine Company Millions in Overtime Dispute

Fri, 17/03/2017 - 2:00pm
Daniel VIctor, writing for The New York Times: A class-action lawsuit about overtime pay for truck drivers hinged entirely on a debate that has bitterly divided friends, families and foes: The dreaded -- or totally necessary -- Oxford comma, perhaps the most polarizing of punctuation marks. What ensued in the United States Court of Appeals for the First Circuit, and in a 29-page court decision handed down on Monday, was an exercise in high-stakes grammar pedantry that could cost a dairy company in Portland, Me., an estimated $10 million. In 2014, three truck drivers sued Oakhurst Dairy, seeking more than four years' worth of overtime pay that they had been denied (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternate link from a syndicated partner). Maine law requires workers to be paid 1.5 times their normal rate for each hour worked after 40 hours, but it carves out some exemptions. [...] The debate over commas is often a pretty inconsequential one, but it was anything but for the truck drivers. Note the lack of Oxford comma -- also known as the serial comma -- in the following state law, which says overtime rules do not apply to: "The canning, processing, preserving, freezing, drying, marketing, storing, packing for shipment or distribution of: (1) Agricultural produce; (2) Meat and fish products; and (3) Perishable foods. Oakhurst Dairy is arguing that "packing for shipment" and "distribution" are two different items in the list. But that's not how the truck drivers are seeing it. They argue that "packing for shipment or distribution" is one item.

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Ask Slashdot: What Is Your Horrible IT Boss Story?

Fri, 17/03/2017 - 1:00pm
snydeq writes: Good-bye, programming peers; hello, power to abuse at your whim, writes Bob Lewis in a send-up of an all-too-familiar situation: The engineering colleague who transforms into a greasy political manipulator upon promotion into management. "It's legendary: A CIO promotes his best developer into a management role, losing an excellent programmer and gaining a bad manager. The art of management isn't so much about assembling a dream team, helping others be successful, or solving technical problems. It's about aligning everything you do in service of the business -- the business of yourself.'" What tales do you have of colleagues who broke bad all the way to the top?

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Physicist Declassifies Rescued Nuclear Test Films

Fri, 17/03/2017 - 10:00am
Eloking quotes a report from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory: The U.S. conducted 210 atmospheric nuclear tests between 1945 and 1962, with multiple cameras capturing each event at around 2,400 frames per second. But in the decades since, around 10,000 of these films sat idle, scattered across the country in high-security vaults. Not only were they gathering dust, the film material itself was slowly decomposing, bringing the data they contained to the brink of being lost forever. For the past five years, Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL) weapon physicist Greg Spriggs and a crack team of film experts, archivists and software developers have been on a mission to hunt down, scan, reanalyze and declassify these decomposing films. The goals are to preserve the films' content before it's lost forever, and provide better data to the post-testing-era scientists who use computer codes to help certify that the aging U.S. nuclear deterrent remains safe, secure and effective. To date, the team has located around 6,500 of the estimated 10,000 films created during atmospheric testing. Around 4,200 films have been scanned, 400 to 500 have been reanalyzed and around 750 have been declassified. An initial set of these declassified films -- tests conducted by LLNL -- were published today in an LLNL YouTube playlist.

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Astronomers Find Star Orbiting a Black Hole At 1 Percent the Speed of Light

Fri, 17/03/2017 - 7:00am
schwit1 writes: Astronomers have spotted a star whizzing around a vast black hole at about 2.5 times the distance between Earth and the Moon, and it takes only half an hour to complete one orbit. To put that into perspective, it takes roughly 28 days for our Moon to do a single lap around our relatively tiny planet at speeds of 3,683 km(2,288 miles) per hour. Using data from an array of deep space telescopes, a team of astronomers have measured the X-rays pouring from a binary star system called 47 Tuc X9, which sits in a cluster of stars about 14,800 light-years away. The pair of stars aren't new to astronomers -- they were identified as a binary system way back in 1989 -- but it's now finally becoming clear what's actually going on here. When a white dwarf pulls material from another star, the system is described as a cataclysmic variable star. But back in 2015, one of the objects was found to be a black hole, throwing that hypothesis into serious doubt. Data from Chandra has confirmed large amounts of oxygen in the pair's neighborhood, which is commonly associated with white dwarf stars. But instead of a white dwarf ripping apart another star, it now seems to be a black hole stripping the gases from a white dwarf. The real exciting news, however, is regular changes in the X-rays' intensity suggest this white dwarf takes just 28 minutes to complete an orbit, making it the current champion of cataclysmic dirty dancers. To put it in perspective, the distance between the two objects in X9 is about 1 million kilometers (about 600,000 miles), or about 2.5 times the distance from here to the Moon. Crunching the numbers, that's a journey of roughly 6.3 million kilometers (about 4 million miles) in half an hour, giving us a speed of 12,600,000 km/hr (8,000,000 miles/hr) - about 1 percent of the speed of light.

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Unproven Stem Cell Treatments Blind 3 Women

Fri, 17/03/2017 - 3:30am
An anonymous reader quotes a report from NPR: Scientists have long hoped that stem cells might have the power to treat diseases. But it's always been clear that they could be dangerous too, especially if they're not used carefully. Now a pair of papers published Wednesday in the New England Journal of Medicine is underscoring both the promise and the peril of using stem cells for therapy. In one report, researchers document the cases of three elderly women who were blinded after getting stem cells derived from fat tissue at a for-profit clinic in Florida. The treatment was marketed as a treatment for macular degeneration, the most common cause of blindness among the elderly. Each woman got cells injected into both eyes. In a second report, a patient suffering from the same condition had a halt in the inexorable loss of vision patients usually experience, which may or may not have been related to the treatment. That patient got a different kind of stem cell derived from skin cells as part of a carefully designed Japanese study. The Japanese case marks the first time anyone has given induced pluripotent stem (iPS) cells to a patient to treat any condition. The report about the three women in their 70s and 80s who were blinded in Florida is renewing calls for the Food and Drug Administration to crack down on the hundreds of clinics that are selling unproven stem cell treatments for a wide variety of medical conditions, including arthritis, autism and stroke.

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US Federal Budget Proposal Cuts Science Funding

Fri, 17/03/2017 - 2:05am
hey! writes: The U.S. Office of Management and Budget has released a budget "blueprint" which outlines substantial cuts in both basic research and applied technology funding. The proposal includes a whopping 18% reduction in National Institutes of Health medical research. NIH does get a new $500 million fund to track emerging infectious agents like Zika in the U.S., but loses its funding to monitor those agents overseas. The Department of Energy's research programs also get an 18% cut in research, potentially affecting basic physics research, high energy physics, fusion research, and supercomputing. Advanced Research Projects Agency (ARPA-E) gets the ax, as does the Advanced Technology Vehicle Manufacturing Program, which enabled Tesla to manufacture its Model S sedan. EPA loses all climate research funding, and about half the research funding targeted at human health impacts of pollution. The Energy Star program is eliminated; Superfund funding is drastically reduced. The Chesapeake Bay and Great Lakes cleanup programs are also eliminated, as is all screening of pesticides for endocrine disruption. In the Department of Commerce, Sea Grant is eliminated, along with all coastal zone research funding. Existing weather satellites GOES and JPSS continue funding, but JPSS-3 and -4 appear to be getting the ax. Support for transfer of federally funded research and technology to small and mid-sized manufacturers is eliminated. NASA gets a slight trim, and a new focus on deep space exploration paid for by an elimination of Earth Science programs. You can read more about this "blueprint" in Nature, Science, and the Washington Post, which broke the story. The Environmental Protection Agency, the State Department and Agriculture Department took the hardest hits, while the Defense Department, Department of Homeland Security, and Department of Veterans Affairs have seen their budgets grow.

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Google Releases Open Source 'Guetzli' JPEG Encoder

Fri, 17/03/2017 - 1:45am
BrianFagioli writes: Today, Google released yet another open source project. Called "Guetzli," it is a JPEG encoder that aims to produce even smaller image file sizes. In fact, the search giant claims a whopping 35 percent improvement over existing JPEG compression. If you are wondering why smaller file sizes are important, it is quite simple -- the web. If websites can embed smaller images, users can experience faster load times while using less data. While Google didn't aim to improve JPEG image quality with Guetzli, it seems it has arguably done so. It is subjective, but the search giant surveyed human beings and found they preferred Google's open source offering 75 percent of the time. Smaller file sizes and better image quality? Wow! Google has done something amazing here.

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Sony Patent Could Let You Wirelessly Charge Your Phone From Another Device

Fri, 17/03/2017 - 1:25am
One of the biggest downsides to wireless charging is the wire necessary to actually charge your device. You generally need to place your wireless charging-enabled device on a compatible charger, which needs to be plugged into a wall. Well, Sony hopes to make the process of wireless charging a bit easier as it has applied for a patent that will allow you to wirelessly charge your phone straight from someone else's phone. Digital Trends reports: The feature could be very useful. Sure, an ideal situation would be if you had access to a power outlet whenever you needed it, but the fact is we've all experienced being out and about and running out of battery. With Sony's new tech, you could essentially just "steal" power from a friend who might have a slightly more charged up device than you. The patent filling itself was discovered by What Future, and the report notes that the tech may not be limited to phones. Instead, Sony could apply it to things like fridges, microwaves, TVs, computers, and really any kind of electronic device. The idea here is that all of you home devices could eventually become sources of wireless energy -- so your phone will almost always be charging if you're at home, without the need for wires.

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Class-Action Lawsuit Targets LG Over Legendary G4, V10 Bootloop Issues

Fri, 17/03/2017 - 12:45am
For those affected by LG's infamous bootloop issue with the G4 and V10, you might find some joy in this: several (upset) owners of these devices have lodged a proposed class-action lawsuit in a California federal court. They claim that a repeating bootloop issue "renders the phones inoperable and unfit for any use." In other words: bricked. Ars Technica reports: Thousands of complaints about the G4 have been highlighted on Twitter, Reddit, and YouTube. There was even an online petition to "launch a replacement program for defective LG G4s." Not to be outdone, the V10 has been the subject of many online complaints as well. One of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit (PDF) filed Wednesday said that LG replaced his G4 two times and that his third G4 constantly freezes. The new phone, says the suit, is "manifesting signs of the bootloop defect and is unmerchantable." A year ago, LG acknowledged the problem with the G4 and said it was the result of "loose contact between components." The company began offering replacement devices and fixes. The suit said that even after the January 2016 announcement, "LG continued to manufacture LG Phones with the bootloop defect." The suit claims that both models' processors were inadequately soldered to the motherboard, rendering them "unable to withstand the heat." Initially, the phones begin to freeze, suffer slowdowns, overheat, and reboot at random. Eventually, the suit says, they fail "entirely."

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Math Teacher Solves Adobe Semaphore Puzzle

Fri, 17/03/2017 - 12:05am
linuxwrangler writes: For over 4 years, lights atop Adobe's office building in San Jose have flashed out a secret message. This week, the puzzle was solved by Tennessee math teacher Jimmy Waters. As part of the winnings, Adobe is donating software and 3D printers to Waters' school in his name. "The semaphore had been transmitting the audio broadcast of Neil Armstrong's historic moon landing in 1969," reports The Mercury News. "That's right, not the text but the actual audio." The report provides some backstory: "Waters discovered the project, San Jose Semaphore, last summer while he was looking up something about Thomas Pynchon's 1966 novel, 'The Crying of Lot 49.' The text of that work was the code originally programmed by New York-based artist Ben Rubin in 2006. Seeing there was a new message, Waters began trying to decipher it while watching and writing down the sequences online from Tennessee. He discovered a pattern that led him to believe it could represent a space -- or a silence -- in an audio file, and when he graphed the results it looked like an audio wave. He dismissed that as being too difficult but came back to it and eventually ran his results into a program that would convert his numbers to audio. The first results came back sounding like chipmunks squeaking. So he tweaked things and found himself listening to the historic broadcast, which ends with Armstrong's famous line, 'That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.'" You can listen to the semaphore message here.

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Microsoft Locks Ryzen, Kaby Lake Users Out of Updates On Windows 7, 8.1

Thu, 16/03/2017 - 11:20pm
Artem Tashkinov writes: In a move that will shock a lot of people, someone at Microsoft decided to deny Windows 7/8.1 updates to the users of the following CPU architectures: Intel seventh (7th)-generation processors (Kaby Lake); AMD "Bristol Ridge" (Zen/Ryzen); Qualcomm "8996." It's impossible to find any justification for this decision to halt support for the x86 architectures listed above because you can perfectly run MS-DOS on them. Perhaps, Microsoft has decided that the process of foisting Windows 10 isn't running at full steam, so the company created this purely artificial limitation. I expect it to be cancelled soon after a wide backlash from corporate customers. KitGuru notes that users may encounter the following error message when they attempt to update their OS: "Your PC uses a processor that isn't supported on this version of Windows." The only resolution is to upgrade to Windows 10.

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Ray Kurzweil On How We'll End Up Merging With Our Technology

Thu, 16/03/2017 - 10:40pm
Mr.Intel quotes a report from Fox News: "By 2029, computers will have human-level intelligence," Kurzweil said in an interview at the SXSW Conference with Shira Lazar and Amy Kurzweil Comix. Known as the Singularity, the event is oft discussed by scientists, futurists, technology stalwarts and others as a time when artificial intelligence will cause machines to become smarter than human beings. The time frame is much sooner than what other stalwarts have said, including British theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking, as well as previous predictions from Kurzweil, who said it may occur as soon as 2045. Softbank CEO Masayoshi Son, who recently acquired ARM Holdings with the intent on being one of the driving forces in the Singularity, has previously said it could happen in the next 30 years. Kurzweil apparently ins't worried about the rise in machine learning and artificial intelligence. In regard to AI potentially enslaving humanity, Kurzweil said, "That's not realistic. We don't have one or two AIs in the world. Today we have billions." He shares a similar view with Elon Musk by saying that humans need to converge with machines, pointing out the work already being done in Parkinson's patients. "They're making us smarter," Kurzeil said during the SXSW interview. "They may not yet be inside our bodies, but, by the 2030s, we will connect our neocortex, the part of our brain where we do our thinking, to the cloud... We're going to be funnier, we're going to be better at music. We're going to be sexier. We're really going to exemplify all the things that we value in humans to a greater degree." You can watch the full interview on Facebook.

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That Laptop-Bricking USB Stick Just Got Even More Dangerous

Thu, 16/03/2017 - 10:00pm
From a report on ZDNet: Remember that USB stick that would destroy almost anything in its path, from laptops, photo booths, kiosks, to even cars? The makers of the USB Kill stick have created a more powerful version with a higher voltage and amp output, and a three-times faster pulse rate of up to 12 times a second. And, with microUSB, USB-C, and Lightning adapters, the USB Kill claims to be able to kill iPhones, iPads, and other devices, like phones, tablets, and digital cameras. The company says it's "designed to test the surge protection circuitry of electronics to their limits." In other words, its purpose is destroying expensive kit.

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