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Updated: 12 min 26 sec ago

British Astronaut Competes in London Marathon from ISS

Sun, 24/04/2016 - 6:30pm
An anonymous reader writes: "British astronaut Tim Peake became the first man to complete a marathon in space on Sunday, running the classic 26.2 mile distance while strapped to a treadmill aboard the International Space Station..." reports Reuters. "The 44-year-old spaceman saw London's roads under his feet in real time on an iPad as, 250 miles below him, more than 37,000 runners simultaneously pounded the streets." Meanwhile, in a show of solidarity, two earth-bound runners ran the marathon wearing space suits. CNN notes that Peake "ran the race for real in 1999," but this time competed with avatars that represented actual runners who were using the Run Social app. His zero-gravity run took longer -- more than three and a half hours -- while a Kenyan runner ultimately won the race, completing the whole 26.2-mile course in just two hours, three minutes and four seconds, the second-fastest time ever recorded.

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How Big Data Creates False Confidence

Sun, 24/04/2016 - 5:30pm
Mr D from 63 shares an article from Nautilus urging skepticism of big data: "The general idea is to find datasets so enormous that they can reveal patterns invisible to conventional inquiry... But there's a problem: It's tempting to think that with such an incredible volume of data behind them, studies relying on big data couldn't be wrong. But the bigness of the data can imbue the results with a false sense of certainty. Many of them are probably bogus -- and the reasons why should give us pause about any research that blindly trusts big data." For example, Google's database of scanned books represents 4% of all books ever published, but in this data set, "The Lord of the Rings gets no more influence than, say, Witchcraft Persecutions in Bavaria." And the name Lanny appears to be one of the most common in early-20th century fiction -- solely because Upton Sinclair published 11 different novels about a character named Lanny Budd. The problem seems to be skewed data and misinterpretation. (The article points to the failure of Google Flu Trends, which it turns out "was largely predicting winter".) The article's conclusion? "Rather than succumb to 'big data hubris,' the rest of us would do well to keep our skeptic hats on -- even when someone points to billions of words."

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Oculus Rift Users Angered By Pre-Order Snafu

Sun, 24/04/2016 - 4:30pm
fluor2 writes: In April, Oculus announced that many of the Oculus Rift CV1 pre-orders were getting bumped from March to early May or even June...but they're still finding CV1's for supplying Rift+PC bundles. The solution for some has now been to cancel their order, order Rift+PC bundles...and cancel the PC portion. This tactic appears to have mixed results, and those Rift+PC bundles have now also sold out, adds the Road To VR site, which reports that some of the original pre-orders "are now shipping out significantly ahead of the initial delay estimates provided by Oculus." For one customer, "Oculus estimated the Rift wouldn't ship until sometime between May 23 and June 2, around two months after the official launch date. However, the customer tells us that their Rift was shipped today, about one month ahead of the delay estimate, and about one month after the official launch date."

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Fired Reddit Exec Launches Competing Site

Sun, 24/04/2016 - 3:30pm
An anonymous reader writes: "Dan McComas, the former second-in-command at Reddit -- and vocal critic of its more inflammatory groups -- wants to build a better Reddit, one that focuses on 'healthy, positive communities,'" reports TheNextWeb. Raising $3 million, Imzy.com quietly launched earlier this year with over 500 discussion forums, aspiring to become an advertising-free space where content creators can interact with their fans. Moderators and users of Imzy can be "tipped" with online payments from other users, while the site hopes to remain advertising-free by taking a cut from on-site transactions. But "at its core though, Imzy wants to provide a safe place to share and discuss without the fear of being harassed, a problem Reddit has struggled with for several years."

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This Battery-Free Computer Sucks Power Out Of Thin Air

Sun, 24/04/2016 - 2:30pm
An anonymous reader shares an article on Fast Co Design (edited and condensed for clarity): Researchers at University of Washington's Sensor Lab have created the WISP, or Wireless Identification and Sensing Platform: a combination sensor and computing chip that doesn't need a battery or a wired power source to operate. Instead, it sucks in radio waves emitted from a standard, off-the-shelf RFID reader -- the same technology that retail shops use to deter shoplifters -- and converts them into electricity. The WISP isn't designed to compete with the chips in your smartphone or your laptop. It has about the same clock speed as the processor in a Fitbit and similar functionality, including embedded accelerometers and temperature sensors. [...] It has about the same bandwidth as Bluetooth Low Energy mode, the wireless power-sipping technology which drives most Bluetooth speakers and wireless headphones.

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ESA Offering Prizes For First Radio Reception From Satellite

Sun, 24/04/2016 - 1:30pm
An anonymous reader writes: The European Space Agency education office set up a contest to receive the radio signals from their new Cubesat satellites: AAUSAT4, E-st@r-II or OUFTI-1. Prizes will be rewarded to those who receive the first signal (audio or waterfall) from TLM, packet or ham radio transponders. Even if you're not the first, any valid submission will be rewarded with a nice QSL card from ESA, reports one space site. Arianespace's Soyuz is scheduled for liftoff on April 24 with a multi-mission satellite payload. Designated Flight VS14 in Arianespace's launcher family numbering system, the medium-lift Soyuz carries a mixed payload of the Sentinel-1B C-band radar observation platform, a trio of "Fly Your Satellite!" technology demonstrator CubeSats, and the Microscope scientific satellite.

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40% of Silicon Valley's Profits (But Not Sales) Came from Apple

Sun, 24/04/2016 - 12:30pm
An anonymous reader writes:The San Jose Mercury News reports that last year 40% of Silicon Valley's profits came from one company -- Apple. "The iPhone maker accounted for 28 percent of the Bay Area tech industry's $833 billion in 2015 sales," while "Its profits were a jaw-dropping 40 percent of the region's $133 billion total." Meanwhile, Google's parent company Alphabet racked up $75 billion in sales, representing nearly 57% of the total for all Silicon Valley internet companies, followed by eBay and PayPal. But while sales grew, internet-company profits fell by 29% as more companies focused on growth. "Profits are nice, sure, but becoming profitable isn't the top priority around here, particularly for younger firms," wrote the newspaper, noting that investors are paying 18 times Facebook's annual sales for its stock. In fact, 29% of Silicon Valley's top companies didn't have sales growth in 2015 (an increase from 17% the previous year), and five of the top 10 companies saw a drop in sales in 2015 (including Intel). "The numbers are telling the story," one analyst tells the newspaper. "There is growth, but it is slowing." The Mercury News adds that "The question for those with the biggest sales drops is how much time do they have left if the trend continues..."

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Drone Fire-Fighting Tested in Nebraska

Sun, 24/04/2016 - 10:03am
An anonymous reader writes: Friday Researchers at the University of Nebraska flew a drone over a prairie test site, dropping small containers the size of ping-pong balls to ignite controlled fires. "The fires clear out brush to make it easier to control wildfires on the prairie," reports the Associated Press, citing a National Park Service spokesperson who believes it could help clear overgrown vegetation in hard-to-reach areas. "The technology is already used by helicopters to start controlled burns," reports the AP, "but researchers note that the drone is cheaper and more portable. 'You could afford one of these on the back of your fire truck, whereas you probably can't afford to have a full-sized helicopter parked at your fire station,' said Carrick Detweiler, a member of the Nebraska research team." One engineering professor tells the AP, "Imagine them having this in their backpack, pulling it out and telling it, 'Hey, go scout out there. Check whether it's hot. Check whether it's safe..." And this Omaha news site has video footage of the drone fire-fighting test.

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Hacker Collective Attacks KKK Sites

Sun, 24/04/2016 - 6:40am
An anonymous reader writes: A KKK web site went offline for several hours Saturday, part of an ongoing attack campaign being attributed to "several hacker collectives, including Anonymous and BinarySec, under a loosely-coordinated operation theyâ(TM)re calling #OpKKK." The Epoch Times newspaper reports that "Over the course of the last couple months, websites belonging to the KKK flicked off and on, members of the hate group have had their identities posted online, and their recruiting efforts have been attacked." Saturday's DDoS attack and others are being chronicled on Twitter with the hashtag #OpKKK, prompting the newspaper to describe the collective as "very active". "Part of OpKKK is bringing attention to the fact that these groups are not dead and are in fact finding a new life online..." one attacker told the newspaper. "We private citizens have the right to pass judgment and respond to hate speech and those who perpetuate these dangerous ideals...and there are consequences."

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NASA Hackathon Expected to Draw Over 15,000 Coders

Sun, 24/04/2016 - 3:30am
Saturday NASA began live-streaming footage of their "Space Apps Challenge" hackathon, which they're describing as one of the largest hackathons on earth. "Together, citizens like you have developed thousands of open-source solutions," says the event's site, while Fast Company reports that last year 14,264 people gathered in 133 locations to create apps using NASA's trove of open data. Last year's largest local app hackathon was started by two women in Cairo, drawing 700 participants, and this year NASA is trying to increase participation by female coders. NASA's open innovation project manager tells FastCompany that women "are looking for signals that they will be in a safe space where they feel like they belong," noting that 80% of last year's participants were men.

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'I Hacked Facebook -- and Found Someone Had Beaten Me To It'

Sun, 24/04/2016 - 1:30am
An anonymous reader shares an article on The Register: A bug bounty hunter compromises a Facebook staff server through a sloppy file-sharing webapp -- and finds someone's already beaten him to it by backdooring the machine. The pseudo-anonymous penetration tester Orange Tsai, who works for Taiwan-based outfit Devcore, banked $10,000 from Facebook in February for successfully drilling into the vulnerable system. According to Tsai, he or she stumbled across malware installed by someone else that was stealing usernames and passwords of FB employees who logged into the machine. The login credentials were siphoned off to an outside computer. According to Facebook security engineer Reginaldo Silva, the password-slurping malware was installed by another security researcher who had earlier poked around within Facebook's system in an attempt to snag a bug bounty.

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From Uber To Eric Schmidt, Tech Is Closer To the US Government Than You'd Think

Sat, 23/04/2016 - 11:30pm
An anonymous reader shares an article on The Guardian: Alphabet's executive chairman, Eric Schmidt, recently joined a Department of Defense advisory panel. Facebook recently hired a former director at the U.S. military's research lab, Darpa. Uber employs Barack Obama's former campaign manager David Plouffe and Amazon.com tapped his former spokesman Jay Carney. Google, Facebook, Uber and Apple collectively employ a couple of dozen former analysts for America's spy agencies, who openly list their resumes on LinkedIn. These connections are neither new nor secret. But the fact they are so accepted illustrates how tech's leaders -- even amid current fights over encryption and surveillance -- are still seen as mostly U.S. firms that back up American values. Christopher Soghoian, a technologist with the American Civil Liberties Union, said low-level employees' government connections matter less than leading executives' ties to government. For instance, at least a dozen Google engineers have worked at the NSA, according to publicly available records on LinkedIn. And, this being Silicon Valley, not everyone who worked for a spy agency advertises that on LinkedIn. Soghoian, a vocal critic of mass surveillance, said Google hiring an ex-hacker for the NSA to work on security doesn't really bother him. "But Eric Schmidt having a close relationship with the White House does," he said.Danny Yadron, said, "What's worse for a Silicon Valley executive: ties to the Chinese military or friends in the US Defense Department?"

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Greece's Former Finance Minister Explains Why A Universal Basic Income Could Save Us

Sat, 23/04/2016 - 10:30pm
Charlie Sorrel, writing for FastCoExist: Next time you're having a fight with somebody who doesn't like the idea of a universal basic income, you might employ some of these arguments from Yanis Varoufakis, Greece's former finance minister. In an interview with the Swiss newspaper Tages Anzeiger, he not only refutes the usual arguments against the concept that the government should give everyone a minimum check every month, but he makes them sound quite ridiculous. The interview was published ahead of the Switzerland's vote on a universal basic income (or UBI) in June. If successful, all Swiss adults would get $2,500 per month, and kids around $625 per month, whether or not they have a job. Here are some of Varoufakis's best answers. First, on the need for a UBI: "For the first time in the history of technology more jobs are destroyed than created. Technical progress means that more and more high-paying jobs will disappear and thus shrink the middle class. This will in turn cause a further concentration of income and wealth in the upper classes. That's why I fight like a basic income for sociopolitical reforms. The robotization [of work] has long been underway, but robots don't buy products. Therefore, a basic income is needed to offset this change and stabilize a society which has an increasing wealth inequality." Then, on why you need a UBI if you already have a good job: "What good is a well-paying job, if you are afraid to lose it? This constant fear paralyzes."Good luck convincing many citizens to do actual work.

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Bill Nye Slams Donald Trump, Republicans On Climate Change

Sat, 23/04/2016 - 9:30pm
An anonymous reader writes: On the eve of Earth Day, environmental activist Bill Nye told CNN that while everybody is more aware of climate change "than ever before," we still have a long way to go (annoying auto-play videos). The science educator and engineer, who became an icon on his 1990s hit show "Bill Nye the Science Guy," criticized the Republican presidential candidates and the fossil fuel industry for not acknowledging the deleterious effects of climate change. "There's still a very strong contingent of people who are in denial about climate change," Nye said. "And if you don't believe me, look at the three people currently running for president of the world's most influential country who are ... climate change deniers," Nye said, referring to the three Republican presidential candidates: Donald Trump, Ted Cruz and John Kasich.

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Dutch Police Seize Encrypted Communication Network With 19,000 Users

Sat, 23/04/2016 - 8:31pm
An anonymous reader writes: Dutch police have seized and shut down Ennetcom, an encrypted communications network with 19,000 users, according to Reuters. The network's 36-year-old owner, Danny Manupassa, has also been arrested, and faces charges of money laundering and illegal weapons possession, while the information obtained in the seizure may also be used for other criminal prosecutions. "Police and prosecutors believe that they have captured the largest encrypted network used by organized crime in the Netherlands," prosecutors said in a statement. "Although using encrypted communications is legal," Reuters reports, "many of the network's users are believed to have been engaged in 'serious criminal activity,' said spokesman Wim de Bruin of the national prosecutor's office, which noted that the company's modified phones have repeatedly turned up in cases involving drugs, criminal motorcycle gangs, and gangland killings. A spokesman for the National Prosecutor's office "declined to comment on whether and how police would be able to decrypt information kept on the servers."

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Chinese Conglomerate LeEco Wants To Give Away Its 'Tesla Killer' Electric Supercar For Free

Sat, 23/04/2016 - 8:20pm
Rishi Alwani, reporting for Gadgets 360 (edited and condensed for clarity): At an event in Beijing this week, Chinese technology conglomerate LeEco showed off its LeSEE self-driving electric supercar. A slide noted that LeEco's car can reach 130mph which is a fair bit behind of the Tesla Model S' top speed range of 140 to 155 mph. Nonetheless, the company said the final product should beat Tesla in "all aspects of performance." The car sports a rounded design with a giant LED screen plastered on the front of the vehicle. If the car is being used for cab services, for instance, the screen can show if it's available for hire or not. There's an arched transparent roof and what seems to be generous cabin space. The interior sported a futuristic-looking steering wheel with a lit-up centre that quite possibly would replace the traditional dashboard and was complemented by a monitor next to it. It also had ridged backseats that may look uncomfortable but is actually memory foam - a polyurethane material used in mattresses that can mould to the shape of a passenger's body for maximum comfort. Perhaps the most interesting component of its LeSEE concept has nothing to do with the technology, but rather the business models involved. For one, the company believes it has a huge role to play in LeShare - a time-sharing electric vehicle platform that's present in Beijing and Shanghai with plans to expand to five more cities in China. Electric vehicles and charging resources will be shared between LeShare and LeEco-backed Uber competitor Yidao. In addition to this, LeEco believes that the car will eventually be free, in line with the same business model it has for some of its other hardware, charging users for content, subscriptions or memberships.For a refresh, LeEco (LeTV) was founded in 2004, and has since become a major name in many technology-centric markets. It offers live-streaming, e-commerce, cloud, smartphones, TV set-top boxes, and smart TVs among many other products and services. The company has a market capitalisation of at least $12 billion.

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Jihadis Twice As Likely To Be Students of Science Than Of Sharia

Sat, 23/04/2016 - 7:31pm
Bruce66423 writes: Time to cancel all the encouragement of studying STEM subjects, obviously... The Telegraph is reporting that prominent jihadists "are twice as likely to have studied science at university than subjects related to Islam," citing a new report by the Centre on Religion and Geopolitics. "The report, which analyzed the histories of 100 of the most prominent jihadist leaders of the last three decades, said that despite claiming to be the sole interpreters of Islamic theology, they often had little or no training in the subject." Osama bin Laden went to a secular school and studied economics at college with little formal Islamic training, while the "underpants bomber," who tried to detonate a bomb in a plane over Detroit in 2009, got his degree in mechanical engineering. Of the 100 cases examined, "Around half had attended university, with 57 per cent of them studying science subjects, compared to only 28 per cent studying Islamic subjects."

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Wikipedia May Get Delivered To The Moon

Sat, 23/04/2016 - 6:31pm
A new Meta page on Wikimedia.org reports: "A group of science enthusiasts from Berlin, Germany, are planning to send their own custom-built rover to the Moon. And they want to take Wikipedia with them." Sort of. Wikimedia Deutschland has been offered space on a data disc to be carried by one of the five image-gathering rovers still competing to land on the Moon by 2017 for the Google Lunar XPRIZE challenge. But there's only 20 gigabytes of space, so they're calling on the Wikipedia communities to agree on which content should be included by June 24. "Even if only a snapshot of Wikipedia can be brought to the Moon, its content will equal a genuine snapshot of the sum of all human knowledge..." the Meta page explains "This is an anniversary gift to all Wikipedia communities all over the world."

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Slashdot Asks: Does It Matter That We've Reached Peak Smartphone?

Sat, 23/04/2016 - 5:30pm
Gizmodo, in its typical sensational voice, ran a story this week in which it argues that smartphones are in a "ridiculously boring place" right now. Alex Cranz with the publication expresses her discontent with some of the recently launched smartphones such as the iPhone SE, the LG G5, and the Galaxy S7. "These devices have not redefined the way we phone, nor have they blown us away with unprecedented speeds, or wowed us with extraordinary battery life. Each of these new phones is merely a marginal improvement over last year's model." I agree with most of what Cranz has to say. In the past one year, we've seen QHD display panel, Snapdragon 810/820 SoC, 3 to 4GB of RAM becoming a norm. Nearly every manufacturer has reached that point, and then sort of stopped there. Compared to the Nexus 4, for instance, the Nexus 6P offers a significant improvement. But when compared to anything you purchased two years ago -- in the echelon of your choice -- the latest offering isn't going to leave a big impression on you. The industry is currently making small noises about what it thinks could be the next big thing. Some players including Samsung and Lenovo believe that it could be the virtual reality addon. We will have to see how much traction that gets. My contention with Cranz's story is that it doesn't talk about how these devices are impacting people's lives, hence missing the big picture. I believe that it doesn't necessarily matter if our smartphones aren't going to get any smarter. The first-generation Moto G, from a few years ago, can also help you quickly get information from the Web, and it can also allow you to book a cab using Uber app, and do pretty much everything that you do on a flagship smartphone. As Venture Capitalist Fred Wilson pointed out last month, the next "second smartphone revolution" could enhance the lives of millions of people in places such as Asia, where most of the population still doesn't have a smartphone. When you look at that, it becomes unnecessary to talk about the top-of-the-line specs and the rate at which these smartphones are receiving incremental improvements. The vast majority of people in the emerging world are in a desperate need of a bare-bone smartphone that allows them to make phone calls, even if it doesn't do it in a "redefined" fashion, and works with speeds that don't blow them away, a couple of things that I think we are taking for granted. Wilson wrote: The first 2.5bn smartphones brought us Instagram, Snapchat, Uber, WhatsApp, Kik, Venmo, Duolingo, and most importantly, drove the big web apps to build world class mobile apps and move their userbases from web to mobile. But, if you stare at the top 200 non-game mobile apps in the US (and most of the western hemisphere) you will see that the list doesn't look that different than the top 200 websites. The mobile revolution from 2007 to 2015 in the west was more about how we accessed the internet than what apps we used, with some notable and important exceptions. The next 2.5bn people to adopt smartphones may turn out to be a different story. They will mostly live outside the developed and wealthy parts of the world and they will look to their smartphones to deliver essential services that they have not been receiving at all -- from the web or from the offline world. I am thinking about financial services, healthcare services, educational services, transportation services, and the like. Stuff that matters a bit more than seeing where you friends had a fun time last night or what it looks like when you faceswap with your sister.At this moment, it does seem to me that over the coming months, our smartphones are unlikely to get a major hardware boost. The biggest milestone we have on the horizon is what happens when everyone has these smartphones, and how does it impact our businesses, culture, and social lives. What's your take on this? Do you think we are yet to reach the peak point in the smartphone world? What's the big picture in your opinion?Update: 04/23 18:55 GMT by M :Robotech_Master's take on this is pretty insightful.

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The Android Administration: Google's Relationship With the Obama White House

Sat, 23/04/2016 - 4:40pm
theodp writes: The Intercept takes a look at Google's remarkably close relationship with the Obama White House, driving home its point with charts of When Google Visited the White House and how individuals have moved Back and Forth Between Google and Government. "Much of this collaboration could be considered public-minded," writes David Dayen. "It's hard to argue with the idea that the government should seek outside technical help when it requires it. And there's no evidence of a quid pro quo. But this arrangement doesn't have to result in outright corruption to be troubling. The obvious question that arises is: Can government do its job with respect to regulating Google in the public interest if it owes the company such a debt of gratitude?" One interesting meeting The Intercept missed was a 2014 sit-down of Google and Microsoft execs with the head of the National Science Foundation and educators following a White House Hour of Code event, at which President Obama was 'taught to code' by Google-backed Code.org with Google-exec-turned-US-CTO Megan Smith looking on. Asked about the event in an interview, the President suggested the school system was to blame for his daughters not taking to coding the way he'd like. "I think they got started a little bit late," the President explained. "Part of what you want to do is introduce this with the ABCs and the colors." Less than a year later, the President sought to redress things with his Computer Science for All K-12 Initiative, citing Google-provided factoids ("Nine out of ten parents want it taught at their children's schools") to explain the need for the $4B budget request for the program.

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