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Updated: 9 min 47 sec ago

A Sucker Is Optimized Every Minute

Sat, 21/03/2015 - 5:51pm
theodp writes Now that we have hard data on everything, observes the NY Times' Virginia Heffernan in A Sucker Is Optimized Every Minute, we no longer make decisions from our hearts, guts or principles. "The gut is dead," writes Heffernan. "Long live the data, turned out day and night by our myriad computers and smart devices. Not that we trust the data, as we once trusted our guts. Instead, we 'optimize' it. We optimize for it. We optimize with it." To win Presidential elections. To turn web pages into Googlebait. To sucker people into registering for websites. Of the soon-to-arrive Apple Watch, Heffernan notes: "After time keeping, the watch's chief feature is 'fitness tracking': It clocks and stores physiological data with the aim of getting you to observe and change your habits of sloth and gluttony. Evidently I wasn't the only one whose thoughts turned to 20th-century despotism: The entrepreneur Anil Dash quipped on Twitter, albeit stretching the truth, 'Not since I.B.M. sold mainframes to the Nazis has a high-tech company embraced medical data at this scale.'"

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ATRIAS Bipedal Robot Can Take a Beating and Keep Walking

Sat, 21/03/2015 - 4:45pm
Zothecula writes The great tradition of designing robots inspired by the many beautiful forms of locomotion seen in the animal kingdom likely predates robotics itself, arguably stretching all the way back to Michelangelo's time. Standing on the shoulders of such giants is ATRIAS, a series of human-sized bipedal robots that remind us of other two-legged creatures like the ostrich or emu. It must be a great tension-reliever in the robotics lab to have a robot you can literally kick without knocking it off balance.

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Virgin Could Take On Tesla With Electric Car

Sat, 21/03/2015 - 3:53pm
According to a story at Ars Technica, Virgin empire founder Richard Branson says 'teams of people' are working on electric cars. Says the article: Virgin is working on electric cars and could one day take on Tesla, according to company founder Richard Branson. Speaking at a racing event in Miami, Branson said Virgin had "teams of people" working on electric cars but refused to be drawn on specific details. The company's Virgin Racing team already competes in the all-electric Formula E championship, a high-speed, battery-powered spinoff of Formula 1. Branson has now hinted that Virgin's involvement could lead to the company selling its own electric cars. ... Branson's business has continued to expand in recent years. As well as trains and planes, Virgin now has a fledgling space operation and is soon to launch its own cruise ships.

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Arkansas Is Now the First State To Require That High Schools Teach Coding

Sat, 21/03/2015 - 2:44pm
SternisheFan writes Arkansas will be implementing a new law that requires public high schools to offer classes in computer science starting in the 2015-16 school year. Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson, who signed the bill, believes it will provide "a workforce that's sure to attract businesses and jobs" to the state. $5 million of the governor's proposed budget will go towards this new program. For the districts incapable of of administering these classes due to lack of space or qualified teachers, the law has provisions for online courses to be offered through Virtual Arkansas. Although students will not be required to take computer science classes, the governor's goal is to give students the opportunity if they "want to take it." Presently, only one in 10 schools nationwide offer computer science classes. Not only will Arkansas teach these classes in every public high school and charter school serving upper grades, the courses will count towards the state's math graduation requirement as a further incentive for students. Training programs for teacher preparation will be available, but with the majority of the infrastructure already primed, the execution of this new law should hopefully be painless and seamless.

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South Korea Begins To Deprecate ActiveX

Sat, 21/03/2015 - 1:28pm
jones_supa writes The reliance on proprietary technologies to deliver web services varies from country to country. South Korea's ActiveX problem has been in the news before. Yonhap brings us a short report that the government plans to finally start cleaning up this troublesome technology from public websites later this month, as Korea gears up to create a more friendly Internet environment. The country's online financial websites and shopping malls often use ActiveX to have their payments and identification programs securely downloaded to users' personal computers.

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Meet the Carolina Butcher, a 9-Foot Crocodile That Walked On Two Legs

Sat, 21/03/2015 - 12:30pm
HughPickens.com writes Science News reports on the Carolina Butcher, a giant, bipedal reptile that looked a lot like living crocodiles — except it walked on two legs, not four. Carnufex carolinensis is one of the oldest and largest crocodile ancestors identified to date. Its size and stature also suggest that for a time, the Carolina Butcher (named for its menacing features), was one of the top predators in the part of the supercontinent Pangaea that became North America. Past fossil finds show that cousins of ancient crocodiles were vying with the earliest bipedal dinosaurs, called theropods, for the title of top predator in the southern regions of Pangaea but the Carolina Butcher's reign probably ended 201 million years ago when a mass extinction event wiped out most large, land-based predators, clearing the way for dinosaurs to fully dominate during the Jurassic period. Carnufex is one of the most primitive members of the broad category of reptiles called crocodylomorphs, encompassing the various forms of crocs that have appeared on Earth. "As one of the earliest and oldest crocodylomorphs, Carnufex was a far cry from living crocodiles. It was an agile, terrestrial predator that hunted on land," says Lindsay Zanno. "Carnufex predates the group that living crocodiles belong to." Transported back to the Triassic Period, what would a person experience upon encountering this agile, roughly three metre-long, about 1.5 metre-tall beast with a long skull and blade-like teeth? "Abject terror," says Zanno.

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Excess Time Indoors May Explain Rising Myopia Rates

Sat, 21/03/2015 - 10:11am
Nature reports that an unexpected factor may be behind a growing epidemic of nearsightedness: time spent indoors. From the article: Because the eye grows throughout childhood, myopia generally develops in school-age children and adolescents. About one-fifth of university-aged people in East Asia now have this extreme form of myopia, and half of them are expected to develop irreversible vision loss. This threat has prompted a rise in research to try to understand the causes of the disorder — and scientists are beginning to find answers. They are challenging old ideas that myopia is the domain of the bookish child and are instead coalescing around a new notion: that spending too long indoors is placing children at risk. “We're really trying to give this message now that children need to spend more time outside,” says Kathryn Rose, head of orthoptics at the University of Technology, Sydney.

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How Space Can Expand Faster Than the Speed of Light

Sat, 21/03/2015 - 7:28am
StartsWithABang writes You know the fundamental principle of special relativity: nothing can move faster than the speed of light. But space itself? That's not a "thing" in the conventional sense. Two years after coming up with special relativity, Einstein devised the equivalence principle, and thus began the development of general relativity, where space itself would have properties that changed over time, responding to changes in matter and energy. This includes the ability for it to expand, even faster than the speed of light, if the conditions are right.

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Government Spies Admit That Cyber Armageddon Is Unlikely

Sat, 21/03/2015 - 4:37am
Nicola Hahn writes NSA director Mike Rogers spoke to a Senate Committee [Thursday], admonishing them that the United States should bolster its offensive cyber capabilities to deter attacks. Never mind that deterrence is problematic if you can't identify the people who attacked you. In the past a speech by a spymaster like Rogers would have been laced with hyperbolic intimations of the End Times. Indeed, for almost a decade mainstream news outlets have conveyed a litany of cyber doomsday scenarios on behalf of ostensibly credible public officials. So it's interesting to note a recent statement by the U.S. intelligence community that pours a bucket of cold water over all of this. According to government spies the likelihood of a cyber Armageddon is "remote." And this raises some unsettling questions about our ability to trust government officials and why they might be tempted to fall back on such blatant hyperbole.

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Taxi Apps Accused of Facilitating Sexual Harassment In Brazil

Sat, 21/03/2015 - 1:42am
New submitter André Costa writes The companies responsible for taxi apps Easy Taxi and 99Taxis are being accused of making it too easy for taxi drivers to harass female customers (some news reports — in Portuguese — can be found here, here and here).These apps currently disclose informations such as the client's name, cell phone and address to the driver. One customer that started being harassed through offensive text messages after a ride started an online petition demanding that the companies take effective measures to protect female customers. The petition already collected more than 27,000 signatures, and both Easy Taxi and 99Taxis already announced that they will implement features that will protect clients' privacy.At first, users will be allowed to choose if they want their phone numbers to be disclosed. Within a couple of months, both companies said they will provide VOIP calls, which will eliminate the need to exchange phone numbers.

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ISPs Worry About FCC's 'Future Conduct' Policing

Sat, 21/03/2015 - 12:14am
jfruh (300774) writes "In the wake of the FCC passing net neutrality rules, the federal agency now has the authority to keep an eye on ISPs 'future conduct,' to prevent them from even starting to implement traffic-shaping plans that would violate net neutrality. Naturally, this has a lot of ISPs feeling nervous." From the article: The net neutrality rules, beginning on page 106, outline a process for staff to give advisory opinions to broadband providers who want to run a proposed business model past the agency before rolling it out. But those advisory opinions won’t have the weight of an official commission decision. The FCC’s Enforcement Bureau will be able to reconsider, rescind or revoke those advisory opinions, and the commission itself will be able to overrule them, according to the order. “It’s unclear what you’re supposed to do when you have a new innovation or a new service,” the telecom lobbyist said. “There’s just a lot of ambiguity.” Even the Electronic Frontier Foundation, one of the most vocal proponents of strong net neutrality rules, urged the commission to jettison its future conduct standard.

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Chevy Malibu 'Teen Driver' Tech Will Snitch If You Speed

Fri, 20/03/2015 - 11:24pm
mpicpp writes General Motors wants to help curb teen crashes with a new system that lets parents monitor their kids' driving habits—even when mom and dad aren't actually in the car. Dubbed Teen Drive, the new system will debut in the 2016 Chevy Malibu, offering a bunch of features designed to encourage safe driving. It will, for instance, mute the radio or any device paired with the car when front seat occupants aren't wearing their seatbelts, and give audible and visual warnings when the vehicle is traveling faster than preset speeds. It doesn't end there. Brace yourself, teens, because you might not like this next part too much. The new system also lets parents view a readout of how you drove the car, including how fast you went, how far you drove, and whether any active safety features (like over-speed warnings) were engaged.Parents can also set the radio system's maximum volume to a lower level, and select a maximum speed between 40 and 75 miles per hour, which, if exceeded, will trigger warnings.

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How Device Drivers Are Reverse Engineered

Fri, 20/03/2015 - 10:39pm
An anonymous reader writes: Linux Voice magazine has published a long article about how people go about reverse engineering drivers for hardware peripherals. They use Python and a USB radio-controlled car to demonstrate, walking us through the entire process. It's a cool, easy-to-follow insight into what often seems to be a rather opaque process.

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How Device Drivers Are Reverse Engineered

Fri, 20/03/2015 - 10:39pm
An anonymous reader writes: Linux Voice magazine has published a long article about how people go about reverse engineering drivers for hardware peripherals. They use Python and a USB radio-controlled car to demonstrate, walking us through the entire process. It's a cool, easy-to-follow insight into what often seems to be a rather opaque process.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

GoDaddy Accounts Vulnerable To Social Engineering (and Photoshop)

Fri, 20/03/2015 - 9:58pm
itwbennett writes: On Tuesday, Steve Ragan's GoDaddy account was compromised. He knew it was coming, but considering the layered account protections used by the world's largest domain registrar, he didn't think the attacker would be successful. He was wrong. Within days, the attacker gained control over Steve's account just by speaking to customer support and submitting a Photoshopped ID.

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OEMs Allowed To Lock Secure Boot In Windows 10 Computers

Fri, 20/03/2015 - 9:16pm
jones_supa writes: Hardware that sports the "Designed for Windows 8" logo requires machines to support UEFI Secure Boot. When the feature is enabled, the core software components used to boot the machine are verified for correct cryptographic signatures, or the system refuses to boot. This is a desirable security feature, because it protects from malware sneaking into the boot process. However, it has an issue for alternative operating systems, because it's likely they won't have a signature that Secure Boot will authorize. No worries, because Microsoft also mandated that every system must have a UEFI configuration setting to turn the protection off, allowing booting other operating systems. This situation may now change. At its WinHEC hardware conference in Shenzhen, China, Microsoft said the setting to allow Secure Boot to be turned off will become optional when Windows 10 arrives. Hardware can be "Designed for Windows 10," and offer no way to opt out of the Secure Boot lock down. The choice to provide the setting (or not) will be up to the original equipment manufacturer.

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Report: NASA May Miss SLS Launch Deadline

Fri, 20/03/2015 - 8:34pm
An anonymous reader writes: A post at the Planetary Society's blog summarizes a report from NASA's Office of Inspector General which says the agency will struggle to get launch facilities up and running in time for the Space Launch System's November 2018 launch deadline. "Ground systems are a critical piece of the SLS-Orion infrastructure. All three elements are tightly integrated, with ground systems requiring significant input from the rocket and capsule designs." To be more specific, NASA has found 462 separate inter-dependencies, less than two-thirds of which have been resolved so far. "The Mobile Launcher must be moved into the Vehicle Assembly Building for testing prior to the delivery of SLS and Orion. When it comes time to stack the rocket and capsule for the first flight, there may be a 'learning curve,' said the OIG, where engineers work through unforeseen glitches." They're also worried about having to develop all the software to run these systems before the hardware is in place to test.

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How 'The Cloud' Eats Away at Your Online Privacy (Video)

Fri, 20/03/2015 - 7:51pm
Tom Henderson, Principal Researcher at ExtremeLabs Inc., is not a cloud fan. He is a staunch privacy advocate, and this is the root of his distrust of companies that store your data in their memories instead of yours. You can get an idea of his (dis)like of vague cloud privacy protections and foggy vendor service agreements from the fact that his Network World columnn is called Thumping the Clouds. We called Tom specifically to ask him about a column entry titled The downside to mass data storage in the cloud. Today's video covers only part of what Tom had to say about cloud privacy and information security, but it's still an earful and a half. His last few lines are priceless. Watch and listen, or at least read the transcript, and you'll see what we mean.

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The Stolen Credit For What Makes Up the Sun

Fri, 20/03/2015 - 7:37pm
StartsWithABang writes: Sure, it's easy today to look at the Sun and know it's a ball of (mostly) hydrogen, generating energy by combining those protons in a chain into helium through the process of nuclear fusion. But before we even knew that nuclear fusion was possible, we needed to figure out what the Sun was made out of, a more difficult task than you'd imagine. The credit was given to Henry Norris Russell (of Hertzsprung-Russell diagram fame), but he completely stole the work from a woman you never heard of: his student, Cecilia Payne, after discouraging her from publishing her work on the subject four years prior.

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France Decrees New Rooftops Must Be Covered In Plants Or Solar Panels

Fri, 20/03/2015 - 7:09pm
An anonymous reader writes: A law approved in France Thursday now requires all new rooftops in commercial zones to be covered in plants or solar panels. "Green roofs have an isolating effect, helping reduce the amount of energy needed to heat a building in winter and cool it in summer. They also retain rainwater, thus helping reduce problems with runoff, while favoring biodiversity and giving birds a place to nest in the urban jungle, ecologists say." The law was actually watered down from its original version — businesses only have to cover part of their roof. In other solar power news, reader SpzToid notes that despite earlier worries, the European power grid handled the solar eclipse just fine

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