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Power

Utilities Battle Homeowners Over Solar Power 148

Posted by timothy
from the one-hand-giveth dept.
HughPickens.com writes Diane Cardwell reports in the NYT that many utilities are trying desperately to stem the rise of solar power, either by reducing incentives, adding steep fees or effectively pushing home solar companies out of the market. The economic threat has electric companies on edge. Over all, demand for electricity is softening while home solar is rapidly spreading across the country. There are now about 600,000 installed systems, and the number is expected to reach 3.3 million by 2020, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association. In Hawaii, the current battle began in 2013, when Hawaiian Electric started barring installations of residential solar systems in certain areas. It was an abrupt move — a panicked one, critics say — made after the utility became alarmed by the technical and financial challenges of all those homes suddenly making their own electricity. "Hawaii is a postcard from the future," says Adam Browning, executive director of Vote Solar, a policy and advocacy group based in California.

But utilities say that solar-generated electricity flowing out of houses and into a power grid designed to carry it in the other direction has caused unanticipated voltage fluctuations that can overload circuits, burn lines and lead to brownouts or blackouts. "At every different moment, we have to make sure that the amount of power we generate is equal to the amount of energy being used, and if we don't keep that balance things go unstable," says Colton Ching, vice president for energy delivery at Hawaiian Electric, pointing to the illuminated graphs and diagrams tracking energy production from wind and solar farms, as well as coal-fueled generators in the utility's main control room. But the rooftop systems are "essentially invisible to us," says Ching, "because they sit behind a customer's meter and we don't have a means to directly measure them." The utility wants to cut roughly in half the amount it pays customers for solar electricity they send back to the grid. "Hawaii's case is not isolated," says Massoud Amin. "When we push year-on-year 30 to 40 percent growth in this market, with the number of installations doubling, quickly — every two years or so — there's going to be problems."
The Courts

DIA Polygraph Countermeasure Case Files Leaked 39

Posted by timothy
from the well-someone-is-fibbing dept.
George Maschke writes AntiPolygraph.org (of which I am a co-founder) has published a set of leaked Defense Intelligence Agency polygraph countermeasure case files along with a case-by-case analysis. The case files, which include polygraph charts and the exact questions used, suggest that the only people being "caught" trying to beat the polygraph are those using crude, unsophisticated methods that anyone who actually understood polygraph procedure and effective countermeasures (like, say, a real spy, saboteur, or terrorist) would ever use. AntiPolygraph.org has previously published polygraph community training materials on countermeasures that indicate they lack the ability to detect countermeasures like those described in our free book, The Lie Behind the Lie Detector (PDF) or in former police polygraph examiner Doug Williams' manual, How to Sting the Polygraph . Williams, who was indicted last year after teaching undercover federal agents how to pass a polygraph, is scheduled to stand trial on May 12 in Oklahoma City.
The Military

US Military To Recruit Civilian Cybersecurity Experts 53

Posted by timothy
from the which-masters-would-you-prefer? dept.
An anonymous reader writes The U.S. Army is to create a new cybersecurity division, Cyber Branch 17, and is also considering launching a cyber career track for civilians, according to an announcement made this week by Lt. Gen. Edward C. Cardon. Cardon, who currently heads the U.S. Army's cyber command, ARCYBER, spoke to the Senate Armed Services subcommittee on Tuesday about the growing threats and capabilities used in cyber warfare. He argued that creating a cyber career management field for civilians would result in an easier recruitment process, as opposed to recruiting internally and trying to retain the talent, he said. Cardon maintains that recruiting and retaining talent in the field is often challenging, given internal employment constraints surrounding compensation and slow hiring processes.
Censorship

Joseph Goebbels' Estate Sues Publisher Over Diary Excerpt Royalties 217

Posted by timothy
from the new-meaning-for-moral-rights dept.
wabrandsma writes with this from The Guardian: The estate of Joseph Goebbels, Adolf Hitler's minister of propaganda, is taking legal action against the publisher Random House over a new biography, claiming payment for the use of extracts from his diaries. Peter Longerich's biography of Goebbels is to be published in May (Random House/ Siedler). Longerich, who is the professor at Royal Holloway's Holocaust Research Centre, maintains this case has important censorship implications. 'If you accept that a private person controls the rights to Goebbels' diaries, then – theoretically – you give this person the right to control research,' he said.
Communications

Norway Will Switch Off FM Radio In 2017 221

Posted by timothy
from the video-sought-by-police-for-questioning dept.
New submitter titten writes The Norwegian Ministry of Culture has announced that the transition to DAB will be completed in 2017. This means that Norway, as the first country in the world to do so, has decided to switch off the FM network. Norway began the transition to DAB in 1995. In recent years two national and several local DAB-networks has been established. 56 per cent of radio listeners use digital radio every day. 55 per cent of households have at least one DAB radio, according to Digitalradio survey by TNS Gallup, continuously measuring the Norwegian`s digital radio habits.
The Internet

Ask Slashdot: What Features Would You Like In a Search Engine? 227

Posted by timothy
from the esp-heads-the-list dept.
New submitter nicolas.slusarenko writes Nowadays, there is one dominant search engine in the world among few alternatives. I have the impression that the majority of users think that it is the best possible service that could be made. I am sure that we could have a better search engine. During my spare time I been developing Trokam, an online search engine. I am building this service with the features that I would like to find in a service: respectful of user rights, ad-free, built upon open source software, and with auditable results. Well, those are mine. What features would you like in a search engine?
Privacy

The Upsides of a Surveillance Society 192

Posted by timothy
from the you-mean-it's-not-all-upside? dept.
theodp writes Citing the comeuppance of ESPN reporter Britt McHenry, who was suspended from her job after her filmed ad-hominem attack on a person McHenry deemed to be beneath her in terms of appearance, education, wealth, class, status went viral, The Atlantic's Megan Garber writes that one silver lining of the omnipresence of cameras it that the possibility of exposure can also encourage us to be a little kinder to each other. "Terrible behavior," Garber writes, "whether cruel or violent or something in between, has a greater possibility than it ever has before of being exposed. Just as Uber tracks ratings for both its drivers and its users, and just as Yelp can be a source of shaming for businesses and customers alike, technology at large has afforded a reciprocity between people who, in a previous era, would have occupied different places on the spectrum of power. Which can, again, be a bad thing — but which can also, in McHenry's case, be an extremely beneficial one. It's good that her behavior has been exposed. It's good that her story going viral might discourage similar behavior from other people. It's good that she has publicly promised 'to learn from this mistake.'"
Earth

Resistance To Antibiotics Found In Isolated Amazonian Tribe 51

Posted by timothy
from the strong-willed-organisms dept.
sciencehabit writes When scientists first made contact with an isolated village of Yanomami hunter-gatherers in the remote mountains of the Amazon jungle of Venezuela in 2009, they marveled at the chance to study the health of people who had never been exposed to Western medicine or diets. But much to their surprise, these Yanomami's gut bacteria have already evolved a diverse array of antibiotic-resistance genes, according to a new study, even though these mountain people had never ingested antibiotics or animals raised with drugs. The find suggests that microbes have long evolved the capability to fight toxins, including antibiotics, and that preventing drug resistance may be harder than scientists thought.
Sony

Hacked Sony Emails Reveal That Sony Had Pirated Books About Hacking 58

Posted by timothy
from the elephant-books-all-the-way-down dept.
An anonymous reader writes Sony has done a lot of aggressive anti-piracy work in their time, which makes it that much funnier that pirated ebooks were found on their servers from the 2014 hacks that just went on to WikiLeaks. Better yet, the pirated books are educational books about hacking called "Inside Cyber Warfare" and "Hacking the Next Generation" from O'Reilly publishers.
Businesses

Twitter Moves Non-US Accounts To Ireland, and Away From the NSA 131

Posted by timothy
from the be-right-over-here-guys dept.
Mark Wilson writes Twitter has updated its privacy policy, creating a two-lane service that treats U.S. and non-U.S. users differently. If you live in the U.S., your account is controlled by San Francisco-based Twitter Inc, but if you're elsewhere in the world (anywhere else) it's handled by Twitter International Company in Dublin, Ireland. The changes also affect Periscope. What's the significance of this? Twitter Inc is governed by U.S. law; it is obliged to comply with NSA-driven court requests for data. Data stored in Ireland is not subject to the same obligation. Twitter is not alone in using Dublin as a base for non-U.S. operations; Facebook is another company that has adopted the same tactic. The move could also have implications for how advertising is handled in the future.
Robotics

Drought and Desertification: How Robots Might Help 113

Posted by timothy
from the droids-you're-looking-for dept.
Hallie Siegel writes Groundwater levels in California's Central Valley are down to historic lows and reservoirs have been depleted following four consecutive years of severe drought in the state. California is set to introduce water rationing in the coming weeks, and though the new rationing rules will focus on urban areas and not farms for the time being, they serve as a warning bell to farmers who will inevitably need to adapt to the effects of climate change on food production. John Payne argues that long term solutions are needed to help make agriculture drought resistant and looks at some of the ways that robotics might help.
Government

Gyrocopter Pilot Appears In Court; Judge Bans Him From D.C. 264

Posted by timothy
from the but-what-if-air-&-space-gets-the-copter? dept.
mpicpp writes The Florida mail carrier accused of landing a gyrocopter outside the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday was charged in federal court Thursday and has been barred from returning to the District of Columbia or flying any aircraft, officials said. Douglas Hughes, 61, was charged with violating aircraft registration requirements, a felony, and violating national defense airspace, a misdemeanor. If convicted, he could be sentenced to up to three years in prison for the felony and one year in prison for the airspace violation. U.S. Magistrate Judge Deborah A. Robinson also barred Hughes from the District of Columbia, except for court appearances, and said he must stay away from the Capitol, White House and nearby areas while he is there. He will also have to hand over his passport.
Microsoft

Microsoft Open Technologies Is Closing: Good Or Bad News For Open Source? 108

Posted by timothy
from the sea-change-or-see-no-change dept.
BrianFagioli writes When Microsoft Open Technologies was founded as a subsidiary of Microsoft — under Steve Ballmer's reign — many in the open source community hailed it as a major win, and it was. Today, however, the subsidiary is shutting down and being folded into Microsoft. While some will view this as a loss for open source, I disagree; Microsoft has evolved so much under Satya Nadella, that a separate subsidiary is simply no longer needed. Microsoft could easily be the world's biggest vendor of open source software, which is probably one reason some people don't like the term.
The Military

Scientists Locate Sunken, Radioactive Aircraft Carrier Off California Coast 184

Posted by Soulskill
from the what-you-leave-behind dept.
HughPickens.com writes: Aaron Kinney reports in the San Jose Mercury News that scientists have captured the first clear images of the USS Independence, a radioactivity-polluted World War II aircraft carrier that rests on the ocean floor 30 miles off the coast of Half Moon Bay. The Independence saw combat at Wake Island and other decisive battles against Japan in 1944 and 1945 and was later blasted with radiation in two South Pacific nuclear tests. Assigned as a target vessel for the Operation Crossroads atomic bomb tests, she was placed within one-half-mile of ground zero and was engulfed in a fireball and heavily damaged during the 1946 nuclear weapons tests at Bikini Atoll. The veteran ship did not sink, however (though her funnels and island were crumpled by the blast), and after taking part in another explosion on 25 July, the highly radioactive hull was later taken to Pearl Harbor and San Francisco for further tests and was finally scuttled off the coast of San Francisco, California, on 29 January 1951. "This ship is an evocative artifact of the dawn of the atomic age, when we began to learn the nature of the genie we'd uncorked from the bottle," says James Delgado. "It speaks to the 'Greatest Generation' — people's fathers, grandfathers, uncles and brothers who served on these ships, who flew off those decks and what they did to turn the tide in the Pacific war."

Delgado says he doesn't know how many drums of radioactive material are buried within the ship — perhaps a few hundred. But he is doubtful that they pose any health or environmental risk. The barrels were filled with concrete and sealed in the ship's engine and boiler rooms, which were protected by thick walls of steel. The carrier itself was clearly "hot" when it went down and and it was packed full of fresh fission products and other radiological waste at the time it sank. The Independence was scuttled in what is now the Gulf of the Farallones sanctuary, a haven for wildlife, from white sharks to elephant seals and whales. Despite its history as a dumping ground Richard Charter says the radioactive waste is a relic of a dark age before the enviornmental movement took hold. "It's just one of those things that humans rather stupidly did in the past that we can't retroactively fix.""
Security

FBI Accuses Researcher of Hacking Plane, Seizes Equipment 261

Posted by Soulskill
from the security-theater dept.
chicksdaddy writes: The Feds are listening, and they really can't take a joke. That's the apparent moral of security researcher Chris Roberts' legal odyssey on Wednesday, which saw him escorted off a plane in Syracuse by two FBI agents and questioned for four hours over a humorous tweet Roberts posted about his ability to hack into the cabin control systems of the Boeing 737 he was flying. Roberts (aka @sidragon1) joked that he could "start playing with EICAS messages," a reference to the Engine Indicating and Crew Alerting System.

Roberts was traveling to Syracuse to give a presentation. He said local law enforcement and FBI agents boarded the plane on the tarmac and escorted him off. He was questioned for four hours, with officers alleging they had evidence he had tampered with in-flight systems on an earlier leg of his flight from Colorado to Chicago. Roberts said the agents questioned him about his tweet and whether he tampered with the systems on the United flight -something he denies doing. Roberts had been approached earlier by the Denver office of the FBI which warned him away from further research on airplanes. The FBI was also looking to approach airplane makers Boeing and Airbus and wanted him to rebuild a virtualized environment he built to test airplane vulnerabilities to verify what he was saying.

Roberts refused, and the FBI seized his encrypted laptop and storage devices and has yet to return them, he said. The agents said they wished to do a forensic analysis of his laptop. Roberts said he declined to provide that information and requested a warrant to search his equipment. As of Friday, Roberts said he has not received a warrant.
Biotech

Breakthrough In Artificial Photosynthesis Captures CO2 In Acetate 122

Posted by Soulskill
from the use-it-to-3D-print-your-own-clones dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Researchers from Berkeley Lab and the U.S. Dept. of Energy have created an artificial photosynthetic process that capture carbon dioxide in acetate, "the most common building block today for biosynthesis." The research has been published in the journal Nano Letters (abstract). "Atmospheric carbon dioxide is now at its highest level in at least three million years, primarily as a result of the burning of fossil fuels. Yet fossil fuels, especially coal, will remain a significant source of energy to meet human needs for the foreseeable future. Technologies for sequestering carbon before it escapes into the atmosphere are being pursued but all require the captured carbon to be stored, a requirement that comes with its own environmental challenges. ... By combining biocompatible light-capturing nanowire arrays with select bacterial populations, the new artificial photosynthesis system offers a win/win situation for the environment: solar-powered green chemistry using sequestered carbon dioxide."
Education

LAUSD OKs Girls-Only STEM School, Plans Boys-Only English Language Arts School 588

Posted by Soulskill
from the who-needs-a-balanced-education dept.
theodp writes: Citing statistics that showed a whopping 46 more boys than girls passed the AP Computer Science Exam in 2011-12, the 640,000+ student Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) on Tuesday approved a waiver to enable the District to operate a single-gender, all-girls STEM School called the Girls Academic Leadership Academy (GALA). Students in GALA will follow a six year sequence of computer courses starting in middle school that will culminate in AP Computer Science Principles. "Fewer females take AP courses in math, science, or computer science, and they are not as successful as males in receiving passing scores of 3, 4 or 5," argued the General Waiver Request (PDF, 700+ pages). "An all girls environment is reasonably necessary for the school to improve the self-confidence of girls in their academic abilities, especially in STEM areas where an achievement gap currently exists. GALA's admissions shall also comply with AB 1266 to ensure male students who identify as female are admitted to the school." The school's CS-related Partners include the UCLA Exploring Computer Science Program, as well as Google-bankrolled Girls Who Code, Black Girls Code, and NCWIT. One of the reasons the all-girls STEM school reportedly got the green light is that its backers satisfied federal regulations requiring a "substantially equal school" for excluded male students by submitting a plan for a companion all-boys school that would emphasize English Language Arts, where they often fall short of girls' test scores, rather than GALA's focus on STEM. One suspects the no-fan-of-gender-restricted-public-schools ACLU may call BS on this maneuver.
United Kingdom

UK Company Wants To Deliver Parcels Through Underground Tunnels 113

Posted by samzenpus
from the mole-mail dept.
Zothecula writes Drones flown by Amazon aren't the only way we could be getting our parcels delivered in the near future. UK firm Mole Solutions is exploring the possibility of using small robot trains running on underground tracks to manage deliveries, and it's just received funding from the British government to help test the viability of the proposal.
Google

Google Helps Homeless Street Vendors Get Paid By Cashless Consumers 140

Posted by samzenpus
from the easy-pay dept.
An anonymous reader writes Starting today Seattle pedestrians can no longer pat their pockets and claim to have no cash when offered a copy of the ironically-named Real Change weekly newspaper by a homeless street vendor. Google has spent two years working with the Real Change organization to develop a barcode-scanning app which lets passers-by purchase a digital edition with their mobile phones. Google's Meghan Casserly believes the Real Change app — available on Android and iOs — represents the first of its kind in North America.
GNU is Not Unix

GNU Hurd 0.6 Released 213

Posted by samzenpus
from the brand-new dept.
jrepin writes It has been roughly a year and a half since the last release of the GNU Hurd operating system, so it may be of interest to some readers that GNU Hurd 0.6 has been released along with GNU Mach 1.5 (the microkernel that Hurd runs on) and GNU MIG 1.5 (the Mach Interface Generator, which generates code to handle remote procedure calls). New features include procfs and random translators; cleanups and stylistic fixes, some of which came from static analysis; message dispatching improvements; integer hashing performance improvements; a split of the init server into a startup server and an init program based on System V init; and more.