Operating Systems

Jolla Spins Off Hardware Business 3 3

New submitter John.Banister writes: Jolla, founded by former Nokia employees to continue where Nokia left off developing Linux based mobile devices, has spun off its hardware division with the intent to focus more strongly on its Sailfish Operating System. In its press release, the company assured backers of its crowdfunding campaign that it's still committed to delivering a tablet once hardware supply issues are resolved (PDF).
Education

BBC Reveals Its New Microcomputer Design 35 35

The BBC has revealed the final design for its Micro Bit computer, a programmable board the size of a credit card they hope will inspire the same love of technology that the BBC Micro did in 1981. The Micro Bit includes an array of LEDs, buttons, and a motion sensor. It can be powered via USB, or by an addon pack with AA batteries. It's not intended as a competitor to devices like the Raspberry Pi or the Arduino — it is intended to complement them while remaining simple for educational purposes. In October, the BBC will begin distributing the Micro Bit to students in grade 7. They expect to give away about a million of them. Afterward, the device will go on sale, and its specs will be open sourced.
Communications

Senate Advances Plan To Make Email and Social Sites Report Terror Activity 92 92

Advocatus Diaboli sends news that the Senate Intelligence Committee has unanimously approved draft legislation that would requires email providers and social media sites to report any suspected terrorist activities to the government. While the legislation itself is classified until it reaches the Senate floor, Committee chairman Richard Burr (R-NC) said, "America’s security depends on our intelligence community’s ability to detect and thwart attacks on the homeland, our personnel and interests overseas, and our allies. This year’s legislation arms the intelligence community with the resources they need, and reinforces congressional oversight of intelligence activities." The legislation is based on 2008's Protect Our Children Act, which required companies to report information about child porn to an agency that would act on it. One industry official told the Washington Post, "Considering the vast majority of people on these sites are not doing anything wrong, this type of monitoring would be considered by many to be an invasion of privacy. It would also be technically difficult."
Space

A Real-Time Map of All the Objects In Earth's Orbit 31 31

rastos1 writes: It started as a passion project in April for 18-year-old James Yoder, an alum of FIRST Robotics, the high school robotics competition. He wanted to learn more about 3D graphics programming and WebGL, a JavaScript API. It's stuffin.space, a real-time, 3D-visualized map of all objects looping around Earth, from satellites to orbital trash. In total, stuffin.space tracks 150,000 objects. Type in a satellite name to scope out its altitude, figure out its age, group satellites by type, and so on.
Social Networks

Running a Town Over Twitter 54 54

dkatana writes: You may call Jun an ancient town — it was founded by Romans 2,200 years ago. But Jun's mayor is known worldwide for using the latest technology to run the city. Back in 1999, when he was deputy mayor, the town declared internet a basic universal right for its citizens. And now political parties run "virtual" campaigns without printing posters. But the most impressive accomplishment of Jun's mayor is running the entire town administration and public services using Twitter. He has more followers (350 k) than the mayor of NY. A third of the 3,800 residents have Twitter accounts, and they use the platform to interact with the city administration at all levels.
AI

NVIDIA Hopes To Sell More Chips By Bringing AI Programming To the Masses 26 26

jfruh writes: Artificial intelligence typically requires heavy computing power, which can only help manufacturers of specialized chip manufacturers like NVIDIA. That's why the company is pushing its Digits software, which helps users design and experiment with neural networks. Version 2 of digits moves out of the command line and comes with a GUI interface in an attempt to move interest beyond the current academic market; it also makes programming for multichip configurations possible.
Crime

The Mob's IT Department 75 75

An anonymous reader writes: An article at Bloomberg relates the story of two IT professionals who reluctantly teamed up with an organized criminal network in building a sophisticated drug smuggling operation. "[The criminals were] clever, recruiting Van De Moere and Maertens the way a spymaster develops a double agent. By the time they understood what they were involved in, they were already implicated." The pair were threatened, and afraid to go to the police. They were asked to help with deploying malware and building "pwnies" — small computers capable of intercepting network traffic that could be disguised as power strips and routers. In 2012, authorities lucked into some evidence that led them to investigate the operation. "Technicians found a bunch of surveillance devices on [the network of large shipping company MSC]. There were two pwnies and a number of Wi-Fi keyloggers—small devices installed in USB ports of computers to record keystrokes—that the hackers were using as backups to the pwnies. MSC hired a private investigator, who called PricewaterhouseCoopers' digital forensics team, which learned that computer hackers were intercepting network traffic to steal PIN codes and hijack MSC's containers."
Businesses

Siemens Sends Do-Not-Fly Order For Pipistrel's All-Electric Channel Crossing 85 85

An anonymous reader links to Flyer's coverage of a squabble that seems to feature the aircraft giant Airbus aiming bad sportsmanship in the form of corporate pull against much smaller light aircraft maker Pipistrel, thereby "squashing the ambitions of light aircraft maker Pipistrel to be the first to fly an electric aircraft across the English Channel." Though Pipistrel acquired the flight permissions it anticipated needing in connection with its announced ambition to cross the channel, they've been grounded by allegedly underhanded means: Siemens, which supplies the electric motor used in the craft which was to make the journey, contacted Pipistrel to prohibit over-water flight with that motor (partly German). U.S. Pipistrel dealer Michael Coates believes he knows why (as quoted by Flyer): "Airbus managed to flex their muscle with Siemens who are supplying motors to Pipistrel and have the Pipistrel motor agreement immediately terminated," he said. "The Airbus E-Fan project does not use Siemens motors but it does have Siemens stickers over the side of their aircraft.
Communications

Switzerland Begins Trials of Expensive Postal Drones 50 50

An anonymous reader writes: Swiss Post has beat Amazon, Alibaba and other researchers into drone-based delivery by launching practical drops using a Matternet four-rotored drone this month. However the company says that five years of testing and negotiation with regulators lie ahead before it will be able to offer a commercial drone-based delivery service. Like Google's Project Wing, the Matternet drone in question is mooted as a potential lifeline in post-disaster situations, but from a business point of view the release notes its potential for 'express delivery of goods' — a further indicator that the future of postal drone delivery may be an exclusive and expensive one.
Security

Crypto Experts Blast Gov't Backdoors For Encryption 88 88

loid_void writes with a link to a New York Times report about some of the world's best-known cryptography experts, who have prepared a report which concludes that there is no viable technical solution which "would allow the American and British governments to gain "exceptional access" to encrypted communications without putting the world's most confidential data and critical infrastructure in danger." From the article: [T]he government’s plans could affect the technology used to lock financial institutions and medical data, and poke a hole in mobile devices and the countless other critical systems — including pipelines, nuclear facilities, the power grid — that are moving online rapidly. ... “The problems now are much worse than they were in 1997,” said Peter G. Neumann, a co-author of both the 1997 report and the new paper, who is a computer security pioneer at SRI International, the Silicon Valley research laboratory. “There are more vulnerabilities than ever, more ways to exploit them than ever, and now the government wants to dumb everything down further.” The authors include Neumann, Harold Abelson, Susan Landau, and Bruce Schneier.
Communications

The IT Containers That Went To War 60 60

1sockchuck writes: Parachuting a container full of IT gear into a war zone is challenging enough. In the mountains of Afghanistan, helicopters had to deliver modular data centers in three minutes or less, lest the choppers be targeted by Taliban rockets. UK vendor Cannon recently spoke with DataCenterDynamics, sharing some of the extreme challenges and lessons learned from deploying portable data centers for military units in deserts and mountains. The same lessons (except, hopefully, with a lower chance of being shot) would apply in lots of other extreme enviroments, too.
Firefox

Mozilla's Plans For Firefox: More Partnerships, Better Add-ons, Faster Updates 175 175

An anonymous reader writes: Mozilla is reexamining and revamping the way it builds, communicates, and decides features for its browser. In short, big changes are coming to Firefox. Dave Camp, Firefox's director of engineering, sent out two lengthy emails, just three minutes apart: Three Pillars and Revisiting how we build Firefox. Both offer a lot more detail into what Mozilla is hoping to achieve.
Technology

Extreme Reduction Gearing Device Offers an Amazing Gear Ratio 134 134

ErnieKey writes: The 3D printed extreme reduction gearing device, created by long-time puzzle maker M. Oskar van Deventer, may leave you puzzled for its obvious applications, but the coaxial cranking mechanism offers potential in a variety of real-world applications with multi-colored gears that move in opposite directions at a ratio of 11,373,076 : 1. This 3D printed reduction gearing device is compact and multi-colored, and looks deceivingly simple at first glance. Developed through a complex algorithm, it could possibly offer potential as parts for machines like 3D printers, aerospace and automotive components, as well as perhaps robotics and a variety of motors.
The Internet

How Bad User Interfaces Can Ruin Lives 256 256

Lauren Weinstein writes: A couple of months ago, in "Seeking Anecdotes Regarding 'Older' Persons' Use of Web Services," I asked for stories and comments regarding experiences that older users have had with modern Web systems, with an emphasis on possible problems and frustrations. I purposely did not define "older" — with the result that responses arrived from users (or regarding users) self-identifying as ages ranging from their 30s to well into their 90s (suggesting that "older" is largely a point of view rather than an absolute). Before I began the survey I had some preconceived notions of how the results would appear. Some of these were proven correct, but overall the responses also contained many surprises, often both depressing and tragic in scope. The frustration of caregivers in these contexts was palpable. They'd teach an older user how to use a key service like Web-based mail to communicate with their loved ones, only to discover that a sudden UI change caused them to give up in frustration and not want to try again. When the caregiver isn't local the situation is even worse. While remote access software has proven a great boon in such situations, they're often too complex for the user to set up or fix by themselves when something goes wrong, remaining cut off until the caregiver is back in their physical presence.
United States

Prototype Wave Energy Device Passes Grid-Connected Pilot Test 51 51

coondoggie writes: A prototype wave energy device advanced with backing from the Energy Department and U.S. Navy has passed its first grid-connected open-sea pilot testing. According to the DOE, the device, called Azura, was recently launched and installed in a 30-meter test berth at the Navy's Wave Energy Test Site (WETS) in Kaneohe Bay, on the island of Oahu, Hawaii. This pilot testing is now giving U.S. researchers the opportunity to evaluate the long-term performance of the nation’s first grid-connected 20-kilowatt wave energy converter (WEC) device to be independently tested by a third party—the University of Hawaii—in the open ocean, the DOE said.
Supercomputing

Supercomputing Cluster Immersed In Oil Yields Extreme Efficiency 61 61

1sockchuck writes: A new supercomputing cluster immersed in tanks of dielectric fluid has posted extreme efficiency ratings. The Vienna Scientific Cluster 3 combines several efficiency techniques to create a system that is stingy in its use of power, cooling and water. VSC3 recorded a PUE (Power Usage Efficiency) of 1.02, putting it in the realm of data centers run by Google and Facebook. The system avoids the use of chillers and air handlers, and doesn't require any water to cool the fluid in the cooling tanks. Limiting use of water is a growing priority for data center operators, as cooling towers can use large volumes of water resources. The VSC3 system packs 600 teraflops of computing power into 1,000 square feet of floor space.
Businesses

"We Screwed Up," Says Reddit CEO In Formal Apology 439 439

An anonymous reader writes: After moderators locked up some of Reddit's most popular pages in protest against the dismissal of Victoria Taylor, and an online petition asking the company to fire CEO Ellen Pao reached more than 175,000 signatures over the weekend, Pao has issued an apology. The statement reads in part: "We screwed up. Not just on July 2, but also over the past several years. We haven't communicated well, and we have surprised moderators and the community with big changes. We have apologized and made promises to you, the moderators and the community, over many years, but time and again, we haven't delivered on them. When you've had feedback or requests, we haven't always been responsive. The mods and the community have lost trust in me and in us, the administrators of reddit. Today, we acknowledge this long history of mistakes. We are grateful for all you do for reddit, and the buck stops with me."
Robotics

The DARPA Robotics Challenge Was a Bust; Let's Try Again 35 35

malachiorion writes: The DARPA Robotics Challenge, the biggest and most well-funded international robotics competition in years, was a failure. After years of grueling work on the part of brilliant roboticists around the world, and millions in funding from the Pentagon, the finals came and went with little to no coverage from the mainstream media. The only takeaway, for those who aren't extremely dialed into robotics, is that a ton of robots fell down in funny ways. There were winners, but considering how downgraded the tasks were, compared to the ones initially announced in 2012, it was closer to the first DARPA Grand Challenge, where none of the robot cars finished, than the Urban Challenge, which kicked off the race to build deployable driverless cars. So just as DARPA regrouped after that first fizzle of a race, here's my argument for Popular Science: It's time to do it again, and make falling, and getting up, mandatory.
Transportation

Google's Waze Jumps Into the Ride-Sharing Business 82 82

An anonymous reader writes: Waze, the online mapping company owned by Google, is testing a ride-sharing service in Israel called RideWith. The service will allow commuters to pay drivers for rides to and from work. This is a hard limit — drivers can give no more than two rides per day. If the restriction remains after the initial test, it could be a simple way to avoid pseudo-professional drivers, and all the taxi-related legal problems that go with them (see: Uber). "RideWith calculates a cost based on the anticipated fuel consumption and 'depreciation' based on mileage, and the driver is free to accept or decline the ride accordingly." One can't help but speculate about future involvement with Google's autonomous car project.
Windows

First Windows 10 RTM Candidate Appears 177 177

Mark Wilson reports that the first RTM candidate for Windows 10 has been spotted: build 10176. Leaks and sources have suggested the company intends to finalize the operating system later this week, perhaps as early as July 9th. This would give Microsoft almost three weeks to distribute it to retailers and devicemakers before the July 29th launch date. "While the RTM process has been a significant milestone for previous releases of Windows, it’s more of a minor one for Windows 10. Microsoft is moving Windows 10 to a 'Windows as a service' model that means the operating system is regularly updated."