Transportation

Self-Driving Big Rigs Become a Reality 25

Posted by Soulskill
from the life-imitates-maximum-overdrive dept.
drinkypoo writes: We've been discussing the importance of automating over-the-road trucking here on Slashdot whenever self-driving vehicles come up in conversation. Jalopnik reports that the Freightliner "Inspiration Truck" will be the first autonomous commercial truck to drive on American roads. It's been given the green light to start testing its self-driving technology on the roads of Nevada. A human will be present at the wheel at all times, and will take control whenever the truck is in more populated areas. "Given a big trucks' long stopping distances and limited maneuverability, driving one requires the ability to correctly predict what's going to happen far out ahead. That requires foresight and intuition that are difficult to program into computers."
Government

Extreme Secrecy Eroding Support For Trans-Pacific Partnership 37

Posted by Soulskill
from the gee-that's-a-shame dept.
schwit1 writes with news that political support for the Trans-Pacific Partnership is drying up because of the secrecy involved in developing it. Members of Congress can read the bill if they want, but they need to be located in a single room within the basement of the Capitol Visitor Center, and they can't have their staff with them. They can't have a copy, they can't take notes, and they can only view one section at a time. And they're monitored while they read it. Unsurprisingly, this is souring many members of Congress on the controversial trade agreement.

"Administration aides say they can’t make the details public because the negotiations are still going on with multiple countries at once; if for example, Vietnam knew what the American bottom line was with Japan, that might drive them to change their own terms. Trade might not seem like a national security issue, they say, but it is (and foreign governments regularly try to hack their way in to American trade deliberations)."
Canada

Canadian Town Outlaws Online Insults To Police and Officials 66

Posted by Soulskill
from the because-canadians-are-so-rude dept.
Pig Hogger writes: The Canadian town of Granby, Québec, just strengthened its municipal bylaw that prohibits insulting police officers and town officials by extending its "jurisdiction" to online postings. Fines range from $100 to $1,000. The town's mayor said, "In my opinion, if I threaten you via my keyboard, it's as though I am making that threat right in front of you. For me, it's the same thing." Critics worry about the implications for freedom of speech, and wonder why police and officials should get protection an average citizen does not.
Transportation

Uber Forced Out of Kansas 111

Posted by Soulskill
from the click-your-heels dept.
mpicpp sends news that Uber has been forced to leave Kansas. The company says a bill pushed through the state legislature (SB117) makes it impossible for the company to operate there. The bill had been vetoed by Kansas governor Sam Brownback, but lawmakers secured enough votes to override it. "The measure requires drivers for ride-hailing companies to undergo background checks through the Kansas Bureau of Investigation and hold additional auto insurance coverage for the period in which they have turned on the mobile app that connects them to riders."
Space

As Hubble Breaks a Distance Record, We Learn Its True Limits 36

Posted by Soulskill
from the still-can't-find-my-sunglasses dept.
StartsWithABang writes: You might think that, when it comes to finding the most distant objects in the Universe, all we need is a good telescope, to leave the shutter open, and wait. As we accumulate more and more photons, we're bound to find the most distant, faint objects out there. Sure, Hubble just broke its own cosmic distance record, but it's certainly not the most distant. Thinking so misses an important fact: the Universe is expanding! And with that expansion, the wavelength of the light we can see gets redshifted. Ultraviolet light winds up in the infrared, infrared light winds up in the microwave, and the most distant galaxies that are out there are invisible, even to Hubble. Here are Hubble's limits, and how the James Webb Space Telescope will overcome them.
Privacy

French Version of 'Patriot Act' Becomes Law 123

Posted by Soulskill
from the privacy-surrenders dept.
Taco Cowboy writes: Thanks to the Charlie Hebdo massacre and other instances of terrorism, the French legislature has voted 438 to 86 in favor of the "Intelligence Service Bill," essentially a French version of the Patriot Act. It awards the French intelligence services sweeping powers to tap and intercept any kind of digital correspondence, including phone conversations, emails, and social media.

The bill decrees that hosting providers and Internet service providers in France must be equipped with a "black box" that can retain all digital communications from customers. "The new law would create a 13-member National Commission to Control Intelligence Techniques, which would be made up of six magistrates from the Council of State and the Court of Appeals, three representatives of the National Assembly, three senators from the upper house of Parliament and a technical expert. ... The only judicial oversight is a provision that allows the commission to lodge a complaint with the Council of State, but lawyers are doubtful that it could be convened on a routine basis." We previously discussed news that ISPs may leave France in protest if the bill was passed. Now we'll know shortly if those ISPs will live up to their word.
United Kingdom

Visualizations of Rebel Alliances In the UK Government 25

Posted by Soulskill
from the you-are-a-member-of-the-house-of-commons-and-a-traitor dept.
An anonymous reader writes: I just published an article and thought it might be of interest to Slashdot readers. It's about a collection visualizations I created based on public voting data from The Public Whip project, which collects and normalizes voting data from the UK House of Commons. The visualizations show relationships between MPs, with a focus on agreement rates, and more interestingly — rebellion.
Earth

The World's Most Wasteful Megacity 107

Posted by Soulskill
from the it's-new-york dept.
merbs writes: The world's most wasteful megacity is a densely populated, steadily aging, consumerist utopia where we buy, and throw away, a staggering amount of stuff (abstract). Where some faucet, toilet, or pipe, is constantly leaking in our apartments. Where an armada of commerce-beckoning lights are always on. Where a fleet of gas-guzzling cars still clog the roadways. I, along with my twenty million or so neighbors, help New York City use more energy, suck down more water, and spew out more solid waste than any other mega-metropolitan area.
Science

Mysterious Sounds Recorded During Near Space Balloon Flight 48

Posted by Soulskill
from the can-you-hear-me-now dept.
An anonymous reader writes: LiveScience reports on strange sounds recorded by microphones on board a high altitude balloon. The sounds were captured at altitudes of up to 36 kilometers, higher than any such experiment to date. Most of the noises are in Infrasound frequencies — below 20 Hz. Researchers aren't sure what caused the noises, but they have a few theories: "a wind farm under the balloon's flight path, crashing ocean waves, wind turbulence, gravity waves, clear air turbulence, and vibrations caused by the balloon cable."
Network

The Ambitions and Challenges of Mesh Networks and the Local Internet Movement 45

Posted by Soulskill
from the net-positives-and-net-negatives dept.
Lashdots writes: Two artists in New York are hatching a plan to teach kids about the internet by building their own. They'll be creating a small, decentralized network, similar to a mesh network, to access other computers, and they'll be developing their own simple social network to communicate with other people. It's part of a growing movement to supplement the Internet with resilient, local alternatives. "And yet, while the decentralized, ad hoc network architecture appeals philosophically to tech-savvy users fed up with monopolistic ISPs, nobody’s found a way to make mesh networks work easily and efficiently enough to replace home Internet connections. Built more for resiliency than for speed, each participating router must continuously search for the best paths to far-flung machines. For now, that makes them of limited interest to many ordinary consumers who simply want to check their email and watch movies."
Security

Cyberlock Lawyers Threaten Security Researcher Over Vulnerability Disclosure 64

Posted by Soulskill
from the what-year-is-this dept.
qubezz writes: Security researcher Phar (Mike Davis/IOActive) gave his 30 days of disclosure notice to Cyberlock (apparently a company that makes electronic lock cylinders) that he would release a public advisory on vulnerabilities he found with the company's security devices. On day 29, their lawyers responded with a request to refrain, feigning ignorance of the previous notice, and invoking mention of the DMCA (this is not actually a DMCA takedown notice, as the law firm is attempting to suppress initial disclosure through legal wrangling). Mike's blog states: "The previous DMCA threats are from a company called Cyberlock, I had planned to do a fun little blog post (cause i ... hate blog posts) on the fun of how I obtained one, extracted the firmware bypassing the code protection and figured out its "encryption" and did various other fun things a lock shouldn't do for what its marketed as.. But before I could write that post I needed to let them know what issues we have deemed weaknesses in their gear.. the below axe grinderery is the results. (sic)" What should researchers do when companies make baseless legal threats to maintain their security-through-obscurity? Related: Bitcoin exchange company Coinbase has been accused of spying on a dark net researcher.
Space

SpaceX Testing Passenger Escape System Tomorrow 50

Posted by Soulskill
from the coming-home-safely dept.
An anonymous reader writes: On Wednesday, SpaceX will be performing the first test of a prototype for its passenger capsule escape system. Most rockets have a launch abort system that will save the lives of its crew within the first few minutes of launch, but not beyond a relatively low altitude. SpaceX is designing the new system to be able to return astronauts safely whether they're close to the ground or near orbit.

The Dragon capsule will fire eight SuperDraco thrusters, capable of producing 120,000 lbs of axial thrust between them in under a second. With that amount of thrust, the capsule can get half a kilometer away from a failing rocket in under 5 seconds. SpaceX will have 270 sensors aboard the prototype, including a crash test dummy. The main mission goals include: determining the best sequencing for the launch abort timeline, getting all eight thrusters to fire in unison, and seeing how an aborted launch affects both the inside of the capsule and the area around it. The test is planned to start at 7 a.m. EDT (11:00 UTC), but they have a 7.5-hour window if there are minor delays.
Cellphones

Police Can Obtain Cellphone Location Records Without a Warrant 178

Posted by Soulskill
from the your-data-is-our-data dept.
mi writes: A new ruling from the 11th Circuit Court of Appeals found by a margin of 9-2 that law enforcement does not need to get a warrant to grab your cell phone's location records. The justices ruled that there is no expectation of privacy for your location when you're using a cell phone. This decision (PDF) was based on a case in which a man was convicted of robbery after months of location data was given to authorities by his cell phone carrier, MetroPCS. Police got the information using a court order, rather than a warrant, because there were less stringent requirements involved. One of the judges wrote: "We find no reason to conclude that cellphone users lack facts about the functions of cell towers or about telephone providers' recording cell tower usage."
Businesses

Report: Microsoft Considering Salesforce Acquisition 43

Posted by Soulskill
from the go-big-or-go-home dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Bloomberg reports that Microsoft is considering making a bid for CRM and cloud software company Salesforce, after hearing that Salesforce was entertaining an offer from another company. No talks are underway, but Salesforce has started working with investment banks to figure out how it wants to respond to such offers. Salesforce has a market value of about $50 billion, so any sort of acquisition would be a huge business deal.
Android

Google Can't Ignore the Android Update Problem Any Longer 310

Posted by Soulskill
from the i-bet-they-can dept.
An anonymous reader writes: An editorial at Tom's Hardware makes the case that Google's Android fragmentation problem has gotten too big to ignore any longer. Android 5.0 Lollipop and its successor 5.1 have seen very low adoption rates — 9.0% and 0.7% respectively. Almost 40% of users are still on KitKat. 6% lag far behind on Gingerbread and Froyo. The article points out that even Microsoft is now making efforts to both streamline Windows upgrades and adapt Android (and iOS) apps to run on Windows.

If Google doesn't adapt, "it risks having users (slowly but surely) switch to more secure platforms that do give them updates in a timely manner. And if users want those platforms, OEMs will have no choice but to switch to them too, leaving Google with less and less Android adoption." The author also says OEMs and carriers can no longer be trusted to handle operating system updates, because they've proven themselves quite incapable of doing so in a reasonable manner.
Classic Games (Games)

GOG Announces Open Beta For New Game Distribution Platform 97

Posted by Soulskill
from the taking-advantage-of-valve's-stumble dept.
New submitter Donaithnen writes: Like many geeks, I'm against the idea of DRM in general and have championed GOG.com's DRM-free approach to selling games online. Yet like many geeks, I've also often succumbed to the temptation of Steam because of the convenience of tracking, installing, and playing my PC game purchases through the launcher (not to mention the compulsion of collecting achievements, and watching the total playtime for my favorite games (to my occasional dismay). Now, GOG has announced the open beta for GOG Galaxy, an entirely optional launcher to allow those who want (and only those who want) to have all the same features when playing GOG games.
Intel

Intel Launches Xeon E7-8800 and E7-4800 V3 Processor Families 42

Posted by Soulskill
from the xeonward-and-upward dept.
MojoKid writes: Intel is taking the wraps off of its latest processors for enterprise server and pro workstation applications today, dubbed the Xeon E7-8800 / 4800 v3. Like its high-end desktop processors, the Xeon E7-8800 / 4800 v3 product families are based on the Haswell-EX CPU core. These new Xeons, however, offer a plethora of other enhancements and are packing significantly more cores than any current desktop processor. The highest-end Xeon E7-8800 series processors, for example, are 18 core chips. Previous generation Xeon E7 v2 processors were based on the Ivy Bridge-EX core, while the new E7 v3 parts are based on Haswell-EX, though both are manufactured on Intel's 22nm process node. Next generation Broadwell-EX based Xeons will make the move to 14nm. Xeon E7-8800 / 4800 v3 series processors have 32-lanes of PCIe 3.0 connectivity per socket, TSX is enabled in all SKUs, they offer support for both DDR3 and DDR4 memory (though, not simultaneously), and can address up to 6TB of memory in a 4-socket configuration or 12TB in an 8-socket setup. Intel has also goosed the chip's QPI interface speeds to 9.6GT/s.
Robotics

Mark and Joel Make Autonomous Drones in Their Spare Time (Video) 16

Posted by Roblimo
from the when-a-drone-hits-your-eye-like-a-big-pizza-pie-that's-a-lawsuit dept.
Mark F. Brown and Joel Rozenweig build autonomous drones; that is, drones that don't need an operator every second. You tell the autonomous drone, "Pick up package # 941A at the loading dock and deliver it to 451 Bradbury St.' and off it goes. It's going to be a while yet before that happens, but one day....

Back in the present, dronemaking is still a hobby for Mark and Joel, something they do for fun after spending their workdays as software engineers at Intel. Joel says there is 'remarkably little' crossover between their jobs and their hobby, and that (so far) Intel has contributed little beyond some Edison modules (which you can buy for less than $50) and travel to the Embedded Linux Conference, where they gave a talk accompanied by these slides. NOTE: We have a little bonus for you today. We try to keep videos to 10 minutes or less, but we have no such constraints on transcript length. So if you want the 'full' version of this interview, please read the transcript.
Mars

Opportunity Rover Reaches Martian Day 4,000 of Its 90-Day Mission 120

Posted by Soulskill
from the awesome-engineers-doing-awesome-work dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Let's take a moment to appreciate the incredible engineering, scientific, and planning skill that went into the construction and deployment of the Opportunity rover. It landed on Mars with the goal of surviving 90 sols (Martian days), and it has just logged its 4,000th sol of harvesting valuable data and sending it back to us. The Planetary Society blog has posted a detailed update on Opportunity's status, and its team's plans for the future. The rover's hardware, though incredibly resilient, is wearing down. They reformatted its flash drive to block off a corrupted sector, and that solved some software problems that had cropped up. They're currently trying to figure out why the rover unexpectedly rebooted itself. Those events are incredibly dangerous to the rover's survival, so their highest priority right now is diagnosing that issue.

Fortunately, weather on Mars is good where the rover is, and it's still able to harvest upwards of 500 Watt-hours of energy from its solar panels. Opportunity recently completed a marathon on Mars and took an impressive picture of the Spirit of St. Louis crater, and the rover will soon be on its way to enormous clay deposits that could provide valuable information about where we can look for water when we eventually put people on Mars. As always, you can look through Opportunity's images at the official website.
Portables

Ask Slashdot: Most Chromebook-Like Unofficial ChromeOS Experience? 80

Posted by Soulskill
from the get-your-company-to-pay-for-it-wink-wink dept.
An anonymous reader writes: I am interested in Chromebooks, for the reasons that Google successfully pushes them: my carry-around laptops serve mostly as terminals, rather than CPU-heavy workhorses, and for the most part the whole reason I'm on my computer is to do something that requires a network connection anyhow. My email is Gmail, and without particularly endorsing any one element, I've moved a lot of things to online services like DropBox. (Some offline capabilities are nice, but since actual Chromebooks have been slowly gaining offline stuff, and theoretically will gain a lot more of that, soon, I no longer worry much about a machine being "useless" if the upstream connection happens to be broken or absent. It would just be useless in the same way my conventional desktop machine would be.) I have some decent but not high-end laptops (Core i3, 2GB-4GB of RAM) that I'd enjoy repurposing as Chromebooks without pedigree: they'd fall somewhat short of the high-end Pixel, but at no out-of-pocket expense for me unless I spring for some cheap SSDs, which I might.

So: how would you go about making a Chromebook-like laptop? Yes, I could just install any Linux distro, and then restrain myself from installing most apps other than a browser and a few utilities, but that's not quite the same; ChromeOS is nicely polished, and very pared down; it also seems to do well with low-memory systems (lots of the current models have just 2GB, which brings many Linux distros to a disk-swapping crawl), and starts up nicely quick.

It looks like the most "authentic" thing would be to dive into building Chromium OS (which looks like a fun hobby), but I'd like to find something more like Cr OS — only Cr OS hasn't been updated in quite a while. Perhaps some other browser-centric pared-down Linux would work as well. How would you build a system? And should I go ahead and order some low-end 16GB SSDs, which I now see from online vendors for less than $25?