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Build

When Nerds Do BBQ 83 83

Rick Zeman writes: On this 4th of July, the day when Americans flock to their grills and smokers, Wired has a fascinating article on a computerized smoker designed by Harvard engineering students. They say, "In prototype form, the smoker looks like a combination of a giant pepper mill, a tandoori oven, and V.I.N.CENT from The Black Hole. It weighs 300 pounds. It has a refueling chute built into the side of it. And it uses a proportional-integral-derivative controller, a Raspberry Pi, and fans to regulate its own temperature, automatically producing an ideal slow-and-low burn."

After cooking >200 lbs of brisket while fine-tuning the design, the students concluded, "Old-school pitmasters are like, 'I cook mine in a garbage can,' and there's a point of pride in that. A lot of the cutting edge is when you take an art form and drag it back onto scientific turf and turn it into an algorithm. I don't think we've diluted the artistic component with this."
The Almighty Buck

Ask Slashdot: How Much Did Your Biggest Tech Mistake Cost? 282 282

NotQuiteReal writes: What is the most expensive piece of hardware you broke (I fried a $2500 disk drive once, back when 400MB was $2500) or what software bug did you let slip that caused damage? (No comment on the details — but about $20K cost to a client.) Did you lose your job over it? If you worked on the Mars probe that crashed, please try not to be the First Post, that would scare off too many people!
ISS

Russian Cargo Ship Successfully Makes Orbit, Will Supply ISS 48 48

An anonymous reader writes: Early this morning, a Russian Soyuz rocket successfully launched from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan. The rocket carried a Progress capsule containing 2,700kg of supplies for the International Space Station. It's a much-needed victory after a series of launch failures that saw ISS resupply missions from Orbital ATK, Russia, and SpaceX end in failure. "The station, a joint project involving 15 nations which is staffed by a crew of six astronauts and cosmonauts, currently has a four-month supply of food and water, NASA said. The arrival of the Russian cargo ship, and the planned launch of a Japanese HTV freighter in August, should replenish the station's pantries through the end of the year, NASA said. Friday's successful launch clears the way for three new crew members to fly to the station later this month."
Businesses

MasterCard To Approve Online Payments Using Your Selfies 73 73

An anonymous reader writes: MasterCard is experimenting with a new program: approving online purchases with a facial scan. Once you’re done shopping online, instead of a password, the service will require you to snap a photo of your face, so you won’t have to worry about remembering a password. The Stack reports: "MasterCard will be joining forces with tech leaders Apple, BlackBerry, Google, Samsung and Microsoft as well as two major banks to help make the feature a reality. Currently the international group uses a SecureCode solution which requires a password from its customers at checkout. The system was used across 3 billion transactions last year, the company said. It is now exploring biometric alternatives to protect against unauthorized payment card transactions. Customers trialling the new technologies are required to download the MasterCard app onto their smart device. At checkout two authorization steps will be taken; fingerprint recognition and facial identification using the device's camera. The system will check for blinking to avoid criminals simply holding a photograph up to the lens."
Games

The Plan To Bring Analytics To eSports 69 69

An anonymous reader writes: We're used to seeing instant replays, halftime analysis and in depth analytics in traditional sports, but now they're coming to eSports too. A new start-up, Dojo Madness, is hoping to bring the same techniques to games like League of Legends and Dota, in the hopes players can learn from their mistakes in a game when shown them. In a new interview, founder and former Electronic Sports League boss Jens Hilgers reveals that the company's main product, Dota training and replay site Bruce.GG, will use machine learning to teach itself what are good and bad plays — and he hopes to bring the tech to other games, like Counter-Strike, too. "The feedback of the users watching these videos, these input points, are allowing us to determine the relevancy of what we have done and the system will learn from that and get smarter," he says.
Encryption

Cameron Asserts UK Gov't Will Leave No "Safe Space" For Private Communications 254 254

An anonymous reader writes with the story from Ars Technica that UK prime minister David Cameron "has re-iterated that the UK government does not intend to 'leave a safe space — a new means of communication — for terrorists to communicate with each other.'" That statement came Monday, as a response to Conservative MP David Bellingham, "who asked [Cameron, on the floor of the House of Commons] whether he agreed that the 'time has come for companies such as Google, Facebook and Twitter to accept and understand that their current privacy policies are completely unsustainable?' To which Cameron replied: 'we must look at all the new media being produced and ensure that, in every case, we are able, in extremis and on the signature of a warrant, to get to the bottom of what is going on.'" This sounds like the UK government is declaring a blustery war on encryption, and it might not need too much war: some companies can be persuaded (or would be eager) to cooperate with the government in handing over all kinds of information. However, the bluster part may leave even the fiercest surveillance mostly show: as Ars writer Glyn Moody asks, what about circumstances "where companies can't hand over keys, or where there is no company involved, as with GnuPG, the open source implementation of the OpenPGP encryption system?" Or Tor?
Movies

"Jobs" vs. "Steve Jobs": Hollywood Takes Another Stab At Telling the Steve Jobs Story 246 246

theodp writes: Didn't like Jobs, the 2013 biopic about the life of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs starring Ashton Kutcher? Maybe you'll prefer Steve Jobs, the 2015 biopic about the life of Apple co-founder Steve Jobs starring Michael Fassbender. "Steve Jobs is a tech visionary, total dick," writes Esquire's Matt Patches in his mini-review of the just-released Steve Jobs trailer. So, is inspiring kids to become the "Next Steve Jobs" a good or bad thing?
Crime

San Francisco Fiber Optic Cable Cutter Strikes Again 197 197

HughPickens.com writes: USA Today reports that the FBI is investigating at least 11 physical attacks on high-capacity Internet cables in California's San Francisco Bay Area dating back to at least July 6, 2014, including one early this week. "When it affects multiple companies and cities, it does become disturbing," says Special Agent Greg Wuthrich. "We definitely need the public's assistance." The pattern of attacks raises serious questions about the glaring vulnerability of critical Internet infrastructure, says JJ Thompson. "When it's situations that are scattered all in one geography, that raises the possibility that they are testing out capabilities, response times and impact," says Thompson. "That is a security person's nightmare."

Mark Peterson, a spokesman for Internet provider Wave Broadband, says an unspecified number of Sacramento-area customers were knocked offline by the latest attack. Peterson characterized the Tuesday attack as "coordinated" and said the company was working with Level 3 and Zayo to restore service. It's possible the vandals were dressed as telecommunications workers to avoid arousing suspicion, say FBI officials. Backup systems help cushion consumers from the worst of the attacks, meaning people may notice slower email or videos not playing, but may not have service completely disrupted. But repairs are costly and penalties are not stiff enough to deter would-be vandals. "There are flags and signs indicating to somebody who wants to do damage: This is where it is folks," says Richard Doherty. "It's a terrible social crime that affects thousands and millions of people."
Businesses

Exploring the Relationships Between Tech Skills (Visualization) 64 64

Nerval's Lobster writes: Simon Hughes, Dice's Chief Data Scientist, has put together an experimental visualization that explores how tech skills relate to one another. In the visualization, every circle or node represents a particular skill; colors designate communities that coalesce around skills. Try clicking "Java", for example, and notice how many other skills accompany it (a high-degree node, as graph theory would call it). As a popular skill, it appears to be present in many communities: Big Data, Oracle Database, System Administration, Automation/Testing, and (of course) Web and Software Development. You may or may not agree with some relationships, but keep in mind, it was all generated in an automatic way by computer code, untouched by a human. Building it started with Gephi, an open-source network analysis and visualization software package, by importing a pair-wise comma-separated list of skills and their similarity scores (as Simon describes in his article) and running a number of analyses: Force Atlas layout to draw a force-directed graph, Avg. Path Length to calculate the Betweenness Centrality that determines the size of a node, and finally Modularity to detect communities of skills (again, color-coded in the visualization). The graph was then exported as an XML graph file (GEXF) and converted to JSON format with two sets of elements: Nodes and Links. "We would love to hear your feedback and questions," Simon says.
Transportation

Meet the Makers of an Exotic (Partially) 3-D Printed Car (2 Videos) 25 25

Last month, in a story headlined 3D Printed Supercar Chassis Unveiled, we promised video interviews with builders Kevin and Brad "in the near future." Here they are. First, we have Kevin Czinger, Founder & CEO of Divergent Microfactories. He says the way we build cars is more important from an environmental standpoint than how we fuel them, and that the way we make cars now is a lot less efficient and a lot more expensive than it needs to be. Divergent's first demo vehicle, the Blade, is a tandem-seating 700 HP supercar its makers say does 0 - 60 in 2.5 seconds. Price? No word yet, but it's safe to assume "plenty" might be an accurate guess.

In the second video, Blade project lead Brad Balzer goes into detail about how, why, and where they use 3-D printing, and explains the modular nature of their car chassis design. He says they don't need to change many parts to go from ultra-sports car to pickup truck. He also says that while Divergent Microfactories is working on cars right now, their manufacturing system can be applied to many different industries. Indeed, their long-range goal is to help people build microfactories making many different kinds of products faster, more flexibly, and for less money than it takes to make similar manufactured items today.

Note: The transcript covers both videos and has a little 'bonus' material in it, too.
Hardware Hacking

Celebrating Workarounds, Kludges, and Hacks 145 145

itwbennett writes: We all have some favorite workarounds that right a perceived wrong (like getting around the Wall Street Journal paywall) or make something work the way we think it ought to. From turning off annoying features in your Prius to getting around sanctions in Crimea and convincing your Android phone you're somewhere you're not, workarounds are a point of pride, showing off our ingenuity and resourcefulness. And sometimes artful workarounds can even keep businesses operating in times of crisis. Take, for example, the Sony employees, who, in the wake of the Great Hack of 2014 when the company's servers went down, dug out old company BlackBerrys that, while they had been abandoned, had never had their plans deactivated. Because BlackBerrys used RIM's email servers instead of Sony's, they could still communicate with one another, and employees with BlackBerrys became the company's lifeline as it slowly put itself back together. What hacks and workarounds keep your life sane?
Security

Stanford Starts the 'Secure Internet of Things Project' 76 76

An anonymous reader writes: The internet-of-things is here to stay. Lots of people now have smart lights, smart thermostats, smart appliances, smart fire detectors, and other internet-connect gadgets installed in their houses. The security of those devices has been an obvious and predictable problem since day one. Manufacturers can't be bothered to provide updates to $500 smartphones more than a couple years after they're released; how long do you think they'll be worried about security updates for a $50 thermostat? Security researchers have been vocal about this, and they've found lots of vulnerabilities and exploits before hackers have had a chance to. But the manufacturers have responded in the wrong way.

Instead of developing a more robust approach to device security, they've simply thrown encryption at everything. This makes it temporarily harder for malicious hackers to have their way with the devices, but also shuts out consumers and white-hat researchers from knowing what the devices are doing. Stanford, Berkeley, and the University of Michigan have now started the Secure Internet of Things Project, which aims to promote security and transparency for IoT devices. They hope to unite regulators, researchers, and manufacturers to ensure nascent internet-connected tech is developed in a way that respects customer privacy and choice.
Transportation

Study Suggests That HUD Tech May Actually Reduce Driving Safety 195 195

Zothecula writes: Having a heads-up display constantly feed you information while cruising down the road may make you feel like a jet pilot ready to avoid any potential danger but recent findings suggest otherwise. Studies done at the University of Toronto show that the HUD multi-tasking method of driving a vehicle is dangerous. "Drivers need to divide their attention to deal with this added visual information," said Department of Psychology professor Ian Spence, who led the research. "Not only will drivers have to concentrate on what’s happening on the road around them as they’ve always done, they’ll also have to attend to whatever warning pops up on the windshield in front of them."
Crime

Uber France Leaders Arrested For Running Illegal Taxi Company 328 328

An anonymous reader writes: Two Uber executives were arrested by French authorities for running an illegal taxi company and concealing illegal documents. This is not the first time Uber has run into trouble in France. Recently, taxi drivers started a nation-wide protest, blocking access to Roissy airport and the nation's interior minister issued a ban on UberPop. A statement from an Uber spokesperson to TechCrunch reads: "Our CEO for France and General Manager for Western Europe were invited to a police hearing this afternoon; following this interview, they were taken into custody. We are always available to answer all the questions on our service, and available to the authorities to solve any problem that could come up. Talks are in progress. In the meantime, we keep working in order to make sure that both our customers and drivers are safe following last week’s turmoils."