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How Developers Can Fight Creeping Mediocrity

July 29, 2015 - 8:33pm
Nerval's Lobster writes: As the Slashdot community well knows, chasing features has never worked out for any software company. "Once management decides that's where the company is going to live, it's pretty simple to start counting down to the moment that company will eventually die," software engineer Zachary Forrest y Salazar writes in a new posting. But how does any developer overcome the management and deadlines that drive a lot of development straight into mediocrity, if not outright ruination? He suggests a damn-the-torpedoes approach: "It's taking the code into your own hands, building or applying tools to help you ship faster, and prototyping ideas," whether or not you really have the internal support. But given the management issues and bureaucracy confronting many companies, is this approach feasible?

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Researchers Demonstrate the World's First White Lasers

July 29, 2015 - 5:59pm
An anonymous reader writes: Scientists and engineers at Arizona State University, in Tempe, have created the first lasers that can shine light over the full spectrum of visible colors. The device's inventors suggest the laser could find use in video displays, solid-state lighting, and a laser-based version of Wi-Fi. Although previous research has created red, blue, green and other lasers, each of these lasers usually only emitted one color of light. Creating a monolithic structure capable of emitting red, green, and blue all at once has proven difficult because it requires combining very different semiconductors. Growing such mismatched crystals right next to each other often results in fatal defects throughout each of these materials. But now scientists say they've overcome that problem. The heart of the new device is a sheet only nanometers thick made of a semiconducting alloy of zinc, cadmium, sulfur, and selenium. The sheet is divided into different segments. When excited with a pulse of light, the segments rich in cadmium and selenium gave off red light; those rich in cadmium and sulfur emitted green light; and those rich in zinc and sulfur glowed blue.

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Research: Industrial Networks Are Vulnerable To Devastating Cyberattacks

July 29, 2015 - 4:25pm
Patrick O'Neill writes: New research into Industrial Ethernet Switches reveals a wide host of vulnerabilities that leave critical infrastructure facilities open to attackers. Many of the vulnerabilities reveal fundamental weaknesses: Widespread use of default passwords, hardcoded encryption keys, a lack of proper authentication for firmware updates, a lack of encrypted connections, and more. Combined with a lack of network monitoring, researchers say the situation showcases "a massive lack of security awareness in the industrial control systems community."

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Beyond Safety: Is Robotic Surgery Sustainable?

July 29, 2015 - 3:42pm
Hallie Siegel writes: The release last week of the study on adverse events in robotic surgery led to much discussion on the safety and effectiveness of robotic surgical procedures. MIT Sloane's Matt Beane argues that while the hope is that this dialogue will mean safer and more effective robotic procedures in the future, the intense focus on safety and effectiveness has compromised training opportunities for new robotic surgeons, who require many hours of 'live' surgical practice time to develop their skills. Beane says that robotic surgery will likely continue to expand in proportion to other methods, given that it allows fewer surgeons to perform surgery with less trauma to the patient, but no matter how safe we make robotic surgical procedures, they will become a luxury available to a very few if we fail to address the sustainability of the practice.

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Obama's New Executive Order Says the US Must Build an Exascale Supercomputer

July 29, 2015 - 3:00pm
Jason Koebler writes: President Obama has signed an executive order authorizing a new supercomputing research initiative with the goal of creating the fastest supercomputers ever devised. The National Strategic Computing Initiative, or NSCI, will attempt to build the first ever exascale computer, 30 times faster than today's fastest supercomputer. Motherboard reports: "The initiative will primarily be a partnership between the Department of Energy, Department of Defense, and National Science Foundation, which will be designing supercomputers primarily for use by NASA, the FBI, the National Institutes of Health, the Department of Homeland Security, and NOAA. Each of those agencies will be allowed to provide input during the early stages of the development of these new computers."

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Nokia Announces OZO 360-Degree Camera For Filming Virtual Reality

July 29, 2015 - 2:17pm
New submitter Sepa Blackforesta writes: Nokia has unveiled Ozo, a next-generation camera for capturing audio and video in 360 degrees. It is built for professional content creators and the company hopes the camera will become the leading device for shooting virtual-reality experiences for Hollywood. A formal launch and price announcement is planned for the fall. A Nokia press release reads in part: "OZO captures stereoscopic 3D video through eight (8) synchronized global shutter sensors and spatial audio through eight (8) integrated microphones. Software built for OZO enables real-time 3D viewing, with an innovative playback solution that removes the need to pre-assemble a panoramic image - a time-consuming process with solutions currently in the marketplace. OZO's filmed content can be published for commercially available VR viewing hardware such as head mounted displays (HMDs), with immersive, full 360-degree imaging and spatially accurate original sound. OZO also integrates into existing professional workflows and works with third-party tools, dramatically simplifying content production at all stages."

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Genetically Modified Rice Makes More Food, Less Greenhouse Gas

July 29, 2015 - 1:34pm
Applehu Akbar writes: A team of researchers at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences has engineered a barley gene into rice, producing a variety that yields 50% more grain while producing 90% less of the powerful greenhouse gas methane. The new rice pulls off this trick by putting more of its energy into top growth. In countries which depend on rice as a staple, this would add up to a really large amount of increased rice and foregone methane.

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Replacing Silicon With Gallium Nitride In Chips Could Reduce Energy Use By 20%

July 29, 2015 - 12:51pm
Mickeycaskill writes: Cambridge Electronics Inc (CEI), formed of researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), claim semiconductors made of gallium nitride (GaN) could reduce the power consumption of data centers and consumer electronics by 20 percent by 2025. CEI has revealed a range of GaN transistors and power electronic circuits that have just one tenth of the resistance of silicon, resulting in much higher energy efficiency. The company claims to have overcome previous barriers to adoption such as safety concerns and expense through new manufacturing techniques. "Basically, we are fabricating our advanced GaN transistors and circuits in conventional silicon foundries, at the cost of silicon. The cost is the same, but the performance of the new devices is 100 times better," Cambridge Electronics researcher Bin Lu said.

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Microsoft Edge On Windows 10: the Browser That Will Finally Kill IE

July 29, 2015 - 12:08pm
An anonymous reader writes: Windows 10 launches today and with it comes a whole new browser, Microsoft Edge. You can still use Internet Explorer if you want, but it's not the default. IE turns 20 in less than a month, which is ancient in internet years, so it's not surprising that Microsoft is shoving it aside. Still, leaving behind IE and launching a new browser built from the ground up marks the end of an era for Microsoft. “Knowing that browsing is still one of the very top activities that people do on a PC, we knew there was an opportunity, and really an obligation, to push the web browsing experience and so that’s what we’ve done with Microsoft Edge," Drew DeBruyne, director of program management at Microsoft told VentureBeat.

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Tools Coming To Def Con For Hacking RFID Access Doors

July 29, 2015 - 11:26am
jfruh writes: Next month's Def Con security conference will feature, among other things, new tools that will help you hack into the RFID readers that secure doors in most office buildings. RFID cards have been built with more safeguards against cloning; these new tools will bypass that protection by simply hacking the readers themselves. ITWorld reports that Francis Brown, a partner at the computer security firm Bishop Fox, says: "...his aim is to make it easier for penetration testers to show how easy it is to clone employee badges, break into buildings and plant network backdoors—without needing an electrical engineering degree to decode the vagaries of near-field communication (NFC) and RFID systems."

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What Federal Employees Really Need To Worry About After the Chinese Hack

July 29, 2015 - 10:43am
HughPickens.com writes: Lisa Rein writes in the Washington Post that a new government review of what the Chinese hack of sensitive security clearance files of 21 million people means for national security is in — and some of the implications are quite grave. According to the Congressional Research Service, covert intelligence officers and their operations could be exposed and high-resolution fingerprints could be copied by criminals. Some suspect that the Chinese government may build a database of U.S. government employees that could help identify U.S. officials and their roles or that could help target individuals to gain access to additional systems or information. National security concerns include whether hackers could have obtained information that could help them identify clandestine and covert officers and operations (PDF). CRS says that if the fingerprints in the background investigation files are of high enough quality, "depending on whose hands the fingerprints come into, they could be used for criminal or counterintelligence purposes." Fingerprints also could be trafficked on the black market for profit — or used to blow the covers of spies and other covert and clandestine officers, the research service found. And if they're compromised, fingerprints can't be reissued like a new credit card, the report says, making "recovery from the breach more challenging for some." vivaoporto Also points out that these same hackers are believed to be responsible for hacking United Airlines.

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Interviews: Ask Richard Stallman a Question

July 29, 2015 - 10:00am
RMS founded the GNU Project, the Free Software Foundation, and remains one of the most important and outspoken advocates for software freedom. He now spends much of his time fighting excessive extension of copyright laws, digital restrictions management, and software patents. RMS has agreed to answer your questions about GNU/Linux, how GNU relates to Linux the kernel, free software, why he disagrees with the idea of open source, and other issues of public concern. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one question per post.

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Ask Slashdot: Why Is the Caps Lock Key Still So Prominent On Keyboards?

July 29, 2015 - 9:18am
Esther Schindler writes: The developers at .io are into tracking things, I guess. In any case, a few weeks back they decided to track team performance in terms of keyboard and mouse activity during the working day. They installed a simple Chrome plugin on every Macbook and collected some statistics. For instance, developers have fewer keypresses than editors and managers—around 4k every day. Managers type more than 23k characters per day. And so on. Some pretty neat statistics. But the piece that jumped out at me was this: "What's curious—the least popular keys are Capslock and Right Mouse Button. Somewhere around 0.1% of all keypresses together. It's time to make some changes to keyboards." I've been whining about this for years. Why is it that the least-used key on my keyboard is not just in a prominent position, but also bigger than most other keys? I can I invest in a real alternate keyboard with a different layout (my husband's a big fan of the Kinesis keyboards, initially to cope with carpal tunnel). But surely it's time to re-visit the standard key layout? What keys would you eliminate or re-arrange?

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Sprked Tries To Solve Valve's Paid Mods Scandal

July 29, 2015 - 8:36am
SlappingOysters writes: This article takes a closer look at the emerging crowdfunding platform Sprked, which aims to follow the Patreon support model, but exclusively for video game modders. The service is currently in its early stages, but by crafting a system of appreciation and support that acknowledges the loyalty of the modding community, Sprked has the potential to promote and foster the creativity that is so integral to modding, instead of hampering it with the murky baggage of a mandatory economy. Valve's attempt to let modders make some money for their efforts backfired within the community — there are four demons the paid mods plan must slay to actually work.

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Maliciously Crafted MKV Video Files Can Be Used To Crash Android Phones

July 29, 2015 - 7:55am
itwbennett writes: Just days after publication of a flaw in Android's Stagefright, which could allow attackers to compromise devices with a simple MMS message, researchers have found another Android media processing flaw. The latest vulnerability is located in Android's mediaserver component, more specifically in how the service handles files that use the Matroska video container (MKV), Trend Micro researchers said. "When the process opens a malformed MKV file, the service may crash (and with it, the rest of the operating system). The vulnerability is caused by an integer overflow when the mediaserver service parses an MKV file. It reads memory out of buffer or writes data to NULL address when parsing audio data."

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Kentucky Man Arrested After Shooting Down Drone

July 29, 2015 - 7:12am
McGruber writes: Hillview, Kentucky resident William H. Merideth describes his weekend: "Sunday afternoon, the kids – my girls – were out on the back deck, and the neighbors were out in their yard. And they come in and said, 'Dad, there's a drone out here, flying over everybody's yard.'" Merideth's neighbors saw it too. "It was just hovering above our house and it stayed for a few moments and then she finally waved and it took off," said neighbor Kim VanMeter. Merideth grabbed his shotgun and waited to see if the drone crossed over his property. When it did, he took aim and shot it out of the sky. The owners showed up shortly, and the police right after. He was arrested and charged with first degree criminal mischief and first degree wanton endangerment before being released the next day. Merideth says he will pursue legal action against the drone's owner, "He didn't just fly over. If he had been moving and just kept moving, that would have been one thing -- but when he come directly over our heads, and just hovered there, I felt like I had the right. You know, when you're in your own property, within a six-foot privacy fence, you have the expectation of privacy. We don't know if he was looking at the girls. We don't know if he was looking for something to steal. To me, it was the same as trespassing."

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Hacking a 'Smart' Sniper Rifle

July 29, 2015 - 6:30am
An anonymous reader writes: It was inevitable: as soon as we heard about computer-aimed rifles, we knew somebody would find a way to compromise their security. At the upcoming Black Hat security conference, researchers Runa Sandvik and Michael Auger will present their techniques for doing just that. "Their tricks can change variables in the scope's calculations that make the rifle inexplicably miss its target, permanently disable the scope's computer, or even prevent the gun from firing." In one demonstration they were able to tweak the rifle's ballistic calculations by making it think a piece of ammunition weighed 72 lbs instead of 0.4 ounces. After changing this value, the gun tried to automatically adjust for the weight, and shot significantly to the left. Fortunately, they couldn't find a way to make the gun fire without physically pulling the trigger.

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UrtheCast Releases Its First Commercial Videos of Earth

June 17, 2015 - 2:58pm
schwit1 writes: UrtheCast has released high resolution videos of three Earth cities taken from its camera on ISS. Take a look. The cameras are quite successful in capturing the motion of vehicles on highways and road, which is amazing considering the vibrations that ISS experiences merely from astronaut movements. Quartz reports: "The company plans to offer the imagery in several tiers, from a free video feed on its website to an API that will allow customers, including corporations, governments and individuals, to purchase imagery data from its database or make real-time requests for a look at a given spot on the earth. The cameras scan the ground under the ISS, which tracks the earth between about 51 degrees north and south latitude."

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FCC To Fine AT&T $100M For Throttling Unlimited Data Customers

June 17, 2015 - 2:13pm
New submitter Wargames writes: According to the article in the New York Times, AT&T is getting fined $100,000,000 for its doublespeak redefinition of the word "Unlimited". The FCC says AT&T failed to adequately notify its customers that they could receive speeds slower than the normal network speeds AT&T advertised and that these actions violated the FCC's 2010 Open Internet Order. “Unlimited means unlimited,” Travis LeBlanc, the F.C.C.’s chief of the enforcement bureau, said in a statement on Wednesday. “As today’s action demonstrates, the commission is committed to holding accountable those broadband providers who fail to be fully transparent about data limits.”

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Is Surespot the Latest Crypto War Victim?

June 17, 2015 - 1:31pm
George Maschke writes: Patrick G. Eddington writes in a Christian Science Monitor op-ed about indications that the government may be snooping on users of Surespot, a free and open source encrypted messaging app for Android and iOS. Such users include, but are hardly limited to, Islamic State militants. He writes in the piece: "Has encrypted chat service Surespot been compromised by the US government? Surespot user and former Army intelligence officer George Maschke recently published a provocative theory suggesting the answer is yes. Mr. Maschke’s key pieces of evidence are intriguing. In May 2014, he e-mailed 2Fours LLC, which is Surespot’s parent company, asking whether the company had ever received a National Security Letter (NSL), a court order to provide information, or other government request to cooperate in an investigation. He was assured in writing that 2Fours had received no such requests. That changed in November 2014, when Surespot’s founder, Adam Patacchiola, told Maschke via e-mail that 'we have received an e-mail asking us how to submit a subpoena to us which we haven’t received yet.'"

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