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Updated: 11 hours 46 min ago

Dilution of Whisky -- the Molecular Perspective

Thu, 08/17/2017 - 12:40pm
From a new published paper in Scientific Report by Bjorn C. G. Karlsson and Ran Friedman: Despite the growing knowledge of the nature of water-alcohol mixtures on a molecular level, much less is known on the interaction of water, alcohol and small solutes. In particular, the nature of the interaction between the solvent and taste-carrying molecules, such as guaiacol, is not known. To address this gap, we used MD simulations to study the distribution of guaiacol in water-alcohol mixtures of different concentrations. Our simulations revealed that guaiacol is present at the air-liquid interface at ethanol concentrations that correspond to the alcohol content of bottled or diluted whiskies. Because the drink is consumed at the interface first, our findings help to understand why adding water to whisky helps to enhance its taste. A molecular understanding of the nature of taste compounds in water-alcohol mixtures allows for optimizing the taste of alcoholic spirits. [...] Overall, there is a fine balance between diluting the whisky to taste and diluting the whisky to waste.

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We Print 50 Trillion Pages a Year, and Xerox Is Betting That Continues

Thu, 08/17/2017 - 12:24pm
An anonymous reader shares a report: For most of its 111-year history, Xerox has been known as one of the tech industry's most innovative companies. Now the legendary copier company is reinventing itself. In January, Xerox made the bold decision to split itself into two, spinning off its business services operations into a separate company called Conduent. And Jeffrey Jacobson, a Xerox tech executive, was tapped as Xerox's new CEO. Speaking with Fortune's Susie Gharib, Jacobson says Xerox is still "one of the top patent producing companies in the world" and he's counting on that scientific expertise to pivot the company to be a leader in digital print technology. "If I look at the things we're looking at with the Internet of things, artificial intelligence and bridging the digital and physical," he says, "that's what I think we'll be known for."

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Chatbot Helps Students Choose Courses

Thu, 08/17/2017 - 12:00pm
An anonymous reader shares a report: Leeds Beckett University has launched a chatbot to help prospective students find the right course. It follows the publication of A-level results in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. Using Facebook Messenger's chatbot technology, students would be able to "assess their suitability" for different courses, the university said. But if they would prefer to speak to a human, "phone lines will continue to be open throughout the clearing process." The university's head of digital experience and engagement, Dougal Scaife, said: "We know that our prospective students already use lots of messaging software for communicating with their friends, such as Snapchat, WhatsApp, as well as texting, so developing a chatbot was a natural evolution in order to engage with our prospective students in a medium that is ubiquitous, familiar, and comfortable for them."

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Unpatchable 'Flaw' Affects Most of Today's Modern Cars

Thu, 08/17/2017 - 11:20am
Catalin Cimpanu, writing for BleepingComputer: A flaw buried deep in the hearts of all modern cars allows an attacker with local or even remote access to a vehicle to shut down various components, including safety systems such as airbags, brakes, parking sensors, and others. The vulnerability affects the CAN (Controller Area Network) protocol that's deployed in modern cars and used to manage communications between a vehicle's internal components. The flaw was discovered by a collaborative effort of Politecnico di Milano, Linklayer Labs, and Trend Micro's Forward-looking Threat Research (FTR) team. Researchers say this flaw is not a vulnerability in the classic meaning of the word. This is because the flaw is more of a CAN standard design choice that makes it unpatchable.

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Bitcoin Is Forking. Again.

Thu, 08/17/2017 - 10:40am
Merely weeks after it was announced that Bitcoin was splitting into two separate entities, the initial version of bitcoin and it's new "bitcoin cash," the network is adding a third version, according to a report. From the article: On Wednesday, a group of bitcoiners scheduled yet another split for the network in November, which would create a third version of bitcoin. So, what makes this version different from the others? Right now, the bitcoin network can sometimes take a long time to process transactions due to so many people using it. This is because the "blocks" of transaction data that get added to bitcoin's public ledger, the blockchain, are getting full. In the weeks preceding the fork, bitcoin coalesced around a solution called "segregated witness," which will change how data is stored in blocks to free up some space when it kicks in later in August. But the size of the blocks themselves will stay at one megabyte on the original bitcoin blockchain. Still, some bitcoiners maintained that the only way to speed bitcoin up for the foreseeable future was to increase the size of blocks themselves. So, a group of bitcoin companies and developers got together and launched a fork called bitcoin cash, which does not include segregated witness. It bumped the size of blocks up to a maximum of eight megabytes. That fork was widely anticipated to be a failure before it happened, but at the time of writing, bitcoin cash is trading above $300 USD per coin, which is comparable to cryptocurrencies like ethereum. Sounds like everyone got what they wanted, right? Oh, no. There's a third group of bitcoin developers, companies, and users who advocate for a "best of both worlds approach." This group includes Bitmain, the largest bitcoin infrastructure company in the world, and legendary bitcoin developer Jeff Garzik. They got together back in May and signed what is known as the "New York Agreement," which bound them to implement a two megabyte block size increase alongside segregated witness via a hard fork within six months of the time of signing. They call the fork Segwit2x. Now, that's exactly what's happening. According to an announcement posted to the Segwit2x GitHub repository, a bitcoin block between one and two megabytes will be created at block 494,784.

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In Defense of the Popular Framework Electron

Thu, 08/17/2017 - 10:00am
Electron, a popular framework that allows developers to write code once and seamlessly deploy it across multiple platforms, has been a topic of conversation lately among developers and users alike. Many have criticised Electron-powered apps to be "too memory intensive." A developer, who admittedly uses a high-end computer, shares his perspective: I can speak for myself when I say Electron runs like a dream. On a typical day, I'll have about three Atom windows open, a multi-team Slack up and running, as well as actively using and debugging my own Electron-based app Standard Notes. [...] So, how does it feel to run this bloat train of death every day? Well, it feels like nothing. I don't notice it. My laptop doesn't get hot. I don't hear the fan. I experience no lags in any application. [...] But aside from how it makes end-users feel, there is an arguably more important perspective to be had: how it makes software companies feel. For context, the project I work in is an open-source cross-platform notes app that's available on most platforms, including web, Mac, Windows, Linux, iOS, and Android. All the desktop applications are based off the main web codebase, and are bundled using Electron, while the iOS and Android app use their own native codebases respectively, one in Swift and the other in Kotlin. And as a new company without a lot of resources, this setup has just barely allowed us to enter the marketplace. Three codebases is two too many codebases to maintain. Every time we make a change, we have to make it in three different places, violating the most sacred tenet of computer science of keeping it DRY. As a one-person team deploying on all these platforms, even the most minor change will take at minimum three development days, one for each codebase. This includes debugging, fixing, testing, bundling, deploying, and distributing every single codebase. This is by no means an easy task.

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A 2:15 Alarm, 2 Trains and a Bus Get Her To Work by 7 AM

Thu, 08/17/2017 - 9:20am
From a report on The New York Times: Sheila James starts her Monday, and the workweek, at 2:15 a.m. This might be normal for a baker or a morning radio host, but Ms. James is a standard American office worker. She is 62 and makes $81,000 a year as a public health adviser for the United States Department of Health and Human Services in San Francisco. Her early start comes because San Francisco is one of the country's most expensive metropolitan areas. Ms. James lives about 80 miles away in Stockton, which has cheaper homes but requires her to commute on two trains and a bus, leaving at 4 a.m. Plenty of office workers get up at 5 a.m. or a bit before, but 2:15 is highly unusual. "Two-fifteen is early enough that some people are still having their evening," she said on a (very) early morning. But she likes to take her time and have coffee. She keeps the lights low and the house quiet and Zen-like. "I just can't rush like that," she said. When the second alarm goes off at 3:45 -- a reminder to leave for the train in 15 minutes -- her morning shifts from leisure to precision. It is a seven-minute drive to the station, where she catches the Altamont Corridor Express train.

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New MH370 Analysis Again Suggests Plane Came Down Outside Search Area

Thu, 08/17/2017 - 8:40am
An anonymous reader shares a report: New analysis of images thought to depict wreckage from missing Malaysian Airlines flight MH 370 suggest the Boeing 777 came down to the north of the area searched during efforts to find the plane. A new document [PDF] released yesterday by Geoscience Australia (GA) detailed analysis of four images captured by the PLEIADES 1A Earth-imaging satellite on March 23rd, 2014, not long after the March 8th disappearance of the plane. The images were provided to GA by the French Ministry of Defence. The images depict an area to the north and east of the area searched by underwater survey, and in-between areas where search and rescue operations were conducted in the wake of the plane's disappearance. The image displays the areas covered by underwater survey in yellow and the search and rescue zones in red. Extensive manual analysis of the images -- there was not enough data to use machine learning -- yielded a dozen objects that researchers were happy to classify as "probably not natural." Several of those objects were clustered in the northern parts of the areas depicted in the photos. The document is at pains to point out that it is not possible to identify the objects as airplane debris. The new analysis referred back to drift pattern analysis made on debris known to have come from MH370 and released in December 2016. That analysis suggested the search area be extended by 25,000km2. More detailed drift analysis released in April 2017 also called for a new search to the north, as did a July talk by scientists from Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation.

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China Cracks Down on VPN Vendors

Thu, 08/17/2017 - 8:00am
An anonymous reader shares a BBC report: China's latest crackdown on those attempting to skirt state censorship controls has seen it warn e-commerce platforms over the sale of illegal virtual private networks (VPNs). Five websites, including shopping giant Alibaba, have been asked to remove vendors that sell VPNs. It is the latest in a series of measures from the Chinese government to maintain strict control over content. Apple has previously been asked to remove VPN apps. China's cyber-regulator the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC) has ordered the websites to carry out immediate "self-examination and correction." "The CAC has ordered these five sites to immediately carry out a comprehensive clean-up of harmful information, close corresponding illegal account.. and submit a rectification report by a deadline," the regulator said in a statement.

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Why Does Hollywood Remain Out of Step With the Body-Positive Movement?

Wed, 08/16/2017 - 5:25pm
According to a report from The New York Times, Hollywood continues to praise average-sized actresses in knockout roles and then reduce them to bit parts about physical weight. Slashdot reader cdreimer shares an excerpt from the report: The first thing Danielle Macdonald did at the Cannes Film Festival in May was break into a cold sweat: The airline had lost her luggage. She was already nervous enough. Ms. Macdonald, 26, had been plucked from obscurity to play the lead role in "Patti Cake$," a drama about a rapper that was about to face the Cannes critics. Now she had to find something glamorous to wear -- pronto -- to the premiere. "As a bigger girl," Ms. Macdonald told me recently, "where was I meant to find something that would fit?" Her story then veered in an unexpected direction -- revealing her approach to Hollywood, which expects its lead actresses to be scarily skinny. "I gave myself a pep talk," she said. "This situation is what it is. Find a way to work around it." The red carpet crisis was resolved (another "Patti Cake$" star, Cathy Moriarty, lent her a black dress), but if the experiences of countless actresses before Ms. Macdonald are any indication, it will not be as easy to overcome the career obstacles that await her post-"Patti Cake$." For women -- less so for men -- weight is perhaps the most stubborn of the entertainment industry's many biases. Have an average-sized body? Call us when you've starved yourself. In particular, Ms. Macdonald must avoid a cycle that plays out over and over in moviedom, one that some film agents coarsely call the fat flavor of the moment. A plus-size actress, almost always an unknown, lands the central role in a film and delivers a knockout performance. She is held up by producers and the entertainment news media as refreshing, long overdue evidence that Hollywood's insistence on microscopic waistlines is ending. And then she is slowly but surely pushed into bit parts, many of which are defined by weight.

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'Surkus' App Pays Users To Line Up Outside New Restaurants

Wed, 08/16/2017 - 4:45pm
A new app called Surkus allows restaurants to manufacture their ideal crowd and pay people to stand in place like extras on a movie set. The app reportedly uses "an algorithmic casting agent of sorts" to hand-pick people according to age, location, style and Facebook "likes." All of this is done to create the illusion that a restaurant is busy and worthy of your hard-earned money. Chicago Tribune reports: They may look excited, but that could also be part of the production. Acting disengaged while they idle in line could tarnish their "reputation score," an identifier that influences whether they'll be "cast" again. Nobody is forcing the participants to stay, of course, but if they leave, they won't be paid -- their movements are being tracked with geolocation. Welcome to the new world of "crowdcasting." Surkus raises new questions about the future of advertising and promotion. At a time when it has become commonplace for individuals to broadcast polished versions of their lives on social media, does Surkus give businesses a formidable tool to do the same, renting beautiful people and blending them with advertising in a way that makes reality nearly indiscernible? Or have marketers found a new tool that offers them a far more efficient way to link brands with potential customers, allowing individuals to turn themselves into living extensions of the share economy using a structured, mutually beneficial transaction? The answer depends on whom you ask.

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Essential Phone Will Ship Next Week, Shortly After Breaking $1 Billion Valuation

Wed, 08/16/2017 - 4:05pm
New submitter cloud.pt writes: Andy Rubin's Essential Phone will be released next week according to 9to5Google, just shy from its initial June mark. The company has been speculated to be worth around $1.2 billion, after giant Foxconn filed yesterday for a 0.25% acquisition at around $3 million -- clearing unicorn status as it hasn't shipped a single unit at the time. According to Engadget, future and existing pre-orders will have a chance to switch to the Pure White version of the slab, despite initial shipments being scheduled to be of the Black Moon variety. Essential's storefront orders will get the device unlocked, while the only parties offering the device will initially be Sprint. Rumor has it Amazon plans to sell the device as it invested in the company through its Alexa fund. No matter the contract attached, it will come with the full range of network capabilities unlocked.

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Roku Gets Tough On Pirate Channels, Warns Users

Wed, 08/16/2017 - 3:20pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from TorrentFreak: Earlier this year Roku was harshly confronted with this new piracy crackdown when a Mexican court ordered local retailers to take its media player off the shelves. While this legal battle isn't over yet, it was clear to Roku that misuse of its platform wasn't without consequences. While Roku never permitted any infringing content, it appears that the company has recently made some adjustments to better deal with the problem, or at least clarify its stance. Pirate content generally doesn't show up in the official Roku Channel Store but is directly loaded onto the device through third-party "private" channels. A few weeks ago, Roku renamed these "private" channels to "non-certified" channels, while making it very clear that copyright infringement is not allowed. A "WARNING!" message that pops up during the installation of these third-party channels stresses that Roku has no control over the content. In addition, the company notes that these channels may be removed if it links to copyright infringing content. "By continuing, you acknowledge you are accessing a non-certified channel that may include content that is offensive or inappropriate for some audiences," Roku's warning reads. "Moreover, if Roku determines that this channel violates copyright, contains illegal content, or otherwise violates Roku's terms and conditions, then ROKU MAY REMOVE THIS CHANNEL WITHOUT PRIOR NOTICE."

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Australian Scientists Figure Out How Zinc-Air Batteries Can Replace Lithium-Ion Batteries

Wed, 08/16/2017 - 2:40pm
Researchers at the University of Sydney has figured out how to solve one of the biggest problems standing in the way for zinc-air batteries to replace lithium-ion batteries. The reason zinc batteries are so sought after is because they're powered by zinc metal -- the 24th most abundant element in Earth's crust. Not only are they cheaper to produce than lithium-ion batteries, they can theoretically store five times more energy, are much safer and environmentally friendly. The problem with zinc batteries stems around them being difficult to charge because of the lack of electrocatalysts needed to reduce and generate oxygen during the discharging and charging of a battery. labnet shares a report from Gizmodo: "Up until now, rechargeable zinc-air batteries have been made with expensive precious metal catalysts, such as platinum and iridium oxide. In contrast, our method produces a family of new high-performance and low-cost catalysts." These new catalysts are produced through the simultaneous control of the composition, size and crystallinity of metal oxides of earth-abundant elements like iron, cobalt and nickel. They can then be applied to build rechargeable zinc-air batteries. Researcher Dr Li Wei, also from the University's Faculty of Engineering and Information Technologies, said trials of zinc-air batteries developed with the new catalysts had demonstrated "excellent rechargeability" -- including less than a 10 percent battery efficacy drop over 60 discharging/charging cycles of 120 hours. The research was published in the journal Advanced Materials.

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Cloudflare Stops Supporting Neo-Nazi Site The Daily Stormer

Wed, 08/16/2017 - 2:03pm
Timothy B. Lee reports via Ars Technica: All week, the infamous hate site Daily Stormer has been battling to stay online in the face of a concerted social media campaign to shut it down. The site lost its "dailystormer.com" domain on Monday after first GoDaddy and then Google Domains blacklisted it from their domain registration services. The site re-appeared online on Wednesday morning at a new domain name, dailystormer.ru. But within hours, the site had gone offline again after it was dropped by Cloudflare, an intermediary that defends customers against denial-of-service attacks. Daily Stormer's Andrew Anglin reported Cloudflare's decision to drop the site in a post on the social media site Gab. His post was first spotted by journalist Matthew Sheffield.

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YouTube Has An Illegal TV Streaming Problem

Wed, 08/16/2017 - 1:20pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Mashable: Most people turn to Netflix to binge watch full seasons of a single TV show, but there could be a much cheaper way: YouTube. You might be surprised to learn that you can watch full episodes of popular TV shows on YouTube for free, thanks to a large number of rogue accounts that are hosting illegal live streams of shows. Perhaps the most shocking thing about these free (and very illegal) TV live streams might even make their way into your suggested video queue, if you watch enough "random shit" and Bobby Hill quote compilations on the site, as Mashable business editor Jason Abbruzzese recently experienced. He first noticed the surprisingly high number of illegal TV streaming accounts on his YouTube homepage, which has tailored recommended videos based on his viewing habits. Personalized recommendations aren't exactly new -- but the number of illegal live streams broadcasting copyrighted material on a loop was a shocker. When we looked deeper into the livestreams, the number we found was mindblowing. Many of these accounts appear to exist solely to give watchers an endless loop of their favorite shows and only have a few other posts related to the live streamed content. "YouTube respects the rights of copyright holders and we've invested heavily in copyright and content management tools to give rights holders control of their content on YouTube," a YouTube spokesperson told Mashable in an email. "When copyright holders work with us to provide reference files for their content, we ensure all live broadcasts are scanned for third party content, and we either pause or terminate streams when we find matches to third party content."

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Email Provider ProtonMail Says It Hacked Back, Then Walks Claim Back

Wed, 08/16/2017 - 12:40pm
An anonymous reader shares a report: On Wednesday, encrypted email provider ProtonMail claimed it had hacked someone who was impersonating its service in phishing emails, and the company then swiftly deleted the tweet. Early Wednesday morning, the security researcher known as x0rz tweeted out a series of screenshots allegedly showing someone sending emails that directed targets to a fake ProtonMail login screen. "You have an overdue invoice," the message read. In response, ProtonMail said it had taken action. "We also hacked the phishing site so the link is down now," ProtonMail tweeted. Depending on the context and what exactly the retaliating organization did, hacking back can be illegal. Hacking could violate the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, or perhaps even wiretapping legislation. A recently proposed bill would attempt to legalize the practice. ProtonMail swiftly deleted its tweet, but not before x0rz could grab and subsequently tweet a screenshot. x0rz then deleted his own tweet at the request of ProtonMail.

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Shipping Company Maersk Says June Cyberattack Could Cost It Up To $300 Million

Wed, 08/16/2017 - 12:03pm
An anonymous reader shares an article: Container shipping company A.P. Moller Maersk on Tuesday said it expects that computer issues triggered by the NotPetya cyberattack will cost the company as much as $300 million in lost revenue. "In the last week of the [second] quarter we were hit by a cyber-attack, which mainly impacted Maersk Line, APM Terminals and Damco," Maersk CEO Soren Skou said in a statement. "Business volumes were negatively affected for a couple of weeks in July and as a consequence, our Q3 results will be impacted. We expect that the cyber-attack will impact results negatively by USD 200-300m." Maersk Line was able to take bookings from existing customers two days after the attack, and things gradually got back to normal over the following week, the company said. It said it did not lose third-party data as a result of the attack.

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After Losing Support, Trump's Business and Manufacturing Councils Are Shutting Down

Wed, 08/16/2017 - 11:20am
Over a dozen anonymous readers share a similar report: Two White House advisory councils that once included tech leaders like Elon Musk and Travis Kalanick have dissolved, after several members resigned over President Donald Trump's weak condemnation of white supremacists. A member of the Strategic and Policy Forum told CNBC that it wanted to make a "more significant impact" by disbanding the entire group: "It makes a central point that it's not going to go forward. It's done." Soon after, Trump took credit for shutting down both that group and a separate Manufacturing Council, "rather than putting pressure on the businesspeople." The councils' members came from a range of industries, including several major Silicon Valley companies. Besides Musk and Kalanick, executives from Intel, IBM, and Dell had joined. It's been controversial from the start -- Musk and Kalanick both left months ago -- but a major exodus started this week, after Trump issued a vague statement blaming "many sides" for violence at a white supremacist rally that left one woman dead. Intel CEO Brian Krzanich resigned on Monday, saying that politics had "sidelined the important mission of rebuilding America's manufacturing base." Axios has more details.

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The Docx Games: Three Days At the Microsoft Office World Championship

Wed, 08/16/2017 - 10:40am
An anonymous reader shares a report: On a Sunday night two weeks back, in the Rose Court Garden of the Disneyland Hotel in Anaheim, California, 150 antsy competitors between the ages of 13 and 22 milled around eating miniature whoopie pies by the light of the Moon, sizing up their global rivals in the efficient use of Excel, PowerPoint, and Word. It was as if the Olympics opening ceremony was replaced by a networking event: teens were decked out in national T-shirts, while others handed out business cards specially made for the event. At one table off by the bar, two chaperones nudged their folding chairs closer together and taught each other how to say hello ("Yassas," "Ciao") in their respective mother tongues. In the distance, through the palms, the tiki torches of Trader Sam's, the hotel's poolside lounge, were flickering into the black sky. This marked the first night of the 16th Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS) World Championship, in which teens and young 20-somethings compete for the title of World Champion in their chosen professional application. It's an event put on annually by Certiport, a Utah-based subsidiary of standardized testing giant Pearson VUE. It's also a marketing stunt, pure and simple, devised to promote Certiport's line of Microsoft Office certifications. This allows the certified to confirm the line on their resume that claims "proficiency in MS Office" is backed up by some solid knowledge of deep formatting and presentation design.

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