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Turning an Arduino Project Into a Prototype

Sun, 05/17/2015 - 3:30am
An anonymous reader writes: Those of us who fiddle with electronics are probably familiar with this scenario: you've just finished assembling a project using your Arduino/Raspberry Pi/whatever, and it works! You'd like to set it up for long-term use, but... it's just a mass of wires and LEDs and switches. Alexis Matelin has written up a brief but handy guide for turning that mess into a self-contained prototype. He goes from planning out your circuit to designing your schematic to making your board, then working on an enclosure and a battery holder. Matelin also links to a variety of resources for the individual steps involved. It's a straightforward guide written for amateurs. Those of you who have experience with building permanent micro-controller projects: what would you add?

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KDE Plasma 5 Becomes the Default Desktop of OpenSUSE Tumbleweed

Sun, 05/17/2015 - 1:20am
sfcrazy writes: Jos Poortliet, former openSUSE community manager, wrote in a blog post, "At the time of writing this, the openQA servers were busily running tests and, by the time we publish this article, they should be done. What was being tested? A massive amount of changes, bringing not only the latest Plasma 5.3 and Applications 15.04.1 to Tumbleweed, but also marking the switch to Plasma 5 as the default desktop!" The switch to P5 will also have a massive impact in Plasma 5 development because now there will be more users finding bugs and filing reports to make it even better.

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How Windows 10 Performs On a 12-inch MacBook

Sat, 05/16/2015 - 10:17pm
An anonymous reader writes: As Microsoft prepares for the launch of Windows 10, review sites have been performing all sorts of benchmarks on the tech preview to evaluate how well the operating system will run. But now a computer science student named Alex King has made the most logical performance evaluation of all: testing Windows 10's performance on a 2015 MacBook. He says, "Here's the real kicker: it's fast. It's smooth. It renders at 60FPS unless you have a lot going on. It's unequivocally better than performance on OS X, further leading me to believe that Apple really needs to overhaul how animations are done. Even when I turn Transparency off in OS X, Mission Control isn't completely smooth. Here, even after some Aero Glass transparency has been added in, everything is smooth. It's remarkable, and it makes me believe in the 12-inch MacBook more than ever before. So maybe it's ironic that in some regards, the new MacBook runs Windows 10 (a prerelease version, at that) better than it runs OS X."

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GCHQ Officials Given Immunity From Hacking Charges

Sat, 05/16/2015 - 7:10pm
An anonymous reader writes with news that members of British intelligence agency GCHQ have been granted immunity from prosecution for any laws they might have violated while hacking into citizens' computers or cellphones. The immunity was granted by changes to the Computer Misuse Act that weren't noticed until now, and not discussed or debated when implemented. While different legislation has long been thought to grant permission for illegal activities abroad, civil rights groups were unaware that domestic hacking activities were covered now as well. The legislative changes were passed on March 3rd, 2015, long after domestic spying became a hot-button issue, and almost a year after Privacy International and several ISPs filed complaints challenging it.

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Harvard Hit With Racial Bias Complaint

Sat, 05/16/2015 - 4:01pm
An anonymous reader writes: A coalition of 64 organizations filed a complaint against Harvard on Friday alleging the university discriminates against Asian-American applicants hoping to attend classes there. "Many studies have indicated that Harvard University has been engaged in systemic and continuous discrimination against Asian-Americans during its very subjective 'Holistic' college admissions process." One such study shows Asian-Americans had to score an average of 140 points higher than white students on their SAT test to have an equal chance of getting in. The complaint seeks a federal investigation and demands Harvard "immediately cease and desist from using stereotypes, racial biases and other discriminatory means in evaluating Asian-American applicants."

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Ask Slashdot: Best Payloads For Asteroid Diverter/Killer Mission?

Sat, 05/16/2015 - 2:59pm
TheRealHocusLocus writes: The Emergency Asteroid Defence Project has launched a crowdfunded IndieGoGo campaign to help produce a set of working blueprints for a two-stage HAIV, or Hypervelocity Asteroid Intercept Vehicle. This HAIV paper (PDF) describes the use of a leading kinetic impactor to make a crater — a following nuclear warhead would detonate in the crater for maximum energy transfer. The plans would be available for philanthropists to bring to prototype stage, while your friendly local nuclear weapon state supplies the warhead. This may be a best-fit solution. But just ask Morgan Freeman: these strategies could fail. What — if any — backup strategy could be integrated into an HAIV mission as a fail-safe in case the primary fails? Here is a review of strategies (some fanciful, few deployable) if we have to divert an asteroid with very short lead time. A gentle landing on the object may not be feasible, and we must rely on things that push hard or go boom. For example: detonating nearby to ablate surface materials and create recoil in the direction we wish to nudge. Also, with multiple warheads and precise timing, would it be possible to create a "shaped" nuclear explosion in space?

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FBI Alleges Security Researcher Tampered With a Plane's Flight Control Systems

Sat, 05/16/2015 - 1:54pm
Salo2112 writes with a followup to a story from April in which a security researcher was pulled off a plane by FBI agents seemingly over a tweet referencing a security weakness in one of the plane's systems. At the time, the FBI insisted he had actually tampered with core systems on an earlier flight, and now we have details. The FBI's search warrant application (PDF) alleges that the researcher, Chris Roberts, not only hacked the in-flight entertainment system, but also accessed the Thrust Management Computer and issued a climb command. "He stated that he thereby caused one of the airplane engines to climb resulting in a lateral or sideways movement of the plane during one of these flights. He also stated that he used Vortex software after comprising/exploiting or ‘hacking’ the airplane’s networks. He used the software to monitor traffic from the cockpit system." Roberts says the FBI has presented his statements out of their proper context.

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Report: Google To Add 'Buy' Buttons To Mobile Search Results

Sat, 05/16/2015 - 12:52pm
An anonymous reader writes: According to a (paywalled) report in the Wall Street Journal, Google is stepping up its efforts to take some of the online marketspace away from Amazon and eBay. Soon, the company will start showing "buy" buttons alongside sponsored search results on mobile devices. So, for example, if you search for a particular pair of pants, and one of the top sponsored results is from Macy's, then Macy's can pay Google to slap a big "buy" button right there that will take you directly to a product page where you can pick sizes and shipping options before checking out. Google won't be selling the products, but they will be hosting the product pages — "a major and potentially risky strategy shift that will turn the company into more of an online transactional business, rather than simply a provider of links to information elsewhere on the Internet." The report says Google will be trying to streamline the purchasing process by taking the payment from the customer and then passing it on to the retailer, so users only need to input their credit card details once.

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Wind Turbines With No Blades

Sat, 05/16/2015 - 11:52am
An anonymous reader writes: Wired has a profile of Spanish company Vortex Bladeless and their unusual new wind turbine tech. "Their idea is the Vortex, a bladeless wind turbine that looks like a giant rolled joint shooting into the sky. The Vortex has the same goals as conventional wind turbines: To turn breezes into kinetic energy that can be used as electricity." Instead of relying on wind to push a propeller in a circular motion, these turbines rely on vorticity — how wind can strike an object in a particular way to generate spinning vortices of air. Engineers usually try to avoid this — it's what brought down the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. But this Spanish company designed the turbine computationally to have the vortices occur at the same time along its entire height. "In its current prototype, the elongated cone is made from a composite of fiberglass and carbon fiber, which allows the mast to vibrate as much as possible (an increase in mass reduces natural frequency). At the base of the cone are two rings of repelling magnets, which act as a sort of nonelectrical motor. When the cone oscillates one way, the repelling magnets pull it in the other direction, like a slight nudge to boost the mast's movement regardless of wind speed. This kinetic energy is then converted into electricity via an alternator that multiplies the frequency of the mast's oscillation to improve the energy-gathering efficiency."

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In-Database R Coming To SQL Server 2016

Sat, 05/16/2015 - 10:49am
theodp writes: Wondering what kind of things Microsoft might do with its purchase of Revolution Analytics? Over at the Revolutions blog, David Smith announces that in-database R is coming to SQL Server 2016. "With this update," Smith writes, "data scientists will no longer need to extract data from SQL server via ODBC to analyze it with R. Instead, you will be able to take your R code to the data, where it will be run inside a sandbox process within SQL Server itself. This eliminates the time and storage required to move the data, and gives you all the power of R and CRAN packages to apply to your database." It'll no doubt intrigue Data Scientist types, but the devil's in the final details, which Microsoft was still cagey about when it talked-the-not-exactly-glitch-free-talk (starts @57:00) earlier this month at Ignite. So, brush up your R, kids, and you can see how Microsoft walks the in-database-walk when SQL Server 2016 public preview rolls out this summer.

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The Economic Consequences of Self-Driving Trucks

Sat, 05/16/2015 - 9:48am
An anonymous reader writes: Last week we learned that self-driving big-rig trucks were finally being deployed on public roads in Nevada for testing purposes. Experts consider trucking to be ripe for replacement with AI because of the sheer volume of trucks on the road, and the relative simplicity of their routes. But the eventual replacement of truck drivers with autonomous driving systems will have a huge impact on the U.S. economy: there are 3.5 million professional truck drivers, and millions more are employed to support and coordinate them. Yet more people rely on truckers to stay in business — gas stations, motels, and restaurants along trucking routes, to name a few. Now, that's not to say moving forward with autonomous driving is a bad idea — in 2012, roughly 4,000 people died in accidents with large trucks, and almost all of the accidents were caused by driver error. Saving most of those lives (and countless injuries) is important. But we need to start thinking about how to handle the 10 million people looking for work when the (human) trucking industry falls off a cliff. It's likely we'll see another wave of ghost towns spread across the poor parts of the country, as happened when the interstate highway system changed how long-range transportation worked in the U.S.

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On the Taxonomy of Sci-Fi Spaceships

Sat, 05/16/2015 - 8:40am
An anonymous reader writes: Jeff Venancio has done some research that's perfect reading for a lazy Saturday afternoon: figuring out a coherent taxonomy for sci-fi spaceships. If you're a sci-fi fan, you've doubtless heard or read references to a particular starship's "class" fairly often. There are flagships and capital ships, cruisers and corvettes, battleships and destroyers. But what does that all mean? Well, there's not always consistency, but a lot of it comes from Earth's naval history. "The word 'corvette' comes from the Dutch word corf, which means 'small ship,' and indeed corvettes are historically the smallest class of rated warship (a rating system used by the British Royal Navy in the sailing age, basically referring to the amount of men/guns on the vessel and its relative size; corvettes were of the sixth and smallest rate). ... They were usually used for escorting convoys and patrolling waters, especially in places where larger ships would be unnecessary." Venancio takes the historical context for each ship type and then explains how it's been adapted for a sci-context. "Corvettes might be outfitted to have some sort of stealth or cloaking system for reconnaissance or spec ops missions; naturally it would be easier to cloak a smaller ship than a larger one (though plenty of examples of large stealth ships exist). In some series they are likely to be diplomatic vessels due to their small size and speed, particularly seen in Star Wars, and can commonly act as blockade runners (again; their small size and speed makes them ideal for slipping through a blockade, where a larger ship presents more of a target)."

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Microsoft Confirms It Won't Offer Free Windows 10 Upgrades To Pirates

Sat, 05/16/2015 - 7:35am
An anonymous reader writes: If it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. All that talk about pirates getting free Windows 10 upgrades? Not happening. For genuine users, the free upgrade to Windows 10 means receiving "ongoing Windows innovation and security updates for free, for the supported lifetime of that device." Terry Myerson, Microsoft's executive vice president of operating systems, has clarified the company's plans were not changing for non-genuine users: "Microsoft and our OEM partners know that many consumers are unwitting victims of piracy, and with Windows 10, we would like all of our customers to move forward with us together. While our free offer to upgrade to Windows 10 will not apply to Non-Genuine Windows devices, and as we've always done, we will continue to offer Windows 10 to customers running devices in a Non-Genuine state."

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MAME Changing License To Fully Libre One

Sat, 05/16/2015 - 6:31am
jones_supa writes: The source code of MAME (Multiple Arcade Machine Emulator) has long been freely available, but it's never been completely libre. Instead, it's been available under a modified BSD license that prohibits, among other things, commercial use of the code. MAME engineer Miodrag Milanovic explains that such a license was put in place to deter "misuse of MAME in illegal ways," but it also kept legitimate commercial entities doing business with the software. Examples of such could be museums that charge entry fees from using MAME in their exhibits, or copyright holders rereleasing vintage games encapsulated inside MAME. Now the project wants to go fully open. Milanovic continues: "Our aim is to help legal license owners in distributing their games based on MAME platform, and to make MAME become a learning tool for developers working on development boards." As of yet, there are no specific details about the new license.

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Russian Rocket Crashes In Siberia

Sat, 05/16/2015 - 5:28am
An anonymous reader writes: A Russian Proton-M rocket carrying a Mexican satellite broke down shortly after launch and crashed in Siberia. Russian space agency Roscosmos is investigating the incident, but the cause is not yet known. In the video, the rocket appeared to sputter and stop providing thrust when the third-stage engine unexpectedly switched off. Communications were lost with the rocket before that happened. This comes just a couple weeks after Russia experienced another high profile rocket failure when its cargo ship bound for the International Space Station failed to reach a high enough orbit and began spinning out of control. Russia's Proton family of rockets has been in use since the 1960s, though the current Proton-M incarnation was first flown in 2001.

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Linino-Enabled Arduino Yun Shrinks In Size and Cost

Sat, 05/16/2015 - 4:26am
DeviceGuru writes: Arduino announced a smaller, cheaper Arduino Yun Mini version of the Arduino Yun SBC at the Bay Area Maker Faire [Friday]. The $60 Arduino Yun Mini SBC sacrifices a number of interfaces in order to reduce size, and gives the OpenWRT Linux based Linino distribution, which is also used by the original Yun, more control over the board's functions. Arduino also announced a new community web portal called my.arduino.org, plus an open source Arduino IDE-alpha development system that is entirely based on JavaScript, which will be available there by the end of the month.

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Canadian Prime Minister To Music Lobby: Here's Your Copyright Term Extension

Sat, 05/16/2015 - 3:18am
An anonymous reader writes: The Canadian government's decision to extend the term of copyright for sound recordings in the budget may have taken most copyright observers by surprise, but not the music industry. The extension will reduce competition, increase costs for consumers, and harm access to Canadian Heritage, but apparently all it took was a letter from the music industry lobby to the Prime Minister of Canada. Michael Geist reports on a letter sent by Prime Minister Stephen Harper to the music lobby on the day the change was announced confirming that industry lobbying convinced him to extend the term of copyright without any public consultation or discussion.

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European Telecoms May Block Mobile Ads, Spelling Trouble For Google

Sat, 05/16/2015 - 1:19am
Mark Wilson has news that may have a big impact on both advertisers and end-users who use their phones as portals to ad-supported websites. Several European telecom providers are apparently planning to use ad-blocking software at the data-center level, which would mean benefit for users (in the form of less obnoxious advertising, and less data being eaten by it) but quite a pickle for online advertisers, and sites that rely on advertising revenue. From BetaNews's article (based on this Financial Times article, paywalled): Talking to the Financial Times, one wireless carrier said that the software had been installed at its data centers and could be enabled by the end of the year. With the potential to automatically block most ads on web pages and within apps, the repercussion of the ad boycott could be huge as mobile providers try to wrestle control from the likes of Google. I just wish my mobile provider would start testing this out, too.

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How MMO Design Has Improved Bar Trivia

Fri, 05/15/2015 - 10:34pm
Polygon.com features a look at how (very) different computer game worlds can meet, in the form of game designer Ralph Koster's Kitchen Disasters-style rescue effort to revive a game quite unlike the ones he's famous for designing, like Ultima Online. Bar-trivia provider Buzztime has been putting electronic trivia games into bars for three decades -- and in that time, the number of options available to potential players has jumped. Bar trivia has crept into the domain of things like vinyl-based juke-boxes: not without appeal, but not exactly modern. Koster has tried to apply modern game design paradigms and objectives, and revamped the game: Koster's Jackpot Trivia is now being introduced in a few hundred locations. Buzztime operates in around 4,000 bars and restaurants, but already the new addition has increased game usage by 15 percent. Much of the improvements came from Koster's experiences of making and playing MMOs, and on the MMO's influence on all games. "These days, a lot of the qualities of MMOs are popping up on everything from social media to systems that sit outside and on top of games, like everything around Xbox Live and Steam," he says. The re-vamp means, for Buzztime, better matching of opponents, as part of an overall redesign of incentives and risks: players have also gotten finer-grained control over their plays, by being able to assign weight to their answers: that means they can guess with less penalty when answers are tough, or take advantage of confidence in knowledge about a category in which they're strong.

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