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Biofeedback Games and The Placebo Effect

Wed, 07/16/2014 - 6:09pm
vrml writes In medicine, it is well-known that sugar pills sometimes produce the same effects as real drugs (Placebo Effect). But could that happen with computers too? The first scientific study of the Placebo Effect in computing, just published by the International Journal of Human-Computer Studies , gives an affirmative answer. The experiment considered affective computing, that is those fancy applications that claim to know user's emotions by detecting physiological parameters with sensors. Researchers took two well-known affective computing systems and used them to control in real-time the state of an avatar that looked more and more nervous as users' stress level increased, and more and more relaxed as it decreased. But they also considered a third system in which, unbeknown to users, the sensors were disconnected from the computer and the avatar state was controlled by a random stream of physiological data instead of the real user's data. Results show that participants believed that the sham application was able to display their stress level. Even worse, only one of the two (costly) affective computing systems produced better results than the placebo. This suggests that evaluations of such novel computer applications should include also a placebo condition, as it is routinely done in medicine but not yet in computer science.

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Sony Forgets To Pay For Domain, Hilarity Ensues

Wed, 07/16/2014 - 3:54pm
First time accepted submitter Dragoness Eclectic writes Early Tuesday, gamers woke up to find out that they couldn't log in to any Sony Online Entertainment games--no Everquest, no Planetside 2, none of them. Oddly, the forums where company reps might have posted some explanation weren't reachable, either. A bit of journalistic investigation by EQ2Wire came across the explanation: SOE forgot to renew the domain registration on SonyOnline.net, the hidden domain that holds all their nameservers. After 7 weeks of non-payment post-expiration, NetworkSolutions reclaimed the domain, sending all access to Sony's games into an internet black hole. Sony has since paid up. SOE's president, John Smedley, has admitted that the expiration notices were being sent to an "unread email" address.

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FreeBSD 9.3 Released

Wed, 07/16/2014 - 3:25pm
First time accepted submitter k4w0ru writes "The FreeBSD Release Engineering Team is pleased to announce the availability of FreeBSD 9.3-RELEASE. This is the fourth release of the stable/9 branch, which improves on the stability of FreeBSD 9.2-RELEASE and introduces some new features. Some of the highlights: ZFS bookmarks, OpenSSL 0.9.8za, OpenSSH 6.6p1, SNI, BIND 9.9.5. For a complete list of new features and known problems, please see the online release notes and errata list.

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Canadian ISP On Disclosing Subscriber Info: Come Back With a Warrant

Wed, 07/16/2014 - 3:07pm
An anonymous reader writes "Canadian ISP Rogers has updated its privacy policy to reflect last month's Supreme Court of Canada Spencer decision. That decision ruled that there was a reasonable expectation of privacy in subscriber information. Canada's largest cable ISP will now require a warrant for law enforcement access to basic subscriber information, a policy that effectively kills the Canadian government's efforts to expand the disclosures through voluntary means."

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Sexual Harassment Is Common In Scientific Fieldwork

Wed, 07/16/2014 - 2:23pm
sciencehabit writes: Universities and other workplaces have codes of conduct guarding against sexual harassment. But what about the more casual venue of scientific fieldwork—which is also a workplace? A new survey finds that sexual harassment and assaults occur frequently in the field, with little consequence for the perpetrators or explicit prohibitions against such conduct. The study reveals that the primary targets were young women who were harassed, assaulted, and even raped by men who were usually senior to them in rank, although men also reported harassment.

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Why the FCC Is Likely To Ignore Net Neutrality Comments and Listen To ISPs

Wed, 07/16/2014 - 1:41pm
Jason Koebler writes: Time and time again, federal agencies like the FCC ignore what the public says it wants and side with the parties actually being regulated — the ISPs, in this case. Research and past example prove that there's not much that can be considered democratic about the public comment period or its aftermath. "Typically, there are a score or so of lengthy comments that include extensive data, analysis, and arguments. Courts require agencies to respond to comments of that type, and they sometimes persuade an agency to take an action that differs from its proposal," Richard Pierce, a George Washington University regulatory law professor said. "Those comments invariably come from companies with hundreds of millions or billions of dollars at stake or the lawyers and trade associations that represent them. Those are the only comments that have any chance of persuading an agency."

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Two Big Dark Matter Experiments Gain US Support

Wed, 07/16/2014 - 1:01pm
Graculus writes: The Department of Energy and the National Science Foundation announced on Friday that they will try to fund two major experiments to detect particles of the mysterious dark matter whose gravity binds the galaxies instead of just one. The decision allays fears that the funding agencies could afford only one experiment to continue the search for so-called weakly interacting massive particles, or WIMPs.

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LibreSSL PRNG Vulnerability Patched

Wed, 07/16/2014 - 12:37pm
msm1267 writes: The OpenBSD project late last night rushed out a patch for a vulnerability in the LibreSSL pseudo random number generator (PRNG). The flaw was disclosed two days ago by the founder of secure backup company Opsmate, Andrew Ayer, who said the vulnerability was a "catastrophic failure of the PRNG." OpenBSD founder Theo de Raadt and developer Bob Beck, however, countered saying that the issue is "overblown" because Ayer's test program is unrealistic. Ayer's test program, when linked to LibreSSL and made two different calls to the PRNG, returned the exact same data both times. "It is actually only a problem with the author's contrived test program," Beck said. "While it's a real issue, it's actually a fairly minor one, because real applications don't work the way the author describes, both because the PID (process identification number) issue would be very difficult to have become a real issue in real software, and nobody writes real software with OpenSSL the way the author has set this test up in the article."

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Apple Agrees To $450 Million Ebook Antitrust Settlement

Wed, 07/16/2014 - 12:19pm
An anonymous reader writes: Last year, a U.S. District Judge ruled that Apple conspired with publishers to control ebook prices in violation of antitrust laws. Apple launched an appeal which has yet to conclude, but they've now agreed to a settlement. If the appeal verdict goes against Apple, they will be on the hook for $450 million, most of which will go to consumers. If they win the appeal, they'll still have to pay $70 million. $450 million is much more than the other publishers had to pay, but much less than the expected penalty from a damages trial set for August (and still only about one percent of Apple's annual profit).

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Breaches Exposed 22.8 Million Personal Records of New Yorkers

Wed, 07/16/2014 - 5:27am
An anonymous reader writes Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman issued a new report examining the growing number, complexity, and costs of data breaches in the New York State. The report reveals that the number of reported data security breaches in New York more than tripled between 2006 and 2013. In that same period, 22.8 million personal records of New Yorkers have been exposed in nearly 5,000 data breaches, which have cost the public and private sectors in New York upward of $1.37 billion in 2013. The demand on secondary markets for stolen information remains robust. Freshly acquired stolen credit card numbers can fetch up to $45 per record, while other types of personal information, such as Social Security numbers and online account information, can command even higher prices.

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SRI/Cambridge Opens CHERI Secure Processor Design

Wed, 07/16/2014 - 4:45am
An anonymous reader writes with some exciting news from the world of processor design: Robert Watson at Cambridge (author of Capsicum) has written a blog post on SRI/Cambridge's recent open sourcing of the hardware and software for the DARPA-sponsored CHERI processor — including laser cutting directions for an FPGA-based tablet! Described in their paper The CHERI Capability Model: Reducing Risk in an age of RISC, CHERI is a 64-bit RISC processor able to boot and run FreeBSD and open-source applications, but has a Clang/LLVM-managed fine-grained, capability-based memory protection model within each UNIX process. Drawing on ideas from Capsicum, they also support fine-grained in-process sandboxing using capabilities. The conference talk was presented on a CHERI tablet running CheriBSD, with a video of the talk by student Jonathan Woodruff (slides). Although based on the 64-bit MIPS ISA, the authors suggest that it would also be usable with other RISC ISAs such as RISC-V and ARMv8. The paper compares the approach with several other research approaches and Intel's forthcoming Memory Protection eXtensions (MPX) with favorable performance and stronger protection properties. The processor "source code" (written in Bluespec Verilog) is available under a variant of the Apache license (modified for application to hardware).

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Mt. Fuji Volcano In 'Critical State' After Quakes

Wed, 07/16/2014 - 4:06am
An anonymous reader writes: Mount Fuji, in addition to being a picturesque landmark and an important part of Japanese culture, is also an active volcano. Its last eruption was just over 400 years ago, but its location — where the Eurasian, Pacific, and Philippine tectonic plates meet — mean it will always have potential for eruption. A new study (PDF) has examined the pressures around Mount Fuji in the wake of several recent earthquakes, including the magnitude 9 tremor that unleashed the destructive tsunami in 2011. The researchers now say the volcano is in a "critical state." According to the study's lead author, "The volcanic regions are the ones where the fluids trapped in the rock – boiling water, gas, liquid magma, which cause an eruption when they rise to the surface – exert the greatest pressure. The seismic waves add to this pressure, causing even more disturbance." They have no way of predicting when an eruption might happen, but the potential seems greater than ever.

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Rand Paul and Silicon Valley's Shifting Political Climate

Wed, 07/16/2014 - 1:10am
SonicSpike sends this story from NY Magazine: Rand Paul appears to be making a full-court press for the affections of Silicon Valley, and there are some signs that his efforts are paying off. At last week's Sun Valley conference, Paul had one-on-one meetings with Thiel and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. ... Next weekend, Paul will get to make his case yet again as the keynote speaker at Reboot, a San Francisco conference put on by a group called Lincoln Labs, which self-defines as "techies and politicos who believe in promoting liberty with technology." He'll likely say a version of what he's said before: that Silicon Valley's innovative potential can be best unlocked in an environment with minimal government intrusion in the forms of surveillance, corporate taxes, and regulation. “I see almost unlimited potential for us in Silicon Valley,” Paul has said, with "us" meaning libertarians. Today's Silicon Valley is still exceedingly liberal on social issues. But it seems more skeptical about taxes and business regulation than at any point in its recent history. Part of this is due to the rise of companies like Uber and Tesla Motors, blazing-hot start-ups that have been opposed at every turn by protectionist regulators and trade unions, in confrontations that are being used by small-government conservatives as case studies in government control run amok.

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French Blogger Fined For Negative Restaurant Review

Tue, 07/15/2014 - 10:04pm
An anonymous reader sends an article about another case in which a business who received a negative review online decided to retaliate with legal complaints. In August of last year, a French food blogger posted a review of an Italian restaurant called Il Giardino. The restaurant owners responded with legal threats based on the claim that they lost business from search results which included the review. The blogger deleted the post, but that wasn't enough. She was brought to court, and a fine of €1,500 ($2,040) was imposed. She also had to pay court costs, which added another €1,000 ($1,360). The blogger said, "Recently several writers in France were sentenced in similar proceedings for defamation, invasion of privacy, and so on. ... I don't see the point of criticism if it's only positive. It's clear that online, people are suspicious of places that only get positive reviews."

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