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Crystal Pattern Matching Recovers Obliterated Serial Numbers From Metal

Sat, 02/21/2015 - 12:05am
chicksdaddy writes Criminals beware: researchers at the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have figured out how to recover serial numbers obliterated from metal surfaces such as firearms and automobiles — a common problem in forensic examinations. According to this report, NIST researchers used a technique called electron backscatter diffraction (EBSD) to read, in the crystal structure pattern, imprints on steel that had been removed by polishing. ... The more perfect the crystal structure, the stronger and clearer the pattern. Software can then calculate the pattern quality to reveal crystal damage; areas with more damage produce lower quality patterns. In the NIST experiments, described in Forensic Science International, researchers hammered the letter 'X' into a polished stainless steel plate. The letter stamps were as deep as 140 micrometers, meeting federal regulations for firearm serial numbers. The researchers then polished the metal again to remove all visible traces of the letters, and collected the EBSD diffraction patterns and pattern quality data and analyzed them for evidence of the imprints.

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The Robots That Will Put Coders Out of Work

Fri, 02/20/2015 - 9:01pm
snydeq writes Researchers warn that a glut of code is coming that will depress wages and turn coders into Uber drivers, InfoWorld reports. "The researchers — Boston University's Seth Benzell, Laurence Kotlikoff, and Guillermo LaGarda, and Columbia University's Jeffrey Sachs — aren't predicting some silly, Terminator-like robot apocalypse. What they are saying is that our economy is entering a new type of boom-and-bust cycle that accelerates the production of new products and new code so rapidly that supply outstrips demand. The solution to that shortage will be to figure out how not to need those hard-to-find human experts. In fact, it's already happening in some areas."

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No Tech Bubble Here, Says CNN: "This Time It's Different."

Fri, 02/20/2015 - 6:13pm
ErichTheRed writes I saw this on the Money page of CNN today. Apparently, various stock analysts have declared that this run-up in stock prices is different than the 1999 version. OK, we don't have the pets.com sock puppet, Webvan or theglobe.com anymore, but when Uber is given a valuation of $40 billion, can a crash be far behind?

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Australian ISPs To Introduce '3-Strike' Style Anti-piracy Scheme

Fri, 02/20/2015 - 3:57pm
angry tapir writes Australian ISPs are considering a draft industry code, developed in response to government threats to step in and do it for them, that will implement a 'three notice' scheme for alleged copyright infringement. If an ISP customer gets three notices in 12 months, a rights holder can go to court to obtain their details and potentially take legal action against them. (The other part of the government's copyright crackdown is the introduction of a scheme to have pirate websites blocked — the government has yet to introduce the legislation for it, however.)

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Why Sony Should Ditch Everything But the PlayStation

Fri, 02/20/2015 - 3:04pm
An anonymous reader writes: A couple weeks ago, we were surprised by news that Sony was spinning off its game development studio. More recently, the company has been thinking about exiting both the mobile phone market and the TV market. An opinion piece suggests Sony shouldn't stop there, focusing more on the its PlayStation division and a few other areas — and giving up on the rest. "Continuing to concentrate on phones and other products actually makes the PlayStation experience worse for most people. Take the PS4's ability to stream games to mobile devices — a killer feature needlessly limited to the PS Vita and Sony's Xperia Android line. Why can't I play Destiny on my iPad when the TV's occupied? The iOS PlayStation app, meanwhile, is a confusing mess that hasn't even been updated for the iPhone 6. These sound like minor points, but imagine what Sony could do if everyone at the company were focused on making its most important product as good as possible. As Microsoft is learning with its recent iOS and Android experiments, you have to serve the customers where they already are."

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US State Department Can't Get Rid of Email Hackers

Fri, 02/20/2015 - 2:21pm
An anonymous reader sends this quote from a Wall Street Journal report: Three months after the State Department confirmed hackers breached its unclassified email system, the government still hasn't been able to evict them from the network, say three people familiar with the investigation. Government officials, assisted by outside contractors and the National Security Agency, have repeatedly scanned the network and taken some systems offline. But investigators still see signs of the hackers on State Department computers, the people familiar with the matter said. Each time investigators find a hacker tool and block it, these people said, the intruders tweak it slightly to attempt to sneak past defenses. It isn't clear how much data the hackers have taken, the people said. They reaffirmed what the State Department said in November: that the hackers appear to have access only to unclassified email. Still, unclassified material can contain sensitive intelligence.

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Also Hackable: Drive-Through Car Washes

Fri, 02/20/2015 - 1:38pm
PLAR writes It turns out LaserWash automatic car washes can be easily hacked via the Internet to get a free wash or to manipulate the machines that clean the cars, a security researcher has found. Billy Rios says these car washes have web interfaces with weak/default passwords which, if obtained, could allow an attacker to telnet in and use an HTTP GET request to control the machines. Rios adds that this probably isn't the only car wash brand that's vulnerable.

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Rapid Test For Ebola Now Available

Fri, 02/20/2015 - 12:54pm
sciencehabit writes: The World Health Organization (WHO) has approved the first rapid diagnostic test for Ebola. The test needs no electricity, requires just a few drops of blood from a finger prick, and can return results in 15 minutes. That will be a huge help to health workers in remote areas. Current PCR-based tests require a blood sample taken by needle, secure transport of the blood to a properly equipped laboratory with trained staff, and at least several hours to return results. Depending on how far away a suspected case is from a testing laboratory, it can take more than a day to receive test results.

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Why Hollywood Fudged the Relativity-Based Wormhole Scenes In Interstellar

Fri, 02/20/2015 - 12:12pm
KentuckyFC writes: When Christopher Nolan teamed up with physicist Kip Thorne of Caltech to discuss the science behind his movie Interstellar, the idea was that Thorne would bring some much-needed scientific gravitas to the all-important scenes involving travel through a wormhole. Indeed, Thorne used the equations of general relativity to calculate the various possible shapes of wormhole and how they would distort the view through it. A London-based special effects team then created footage of a far away galaxy as seen through such a wormhole. It showed the galaxy fantastically distorted as a result, just as relativity predicts. But when it came to travelling through a wormhole, Nolan was disappointed with the footage. The problem was that the view of the other side when travelling through a wormhole turns out to be visually indistinguishable from a conventional camera zoom and utterly unlike the impression Nolan wanted to portray, which was the sense of travelling through a shortcut from one part of the universe to another. So for the final cut, special effects artists had to add various animations to convey that impression. "The end result was a sequence of shots that told a story comprehensible by a general audience while resembling the wormhole's interior," admit Thorne and colleagues in a paper they have published about wormhole science in the film. In other words, they had to fudge it. Nevertheless, Thorne is adamant that the visualisations should help to inspire a new generation of students of film-making and of relativity.

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Stephen Hawking: Biggest Human Failing Is Aggression

Fri, 02/20/2015 - 11:30am
hypnosec writes: Aggression is the human failing that celebrity scientist Stephen Hawking would most like to correct, as it holds the potential to destroy human civilization. Hawking expressed his views while escorting Adaeze Uyanwah — London's Official Guest of Honor — around London's Science Museum. Uyanwah asked Hawking what human shortcomings he would alter, and which virtues he would enhance if this was possible. He replied, "The human failing I would most like to correct is aggression. It may have had survival advantage in caveman days, to get more food, territory, or partner with whom to reproduce, but now it threatens to destroy us all. A major nuclear war would be the end of civilization, and maybe the end of the human race."

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800,000 Using HealthCare.gov Were Sent Incorrect Tax Data

Fri, 02/20/2015 - 10:47am
mpicpp sends this report from the NY Times: About 800,000 taxpayers who enrolled in insurance policies through HealthCare.gov received erroneous tax information from the government, and were urged on Friday to hold off on filing tax returns until the error could be corrected. The Obama administration, under heavy pressure from congressional Democrats, also announced that it would give several million people more time to buy health insurance so they could comply with federal law and avoid tax penalties. The incorrect insurance information is used in computing taxes. Consumers can expect to receive corrected data in the first week of March. With the new data, officials warned, some taxpayers will owe more and some will owe less. Officials said they did not know why the error had occurred.

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In Space, a Laptop Doubles As a VR Headset

Fri, 02/20/2015 - 10:28am
Nerval's Lobster writes: On Earth, the engineers and developers in charge of building the Oculus Rift and other virtual-reality headsets are concerned about weight: Who wants to strap on something so heavy it cricks their neck? But in space, weight isn't an issue, which is why an astronaut can strap a laptop to his head via a heavy and complicated-looking rig and use it as a virtual-reality device. NASA astronaut Terry Virts recently did just that to train himself in the use of SAFER (Simplified Aid for EVA Rescue), a jetpack worn during spacewalks. (In the movie Gravity, George Clooney's character uses a highly unrealistic version of SAFER to maneuver around a space shuttle.)

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TrueCrypt Audit Back On Track After Silence and Uncertainty

Fri, 02/20/2015 - 10:06am
itwbennett writes: In October 2013 Cryptography professor Matthew Green and security researcher Kenneth White launched a project to perform a professional security audit of TrueCrypt, partly prompted by the leaks from Edward Snowden that suggested the NSA was engaged in efforts to undermine encryption. Their report, published in April 2014, covered the first phase of the audit. Phase two was supposed to involve a formal review of the program's encryption functions, with the goal of uncovering any potential errors in the cryptographic implementations—but then the unexpected happened. In May 2014, the developers of TrueCrypt, who had remained anonymous over the years for privacy reasons, abruptly announced that they were discontinuing the project and advised users to switch to alternatives. Now, almost a year later, the project is back on track.

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Tim O'Reilly On Big Data, CS Education, and the Future of Print

Fri, 02/20/2015 - 9:23am
M-Saunders writes: How do we take advantage of big data without putting our privacy at risk? Should everyone be able to code? And how much life is still in the market for printed books and publications? Linux Voice put these questions to Tim O'Reilly, the founder of O'Reilly media, and the man who helped to popularize the terms Open Source and Web 2.0. ("Should everybody be a professional coder? No way. Should everybody be able to do more than just use a GUI? Absolutely. Should people be able to automate operations of a computer? Absolutely.") Despite the amount of "free" (or advert-supported) content out there, O'Reilly still believes there's plenty of money to be made: "I think that the willingness of people to pay for things that delight them will not go away."

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Smart Rendering For Virtual Reality

Fri, 02/20/2015 - 8:41am
An anonymous reader writes: Researchers from Intel have been working on new methods for improving the rendering speed for modern wide-angle head-mounted displays like the Oculus Rift and Google Cardboard. Their approach makes use of the fact that because of the relatively cheap and lightweight lenses the distortion astigmatism happens: only the center area can be perceived very sharp, while with increasing distance from it, the perception gets more and more blurred. So what happens if you don't spend the same amount of calculations and quality for all pixels? The blog entry gives hints to future rendering architectures and shows performance numbers.

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Lenovo To Wipe Superfish Off PCs

Fri, 02/20/2015 - 7:57am
An anonymous reader send news from the Wall Street Journal, where Lenovo CTO Peter Hortensius said in an interview that the company will roll out a software update to remove the Superfish adware from its laptops. "As soon as the programmer is finished, we will provide a tool that removes all traces of the app from people’s laptops; this goes further than simply uninstalling the app. Once the app-wiping software is finished tonight or tomorrow, we’ll issue a press release with information on how to get it." When asked whether his company vets the software they pre-install on their machines, he said, "Yes, we do. Obviously in this case we didn't do enough. The intent of loading this tool was to help enhance our users’ shopping experience. The feedback from users was that it wasn’t useful, and that’s why we turned it off. Our reputation is everything and our products are ultimately how we have our reputation."

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NVIDIA To Re-Enable GeForce 900M Overclocking

Fri, 02/20/2015 - 7:15am
jones_supa writes: One week after NVIDIA disabled overclocking on their GeForce 900M mobility lineup, a representative of the company has reported that NVIDIA will be bringing back the disabled feature for their overclocking enthusiasts on the mobility front. On the GeForce Forums, he writes, "We heard from many of you that you would like this feature enabled again. So, we will again be enabling overclocking in our upcoming driver release next month for those affected notebooks. If you are eager to regain this capability right away, you can also revert back to 344.75."

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Federal Court: Theft of Medical Records Not an 'Imminent Danger' To Victim

Fri, 02/20/2015 - 6:32am
chicksdaddy writes: A federal court in Texas ruled last week that a massive data breach at a hospital in that state didn't put patients at imminent risk of identity theft, even when presented with evidence that suggested stolen patient information was being used in attempted fraud and identity theft schemes. According to a post over at Digital Guardian's blog Beverly Peters was one more than 400,000 patients of St. Joseph Hospital whose information was stolen by hackers in an attack that took place between December 16 and 18, 2013. Peters alleged that her personal information had been exposed in the breach and then disseminated in the public domain, where it was being "misused by unauthorized and unknown third parties." Specifically: Peters reported that, subsequent to the breach at St. Josephs, her Discover credit card was used to make a fraudulent purchase and that hackers had tried to infiltrate her Amazon.com account — posing as her son. Also: telemarketers were using the stolen information. Peters claimed that, after the breach, she was besieged with calls and solicitations for medical products and services companies, with telemarketers asking to speak to her and with specific family members, whose contact information was part of the record stolen from St. Joseph's. As a result, Peters argued that she faced an "imminent injury" due to "increased risk" of future identity theft and fraud because of the breach at St. Joseph, and wished to sue the hospital for violations of the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA). But the court found otherwise, ruling that Peters lacked standing to bring the case in federal court under Article III of the Constitution.

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Apple Launches Repair Program For Longstanding 2011 MacBook Pro GPU Problems

Fri, 02/20/2015 - 5:50am
AmiMoJo writes: Apple has just launched a MacBook Pro Repair Extension Program for Video Issues to provide out-of-warranty repairs for MacBook Pros and Retina MacBook Pros sold between February of 2011 and December of 2013. Symptoms of affected computers include "distorted or scrambled video on the computer screen," "no video on the computer screen (or external display) even though the computer is on," and unexpected restarts. Some users have been complaining about 2011 MacBook Pro GPU issues since shortly after the systems launched. Those complaints continued for well over three years—outside of the warranty window even if you bought AppleCare, at least if you bought the systems at launch—and were more recently the cause of a class-action lawsuit.

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A123 Sues Apple For Poaching Employees

Fri, 02/20/2015 - 5:07am
An anonymous reader writes "Electric-car battery maker A123 Systems is suing Apple in federal court for allegedly poaching five employees to help it develop a competing battery business. The suit accuses the workers, including A123's former chief technology officer, of breaking noncompete and nonsolicit agreements. "It appears that Apple, with the assistance of defendant Ijaz, is systematically hiring away A123’s high-tech PhD and engineering employees, thereby effectively shutting down various projects/programs at A123," according to the lawsuit. The news adds some credibility to rumors that Apple is getting into the automotive market. "

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