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Giant Survival Ball Will Help Explorer Survive a Year On an Iceberg

Sat, 04/25/2015 - 11:40am
HughPickens.com writes: Ben Yeager reports in Outside Magazine that Italian explorer Alex Bellini plans to travel to Greenland's west coast, pick an iceberg, and live on it for a year as it melts out in the Atlantic. It's a precarious idea. Bellini will be completely isolated, and his adopted dwelling is liable to roll or fall apart at any moment, thrusting him into the icy sea or crushing him under hundreds of tons of ice. His solution: an indestructible survival capsule built by an aeronautics company that specializes in tsunami-proof escape pods. "I knew since the beginning I needed to minimize the risk. An iceberg can flip over, and those events can be catastrophic." Bellini plans to use a lightweight, indestructible floating capsules, or "personal safety systems" made from aircraft-grade aluminum in what's called a continuous monocoque structure, an interlocking frame of aluminum spars that evenly distribute force, underneath a brightly painted and highly visible aluminum shell. The inner frame can be stationary or mounted on roller balls so it rotates, allowing the passengers to remain upright at all times. Aeronautical engineer Julian Sharpe, founder of Survival Capsule, got the idea for his capsules after the 2004 Indonesian tsunami. He believes fewer people would have died had some sort of escape pod existed. Sharpe hopes the products will be universal—in schools, retirement homes, and private residences, anywhere there is severe weather. The product appeals to Bellini because it's strong enough to survive a storm at sea or getting crushed between two icebergs. Bellini will spend almost all of his time in the capsule with the hatch closed, which will pose major challenges because he'll have to stay active without venturing out onto a slippery, unstable iceberg. If it flips, he'll have no time to react. "Any step away from [the iceberg] will be in unknown territory," says Bellini. "You want to stretch your body. But then you risk your life."

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Turning a Smartphone Display Into a Biometric Scanner

Sat, 04/25/2015 - 10:36am
New submitter jan_jes writes: Recent mobile phones integrate fingerprint scanners to authenticate users biometrically and replace passwords, making authentication more convenient. Researchers at Yahoo Labs have created a new technology called "Bodyprint," which turns your smartphone's touchscreen display into a biometric scanner. It allows the touch sensor to scan users' body parts (PDF) such as ears, fingers, fists, and palms by pressing them against the display. Bodyprint implements the four-eye principle for locking sensitive documents — accessing the document can require the presence of two or more people involved with the project. Another application is authenticating a user to answer a call by scanning their ear pressed against the phone.

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Microsoft Increases Android Patent Licensing Reach

Sat, 04/25/2015 - 9:29am
BrianFagioli writes: Microsoft may not be winning in the mobile arena, but they're still making tons of money from those who are. Patent licensing agreements net the company billions each year from device makers like Samsung, Foxconn, and ZTE. Now, Microsoft has added another company to that list: Qisda Corp. They make a number of Android and Chrome-based devices under the Qisda brand and the BenQ brand, and now Microsoft will be making money off those, too.

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7.8 Earthquake Rocks Nepal, Hundreds Dead

Sat, 04/25/2015 - 8:25am
An anonymous reader writes: Nepal was struck by an earthquake of magnitude 7.8 today, with an epicenter 80 km east of the country's second biggest city, Pokhara. Its effects were also strongly felt in the capital, Kathmandu. Casualty reports conflict, but authorities have indicated at least 500 are dead and many more are feared to be trapped. Nepal has declared a state of emergency for the affected areas, and asked for international humanitarian assistance. India and Pakistan have both offered help. Some Indian cities were affected by the earthquake as well, and there are reports of avalanches on Mt. Everest, which has many climbers at any given time.

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Tesla To Announce Battery-Based Energy Storage For Homes

Sat, 04/25/2015 - 7:23am
Okian Warrior writes: Billionaire Elon Musk will announce next week that Tesla will begin offering battery-based energy storage for residential and commercial customers. The batteries power up overnight when energy companies typically charge less for electricity, then are used during the day to power a home. In a pilot project, Tesla has already begun offering home batteries to SolarCity (SCTY) customers, a solar power company for which Musk serves as chairman. Currently 330 U.S. households are running on Tesla's batteries in California. The batteries start at about $13,000, though California's Pacific Gas and Electric Co. (PCG) offers customers a 50% rebate. The batteries are three-feet high by 2.5-feet wide, and need to be installed at least a foot and a half off the ground. They can be controlled with a Web app and a smartphone app.

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Mystery of the Coldest Spot In the CMB Solved

Sat, 04/25/2015 - 4:22am
StartsWithABang writes: The cosmic microwave background is a thing of beauty, as not only does its uniform, cold temperature reveal a hot, dense past that began with the hot Big Bang, but its fluctuations reveal a pattern of overdensities and underdensities in the very early stages of the Universe. It's fluctuations just like these that give rise to the stars, galaxies, groups and clusters that exist today, as well as the voids in the vast cosmic web. But effects at the surface of last scattering are not the only ones that affect the CMB's temperature; if we want to make sure we've got an accurate map of what the Universe was born with, we have to take everything into account, including the effects of matter as it gravitationally grows and shrinks. As we do exactly this, we find ourselves discovering the causes behind the biggest anomalies in the sky, and it turns out that the standard cosmological model can explain it all.

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Pirate Bay Blockade Censors CloudFlare Customers

Sat, 04/25/2015 - 1:29am
An anonymous reader writes: The blockade of the Pirate Bay by UK ISPs is causing trouble for CloudFlare customers. Several websites have been inadvertently blocked by Sky because a Pirate Bay proxy is hosted behind the same IP-addresses. In a response, CloudFlare threatened to disconnect the proxy site from its network. Like any form of censorship web blockades can sometime lead to overblocking, targeting perfectly legitimate websites by mistake. This is also happening in the UK where Sky's blocking technology is inadvertently blocking sites that have nothing to do with piracy.

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Microsoft Opens Vulnerability Bounty Program For Spartan Browser

Fri, 04/24/2015 - 10:27pm
jones_supa writes: As it did in the past when it tried to make Internet Explorer more secure, Microsoft has launched a new bug bounty program for Spartan browser, the default application of Windows 10 for surfing the information highway. A typical remote code execution flaw can bring between $1,500 and $15,000, and for the top payment you also need to provide a functioning exploit. The company says that it could pay even more than that, if you convince the jury on the entry quality and complexity. Sandbox escape vulnerabilities with Enhanced Protected Mode enabled, important or higher severity vulnerabilities in Spartan or its engine, and ASLR info disclosure vulnerabilities are also eligible. If you want to accept the challenge, Microsoft provides more information on how to participate.

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Buggy Win 95 Code Almost Wrecked Stuxnet Campaign

Fri, 04/24/2015 - 7:25pm
mask.of.sanity writes: Super-worm Stuxnet could have blown its cover and failed its sabotage mission due to a bug that allowed it to spread to ancient Windows boxes, malware analysts say. Stuxnet was on the brink of failure thanks to buggy code allowing it to spread to PCs running older and unsupported versions of Windows, and probably causing them to crash as a result. Those blue screens of death would have raised suspicions at the Natanz nuclear lab.

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Allegation: Philly Cops Leaned Suspect Over Balcony To Obtain Password

Fri, 04/24/2015 - 6:30pm
An anonymous reader writes with this news from Ars Technica: If you want access to encrypted data on a drug dealer's digital device, you might try to break the crypto—or you might just try to break the man. According to testimony from a police corruption trial currently roiling the city of Philadelphia, officers from an undercover drug squad took the latter route back in November 2007. After arresting their suspect, Michael Cascioli, in the hallway outside his 18th floor apartment, the officers took Cascioli back inside. Although they lacked a search warrant, the cops searched Cascioli's rooms anyway. According to a federal indictment (PDF), the officers 'repeatedly assaulted and threatened [Cascioli] during the search to obtain information about the location of money, drugs, and drug suppliers.' That included, according to Cascioli, lifting him over the edge of his balcony to try to frighten out of him the password to his Palm Pilot. That sounds like a good time for a duress password.

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Patents Show Google Fi Was Envisioned Before the iPhone Was Released

Fri, 04/24/2015 - 5:47pm
smaxp writes: Contrary to reports, Google didn't become a mobile carrier with the introduction of Google Fi. Google Fi was launched to prove that a network-of-networks serves smartphone users better than a single mobile carrier's network. Patents related to Google Fi, filed in early 2007, explain Google's vision – smartphones negotiate for and connect to the fastest network available. The patent and Google Fi share a common notion that the smartphone should connect to the fastest network available, not a single carrier's network that may not provide the best performance. It breaks the exclusive relationship between a smartphone and a single carrier. Meanwhile, a story at BostInno points out that Google's not the only one with a network-hopping hybrid approach to phone calls.

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Bees Prefer Nectar Laced With Neonicotinoids

Fri, 04/24/2015 - 5:06pm
Taco Cowboy writes: Neonicotinoids are a class of neuro-active insecticides chemically similar to nicotine. Neonicotinoids kill insects by overwhelming and short-circuiting their central nervous systems (PDF). Shell and Bayer started the development of neonicotinoids back in the 1980s and 1990s. Since this new group of pesticides came to market, the bee population has been devastated in regions where they have been widely used. Studies from 2012 linked neonicotinoid use to crashing bee populations. New studies, however, have discovered that bees prefer nectar laced with neonicotinoids over nectar free of any trace of neonicotinoids. According to researchers at Newcastle University, the bees may "get a buzz" from the nicotine-like chemicals in the same way smokers crave cigarettes.

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Github DDoS Attack As Seen By Google

Fri, 04/24/2015 - 4:24pm
New submitter opensec writes: Last month GitHub was hit by a massive DDoS attack originating from China. On this occasion the public discovered that the NSA was not the only one with a QUANTUM-like capability. China has its own "Great Cannon" that can inject malicious JavaScript inside HTTP traffic. That weapon was used in the GitHub attack. People using Baidu services were unwitting participants in the denial of service, their bandwidth used to flood the website. But such a massive subversion of the Internet could not evade Google's watchful eye. Niels Provos, engineer at Google, tells us how it happened. Showing that such attacks cannot be made covertly, Provos hopes that the public shaming will act as a deterrent.

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Microsoft, Chip Makers Working On Hardware DRM For Windows 10 PCs

Fri, 04/24/2015 - 3:42pm
writertype writes: Last month, Microsoft began talking about PlayReady 3.0, which adds hardware DRM to secure 4K movies. Intel, AMD, Nvidia, and Qualcomm are all building it in, according to Microsoft. "Older generations of PCs used software-based DRM technology. The new hardware-based technology will know who you are, what rights your PC has, and won’t ever allow your PC to unlock the content so it can be ripped. ... Unfortunately, it looks like the advent of PlayReady 3.0 could leave older PCs in the lurch. Previous PlayReady technology secured content up to 1080p resolution using software DRM—and that could be the maximum resolution for older PCs without PlayReady 3.0." Years back, a number of people got upset when Hollywood talked about locking down "our content." It looks like we may be facing it again for 4K video.

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Apple Watch Launches

Fri, 04/24/2015 - 2:59pm
An anonymous reader writes: The Apple Watch's release date has arrived: retailers around the world have quietly begun putting them on their shelves, and customers are beginning to receive their shipments. Reviews have been out for a while, including thoughtful ones from John Gruber and Nilay Patel. Apple has published a full user guide for the software, and iFixit has put up a full teardown to take a look at the hardware. They give it a repairability score of 5 out of 10, saying that the screen and battery are easily replaced, but not much else is. Though Apple designated the watch "water-resistant" rather than "waterproof", early tests show it's able to withstand a shower and a swim in the pool without failing. Ars has an article about the difficulty of making games for the Apple Watch, and Wired has a piece detailing its creation.

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How and Why the U-Pick Game Marathon Raises Money With Non-Stop Gaming (Video)

Fri, 04/24/2015 - 2:17pm
On June 12 through 14th of this year, the fourth (not "fourth annual," but close) iteration of the U-Pick Video Game Marathon for Charity --“UPickVG IV” for short --will be streaming on an Internet connection near you. The U-Pick crew's volunteers will be playing and broadcasting video games, non-stop, as a fundraiser for Charity Water, a cause they've supported since the beginning. I talked with organizers Stephanie and Grant Kibler from their video-game lounge of a living room about what it takes to broadcast an online gathering like this, and why they've adopted this as an annual event. Hint: some esoteric video-capture hardware helps, and so does a beefy network connection, for high-quality streaming of games that pre-date today's multiplayer, network-oriented options. That's significant, because U-Pick's stable of titles isn't limited to modern ones, and observers are encouraged to suggest appropriate games (hence "U-Pick").The remote viewers' choices and donations influence the event by deciding which games are represented on the Wheel of Destiny that the team spins to decide which games get played.The play itself, though,*is* limited to the players who'll be on hand at a Northern Virginia co-working space that will serve as this year's venue. It turns out to be easier to stream the output of old consoles than it is to control them from remote (never mind the latency that would mean), but maybe one day participants will be able to play as well as shoulder-surf and laugh at the players' running commentary. You can check out the Upick page on Facebook, too, and watch one of their practice runs each Sunday. (Note: Video #1 talks mostly about the game play and how you can join. Video #2 - below - talks more about hardware and behind-the-scenes work.)

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German Intelligence Helped NSA Spy On EU Politicians and Companies

Fri, 04/24/2015 - 1:28pm
An anonymous reader writes: We've known for some time already that intelligence agencies operate beyond rules, laws, and regulations. Now, we learn that the NSA and the German intelligence service, BND, lied and withheld information about misuse from the German Chancellor's Office. "The BND realized as early as 2008 that some of the selectors were not permitted according to its internal rules, or covered by a 2002 US-Germany anti-terrorism "Memorandum of Agreement" on intelligence cooperation. And yet it did nothing to check the NSA's requests systematically. It was only in the summer of 2013, after Edward Snowden's revelations of massive NSA and GCHQ surveillance, that the BND finally started an inquiry into all the selectors that had been processed. According to Der Spiegel, investigators found that the BND had provided information on around 2,000 selectors that were clearly against European and German interests. Not only were European businesses such as the giant aerospace and defense company EADS, best-known as the manufacturer of the Airbus planes, targeted, so were European politicians—including German ones. However, the BND did not inform the German Chancellor's office, which only found out about the misuse of the selector request system in March 2015. Instead, the BND simply asked the NSA to make requests that were fully covered by the anti-terrorism agreement between the two countries. According to Die Zeit, this was because the BND was worried that the NSA might curtail the flow of its own intelligence data to the German secret services if the selector scheme became embroiled in controversy.

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Wormholes Untangle a Black Hole Paradox

Fri, 04/24/2015 - 12:44pm
An anonymous reader writes: Like initials carved in a tree, ER = EPR, as the new idea is known, is a shorthand that joins two ideas proposed by Einstein in 1935. One involved the paradox implied by what he called "spooky action at a distance" between quantum particles (the EPR paradox, named for its authors, Einstein, Boris Podolsky and Nathan Rosen). The other showed how two black holes could be connected through far reaches of space through "wormholes" (ER, for Einstein-Rosen bridges). At the time that Einstein put forth these ideas — and for most of the eight decades since — they were thought to be entirely unrelated. But if ER = EPR is correct, the ideas aren't disconnected — they're two manifestations of the same thing. And this underlying connectedness would form the foundation of all space-time. Quantum entanglement — the action at a distance that so troubled Einstein — could be creating the "spatial connectivity" that "sews space together," according to Leonard Susskind, a physicist at Stanford University and one of the idea's main architects. Without these connections, all of space would "atomize," according to Juan Maldacena, a physicist at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, N.J., who developed the idea together with Susskind. "In other words, the solid and reliable structure of space-time is due to the ghostly features of entanglement," he said. What's more, ER = EPR has the potential to address how gravity fits together with quantum mechanics.

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Amazon's Profits Are Floating On a Cloud (Computing)

Fri, 04/24/2015 - 12:01pm
HughPickens.com writes: The NY Times reports that Amazon unveiled the financial performance of its powerful growth engine for the first time on Thursday, and the numbers looked good, energized primarily by renting processing power to start-ups and, increasingly, established businesses. Amazon said in its first-quarter earnings report that its cloud division, Amazon Web Services, had revenue of $1.57 billion during the first three months of the year. Even though the company often reports losses, the cloud business is generating substantial profits. The company said its operating income from AWS was $265 million. Amazon helped popularize the field starting in 2006 and largely had commercial cloud computing to itself for years, an enormous advantage in an industry where rivals usually watch one another closely. At the moment, there is no contest: Amazon is dominant and might even be extending its lead. Microsoft ranks a distant No. 2 in cloud computing but hopes to pick up the slack with infrastructure-related services it sells through Azure, the name of its cloud service. Amazon executives have said they expect AWS to eventually rival the company's other businesses in size. The cloud business has been growing at about 40 percent a year, more than twice the rate of the overall company and many Wall Street analysts have been hoping for a spinoff. As for Google, the cloud was barely mentioned in Google's earnings call. Nor did the search giant offer any cloud numbers, making it impossible to gauge how well it is doing. But the enthusiasm of Eric Schmidt, Google's executive chairman, was manifest when he spoke at an event for cloud software developers this week. "The entire world will be defined by smartphones, Android or Apple, a very fast network, and cloud computing," said Schmidt. "The space is very large, very vast, and no one is covering all of it."

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Pentagon Discloses Network Breach By Russian Hackers

Fri, 04/24/2015 - 11:21am
An anonymous reader writes: The Pentagon has disclosed that Russian hackers were able to breach one of its secure networks earlier this year, and referred to the attack as a "worrisome" incident. "Earlier this year, the sensors that guard DOD's unclassified networks detected Russian hackers accessing one of our networks," said defense secretary Ash Carter yesterday during a speech at Stanford University. Carter warned Russia that the U.S. Department of Defense would retaliate with cyber campaigns should it see fit. "Adversaries should know that our preference for deterrence and our defensive posture don't diminish our willingness to use cyber options if necessary," said Carter. He added in a prepared statement that the Russian hackers had been able to gain access to an "unclassified network" but had been "quickly identified" by a team of cyberattack experts who managed to block the hackers "within 24 hours." The cybersecurity response team had quickly analyzed the hack patterns and code and identified the intruders as Russian, before "kicking them off the network."

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