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Yahoo Shuttering Its Web Directory

SlashDot - Sat, 09/27/2014 - 8:38pm
An anonymous reader writes You may or may not remember this, but before the advent of reliable search engines, web listings used to be a popular way to organize the web. Yahoo had one of the more popular hierarchical website directories around. On Friday, as part of its on-going streamlining process, Yahoo announced that their 20-year-old web directory will be no more: "While we are still committed to connecting users with the information they're passionate about, our business has evolved and at the end of 2014 (December 31), we will retire the Yahoo Directory."

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The Odd Effects of Being Struck By Lightning

SlashDot - Sat, 09/27/2014 - 7:12pm
HughPickens.com writes: "Ferris Jabr reports in Outside Magazine that every year, more than 500 Americans are struck by lightning. Roughly 90 percent of them will survive, but those survivors will be instantly, fundamentally altered in ways that still leave scientists scratching their heads. For example, Michael Utley was a successful stockbroker who often went skiing and windsurfing before he was struck by lightning. Today, at 62, he lives on disability insurance. "I don't work. I can't work. My memory's fried, and I don't have energy like I used to. I aged 30 years in a second." Lightning also dramatically altered Utley's personality. "It made me a mean, ornery son of a b****." Utley created a website devoted to educating people about preventing lightning injury and started regularly speaking at schools and doing guest spots on televised weather reports. Mary Ann Cooper, professor emerita at the University of Illinois at Chicago, is one of the few medical doctors who have attempted to investigate how lightning alters the brain's circuitry. According to Cooper, the evidence suggests lightning injuries are, for the most part, injuries to the brain, the nervous system, and the muscles. Lightning can ravage or kill cells, but it can also leave a trail of much subtler damage and Cooper and other researchers speculate that chronic issues are the result of lightning scrambling each individual survivor's unique internal circuitry (PDF). "Those who attempt to return to work often find they are unable to carry out their former functions and after a few weeks, when coworkers get weary of 'covering' for them, they either are put on disability (if they are lucky) or fired," she writes.

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Sierra Nevada Corp. Files Legal Challenge Against NASA Commercial Contracts

SlashDot - Sat, 09/27/2014 - 6:13pm
New submitter Raymondware sends an update to last week's news that NASA had awarded contracts to Boeing and SpaceX to provide rockets for future manned spaceflight. Now, one of their competitors, Sierra Nevada Corp, has announced it will launch a legal challenge to the contracts. The company claims the government is spending $900 million more than it needs to for equivalent fulfillment, and they're demanding a review. They add, Importantly, the official NASA solicitation for the CCtCap contract prioritized price as the primary evaluation criteria for the proposals, setting it equal to the combined value of the other two primary evaluation criteria: mission suitability and past performance. SNC’s Dream Chaser proposal was the second lowest priced proposal in the CCtCap competition. SNC’s proposal also achieved mission suitability scores comparable to the other two proposals. In fact, out of a possible 1,000 total points, the highest ranked and lowest ranked offerors were separated by a minor amount of total points and other factors were equally comparable.

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Researchers Develop Purely Optical Cloaking

SlashDot - Sat, 09/27/2014 - 5:20pm
Rambo Tribble writes: Researchers at the University of Rochester have developed a remarkably effective visual cloak using a relatively simple arrangement of optical lenses. The method is unique in that it uses off-the-shelf components and provides cloaking through the visible spectrum. Also, it works in 3-D. As one researcher put it, "This is the first device that we know of that can do three-dimensional, continuously multidirectional cloaking, which works for transmitting rays in the visible spectrum." Bonus: The article includes instructions to build your own.

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State of Iowa Tells Tesla To Cancel Its Scheduled Test Drives

SlashDot - Sat, 09/27/2014 - 3:54pm
puddingebola writes: Conflict continues between state governments and Tesla. From the article: "Iowa joined a growing list of states tussling with Tesla Motors' business model when it told the company to cut short three days of test drives earlier this month in West Des Moines. The Iowa Department of Transportation said the test drives were illegal for two reasons: Tesla isn't licensed as an auto dealer in Iowa and state law prohibits carmakers from selling directly to the public." While the article touches on the legal restrictions on selling cars in Iowa, it seems that Tesla was only providing test drives.

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From the Maker of Arduboy: Tetris On a Bracelet

SlashDot - Sat, 09/27/2014 - 2:51pm
timothy writes: Kevin Bates showed off his tiny ("credit card sized") homebrewed game-playing rig at OSCON this summer. Not content with merely wallet sized, he's now squeezed enough display — three of them, lacking a curved display to wrap around the wrist — input sensors, and processing power (Atmega 328p) to play Tetris on a tiny, multi-segmented bracelet (video). Sure, there's been Tetris on watches before, but from large-budget companies, not — at least not that I've ever seen — from hackers. Bates' post gives some more technical details, too.

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Why the Z-80's Data Pins Are Scrambled

SlashDot - Sat, 09/27/2014 - 1:46pm
An anonymous reader writes "The Z-80 microprocessor has been around since 1976, and it was used in many computers at the beginning of the PC revolution. (For example, the TRS-80, Commodore 128, and ZX Spectrum.) Ken Shirriff has been working on reverse engineering the Z-80, and one of the things he noticed is that the data pins coming out of the chip are in seemingly random order: 4, 3, 5, 6, 2, 7, 0, 1. (And a +5V pin is stuck in the middle.) After careful study, he's come up with an explanation for this seemingly odd design. "The motivation behind splitting the data bus is to allow the chip to perform activities in parallel. For instance an instruction can be read from the data pins into the instruction logic at the same time that data is being copied between the ALU and registers. [B]ecause the Z-80 splits the data bus into multiple segments, only four data lines run to the lower right corner of the chip. And because the Z-80 was very tight for space, running additional lines would be undesirable. Next, the BIT instructions use instruction bits 3, 4, and 5 to select a particular bit. This was motivated by the instruction structure the Z-80 inherited from the 8080. Finally, the Z-80's ALU requires direct access to instruction bits 3, 4, and 5 to select the particular data bit. Putting these factors together, data pins 3, 4, and 5 are constrained to be in the lower right corner of the chip next to the ALU. This forces the data pins to be out of sequence, and that's why the Z-80 has out-of-order data pins."

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Astrophysicists Use Apollo Seismic Array To Hunt For Gravitational Waves

SlashDot - Sat, 09/27/2014 - 12:42pm
KentuckyFC writes: Back in the 1970s, the astronauts from Apollos 12, 14, 15, and 16 set up an array of seismometers on the lunar surface to listen for moonquakes. This array sent back data until 1977, when NASA switched it off. Now astrophysicists are using this lunar seismic data in the hunt for gravitational waves. The idea is that gravitational waves must squeeze and stretch the Moon as they pass by and that at certain resonant frequencies, this could trigger the kind of seismic groans that the array ought to have picked up. However, the data shows no evidence of activity at the relevant frequencies. That's important because it has allowed astronomers to put the strongest limits yet on the strength of gravitational waves in this part of the universe. Earlier this year, the same team used a similar approach with terrestrial seismic data to strengthen the existing limits by 9 orders of magnitude. The lunar data betters this by yet another order of magnitude because there is no noise from sources such as oceans, the atmosphere and plate tectonics. The work shows that good science on gravitational waves can be done without spending the hundreds of millions of dollars for bespoke gravitational wave detectors, such as LIGO, which have yet to find any evidence of the waves either.

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Consumer Reports: New iPhones Not As Bendy As Believed

SlashDot - Sat, 09/27/2014 - 11:40am
An anonymous reader writes: Over the past several days, we've been hearing reports about some amount of users noticing that their brand new iPhone 6 Plus is bending in their pockets. The pictures and videos shown so far have kicked off an investigation, and Consumer Reports has done one of the more scientific tests so far. They found that the iPhone 6 Plus takes 90 pounds of pressure before it permanently deforms. The normal iPhone 6 took even less: 70 lbs. They tested other phones as well: HTC One (M8): 70 lbs, LG G3: 130 lbs, iPhone 5: 130 lbs, Samsung Galaxy Note 3: 150 lbs. The Verge also did a report on how Apple torture-tests its devices before shipping them. Apple's standard is about 55 lbs of pressure, though it does so thousands of times before looking for bends. One analysis suggests that Apple's testing procedure only puts pressure on the middle of the phone, which doesn't sufficiently evaluate the weakened area where holes have been created for volume buttons. Consumer Reports' test presses on the middle of the device as well.

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NVIDIA Begins Requiring Signed GPU Firmware Images

SlashDot - Sat, 09/27/2014 - 10:36am
An anonymous reader writes: In a blow to those working on open-source drivers, soft-mods for enhancing graphics cards, and the Chinese knock-offs of graphics cards, NVIDIA has begun signing and validating GPU firmware images. With the latest-generation Maxwell GPUs, not all engine functionality is being exposed unless the hardware detects the firmware image was signed by NVIDIA. This is a setback to the open-source Nouveau Linux graphics driver but they're working towards a solution where NVIDIA can provide signed, closed-source firmware images to the driver project for redistribution. Initially the lack of a signed firmware image will prevent some thermal-related bits from being programmed but with future hardware the list of requirements is expected to rise.

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Expedition 42 ISS Crew Embraces Douglas Adams

SlashDot - Sat, 09/27/2014 - 9:32am
SchrodingerZ writes: In November of this year, the 42nd Expedition to the International Space Station will launch, and the crew has decided to embrace their infamous number. NASA has released an image of the crew mimicking the movie poster for The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, a film released in 2005, based on a book with the same name by Douglas Adams. Commander Butch Wilmore stands in the center as protagonist Arthur Dent, flight engineer Elena Serova as hitchhiker Ford Prefect, flight engineer Alexander Samokutyayev as antagonist Humma Kavula, astronaut Samantha Cristoforetti as Trillian, and flight engineers Terry Virts and Anton Shkaplerov as two-headed galactic president Zaphod Beeblebrox. The robotic "Robonaut 2" also stands in the picture as Marvin the depressed android. Cristoforetti, ecstatic to be part of this mission stated, "Enjoy, don't panic and always know where your towel is!" Wilmore, Serova and Samokutyayev blasted off September 25th for Expedition 41, the rest of Expedition 42 will launch November 23rd.

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Japan's Mt. Ontake Erupts, Stranding Hundreds of Hikers

SlashDot - Sat, 09/27/2014 - 8:30am
An anonymous reader writes: Japan's second highest volcano, Mount Ontake, erupted on Saturday, sending thick clouds of ash into the air. More than 250 hikers were in the area, and the ash and rocks left seven unconscious, eight injured, and all of them stranded. In video footage from the mountain, you can see the thick clouds overtaking hikers, blocking out the sun and coating them with ash. There have been no reports of lava flows, but flights in the area were forced to divert their routes. (Another video shows the ash clouds from the sky.)

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Apple Yet To Push Patch For "Shellshock" Bug

SlashDot - Sat, 09/27/2014 - 7:25am
An anonymous reader writes "Open source operating systems vulnerable to the Shellshock bug have already pushed two patches to fix the vulnerability, but Apple has yet to issue one for Mac OS X. Ars Technica speculates that licensing issues may be giving Apple pause: "[T]he current [bash] version is released under the GNU Public License version 3 (GPLv3). Apple has avoided bundling GPLv3-licensed software because of its stricter license terms....Apple executives may feel they have to have their own developers make modifications to the bash code."" It's also worth noting that there are still flaws with the patches issued so far. Meanwhile, Fedora Magazine has published an easy-to-follow description of how Shellshock actually works. The Free Software Foundation has also issued a statement about Shellshock.

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Utilities Should Worry; Rooftop Solar Could Soon Cut Their Profit

SlashDot - Sat, 09/27/2014 - 6:06am
Lucas123 writes A study by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory predicts that distributed rooftop solar panel installations will grow from 0.2% market penetration today to 10% by 2022, during which time they're likely to cut utility profits from 8% to 41%. Using those same metrics, electricity rates for utility customers will grow only by as much as 2.7% over the next eight years. By comparison, the cost of electricity on average rose 3.1% from 2013 to 2014. The study was performed for the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy under the U.S. Department of Energy. One of the main purposes of the study was to evaluate measures that could be pursued by utilities and regulators to reduce the financial impacts of distributed photovoltaics.

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Underwater Landslide May Have Doubled 2011 Japanese Tsunami

SlashDot - Sat, 09/27/2014 - 3:22am
sciencehabit writes An underwater landslide the size of the Paris may have triggered the worst of the tsunami that struck Japan on 11 March 2011, a new study claims. In the new study, researchers worked back from details of the ocean surface motion recorded by gauges along the Japanese shore on the day of the earthquake. Much as sound waves can help the ear pinpoint the source of a gunshot and whether a small pistol or a large cannon fired it, tsunami waves carry the imprint of the ocean floor disturbance that created them. The team concludes that during the earthquake a slab of sediment 20 km by 40 km and up to 2 km thick slid about 300 meters down the steep slope of Japan Trench, 'acting like a piston.'

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Marc Merlin's 2014 Burning Man Report For Tech Geeks

SlashDot - Sat, 09/27/2014 - 12:38am
marcmerlin writes Haven't been to Burning Man, or missed this year's and would like a summary? Marc Merlin has posted a summary of this year with full GPS map, pictures from the air, and everything neatly categorized, with a track of his 127 miles of biking to visit as many camps as possible. Also, if you plan on going, check out the tips at the bottom of the page.

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New Graphene Research Promises Reliable Chip-Level Production

SlashDot - Fri, 09/26/2014 - 9:43pm
An anonymous reader writes "A research team from the University of Texas and a German nanotechnology company have published a paper which describes a major milestone for the future of graphene-based computing – the reliable production of wafer-scale graphene measuring between 100 and 300mm, suitable at last for integration with 'traditional' materials in computing. The research team was able to manufacture 25,000 graphene field-effect transistors from lab-produced graphene film on a polycrystalline copper base. Team research leader Deji Akinwande said: 'Our process is based on the scalable concept of growing graphene on copper-coated silicon substrates...Once we had developed a suitable method for growing high-quality graphene with negligible numbers of defects in small sample sizes, it was relatively straightforward for us to scale up.'"(Original, paywalled paper is at ACS Nano.)

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OpenMandriva Lx 2014.1 Released

SlashDot - Fri, 09/26/2014 - 7:53pm
jrepin writes OpenMandriva is proud to announce the release of OpenMandriva Lx 2014.1 distribution of the GNU/Linux operating system. Most of developers efforts were focused on reducing system boot up time and memory usage. This version brings Linux kernel 3.15.10 (with special patches for desktop system performance, responsiveness, and realtime capabilities), KDE Software Compilation 4.13.3, Xorg 1.15.1, Mesa 10.2.6, LibreOffice 4.3.1, Firefox 32, GNU bash with latest security fixes, and many other updated software packages.

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Infinite Crisis' Superhero Origins Story

SlashDot - Fri, 09/26/2014 - 6:40pm
An anonymous reader writes A new interview published this week looks at the creation of Infinite Crisis, one of the slew of Dota 2/League of Legends team multiplayer competitors currently under development. What makes this one stand out however is not only its use of DC Comics heroes like Batman and Wonder Woman, but the experience of the studio behind it, Turbine, in massively multiplayer online games and punishing abusive and toxic players, something League of Legends developer Riot has serious struggles with. Turbine was the studio behind the popular Asheron's Call, and is applying many of th same policing techniques it used in RPGs to the growing MOBA genre. Of course, they still have troubles with the inevitable: balancing Superman as a playable character. it's a challenge, Kerr admits, especially when you're having to nerf the Man of Steel as a result. "Yes, we redid Superman three times, because, and I know this is going to be a surprise, he was super overpowered," says Infinite Crisis creative director Cardell Kerr.

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Ask Slashdot: Swift Or Objective-C As New iOS Developer's 1st Language?

SlashDot - Fri, 09/26/2014 - 5:57pm
macs4all (973270) writes "I am an experienced C and Assembler Embedded Developer who is contemplating for the first time beginning an iOS App Project. Although I am well-versed in C, I have thus-far avoided C++, C# and Java, and have only briefly dabbled in Obj-C. Now that there are two possibilities for doing iOS Development, which would you suggest that I learn, at least at first? And is Swift even far-enough along to use as the basis for an entire app's development? My goal is the fastest and easiest way to market for this project; not to start a career as a mobile developer. Another thing that might influence the decision: If/when I decide to port my iOS App to Android (and/or Windows Phone), would either of the above be an easier port; or are, for example, Dalvick and the Android APIs different enough from Swift/Obj-C and CocoaTouch that any 'port' is essentially a re-write?"

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