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Ham Radio Fills Communication Gaps In Nepal Rescue Effort

SlashDot - Wed, 04/29/2015 - 10:02am
itwbennett writes: Amateur radio has stepped in to fill communication gaps in Nepal, which is struggling with power outages and a flaky Internet after a devastating earthquake on Saturday killed over 5,000 people. Though 99 persons have ham licenses in Kathmandu, about eight use high-frequency (HF) radios that can transmit long distances, while another 30 have very high frequency and ultra high frequency sets for local traffic, said Satish Kharel, a lawyer in Kathmandu, who uses the ham call signal 9N1AA. The hobbyist radio operators are working round-the-clock to help people get in touch with relatives, pass on information and alert about developing crises.

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Pope Attacked By Climate Change Skeptics

SlashDot - Wed, 04/29/2015 - 9:20am
HughPickens.com writes: The Telegraph reports that as the Vatican forges an alliance with the UN to tackle climate change, skeptics accuse Pope Francis of being deeply ill-informed about global warming. The Pope discussed climate change with Ban Ki-Moon, the UN Secretary-General, who then opened a one-day Vatican conference called "The Moral Dimensions of Climate Change and Sustainable Development". Organized by the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, the Pontifical Academy of Social Sciences, SDSN and Religions for Peace, the goal of the conference is to help strengthen the global consensus on the importance of climate change in the context of sustainable development. But a group of British and American skeptics say the Pope is being fed "mistaken" advice from the UN and that he should stick to speaking out on matters of morality and theology rather than getting involved in the climate change debate. "The Pope has great moral authority but he's not an authority on climate science. He's a learned man but the IPCC has got it wrong," says Jim Lakely of the Heartland Institute, a conservative American pressure group partly funded by billionaire industrialists who question climate change. "The Pope would make a grave mistake if he put his moral authority behind scientists saying that climate change is a threat to the world. Many scientists have concluded that human activity is a minor player. The Earth has been warming since the end of the last Ice Age." It was the first time the Heartland Institute, which is based in Chicago and has been described by the New York Times as "the primary American organization pushing climate change skepticism," has traveled to Rome to try to influence a pope. "The sideshow envisioned by these organizations will not detract from the deep concern that Pope Francis has for the truth and how it relates to the environment," says Dr. Bernard Brady, Professor and Chair of the Theology Department at the University of St. Thomas. "Pope Francis will probably follow his predecessor, Benedict XVI, recognizing the interrelatedness of climate change with other moral issues and calling for persons, organizations, communities, nations, and indeed the global community, to reconsider established patterns of behavior."

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Crashing iPad App Grounds Dozens of American Airline Flights

SlashDot - Wed, 04/29/2015 - 8:37am
infolation writes: American Airlines was forced to delay multiple flights on Tuesday night after the iPad app used by pilots crashed. Introduced in 2013, the cockpit iPads are used as an "electronic flight bag," replacing 16kg (35lb) of paper manuals which pilots are typically required to carry on flights. In some cases, the flights had to return to the gate to access Wi-Fi to fix the issue.

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Russian Cargo Mission To ISS Spinning Out of Control

SlashDot - Wed, 04/29/2015 - 7:56am
quippe writes: Many sources report that a Russian spacecraft, launched successfully (video) from Russia's Baikonur cosmodrome in Kazakhstan earlier Tuesday, is in big trouble now after having a glitch shortly after liftoff. There is a video on YouTube (credit: NASA) of the space ship spinning out of control. Recovery attempts haven't gone well so far, but they will continue. If they can't regain control, the ship will likely burn up when it falls back into the atmosphere. Current speculation points to greater-than-expected lift by the third-stage, because the apogee is 20km higher than planned. The ship does not seem to pose a threat to the ISS at the moment.

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Who Owns Pre-Embryos?

SlashDot - Wed, 04/29/2015 - 7:14am
An anonymous reader writes: Scientifically and legally, frozen embryos are not the same as a living child. Nevertheless, they can inspire legal battles that resemble custody disputes. This article follows a case between a couple who had been dating for five months when the woman received a cancer diagnosis. Before beginning chemotherapy, she and her boyfriend of five months decided to harvest and set aside some fertilized eggs, just in case. (If the treatment saved her but destroyed her ability to have kids, and the couple stayed together and decided they wanted kids, the pre-embryos would preserve that option.) She survived, but their relationship didn't. With no explicit contract in place, the disposition/custody of the pre-embryos is now hotly contested. "[R]eading over the case, one gets the sense that there's a fundamental lack of language to describe what's at stake. There may be an emerging field of law and legal precedent, but the terms at hand don't adequately capture the nature of the dispute."

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How Google Searches Are Promoting Genocide Denial

SlashDot - Wed, 04/29/2015 - 4:22am
merbs writes: If you use Google Turkey to search for "Ermeni Krm", which means "Armenian genocide" in Turkish, the first thing you'll see is a sponsored link to a website whose purpose is to deny there was any genocide at all. If you Google "Armenia genocide" in the U.S., you'll see the same thing. FactCheckArmenia.com may reflect Turkey's longstanding position that the Ottoman Empire's systematic effort to "relocate" and exterminate its Armenian population does not qualify as a genocide, but it certainly does not reflect the facts. The sponsored link to a credible-looking website risks confusing searchers about the true nature of the event. Worse, it threatens to poison a nascent willingness among Turkish citizens to recognize and discuss the horrors of its past.

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When Enthusiasm For Free Software Turns Ugly

SlashDot - Wed, 04/29/2015 - 2:40am
An anonymous reader writes: Bruce Byfield writes for Linux Magazine about the unfortunate side-effect of people being passionate about open source software: discussions about rival projects can get heated and turn ugly. "Why, for example, would I possibly to see OpenOffice humiliated? I prefer LibreOffice's releases, and — with some misgivings — the Free Software Foundation's philosophy and licensing over that of the Apache Foundation. I also question the efficiency of having two office suites so closely related to each other. Yet while exploring such issues may be news, I don't forget that, despite these differences, OpenOffice and the Apache Foundation still have the same general goals as LibreOffice or the Free Software Foundation. The same is true of other famous feuds. Why, because I have a personal preference for KDE, am I supposed to ignore GNOME's outstanding interface designs? Similarly, because I value Debian's stability and efforts at democracy, am I supposed to have a strong distaste for Ubuntu?"

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The Power of Backroom Lobbying: How the Music Industry Got a Copyright Extension

SlashDot - Wed, 04/29/2015 - 1:12am
An anonymous reader writes: The Canadian government's unexpected budget decision to extend the term of copyright for sound recordings came as a surprise to most copyright watchers, but not the music industry lobby, which was ready with a press release within minutes. How did the industry seemingly know this was coming? Michael Geist reports that records show the extension is the result of backroom lobbying with monthly meetings between senior government officials and music industry lobbyists paving the way for copyright term extension without public consultation or debate.

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Half-Life 2 Writer on VR Gaming: We're At Pong Level, Only Scratching the Surface

SlashDot - Tue, 04/28/2015 - 11:19pm
An anonymous reader writes: Valve's Chet Faliszek has been in the video game industry for a long time, and his writing has been instrumental for games like Half-life 2, Portal, and Left 4 Dead. Valve is now developing a virtual reality headset, and Faliszek was on hand at a VR-centric conference where he spoke about how the technology is coming along. He said, "None of us know what the hell we are doing. We're still just scratching the surface of VR. We still haven't found out what VR is, and that's fine. We've been making movies in pretty much the same way for 100 years, TV for 60 years and videogames for 40. VR has only really been [in development] for about a year, so we're at Pong level." One of the obstacles holding VR devices back right now is getting the hardware up to snuff. Faliszek says, "There's one thing you can't do and that's make people sick. It has to run at 90 frames per second. Any lower and people feel sick. Telling people they will be ok 'Once you get your VR legs' is a wholly wrong idea. If people need to get used to it then that's failure."

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The Battle of 100 Freeciv AIs

SlashDot - Tue, 04/28/2015 - 10:19pm
Andreas(R) writes: The open source Freeciv project has simulated an epic game where 100 artificial intelligence players fight it out on a large map. You can watch the replay and check out the statistics of each AI.

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Ask Slashdot: How Should I Build a Maker Space For a Liberal Arts College?

SlashDot - Tue, 04/28/2015 - 9:15pm
XxtraLarGe writes: I work for a small liberal arts college, and have been asked to research makerspaces. I have done a bunch of initial research which tells me a lot about equipment being used, as well as location, etc., but what I'm not finding are what to know before you start, or what it takes to make the effort worthwhile. I'd be interested in hearing from other educators, staff, students and other maker community members on Slashdot that had makerspaces at their schools or community — can be any level — and what was the experience like? 3D printer, 3D scanner & Laser cutting machines seem to be a given, so I'd like to hear what kinds of think-outside-the-box equipment/materials did you have? We are considering putting it in our library, which seems to be a popular choice with most schools. There's also the possibility of having it somewhere in town that it could be more accessible to members of the community, maybe even as a co-op.

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Massachusetts Governor Introduces Bill To Regulate Uber, Lyft

SlashDot - Tue, 04/28/2015 - 7:23pm
jfruh writes: The "wild west" days of ridesharing services may be coming to an end. The governor of Massachusetts has proposed a bill that would regulate Uber, Lyft, and their rivals in the state. Among the new rules: ridesharing services would have to run background checks on their drivers and keep a roster of active drivers; vehicles would need to have some external marker indicating that they're a ridesharing car; and drivers would need to hold at $1 million worth of insurance when transporting passengers.

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RealTek SDK Introduces Vulnerability In Some Routers

SlashDot - Tue, 04/28/2015 - 6:43pm
jones_supa writes: SOHO routers from manufacturers including at least Trendnet and D-Link allow attackers anywhere in the world to execute malicious code on the devices, according to a security advisory issued over the weekend. The remote command-injection vulnerability resides in the "miniigd SOAP service" as implemented by the RealTek SDK. Before someone asks, there is no comprehensive list of manufacturers or models that are affected. Nerds may be able to spot them by using the Metasploit framework to query their router. If the response contains "RealTek/v1.3" or similar, the device is likely vulnerable. For now, the vulnerable routers should be restricted to communicate only with trusted devices. HP's Zero Day Initiative reported the bug confidentially to RealTek in August 2013, but the issue was disclosed 20 months later as no fix has been provided.

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The Next Generation of Medical Tools May Be Home-brewed

SlashDot - Tue, 04/28/2015 - 6:00pm
An anonymous reader writes: In the Little Devices Lab at MIT, Jose Gomez-Marquez builds medical tools using a DIY mindset. He's designing cheap alternatives to existing hospital equipment to help spread high-quality medical care around the world. Gomez-Marquez is at the forefront of a large and often-unrecognized group of DIY medical tool builders. Together they are challenging the idea that staying healthy requires extraordinarily expensive, sophisticated equipment built by massive corporations. Harnessing this inventive energy, he argues, could improve the health of thousands of people around the world.

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Why Crypto Backdoors Wouldn't Work

SlashDot - Tue, 04/28/2015 - 5:17pm
An anonymous reader writes: Your devices should come with a government backdoor. That's according to the heads of the FBI, NSA, and DHS. There are many objections, especially that backdoors add massive security risks. Would backdoors even be effective, though? In a new writeup, a prominent Stanford security researcher argues that crypto backdoors "will not work." Walking step-by-step through a hypothetical backdoored Android, he argues that "in order to make secure apps just slightly more difficult for criminals to obtain, and just slightly less worthwhile for developers, the government would have to go to extraordinary lengths. In an arms race between cryptographic backdoors and secure apps, the United States would inevitably lose."

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Meet the Firmware Lead For Google's Project Ara Modular Smartphone (Video)

SlashDot - Tue, 04/28/2015 - 4:36pm
According to Wikipedia, 'Project Ara is the codename for an initiative that aims to develop an open hardware platform for creating highly modular smartphones.' Google is the sponsor, and the project seems to be moving faster than some people expect it to. There's a Project Ara website, of course, a GitHub repository, a Facebook page, even an Ara subreddit. During his conversation with Timothy Lord, Ara firmware project lead (and spokesman) Marti Bolivar said it won't be long before prototype Ara modular phones start user testing. Meanwhile, if you want to see what Marti and his coworkers have been up to lately, besides this interview, you can read a transcription of his talk (including slides) from the January Project Ara Developers Conference in Singapore.

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Verizon Tells Customer He Needs 75Mbps For Smoother Netflix Video

SlashDot - Tue, 04/28/2015 - 3:53pm
An anonymous reader writes: Verizon recently told a customer that upgrading his 50Mbps service to 75Mbps would result in smoother streaming of Netflix video. Of course, that's not true — Netflix streams at a rate of about 3.5 Mbps on average for Verizon's fiber service, so there's more than enough headroom either way. But this customer was an analyst for the online video industry, so he did some testing and snapped some screenshots for evidence. He fired up 10 concurrent streams of a Game of Thrones episode and found only 29Mbps of connection being used. This guy was savvy enough to see through Verizon's BS, but I'm sure there are millions of customers who wouldn't bat an eye at the statements they were making. The analyst "believes that the sales pitch he received is not just an isolated incident, since he got the same pitch from three sales reps over the phone and one online."

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Breakthough Makes Transparent Aluminum Affordable

SlashDot - Tue, 04/28/2015 - 3:10pm
frank249 writes: In the Star Trek universe, transparent aluminum is used in various fittings in starships, including exterior ship portals and windows. In real life, Aluminium oxynitride is a form of ceramic whose properties are similar to those of the fictional substance seen in Star Trek. It has a hardness of 7.7 Mohs and was patented in 1980. It has military applications as bullet-resistant armor, but is too expensive for widespread use. Now, there has been a major breakthrough in materials science. After decades of research and development, the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory has created a transparent, bulletproof material that can be molded into virtually any shape. This material, known as Spinel (magnesium aluminate), is made from a synthetic powdered clay that is heated and pressed under vacuum into transparent sheets. Spinel weighs just a fraction of a modern bulletproof pane.

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A Light-Powered Retina Implant For the Blind

SlashDot - Tue, 04/28/2015 - 2:28pm
the_newsbeagle writes: In certain diseases of the retina, people lose function in the photoreceptor cells that respond to light and trigger a message to the brain. So engineers have designed various retina implants that do the job instead, including the Argus II system, which received the first FDA approval for an implanted visual prosthetic in 2013. But the Argus II only produces vision of about 20/1200. A new implant in the pipeline from Stanford University has already achieved 20/250 vision in rats, and is aiming at 20/120, which would be below the legal threshold for blindness. This implant is photovoltaic, so the same infrared light that beams an image of the world into the implanted chip also powers its electronics.

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KDE Plasma 5.3 Released

SlashDot - Tue, 04/28/2015 - 1:47pm
jrepin writes: The KDE community has released Plasma 5.3, a major new version of the popular, open source desktop environment. The latest release brings much enhanced power management, better support for Bluetooth, and improved Plasma widgets. Also available is a technical preview of Plasma Media Center shell. In addition, Plasma 5.3 represents a big step towards support for the Wayland windowing system. There are also a few other minor tweaks and over 300 bugfixes. Here is the full changelog, and here's the package download wiki page.

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