Geek Stuff

AMD exit “dense server” business, puts SeaMicro brand to sleep

Liliputing -

AMD may be best known for making processors and graphics cards that are used in some laptop and desktop computers. But a few years ago AMD acquired a company called SeaMicro which had been building “dense servers” that packed hundreds of small, low-power chips together to create high-performance, low-power servers. Now AMD is getting out of […]

AMD exit “dense server” business, puts SeaMicro brand to sleep is a post from: Liliputing

StarTalk TV Show With Neil DeGrasse Tyson Starts Monday

Slashdot -

An anonymous reader writes: Neil DeGrasse Tyson of StarTalk Radio and Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey has a TV show starting on Monday, April 20, at 11 p.m. ET/10 p.m. CT on NatGeo. Based on Dr. Tyson's prominent podcast of the same name, the hour-long, weekly series infuses pop culture with science, while bringing together comedians and celebrities to delve into a wide range of topics. Each week, in a private interview, Dr. Tyson explores all the ways science and technology have influenced the lives and livelihoods of his guests, whatever their background.

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Amazon pulls the plug on TestDrive (service for trying Android apps before downloading them)

Liliputing -

So long Amazon TestDrive. I’d kind of forgotten you existed. When Amazon launched its Appstore for Android, one of the most interesting features was the option to try apps in your web browser before downloading them. This could let you figure out whether a paid app was worth your money without spending a penny. A year […]

Amazon pulls the plug on TestDrive (service for trying Android apps before downloading them) is a post from: Liliputing

Breakthrough In Artificial Photosynthesis Captures CO2 In Acetate

Slashdot -

An anonymous reader writes: Researchers from Berkeley Lab and the U.S. Dept. of Energy have created an artificial photosynthetic process that capture carbon dioxide in acetate, "the most common building block today for biosynthesis." The research has been published in the journal Nano Letters (abstract). "Atmospheric carbon dioxide is now at its highest level in at least three million years, primarily as a result of the burning of fossil fuels. Yet fossil fuels, especially coal, will remain a significant source of energy to meet human needs for the foreseeable future. Technologies for sequestering carbon before it escapes into the atmosphere are being pursued but all require the captured carbon to be stored, a requirement that comes with its own environmental challenges. ... By combining biocompatible light-capturing nanowire arrays with select bacterial populations, the new artificial photosynthesis system offers a win/win situation for the environment: solar-powered green chemistry using sequestered carbon dioxide."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Xiaomi Mi Note Pro smartphone pre-orders begin May 6th (in China)

Liliputing -

The Xiaomi Mi Note Pro is a smartphone with a 5.7 inch, 2560 x 1440 pixel display, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 processor, 4GB of RAM, and 64GB of storage. The company first introduced the Mi Note Pro in January, but it will finally be available for pre-order starting May 6th… at least for folks living […]

Xiaomi Mi Note Pro smartphone pre-orders begin May 6th (in China) is a post from: Liliputing

Scientists Close To Solving the Mystery of Where Dogs Came From

Slashdot -

sciencehabit writes: For years researchers have argued over where and when dogs arose. Some say Europe, some say Asia. Some say 15,000 years ago, some say more than 30,000 years ago. Now an unprecedented collaboration of archaeologists and geneticists from around the world is attempting to solve the mystery once and for all. They're analyzing thousands of bones, employing new technologies, and trying to put aside years of bad blood and bruised egos. If the effort succeeds, the former competitors will uncover the history of man's oldest friend — and solve one of the greatest mysteries of domestication.

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Amazonian rainforest simulation

Raspberry Pi -

Mike “Recantha” Horne mailed me yesterday saying he’d found something that was (and I quote) “ALL KINDS OF COOL”. He also taught me a new word. This project is a paludarium: a created environment that mimics a complete terrestrial and aquatic biome, full of plants and animals that live in water and on land. A bit like a terrarium, but with an aquatic element as well (or a bit like an aquarium with a greenhouse on top).

The paludarium in question, created by a team called Poopi and Piter (it seems Piter built the paludarium and Poopi built the system that creates the weather and time-of-day effects), simulates an Amazonian rainforest, with fog, rainfall, thunderstorms and wind; as well as a complete diurnal cycle. The Raspberry Pi is responsible for running:

  • 6 independent sections of halogen lights
  • 27 independently controlled 1W LEDs for various effects
  • 3 independent 3W RGB LEDs for ambient color effects
  • 3 independent 3W LEDs for lightning and moon simulation
  • 3 independent 10W LEDs for Aquarium lighting
  • 2 independent FANs for wind simulation
  • 3 fog generators
  • 2 independent solenoids for rain control
  • Temperature monitoring

This is one of the most beautiful projects we’ve ever featured here. It’s a compelling watch: enjoy the video.

LAUSD OKs Girls-Only STEM School, Plans Boys-Only English Language Arts School

Slashdot -

theodp writes: Citing statistics that showed a whopping 46 more boys than girls passed the AP Computer Science Exam in 2011-12, the 640,000+ student Los Angeles Unified School District (LAUSD) on Tuesday approved a waiver to enable the District to operate a single-gender, all-girls STEM School called the Girls Academic Leadership Academy (GALA). Students in GALA will follow a six year sequence of computer courses starting in middle school that will culminate in AP Computer Science Principles. "Fewer females take AP courses in math, science, or computer science, and they are not as successful as males in receiving passing scores of 3, 4 or 5," argued the General Waiver Request (PDF, 700+ pages). "An all girls environment is reasonably necessary for the school to improve the self-confidence of girls in their academic abilities, especially in STEM areas where an achievement gap currently exists. GALA's admissions shall also comply with AB 1266 to ensure male students who identify as female are admitted to the school." The school's CS-related Partners include the UCLA Exploring Computer Science Program, as well as Google-bankrolled Girls Who Code, Black Girls Code, and NCWIT. One of the reasons the all-girls STEM school reportedly got the green light is that its backers satisfied federal regulations requiring a "substantially equal school" for excluded male students by submitting a plan for a companion all-boys school that would emphasize English Language Arts, where they often fall short of girls' test scores, rather than GALA's focus on STEM. One suspects the no-fan-of-gender-restricted-public-schools ACLU may call BS on this maneuver.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Wikileaks Publishes Hacked Sony Emails, Documents

Slashdot -

itwbennett writes Wikileaks has published a searchable database of thousands of emails and documents from Sony Pictures Entertainment that were leaked in late 2014 after the studio was attacked by hackers. Some of the 173,132 emails and 30,287 documents contain highly personal information about Sony employees including home addresses, personal phone numbers and social security numbers, a fact which is likely to raise new concerns about the use of stolen information online.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

AMD Withdraws From High-Density Server Business

Slashdot -

An anonymous reader sends word that AMD has pulled out of the market for high-density servers. "AMD has pulled out of the market for high-density servers, reversing a strategy it embarked on three years ago with its acquisition of SeaMicro. AMD delivered the news Thursday as it announced financial results for the quarter. Its revenue slumped 26 percent from this time last year to $1.03 billion, and its net loss increased to $180 million, the company said. AMD paid $334 million to buy SeaMicro, which developed a new type of high-density server aimed at large-scale cloud and Internet service providers."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

UK Company Wants To Deliver Parcels Through Underground Tunnels

Slashdot -

Zothecula writes Drones flown by Amazon aren't the only way we could be getting our parcels delivered in the near future. UK firm Mole Solutions is exploring the possibility of using small robot trains running on underground tracks to manage deliveries, and it's just received funding from the British government to help test the viability of the proposal.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Newly Discovered Sixth Extinction Rivals That of the Dinosaurs

Slashdot -

sciencehabit writes Earth has seen its share of catastrophes, the worst being the 'big five' mass extinctions scientists traditionally talk about. Now, paleontologists are arguing that a sixth extinction, 260 million years ago, at the end of a geological age called the Capitanian, deserves to be a member of the exclusive club. In a new study, they offer evidence for a massive die-off in shallow, cool waters in what is now Norway. That finding, combined with previous evidence of extinctions in tropical waters, means that the Capitanian was a global catastrophe.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Microsoft's Role As Accuser In the Antitrust Suit Against Google

Slashdot -

HughPickens.com writes Danny Hakim reports at the NYT that as European antitrust regulators formally accuse Google of abusing its dominance, Microsoft is relishing playing a behind-the-scenes role of scold instead of victim. Microsoft has founded or funded a cottage industry of splinter groups to go after Google. The most prominent, the Initiative for a Competitive Online Marketplace, or Icomp, has waged a relentless public relations campaign promoting grievances against Google. It conducted a study that suggested changes made by Google to appease regulators were largely window dressing. "Microsoft is doing its best to create problems for Google," says Manfred Weber, the chairman of the European People's Party, the center-right party that is the largest voting bloc in the European Parliament. "It's interesting. Ten years ago Microsoft was a big and strong company. Now they are the underdog." According to Hakim, Microsoft and Google are the Cain and Abel of American technology, locked in the kind of struggle that often takes place when a new giant threatens an older one. Microsoft was frustrated after American regulators at the Federal Trade Commission didn't act on a similar antitrust investigation against Google in 2013, calling it a "missed opportunity." It has taken the fight to the state level, along with a number of other opponents of Google. Microsoft alleges that Google's anti-competitive practices include stopping Bing from indexing content on Google-owned YouTube; blocking Microsoft Windows smartphones from "operating properly" with YouTube; blocking access to content owned by book publishers; and limiting the flow of ad campaign information back to advertisers, making it more expensive to run ads with rivals. "Over the past year, a growing number of advertisers, publishers, and consumers have expressed to us their concerns about the search market in Europe," says Brad Smith, Microsoft's general counsel. "They've urged us to share our knowledge of the search market with competition officials."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Enceladus Spreads Ghostly Ice Tendrils Around Saturn

Slashdot -

astroengine writes A ghostly apparition has long been known to follow Saturn moon Enceladus in its orbit around the gas giant. But until now, scientists have had a hard time tracking its source. Using images from NASA's Cassini mission, the source of these tendrils have been tracked down and they originate from the icy moon's famous geysers. But even better than that, scientists have been able to track the tendril shapes down to the specific geysers that produce them. "We've been able to show that each unique tendril structure can be reproduced by particular sets of geysers on the moon's surface," said Colin Mitchell, a Cassini imaging team associate at the Space Science Institute in Boulder, Colo., and lead author of a paper published int he Astrophysical Journal. The study of these features are helping scientists understand how much ice is being transported into Saturn's E ring from Enceladus as well as helping us understand the evolution of the moon's sub-surface ocean.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Google Helps Homeless Street Vendors Get Paid By Cashless Consumers

Slashdot -

An anonymous reader writes Starting today Seattle pedestrians can no longer pat their pockets and claim to have no cash when offered a copy of the ironically-named Real Change weekly newspaper by a homeless street vendor. Google has spent two years working with the Real Change organization to develop a barcode-scanning app which lets passers-by purchase a digital edition with their mobile phones. Google's Meghan Casserly believes the Real Change app — available on Android and iOs — represents the first of its kind in North America.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

GNU Hurd 0.6 Released

Slashdot -

jrepin writes It has been roughly a year and a half since the last release of the GNU Hurd operating system, so it may be of interest to some readers that GNU Hurd 0.6 has been released along with GNU Mach 1.5 (the microkernel that Hurd runs on) and GNU MIG 1.5 (the Mach Interface Generator, which generates code to handle remote procedure calls). New features include procfs and random translators; cleanups and stylistic fixes, some of which came from static analysis; message dispatching improvements; integer hashing performance improvements; a split of the init server into a startup server and an init program based on System V init; and more.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

MIT Researchers Develop Wireless Trackpad For Your Thumbnail

Slashdot -

itwbennett writes: Called NailO, the prototype trackpad is similar to the stick-on nails sometimes used as a fashion accessory. It attaches to the user's thumb and can be controlled by running a finger over its surface. The processor, battery, sensing chip and Bluetooth radio are included on a circuit board that sits under the capacitive trackpad. The two are connected via a small ribbon cable, which means the trackpad is not quite as thin as a stick-on nail, but reducing the size is one of the aims of the researchers.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

An Engineering Analysis of the Falcon 9 First Stage Landing Failure

Slashdot -

schwit1 writes: AviationWeek has posted an analysis of SpaceX's latest attempt to land its Falcon 9 rocket on an ocean barge. Quoting: "SpaceX founder and chief technology officer Elon Musk tweeted that "excess lateral velocity caused it [the booster] to tip over post landing." In a later tweet that was subsequently withdrawn, Musk then indicated that "the issue was stiction in the biprop throttle valve, resulting in control system phase lag." In this statement, Musk was referring to "stiction" — or static friction — in the valve controlling the throttling of the engine. The friction appears to have momentarily slowed the response of the engine, causing the control system to command more of an extreme reaction from the propulsion system than was required. As a result, the control system entered a form of hysteresis, a condition in which the control response lags behind changes in the effect causing it. Despite the failure of the latest attempt, SpaceX will be encouraged by the landing accuracy of the Falcon 9 and the bigger-picture success of its guidance, navigation and control (GNC) system in bringing the booster back to the drone ship. The GNC also worked as designed during the prior landing attempt in January, which ended in the destruction of the vehicle following a hard touchdown on the edge of the platform." In related news, SpaceX is hoping to attempt its next landing on solid ground.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Fast Track Bill Would Legitimize White House Secrecy and Clear the Way for Anti-User Trade Deals

EFF's Deeplinks -

Following months of protest, Congress has finally put forth bicameral Fast Track legislation today to rush trade agreements like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP) through Congress. Sens. Orrin Hatch and Ron Wyden, and Rep. Paul Ryan, respectively, introduced the bill titled the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015. With Fast Track, lawmakers will be shirking their constitutional authority over trade policy, letting the White House and the U.S. Trade Representative pass Internet rules in back room meetings with corporate industry groups. If this passes, lawmakers would only have a small window of time to conduct hearings over trade provisions and give a yea-or-nay vote on ratification of the agreement without any ability to amend it before they bind the United States to its terms.

The Fast Track bill contains some minor procedural improvements from the version of the bill introduced last year. However, these fixes will do little to nothing to address the threats of restrictive digital regulations on users rights in the TPP or TTIP. The biggest of these changes is language that would create a new position of Chief Transparency Officer that would supposedly have the authority to “consult with Congress on transparency policy, coordinate transparency in trade negotiations, engage and assist the public, and advise the United States Trade Representative on transparency policy.”

However, given the strict rules of confidentiality of existing, almost completed trade deals and those outlined in the Fast Track bill itself, we have no reason to believe that this officer would have much power to do anything meaningful to improve trade transparency, such as releasing the text of the agreement to the public prior to the completion of negotiations. As it stands, the text only has to be released to the public 60 days before it is signed, at which time the text is already locked down from any further amendments.

There is also a new "consultation and compliance" procedure, about which Public Citizen writes [pdf]:

The bill’s only new feature in this respect is a new “consultation and compliance” procedure that would only be usable after an agreement was already signed and entered into, at which point changes to the pact could be made only if all other negotiating parties agreed to reopen negotiations and then agreed to the changes (likely after extracting further concessions from the United States). That process would require approval by 60 Senators to take a pact off of Fast Track consideration, even though a simple majority “no” vote in the Senate would have the same effect on an agreement.

Thus, essentially the Fast Track bill does the same as it ever did—tying the hands of Congress so that it is unable to give meaningful input into the agreement during its drafting, or to thoroughly review the agreement once it is completed.

A main feature of the bill is its negotiation objectives, which set the parameters within which the President is authorized to negotiate the agreement. If Congress considers that the text ultimately deviates from these objectives, it can vote the agreement down. Some of these negotiation objectives have been added or changed since the previous Fast Track bill, but none of these provide any comfort to us on the troubling issues from the Intellectual Property, E-Commerce, and Investment chapters of the TPP. Indeed, some of the new text raise concerns. For example:

  • Governments are to “refrain from implementing trade-related measures that impede digital trade in goods and services, restrict cross-border data flows, or require local storage or processing of data”. Data flows and the location of the processing of data aren't solely or even primarily trade issues; they are human rights issues that can affect privacy, free expression and more. The discussion about whether laws that require local storage and processing of certain kinds of sensitive personal data are protective of user rights, for instance, cannot take place in the secret enclaves of a trade negotiation. The bill does allow for exceptions as required to further "legitimate policy objectives", but only where these "are the least restrictive on trade" and "promote an open market environment".
  • Trade secrets collected by governments are to be protected against disclosure except in "exceptional circumstances to protect the public, or where such information is effectively protected against unfair competition". But there are other cases in which there may be an important public interest in the disclosure of such trade secrets, such as where they reveal past misdeeds, or throw transparency onto the activities of corporations executing public functions.

But more troubling than what has been included in the negotiating objectives, is what has been excluded. There is literally nothing to require balance in copyright, such as the fair use right. On the contrary; if a country's adoption of a fair use style right causes loss to a foreign investor, it could even be challenged as a breach of the agreement, under the investor-state dispute settlement (ISDS) provisions. Further, the "Intellectual Property" section of today's bill is virtually identical to the version introduced in 2002, and what minor changes there are do not change the previous text's evident antipathy for fair use. So while the new bill has added, as an objective, "to ensure that trade agreements foster innovation and promote access to medicines," an unchanged objective is "providing strong enforcement of intellectual property rights." What happens if those two objectives are in conflict? For example, in many industries, thin copyright and patent restrictions have proven to be more conducive to innovation than the thick, "strong" measures the bill requires. Some of our most innovative industries have been built on fair use and other exceptions to copyright—and that's even more obvious now than it was in 2002. The unchanged language suggests the underlying assumption of the drafters is that more IP restrictions mean more innovation and access, and that's an assumption that's plainly false.

All in all, we do not see anything in this bill that would truly remedy the secretive, undemocratic process of trade agreements. Therefore, EFF stands alongside the huge coalition public interest groups, professors, lawmakers, and individuals who are opposed to Fast Track legislation that would legitimize the White House's corporate-captured, backroom trade negotiations. The Fast Track bill will likely come to a vote by next week—and stopping it is one sure-fire way to block the passage of these secret, anti-user deals.

If you're on Twitter, help us call on influential members of Congress to come out against this bill.

Additional Resources:

Read the text of the Bipartisan Congressional Trade Priorities and Accountability Act of 2015 here.

Read about all of our concerns with the TPP agreement:


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Embedded Linux Takes to the Skies (Video)

Slashdot -

This is an interview with Clay McClure. He makes his living designing 'custom Linux software solutions for technology start-ups in Atlanta and the San Francisco Bay area.' He also works on Embedded Linux for autonomous drones. Here's a link to slides from a talk he gave on exactly that topic: Flying Penguins - Embedded Linux Applications for autonomous UAVs, and that's far from all he has to say about making Linux-controlled drones. However, for some reason Timothy and Clay didn't talk about using drones for target practice. Perhaps they can discuss that another time. NOTE: We urge you to read the transcript of this interview even if you prefer watching videos; it contains material we left out of the video due to sound problems.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

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