Data Storage

Amazon To Offer Sneakernet Services: Data Upload By Mail 30

blueshift_1 writes: If you have 50TB of data that you'd like to put on the S3 cloud, Amazon is releasing Snowball. It's basically a large grey box full of hard drives that Amazon will mail to you. Simply upload your files and mail it back — they will upload it for you. For $200 + shipping, it's at a pretty reasonable price point if you're tired of hosting your data and want to try and push that to AWS. ("Never underestimate the bandwidth of a station wagon full of tapes hurtling down the highway." -Tanenbaum, Andrew S.)

Mozilla Sets Out Its Proposed Principles For Content Blocking ( 188

Mark Wilson writes: With Apple embracing ad blocking and the likes of AdBlock Plus proving more popular than ever, content blocking is making the headlines at the moment. There are many sides to the debate about blocking ads — revenue for sites, privacy concerns for visitors, speeding up page loads times (Google even allows for the display of ads with its AMP Project), and so on — but there are no signs that it is going to go away. Getting in on the action, Mozilla has set out what it believes are some reasonable principles for content blocking that will benefit everyone involved. Three cornerstones have been devised with a view to ensuring that content providers and content consumers get a fair deal, and you can help to shape how they develop.

How Analog Tide Predictors Changed Human History ( 27

szczys writes: You'd think Tide prediction would be quite easy, it comes in, it goes out. But of course it's driven by gravity between the moon and earth and there's a lot more to it. Today, computer models make this easy, but before computers we used incredible analog machines to predict the tides. The best of these machines were the deciding factor in setting a date for the Allies landing in Europe leading to the end of the second world war. From the Hackaday story: "In England, tide prediction was handled by Arthur Thomas Doodson from the Liverpool Tidal Institute. It was Doodson who made the tidal predictions for the Allied invasion at Normandy. Doodson needed access to local tide data, but the British only had information for the nearby ports. Factors like the shallow water effect and local weather impact on tidal behavior made it impossible to interpolate for the landing sites based on the port data. The shallow water effect could really throw off the schedule for demolishing the obstacles if the tide rose too quickly. Secret British reconnaissance teams covertly collected shallow water data at the enemy beaches and sent it to Doodson for analysis. To further complicate things, the operatives couldn’t just tell Doodson that the invasion was planned for the beaches of Normandy. So he had to figure it out from the harmonic constants sent to him by William Ian Farquharson, superintendent of tides at the Hydrographic Office of the Royal Navy. He did so using the third iteration of Kelvin’s predictor along with another machine. These were kept in separate rooms lest they be taken out by the same bomb.

Volkswagen Boss Blames Software Engineers For Scandal ( 410

hattig writes: Today VW's Michael Horn is testifying to Congress and has blamed the recent scandal on engineers saying: "It's the decision of a couple of software engineers, not the board members." However, 530,000 cars in the U.S. will need to be recalled for significant engine modifications, not a software fix. Only 80,000 Passats are eligible for the software fix. There is no word on the effects these modifications will have on the cars' performance, fuel consumption, etc. The BBC reports: "The issue of defeat devices at VW has been a historic problem, points out a Congress panel member questioning VW US chief Michael Horn. In 1974, VW had a run-in with US authorities regarding the use of defeat devices in 1974, and in December 2014 it recalled cars to address nox emissions."

Former Reuters Media Editor Found Guilty of Helping Anonymous Hack Into LA Times ( 36

An anonymous reader writes: Prolific tweeter and former Reuters social media editor Matthew Keys, charged with computer hacking under the Computer Fraud & Abuse Act, was found guilty today on all counts and faces up to 25 years in prison when sentenced in January. Wired reports: "According to authorities, during a recorded FBI interview with Keys in October 2012 at his home, prior to his indictment, he admitted to his involvement in the hacking of the L.A. Times, and to sending a series of disparaging, sometimes threatening e-mails to a former employer. Keys waived his Miranda rights at the time of the interview and was concerned that the case not be publicized, apparently believing he might get off as a cooperating witness."

'Voices From Chernobyl' Author Svetlana Alexievich Wins Lit Nobel ( 45

Lawrence Bottorff writes: The author of Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster, Svetlana Alexievich, has won the Nobel Prize in Literature. It's somewhat surprising, since she is an investigative journalist and not a fiction writer/novelist. And yet her "novels in voices" style, as the Nobel jurists believe, clearly has a literary impact. Here's what a review from the Journal of Nuclear Medicine says about Voices from Chernobyl:

"Alexievich was a journalist living in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, at the time of the Chernobyl accident. Instead of choosing the usual approach of trying to quantify a disaster in terms of losses and displacement, the author chose instead to interview more than 500 eyewitnesses over a span of 10 years. ... It tells us about the psychologic and personal tragedy of the modern-day nuclear disaster. It is about the experiences of individuals and how the disaster affected their lives."

Although the Nobel Prize in Literature is awarded based on "lifetime work" rather than an individual book, Voices... is her best-known and most celebrated work.


MIT Master's Program To Use MOOCs As 'Admissions Test' ( 106

jyosim writes: In what could usher a new way of doing college admissions at elite colleges, MIT is experimenting with weighing MOOC performance as proof that students should be accepted to on-campus programs. The idea is to fix the "inexact science" of sorting through candidates from all over the world. And it gives students a better sense of what they're getting into: "When you buy a car, you take a test drive. Wouldn't it be a great value for prospective students to take a test course before they apply?" said one academic blogger.

Enlightenment Mysteriously Drops Wayland Support 105

jones_supa writes: According to Enlightenment 0.19.12's release notes, it's an important release that fixes over 40 issues, which is quite something, considering that previous versions had only a few improvements, with most of them being minor. However, the big news is that 0.19.12 drops support for the Wayland display server. Unfortunately, the Enlightenment developers have omitted to mention why they decided to remove any form of support for Wayland from this release, and if it will return in upcoming releases of the software.

ESR On Why the FCC Shouldn't Lock Down Device Firmware ( 134

An anonymous reader writes: We've discussed some proposed FCC rules that could restrict modification of wireless routers in such a way that open source firmware would become banned. Eric S. Raymond has published the comment he sent to the FCC about this. He argues, "The present state of router and wireless-access-point firmware is nothing short of a disaster with grave national-security implications. ... The effect of locking down router and WiFi firmware as these rules contemplate would be to lock irreparably in place the bugs and security vulnerabilities we now have. To those like myself who know or can guess the true extent of those vulnerabilities, this is a terrifying possibility. I believe there is only one way to avoid a debacle: mandated device upgradeability and mandated open-source licensing for device firmware so that the security and reliability problems can be swarmed over by all the volunteer hands we can recruit. This is an approach proven to work by the Internet ubiquity and high reliability of the Linux operating system."

Dell, EMC Said To Be In Merger Talks ( 93

itwbennett writes: According to a Wall Street Journal report (paywalled), Dell might buy some or all of storage giant EMC. (The grain of salt here is that the Journal's report cited unnamed sources, and cautioned that the companies might not finalize any agreement.) If the report has it right, though, "a total merger would be one of the biggest deals ever in the technology industry," writes Stephen Lawson for IDG, "with EMC holding a market value of about US$50 billion. It would also bring together two of the most important vendors to enterprise IT departments."

What Happened To the Martian Ocean and Magnetic Field? ( 129

schwit1 writes with this story at The Atlantic that explores what may have destroyed the Martian atmosphere and ocean. The question of whether there is life on Mars is woven into a much larger thatch of mysteries. Among them: What happened to the ancient ocean that once covered a quarter of the planet's surface? And, relatedly, what made Mars's magnetosphere fade away? Why did a planet that may have looked something like Earth turn into a dry red husk? “We see magnetized rocks on the Mars surface,” said Bruce Banerdt, the principal investigator of the InSight mission to Mars, which is set to launch in March. “And so we know Mars had a magnetic field at one time, but it doesn't today. We would like to know the history—when that magnetic field started, when it may have shut down.”
United States

NSF Awards $74.5 Million To Support Interdisciplinary Cybersecurity Research ( 8

aarondubrow writes: The National Science Foundation announced $74.5 million in grants for basic research in cybersecurity. Among the awards are projects to understand and offer reliability to cryptocurrencies; invent technologies to broadly scan large swaths of the Internet and automate the detection and patching of vulnerabilities; and establish the science of censorship resistance by developing accurate models of the capabilities of censors. According to NSF, long-term support for fundamental cybersecurity research has resulted in public key encryption, software security bug detection, spam filtering and more.
The Internet

Google's Effort To Speed Up the Mobile Web ( 90

An anonymous reader writes: Google has officially taken the wraps off its AMP project — Accelerated Mobile Pages — which aims to speed up the delivery of web content to mobile devices. They say, "We began to experiment with an idea: could we develop a restricted subset of the things we'd use from HTML, that's both fast and expressive, so that documents would always load and render with reliable performance?" That subset is now encapsulated in AMP, their proof-of-concept. They've posted the code to GitHub and they're asking for help from the open source community to flesh it out. Their conclusions are familiar to the Slashdot crowd: "One thing we realized early on is that many performance issues are caused by the integration of multiple JavaScript libraries, tools, embeds, etc. into a page. This isn't saying that JavaScript immediately leads to bad performance, but once arbitrary JavaScript is in play, most bets are off because anything could happen at any time and it is hard to make any type of performance guarantee. With this in mind we made the tough decision that AMP HTML documents would not include any author-written JavaScript, nor any third-party scripts." They're seeing speed boosts anywhere from 15-85%, but they're also looking at pre-rendering options to make some content capable of loading instantaneously. Their FAQ has a few more details.
The Almighty Buck

Researchers Unable To Replicate Findings of Published Economics Studies ( 204

An anonymous reader writes: Federal Reserve economists Andrew Chang and Phillip Li looked at 67 papers in 13 reputable academic journals. Their findings were shocking. Without the help of the authors, only a third of the results could be independently replicated. Even with the author's help, only about half, or 49%, could. Business Insider reports: "It's a pretty massive issue for economics, especially given the impact that the subject has on public policy. Li and Chang use a well-known paper by Carmen Reinhart and Ken Rogoff as an example. The study showed a significant growth drop-off once a country's national debts reached 90% of gross domestic product, but three years after being published the study was found to contain a significant Microsoft Excel error that changed the magnitude of the effect." With cancer studies and most recently psychology studies all having replication trouble, these economics papers have some company.

Prison Debate Team Beats Harvard's National Title Winners 190 writes: Lauren Gambino reports at The Guardian that months after winning this year's national debate championship, Harvard's debate team has fallen to a debate team of three inmates with violent criminal records. The showdown took place at the Eastern correctional facility in New York, a maximum-security prison where convicts can take courses taught by faculty from nearby Bard College, and where inmates have formed a popular debate club. The Bard prison initiative has expanded since 2001 to six New York correctional facilities, and aims to provide inmates with a liberal arts education so that when the students leave prison they are able to find meaningful work. A three-judge panel concluded that the Bard team had raised strong arguments that the Harvard team had failed to consider and declared the team of inmates victorious. "Debate helps students master arguments that they don't necessarily agree with," says Max Kenner. "It also pushes people to learn to be not just better litigators but to become more empathetic people, and that's what really speaks to us as an institution about the debate union."

The prison team has proven formidable in the past, beating teams from the US military academy at West Point and the University of Vermont. They lost a rematch against West Point in April, setting up a friendly rivalry between the teams. The competition against West Point has become an annual event, and the prison team is preparing for the next debate in spring. In the morning before the debate, team members talked of nerves and their hope that competing against Harvard—even if they lost—would inspire other inmates to pursue educations. "If we win, it's going to make a lot of people question what goes on in here," says Alex Hall, a 31-year-old from Manhattan convicted of manslaughter. "We might not be as naturally rhetorically gifted, but we work really hard."

Jimmy Wales and Former NSA Chief Ridicule Government Plans To Ban Encryption 175

Mickeycaskill writes: Jimmy Wales has said government leaders are "too late" to ban encryption which authorities say is thwarting attempts to protect the public from terrorism and other threats. The Wikipedia founder said any attempt would be "a moronic, very stupid thing to do" and predicted all major web traffic would be encrypted soon. Wikipedia itself has moved towards SSL encryption so all of its users' browsing habits cannot be spied on by intelligence agencies or governments. Indeed, he said the efforts by the likes of the NSA and GCHQ to spy on individuals have actually made it harder to implement mass-surveillance programs because of the public backlash against Edward Snowden's revelations and increased awareness of privacy. Wales also reiterated that his site would never co-operate with the Chinese government on the censorship of Wikipedia. "We've taken a strong stand that access to knowledge is a principle human right," he said. derekmead writes with news that Michael Hayden, the former head of the CIA and the NSA, thinks the US government should stop railing against encryption and should support strong crypto rather than asking for backdoors. The US is "better served by stronger encryption, rather than baking in weaker encryption," he said during a panel on Tuesday.

Privately Funded Lunar Mission Set a Launch Date For 2017 50

merbs writes: If all goes according to plan, the world's first private lunar mission will be launched just two years from now. SpaceIL, an Israeli nonprofit, has secured a launch contract with Spaceflight Industries, and will aim to land a rover on the moon in the second half of 2017. It's the first such launch contract to be verified by the $30 million Google Lunar XPrize competition. Another group called Moon Express has signed a deal with New Zealand-based company, Rocket Lab, to launch and put a lander on the lunar surface 2017.
Hardware Hacking

Making Your Graphing Calculator a Musical Instrument 54

An anonymous reader writes: Thanks to a recently published open source music editor/sequencer, you can now create music on Texas Instruments graphing calculators. The complexity of the sound is impressive (video) for such a simple device, which does not feature any dedicated sound hardware. HoustonTracker 2 is open source, and is available for the TI-82, 83, 83Plus, and 84Plus.

'First, Let's Get Rid of All the Bosses' -- the Zappos Management Experiment 316

schnell writes: The New Republic is running an in-depth look at online shoe retailer's experiment in a new "boss-less" corporate structure. Three years ago the company introduced a management philosophy that came from the software development world called "Holacracy," in which there are no "people managers" and groups self-organize based on individual creativity and talents. (When the change was announced, 14% of the company's employees chose to leave; middle management openly rebelled, but perhaps surprisingly the tech organization was slowest to embrace the new idea). The article shows that in this radically employee-centric environment, many if not most employees are thrilled and fulfilled, while others worry that self-organization in practical terms means chaos and a Maoist culture of "coercive positivity." Is Zappos the future of the American workplace, a fringe experiment, or something in between?

eSports Now a Part of College Athletics 110

jyosim writes: The University of Cincinnati hosted what was possibly the largest-ever collegiate video-game tournament last weekend. At the university, the League of Legends club has become an official club sport, just like rugby or rowing. "What's happening with college e-sports right now is that we're seeing a formalization and institutionalization of what's always been present," said T.L. Taylor, a professor of comparative media studies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.