Cute Or Creepy? Google's Plan For a Sci-Fi Teddy Bear 92

Posted by timothy
from the teddy-ruxpin-pinned-it-on-the-one-armed-man dept. writes: Time Magazine reports that Google has designed and patented an "anthropomorphic device" that could take the form of a "doll or toy" and interact both with people as well as tech gadgets echoing the "super toy" teddy bear featured in Stephen Spielberg's 2001 movie AI. This could be one of Google's creepiest patents yet — especially if movies like "Chuckie" still give you nightmares. The patent filing diagrams a stuffed teddy bear and a bunny rabbit outfitted with microphones, speakers, cameras and motors as well as a wireless connection to the internet. If it senses you're looking at it, the fuzzy toy will rotate its head and look back at you. Once it receives and recognizes a voice command prompt, you can then tell it to control media devices in your home (e.g. turn on your music or TV). According to the patent filing: "To express interest, an anthropomorphic device may open its eyes, lift its head, and/or focus its gaze on the user or object of its interest. To express curiosity, an anthropomorphic device may tilt its head, furrow its brow, and/or scratch its head with an arm. To express boredom, an anthropomorphic device may defocus its gaze, direct its gaze in a downward fashion, tap its foot, and/or close its eyes. To express surprise, an anthropomorphic device may make a sudden movement, sit or stand up straight, and/or dilate its pupils."

The patent adds that making the device look "cute" should encourage even the youngest members of a family to interact with it. But Mikhail Avady, from SmartUp, said he thought it belonged in "a horror film", and the campaign group Big Brother Watch has also expressed dismay. "When those devices are aimed specifically at children, then for many this will step over the creepy line," says Avady. "Children should be able to play in private and shouldn't have to fear this sort of passive invasion of their privacy."

25 Years Today - Windows 3.0 376

Posted by timothy
from the hindsight-is-warm-and-fuzzy dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Windows 3.0 was launched on 22 May 1990 — I know, 'coz I was there as a SDE on the team. I still have, um, several of the shrink-wrapped boxes of the product — with either 3.5 inch and 5.25 floppies rattling around inside them — complete with their distinctive 'I witnessed the event' sticker!

It was a big deal for me, and I still consider Win 3 as *the* most significant Windows' release, and I wonder what other Slashdotters think, looking back on Win 3?

A Conversation with Druva Co-Founder Jaspreet Singh (Video) 38

Posted by Roblimo
from the doo-wop-is-now-de-dupe dept.
This was originally going to be an interview about the state of enterprise-level backup software in an increasingly edge computing-focused world, but we rapidly drifted into talking about how Druva started in Pune (near Bangalore) and ended up moving to Silicon Valley. We hear plenty about American software companies moving to India, but not a lot about Indian software companies moving here. Druva had good reasons for the move, the chief one being a financing deal with Sequoia Capital. Aside from that, though, Jaspreet says the talent pool -- not just developers but software marketing people and other important staffers -- is more concentrated in Silicon Valley than almost anywhere else in the world. 'It's like Hollywood for geeks,' Jaspreet says. This doesn't mean business is necessarily easy in the USA: Jaspreet ended up laying off his entire staff. Twice. And he made other mistakes as a young, new CEO bringing a company to life in a crowded field.

Those mistakes, which Jaspreet shares freely with us, are like a business school 'Start-Up Pitfalls' class. You may never want to do your own startup, but if you're a developer or otherwise involved with the software industry, there's a good chance that you'll have a chance to work for one at some point. And if you have that chance, you'll be glad you watched this video (or read the transcript) before you take the startup plunge.

New Class of "Non-Joulian" Magnets Change Volume In Magnetic Field 36

Posted by Soulskill
from the polarizing-research dept.
Zothecula notes an announcement from the University of Maryland saying they have developed a new class of magnets, called "Non-Joulian" magnets, which physically expand in the presence of a magnetic field. "In the 1840s, physicist James Prescott Joule discovered that iron-based magnetic materials changed their shape but not their volume when placed in a magnetic field. This phenomenon is referred to as "Joule Magnetostriction," and since its discovery 175 years ago, all magnets have been characterized on this basis." Another significant property of these new magnets is that they can harvest or convert energy with very little waste heat (abstract). The magnets are created when thermally-treated, iron-based alloys are heated in a furnace, then rapidly cooled. When they reach room temperature, they have an odd, almost cellular shape on the microscopic level. The researchers say the magnets have numerous applications for energy-efficient sensors and actuators.

'Logjam' Vulnerability Threatens Encrypted Connections 71

Posted by Soulskill
from the another-day-another-vulnerability dept.
An anonymous reader writes: A team of security researchers has revealed a new encryption vulnerability called 'Logjam,' which is the result of a flaw in the TLS protocol used to create encrypted connections. It affects servers supporting the Diffie-Hellman key exchange, and it's caused by export restrictions mandated by the U.S. government during the Clinton administration. "Attackers with the ability to monitor the connection between an end user and a Diffie-Hellman-enabled server that supports the export cipher can inject a special payload into the traffic that downgrades encrypted connections to use extremely weak 512-bit key material. Using precomputed data prepared ahead of time, the attackers can then deduce the encryption key negotiated between the two parties."

Internet Explorer is the only browser yet updated to block such an attack — patches for Chrome, Firefox, and Safari are expected soon. The researchers add, "Breaking the single, most common 1024-bit prime used by web servers would allow passive eavesdropping on connections to 18% of the Top 1 Million HTTPS domains. A second prime would allow passive decryption of connections to 66% of VPN servers and 26% of SSH servers. A close reading of published NSA leaks shows that the agency's attacks on VPNs are consistent with having achieved such a break." Here is their full technical report (PDF).

US Levels Espionage Charges Against 6 Chinese Nationals 100

Posted by Soulskill
from the coveting-our-baconnaise-technology dept.
Taco Cowboy writes: The U.S. government has indicted five Chinese citizens and arrested a Chinese professor on charges of economic espionage. The government alleges that they took jobs at two small, American chipmakers — Avago Technologies and Skyworks Solutions — in order to steal microelectronics designs. "All of them worked, the indictment contends, to steal trade secrets for a type of chip popularly known as a “filter” that is used for acoustics in mobile telephones, among other purposes. They took the technology back to Tianjin University, created a joint venture company with the university to produce the chips, and soon were selling them to both the Chinese military and to commercial customers."

It's interesting to note that the Reuters article keeps mentioning how this technology — used commonly as an acoustic filter — has "military applications." It's also interesting to look at another recent case involving Shirrey Chen, a hydrologist who was mysteriously arrested on suspicion of espionage, but then abruptly cleared five months later. One can't help but wonder what's driving the U.S.'s new strategy for tackling economic espionage.
America Online

Jason Scott of Wants Your AOL & Shovelware CDs 123

Posted by Soulskill
from the your-kids-know-them-as-the-small-frisbees-that-shatter-so-beautifully dept.
eldavojohn writes: You've probably got a spindle in your closet, or a drawer layered with them: the CD-ROM discs that were mailed to you or delivered with some hardware that you put away "just in case." Now, of course, the case for actually using them is laughable. Well, a certain eccentric individual named Jason Scott has a fever — and the only cure is more AOL CDs. But his sickness doesn't stop there, "I also want all the CD-ROMs made by Walnut Creek CD-ROM. I want every shovelware disc that came out in the entire breadth of the CD-ROM era. I want every shareware floppy, while we're talking. I want it all. The CD-ROM era is basically finite at this point. It's over. The time when we're going to use physical media as the primary transport for most data is done done done. Sure, there's going to be distributions and use of CD-ROMs for some time to come, but the time when it all came that way and when it was in most cases the only method of distribution in the history books, now. And there were a specific amount of CD-ROMs made. There are directories and listings of many that were manufactured. I want to find those. I want to image them, and I want to put them up. I'm looking for stacks of CD-ROMs now. Stacks and stacks. AOL CDs and driver CDs and Shareware CDs and even hand-burned CDs of stuff you downloaded way back when. This is the time to strike." Who knows? His madness may end up being appreciated by younger generations!

Four Quasars Found Clustered Together Defy Current Cosmological Expectations 62

Posted by samzenpus
from the standing-out-in-a-crowd dept.
StartsWithABang writes: Get a supermassive black hole feeding on matter, particularly on large amounts of cool, dense gas, and you're likely to get a quasar: a luminous, active galaxy emitting radiation from the radio all the way up through the X-ray. Our best understanding and observations indicate that these objects should be rare, transient, and isolated; no more than two have ever been found close together before. Until this discovery, that is, where we just found four within a million light years of one another, posing a problem for our current theories of structure formation in the Universe.
Social Networks

Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team Responds In Nepal 25

Posted by samzenpus
from the lending-a-hand dept.
An anonymous reader writes with news about the efforts of the The Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team to help in the aftermath of the earthquake in Nepal. The team asks those living in the affected areas to help out by reporting which buildings are damaged, which are still standing, and where fissures and other quake damage is located. has a profile of their efforts which reads: Since the devastating earthquake in Nepal, there have been responses from all over the world from relief agencies, governments, non-profits, and ordinary citizens. One interesting effort has been from the crowdsourced mapping community, especially on, a free and open web map of the world that anyone can edit (think the Wikipedia of maps.) The Humanitarian OpenStreetMap Team (HOT), an NGO that works to train, coordinate, and organize mapping on OpenStreetMap for humanitarian, disaster response, and economic development, has mobilized volunteers from around the world to help map since the Haiti earthquake in 2010.

Decoding the Enigma of Satoshi Nakamoto 61

Posted by samzenpus
from the pay-no-attention-to-the-man-behind-the-ip-address dept. writes: For the past year Nathaniel Popper has been working on a book about the history of Bitcoin and writes in the NYT that it is hard to avoid being drawn in by the almost mystical riddle of Satoshi Nakamoto's identity. Popper has his own candidate for founder of Bitcoin, a reclusive American man of Hungarian descent named Nick Szabo. Szabo worked in a loosely organized group of digital privacy activists who over decades laid the foundation for Bitcoin and created many parts that later went into the virtual currency. Bitcoin was not a bolt out of the blue, as is sometimes assumed, but was instead built on the ideas of multiple people over several decades. Several experiments in digital cash circulated on the Cypherpunk lists in the 1990s. Adam Back, a British researcher, created an algorithm called hashcash that later became a central component of Bitcoin. Another, called b money, was designed by an intensely private computer engineer named Wei Dai.

It may be impossible to prove Satoshi's identity until the person or people behind Bitcoin's curtain decide to come forward and prove ownership of Satoshi's old electronic accounts and at this point, the creator's identity is no longer important to Bitcoin's future. Since Satoshi stopped contributing to the project in 2011, most of the open-source code has been rewritten by a group of programmers whose identities are known. According to Popper whoever it is, the real Satoshi Nakamoto has many good reasons for wanting to stay anonymous. Perhaps the most obvious is potential danger. Satoshi Nakamoto most likely collected nearly a million Bitcoins during the system's first year. Given that each Bitcoin is now worth about $240, the stash could be worth more than $200 million. That could make Satoshi a target. "With his modest clothes and unassuming manner, Mr. Szabo could be the kind of person who could have a fortune and not spend any of it," concludes Popper, "or even throw away the keys to the bank."

Baton Bob Receives $20,000 Settlement For Coerced Facebook Post 201

Posted by samzenpus
from the pay-the-man dept.
McGruber writes: After arresting him during a June 2013 street performance, Atlanta Police Officers forced costumed street performer "Baton Bob" to make a pro-police statement on his Facebook page before they would allow him to be released on bond. Social media coverage of the incident triggered a six-month internal police investigation into the arrest. Atlanta Police Officer H.J. Davis was given a one-day suspension, then resigned from the Atlanta Police department a few weeks later. Atlanta Police Lt. Jeffrey Cantin received a five-day suspension for "violating responsibilities of a supervisor".

Baton Bob also filed a federal lawsuit against the city, arguing that officers made a wrongful arrest that violated, well, nearly every constitutional right you can name. Those included Jamerson's "right to free speech, his right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures, his right to remain silent while in custody, his right to be free from compelled speech, his right to counsel, and his right to privacy." The City of Atlanta's legal department reviewed the case and determined that a $20,000 settlement would "be in the best interest of the city" rather than fighting the claims in court.

Ask Slashdot: Best Payloads For Asteroid Diverter/Killer Mission? 149

Posted by Soulskill
from the four-micrograms-of-nanites dept.
TheRealHocusLocus writes: The Emergency Asteroid Defence Project has launched a crowdfunded IndieGoGo campaign to help produce a set of working blueprints for a two-stage HAIV, or Hypervelocity Asteroid Intercept Vehicle. This HAIV paper (PDF) describes the use of a leading kinetic impactor to make a crater — a following nuclear warhead would detonate in the crater for maximum energy transfer. The plans would be available for philanthropists to bring to prototype stage, while your friendly local nuclear weapon state supplies the warhead. This may be a best-fit solution. But just ask Morgan Freeman: these strategies could fail. What — if any — backup strategy could be integrated into an HAIV mission as a fail-safe in case the primary fails? Here is a review of strategies (some fanciful, few deployable) if we have to divert an asteroid with very short lead time. A gentle landing on the object may not be feasible, and we must rely on things that push hard or go boom. For example: detonating nearby to ablate surface materials and create recoil in the direction we wish to nudge. Also, with multiple warheads and precise timing, would it be possible to create a "shaped" nuclear explosion in space?

Wind Turbines With No Blades 164

Posted by Soulskill
from the can-finally-take-them-through-airport-security dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Wired has a profile of Spanish company Vortex Bladeless and their unusual new wind turbine tech. "Their idea is the Vortex, a bladeless wind turbine that looks like a giant rolled joint shooting into the sky. The Vortex has the same goals as conventional wind turbines: To turn breezes into kinetic energy that can be used as electricity." Instead of relying on wind to push a propeller in a circular motion, these turbines rely on vorticity — how wind can strike an object in a particular way to generate spinning vortices of air. Engineers usually try to avoid this — it's what brought down the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. But this Spanish company designed the turbine computationally to have the vortices occur at the same time along its entire height. "In its current prototype, the elongated cone is made from a composite of fiberglass and carbon fiber, which allows the mast to vibrate as much as possible (an increase in mass reduces natural frequency). At the base of the cone are two rings of repelling magnets, which act as a sort of nonelectrical motor. When the cone oscillates one way, the repelling magnets pull it in the other direction, like a slight nudge to boost the mast's movement regardless of wind speed. This kinetic energy is then converted into electricity via an alternator that multiplies the frequency of the mast's oscillation to improve the energy-gathering efficiency."

Russian Rocket Crashes In Siberia 96

Posted by Soulskill
from the space-stuff-is-hard dept.
An anonymous reader writes: A Russian Proton-M rocket carrying a Mexican satellite broke down shortly after launch and crashed in Siberia. Russian space agency Roscosmos is investigating the incident, but the cause is not yet known. In the video, the rocket appeared to sputter and stop providing thrust when the third-stage engine unexpectedly switched off. Communications were lost with the rocket before that happened. This comes just a couple weeks after Russia experienced another high profile rocket failure when its cargo ship bound for the International Space Station failed to reach a high enough orbit and began spinning out of control. Russia's Proton family of rockets has been in use since the 1960s, though the current Proton-M incarnation was first flown in 2001.
Input Devices

Mechanical 'Clicky' Keyboards Still Have Followers (Video) 147

Posted by Roblimo
from the clack-clack-clack-the-keyboard-types-on-down-the-track dept.
For a good number of years, the sound of the old IBM or other mechanical keyboard clacking away was the sound of programmers (or writers) at work on their computers. Then, according to Edgar Matias, president and cofounder of the Matias Corporation, computer companies started using membrane switches and other cheaper ways to make keyboards, which made a lot of people mutter curse words under their breath as they beat their fingers against keys that had to go all the way to the bottom of their travel to work, unlike the good old mechanical keyboards we once knew and loved.

Enter Edgar Matias, who started out making the half keyboard, which is like a chorded keyboard except that you can use your QWERTY typing skills with little modification -- assuming you or your boss has $595 (!) to lay out on a keyboard. But after that Edgar started making QWERTY and Dvorak keyboards for semi-competitive prices. FYI: No Slashdot person got a free keyboard (or extra money) for making this video, but I have a Matias keyboard, and in my opinion it's far better than the cheapie it replaced. A lot of other people seem to want "real" keyboards, too, which they buy from Matias or from other companies such as Unicomp, which makes keyboards just like the classic, heavily-loved IBM Model M. Again, I've owned a Unicomp keyboard (that I bought; it was not a giveaway) and it was excellent. Both companies put out quality products that are far easier on your hands and wrists than the $10 or $20 keyboards sold by big box electronics retailers.

How SpaceX and the Quest For Mars Almost Sunk Tesla Motors 126

Posted by Soulskill
from the rocket-bucks-versus-car-bucks dept.
braindrainbahrain writes: Elon Musk and his rocket company are well known to Slashdottters. This article and book excerpt tell the story of the creation of SpaceX and how it almost sank Musk's other company, Tesla Motors. Musk recalls, "I could either pick SpaceX or Tesla or split the money I had left between them. That was a tough decision. If I split the money, maybe both of them would die. If I gave the money to just one company, the probability of it surviving was greater, but then it would mean certain death for the other company." But then, at the last moment, years of work at SpaceX finally paid off: "[O]n Dec. 23, 2008, SpaceX received a wonderful shock. The company won a $1.6 billion contract for 12 NASA resupply flights to the space station. Then the Tesla deal ended up closing successfully, on Christmas Eve, hours before Tesla would have gone bankrupt. Musk had just a few hundred thousand dollars left and could not have made payroll the next day." Also, it turns out the inspiration for SpaceX was the idea of sending mice to Mars.

How Light at Night Affects Preschoolers' Sleep Patterns, Part Two (Video) 29

Posted by Roblimo
from the watch-the-spinning-light-and-feel-your-eyelids-growing-heavier-every-second dept.
Yesterday, in the intro to video number one of this two part extravaganza we wrote, "The effects of light and dark on adults' Circadian rythym has been studied over and over, but there hasn't been much research done on how light at night affects young children's sleep patterns."

Then we said, "This is the topic of Lameese Akacem's doctoral dissertation, and is a study being carried out under the aegis of the Sleep and Development Laboratory at the University of Colorado, Boulder," and we mentioned that this research is (at least in part) crowdfunded, and that the deadline for donating to this project is early next week, so if you feel this project is worth supporting you need to act within the next few days.
Star Wars Prequels

Rediscovered Lucas-Commissioned Short "Black Angel" Released On YouTube 121

Posted by timothy
from the low-budget-high-value dept.
eldavojohn writes: Youtube now offers Black Angel, a short film shown in UK theaters before ESB. What was once thought lost is now found; enjoy. This may be the best half-hour you spend today, even if you must "set your clocks back 34 years," as writer and director Roger Christian advises. (Christian is also known for directing 2000's Battlefield Earth .)

How Light at Night Affects Preschoolers' Sleep Patterns (Video) 51

Posted by Roblimo
from the rock-a-bye-baby-whose-eyes-are-glued-to-mommy's-iPod dept.
The effects of light and dark on adults' Circadian rythym has been studied over and over, but there hasn't been much research done on how light at night affects young children's sleep patterns. This is the topic of Lameese Akacem's doctoral dissertation, and is a study being carried out under the aegis of the Sleep and Development Laboratory at the University of Colorado, Boulder, under the direction of Assistant Professor Monique K. LeBourgeois. Aside from the inherent value of this research, which may help parents decide whether (and how much) they are messing up their children's sleep patterns by letting them view screens such as TVs, tablets or smart phones near bedtime, its funding is unique; the money for this study is coming, at least in part, from crowdfunding. The crowdfunding itself is an experiment. This study is one of a small, select group of projects the University of Colorado at Boulder has in its pilot crowdfunding program. Its crowdfunding time window closes next week, so if you want to help sponsor this experiment, and help learn how different kinds of light can affect how (and how well) small children sleep, you need to act within the next six days. (This is a two-part video. Part one runs today. Part two will run tomorrow.)

Dawn Spacecraft Gets a Better Look At Ceres' Bizarre 'White Spots' 78

Posted by Soulskill
from the hopefully-not-a-fithp-ship dept.
StartsWithABang writes: Since its discovery as the first asteroid more than 200 years ago, Ceres has been one of the most poorly understood objects in the Solar System as even imagery from the Hubble Space Telescope is unable to resolve very much. But NASA's Dawn mission, since moving on from Vesta, has begun to map Ceres, constructing the highest resolution global map ever, with better data to come. The greatest mystery so far are two bright white spots at the bottom of a deep crater, brighter and more reflective than anything else on the planet's surface. Right now, three leading possibilities for the origin of these features exist, with Dawn possessing the capabilities to teach us which one (if any) is correct, hopefully by the end of the year!