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NASA

Isolated NASA Team Ends Year-Long Mars Simulation In Hawaii (bbc.com) 144

An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes the BBC: A team of six people have completed a Mars simulation in Hawaii, where they lived in near isolation for a year. Since August 29th, 2015, the group lived in close quarters in a dome, without fresh air, fresh food or privacy... Having survived their year in isolation, the crew members said they were confident a mission to Mars could succeed. "I can give you my personal impression which is that a mission to Mars in the close future is realistic," Cyprien Verseux, a crew member from France, told journalists. "I think the technological and psychological obstacles can be overcome."

The team consisted of a French astro-biologist, a German physicist and four Americans -- a pilot, an architect, a journalist and a soil scientist... the six had to live with limited resources, wear a space-suit when outside the dome, and work to avoid personal conflicts. They each had a small sleeping cot and a desk inside their rooms. Provisions included powdered cheese and canned tuna.

Music

What Jonathan Coulton Learned From The Technology Industry (geekwire.com) 80

In a new article on GeekWire, Jonathan Coulton explains why he left a comfortable software development job in 2005 to launch a career as an online singer-songwriter. But he also describes the things he learned from the tech industry. "These guys were doing this thing they wanted to do, this thing they felt competent doing. They didn't chase after things, and they worked hard, but it was a business they created because they enjoyed it. They tried to minimize the things they didn't want to do. It wasn't about getting rich; it was about getting satisfied...

"I wanted to a set a good example to my children. I wanted to be the person I wanted to be, someone willing to take chances -- a person who didn't live with enormous regrets..." Within the first year, he had not replaced his software salary, but had enough success to cover his babysitter and to keep food on the table.

When he was younger -- in the pre-internet days -- "It was very unclear how to become a musician," Coulton explains. But somehow rolling his own career path eventually led to a life which includes everything from guest appearances on radio shows to an annual cruise with his fans (this year featuring Aimee Mann, Wil Wheaton, and Redshirts author John Scalzi).
Businesses

How G.E. Is Transforming Into An IoT Start-Up (nytimes.com) 96

Slashdot reader mspohr shares an article about "General Electric 're-inventing' itself as a software start-up." Jeffrey R. Immelt, the CEO of America's largest manufacturer, describes how he realized that data collected from their machines -- like turbines, engines, and medical-imaging equipment -- could be as valuable as the machines themselves. Now G.E. is hiring software engineers and data scientists from Amazon, Apple, Facebook and Google to try to transform the company into a "124-year-old startup" to take advantage of the Internet of Things and offer futuristic new services like predictive maintenance.

The Times calls it "the next battlefield as companies fight to develop the dominant software layer that connects the machines," adding that by 2020 there will be 100 times as much data flowing from G.E.'s machines. Now G.E. Digital is using the open source PaaS, Cloud Foundry, to develop Predix, a cloud-based operating system for industrial applications like monitoring and adjusting equipment in the field, whether it's an oil-field rig or a wind-farm turbine. To help transform the company into a digital powerhouse, they're building a 1,400-employee complex in San Ramon, California "designed to suit the free-range working ways of software developers: open-plan floors, bench seating, whiteboards, couches for impromptu meetings, balconies overlooking the grounds and kitchen areas with snacks." And they've also launched the Industrial Dojo program "to accelerate the ability for developers to contribute code that enables the Industrial Internet".
Television

Welcome To 1986: Inside 'Halt And Catch Fire's' High-Tech Time Machine (fastcompany.com) 65

The third season of AMC's technology drama "Halt and Catch Fire" painstakingly recreated Silicon Valley and San Francisco in 1986. Long-time Slashdot reader harrymcc shares his first-person report: The new episodes...are rich with carefully-researched plot points, dialogue, and sets full of vintage technology (including a startup equipped with real Commodore 64s and a recreated IBM mainframe). I visited the soundstage in Atlanta where the producers have recreated Northern California in the 1980s, and spoke with the show's creators and stars about the loving attention they devote to getting things right.
Harry argues that the show "is in part about how we got from the past to the present," and writes that he saw several 5 1/4-inch floppy disks "including Memorex, 3M, and BASF FlexyDisk," plus "a manual for Frogger for the Atari 2600, a copy of a spreadsheet program known as MicroPro CalcStar...and countless other little pieces of history."
Databases

100 Arrested In New York Thanks To Better Face-Recognition Technology (arstechnica.com) 82

New York doubled the number of "measurement points" used by their facial recognitation technology this year, leading to 100 arrests for fraud and identity theft, plus another 900 open cases. An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: In all, since New York implemented facial recognition technology in 2010, more than 14,000 people have been hampered trying to get multiple licenses. The newly upgraded system increases the measurement points of a driver's license picture from 64 to 128.

The DMV said this vastly improves its chances of matching new photographs with one already in a database of 16 million photos... "Facial recognition plays a critical role in keeping our communities safer by cracking down on individuals who break the law," Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said in a statement. "New York is leading the nation with this technology, and the results from our use of this enhanced technology are proof positive that its use is vital in making our roads safer and holding fraudsters accountable."

At least 39 US states use some form of facial recognition software, and New York says their new system also "removes high-risk drivers from the road," stressing that new licenses will no longer be issued until a photo clears their database.
Bitcoin

Kim Dotcom Will Revive Megaupload, Linking File Transfers To Bitcoin Microtransactions (fortune.com) 70

Long-time Slashdot reader SonicSpike quotes an article from Fortune: The controversial entrepreneur Kim Dotcom said last month that he was preparing to relaunch Megaupload, the file-sharing site that U.S. and New Zealand authorities dramatically shut down in 2012, with bitcoins being involved in some way... This system will be called Bitcache, and Dotcom claimed its launch would send the bitcoin price soaring way above its current $575 value.

The launch of Megaupload 2.0 will take place on January 20, 2017, he said, urging people to "buy bitcoin while cheap, like right now, trust me..." Crucially, Dotcom said the Bitcache system would overcome bitcoin's scaling problems. "It eliminates all blockchain limitations," he claimed.

Every file transfer taking place over Megaupload "will be linked to a tiny Bitcoin micro transaction," Dotcom posted on Twitter. His extradition trial begins Monday, and he's asking the court to allow live-streaming of the trial "because of global interest in my case." Meanwhile, the FBI apparently let the registration lapse on the Megaupload domain, which they seized in 2012, and Ars Technica reports that the site is now full of porn ads.
EU

EU Copyright Reform Proposes Search Engines Pay For Snippets (thestack.com) 168

An anonymous Slashdot reader reports that the European Commission "is planning reforms that would allow media outlets to request payment from search engines such as Google, for publishing snippets of their content in search results." The Stack reports: The working paper recommends the introduction of an EU law that covers the rights to digital reproduction of news publications. This would essentially make news publishers a new category of rights holders under copyright law, thereby ensuring that "the creative and economic contribution of news publishers is recognized and incentivized in EU law, as it is today the case for other creative sectors."
Microsoft

Microsoft Lost a City Because They Used Wikipedia Data (theregister.co.uk) 105

"Microsoft can't tell North from South on Bing Maps," joked The Register, reporting that Microsoft's site had "misplaced Melbourne, the four-million-inhabitant capital of the Australian State of Victoria." Long-time Slashdot reader RockDoctor writes: Though they're trying to minimise it, the recent relocation of Melbourne Australia to the ocean east of Japan in Microsoft's flagship mapping application is blamed on someone having flipped a sign in the latitude given for the city's Wikipedia page. Which may or may not be true. But the simple stupidity of using a globally-editable data source for feeding a mapping and navigation system is ... "awesome" is (for once) an appropriate word.

Well, it's Bing, so at least no-one was actually using it.

"Bing's not alone in finding Australia hard to navigate," reports The Register. "In 2012 police warned not to use Apple Maps as it directed those seeking the rural Victorian town of Mildura into the middle of a desert."
Social Networks

'Social Media ID, Please?' Proposed US Law Greeted With Anger (computerworld.com) 208

The U.S. government announced plans to require some foreign travelers to provide their social media account names when entering the country -- and in June requested comments. Now the plan is being called "ludicrous," an "all-around bad idea," "blatant overreach," "desperate, paranoid heavy-handedness," "preposterous," "appalling," and "un-American," reports Slashdot reader dcblogs: That's just a sampling of the outrage. Some 800 responded to the U.S. request for comments about a proposed rule affecting people traveling from "visa waiver" countries to the U.S., where a visa is not required. This includes most of Europe, Singapore, Chile, Japan, South Korea, Australia and New Zealand... In a little twist of irony, some critics said U.S. President Obama's proposal for foreign travelers is so bad, it must have been hatched by Donald Trump.
"Travelers will be asked to provide their Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Google+, and whatever other social ID you can imagine to U.S. authorities," reports Computer World. "It's technically an 'optional' request, but since it's the government asking, critics believe travelers will fear consequences if they ignore it..."
Democrats

US Patients Battle EpiPen Prices And Regulations By Shopping Online (cnn.com) 374

"The incredible increase in the cost of EpiPens, auto-injectors that can stop life-threatening emergencies caused by allergic reactions, has hit home on Capitol Hill," reports CNN. Slashdot reader Applehu Akbar reports that the argument "has now turned into civil war in the US Senate": One senator's daughter relies on Epi-Pen, while another senator's daughter is CEO of Mylan, the single company that is licensed to sell these injectors in the US. On the worldwide market there is no monopoly on these devices... Is it finally time to allow Americans to go online and fill their prescriptions on the world market?
Time reports some patients are ordering cheaper EpiPens from Canada and other countries online, "an act that the FDA says is technically illegal and potentially dangerous." But the FDA also has "a backlog of about 4,000 generic drugs" awaiting FDA approval, reports PRI, noting that in the meantime prices have also increased for drugs treating cancer, hepatitis C, and high cholesterol. In Australia, where the drug costs just $38, one news outlet reports that the U.S. "is the only developed nation on Earth which allows pharmaceutical companies to set their own prices."
Open Source

Linus Loves GPL, But Hates GPL Lawsuits (cio.com) 226

Long-time Slashdot reader sfcrazy writes: During LinuxCon, Torvalds was full of praise for GNU GPL: "The GPL ensures that nobody is ever going to take advantage of your code. It will remain free and nobody can take that away from you. I think that's a big deal for community management... FSF [Free Software Foundation] and I don't have a loving relationship, but I love GPL v2. I really think the license has been one of the defining factors in the success of Linux because it enforced that you have to give back, which meant that the fragmentation has never been something that has been viable from a technical standpoint."

And he thinks the BSD license is bad for everyone: "Over the years, I've become convinced that the BSD license is great for code you don't care about," Torvalds said.

But Linus also addressed the issue of enforcing the GPL on the Linux foundation mailing list when someone proposed a discussion of it at Linuxcon. "I think the whole GPL enforcement issue is absolutely something that should be discussed, but it should be discussed with the working title 'Lawyers: poisonous to openness, poisonous to community, poisonous to projects'... quite apart from the risk of loss in a court, the real risk is something that happens whether you win or lose, and in fact whether you go to court or just threaten: the loss of community, and in particular exactly the kind of community that can (and does) help. You lose your friends."
Emulation (Games)

ReactOS 0.4.2 Released: Supports Linux Filesystems, .NET Applications, and Doom 3 (reactos.org) 142

Continuing its rapid release cycle, ReactOS has unveiled version 0.4.2 of its free "open-source binary-compatible Windows re-implementation." Slashdot reader jeditobe reports that this new version can now read and write various Linux/Unix file systems like Btrfs and ext (and can read ReiserFS and UFS), and also runs applications like Thunderbird and 7-Zip. ReactOS 0.4.2 also features Cygwin support, .NET 2.0 and 4.0 application support, among other updated packages and revised external dependencies such as Wine and UniATA. The team also worked to improve overall user experience...

ReactOS is free. You can boot your desktop or laptop from it. It looks like Windows (a 10-year-old version, anyway), so you already know how to use it. And it'll run some Windows and DOS applications, maybe including DOS games that regular 64-bit Windows can no longer touch.
These videos even show ReactOS running Elder Scrolls: Skyrim and Doom 3.
United States

HAARP Holds Open House To Dispel Rumors Of Mind Control (adn.com) 143

An anonymous Slashdot reader writes: HAARP -- the former Air Force/Navy/DARPA research program in Alaska -- will host an open house Saturday where "We hope to show people that it is not capable of mind control and not capable of weather control and all the other things it's been accused of..." said Sue Mitchell, spokesperson for the geophysical institute at the University of Alaska. "We hope that people will be able to see the actual science of it." HAARP, which was turned over to The University of Alaska last August, has been blamed for poor crop yields in Russia, with conspiracy theorists also warning of "a super weapon capable of mind control or weather control, with enough juice to trigger hurricanes, tornadoes and earthquakes."

The facility's 180 high-frequency antennas -- spread across 33 acres -- will be made available for public tours, and there will also be interactive displays and an unmanned aircraft 'petting zoo'. The Alaska Dispatch News describes it as "one of the world's few centers for high-power and high-frequency study of the ionosphere... important because radio waves used for communication and navigation reflect back to Earth, allowing long-distance, short-wave broadcasting."

Businesses

White House Is Planning To Let More Foreign Entrepreneurs Work In the US (recode.net) 119

Peter Hudson writes from a report via Recode: "After failing to get Congress to pass a 'startup visa' as part of broad immigration reform, the Obama administration is moving ahead with an alternative that would allow overseas entrepreneurs to live in the U.S. for up to five years to help build a company," reports Recode. "Already speaking out in favor of the new rules is PayPal co-founder Max Levchin: 'I believe that the most promising entrepreneurs from around the world should have the same opportunity I had -- the chance to deliver on their potential, here in America.' Levchin moved to the U.S. from the Soviet Union in 1991." There are three conditions that need to be met in order to be eligible to work in the U.S. under the new rule: the foreigner would have to own at least 15 percent of a U.S.-based startup, the foreigner would need to have a central role in the startup's operations, and the startup would need to have "potential for rapid business growth and job creation." The third requirement could be met by having at least $100,000 in government grants or $345,000 invested from U.S. venture investors. "Under [the International Entrepreneur Rule (PDF)] being formally proposed on Friday, the Department of Homeland Security would be empowered to use its existing authority to allow entrepreneurs to legally work in the country for two years, possibly followed by a one-time three-year extension," reports Recode. "While the public will have 45 days to comment, the rules aren't subject to congressional approval."
Earth

Floating Solar Device Boils Water Without Mirrors (arstechnica.com) 80

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Researchers from MIT and the Masdar Institute of Science and Technology, led by George Ni, describe a prototype design that boils water under ambient sunlight. Central to their floating solar device is a "selective absorber" -- a material that both absorbs the solar portion of the electromagnetic spectrum well and emits little back as infrared heat energy. For this, the researchers turn to a blue-black commercial coating commonly used in solar photovoltaic panels. The rest of the puzzle involves further minimizing heat loss from that absorber, either through convection of the air above it or conduction of heat into the water below the floating prototype. The construction of the device is surprisingly simple. At the bottom, there is a thick, 10-centimeter-diameter puck of polystyrene foam. That insulates the heating action from the water and makes the whole thing float. A cotton wick occupies a hole drilled through the foam, which is splayed and pinned down by a square of thin fabric on the top side. This ensures that the collected solar heat is being focused into a minute volume of water. The selective absorber coats a disc of copper that sits on top of the fabric. Slots cut in the copper allow water vapor from the wick to pass through. And the crowning piece of this technological achievement? Bubble wrap. It insulates the top side of the absorber, with slots cut through the plastic to let the water vapor out. Tests in the lab and on the MIT roof showed that, under ambient sunlight, the absorber warmed up to 100 degrees Celsius in about five minutes and started making steam. That's a first. The study has been published in two separate Nature articles: "Steam by thermal concentration" and "Steam generation under one sun enabled by a floating structure with thermal concentration."
Communications

Juno Probe To Get First Up-Close Look At Jupiter On Saturday (space.com) 32

NASA's Juno spacecraft will get its first up-close view at Jupiter this Saturday. Space.com reports: "At 8:51 a.m. EDT (1251 GMT) on Saturday (Aug. 27), Juno will zoom within 2,600 miles (4,000 kilometers) of Jupiter's cloud tops -- closer than the probe is scheduled to come during its entire mission, NASA officials said. And Juno will have all of its science instruments during Saturday's flyby. This was not the case during the spacecraft's only previous close approach to Jupiter, which occurred July 4 when Juno arrived in orbit around the giant planet. During Saturday's close pass, all eight of Juno's science instruments will be collecting data, and the probe's visible-light imager, known as JunoCam, will take close-up photos." You can also look forward to Venus-Jupiter Conjunction 2016, an event happening on August 27 where Venus and Jupiter's respective orbits will bring the two planets the closest that they'll be to each other until 2065. The two planets will be positioned roughly five degrees above the Western horizon on August 27.
Microsoft

Apple, Facebook, IBM, and Microsoft Sign White House Pledge For Equal Pay (fortune.com) 277

In honor of Women's Equality Day, an anonymous reader shares with us a festive report from Fortune: More than two months after the White House first announced its Equal Pay Pledge for the private sector, Facebook, Apple, Microsoft and other major industry players have signed on. By taking the pledge, which was first introduced at the United State of Women Summit in June of this year, companies promise to help close the national gender pay gap, conduct annual, company-wide pay analyses, and review hiring and promotion practices. The new signees were announced in a White House statement on Friday -- which also happens to be Women's Equality Day, the anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment, which gave women the right to vote. Apple, which announced earlier this year that it has no pay gap, released a statement promising to dig even deeper into compensation. "We're now analyzing the salaries, bonuses, and annual stock grants of all our employees worldwide. If a gap exists, we'll address it," the company said in a statement. Twenty-nine companies signed the pledge on Friday, bringing the total number of signatories to 57. The pledge is part of a $50-million, White House-led initiative to expand opportunities for and improve the lives of women and girls. The consortium members issued a statement via Whitehouse.gov's press release: "The Employers for Pay Equity consortium is comprised of companies that understand the importance of diversity and inclusion, including ensuring that all individuals are compensated equitably for equal work and experience and have an equal opportunity to contribute and advance in the workplace. We are committed to collaborating to eliminate the national pay and leadership gaps for women and ethic minorities. Toward that end, we have come together to share best practices in compensation, hiring, promotion, and career development as well as develop strategies to support other companies' efforts in this regard. By doing so, we believe we can have a positive effect on our workforces that, in turn, makes our companies stronger and delivers positive economic impact." The consortium members include: Accenture, Airbnb, BCG, Care.com, CEB, Cisco, Deloitte, Dow, Expedia, EY, Glassdoor, GoDaddy, Jet.com, L'Oreal USA, Mercer, PepsiCo, Pinterest, Rebecca Minkoff, Salesforce, Spotify, Staples, Stella McCartney, and Visa.
Ubuntu

Ubuntu Linux 16.10 'Yakkety Yak' Beta 1 Now Available For Download (betanews.com) 90

An anonymous reader quotes a report from BetaNews: Today, the first beta of Ubuntu Linux 16.10 sees release. Once again, a silly animal name is assigned, this time being the letter "Y" for the horned mammal, "Yakkety Yak." This is also a play on the classic song "Yakety Yak" by The Coasters. Please be sure not to "talk back" while testing this beta operating system! "Pre-releases of the Yakkety Yak are not encouraged for anyone needing a stable system or anyone who is not comfortable running into occasional, even frequent breakage. They are, however, recommended for Ubuntu flavor developers and those who want to help in testing, reporting and fixing bugs as we work towards getting this bos grunniens ready. Beta 1 includes a number of software updates that are ready for wider testing. These images are still under development, so you should expect some bugs," says Set Hallstrom, Ubuntu Studio project lead. He adds: "While these Beta 1 images have been tested and work, except as noted in the release notes, Ubuntu developers are continuing to improve the Yakkety Yak. In particular, once newer daily images are available, system installation bugs identified in the Beta 1 installer should be verified against the current daily image before being reported in Launchpad. Using an obsolete image to re-report bugs that have already been fixed wastes your time and the time of developers who are busy trying to make 16.10 the best Ubuntu release yet. Always ensure your system is up to date before reporting bugs." Here are the following download links: Lubuntu, Ubuntu GNOME, Ubuntu Kylin, Ubuntu MATE, Ubuntu Studio.
Communications

Twitter Is Working On Anti-Harassment Keyword Filtering Tool, Says Report (bloomberg.com) 166

Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey has made it a top priority for company to limit hateful conduct. In late December 2015, for example, the company changed its rules to explicitly ban "hateful conduct" for the first time. A new report says Twitter is working to further curb the rise of hateful conduct as it is "working on a keyword-based tool that will let people filter the posts they see, giving users a more effective way to block out harassing and offensive tweets." Bloomberg reports: "The San Francisco-based company has been discussing how to implement the tool for about a year as it seeks to stem abuse on the site, said the people [familiar with the matter], who asked not to be identified because the initiative isn't public. By using keywords, users could block swear words or racial slurs, for example, to screen out offenders. The filtering tool could eventually become a moderator for any kind of content, the people said. For example, users could block a hashtag about an event they don't care to read about."
Facebook

Facebook Says Humans Won't Write Its Trending Topic Descriptions Anymore (recode.net) 76

Following a former Facebook journalist's report that the company's workers routinely suppressed news stories of interest to conservative readers from the social network's Trending Topics section, the company has been in damage control mode. First, the company announced it would tweak its Trending Topics section and revamp how editors find trending stories. Specifically, they will train the human editors who work on Facebook's trending section and abandon several automated tools it used to find and categorize trending news in the past. Most recently, Facebook added political scenarios to its orientation training following the concerns. Now, it appears that Facebook will "end its practice of writing editorial descriptions for topics, replacing them with snippets of text pulled from news stories." Kurt Wagner, writing for Recode: It's been more than three months since Gizmodo first published a story claiming Facebook's human editors were suppressing conservative news content on the site's Trending Topics section. Facebook vehemently denied the report, but has been dealing with the story's aftermath ever since. On Friday, Facebook announced another small but notable change to Trending Topics: Human editors will no longer write the short story descriptions that accompany a trending topic on the site. Instead, Facebook is going to use algorithms to "pull excerpts directly from stories." It is not, however, cutting out humans entirely. In fact, Facebook employees will still select which stories ultimately make it into the trending section. An algorithm will surface popular stories, but Facebook editors will weed out the inappropriate or fake ones. "There are still people involved in this process to ensure that the topics that appear in Trending remain high-quality," the company's blog reads.

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