Technology

A Cheap, Ubiquitous Earthquake Warning System 26

Posted by Soulskill
from the if-you-check-your-cellphone-immediately dept.
Tekla Perry writes: Earthquake alert systems that give a 10 or 20 second warning of an impending temblor, enabling automatic systems to shut down and people to take cover, are hugely expensive to build and operate. (One estimate is $38.3 milllion for equipment to span California, and another $16.1 million annually to operate.) But a Palo Alto entrepreneur thinks he's got a way to sense earthquakes and provide alerts far more cheaply and with much greater resolution. And he's got money from the National Science Foundation to begin the first test of his system — covering the Bay Area from Santa Cruz to Napa and the cities of Hollister, Coalinga, and Parkfield. He starts that test next month.
Security

New Zero Day Disclosed In WordPress Core Engine 57

Posted by Soulskill
from the pressing-words-is-risky-business dept.
Trailrunner7 writes: WordPress security issues have for the most part involved a vulnerable plug-in, but a Finnish researcher has disclosed some details on a zero-day vulnerability he discovered in the WordPress 4.2 and earlier core engine that could lead to remote code execution on the webserver. Juoko Pynnonen of Klikki Oy reported a new and unpatched stored cross-site scripting vulnerability in the platform; a similar bug was patched this week by WordPress developers, but only 14 months after it was reported. The vulnerability allows an attacker to inject JavaScript in the WordPress comment field; the comment has to be at least 66,000 characters long and it will be triggered when the comment is viewed, Pynnonen said.

"An unauthenticated attacker can store JavaScript on WordPress pages and blog posts. If triggered by an administrator, this leads to server-side code execution under default settings," Pynnonen said. "A usable comment form is required. It looks like the script is not executed in the admin Dashboard, but only when viewing the post/page where the comment was entered. If comment moderation is enabled (the default setting) then the comment won't appear on the page until it has been approved by an admin/moderator. Under default settings, after one 'harmless' comment is approved, the attacker is free from subsequent moderation and can inject the exploit to several pages and blog posts."
Privacy

New Privacy Threat: Automated Vehicle Occupancy Detection 89

Posted by Soulskill
from the shades-of-minority-report dept.
An anonymous reader writes: The Electronic Frontier Foundation is warning against a new potential privacy threat: cameras that look inside cars and try to identify how many people are inside. This technology is a natural combination of simpler ones that have existed for years: basic object recognition software and road-side cameras (red light cameras, speeding cameras, license plate readers — you name it). Of course, we can extrapolate just a bit further, and point out that as soon as the cameras have high enough resolution, they can start running face recognition algorithms on the images, and determine the identities of a vehicle's occupants.

"The San Diego Association of Governments (SANDAG), a government umbrella group that develops transportation and public safety initiatives across the San Diego County region, estimates that 15% of drivers in High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes aren't supposed to be there. After coming up short with earlier experimental projects, the agency is now testing a brand new technology to crack down on carpool-lane scofflaws on the I-15 freeway. ... In short: the technology is looking at your image, the image of the people you're with, your location, and your license plate. (SANDAG told CBS the systems will not be storing license plate data during the trial phase and the system will, at least for now, automatically redact images of drivers and passengers. Xerox's software, however, allows police the option of using a weaker form of redaction that can be reversed on request.)"
Transportation

The Engineer's Lament -- Prioritizing Car Safety Issues 158

Posted by Soulskill
from the backseat-engineering dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Malcolm Gladwell has an article in The New Yorker about how automotive engineers handle issues of safety. There have been tons of car-related recalls lately, and even before that, we'd often hear about how some piece of engineering on a car was leading to a bunch of deaths. Sometimes it was a mistake, and sometimes it was an intentional design. But we hear about these issues through the lens of sensationalized media and public outrage — the engineers working on these problems understand better that it's how you drive that gets you into trouble far more than what you drive.

For example, the Ford Pinto became infamous for catching fire in crashes back in the 1970s. Gladwell says, "That's a rare event—it happens once in every hundred crashes. In 1975-76, 1.9 per cent of all cars on the road were Pintos, and Pintos were involved in 1.9 per cent of all fatal fires. Let's try again. About fifteen per cent of fatal fires resulted from rear collisions. If we look just at that subset of the subset, Schwartz shows, we finally see a pattern. Pintos were involved in 4.1 per cent of all rear-collision fire fatalities—which is to say that they may have been as safe as or safer than other cars in most respects but less safe in this one. ... You and I would feel safer in a car that met the 301 standard. But the engineer, whose aim is to maximize safety within a series of material constraints, cannot be distracted by how you and I feel."
Wikipedia

An Open Ranking of Wikipedia Pages 34

Posted by Soulskill
from the citation-needed dept.
vigna writes: The Laboratory for Web Algorithmics of the Università degli studi di Milano did it again: after creating the first open ranking of the World Wide Web they have put together the first entirely open ranking of Wikipedia, using Wikidata to categorize pages. The ranking is based on classic and easily explainable centrality measures or page views, and it is entirely open — all data (Wikipedia and Wikidata dumps) and all software used is publicly available. Just in case you wonder, the most important food is chocolate, the most important band are the Beatles and the most important idea is atheism.
China

Alibaba Looks To Rural China To Popularize Its Mobile OS 20

Posted by samzenpus
from the taking-it-to-the-country dept.
itwbennett writes: E-commerce giant Alibaba Group hasn't given up on its YunOS mobile operating system, and is taking the software to China's rural markets through a series of low-cost phones, which will be built by lesser-known Chinese brands and will range from 299 yuan ($49) to 699 yuan. Slashdot readers may remember that in 2012, Google claimed it was a variant of its Android OS, sparking a clash that threatened to derail Alibaba's effort to popularize the mobile OS.
The Courts

Texas Admonishes Judge For Posting Facebook Updates About Her Trials 74

Posted by samzenpus
from the was-that-wrong? dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Michelle Slaughter, a Galveston County judge, says she will appeal a public admonition from state officials that criticized her Facebook posts about cases brought before her court. From the article: "The State Commission on Judicial Conduct ordered Michelle Slaughter, a Galveston County judge, to enroll in a four-hour class on the 'proper and ethical use of social media by judges.' The panel concluded that the judge's posts cast 'reasonable doubt' on her impartiality. At the beginning of a high-profile trial last year in which a father was accused of keeping his nine-year-old son in a six-foot by eight-foot wooden box, the judge instructed jurors not to discuss the case against defendant David Wieseckel with anyone. 'Again, this is by any means of communication. So no texting, e-mailing, talking person to person or on the phone or on Facebook. Any of that is absolutely forbidden,' the judge told jurors. But Slaughter didn't take her own advice, leading to her removal from the case and a mistrial. The defendant eventually was acquitted of unlawful-restraint-of-a-child charges."
Transportation

Smart Headlights Adjust To Aid Drivers In Difficult Conditions 103

Posted by samzenpus
from the all-the-better-to-see-you-with dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Institute are developing smart headlights that not only trace a car's movement around bends, but are programmable to assist a driver in a wide range of driving conditions. The research team, at the institute's Illumination and Imaging Laboratory, is looking into designing headlights which do not highlight raindrops and snowflakes in bad weather, instead passing light around the individual drops and improving visibility. Its near-future design would also be able to avoid glare even when the high beam is in use, detecting up-coming vehicles and disabling the range of light that is directed at it. They also hope to incorporate GPS data to adjust the direction of the headlights according to the lane that a driver is occupying, illuminating it more brightly compared to surrounding lanes. The technology is supported by a looped system which will constantly read, assess and react to driving conditions. The prototype also features a built-in camera to capture visual data before transferring it to a computer processor installed in the vehicle, where it can be analyzed.
Google

Google Launches a Marketplace To Buy Patents From Interested Sellers 38

Posted by samzenpus
from the fighting-the-trolls dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Google has announced an experimental marketplace called the Patent Purchase Promotion, which aims to keep patents out of the hands of patent trolls. From the announcement: "By simplifying the process and having a concentrated submission window, we can focus our efforts into quickly evaluating patent assets and getting responses back to potential sellers quickly. Hopefully this will translate into better experiences for sellers, and remove the complications of working with entities such as patent trolls."
Government

Indian Telecom Authority Releases a Million Email IDs, Taken Down By Hackers 21

Posted by samzenpus
from the naming-names dept.
knwny writes: In a bizarre move that threatens the privacy of over a million internet users in India, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has released the list of email IDs from which it received responses regarding net neutrality. Most of these responses were sent by the general public following a massively popular online campaign to protect Internet neutrality in India. The regulatory body says that it has received large number of comments from the stakeholders on its Consultation paper on "Regulatory Framework for OTT services". So to aid the reading of comments, it has divided them into three blocks — "comments from the service providers," "comments from the service providers' association" and "comments from other stakeholders'"(this includes individuals, organizations, consulting firms etc). In the meantime, the TRAI website remains inaccessible after a DDoS attack by Anonymous India, the hacker collective, apparently in retaliation for the data release.
Television

Conde Nast To Announce VR Series 12

Posted by samzenpus
from the more-real-than-real dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Lifestyle and fashion publishing giant Conde Nast is planning to move into virtual reality in an effort to trial new marketing and advertising streams to attract digital consumers. The privately-owned company is expected to announce two new virtual reality series hosted by its TV and film division, Conde Nast Entertainment (CNE), at the Newfronts advertising and digital content showcase in New York tomorrow. The entertainment firm is not revealing much information on the shows that it is producing alongside virtual reality group Jaunt VR. However, it is thought that the series will follow a storytelling narrative – Conde Nast becoming one of the first publishing houses to use the technology in this format. The series will be aired on CNE's The Scene, a digital platform launched in 2014 to showcase video content from Conde Nast publications as well as media partners including BuzzFeed, Forbes, Variety and ABC News.
Transportation

Audi Creates "Fuel of the Future" Using Just Carbon Dioxide and Water 418

Posted by samzenpus
from the fiture-fill-up dept.
EwanPalmer writes: German car manufacturer Audi says it has created the "fuel of the future" made solely from water, carbon dioxide and renewable sources. The synthetic "e-diesel" was made following a commissioning phase of just four months at a plant in Dresden, Germany. Germany's federal minister of education and research, Dr Johanna Wanka, said she has already used the fuel in her Audi A8, and the company hopes to produce at least 160 liters of the crystal clear fuel every day in the coming months. "This synthetic diesel, made using CO2, is a huge success for our sustainability research," Wanka said. "If we can make widespread use of CO2 as a raw material, we will make a crucial contribution to climate protection and the efficient use of resources, and put the fundamentals of the 'green economy' in place."
Google

Google Officially Discontinues Nexus 7 Tablet 149

Posted by samzenpus
from the end-of-the-road dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Google's 7-inch tablet has disappeared from the Google Store, where a note in red type simply states that the device is no longer available for purchase. "The Nexus 7 was first released back in 2013, so it's fair to say it had a good run. The Android-based tablet received great reviews, but what really made it a long-term success was the fact that it was affordable and continually received updates from Google. Manufactured by Asus, the Nexus 7 was even treated to Android Lollipop, the latest version of the operating system, although not with bug-free results. The discontinuation shouldn't come as a big surprise, however, as Google pulled a similar move back in March with the Nexus 5 smartphone, not to mention the Nexus 9 tablet's release last fall."
Music

Pandora Paying Artists $0.0001 More Per Stream Than It Was Last Year 118

Posted by samzenpus
from the don't-spend-it-all-at-once dept.
journovampire writes: Pandora has revealed that it's paying a 10,000th of a dollar more to music labels and artists than it was in 2014. From the article: "Pandora has revealed that its royalty payments to SoundExchange, the US licensing body which collects performance royalties on behalf of record labels and artists, have just increased by 8%. The news was confirmed in a call with investors following Pandora’s Q1 fiscal results announcement on Thursday (April 23), in which it posted a three-month net loss of $48.3m. In what Pandora CEO Brian McAndrews called a scheduled annual step-up, Pandora has from January 1 been paying out an average $0.0014 per ad-funded stream and $0.0024 per premium stream to SoundExchange."
Robotics

Robots Step Into the Backbreaking Agricultural Work That Immigrants Won't Do 257

Posted by samzenpus
from the they-took-our-jobs dept.
HughPickens.com writes: Ilan Brat reports at the WSJ that technological advances are making it possible for robots to handle the backbreaking job of gently plucking ripe strawberries from below deep-green leaves, just as the shrinking supply of available fruit pickers has made the technology more financially attractive. "It's no longer a problem of how much does a strawberry harvester cost," says Juan Bravo, inventor of Agrobot, the picking machine. "Now it's about how much does it cost to leave a field unpicked, and that's a lot more expensive." The Agrobot costs about $100,000 and Bravo has a second, larger prototype in development. Other devices similarly are starting to assume delicate tasks in different parts of the fresh-produce industry, from planting vegetable seedlings to harvesting lettuce to transplanting roses. While farmers of corn and other commodity crops replaced most of their workers decades ago with giant combines, growers of produce and plants have largely stuck with human pickers—partly to avoid maladroit machines marring the blemish-free appearance of items that consumers see on store shelves. With workers in short supply, "the only way to get more out of the sunshine we have is to elevate the technology," says Soren Bjorn.

American farmers have in recent years resorted to bringing hundreds of thousands of workers in from Mexico on costly, temporary visas for such work. But the decades-old system needs to be replaced because "we don't have the unlimited labor supply we once did," says Rick Antle. "Americans themselves don't seem willing to take the harder farming jobs," says Charles Trauger, who has a farm in Nebraska. "Nobody's taking them. People want to live in the city instead of the farm. Hispanics who usually do that work are going to higher paying jobs in packing plants and other industrial areas." The labor shortage spurred Tanimura & Antle Fresh Foods, one of the country's largest vegetable farmers, to buy a Spanish startup called Plant Tape, whose system transplants vegetable seedlings from greenhouse to field using strips of biodegradable material fed through a tractor-pulled planting device. "This is the least desirable job in the entire company," says Becky Drumright. With machines, "there are no complaints whatsoever. The robots don't have workers' compensation, they don't take breaks."
Printer

The World of 3D Portraiture 56

Posted by samzenpus
from the it-looks-just-like-me dept.
An anonymous reader writes in with this BBC story about the niche market of 3D printed "selfie" models. By now we're familiar with tales of 3D-printed marvels, from guns to duck prosthetics. But when I traveled to a physics conference in March, I wasn't expecting to end up with a full colour printout of myself. However, at a small stall that popped up on Industry Day at the American Physical Society's March meeting — that is precisely the service that was being offered. I stepped on to a little rotating platform, tried to stand still for a few awkward minutes while a camera scanned me up and down, and then filled out a form. A few weeks later, a box has arrived in the post. Somewhere inside it, my two-inch twin is waiting for me to overcome my trepidation and show him the light of day. But I'm in no hurry; it all seems a bit... odd. The box sits on my desk for several days. Even though getting 'printed' puts me in the illustrious company of Barack Obama and Richard III, I'm unsure about my decision. What, I wonder, does someone do with a small selfie in statue form? Where does this business find its customers?
Google

Google Insiders Talk About Why Google+ Failed 333

Posted by samzenpus
from the here's-what-happened dept.
An anonymous reader writes in with this story about what happened to Google+ from an employee perspective. "Last month, Google announced that it's changing up its strategy with Google+. In a sense, it's giving up on pitching Google+ as a social network aimed at competing with Facebook. Instead, Google+ will become two separate pieces: Photos and Streams. This didn't come as a surprise — Google+ never really caught on the same way social networks like Facebook, Twitter, or LinkedIn did....Rumors have been swirling for months that Google would change its direction with Google+. Business Insider spoke with a few insiders about what happened to the network that Google believed would change the way people share their lives online. Google+ was really important to Larry Page, too — one person said he was personally involved and wanted to get the whole company behind it. The main problem with Google+, one former Googler says, is the company tried to make it too much like Facebook. Another former Googler agrees, saying the company was 'late to market' and motivated from 'a competitive standpoint.'"
Technology

When Exxon Wanted To Be a Personal Computing Revolutionary 118

Posted by samzenpus
from the back-in-the-day dept.
An anonymous reader writes with this story about Exxon's early involvement with consumer computers. "This weekend is the anniversary of the release of the Apple IIc, the company's fourth personal computer iteration and its first attempt at creating a portable computer. In 1981, Apple's leading competitor in the world of consumer ('novice') computer users was IBM, but the market was about to experience a deluge of also-rans and other silent partners in PC history, including the multinational descendant of Standard Oil, Exxon. The oil giant had been quietly cultivating a position in the microprocessor industry since the mid-1970s via the rogue Intel engineer usually credited with developing the very first commercial microprocessor, Federico Faggin, and his startup Zilog. Faggin had ditched Intel in 1974, after developing the 4004 four-bit CPU and its eight-bit successor, the 8008. As recounted in Datapoint: The Lost Story of the Texans Who Invented the Personal Computer, Faggin was upset about Intel's new requirement that employees had to arrive by eight in the morning, while he usually worked nights. Soon after leaving Intel and forming Zilog, Faggin was approached by Exxon Enterprises, the investment arm of Exxon, which began funding Zilog in 1975."
Education

The Future Deconstruction of the K-12 Teacher 330

Posted by samzenpus
from the we-don't-need-no-education dept.
An anonymous reader writes: English teacher Michael Godsey writes in The Atlantic what he envisions the role of teachers to be in the future. In a nutshell, he sees virtual classrooms, less pay, and a drastic decrease in the number of educators, but thinks they will all be "super-teachers". From the article: "Whenever a college student asks me, a veteran high-school English educator, about the prospects of becoming a public-school teacher, I never think it's enough to say that the role is shifting from 'content expert' to 'curriculum facilitator.' Instead, I describe what I think the public-school classroom will look like in 20 years, with a large, fantastic computer screen at the front, streaming one of the nation's most engaging, informative lessons available on a particular topic. The 'virtual class' will be introduced, guided, and curated by one of the country's best teachers (a.k.a. a "super-teacher"), and it will include professionally produced footage of current events, relevant excerpts from powerful TedTalks, interactive games students can play against other students nationwide, and a formal assessment that the computer will immediately score and record.

I tell this college student that in each classroom, there will be a local teacher-facilitator (called a 'tech') to make sure that the equipment works and the students behave. Since the 'tech' won't require the extensive education and training of today's teachers, the teacher's union will fall apart, and that "tech" will earn about $15 an hour to facilitate a class of what could include over 50 students. This new progressive system will be justified and supported by the American public for several reasons: Each lesson will be among the most interesting and efficient lessons in the world; millions of dollars will be saved in reduced teacher salaries; the 'techs' can specialize in classroom management; performance data will be standardized and immediately produced (and therefore 'individualized'); and the country will finally achieve equity in its public school system."
United States

Officials Say Russian Hackers Read Obama's Unclassified Emails 106

Posted by samzenpus
from the lets-have-a-look dept.
An anonymous reader points out that Russian hackers reportedly obtained some of President Obama’s emails when the White House’s unclassified computer system was hacked last year. Some of President Obama's email correspondence was swept up by Russian hackers last year in a breach of the White House's unclassified computer system that was far more intrusive and worrisome than has been publicly acknowledged, according to senior American officials briefed on the investigation. The hackers, who also got deeply into the State Department's unclassified system, do not appear to have penetrated closely guarded servers that control the message traffic from Mr. Obama's BlackBerry, which he or an aide carries constantly. But they obtained access to the email archives of people inside the White House, and perhaps some outside, with whom Mr. Obama regularly communicated. From those accounts, they reached emails that the president had sent and received, according to officials briefed on the investigation.