Geek Stuff

Massive Exoplanet Evolved In Extreme 4-Star System

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astroengine writes "For only the second time, an exoplanet living with an expansive family of four stars has been revealed. The exoplanet, which is a huge gaseous world 10 times the mass of Jupiter, was previously known to occupy a 3-star system, but a fourth star (a red dwarf) has now been found, revealing quadruple star systems possessing planets are more common than we thought. "About four percent of solar-type stars are in quadruple systems, which is up from previous estimates because observational techniques are steadily improving," said co-author Andrei Tokovinin of the Cerro Tololo Inter-American Observatory in Chile. The whole 4-star family is collectively known as 30 Ari, located some 136 light-years from Earth — in our interstellar backyard. The exoplanet orbits the primary star of the system once every 335 days. The primary star has a new-found binary partner (which the exoplanet does not orbit) and this pair are locked in an orbital dance with a secondary binary, separated by a distance of 1,670 astronomical unit (AU), where 1 AU is the average distance between the Earth and sun.

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White House Threatens Veto Over EPA "Secret Science" Bills

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sciencehabit writes The U.S. House of Representatives could vote as early as this week to approve two controversial, Republican-backed bills that would change how the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) uses science and scientific advice to inform its policies. Many Democrats, scientific organizations, and environmental groups are pushing back, calling the bills thinly veiled attempts to weaken future regulations and favor industry. White House advisers announced that they will recommend that President Barack Obama veto the bills if they reach his desk in their current form.

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Paul Allen Helps Find Sunken Japanese WWII Battleship Musashi Off Philippines

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mpicpp writes with news about the discovery of a sunken Japanese battleship by Paul Allen and a team of researchers. Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist Paul Allen and his research team have found a massive Japanese World War II battleship off the Philippines near where it sank more than 70 years ago, his representatives said Wednesday. The apparent discovery of the wreckage of the Musashi, one of the largest battleships in history, comes as the world marks the 70th anniversary of the war's end. Allen and the team aboard his superyacht M/Y Octopus found the ship on Sunday, more than eight years after their search began, Allen's publicity agency Edelman said in a statement. Detailed images captured by a high-definition camera mounted on the underwater probe confirmed the wreckage as that of the Musashi, it said. Japanese experts said they were eager to study the images to try to confirm the ship's identity. Allen's team found the battleship in the Sibuyan Sea, using an autonomous underwater vehicle in its third dive after narrowing down the search area using detailed undersea topographical data and other locator devices, the statement said. "The Musashi is truly an engineering marvel and as an engineer at heart, I have a deep appreciation for the technology and effort that went into its construction," Allen said.

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EFF Joins Civil Society and Computer Security Experts to Call for Rejection of Flawed Cybersecurity Legislation

EFF's Deeplinks -

EFF has joined 26 civil society organizations and 22 computer security experts in a letter that calls on the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence to reject the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act of 2015 (CISA).

CISA, currently only available in draft form, is yet another iteration of the infamous Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), first introduced in 2011. These pieces of legislation have all been introduced under the auspices of increased computer and network security. But instead of providing increased funding for security research, providing funding for security training for federal government employees, or any of the other ways computer and network security could be made better, they have focused on information sharing, without addressing the privacy and civil liberties implications that entails.

CISA is no different. It would grant companies more power to obtain “cyber threat indicators" and to disclose that data to the government without a warrant—hence its reputation as a “cyber-surveillance” bill. In fact, as the letter points out, CISA “requires real time dissemination to military and intelligence agencies, including the NSA.” In other words, cyberthreats shared with any agency would be automatically shared with the NSA.

Under CISA, all of this would happen without real privacy protections for Internet users. As the letter emphasizes:

CISA does not effectively require private entities to strip out information that identifies a specific person prior to sharing cyber threat indicators with the government, a fundamental and important privacy protection.

But CISA allows the shared information to be used for purposes that have nothing to do with cybersecurity, including “a wide range of crimes involving any level of physical force, including those that involve no threat of death or significant bodily harm,”  compounding the potential negative privacy impact.

CISA would also authorize companies to launch countermeasures against potentially innocent users—without requiring that companies are responsible for any harm they cause to innocent users:

countermeasures must be “operated on” one’s own information systems, but may have off-networks effects – including harmful effects to external systems – so long as the countermeasures do not “intentionally” destroy other entities’ systems. . . CISA permits companies to recklessly deploy countermeasures that damage networks belonging to innocent bystanders, such as a hospital or emergency responders that attackers use as proxies to hide behind, so long as the deploying company does not intend that the countermeasure result in harm.

To compound this provision, like its previous iterations, CISA contains overbroad immunity from lawsuits for corporations that share information or deploy countermeasures—effectively ensuring that they have little incentive to minimize these activities.

You can read the full text of the letter and see the signatories here. The SSCI is expected to mark up CISA soon. And while we’re hopeful that it will be defeated, CISA’s past iterations have faced several veto threats from President Obama, a petition with over 800,000 signatures, and a widespread online campaign dubbed "Stop Cyber Spying Week." That means we need your voice to defeat this version, too. Take action today: tell your Senator to oppose reintroduction of a bill that invades the privacy and civil liberties of everyday Internet users while failing to truly make the Internet safer.

Related Issues: PrivacyCyber Security Legislation
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New Wolfenstein Game Announced: The Old Blood

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jones_supa writes Last year, Wolfenstein: The New Order was well received, and showed that old school shooters still can do extremely well in the current market and actually be a lot of fun. Now, Bethesda Softworks is already announcing a standalone prequel to The New Order, called Wolfenstein: The Old Blood. It's back to the roots for B.J. Blazkowicz, and you embark on a perilous journey "deep within Bavaria", with the goal of infiltrating the Castle Wolfenstein. Just like last years' game, The Old Blood has been developed by Swedish company MachineGames on the same platform including id Tech 5 engine. The release date is May 5th and the game will be available for PC, Xbox One, and PlayStation 4.

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SpaceX's Challenge Against Blue Origins' Patent Fails To Take Off

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speedplane writes As was previously discussed on Slashdot, back in September SpaceX challenged a patent owned by Blue Origin. The technology concerned landing rockets at sea. Yesterday, the judges in the case issued their opinion stating that they are unable to initiate review of the patent on the grounds brought by SpaceX. Although at first glance this would appear to be a Blue Origin win, looking closer, the judges explained that Blue Origin's patent lacks sufficient disclosure, effectively stating that the patent is invalid, but not on the specific grounds brought by SpaceX: "Because claim 14 lacks adequate structural support for some of the means-plus-function limitations, it is not amenable to construction. And without ascertaining the breadth of claim 14, we cannot undertake the necessary factual inquiry for evaluating obviousness with respect to differences between the claimed subject matter and the prior art." If SpaceX wants to move forward against Blue Origin, this opinion bodes well for them, but they will need to take their case in front of a different court.

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Dell Venue 10 Pro Windows tablet now available for $329 and up

Liliputing -

Dell’s new 10 inch Windows tablet with an Intel Bay Trail processor is now available for $329 and up. The company unveiled the Dell Venue 10 Pro 5000 Series in February as a tablet aimed at the education market. But you don’t need to be a teacher or student to order one. The tablet features an Intel […]

Dell Venue 10 Pro Windows tablet now available for $329 and up is a post from: Liliputing

<em>Star Trek</em> Fans Told To Stop "Spocking" Canadian $5 Bill

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bellwould writes The Toronto Sun is reporting that Bank of Canada executives are urging Star Trek fans to stop altering Wilfred Laurier's face on the Canadian $5 bill to look like Spock. Although not illegal to draw on the bills, a Bank of Canada spokesperson points out that the markings may reduce effectiveness of the security features or worse, the money may not be accepted.

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Drones Underwater, Drones on Wheels (Video)

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Rocky Mountain Unmanned Systems seems to be primarily in the business of selling aerial 'copter drones ranging in price from sub-$100 up into $1000s. But there they were at the 2015 CES (Consumer Electronics Show), showing off a submarine drone and a wheeled drone. These products don't seem to be on the company's website or even on their Facebook page quite yet. Jon McBride, the person manning their CES booth, told Timothy these products would be around soon, as in February. But it looks like a bit of extra patience is in order, although you can contact Jon through the company's Facebook page (his suggestion) if you have an urgent need for an underwater or wheeled drone for your business or government agency -- or even just for fun.

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New Zealand Spied On Nearly Two Dozen Pacific Countries

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An anonymous reader writes New documents from Edward Snowden indicate New Zealand undertook "full take" interception of communications from Pacific nations and forwarded the data to the NSA. The data, collected by New Zealand's Government Communications Security Bureau, was then fed into the NSA's XKeyscore search engine to allow analysts to trawl for intelligence. The New Zealand link helped flesh out the NSA's ambitions to intercept communications globally.

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Snakebyte unveils the QEUS smart TV box

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Gaming accessory maker Snakebyte is launching a new box designed to bring games, media, and other content to your TV. It’s an Android-powered device called the Snakebyte QEUS which is expected to launch this summer for under $100. The QEUS features a Rockchip RK3288 ARM Cortex-A17 quad-core processor, 2GB of RAM, a microSD card slot, 802.11b/g/n WiFi, Bluetooth, 5.1 […]

Snakebyte unveils the QEUS smart TV box is a post from: Liliputing

Microsoft Convinced That Windows 10 Will Be Its Smartphone Breakthrough

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jfruh (300774) writes "At the Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, handset manufacturers are making all the right noises about support for Windows 10, which will run on both ARM- and Intel-based phones and provide an experience very much like the desktop. But much of the same buzz surrounded Windows 8 and Windows 7 Phone. In fact, Microsoft has tried and repeatedly failed to take the mobile space by storm."

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Demand For Linux Skills Rising This Year

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Nerval's Lobster writes This year is shaping up as a really good one for Linux, at least on the jobs front. According to a new report (PDF) from The Linux Foundation and Dice, nearly all surveyed hiring managers want to recruit Linux professionals within the next six months, with 44 percent of them indicating they're more likely to hire a candidate with Linux certification over one who does not. Forty-two percent of hiring managers say that experience in OpenStack and CloudStack will have a major impact on their hiring decisions, while 23 percent report security is a sought-after area of expertise and 19 percent are looking for Linux-skilled people with Software-Defined Networking skills. Ninety-seven percent of hiring managers report they will bring on Linux talent relative to other skills areas in the next six months.

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The STRONG Patents Act Is a Prime Example of Weak Reform

EFF's Deeplinks -

"Reform" refers to making changes in something in order to improve it. The STRONG Patents Act, introduced yesterday by Sens. Coons, Durbin, and Hirono, claims to be a "reform" bill—in reality, it would achieve the exact opposite.

As we note in our recent whitepaper, Defend Innovation, we should primarily tackle the root problem of most patent issues: the abundance of poor quality patents. Important tools exist already to challenge bad patents, and these should be strengthened and made less expensive. The STRONG Patents Act's major "reform," however, cripples these means of limiting or scrapping patents that are poor quality.

First, it imposes standing requirements that would bar groups like EFF from challenging bad patents in the public interest. The bill states that you would only be able to challenge patents in an adversarial proceeding at the Patent Office (meaning you get to be there to argue back against what the patent owner says) if you have been sued or if you are "charged with infringement." A measure like this would have effectively stopped EFF from engaging in our Save Podcasting campaign against the patent troll Personal Audio. 

This is bad. EFF, through sites like Trolling Effects and those who reach out to us, is in an important position to notice when a bunch of startups and end users are receiving particularly egregious demand letters or suits. Although we can’t challenge every awful patent we see (we simply don’t have the resources), the STRONG Patents Act would prevent us from stepping in to meaningfully challenge any bad patent. The ability for public interest groups like us to do so is critical—patent owners could otherwise craft their demands to make it less worthwhile or feasible for any one accused party to challenge a patent. Affected individuals—podcasters, for example—simply don't have the resources to dispute the patents themselves.

On top of this change, the bill would make administrative challenges to patents more expensive by saddling challengers with costly discovery burdens. Sen. Coons' website claims that this is an attempt to "minimize abusive behavior," but the Patent Trial and Appeal Board already has authority to order discovery if there is a real basis to suspect abuse. The recently created post-grant review proceedings are an efficient and fair alternative to ruinously expensive district court litigation. The last thing we need is a law that undermines one of the few sensible parts of the patent system.

The STRONG Patents Act has a few positive provisions, such as helping clamp down on patent demand letters, but ultimately it is not the reform we need. In most regards, it's a step in the wrong direction. It ignores the biggest problems with the patent system today, namely the bad patents that have proliferated in recent years that are being abused by patent trolls. We need reform that addresses the worst actors and better levels the playing field—reform like the Innovation Act. Tell Congress to reject these fake fixes and to support the Innovation Act today.

Related Issues: PatentsLegislative Solutions for Patent Reform
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System76 Meerkat is a tiny, Linux PC with a Broadwell CPU

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Linux PC builder System76 plans to launch a tiny desktop PC with an Intel Broadwell processor and Ubuntu Linux software. The System76 Meerkat should be available around March 19th. The little computer is based on Intel’s NUC mini-desktop design and measures about 4 inches by 4 inches square. System76 says the Meerkat will support up to […]

System76 Meerkat is a tiny, Linux PC with a Broadwell CPU is a post from: Liliputing

'The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress' Coming To the Big Screen

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HughPickens.com writes: According to the Hollywood Reporter, Twentieth Century Fox recently picked up the movie rights to The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, based on the classic sci-fi book by Robert A. Heinlein. It will retitled as Uprising. Heinlein's 1966 sci-fi novel centers on a lunar colony's revolt against rule from Earth, and the book popularized the acronym TANSTAAFL (There ain't no such thing as a free lunch), a central, libertarian theme. The novel was nominated for the 1966 Nebula award (honoring the best sci-fi and fantasy work in the U.S.) and won the Hugo Award for best science fiction novel in 1967. An adaptation has been attempted twice before — by DreamWorks, which had a script by Ted Elliott and Terry Rossio, and by Phoenix Pictures, with Harry Potter producer David Heyman attached — but both languished and the rights reverted to Heinlein's estate. Brian Singer, who previously directed X-Men: Days of Future Past, will adapt the screenplay and reportedly direct. Several of Heinlein's works have been adapted for the big and small screen, including the 1953 film Project Moonbase, the 1994 TV miniseries Red Planet, the 1994 film The Puppet Masters, the 2014 film Predestination, and — very loosely — the 1997 film Starship Troopers.

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US Air Traffic Control System Is Riddled With Vulnerabilities

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An anonymous reader writes: A recently released report (PDF) by the U.S. Government Accountability Office has revealed that despite some improvements, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) still needs to quash significant security control weaknesses that threaten the agency's ability to ensure the safe and uninterrupted operation of the national airspace system (NAS). The report found that while the "FAA established policies and procedures for controlling access to NAS systems and for configuring its systems securely, and it implemented firewalls and other boundary protection controls to protect the operational NAS environment [...] a significant number of weaknesses remain in the technical controls—including access controls, change controls, and patch management—that protect the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of its air traffic control systems."

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Deals of the Day (3-04-2015)

Liliputing -

The Samsung Galaxy Tab S 8.4 is an Android tablet with a 2560 x 1600 pixel Super AMOLED display, 3GB of RAM, an octa-core processor. It has a list price of $400, but a number of retailers are currently selling it for $350. Woot is going a step further though, and offering this high-res tablet for […]

Deals of the Day (3-04-2015) is a post from: Liliputing

Racial Discrimination Affects Virtual Reality Characters Too

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vrml writes: You are looking for the exit of a building in a virtual reality experience when a virtual character gets stuck in a room and cries for your help. Could the color of the skin (black or white) of the virtual human influence your decision to provide or refuse help? That's what comes out from a new study published by the journal Computers in Human Behavior. White users were told that they had to reach the exit of the virtual building as soon as possible. The number of users who decided to help tripled when the virtual victim was white rather than black. Researchers tried also other conditions in which they did not put users under time pressure: this reduced the discrimination, although the number of users who helped remained more favorable for the white rather than the black virtual human. The paper explains these results in terms of the automatic categorization processes that originate from unwanted, unconscious social and cultural biases: putting people under pressure increases automatic responses, leading to more discrimination towards the black character.

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One Year Later, We're No Closer To Finding MtGox's Missing Millions

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itwbennett writes: When Mt. Gox collapsed on Feb. 28, 2014, with liabilities of some ¥6.5 billion ($63.6 million), it said it was unable to account for some 850,000 bitcoins. Some 200,000 of them turned up in an old-format bitcoin wallet last March, bringing the tally of missing bitcoins to 650,000 (now worth about $180 million). In January, Japan's Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper, citing sources close to a Tokyo police probe of the MtGox collapse, reported that only 7,000 of the coins appear to have been taken by hackers, with the remainder stolen through a series of fraudulent transactions. But there's still no explanation of what happened to them, and no clear record of what happened on the exchange.

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