Geek Stuff

GitHub Founder Resigns Following Harassment Investigation

Slashdot -

An anonymous reader writes "Late Yesterday, GitHub concluded its investigation regarding sexual harassment within its work force, and although it found no evidence of 'legal wrongdoing', Tom Preston-Werner, one of its founding members implicated in the investigation a... resigned. In its statement, GitHub vows to implement 'a number of new HR and employee-led initiatives as well as training opportunities to make sure employee concerns and conflicts are taken seriously and dealt with appropriately'. Julie Ann Horvath, the former GitHub employee whose public resignation last month inspired the sexual harassment investigation, found the company's findings to be gratuitous and just plain wrong."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








Scammers Lower Comcast Bills, Get Jail Time

Slashdot -

An anonymous reader writes with news about a scam with a twist. The scammers purchased login details to internal Comcast systems from an employee using them to lower the bills of Comcast customers, for a price. "Alston Buchanan, the mastermind of a two-man scam to lower the bills of Comcast customers for a price, pleaded guilty last week and awaits sentencing. His accomplice, Richard Justin Spraggins, who also pleaded guilty in February, will serve 11-23 months in prison and pay Comcast $66,825. Their operation purportedly cost Comcast $2.4 million, and Comcast claims that the loss has forced them to raise the rates on all their customers. However, the allegedly huge financial loss went undetected until a Comcast customer reported his/her suspicions to Comcast customer service."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








Experts Say Hitching a Ride In an Airliner's Wheel Well Is Not a Good Idea

Slashdot -

Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "Hasani Gittens reports that as miraculous as it was that a 16-year-old California boy was able to hitch a ride from San Jose to Hawaii and survive, it isn't the first time a wheel-well stowaway has lived to tell about it. The FAA says that since 1947 there have been 105 people who have tried to surreptitiously travel in plane landing gear — with a survival rate of about 25 percent. But agency adds that the actual numbers are probably higher, as some survivors may have escaped unnoticed, and bodies could fall into the ocean undetected. Except for the occasional happy ending, hiding in the landing gear of a aircraft as it soars miles above the Earth is generally a losing proposition. According to an FAA/Wright State University study titled 'Survival at High Altitudes: Wheel-Well Passengers,' at 20,000 feet the temperature experienced by a stowaway would be -13 F, at 30,000 it would be -45 in the wheel well — and at 40,000 feet, the mercury plunges to a deadly -85 F (PDF). 'You're dealing with an incredibly harsh environment,' says aviation and security expert Anthony Roman. 'Temperatures can reach -50 F, and oxygen levels there are barely sustainable for life.' Even if a strong-bodied individual is lucky enough to stand the cold and the lack of oxygen, there's still the issue of falling out of the plane. 'It's almost impossible not to get thrown out when the gear opens,' says Roman. So how do the lucky one-in-four survive? The answer, surprisingly, is that a few factors of human physiology are at play: As the aircraft climbs, the body enters a state of hypoxia—that is, it lacks oxygen—and the person passes out. At the same time, the frigid temperatures cause a state of hypothermia, which preserves the nervous system. 'It's similar to a young kid who falls to the bottom of an icy lake," says Roman. "and two hours later he survives, because he was so cold.'"

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Our Education System Is Failing IT

Slashdot -

Nemo the Magnificent (2786867) writes "In this guy's opinion most IT workers can't think critically. They are incapable of diagnosing a problem, developing a possible solution, and implementing it. They also have little fundamental understanding of the businesses their employers are in, which is starting to get limiting as silos are collapsing within some corporations and IT workers are being called upon to participate in broader aspects of the business. Is that what you see where you are?"

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The Science Behind Powdered Alcohol

Slashdot -

Daniel_Stuckey (2647775) writes "Last week, the US Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau approved Palcohol, a powdered alcohol product that you can either use to turn water into a presumably not-that-delicious marg or to snort if you don't care too much about your brain cells. It's the first time a powdered alcohol product has been approved for sale in the US, but not the first time someone has devised one, and such products have been available in parts of Europe for a few years now. Now you may be wondering, as I was, how the heck do you go about powdering alcohol? As you might expect, there's quite a bit of chemistry involved, but the process doesn't seem overly difficult; we've known how to do it since the early 1970s, when researchers at the General Foods Corporation (now a subsidiary of Kraft) applied for a patent for an 'alcohol-containing powder.'" It turns out the labels were issued in error, so don't expect it to be available soon. But it does appear to be a real thing that someone is trying to have approved.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.


The Science Behind Powdered Alcohol

Slashdot -

Daniel_Stuckey (2647775) writes "Last week, the US Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau approved Palcohol, a powdered alcohol product that you can either use to turn water into a presumably not-that-delicious marg or to snort if you don't care too much about your brain cells. It's the first time a powdered alcohol product has been approved for sale in the US, but not the first time someone has devised one, and such products have been available in parts of Europe for a few years now. Now you may be wondering, as I was, how the heck do you go about powdering alcohol? As you might expect, there's quite a bit of chemistry involved, but the process doesn't seem overly difficult; we've known how to do it since the early 1970s, when researchers at the General Foods Corporation (now a subsidiary of Kraft) applied for a patent for an 'alcohol-containing powder.'" It turns out the labels were issued in error, so don't expect it to be available soon. But it does appear to be a real thing that someone is trying to have approved.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








Intentional Backdoor In Consumer Routers Found

Slashdot -

New submitter janoc (699997) writes about a backdoor that was fixed only not "Eloi Vanderbeken from Synacktiv has identified an intentional backdoor in a module by Sercomm used by major router manufacturers (Cisco, Linksys, Netgear, etc.). The backdoor was ostensibly fixed — by obfuscating it and making it harder to access. The original report (PDF). And yeah, there is an exploit available ..." Rather than actually closing the backdoor, they just altered it so that the service was not enabled until you knocked the portal with a specially crafted Ethernet packet. Quoting Ars Technica: "The nature of the change, which leverages the same code as was used in the old firmware to provide administrative access over the concealed port, suggests that the backdoor is an intentional feature of the firmware ... Because of the format of the packets—raw Ethernet packets, not Internet Protocol packets—they would need to be sent from within the local wireless LAN, or from the Internet service provider’s equipment. But they could be sent out from an ISP as a broadcast, essentially re-opening the backdoor on any customer’s router that had been patched."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








Eyes Over Compton: How Police Spied On a Whole City

Slashdot -

Advocatus Diaboli (1627651) writes with some concerning news from the Atlantic. From the article: "In a secret test of mass surveillance technology, the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department sent a civilian aircraft over Compton, California, capturing high-resolution video of everything that happened inside that 10-square-mile municipality. Compton residents weren't told about the spying, which happened in 2012. 'We literally watched all of Compton during the times that we were flying, so we could zoom in anywhere within the city of Compton and follow cars and see people,' Ross McNutt of Persistence Surveillance Systems told the Center for Investigative Reporting, which unearthed and did the first reporting on this important story. The technology he's trying to sell to police departments all over America can stay aloft for up to six hours. Like Google Earth, it enables police to zoom in on certain areas. And like TiVo, it permits them to rewind, so that they can look back and see what happened anywhere they weren't watching in real time."

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404-No-More Project Seeks To Rid the Web of '404 Not Found' Pages

Slashdot -

First time accepted submitter blottsie (3618811) writes "A new project proposes an do away with dead 404 errors by implementing new HTML attribute hat will help access prior versions of hyperlinked content. With any luck, that means that you'll never have to run into a dead link again. ...The new feature would come in the form of introducing the mset attribute to the <a> element which would allow users of the code to specify multiple dates and copies of content as an external resource." The mset attribute would specify a "reference candidate:" either a temporal reference (to ease finding the version cited on e.g. the wayback machine) or the url of a static copy of the linked document.

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The Ethical Dilemmas Today's Programmers Face

Slashdot -

snydeq (1272828) writes "As software takes over more of our lives, the ethical ramifications of decisions made by programmers only become greater. Unfortunately, the tech world has always been long on power and short on thinking about the long-reaching effects of this power. More troubling: While ethics courses have become a staple of physical-world engineering degrees, they remain a begrudging anomaly in computer science pedagogy. Now that our code is in refrigerators, thermostats, smoke alarms, and more, the wrong moves, a lack of foresight, or downright dubious decision-making can haunt humanity everywhere it goes. Peter Wayner offers a look at just a few of the ethical quandaries confronting developers every day. 'Consider this less of a guidebook for making your decisions and more of a starting point for the kind of ethical contemplation we should be doing as a daily part of our jobs.'"

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








Patent Office Gives Green Light to EFF Challenge To Podcasting Patent

EFF's Deeplinks -

The patent office has issued its first ruling in our challenge to Personal Audio’s so-called podcasting patent. The Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) found that we have established a “reasonable likelihood” that we will prevail, based on two key pieces of “prior art” evidence. This isn’t a final ruling, but it is an important step forward.

Last October, we filed a petition for inter partes review (IPR) at the PTAB. The IPR process provides an expedited means for the patent office to take a second look at a patent it has already issued. This kind of challenge proceeds in two steps. First, we file our petition. Then, before the IPR actually goes forward, the PTAB must decide whether our petition establishes a “reasonable likelihood” that we would prevail. If we did not satisfy that standard, our petition would simply be rejected.

In our petition, we argued that Personal Audio did not invent podcasting and that parts of its patent should be declared invalid. We presented evidence relating to Internet Pioneer Carl Malamud's "Geek of the Week" online radio show and online broadcasts by CNN and the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC). Back in February, Personal Audio filed a response arguing that we were unlikely to prevail and urging the PTAB to reject our petition. The PTAB has now found otherwise, ruling that EFF has established a reasonable likelihood of success.

While we are very pleased with PTAB’s overall conclusion, we were disappointed on one point: while the PTAB accepted that the CNN and CBC references were valid evidence to support our claims, it rejected our argument based on Carl Malamud's “Geek of the Week.” The reasons are somewhat technical, but ultimately the PTAB concluded: 1) that a webpage we cited (the NCSA Geek of the Week page) was not sufficiently accessible to count as a “printed publication” under the relevant statute; and 2) that a electronic journal we cited (the “Surfpunk Technical Journal”) was actually a private email exchange. We respectfully disagree with those conclusions and are considering our options for challenging them.

Again, this is not a final determination. Personal Audio will have another opportunity to present evidence and defend its patent before the PTAB makes a final decision. Nevertheless, we are very pleased that our challenge will proceed and look forward to presenting the strongest possible case that Personal Audio did not invent podcasting. The current schedule for the proceeding is available here. Of course, we will keep you updated at our blog and will publish any documents at our case page.

Auspiciously, the PTAB’s decision in this case came right on the tenth anniversary of the launch of our Patent Busting Project. In the last decade, we’ve challenged many patents and most have been either invalidated or narrowed. We’ve also worked to defend 3D printing from overbroad patents by filing pre-issuance submissions. We’ll continue to fight to protect innovators from illegitimate patents.

Related Cases: EFF v. Personal Audio LLC
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Oklahoma Moves To Discourage Solar and Wind Power

Slashdot -

Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "Paul Monies reports at NewsOK that Oklahoma's legislature has passed a bill that allows regulated utilities to apply to the Oklahoma Corporation Commission to charge a higher base rate to customers who generate solar and wind energy and send their excess power back into the grid reversing a 1977 law that forbade utilities to charge extra to solar users. 'Renewable energy fed back into the grid is ultimately doing utility companies a service,' says John Aziz. 'Solar generates in the daytime, when demand for electricity is highest, thereby alleviating pressure during peak demand.' The state's major electric utilities backed the bill but couldn't provide figures on how much customers already using distributed generation are getting subsidized by other customers. Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co. and Public Service Co. of Oklahoma have about 1.3 million electric customers in the state. They have about 500 customers using distributed generation. Kathleen O'Shea, OG&E spokeswoman, said few distributed generation customers want to sever their ties to the grid. 'If there's something wrong with their panel or it's really cloudy, they need our electricity, and it's going to be there for them,' O'Shea said. 'We just want to make sure they're paying their fair amount of that maintenance cost.' The prospect of widespread adoption of rooftop solar worries many utilities. A report last year by the industry's research group, the Edison Electric Institute, warns of the risks posed by rooftop solar (PDF). 'When customers have the opportunity to reduce their use of a product or find another provider of such service, utility earnings growth is threatened," the report said. "As this threat to growth becomes more evident, investors will become less attracted to investments in the utility sector.''"

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








Lilbits (4-21-2014): Netflix price hike

Liliputing -

Apparently Amazon’s not the only company in the mood for price hikes. Just days after the price of an Amazon Prime membership in the US jumped from $79 per year to $99, online video service Netflix announced plans to increase its monthly subscriber fee. Netflix mentioned the price hike in the company’s latest shareholder report. The […]

Lilbits (4-21-2014): Netflix price hike is a post from: Liliputing

Experiment Suggests Monkeys Can Do Basic Math

Slashdot -

sciencehabit (1205606) writes "It looks like a standardized test question: Is the sum of two numbers on the left or the single number on the right larger? Rhesus macaques that have been trained to associate numerical values with symbols can get the answer right, even if they haven't passed a math class. The finding doesn't just reveal a hidden talent of the animals—it also helps show how the mammalian brain encodes the values of numbers. Previous research has shown that chimpanzees can add single-digit numbers. But scientists haven’t explained exactly how, in the human or the monkey brain, numbers are being represented or this addition is being carried out. Now, a new study helps begin to answer those questions."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








Sony Xperia Z2 waterproof tablet comes to America for $500 and up

Liliputing -

The Sony Xperia Z2 Tablet is a 10 inch Android tablet with a waterproof case and a slim design, measuring just a quarter of an inch thick and weighing about 15 ounces. The tablet doesn’t skimp on specs either: It has a Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 processor and up to 10 hours of battery life. Sony launched […]

Sony Xperia Z2 waterproof tablet comes to America for $500 and up is a post from: Liliputing

Reinventing the Axe

Slashdot -

Nerval's Lobster (2598977) writes "The axe has been with us for thousands of years, with its design changing very little during that time. After all, how much can you really alter a basic blade-and-handle? Well, Finnish inventor Heikki Karna has tried to change it a whole lot, with a new, oddly-shaped axe that he claims is a whole lot safer because it transfers a percentage of downward force into rotational energy, cutting down on deflections. 'The Vipukirves [as the axe is called] still has a sharpened blade at the end, but it has a projection coming off the side that shifts the center of gravity away from the middle. At the point of impact, the edge is driven into the wood and slows down, but the kinetic energy contained in the 1.9 kilogram axe head continues down and to the side (because of the odd center of gravity),' is how Geek.com describes the design. 'The rotational energy actually pushes the wood apart like a lever.' The question is, will everyone pick up on this new way of doing things?"

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








NYC's 19th-Century Horse Carriages Spawn Weird, Truck-Size Electric Car

Slashdot -

cartechboy (2660665) writes "Led by Tesla, electric cars are all the rage now. And the idea of a nine-passenger all-electric vehicle sounds good--until you learn that it maxes out at 30 mph, weighs almost four tons, and costs in the six figures. What is this monstrosity? It's the Frankenstein creation of a group of animal-rights advocates, who are proposing it as the replacement for New York City's fabled horse carriages--and who paid $450,000 to have a prototype built. Who's against it? Would you believe Liam Neeson and one of NYC's daily papers? The huge electric car--modeled after an early 1900s open touring car, complete with brass lanterns--is on display this week at the New York Auto Show, and it's certainly attracting its share of attention."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








HummingBoard is a Raspberry Pi-compatible dev board with Freescale i.MX6 chip

Liliputing -

It looks like Raspberry Pi-compatible hardware is becoming a thing. The Raspberry Pi is a tiny, low-power single-board computer aimed at developers, hobbyists, educators and students. It’s designed as an open platform for programmers, hardware builders, and others… but it’s powered by a rather slow ARM11 processor and only supports up to 512MB of RAM. […]

HummingBoard is a Raspberry Pi-compatible dev board with Freescale i.MX6 chip is a post from: Liliputing

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