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Medicine

Roller Coasters Could Help People Pass Kidney Stones, Says Study (nbcnews.com) 31

An anonymous reader quotes a report from NBC News: Two researchers who took science to the amusement park say they've found that a thrilling roller coaster ride just might help people shake out pesky kidney stones. Dr. David Wartinger of Michigan State University said he'd heard patient after patient tell him about how they had passed kidney stones after riding one particular ride: the Big Thunder Mountain Railroad roller coaster at Walt Disney World in Orlando. He and a colleague, Dr. Marc Mitchell, had also seen some media reports about people who passed kidney stones while bungee jumping and riding roller coasters. So they decided to leave East Lansing to head to Orlando in the name of medical research. To simulate the human body as best they could, they made an artificial human kidney model out of clear silicone gel and loaded it up with real human kidney stones. They rode the roller coaster holding their kidney contraption between them in a backpack positioned at kidney height. They took 20 rides and noted what happened to each kidney stone. Riding in the back of the roller coaster train seemed to really knock the kidney stones out, they reported in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association. "Front seating on the roller coaster resulted in a passage rate of four of 24," they wrote. "Rear seating on the roller coaster resulted in a passage rate of 23 of 36." They mainly tested the one roller coaster ride, and it's a fairly simple one. "The Big Thunder Mountain roller coaster is not a terribly dynamic ride," Wartinger said. "It's not very fast. It is not very tall. It makes sharp left and right turns that have some vibration." Wartinger suspects many different thrill rides would have the same effect. "It's not like there anything unique about this one coaster," he said. The pair have now run their test 200 more times and say the findings are consistent. Now they want to try other amusement park rides.
The Courts

US Department of Labor Is Suing Peter Thiel's Startup 'Palantir' For Discriminating Against Asians (reuters.com) 105

Palantir Technologies is a secretive start-up in Silicon Valley that specializes in big data analysis. It was founded in 2004 by Peter Thiel, Alex Karp, Joe Lonsdale, Stephen Cohen, and Nathan Gettings, and is backed by the FBI and CIA as it "helps government agencies track down terrorists and uncover financial fraud," according to Reuters. Today, the U.S. Department of Labor filed a lawsuit against the company, alleging that it discriminated against Asian job applicants. Reuters reports: The lawsuit alleges Palantir routinely eliminated Asian applicants in the resume screening and telephone interview phases, even when they were as qualified as white applicants. In one example cited by the Labor Department, Palantir reviewed a pool of more than 130 qualified applicants for the role of engineering intern. About 73 percent of those who applied were Asian. The lawsuit, which covers Palantir's conduct between January 2010 and the present, said the company hired 17 non-Asian applicants and four Asians. "The likelihood that this result occurred according to chance is approximately one in a billion," said the lawsuit, which was filed with the department's Office of Administrative Law Judges. The majority of Palantir's hires as engineering interns, as well as two other engineering positions, "came from an employee referral system that disproportionately excluded Asians," the lawsuit said. Palantir denied the allegations in a statement and said it intends to "vigorously defend" against them. The lawsuit seeks relief for persons affected, including lost wages.
Republicans

Trump Takes On 'Crooked Hillary' With Snapchat Geofilter (arstechnica.com) 51

In an effort to appeal to more young voters, U.S. Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has unveiled a "geofilter" ad campaign for Snapchat that slaps on the banner phrase "Donald J. Trump vs. Crooked Hillary" to a user's photo and video Snaps. Ars Technica reports: "The ad rolled out to American Snapchat users today, just ahead of the 2016 presidential election's first major debate between Trump and Hillary Clinton (the debate starts tonight at 9pm EDT). The ad joins the usual geofilter available to Snapchat users, which usually list the name of a city or a nearby event as determined by GPS and time information. The campaign differs from the deluge of text, photo, and video ads that politicans have relied on in recent years, as it doesn't publish or display to the public without a personal photo or video attached. While other political campaigns have paid for geofilter ad campaigns on Snapchat in the past, including Clinton and Bernie Sanders, those have been timed and targeted for smaller-scale events like political conventions and primary voting periods. In a statement to CNN, the Clinton campaign said that Trump was "throwing his money into a fire pit," and it pointed out the ad's potential for backfiring, since "given Trump's deep unpopularity with young voters, [the ad's phrasing] will be used mainly at [his] own expense."
Security

Windows 10 Will Soon Run Edge In a Virtual Machine To Keep You Safe (arstechnica.com) 66

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Microsoft has announced that the next major update to Windows 10 will run its Edge browser in a lightweight virtual machine. Running the update in a virtual machine will make exploiting the browser and attacking the operating system or compromising user data more challenging. Called Windows Defender Application Guard for Microsoft Edge, the new capability builds on the virtual machine-based security that was first introduced last summer in Windows 10. Windows 10's Virtualization Based Security (VBS) uses small virtual machines and the Hyper-V hypervisor to isolate certain critical data and processes from the rest of the system. The most important of these is Credential Guard, which stores network credentials and password hashes in an isolated virtual machine. This isolation prevents the popular MimiKatz tool from harvesting those password hashes. In turn, it also prevents a hacker from breaking into one machine and then using stolen credentials to spread to other machines on the same network. Credential Guard's virtual machine is very small and lightweight, running only a relatively simple process to manage credentials. Application Guard will go much further by running large parts of the Edge browser within a virtual machine. This virtual machine won't, however, need a full operating system running inside it -- just a minimal set of Windows features required to run the browser. Because Application Guard is running in a virtual machine it will have a much higher barrier between it and the host platform. It can't see other processes, it can't access local storage, it can't access any other installed applications, and, critically, it can't attack the kernel of the host system. In its first iteration, Application Guard will only be available for Edge. Microsoft won't provide an API or let other applications use it. As with other VBS features, Application Guard will also only be available to users of Windows 10 Enterprise, with administrative control through group policies. Administrators will be able to mark some sites as trusted, and those sites won't use the virtual machine. Admins also be able to control whether untrusted sites can use the clipboard or print.
Math

Researcher Modifies Sieve of Eratosthenes To Work With Less Physical Memory Space (scientificamerican.com) 43

grcumb writes: Peruvian mathematician Harald Helfgott made his mark on the history of mathematics by solving Goldbach's weak conjecture, which states that every odd number greater than 7 can be expressed as the sum of three prime numbers. Now, according to Scientific American, he's found a better solution to the sieve of Eratosthenes: "In order to determine with this sieve all primes between 1 and 100, for example, one has to write down the list of numbers in numerical order and start crossing them out in a certain order: first, the multiples of 2 (except the 2); then, the multiples of 3, except the 3; and so on, starting by the next number that had not been crossed out. The numbers that survive this procedure will be the primes. The method can be formulated as an algorithm." But now, Helfgott has found a method to drastically reduce the amount of RAM required to run the algorithm: "Now, inspired by combined approaches to the analytical 100-year-old technique called the circle method, Helfgott was able to modify the sieve of Eratosthenes to work with less physical memory space. In mathematical terms: instead of needing a space N, now it is enough to have the cube root of N." So what will be the impact of this? Will we see cheaper, lower-power encryption devices? Or maybe quicker cracking times in brute force attacks? Mathematician Jean Carlos Cortissoz Iriarte of Cornell University and Los Andes University offers an analogy: "Let's pretend that you are a computer and that to store data in your memory you use sheets of paper. If to calculate the primes between 1 and 1,000,000, you need 200 reams of paper (10,000 sheets), and with the algorithm proposed by Helfgott you will only need one fifth of a ream (about 100 sheets)," he says.
Government

ISP To FCC: Using The Internet Is Like Eating Oreos (consumerist.com) 126

New submitter Rick Schumann shares with us a report highlighting an analogy presented by an ISP that relates Double Stuf Oreos to the internet. Specifically, that Double Stuf Oreos cost more than regular Oreos, and therefore you should pay more for internet: The Consumerist reports: "Ars Technica first spotted the crumbly filing, from small (and much-loathed) provider Mediacom. Mediacom's comment is in response to the same proceeding that Netflix commented on earlier this month. However, while Netflix actually addressed data and the ways in which their customers use it, Mediacom went for the more metaphor-driven approach. The letter literally starts out under the header, 'You Have to Pay Extra For Double-Stuffed,' and posits that you, the consumer, are out for a walk with $2 in your pocket when you suddenly develop a ferocious craving for Oreo cookies." Of course their analogy is highly questionable, since transmitting data over a network doesn't actually consume anything, now does it? You eat the cookie, the cookie is gone, but you transmit data over a network, the network is still there and can transmit data endlessly. Mediacom's assertion that the Internet is like a cookie you eat, is like saying copying a file on your computer somehow diminishes or degrades the original file, which of course is ridiculous.
Mozilla

Mozilla's Proposed Conclusion: Game Over For WoSign and Startcom? (google.com) 71

Reader Zocalo writes: Over the last several months Mozilla has been investigating a large number of breaches of what Mozilla deems to be acceptable CA protocols by the Chinese root CA WoSign and their perhaps better known subsidiary StartCom, whose acquisition by WoSign is one of the issues in question. Mozilla has now published their proposed solution (GoogleDocs link), and it's not looking good for WoSign and Startcom. Mozilla's position is that they have lost trust in WoSign and, by association StartCom, with a proposed action to give WoSign and StartCom a "timeout" by distrusting any certificates issued after a date to be determined in the near future for a period of one year, essentially preventing them issuing any certificates that will be trusted by Mozilla. Attempts to circumvent this by back-dating the valid-from date will result in an immediate and permanent revocation of trust, and there are some major actions required to re-establish that trust at the end of the time out as well.
This seems like a rather elegant, if somewhat draconian, solution to the issue of what to do when a CA steps out of line. Revoking trust for certificates issued after a given date does not invalidate existing certificates and thereby inconvenience their owners, but it does put a severe -- and potentially business-ending -- penalty on the CA in question. Basically, WoSign and StartCom will have a year where they cannot issue any new certificates that Mozilla will trust, and will also have to inform any existing customers that have certificate renewals due within that period they cannot do so and they will need to go else where -- hardly good PR!

What does Slashdot think? Is Mozilla going too far here, or is their proposal justified and reasonable given WoSign's actions, making a good template for potential future breaches of trust by root CAs, particularly in the wake of other CA trust breaches by the likes of CNNIC, DigiNotar, and Symantec?

Bitcoin

Japanese To Pay Utility Bills Using Bitcoin (thestack.com) 24

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Stack: Japanese citizens will soon be able to pay their utility bills using bitcoin. The facility is being provided by Coincheck Denki, a new service offered by the Japanese bitcoin company, which will be available to users in November. Coincheck outlined the new plan on its website. Also called 'Coincheck Electricity,' it will allow users to pay their electricity bills directly from their Coincheck bitcoin wallet. It also offers a discount plan for heavy users of electricity, with 4-6% of the total bill discounted for heavy users of electricity who pay in bitcoin. Coincheck's parent company, Reju Press, initially partnered with Mitsuwa Inc., to create the bitcoin payment system. Coincheck now works with Mitsuwa subsidiary E-Net Inc., and has formed a partnership with Marubeni Power Retail Corporation, which operates power plants in 17 locations in central Japan. Marubeni has offices in 66 countries worldwide, although no plans have been announced to take the bitcoin payment option outside of Japan. While the initial bitcoin payment rollout is for electricity bills, Coincheck plans to expand its offerings to bitcoin payment for 'life infrastructure,' to include payment of gas, water and mobile phone bills. It may even partner with landlords to allow customers of Coincheck to pay rent using bitcoin. The bitcoin payment plan will be rolled out in Chubu, Kanto (including Tokyo) and Kansai regions to start, with additional areas to be added sequentially. The company hopes to offer bitcoin payment options to one million electric customers within the first year.
Transportation

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles Have Become Top Carbon Polluters (technologyreview.com) 171

Transportation is likely to surpass the electricity sector in 2016 as the largest source of carbon dioxide emissions in the United States, according to a new analysis of government data, MIT Technology reports. From the article: In 2008, the global financial crisis caused widespread declines in energy use. In the U.S., that coincided with the early stages of a large-scale shift away from coal toward cleaner-burning natural gas as a way to generate electricity. As a result, carbon dioxide emissions from the electricity sector have continued to decline from their 2007 peak, even as the economy has resumed growing. The trend line for the transportation sector is less encouraging. Transportation emissions have begun rising as the economy rebounds. John DeCicco at the University of Michigan Energy Institute, who wrote the study, attributes the rebound we've seen during the past four years to straightforward causes: economic recovery and more affordable fuel prices. Vehicle sales numbers have been rising for several years, in particular for trucks and SUVs, and people are traveling more miles.
Operating Systems

Windows 10 Now On 400 Million Active Devices, Says Microsoft (thurrott.com) 138

Microsoft announced today that Windows 10 is now running on over 400 million active devices. This is up from 300 million as of May, and 207 million as of end of the March. The company says that it deems devices that have been active in the past 28 days as "active." Microsoft added that this 400 million active devices figure include tablets and phones as well as Xbox One consoles, HoloLens, and Surface Hubs running Windows 10. Paul Thurrott adds:Microsoft last provided a Windows 10 usage milestone on June 29, when it said that there were 350 million active Windows 10 devices. At that time, I noted that the Windows 10 adoption had accelerated from the previous milestone, hitting an average of almost 29 million new devices per month. But 50 million additional devices over three months is a much slower pace of about 17 million per month. This is the slowest rate since Windows 10 was first announced. Again, no surprise there: Windows 10 was free for its first year, and over that time period it averaged roughly 31.25 million new devices per month (if you assume a figure of 375 million after one year, as I do). Does this mean that Windows 10 will see fewer than 20 million new devices each month, on average, going forward? No, of course not. There's no way to accurately gauge how things will go, given that most future devices will be new PCs purchased by businesses or consumers, or business PCs upgraded to Windows 10.
Transportation

HERE, Automakers Team Up To Share Data On Traffic Conditions (reuters.com) 48

German digital map maker HERE will introduce a new set of traffic services this week that allows drivers to see for themselves what live road conditions are like miles ahead using data from competing automakers, an industry first, reports Reuters. From the report: The Berlin-based company, owned by Germany's three premium automakers, will provide four services in which drivers share detailed video views of traffic jams or accidents, potential road hazards like fog or slippery streets, traffic signs including temporary speed limits and on-street parking. BMW, Daimler and Volkswagen will all contribute data to the service, making their first big collaboration since they bought HERE for 2.8 billion euros ($3.1 billion) late last year from mobile equipment maker Nokia of Finland. Other automakers are expected to join the project later and contribute data from their vehicles, HERE said. The new live traffic services are set to hit the road in the first half of 2017, HERE said on Monday before the opening of this week's Paris Motor Show.
Android

Google Is Planning a 'Pixel 3' Laptop Running 'Andromeda' OS For Release in Q3 2017 (androidpolice.com) 51

Google plans to launch a laptop next year with Pixel branding which will run 'Andromeda' operating system, reports AndroidPolice, citing sources. Andromeda is a hybrid of Android and Chrome OS, the report adds. Pixel, Chrome OS and Android teams have been working on this project, dubbed Bison, for years, apparently. From the report: Bison is planned as an ultra-thin laptop with a 12.3" display, but Google also wants it to support a "tablet" mode. It's unclear to us if this means Bison will be a Lenovo Yoga-style convertible device, or a detachable like Microsoft's Surface Book, but I'm personally leaning on the former given how thin it is. Powering it will be either an Intel m3 or i5 Core processor with 32 or 128GB of storage and 8 or 16GB of RAM. This seems to suggest there will be two models. It will also feature a fingerprint scanner, two USB-C ports, a 3.5mm jack (!), a host of sensors, stylus support (a Wacom pen will be sold separately), stereo speakers, quad microphones, and a battery that will last around 10 hours. The keyboard will be backlit, and the glass trackpad will use haptic and force detection similar to the MacBook. Google plans to fit all of this in a form factor under 10mm in thickness, notably thinner than the aforementioned Apple ultraportable.The report, however, adds that it is likely that Google might revise the specifications by the time of its launch, which is slated to happen sometime in Q3 2017.
Transportation

Uber Is Researching a New Vertical-Takeoff Ride Offering That Flies You Around (recode.net) 130

If Uber's recently launched self-driving cars surprised you, wait for the company's "flying" vehicles. Speaking with Recode, Uber's head of products said the company is research small planes that can vertically take off and land, so that they can be used for short-haul flights in cities. From the report:The technology is called VTOL -- which stands for vertical takeoff and landing. Simply put, VTOL is an aircraft that can hover, take off and land vertically, which would also describe a helicopter. But, unlike the typical helicopter, these planes have multiple rotors, could have fixed wings and perhaps eventually would use batteries and be more silent. In time, like cars, such aircraft would be autonomous. Jeff Holden said that he has been researching the area, "so we can someday offer our customers as many options as possible to move around." He added that "doing it in a three-dimensional way is an obvious thing to look at."
Virtualization

Boot Linux (or OpenBSD Or Oberon Or FreeDOS) In Your Browser (copy.sh) 87

Long-time Slashdot reader DeQueue writes: Back in 2011 Fabrice Bellard, the initiator of the QEMU emulator, wrote a PC emulator in JavaScript that let you boot Linux in your browser. But he didn't stop there.

On his website he now has images that let you boot Oberon, Arch Linux, FreeDOS, OpenBSD, Solar OS and more recent versions of Linux such as 2.6 or 3.18 (the 3.18 image includes internet access). You can also boot to a CD image, or a floppy image, or a hard drive disk image on your local machine. And, if you don't need yet another operating system on your computer, you can even boot to Bootchess and play chess

Botnet

Ask Slashdot: Is My IoT Device Part of a Botnet? 267

As our DVRs, cameras, and routers join the Internet of Things, long-time Slashdot reader galgon wonders if he's already been compromised: There has been a number of stories of IoT devices becoming part of botnets and being used in distributed denial of service attacks. If these devices are seemingly working correctly to the user, how would they ever know the device was compromised? Is there anything the average user can do to detect when they have a misbehaving device on their network?
I'm curious how many Slashdot readers are even using IoT devices -- so leave your best answers in the comments. How would you know if your IoT device is part of a botnet?
Power

Amazon Pursues More Renewable Energy, Following Google, Apple, And Facebook (fortune.com) 83

An anonymous Slashdot reader writes: Amazon will open a 100-turbine, 253-megawatt wind farm in Texas by the end of next year -- generating enough energy to power almost 90,000 U.S. homes. Amazon already has wind farms in Indiana, North Carolina, and Ohio (plus a solar farm in Virginia), and 40% of the power for AWS already comes from renewable sources, but Amazon's long-term plan is to raise that to 100%.

But several of the world's largest tech companies are already pursuing their own aggressive renewable energy programs, according to Fortune. Google "has said it's the largest non-utility purchaser of renewable energy in the world. Apple claims that in 2015, 93% of its energy came from renewable sources, and its data centers are already 100% run on renewables (though that claim does rely on carbon trading). Facebook, which also uses Texas wind facilities, is aiming for 50% of its data center power to come from renewables by 2018. Even slightly smaller companies like Salesforce have made big commitments to renewable energy."

Last year for the first time utilities actually bought less than half the power produced by wind farms -- because tech companies, universities, and cities had already locked it down with long-term contracts.
The Internet

What Vint Cerf Would Do Differently (computerworld.com) 116

An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes ComputerWorld: Vint Cerf is considered a father of the internet, but that doesn't mean there aren't things he would do differently if given a fresh chance to create it all over again. "If I could have justified it, putting in a 128-bit address space would have been nice so we wouldn't have to go through this painful, 20-year process of going from IPv4 to IPv6," Cerf told an audience of journalists Thursday... For security, public key cryptography is another thing Cerf would like to have added, had it been feasible.

Trouble is, neither idea is likely to have made it into the final result at the time. "I doubt I could have gotten away with either one," said Cerf, who won a Turing Award in 2004 and is now vice president and chief internet evangelist at Google. "So today we have to retrofit... If I could go back and put in public key crypto, I probably would try."

Vint Cerf answered questions from Slashdot users back in 2011.
Sci-Fi

'Transformer' BMW Turns Into A Giant Robot (vice.com) 45

An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes Motherboard: Real-life Transformers are apparently already a thing thanks to a Turkish company called Letvision. They can't do battle with Decepticons, but they can turn their heads from side to side and move their arms and fingers and, erm, shoot smoke from between their legs. Oh, and they can do the whole changing from a 2013 BMW to an upright robot bit [video]. That's pretty cool, too.

But of course there's a catch. Each of the four available Transformers (which Letvision gave the copyright-friendly name of "Letrons") has a functional steering wheel, but you can only "drive" them remotely because Letvision stuffed the seating spaces with the hydraulics and electronics needed for the conversion.

Letvision's demo video has the clever title "Rise of LETRONS", and shows the vehicle spontaneously beginning its transformation after a newscaster announces, "Our country is under invasion by extraterrestrials."
Yahoo!

Moving Beyond Flash: the Yahoo HTML5 Video Player (streamingmedia.com) 93

Slashdot reader theweatherelectric writes: Over on Streaming Media, Amit Jain from Yahoo has written a behind-the-scenes look at the development of Yahoo's HTML5 video player. He writes, "Adobe Flash, once the de-facto standard for media playback on the web, has lost favor in the industry due to increasing concerns over security and performance. At the same time, requiring a plugin for video playback in browsers is losing favor among users as well. As a result, the industry is moving toward HTML5 for video playback...

At Yahoo, our video player uses HTML5 across all modern browsers for video playback. In this post we will describe our journey to providing an industry-leading playback experience using HTML5, lay out some of the challenges we faced, and discuss opportunities we see going forward."

Yet another brick in the wall? YouTube and Twitch have already switched to HTML5, and last year Google started automatically converting Flash ads to HTML5.
Google

Google Open Sources Its Image-Captioning AI (zdnet.com) 39

An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes ZDNet: Google has open-sourced a model for its machine-learning system, called Show and Tell, which can view an image and generate accurate and original captions... The image-captioning system is available for use with TensorFlow, Google's open machine-learning framework, and boasts a 93.9 percent accuracy rate on the ImageNet classification task, inching up from previous iterations.

The code includes an improved vision model, allowing the image-captioning system to recognize different objects in images and hence generate better descriptions. An improved image model meanwhile aids the captioning system's powers of description, so that it not only identifies a dog, grass and frisbee in an image, but describes the color of grass and more contextual detail.

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