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Updated: 2015-05-11

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The First Draft of the SN manifesto is available

The finalists for the 2015 Hugo Awards were announced on April 4, 2015. Who deserves the prize for Best Novel?

  • Ancillary Sword, Ann Leckie (Orbit US/Orbit UK)
  • The Dark Between the Stars, Kevin J. Anderson (Tor Books)
  • The Goblin Emperor, Katherine Addison (Sarah Monette) (Tor Books)
  • Skin Game, Jim Butcher (Orbit UK/Roc Books)
  • The Three Body Problem, Cixin Liu, Ken Liu translator (Tor Books)
  • I can't read, you insenstive clod!

[ Results | Polls ]
Comments:14 | Votes:75

posted by CoolHand on Thursday May 28, @06:48PM   Printer-friendly
from the fine-line dept.

Farhad Manjoo writes in the NYT that with over one billion devices sold in 2014 Android is the most popular operating system in the world by far, but that doesn't mean it's a financial success for Google. Apple vacuumed up nearly 90 percent of the profits in the smartphone business which prompts a troubling question for Android and for Google: How will the search company — or anyone else, for that matter — ever make much money from Android. First the good news: The fact that Google does not charge for Android, and that few phone manufacturers are extracting much of a profit from Android devices, means that much of the globe now enjoys decent smartphones and online services for low prices. But while Google makes most of its revenue from advertising, Android has so far been an ad dud compared with Apple's iOS, whose users tend to have more money and spend a lot more time on their phones (and are, thus, more valuable to advertisers). Because Google pays billions to Apple to make its search engine the default search provider for iOS devices, the company collects much more from ads placed on Apple devices than from ads on Android devices.

The final threat for Google's Android may be the most pernicious: What if a significant number of the people who adopted Android as their first smartphone move on to something else as they become power users? In Apple's last two earnings calls, Tim Cook reported that the "majority" of those who switched to iPhone had owned a smartphone running Android. Apple has not specified the rate of switching, but a survey found that 16 percent of people who bought the latest iPhones previously owned Android devices; in China, that rate was 29 percent. For Google, this may not be terrible news in the short run. If Google already makes more from ads on iOS than Android, growth in iOS might actually be good for Google's bottom line. Still, in the long run, the rise of Android switching sets up a terrible path for Google — losing the high-end of the smartphone market to the iPhone, while the low end is under greater threat from noncooperative Android players like Cyanogen which has a chance to snag as many as 1 billion handsets. Android has always been a tricky strategy concludes Manjoo; now, after finding huge success, it seems only to be getting even trickier.

[Editor's Comment: Original Submission]

posted by CoolHand on Thursday May 28, @05:09PM   Printer-friendly
from the suspicious-white-powder dept.

The U.S. military mistakenly sent live anthrax bacteria to laboratories in nine U.S. states and a U.S. air base in South Korea, after failing to properly inactivate the bacteria 11 months ago. The anthrax was initially sent from a Utah military lab and was meant to be shipped in an inactive state as part of efforts to develop a field-based test to identify biological threats. No one appears to have developed any symptoms, but have been given treatments as a precaution.

What went wrong? What are the best way to handle diseases such as this?

[Editor's Comment: Original Submission]

posted by martyb on Thursday May 28, @03:37PM   Printer-friendly
from the laptop-in-your-pocket dept.

The recently released ASUS smartphone zenfone 2 has hit a new price/perf benchmark point with an MSRP of $199 but mid-high range specs:

-Quadcore x86 processor
-5.5 inch IPS 1080P screen with gorilla glass
-2GB of RAM
-16GB storage
-3000 mAh battery

The low price is in part because Intel has been desperately trying to get a foothold in the mobile market and likely playing contra-revenue games. Unlike past low-cost options like the oneplus phone, this phone has wide release being sold at online retailers like Amazon.

Is this setting a new standard in low-cost, high-performance phones, or is this a temporary ploy until Intel starts charging for their SoCs? Will this lead to a price war between Mediatek, Qualcomm, and Intel? All of which have already released phones this year for the North American marketplace supporting the 4G spectrum. How low-priced can these smartphones with laptop-like specs go?

Reviewed here:

[Editor's Comment: Original Submission]

posted by martyb on Thursday May 28, @02:02PM   Printer-friendly
from the biodegradable-chips-give-new-meaning-to-"computer-virus" dept.

Technicians from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, in collaboration with the Department of Agriculture Forest Products Laboratory (FPL), have demonstrated the feasibility of replacing the substrate of a computer chip with cellulose nanofibril (CNF), a flexible, biodegradable material made from wood.

The full paper is available. From the abstract:

Today's consumer electronics, such as cell phones, tablets and other portable electronic devices, are typically made of non-renewable, non-biodegradable, and sometimes potentially toxic (for example, gallium arsenide) materials. These consumer electronics are frequently upgraded or discarded, leading to serious environmental contamination. Thus, electronic systems consisting of renewable and biodegradable materials and minimal amount of potentially toxic materials are desirable. Here we report high-performance flexible microwave and digital electronics that consume the smallest amount of potentially toxic materials on biobased, biodegradable and flexible cellulose nanofibril papers. Furthermore, we demonstrate gallium arsenide microwave devices, the consumer wireless workhorse, in a transferrable[sic] thin-film form. Successful fabrication of key electrical components on the flexible cellulose nanofibril paper with comparable performance to their rigid counterparts and clear demonstration of fungal biodegradation of the cellulose-nanofibril-based electronics suggest that it is feasible to fabricate high-performance flexible electronics using ecofriendly materials.

[Editor's Comment: Original Submission]

posted by martyb on Thursday May 28, @12:47PM   Printer-friendly
from the application-programming-INTERFACE dept.

The Obama administration has asked the United States Supreme Court to decline Google's appeal against a 2014 federal appeals court ruling finding copyright infringement of Oracle's Java code:

The case involves how much copyright protection should extend to the Java programing language. Oracle won a federal appeals court ruling last year that allows it to copyright parts of Java, whilst Google argues it should be free to use Java without paying a licencing fee. Google, which used Java to design its Android smartphone operating system, appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. The high court then asked the Obama administration in January for its opinion on whether it should take the case because the federal government has a strong interest. The Federal Trade Commission, for instance, must ensure companies do not break antitrust laws when claiming software copyright protection against each other.

According to Google, an Oracle victory would obstruct "an enormous amount of innovation" because software developers would not be able to freely build on each others' work. But Oracle says effective copyright protection is the key to software innovation.

In the court filing on Tuesday, U.S. Solicitor General Donald Verrilli said Google's argument that the code is not entitled to copyright protection lacks merit and did not need to be reviewed by the Supreme Court. Verrilli added that Google had raised important concerns about the effect that enforcement of Oracle's copyright could have on software development, but said those issues could be addressed via further proceedings on Google's separate "fair use" defence in San Francisco federal court.

Google v. Oracle, U.S. Supreme Court, No. 14-410

[Editor's Comment: Original Submission]

posted by janrinok on Thursday May 28, @11:12AM   Printer-friendly
from the this-is-not-the-host-you-are-looking-for... dept.

Google, or someone using their hosting service, noted that SourceForge had established a mirror to the official GIMP-for-Windows site and were now offering downloads which contained adware:

It appears that +SourceForge took over the control of the 'GIMP for Windows' account and is now distributing an ads-enabled installer of GIMP. They also locked out original owner of the account, Jernej Simončič, who has been building the Windows versions of GIMP for our project for years.

So far they haven't replied to provide explanations. Therefore, we remind you again that GIMP only provides builds for Windows via its official Downloads page.

SourceForge's mirrored sites facility is described thus:

The Open Source Mirror Directory is an extension to our existing software directory, where we'll be mirroring projects that are not hosted on SourceForge, and SourceForge projects that have been abandoned.

The problem, though, is that GIMP-for-Windows is not an abandoned project, but moved from SourceForge to Google because the writers "had concerns about the presence of misleading third-party ads on SourceForge".

SourceForge has responded, acknowledging that Gimp-Win had abandoned SourceForge due to misleading ads and claim "They were not alone in those concerns — we were also concerned — leading us to establish a program to enable users and developers to help us remove misleading and confusing ads." They also admit "Mirrored projects are sometimes used to deliver easy-to-decline third-party offers..." which suggests that they have merely changed the way that they deliver their ads - but not necessarily the ad's content. So, some might say, they've rectified the situation by providing both misleading ads and misleading hosting.

SourceForge also say "Since our change to mirror GIMP-Win, we have received no requests by the original author to resume use of this project. We welcome further discussion about how SourceForge can best serve the GIMP-Win author." Perhaps letting the writer choose where he hosts his project would be a good place to start.

Sourceforge hijacks GIMP For Windows project, adds malware to downloads

SourceForge (SF) has taken over control of the GIMP for Windows SF project and is now distributing an adware/malwared installer for GIMP. They also locked out the maintainer, Jernej Simončiči. Sourceforge claims it was "abandoned" and they're providing a service by "mirroring" the original, though it's unclear how much value malware adds for the end user, rather than for SF. (This comes two years after SF claiming its malware was just "misunderstood".)

Since being busted, SF is now serving an .exe that matches that at the official download site.

Other projects recently hijacked by SF include many Apache projects (Allura, Derby, Directory Studio, the Apache HTTP server, Hadoop, OpenOffice, Solr, and Subversion); Mozilla Firefox, Thunderbird, and FireFTP; Evolution and Open-Xchange; Drupal and WordPress; Eclipse, Aptana, Komodo, MonoDevelop, and NetBeans; VLC, Audacious,, Helix, and Tomahawk media players; and many others.

[Editor's Comment: First Submission and 2nd Submission. Submissions significantly edited before publication]

posted by cmn32480 on Thursday May 28, @09:27AM   Printer-friendly
from the what-global-warming? dept.

The Hindustan Times reports:

An unrelenting heat wave has killed more than 1,100 people across the country over a fortnight with southern neighbours Andhra Pradesh and Telangana bearing the brunt, as torrid temperatures melted roads in the national capital and have forced people indoors.

Authorities said on [May 26] most of the victims were construction workers, the elderly, or the homeless, as the weather office predicted the mercury will continue to soar this week with substantial relief expected only when the southwest monsoon hits the Indian mainland around May 31.

[...] The meteorological department issued "red box" warnings for Odisha, Jharkhand, and coastal Andhra Pradesh, signalling high chances of heatstroke, dehydration, and fatality with temperatures inching upwards of 45°C and conditions worsened by constant dry, sweltering winds.

[The state of] Odisha continued to reel, with [the town of] Titlagarh in Balangir district clocking the highest temperature of 47.6°C [117.7°F], while authorities said they received reports of 67 deaths in the past week.

[...] Experts warned [that] no let-up in the heat wave would lead to large-scale power outages in several parts of north India, bringing back memories of a horrific blackout in 2012 that affected nearly 600 million people.

In a separate story, Arne Winguth, Associate Professor of Earth and Environmental Sciences at the University of Texas-Arlington led a study on future environmental conditions in central Texas in the year 2100.

The professor was interviewed by KERA TV:

Winguth's study predicts more cracks and potholes, even buckling and melting of roadways in extreme 125-degree heat.

"The 125° Fahrenheit is a prediction for the future that is predicted for the year 2100. That would be the extreme temperature--that is based on most recent climate assimilation from the National Center for Atmospheric research."

[Editor's Comment: Original Submission]

posted by cmn32480 on Thursday May 28, @07:47AM   Printer-friendly
from the treaty-me-good dept.

The UN treaty to protect the ozone layer has prevented a likely surge in skin cancer in Australia, New Zealand and northern Europe, a study published on Tuesday said.

If the 1987 Montreal Protocol had never been signed, the ozone hole over Antarctica would have grown in size by 40 percent by 2013, it said.

Ultra-violet levels in Australia and New Zealand, which currently have the highest mortality rates from skin cancer, could have risen by between eight and 12 percent.

In northern Europe, depletion of the ozone layer over the Arctic could have boosted ultra-violet levels in Scandinavia and Britain by more than 14 percent, it said.


[Editor's Comment: Original Source]

posted by cmn32480 on Thursday May 28, @06:01AM   Printer-friendly
from the details-details dept.

[Update: 05/28 23:38 GMT by mrcoolbp : It appears the driver was testing the auto-braking and/or pedestrian detection packages that the car didn't seem to have. The human driver was in control of the vehicle. This is an at-fault driver, not a 'self-driving' incident. We apologize for any confusion.]

As a group of journalists gathered in the Dominican Republic to report on the self-parking Volvo XC60 (video of the accident available), the group watched as the car reversed itself, then drove into the crowd at speed:

The accident may have happened because owners have to pay for a special feature known as "pedestrian detection functionality," which costs extra. The cars do have auto-braking features as standard, but only for avoiding other cars — if they are to avoid crashing into pedestrians, too, then owners must pay extra.

"It appears as if the car in this video is not equipped with Pedestrian detection," Volvo spokesperson Johan Larsson told Fusion. "This is sold as a separate package."

The pedestrian detection feature, which works using radar behind the grill and a camera in the windshield, costs approximately $3000. The two men injured in the accident were bruised but otherwise OK.

[Editor's Comment: Original Submission]

posted by cmn32480 on Thursday May 28, @04:29AM   Printer-friendly
from the privacy-goes-the-way-of-the-dodo dept.

The BBC reports on the forthcoming pieces of legislation announced on behalf of the ruling Conservative party by the Queen in her speech to parliament yesterday. Among the bills is the re-introduction of the "Communications and Data Bill", the spiritual successor to the controversial Snoopers Charter:

The Queen's Speech on 27 May will set out the the [sic] government's legislative plans for the parliamentary session ahead. What can we expect to feature?

Communications and Data Bill

This was the bill that the Conservatives' smaller coalition partners, the Liberal Democrats, refused to back in the last Parliament. Current [surveillance] legislation expires in 2016 and will have to be renewed. So now the Conservatives are governing alone, they can bring back what opponents call the snoopers' charter. The previous plans proposed to extend the range of data communications companies have to store for 12 months. It would have included, for the first time, details of messages sent on social media, webmail, voice calls over the internet and gaming, in addition to emails and phone calls. Officials would not have been able to see the content of the messages without a warrant. Currently communications firms only retain data about who people send emails to, and who they ring.

The European Court of Justice previously overturned Europe-wide legislation that allowed less invasive surveillance than the Snoopers Charter is aiming for, passed shortly after the terrorist bombings in London and Madrid in 2006. Prime Minister David Cameron locked horns with then-Deputy PM Nick Clegg on the issue, initially causing a three-month deadlock that culminated in widely criticised "emergency" legislation being passed in 2014 to legitimise ongoing surveillance initiatives, then again in January of this year when Cameron attempted to reintroduce the Communications and Data Bill, citing the Charlie Hebdo attacks in Paris as justification.

[Editor's Comment: Original Submission]

posted by cmn32480 on Thursday May 28, @02:55AM   Printer-friendly
from the ecosystems-converge dept.

Microsoft has announced partnerships with 20 device manufacturers to pre-install apps including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Skype, OneNote, and OneDrive on various Android devices:

In addition to Sony and LG, Microsoft is also announcing 18 other partners today, including Haier and a number of smaller manufacturers, bringing its total partner count up to 31. Microsoft previously made deals with Samsung, Dell, and Pegatron to have these apps pre-installed on tablets. A number of apps also come preinstalled on the Galaxy S6. The exact business agreement between Microsoft and these manufacturers isn't detailed, but Microsoft says that it opens up "new revenue streams" for its partners. LG is supposed to begin including the apps in an upcoming tablet, and Sony will add them to the Z4 tablet within the next few months.

In addition, Cortana, Microsoft's "digital assistant" alternative to Siri and Google Now, will be coming to Android and iOS:

This should not be very surprising since the Redmond based company has moved quickly over the last year or so to bring most of its services to iOS and Android, and Cortana is just the next step. Just like with Cortana on Windows Phone, you can use it to track flights, check sports scores, or use the geo-fencing to set location based reminders. Unlike Windows Phone though, the deeper integration with Cortana such as "Hey Cortana" voice activation or the ability for Cortana to perform actions within other applications is not going to be possible on the third-party systems.

[...] The Phone Companion app will be coming soon to Windows 10 through the Insider Program. Most of the apps are already available for iOS and Android, but Cortana support will be coming at the end of June for Android and later in the year for iPhone.

[Editor's Comment: Original Submission]

posted by cmn32480 on Thursday May 28, @01:22AM   Printer-friendly
from the curiosity-will-get-the-best-of-you dept.

Many hopefuls have signed up for a one-way ticket to the red planet. But if they aren't prepared, the trip may be a short one.

NASA has a plan to land astronauts on its surface by the 2030s. Private spaceflight companies like SpaceX have also expressed interest in starting their own colonies there, while the infamous Mars One project has already enlisted civilians for a one-way trip to our planetary neighbor in 2020.

While many may dream of living their remaining days on Mars, those days may be numbered. The Martian environment poses significant challenges to Earth life, and establishing a Mars habitat will require an extraordinary amount of engineering prowess and technological knowhow to ensure the safety of its residents.

Though we may soon have the launch vehicles needed to transport people to Mars, a lot of the technology required to keep astronauts alive on the planet just isn't ready--and it may not be for many years. For those eager to get to Mars as soon as possible, take caution: A number of tragic outcomes await if you head that way too soon.

posted by cmn32480 on Wednesday May 27, @11:18PM   Printer-friendly
from the hello-hello-hello dept.

Oft times we see accusations of "group think" here on SoylentNews. Now there is some actual science on the formation and function of "echo chambers", as reported by SESYNC:

A new study from researchers at the University of Maryland (UMD) and the National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC) demonstrates that the highly contentious debate on climate change is fueled in part by how information flows throughout policy networks.
"Our research shows how the echo chamber can block progress toward a political resolution on climate change. Individuals who get their information from the same sources with the same perspective may be under the impression that theirs is the dominant perspective, regardless of what the science says," said Dr. Dana R. Fisher, a professor of sociology at UMD and corresponding author who led the research.

I would guess, based on this study abstract (actual paper unfortunately behind paywall), that SoylentNews is in no danger of becoming an echo chamber, but we seem to have some refugees who are still stuck in particular bubbles.

posted by janrinok on Wednesday May 27, @09:32PM   Printer-friendly

Bakers' yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) shared a common ancestor with humans about a billion years ago.

When scientists compare human and yeast DNA, and look at their genomes they can recognize thousands of genes shared between humans and yeast. But molecular biologist Edward Marcotte of the University of Texas at Austin wanted to to test just how similar the sequences were. Could human genes be used to replace orthologous genes in yeast?

The team chose test genes based on two criteria: that the yeast version of the gene was present in a single copy and that it served a function critical to yeast cell survival. Using yeast strains in which these critical genes could be turned off at will, the team tested whether transfer of the equivalent, or orthologous, human gene could save the yeast from death

Well, it turns out that a large number of human genes can substitute for their defective counterparts in yeast and prevent the microorganisms from dying. Forty-three percent of the 414 gene replacements the team performed could indeed rescue the yeasts' growth defects.

Humans giving up their own DNA to save yeast cells!? Not so fast. There are ulterior motives at play here. After all, we're humans. We have motives.

According to Madan Babu of the Medical Research Council Laboratory of Molecular Biology in the U.K., The results could have significant implications for medical research.

"In the human population you have many individuals that carry single nucleotide polymorphisms and it is almost impossible to test what is the effect of [certain drugs on] these. But, if the protein can be swapped into yeast cells, then "I could put in a hundred different variants of the human ortholog and, for example, I could rapidly screen whether they are sensitive to the presence of this or that drug."

Reported in The Scientist

[Editor's Comment: Original Submission]

posted by janrinok on Wednesday May 27, @07:24PM   Printer-friendly
from the wheeee! dept.

It looked for a little while there two years ago that gaming on Linux was finally beginning to take off, mostly thanks to Valve. That push seems to quickly be evaporating. Valve's latest Steam statistics shows that usage of both Linux and MacOS X on Steam is declining, while Windows usage is actually gaining. Linux usage on Steam is down to 0.94% from 1.05% last month, while Windows usage is up to a whopping 95.81%. Was that push for SteamOS in particular and gaming on Linux in general just all smoke?

[Editor's Comment: Original Submission]

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