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posted by martyb on Saturday September 20, @01:18AM   Printer-friendly

Over at The Conversation is an article on using inkjet printers to screen millions of different chemical reactions.

This covers the work done by Yifei Zhang, Jun Ge and colleagues at China's Tsinghua University to develop a fast and high throughput method of testing combinations of chemical reactions. Normally these are checked using time consuming methods involving microplates. However in this case the chemists realised that a colour printer was capable of performing much of the work they required automatically:

Their printers were loaded with a series of enzymes that, when they work together in the correct ratios, produce coloured reaction products. These were printed directly onto paper where it was immediately obvious, from the intensity of a coloured dot, which reaction mixtures worked best

Some of the near term applications are both interesting and practically useful:

Yifei and colleagues have already shown that by loading the printer cartridges with the right enzymes they can use the set up to indicate the presence of glucose in a sample. Glucose in urine is a [sic] indication of diabetes, so their printer-based chemistry already has the potential to diagnose diabetes.

According to the CDC, in the US:

Total: 29.1 million people or 9.3% of the population have diabetes.


Undiagnosed: 8.1 million people (27.8% of people with diabetes are undiagnosed).

The publication is in Chemical Communications and there's a shorter summary at the RSC blog.

posted by martyb on Friday September 19, @11:32PM   Printer-friendly
from the is-there-a-cardiologist-in-the-house? dept.

In a follow-up to the initial story, Home Depot has released more information about the breach. From the Ars Technica article:

The cybercriminals that compromised Home Depot's network and installed malware on the home-supply company's point-of-sale systems likely stole information on 56 million payment cards, the company stated on Thursday.

In the first details revealed in its investigation of the breach, the company said the malicious software that compromised those payment systems had been custom-built to avoid triggering security software. The breach included stores in the United States and Canada and appears to have compromised transactions that occurred between April and September 2014.

It's worth pointing out that an article by Brian Krebs states the investigation is focused on the self-checkout terminals, which might explain why more cards weren't affected.

posted by LaminatorX on Friday September 19, @09:56PM   Printer-friendly
from the remedial-remedies dept.

IBM has selected certain employees in its Global Technology Services outsourcing group to receive training in technical IT skills, running one day each week over six months. But there's a catch: "While you spend part of your workweek on learning and development activities, you will receive 90% of your current base salary", according to a letter IBM sent out to those employees. Participation is mandatory; workers were informed they were chosen for the program because (from the IBM letter) "some managers and employees have not kept pace with acquiring the skills and expertise needed to address changing client needs, technology and market requirements."

There's been some buzz on this new program at the Alliance@IBM forum, starting around 09/12/14.

posted by LaminatorX on Friday September 19, @06:47PM   Printer-friendly
from the ought-to-be-enough-for-anybody dept.

Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVE) is a standard identifier for referencing known security vulnerabilities in the information security world. The identifiers are broadly used in security products such as vulnerability scanners, providing a convenient way of cross-referencing data between various tools and databases. For most of its existence, the CVE Identifier for any given vulnerability has been in the format CVE-YYYY-NNNN, where YYYY is the year the identifier was assigned, and NNNN is an incrementing fixed-width number that restarts every year.

Because the time is fast approaching where there will be more than 10,000 CVE Identifiers assigned in a year, the CVE Identifier syntax has been updated to support variable-length numbers which is likely to pose a problem for applications which have not been updated to permit more than 4 digits in the identifier. The change was adopted in July of last year, taking effect on January 1, 2014.

Personally, it sometimes feels to me that CVE identifiers are being wasted on silly things like esoteric mobile apps, but I concede that running out of numbers is an inevitability regardless of the editorial stance of the CVE Editorial Board.

posted by janrinok on Friday September 19, @04:56PM   Printer-friendly
from the wake-me-when-it-is-implemented dept.

Ars Technica brings us some good news out of the FCC - Sorry, AT&T and Verizon: 4Mbps isn’t fast enough for “broadband”

Contrary to what AT&T and Verizon would have you believe, FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler today said 4Mbps is too slow to be considered broadband and that Internet service providers who accept government subsidies should offer at least 10Mbps.

Last week, we reported on AT&T and Verizon urging the FCC to abandon a proposal that would redefine broadband download speeds from 4Mbps to 10Mbps. If the standard is raised, ISPs that accept government subsidies to build networks in hard-to-reach rural areas would have to provide the higher speed. AT&T and Verizon argued that 4Mbps is good enough, but Wheeler said otherwise today at a hearing in front of the US House Committee on Small Business.

So a small bit of good news, but do these huge companies even deserve subsidies? Why not just tell them that "if you don't include rural America; we'll break you up?"

posted by janrinok on Friday September 19, @03:26PM   Printer-friendly
from the unless-they-were-'accidentally'-broken dept.

The Register has found itself subject to a certain amount of criticism for this author's skepticism ( Richard Chirgwin ) regarding whether the NSA has been snooping on optical fibre cables by cutting them.

Glenn Greenwald's recent “NSA cut New Zealand's cables” story is illustrative of credibility problems that surround the ongoing Edward Snowden leak stories: everybody is too willing to accept that “if it's classified, it must be because it's true”, and along the way, attribute super-powers to spy agencies.

In running the line that undersea cables were cut, Greenwald is straying far enough from what's feasible and credible that his judgement on other claims needs to be questioned. It seems to The Register almost certain that neither Glenn Greenwald nor Edward Snowden have actually held a submarine fibre cable in their hands.

Do you think that it is credible that these undersea fibre cables were tapped when it is easier to tap onshore installations?

posted by janrinok on Friday September 19, @02:02PM   Printer-friendly
from the they-said-it-would-never-happen dept.

Andrea Germanos, at Common Dreams - USDA's Greenlighting of 'Agent Orange' Crops Sparks Condemnation

Following widespread outcry, Dow's new genetically engineered corn and soybeans get approval.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's decision this week to approve two new genetically engineered crops is being denounced by watchdog groups as a false solution to herbicide-resistant weeds and a move that threatens human and environment safety alike.

The crops are Dow AgroSciences' Enlist corn and soybeans, engineered to be resistant to its Duo herbicide, which contains 2,4-D, a component of the notorious Agent Orange. 2,4-D has been linked to Parkinson's, birth defects, reproductive problems, and endocrine disruption. Dow states that the new system will address the problem of weeds that have become resistant to glyphosate, the active ingredient in Monsanto's widely-used Roundup.


“Farmers have been sold the lie that they can increase yields and prevent crop failure from weeds by buying Monsanto’s and Dow’s GMO seeds and dousing them in toxic poisons, also manufactured and sold by Monsanto and Dow," Cummins continued. "But just as scientists predicted, these 'miracle' crops are evolving to resist the poisons thrown on them, causing the USDA and the EPA to approve increasingly toxic poisons to fight increasingly resistant weeds. Where does the escalation end?"

So I think I'm gonna go buy a farm and plant some heirloom crops. If I can't trust the food i buy to not poison me; who should I trust?

posted by martyb on Friday September 19, @12:22PM   Printer-friendly
from the where-you-at? dept.

The Developer Console for the Google Play Store has a notification that from the 30th September, all listing will require a physical address to be shown on the app details page. The notification states:

Add a physical contact address Beginning September 30, 2014, you need to add a physical address to your Settings page. After you've added an address, it will be available on your app's detail page to all users on Google Play. If your physical address changes, make sure to update your information on your Settings page.

If you have paid apps or apps with in-app purchases, it's mandatory to provide a physical address where you can be contacted, as you are the seller of that content, to comply with with consumer protection laws. If you don't provide a physical address on your account, it may result in your apps being removed from the Play Store.

Thus far there have been no explanation for the requirement, with some speculation that it may be to satisfy a legal requirement for merchants to provide a physical address, with some concerned about how it could impact independent developers.

posted by martyb on Friday September 19, @10:57AM   Printer-friendly
from the maybe-they-can-get-a-grant-from-starbucks dept.

When coffee leaf rust—which was first spotted in East Africa in the 1860s—made it to South America in the 1970s, Colombia's national coffee research center, Cenicafé, was already a decade into its rust resistance breeding program.

The rust, called roya in Spanish, is a fungus (Hemileia vastatrix) that is highly contagious due to airborne fungal spores. It affects different varieties, but the Arabica beans are especially susceptible. Rainy weather worsens the problem. The rust typically enters the coffee leaf via the stomata.

Their methods were traditional cross, breeding, planting, evaluating rust resistance, comparing taste and aroma. It was a long and arduous process, sometimes taking 25 years to develop a cultivar that was rust resistant. Still, Cenicafé succeeded with two cultivars, Colombia (in 1980) and Castillo (in 2005) that have been reasonably rust resistant.

Now ScienceMag is reporting that sequencing the genome of major Coffee families is shortening this development cycle by documenting those coffee genes that provide resistance. At the same time the sequencing of rust genes has identified those elements of its genome that are involved in gaining entry into the coffee leaf.

By selecting coffee for cross breeding with a map of the genome in hand, and analyzing the genome of the resultant plant, they can shorten the 25 year development cycle down to less than a year, without having to wait until the trees mature.

Unlike genetically modifying seed to tolerate pesticides, this method of selecting for the most resistant strains does not require the use of pesticides.

"Coffee farms the world over are still planting susceptible cultivars that increasingly require pesticides to fend off disease. This heavy application of pesticides is irresponsible", Álvaro Gaitán, a plant pathologist at Colombia's national coffee research center, says, "especially on small-holder farms like the ones dotting Colombia. "Every time you recommend the use of a pesticide you're exposing the farm family, too, because they live very close to these fields," he says. "And many of these coffee diseases are controlled by natural enemies of the fungus. You don't want to kill those off."

The US government will be offering a 5 million dollar aid package in partnership with Texas A&M Coffee Research Center to combat the fungus.

posted by LaminatorX on Friday September 19, @09:26AM   Printer-friendly
from the ambient-time dept.

There's an interesting paper on an Ambient Temperature Power Harvester, which was presented at The ACM International Joint Conference on Pervasive and Ubiquitous Computing (UbiComp):

...we present a thermal power harvester that utilizes naturally changing ambient temperature in the environment as the power source. In contrast to traditional thermoelectric power harvesters, our approach does not require a spatial temperature gradient; instead it relies on temperature fluctuations over time, enabling it to be used freestanding in any environment in which temperature changes throughout the day.

This design is inspired by the Atmos Clock, a 17th century clock design, which contains a small expansion chamber, and uses the expansion and condensation of a gas to make a small mechanical motion. There are details on How the Atmos Clock works, and the history of the clock. The original clock used the motion for mechanical winding, where this design converts the motion to electrical energy, and provides:

...the ability to power a sensor node, transmit sensor data wirelessly, and update a bistable E-ink display
after as little as a 0.25 °C ambient temperature change.

The paper itself is a available for download as a five page PDF, and there's a simple demonstration video of the device.

Reported at New Scientist, with earlier stories from Nanowerk and The University of Washington.

posted by LaminatorX on Friday September 19, @08:52AM   Printer-friendly
from the thirst-for-knowledge-and-whiskey dept.

Today the Ig Nobel Prizes 2014 were awarded. Among the winning topic were

  • Seeing Jesus in toast: neural and behavioral correlates of face pareidolia (Research paper not free, therefore no link)

and some others you always wanted to know more about. Have fun :-)

posted by LaminatorX on Friday September 19, @07:25AM   Printer-friendly
from the bodhisattva dept.

The Enlightenment desktop's development team reports:

The E19 Release Cycle has concluded. Thanks to everyone who helped along the way.

posted by LaminatorX on Friday September 19, @06:11AM   Printer-friendly
from the No-wireless.-Less-space-than-a-nomad.-Lame. dept.

Well, I'm sure we've all seen the news by now that Apple has discontinued the iPod Classic. Which means they no longer offer any dedicated MP3 players with more than 64GB of storage.

My father has been using the iPod Classic for many years, and has over 100GB in his music collection at the moment, so he's been asking me for some advice on what he could buy once his current Classic eventually dies. And frankly, I can't find much! Cowon has a few models with enough storage, but those are all essentially miniature Android tablets. It's a potential solution, but it would be nice to have something with actual hardware controls rather than just a single touch screen since he mostly uses it while driving or at the gym. Something like the Sansa Clip might work, as it does have an SD card slot, but the interface looks like it would be pretty painful if you have more than a dozen or so albums.

Does anyone still manufacture anything comparable to the iPod Classic?

posted by LaminatorX on Friday September 19, @04:48AM   Printer-friendly
from the apt-to-fail dept.

"We recommend that you upgrade your apt packages." with apt of course... (via

"It was discovered that APT, the high level package manager, does not properly invalidate unauthenticated data (CVE-2014-0488), performs incorrect verification of 304 replies (CVE-2014-0487), does not perform the checksum check when the Acquire::GzipIndexes option is used (CVE-2014-0489) and does not properly perform validation for binary packages downloaded by the apt-get download command (CVE-2014-0490)."

posted by LaminatorX on Friday September 19, @01:47AM   Printer-friendly
from the voice-from-on-high dept.

Systemd has turned into the Godzilla of Linux controversies. "Everywhere you look it's stomping through blogs, rampaging through online discussion threads, and causing white-hot flames that resemble Godzilla's own breath of death," writes Jim Lynch. Now Sam Varghese reports at iTWire that although Linus Torvalds is well-known for his strong opinions, when it comes to systemd, Torvalds is neutral. "When it comes to systemd, you may expect me to have lots of colorful opinions, and I just don't," says Torvalds. "I don't personally mind systemd, and in fact my main desktop and laptop both run it."

Oh, there's been bitter fights before. Just think about the emacs vs vi wars. Or, closer to systemd, the whole "SysV init" vs "BSD init" differences certainly ended up being things that people had "heated discussions" about. Or think about the desktop comparisons.

I'm not really sure how different the systemd brawls are from those. It's technical, but admittedly the systemd developers have also been really good at alienating people on a purely personal level too. Not that that is anything particularly new under the sun _either_: the (very) bitter wars between the GPL and the BSD license camps during late-80s and early-90s were almost certainly more about the persons involved and how they pissed off people than necessarily deeply about other differences (which existed, obviously, but still).

Torvalds was asked if systemd didn't create a single point of failure which makes a system unbootable if it fails. "I think people are digging for excuses. I mean, if that is a reason to not use a piece of software, then you shouldn't use the kernel either."

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