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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:9 | Votes:63

posted by janrinok on Tuesday May 26, @11:38PM   Printer-friendly
from the slip-slidin'-away dept.

Gizmag tells us about how a Japanese company, Coo Space[in Japanese], has developed an innovation in ball bearings that will allow the balls to automagically space themselves out. That will lead to vastly reduced friction which, in turn, will lead to the elimination of the necessity to grease the bearing to reduce the friction. This is potentially a huge development across all forms of industry.

The Autonomous Decentralised Bearing (ADB) puts a small indentation, or groove, into the outer bearing race. As the balls slide over this tiny groove, they slow down ever so slightly, and then speed back up. This does nothing to affect the bearing's regular performance, but if two balls are touching each other as they cross over the groove, the first ball's deceleration puts a tiny brake on the second ball, which separates the two as they go around the races.

It's an incredibly simple and tiny change, but it does a remarkable job.
Without the need for a cage, you can run these bearings un-lubricated, and that's where the real performance benefits come in. Coo Space claims the ADB experiences as little as 10 percent of the friction of a regular ball bearing

Here is a YouTube video of the bearings spacing themselves out within the races.

[Editor's Comment: Original Submission]

posted by janrinok on Tuesday May 26, @09:34PM   Printer-friendly
from the feast-or-famine dept.

Cable News Network reports

The bottom dropped out over northern Texas and Oklahoma overnight [May 23/24]. Rainfall broke records and river banks, and killed a firefighter early Sunday, as emergency crews scrambled to pull residents from floodwaters.

With more rain falling, the torrents have already pushed Oklahoma City handily past a rain record and rescuers have carried out at least 48 high-water rescues.

By late Saturday, 3.15 inches had drenched the city, bringing the total for the month to 17.61 inches. "It ... shatters the all-time monthly record of 14.66 inches set in June of 1989," said CNN weather producer Sean Morris.

[...] In Wichita Falls, Texas, [...] "Predictions from the National Weather Service indicate that significant flooding along the Wichita River is very likely", the town's emergency management agency said. "The National Weather Service is calling this an 'historic' flood event."

[...] Wichita Falls is having the rainiest May ever recorded there and "could set an all-time record for rainiest month ever recorded there," CNN's Morris said.

[...] In addition to the worst-hit areas, flood watches and warnings reached from the Texas and western Louisiana Gulf coasts up through eastern Kansas and western Missouri.

[...] Despite the heavy rain, western Oklahoma and parts of the Texas Panhandle and central Texas are still facing moderate drought or abnormally dry conditions, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor.

[Editor's Comment: Original Submission]

posted by janrinok on Tuesday May 26, @07:23PM   Printer-friendly
from the for-better-or-for-worse dept.

Charter Communications Inc. plans to buy Time Warner Cable Inc., clinching a deal made necessary by slowing growth in the U.S. cable industry -- and more expensive by last-minute competition from French billionaire Patrick Drahi.

Charter will pay $195.71 a share -- 14 percent above Time Warner Cable's May 22 close -- with options of $100 and $115 in cash and the remainder in its own stock, according to a statement Tuesday. Bright House Networks, a smaller cable company that Charter has previously agreed to buy, will also be merged into the combined entity.

It took Charter and its main shareholder John Malone more than a year to reach a deal with No. 2 Time Warner Cable after their January 2014 bid of $132.50-a-share was rejected as a "low-ball offer" and Comcast Corp. jumped in with a competing offer. Although Charter got another shot when regulatory scrutiny caused the Comcast deal to fall apart in April, talks were disrupted by Drahi's Altice SA, which also approached Time Warner Cable in the past weeks.

"The idea that Time Warner Cable and Charter are merging isn't a surprise, but the price raises some eyebrows," Craig Moffett, an analyst at MoffettNathanson in New York, said May 24 after Bloomberg News reported a deal was near. "Altice undoubtedly contributed to Charter having to pay such a steep price to close the deal."

[Editor's Comment: Original Submission - before the purchase was confirmed]

posted by CoolHand on Tuesday May 26, @05:36PM   Printer-friendly
from the waze-plus dept.

Martin Brinkmann at gHacks reports

Google is rolling out a new traffic information [widget] for the mobile version of Google Maps [...] that integrates traffic information in the navigator.

The feature works in two [...] ways. In the first, traffic information [is] immediately displayed to you once you enter your destination in the app.

The application informs you about traffic jams, construction, or any other obstacles that may slow you down on your way to your destination. In addition to giving reasons, it highlights by how much you [will be] slowed down if you take a particular route.

The information [is] updated while you are following the directions Google Maps provides [...]. You may receive congestion alerts that include a delay estimate so that you know what you are getting yourself into.

Google Maps may suggest alternative routes while you are driving, and each alternative includes explanations [...] why it recommends [that you] take that route.

[...] Google makes no mention whether it is limited to certain geographical locations.

[...] The functionality seems similar to what Waze offers, a company that Google acquired in 2013.

In the comments, Naveed notes that he has already been using the feature but doesn't say for how long nor where he is.[...] and Martin, whose first language is German, uses English better than some guys I've encountered who only speak English.

[Editor's Comment: Original Submission]

posted by martyb on Tuesday May 26, @03:50PM   Printer-friendly
from the bridging-the-air-gap dept.

As digital devices have multiplied, so has the complexity of coordinating them and moving stuff between them. Tone grew out of the idea that while digital communication methods like email and chat have made it infinitely easier, cheaper, and faster to share things with people across the globe, they've actually made it more complicated to share things with the people standing right next to you. Tone aims to make sharing digital things with nearby people as easy as talking to them.

[…] Tone provides an easy-to-understand broadcast mechanism that behaves like the human voice — it doesn't pass through walls like radio or require pairing or addressing. … Because it's audio based, Tone behaves like speech in interesting ways. The orientation of laptops relative to each other, the acoustic characteristics of the space, the particular speaker volume and mic sensitivity, and even where you're standing will all affect Tone's reliability. Not every nearby machine will always receive every broadcast, just like not everyone will always hear every word someone says. But resending is painless and debugging generally just requires raising the volume.

[…] To get started, first install the Tone extension for Chrome. Then simply open a tab with the URL you want to share, make sure your volume is on, and press the Tone button. Your machine will then emit a short sequence of beeps. Nearby machines receive a clickable notification that will open the same tab. Getting everyone on the same page has never been so easy!"

[Editor's Comment: Original Submission]

posted by CoolHand on Tuesday May 26, @02:03PM   Printer-friendly
from the return-to-mysticism dept.

Richard Horton writes that a recent symposium on the reproducibility and reliability of biomedical research discussed one of the most sensitive issues in science today: the idea that something has gone fundamentally wrong with science (PDF), one of our greatest human creations. The case against science is straightforward: much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue. Afflicted by studies with small sample sizes, tiny effects, invalid exploratory analyses, and flagrant conflicts of interest, together with an obsession for pursuing fashionable trends of dubious importance, science has taken a turn towards darkness. According to Horton, editor-in-chief of The Lancet, a United Kingdom-based medical journal, the apparent endemicity of bad research behaviour is alarming. In their quest for telling a compelling story, scientists too often sculpt data to fit their preferred theory of the world or retrofit hypotheses to fit their data.

Can bad scientific practices be fixed? Part of the problem is that no-one is incentivized to be right. Instead, scientists are incentivized to be productive and innovative. Tony Weidberg says that the particle physics community now invests great effort into intensive checking and rechecking of data prior to publication following several high-profile errors,. By filtering results through independent working groups, physicists are encouraged to criticize. Good criticism is rewarded. The goal is a reliable result, and the incentives for scientists are aligned around this goal. "The good news is that science is beginning to take some of its worst failings very seriously," says Horton. "The bad news is that nobody is ready to take the first step to clean up the system."

[Editor's Comment: Original Submission]

posted by janrinok on Tuesday May 26, @12:16PM   Printer-friendly
from the patch-immediately dept.

The combination of RAID0 redundancy, an ext4 filesystem, a Linux 4.x kernel, and either Debian Linux or Arch Linux has been associated with data corruption.

El Reg reports EXT4 filesystem can EAT ALL YOUR DATA

Fixes are available, one explained by Lukas Czerner on the Linux Kernel Mailing List. That post suggests the bug is long-standing, possibly as far back as the 3.12-stable kernel. Others suggest the bug has only manifested in Linux 4.x.

[...] This patch for version 4.x and the patched Linux kernel 3.12.43 LTS both seem like sensible code to contemplate.

[Editor's Comment: Original Submission]

posted by martyb on Tuesday May 26, @10:47AM   Printer-friendly
from the On-a-Pale-Horse-vs-Being-a-Green-Mother dept.

The world population is growing because the birth rate exceeds the death rate, so to stabilize the world population either the birth rate needs to drop, or the death rate needs to increase. The most cited reference for population studies is the projections of future population (PDF) made by the Population Division of the United Nations. The UN report projects the world population to eventually stabilize as a result of countries settling in to a birth rate that falls around the replacement level.

A commentary by Stephen Warren in the open access journal Earth's Future takes the UN report to task for focusing on birth rate. He notes that all species generate offspring in numbers well above the replacement level of two, but you don't see historically the kind of population growth like you do with humans. He argues that despite all the negative feedback mechanisms on population (such as war and pestilence), it seems that Malthus (PDF) was correct that food supply is the driving factor, and wonders whether it is even possible to stabilize the world population until food production levels off.

[Editor's Comment: Original Submission]

posted by janrinok on Tuesday May 26, @08:30AM   Printer-friendly
from the life-is-easier-with-FOSS dept.

The European Union's interoperability page reports:

Using open source in school greatly reduces the time needed to troubleshoot PCs, [as indicated by] the case of the Colegio Agustinos de León (Augustinian College of León, Spain). In 2013, the school switched to using Ubuntu Linux for its desktop PCs in [classrooms] and offices. For teachers and staff, the amount of technical issues decreased by 63 per cent and in the school's computer labs by 90 per cent, says Fernando Lanero, computer science teacher and head of the school's IT department.

[...] "One year after we changed PC operating system, I have objective data on Ubuntu Linux", Lanero tells Muy Linux [English Translation], a Spanish Linux news site. By switching to Linux, incidents such as computer viruses, system degradation, and many diverse technical issues disappeared instantly.

The change also helps the school save money, he adds. Not having to purchase [licenses] for proprietary operating systems, office suites, and anti-virus tools has already saved about €35,000 in the 2014-2015 school year, Lanero says. "Obviously it is much more interesting to invest that money in education."

[...] The biggest hurdle for the IT department was the use of electronic whiteboards. The school uses 30 of such whiteboards, and their manufacturer [Hitachi] does not support the use of Linux. Lanero got the Spanish Linux community involved, and "after their hard work, Ubuntu Linux now includes support for the whiteboards, so now everything is working as it should".

[...] Issues [with proprietary document formats] were temporarily resolved by using a cloud-based proprietary office solution, says Lanero, giving the IT department time to complete the switch to open standards-based office solutions. The school now mostly uses the LibreOffice suite of office tools.

[...] "Across the country, schools have contacted me to hear about the performance and learn how to undertake similar migrations."

As I always say, simply avoid manufacturers with lousy support and FOSS is just the ticket.

[Editor's Comment: Original Submission]

posted by CoolHand on Tuesday May 26, @06:33AM   Printer-friendly
from the time-to-convert-the-meth-lab dept.

The BBC is reporting that...

Scientists have figured out how to brew morphine using the same kit used to make beer at home.

They have genetically modified yeast to perform the complicated chemistry needed to convert sugar to morphine.


If you brew beer at home, then you are relying on microscopic yeast that turns sugars into alcohol. But by borrowing DNA from plants, scientists have been genetically engineering yeasts that can perform each of the steps needed to convert sugar into morphine. One stage of the process - the production of an intermediary chemical called reticuline - had been a stumbling block.

That has been solved by a team at the University of California, Berkeley, and the scientists say it should now be possible to put all the steps together and "brew" morphine.

Dr John Dueber, a bioengineer at the university, said: "What you really want to do from a fermentation perspective is to be able to feed the yeast glucose, which is a cheap sugar source, and have the yeast do all the chemical steps required downstream to make your target therapeutic drug.

"With our study, all the steps have been described, and it's now a matter of linking them together and scaling up the process. It's not a trivial challenge, but it's doable."

Abstract from Nature.

[Editor's Comment: Original Submission]

posted by CoolHand on Tuesday May 26, @04:22AM   Printer-friendly
from the zoom-zoom dept.

El Reg reports

Singapore's dominant telco, Singtel, has announced a pilot deployment of 10Gbps broadband to a select group next quarter and says that it expects the blistering fast Internet service to be generally available by the later part of this year.

The high speed connectivity is only possible due to the completion of Singapore's Next Generation Nationwide Broadband Network (Next Gen NBN) initiative--a master plan to wire up every corner of the city-state with fibre optics.

[...] 10Gbps services are rare anywhere: telcos in Hong Kong and Korea are experimenting with broadband at these speeds while US Internet offers such a service in Minneapolis. Singtel stepping up and promising commercial services by year's end is therefore globally noteworthy.

Related: US Internet Customers in Minneapolis Get World's Fastest Residential Internet for $400/Month

[Editor's Comment: Original Submission]

posted by CoolHand on Tuesday May 26, @02:14AM   Printer-friendly
from the erosion-of-rights dept.

The Guardian reports that Britain's most senior Muslim policeman, Mak Chisty, has warned "Islamist propaganda is so potent it is influencing children as young as five and should be countered with intensified monitoring to detect the earliest signs of anti-western sentiment". He gives several examples of indoctrination being forced upon children as young as five (Christmas being "haram" [an act forbidden by Islam]) and teenagers being groomed to join ISIS.

Chishty said friends and family of youngsters should be intervening much earlier, watching out for subtle, unexplained changes, which could also include sudden negative attitudes towards alcohol, social occasions and western clothing. They should challenge and understand what caused such changes in behaviour, the police commander said, and seek help, if needs be from the police, if they are worried.

[...] Chishty said communities in Britain had to act much earlier. He said: "We need to now be less precious about the private space. This is not about us invading private thoughts, but acknowledging that it is in these private spaces where this [extremism] first germinates. The purpose of private-space intervention is to engage, explore, explain, educate or eradicate. Hate and extremism is not acceptable in our society, and if people cannot be educated, then hate and harmful extremism must be eradicated through all lawful means." [...] Asked to define "private space", Chishty said: "It's anything from walking down the road, looking at a mobile, to someone in a bedroom surfing the net, to someone in a shisha cafe talking about things."

[...] He said friends and family were best placed to intervene. Questions should be asked, he said, if someone stops shopping at Marks & Spencer [a shop perceived to be Jewish owned] or starts voicing criticism. He said it could be they were just fed up with the store, but alternatively they could have "hatred for that store". He said the community should "look out for each other", that ISIS was "un-Islamic", as proven by its barbarity.

turgid notes:

As an atheist who enthusiastically celebrates Christmas, eats chocolate eggs at Easter and carves turnips or pumpkins at Halloween, I find it very strange that people of many religions often artificially exclude themselves from harmless and enjoyable local traditional customs. I find it very sad that we have young people brought up in a strictly-controlled environment cut off from the ideas and views of the rest of the world. I also find it abhorrent that the Establishment now finds itself publicly calling for the complete abandonment one of the core values of individual liberty.

Maybe the rest of us shouldn't worry because we're not Muslim? Where have I heard this before?

Meanwhile, our government is attempting to tear up the Human Rights Act. It's easier to control when the proles have no rights.

[Editor's Comment: Original Submission. Significant edits to this submission have been made - acknowledgement of the submitter has been changed to reflect this. janrinok]

posted by NCommander on Tuesday May 26, @01:58AM   Printer-friendly
from the oops dept.
Hope everyone in the US had a good memorial weekend. Anyway, just a quick announcement, due to a system update late last week, the machine running our Tor hidden service was restarted. Unfortunately, the tor configuration file was not properly updated to account for the machine consolidation we did a few weeks ago. As a result, the tor entries for our IRC server were pointing to the wrong box, and since the tor daemon couldn't open a socket, it "helpfully" refused to start all together. This wasn't noticed until Saturday, and I didn't get the email until (late) Monday to get around to fixing it. Needless to say, its back up, and I apologize for the inconvenience.

-- NCommander

posted by CoolHand on Tuesday May 26, @12:02AM   Printer-friendly
from the this-time-for-real dept.

OMG! Ubuntu! reports

The second Ubuntu Phone to be commercially released is a 5.36-inch smartphone powered by an eight-core MediaTek MT6595 SoC (modified by Meizu), a healthy 2GB RAM and 16GB of built-in flash storage for files, photos, and apps.

Two cameras are included: a 20.7 megapixel rear snapper and a front selfie cam pushing a more modest 2 megapixels.

It runs the latest version of Ubuntu (for Phones) rather than the Flyme OS Android fork Meizu traditionally ships on its handsets.

Like the Bq Aquaris E4.5 Ubuntu Edition, the Ubuntu version of the Meizu MX4 is also being pitched at developers initially.

[...] The Ubuntu MX4 is available to buy directly from the Meizu website in China. It's priced at ¥1,799 (less than US $300) and available in a choice of two color schemes: 'Silver' and 'Golden'.

[...] Update May 20: The device is currently not showing up as an option available to purchase. Meizu is running a 20 day discount on the MX4 (dropping to ¥1499 ) but the Ubuntu version seems to be excluded. We've reached out to Meizu to find out more.

Related: The First Ubuntu Phone: €169, Underwhelming Specs, Online Apps, Sales Gimmick

[Editor's Comment: Original Submission]

posted by janrinok on Monday May 25, @09:51PM   Printer-friendly
from the barbie-is-watching! dept.

El Reg published a story that quotes GNU evangelist and free-software advocate saying just about what we would expect him to say today about the current state of technology:

Linux GNU firebrand Richard Stallman says Windows and Mac OS are malware, Amazon is Orwellian, and anyone who trusts the internet-of-things is an ass. In a column for The Guardian, Stallman preaches to the non-technical masses about the evils of proprietary software and vendor lock-in, and how closed-door coding facilitates clandestine deals with nation state spy agencies.

"What kinds of programs constitute malware? Operating systems, first of all," Stallman testifies.

"Apple systems are malware too: MacOS snoops and shackles; iOS snoops, shackles, censors apps and has a backdoor.

"Even Android contains malware in a non-free component: a back door for remote forcible installation or de-installation of any app."

Stallman references a a Bloomberg report in saying Microsoft "sabotages" Windows users by disclosing vulnerabilities to the NSA before patches are released. It isn't just Windows and MacOS that Stallman brands malware: Barbie dolls, smart TVs, and cars also earn his ire thanks to the potential for marketers to secretly pry on a child's worst fears or listen in to lounge room conversations.

I'm not sure that I'm going to worry about Barbie dolls listening on conversations, but I understand his concerns. I have often wondered about the expansion of sophisticated computer technology into all aspects of life, such as in HDTVs and cars. The possibilities for abuse are many, and we have learned over recent years governments are not immune from exploiting vulnerabilities to commit serious crimes and violations of our civil liberties.

[Editor's Comment: Original Submission]

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