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Welcome to Soylent News. As we're still in alpha-test, these articles cover much of what's going around in the site

Necessary Reading:
posted by n1 on Wednesday April 23, @03:22AM   Printer-friendly
from the drone-wars-coming-soon dept.

The FAA has announced that its first of six drone tests site is operational. FAA boasts that they're ahead of schedule, but is facing criticism about being late to the game and losing the drone battle.

Now, EquuSearch, a Texas-based organization that builds and flies drones to search for missing people in the US, has filed a lawsuit has petitioned the US Court of Appeals for the DC Circuit to set aside the FAA's order to halt its use of drones.

posted by n1 on Wednesday April 23, @01:20AM   Printer-friendly
from the who-can-you-trust-now dept.

Ars Technica has an article on investigations performed by Science magazine and the Ottawa Citizen.

Peer-reviewed scientific papers are the gold standard for research. Although the review system has its limitations, it ostensibly ensures that some qualified individuals have looked over the science of the paper and found that it's solid. But lately there have been a number of cases that raise questions about just how reliable at least some of that research is.

The first issue was highlighted by a couple of sting operations performed by Science magazine and the Ottawa Citizen. In both cases, a staff writer made up some obviously incoherent research. In the Citizen's example, the writer randomly merged plagiarized material from previously published papers in geology and hematology. The sting paper's graphs came out of a separate paper on Mars, while its references came from one on wine chemistry. Neither the named author nor the institution he ostensibly worked at existed.

posted by n1 on Tuesday April 22, @11:47PM   Printer-friendly
from the getting-lost-in-space dept.

Phil Plait, writer of the Bad Astronomy blog on The Slate recently reminded us all that you do not need giant telescopes, computer controlled auto-tracking rigs, or satellites to take great pictures of the sky.

From the article:

Armed with just a camera, a tripod, and a little foreknowledge, astronomer Bill Longo took this image from his observatory outside Toronto. It's a stack of eight 30-second exposures for a total of four minutes using a Canon T3 camera and a 6.5mm lens.

It shows the night sky facing west, with the bright winter stars of Auriga and Gemini setting, with the amazingly bright planet Jupiter punctuating the twins' belly. And that bright streak seemingly bisecting Jupiter? Why, that's just the International Space Station moving across the sky, its 100-meter length reflecting sunlight down to Earth.

And if you look very carefully, just under the ISS trail is a much fainter one: That's the SpaceX Dragon capsule chasing down the station. This picture was taken on April 19, 2014, just hours before the private spaceship met up with ISS and was successfully grappled to its berthing point.

How often do you look up into space and see something amazing?

posted by janrinok on Tuesday April 22, @10:15PM   Printer-friendly
from the sometimes-I-despair dept.

NewsOK reports that the Oklahoma legislature has passed a bill that allows regulated utilities to apply to the Oklahoma Corporation Commission to charge a higher base rate to customers who generate solar and wind energy and send their excess power back into the grid reversing a 1977 law that forbade utilities to charge extra to solar users. "Renewable energy fed back into the grid is ultimately doing utility companies a service," says John Aziz. "Solar generates in the daytime, when demand for electricity is highest, thereby alleviating pressure during peak demand."

The state's major electric utilities backed the bill but couldn't provide figures on how much customers already using distributed generation are getting subsidized by other customers. Oklahoma Gas and Electric Co. and Public Service Co. of Oklahoma have about 1.3 million electric customers in the state. They have about 500 customers using distributed generation. Kathleen O'Shea, OG&E spokeswoman, said few distributed generation customers want to sever their ties to the grid. "If there's something wrong with their panel or it's really cloudy, they need our electricity, and it's going to be there for them," O'Shea said. "We just want to make sure they're paying their fair amount of that maintenance cost." The prospect of widespread adoption of rooftop solar worries many utilities. A report last year by the industry's research group, the Edison Electric Institute, warns of the risks posed by rooftop solar (PDF). "When customers have the opportunity to reduce their use of a product or find another provider of such service, utility earnings growth is threatened," the report said. "As this threat to growth becomes more evident, investors will become less attracted to investments in the utility sector."

posted by janrinok on Tuesday April 22, @08:35PM   Printer-friendly
from the a-robot-told-me-so-it-must-be-true dept.

We all know the story. The moment that computers with their lightning-quick processing power and interlinked systems gain sentience - it's judgment day. But would that really happen? Here are some psychological reasons why digital super-intelligence isn't going to be evil intelligence.

posted by Woods on Tuesday April 22, @07:07PM   Printer-friendly
from the best-fix-ever dept.

A very recent firmware analysis (PDF) from the reverse engineer Eloi Vanderbeken shows that NETGEAR didn't fix the backdoor on port 32764 but instead implemented a knocking feature that is now required to unlock the service.

Summary from the slides: The knocking feature is initiated when a "packet type == 0x201" arrived at "ft_tool" that listens to the Ethernet packets. It only works with EtherType 0x8888 and the payload has to be "45d1bb339b07a6618b2114dbc0d7783e" which is the MD5-hash of the model number DGN1000. If such a packet arrives, the backdoor service /usr/bin/scfgmgr f- is launched.

Ars Technica reports:

The nature of the change, which leverages the same code as was used in the old firmware to provide administrative access over the concealed port, suggests that the backdoor is an intentional feature of the firmware and not just a mistake made in coding. "It's DELIBERATE," Vanderbecken asserted in his presentation.

posted by n1 on Tuesday April 22, @05:41PM   Printer-friendly
from the nsa-approved-afdb dept.

The New York Times is reporting that the US government continues to be interested in making it difficult for other governments to spy on their citizens while actively working to defeat this increased security.

The State Department provided $2.8 million to a team of American hackers, community activists and software geeks to develop the system, called a mesh network, as a way for dissidents abroad to communicate more freely and securely than they can on the open Internet. One target that is sure to start debate is Cuba; the United States Agency for International Development has pledged $4.3 million to create mesh networks there.

Such efforts make one wonder which side will eventually win.

posted by n1 on Tuesday April 22, @04:19PM   Printer-friendly
from the didnt-ask-first-person-shooter-fanatics dept.

A study looked at how often people cooperate in a prisoners dilemma game, finding that those who played computer games were more likely to cooperate. The authors found that this link was just with gamers, "none of the other computer time use variables (including time spent on social media, browsing internet, working etc.) are significantly related to cooperation rates."

We conclude that participants in our study who spent more time playing computer games display more prosocial behavior. It is important to note that we cannot make any claims regarding causality. It is both possible, given our results, that more prosocial people self-select into playing more computer games as it is possible that playing computer games "makes" people more prosocial.

posted by janrinok on Tuesday April 22, @02:58PM   Printer-friendly
from the and-now-reduced-to-the-size-of-a-wristwatch dept.

50 years ago, IBM created a mainframe that helped send men to the Moon; a ground breaking computer that allowed new levels of compatibility between systems. The System/360 programs still run today.

While IBM had been making its 700 and 7000 Series mainframes for more than a decade, the System/360 "ushered in an era of computer compatibility for the first time, allowing machines across a product line to work with each other," IBM says. "It was the first product family that allowed business data-processing operations to grow from the smallest machine to the largest without the enormous expense of rewriting vital programs... Code written for the smallest member of the family had to be upwardly compatible with each of the family's larger processors. Peripherals such as printers, communications devices, storage, and input output devices had to be compatible across the family."

posted by Woods on Tuesday April 22, @01:43PM   Printer-friendly
from the no-pizza-was-harmed dept.

The NYT reports that golf courses across the country are experimenting with 15 inch golf holes the size of pizzas to stop people from quitting the game amid reports that golf has lost five million players in the last decade with 20 percent of the existing 25 million golfers apt to quit in the next few years. "We've got to stop scaring people away from golf by telling them that there is only one way to play the game and it includes these specific guidelines," says Ted Bishop, president of the PGA of America. "We've got to offer more forms of golf for people to try. We have to do something to get them into the fold, and then maybe they'll have this idea it's supposed to be fun."

A 15-inch-hole event was held at the Reynolds Plantation resort last week featuring top professional golfers Sergio Garcia and Justin Rose, the defending United States Open champion. "A 15-inch hole could help junior golfers, beginning golfers and older golfers score better, play faster and like golf more," says Garcia, who shot a six-under-par 30 for nine holes in the exhibition. Another alternative is foot golf, in which players kick a soccer ball from the tee to an oversize hole, counting their kicks. Still it is no surprise that not everyone agrees with the burgeoning alternative movement to make golf more user-friendly. "I don't want to rig the game and cheapen it," says Curtis Strange, a two-time United States Open champion and an analyst for ESPN. "I don't like any of that stuff. And it's not going to happen either. It's all talk."

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