US cable giant Comcast is offering some subscribers an app that tracks the whereabouts of its technicians before they arrive for a service appointment. So if you're waiting around for ages wondering where he or she is, there'll be a light at the end of the tunnel.
The ISP said its MyAccount app, available on iOS and Android devices, would soon add the real-time tracking feature.
According to Comcast ( http://corporate.comcast.com/comcast-voices/my-account-app-technician ), it will activate when the technician reports in as being 30 minutes away within the target two-hour appointment period. Users will then be able to track the technician's vehicle on a map to better gauge where they are.
Currently, Comcast is testing out the feature in the Boston area. No date for a full roll-out has been given.
SemiAccurate pitted AMD's Mantle 3D rendering API against Microsoft DirectX 11, by comparing the frame rate performance achieved by five video games that ship with support with both rendering engines, on various hardware configurations outfitted with AMD GPUs or APUs (integrated CPU/GPU). Thomas Ryan wrote up the results in a five-part series. The short answer is that while Mantle produced superior frame rates for practically every game and every hardware configuration, in many cases the difference was small, 10 percent or less. The performance advantage for Mantle is more telling on systems with a dedicated GPU as opposed to an APU, and was most consistently realized for "Civilization Beyond Earth", ironically a strategy game rather than a shooter. In those scenarios, one could indeed say that "Mantle knocked it out of the park."
AMD claims that Mantle provides game developers more opportunities to directly invoke functionality on the GPU, removing the CPU bottleneck. It is supported by the Graphics Core Next generation of AMD CPUs and APUs, although it is not currently supported by either the Playstation 4 or Xbox One. More details are provided in AMD's white paper.
The order of test result articles is from semiaccurate.com: note that it isn't arranged from least to most capable hardware, or vice versa:
Kate Briquelet reports in the NY Post that Principal Mark Federman of East Side Community HS has invited the New York Civil Liberties Union to give a two-day training session to 450 students on interacting with police. “We’re not going to candy-coat things — we have a problem in our city that’s affecting young men of color and all of our students,” says Federman.
“It’s not about the police being bad. This isn’t anti-police as much as it’s pro-young people . . . It’s about what to do when kids are put in a position where they feel powerless and uncomfortable.” The hourlong workshops — held in small classroom sessions during advisory periods — focused on the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk program and how to exercise Fourth Amendment rights when being stopped and questioned in a car or at home.
Some law-enforcement experts say the NYCLU is going beyond civics lessons and doling out criminal-defense advice. “It’s unlikely that a high school student would come away with any other conclusion than the police are a fearful group to be avoided at all costs,” says Eugene O’Donnell, a former police officer and professor at John Jay College of Criminal Justice. NYCLU representatives told kids to be polite and to keep their hands out of their pockets. But they also told students they don’t have to show ID or consent to searches, that it’s best to remain silent, and how to file a complaint against an officer. Candis Tolliver, NYCLU’s associate director for advocacy, says was the first time she trained an entire high school. “This is not about teaching kids how to get away with a crime or being disrespectful. This is about making sure both sides are walking away from the situation safe and in control.”
A team led by Virginia Commonwealth University professor Jennifer Fettweis have characterized a previously uncatalogued bacterial STD which is strongly associated with another STD, Trichomoniasis.
From the paper's abstract:
Here, we characterize an uncultivated vaginal mycoplasma tightly associated with trichomoniasis that was previously known by its 16S rRNA sequence as “Mnola.” In this study, the mycoplasma was found almost exclusively in women infected with the sexually transmitted pathogen Trichomonas vaginalis, but rarely observed in women with no diagnosed disease.
The newly characterized bacterium's (proposed name “Candidatus Mycoplasma girerdii”) relationship to Trichomoniasis is unclear, but is found to be quite prolific in those infected with it.
According to a press release from CERN, the European Organization for Nuclear Research, data from experiments at the Large Hadron Collider (LHC) will be made openly available.
The first high-level and analysable collision data openly released come from the CMS experiment and were originally collected in 2010 during the first LHC run. This data set is now publicly available on the CERN Open Data Portal. Open source software to read and analyse the data is also available, together with the corresponding documentation. The CMS collaboration is committed to releasing its data three years after collection, after they have been thoroughly studied by the collaboration.
The Open Data Portal itself includes a wealth of information including tools, documentation on the formats and primary and processed data sets. CERN also provide a (virtualbox)Virtual Machine with the processing tools included ready to go.
Also covered at HackerNews, and an earlier discussion.
The Debian project has suffered from a long string of negative events recently, ranging from severe discontent over the inclusion of systemd, to talk of forking the project, to a grave bug affecting the important 'wine' package, to the resignation and reduced involvement of long time contributors.
The latest strife affecting Debian revolves around a request for a Debian package of the GPC-Slots 2 software. This request has been rejected with little more than an ad hominem attack against the software's author.
In response to the request, Stephen Gran wrote,
This is code by someone who routinely trolls Debian. I doubt we want any more poisonous upstreams in Debian, so I at least would prefer this never get packaged.
Jonathan Wiltshire proceeded to mark the request as 'wontfix', and closed it.
While Debian does strive to maintain high standards regarding the software it packages, the negative and personal nature of this rejection, without any apparent technical or licensing concerns, appears to conflict with Debian's own Code of Conduct. Such a personal attack could be seen as contradictory to the Code of Conduct's mandate that Debian participants "Be respectful", "Be collaborative", and most importantly, "Assume good faith".
Given its recent troubles as of late, many of them concerning the poor treatment of Debian developers and users alike, can Debian really afford to get embroiled in yet another negative incident?
Scientific American reports that simply breathing on money could soon reveal if it's the real deal or counterfeit thanks to a photonic crystal ink developed by Ling Bai and Zhongze Gu and colleagues at Southeast University in Nanjing, China that can produce unique color changing patterns on surfaces with an inkjet printer system which would be extremely hard for fraudsters to reproduce. The ink mimics the way Tmesisternus isabellae – a species of longhorn beetle – reversibly switches its color from gold to red according to the humidity in its environment. The color shift is caused by the adsorption of water vapor in their hardened front wings, which alters the thickness and average refractive index of their multi-layered scales.
To emulate this, the team made their photonic crystal ink using mesoporous silica nanoparticles, which have a large surface area and strong vapor adsorption capabilities that can be precisely controlled. The complicated and reversible multi-color shifts of mesoporous CPC patterns are favorable for immediate recognition by naked eyes but hard to copy. "We think the ink's multiple security features may be useful for anti-fraud applications," says Bai, "however we think the technology could be more useful for fabricating multiple functional sensor arrays, which we are now working towards."
Two stories about Google graced The Register in recent days.
The First was about Google (allegedly) stripping SSL from British Telephone (BT) mobile users search requests, even when the users had started from https pages, and were using BT WiFi subscribers piggy-backing off wireless connections, (I have no idea what exactly is meant by piggy-backing in this context). Personally, I would suspect BT of having a hand in that.
The open secret here is that for some VIP customers, search requests coming from their networks have SSL stripped as a service. This was mostly developed for schools where Google supplies their mail , web, and search services. Some of these places are statutorily obligated to filter their networks. BT may have been setting this bit themselves, but is difficult to tell.
A google engineer Adam Langly posted in a public forum that you can bypass any institutional ssl stripping by always accessing Google Searches via a different URL:
"However, if you want an encrypted search option, 'https://encrypted.google.com' is always encrypted and isn't affected by these methods."
You might want to set that as your Google landing page on mobile devices if you use wifi on some business or school campuses.
The second story concerns a trial balloon that Google is floating in a few markets called "Contributor" where, for a small(ish) fee, Google will strip ads out of pages, and share that fee with the web site in lieu of advertising revenue. The monthly fee, ranging between $1 and $3 per site, will be paid to the site operator after Google takes its cut.
El Reg speculates:
Perhaps Google and websites heavily reliant on ads are tired of netizens using ad-blocking browser plugins. Perhaps Google just wants to prove that the vast majority of people are OK with ads, and few want to spend even $1 a month on a web subscription.
So the question is, Soylentils: Are there any sites you would be willing to pay a dollar a month to visit without ads?
Nature has a report that the Gates Foundation has announced a broad open access policy with regards to funded research:
from January 2015, researchers it funds must make open their resulting papers and underlying data-sets immediately upon publication — and must make that research available for commercial re-use. “We believe that published research resulting from our funding should be promptly and broadly disseminated,” the foundation states.
There is some concern that the "commercial use" availability clause may prevent publication in many journals, such as both Nature and Science
Nature, for example, states that openly archived manuscripts may not be re-used for commercial purposes. So do the American Association for the Advancement of Science, Elsevier and Wiley and many other publishers (in relation to their non-OA journals)
The nature article references an earlier report that suggested that even researchers who support open-access may want to restrict commercial re-use.
The International Journal of Advanced Computer Technology, an open-access journal some accuse of being predatory due to its lack of actual editorial judgment of any kind, has recently accepted for publication a paper entitled Get me off Your F****** Mailing List [pdf]. (warning: NSFW language, in case it wasn't obvious)
This raises an interesting point about open-access journals: How does one police the quality of the work when some are faking the editorial process entirely?
Inbox is a new email app based on Gmail, which appears to be mostly aimed at mobile users — with separate versions "optimized" for web, Android, and iOS. This blog post gives an overview of their development tools for the three platforms:
For iOS we developed the now open source J2ObjC cross compiler to translate our Java data model to Objective-C, and again we get a natural API on which to build our native iOS Inbox app (complete with [Reminder snooze]). The astute reader may wonder how we deal with the impedance mismatch when translating from a garbage collected language (Java) to a reference counted one (Objective-C). Generally, J2ObjC relies on Objective-C autorelease pools, so objects normally garbage-collected are instead freed when a pool drains. ...
As an old guy, I don't really like their usage of "impedance mismatch", but maybe the analogy is okay? See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Impedance_mismatch
A recent study by the University of Zurich shows that bankers are substantially more dishonest than other professionals (abstract is in German). Interestingly, this is tied closely to their profession. As private individuals, they are just as honest (or dishonest) as anyone else. However, as soon as they are reminded of their profession, their dishonesty soars. The study draws the conclusion that the context and standards of the profession are the problem.
Of course, anyone who has been paying attention has long suspected this to be true. It is interesting that it has now been demonstrated in an objective study, and that a University was bold enough to do this in a country known for its banking industry. Perhaps this will help sow the seeds of much-needed reform?
Jerry Hirsch writes in the LA Times that personal transportation is on the cusp of its greatest transformation since the advent of the internal combustion engine. For a century, cars have been symbols of freedom and status but according to Hirsch, passengers of the future may well view vehicles as just another form of public transportation, to be purchased by the trip or in a subscription. Buying sexy, fast cars for garages could evolve into buying seat-miles in appliance-like pods, piloted by robots, parked in public stalls. "There will come a time when driving the car is like riding the horse," says futurist Peter Schwartz. "Some people will still like to do it, but most of us won't." People still will want to own vehicles for various needs, says James Lentz, chief executive of Toyota's North American operations. They might live in a rural area and travel long distances daily. They might have a big family to haul around. They might own a business that requires transporting supplies. "You will still have people who have the passion for driving the cars and feeling the road," says Lentz. "There may be times when they want the cars to drive them, but they won't be buying autonomous-only cars."
One vision of the future is already playing out in Grenoble, France, where residents can rent from a fleet of 70 pod-like Toyota i-Road and Coms electric cars for short city trips. "It is a sharing program like what you see in Portland [Oregon] with bicycles," says Lentz. Drivers can check out and return the cars at various charging points. Through a subscription, they pay the equivalent of $3.75 for 30 minutes. Because the vehicles are so small, it's easy to build out their parking and charging infrastructure. Skeptics should consider the cynicism that greeted the horseless carriage more than a century ago, says Adam Jonas who adds that fully autonomous vehicles will be here far sooner than the market thinks (PDF). Then, Jonas says, skeptics asked: "Why would any rational person want to replace the assuredness of that hot horse body trustily pulling your comfortable carriage with an unreliable, oil-spurting heap of gears, belts and chains?"
C++ expert Scott Meyers announced that his new book: "Effective Modern C++" has been released. Or maybe that should be post-modern?
In my opinion, the original two Effective C++ books changed the style of programming books for the better. We went from "This is the language" to "You know the language but this is the best way we know to use it".
What's interesting about this particular book, apart from the fact that the best way to use C++ has changed yet again, is that C++ is actually arguably now a bit simpler than it was. Yes it has lambdas and more features but a lot of the real pain points — like template boil plate and being careful to avoid creating copies of objects — have been improved with move semantics and the auto keyword. It's still a beast of a language but it feels that this time it is a bit more manageable and the book seems to reflect that.
American companies are supplying technology that the governments of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan are using to spy on their citizens’ communications and clamp down on dissent, according to a new report ( https://www.privacyinternational.org/sites/privacyinternational.org/files/downloads/press-releases/privateinterests.pdf ) [PDF] from the UK-based advocacy group Privacy International.
Verint Systems, a manufacturer of surveillance systems headquartered in Melville, N.Y., has sold software and hardware to Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan that is capable of mass interception of telephone, mobile, and Internet networks, the group alleged in its Nov. 20 report. It also provided the training and technical support needed to run them, the report said.
Verint, which claims customers in 180 nations, in turn sought decryption technology made by a firm in California, Netronome, as it helped the Uzbek government attempt to crack the encryption used by Gmail, Facebook, and other popular sites, according to the report.