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Base Funding Goal: $2,000
Progress So Far: $2,000
Stretch Funding Goal: $2,000
Progress So Far: $717

Updated: 2015-11-30

Funding period:
2015-07-01 to 2015-12-31

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The First Draft of the SN manifesto is available

What is your regular working environment?

  • Open Plan Office
  • Single Person Cubicle
  • Home Office
  • Anywhere with WiFi
  • I got me a Private Office
  • I don't have a job, you insensitive clod!
  • What is this "work" you speak of?
  • Other - Note in Comments

[ Results | Polls ]
Comments:8 | Votes:48

posted by CoolHand on Tuesday December 01, @12:27AM   Printer-friendly
from the constant-droning-sound dept.

Amazon has released video of its new Amazon Prime Air delivery drone prototype. The video, narrated by former Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson, depicts an octocopter rising vertically to 400 feet before switching on the rear propeller. Amazon claims that it has a range of up to 15 miles. From the Jeff Bezos-owned Washington Post:

The video shows the drone switching into "landing mode" and descending onto a "delivery zone" in the customer's backyard. The drone releases the package onto what looks like a sheet of plastic with an Amazon logo. The larger the yard and the less tree cover, the easier the landing will be.

[...] Amazon says its drone has "sophisticated 'sense and avoid' technology," which will be essential for those backyard landings. Everyone from big tech companies such as Amazon to start-ups is developing this technology, so that drones can identify obstacles and automatically avoid them. For example, with sense and avoid, a drone would realize a dog had strayed into its landing zone, and not land until the coast was clear. Because this prototype has nine propellers it will still function even if multiple motors fail.

One section of the video, which Amazon notes is actual flight footage, shows the drone flying between 55-58 mph. That speed will come in handy if Amazon is going to deliver on its promise of getting packages to customers in 30 minutes.

Amazon isn't saying how much this prototype weighs, only that its drones weigh less than 55 pounds. And it's not sharing the prototype's wingspan. If you look at the photo below and remember that blue box is actually a shoe box, it's obvious the drone is far larger than the consumer drones we see most frequently, such as the DJI Phantom and Parrot Bebop.

News, or ploy to increase "Cyber Monday" and Christmas season sales?

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Monday November 30, @10:52PM   Printer-friendly
from the not-the-codec dept.

Contrast this excerpt from the infamous letter from Clyde Barrow to Henry Ford: "...For sustained speed and freedom from trouble the Ford has got every other car skinned, and even if my business hasen't[sic] been strickly[sic] legal it don't hurt anything to tell you what a fine car you got in the V8."

With this: "...The thieves were seen fleeing the store in a gray Toyota Prius."

Something just feels wrong when thieves use a Prius as their getaway car!

[What is the strangest getaway vehicle you have ever heard of? -Ed.]

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Monday November 30, @08:54PM   Printer-friendly
from the getting-management's-attention dept.

Bloomberg Businessweek has published a story on efforts by Walmart to track and spy on employees after management felt threatened by a union-backed protest group, the Organization United for Respect at Walmart (OUR Walmart):

In the autumn of 2012, when Walmart first heard about the possibility of a strike on Black Friday, executives mobilized with the efficiency that had built a retail empire. Walmart has a system for almost everything: When there's an emergency or a big event, it creates a Delta team. The one formed that September included representatives from global security, labor relations, and media relations. For Walmart, the stakes were enormous. The billions in sales typical of a Walmart Black Friday were threatened. The company's public image, especially in big cities where its power and size were controversial, could be harmed. But more than all that: Any attempt to organize its 1 million hourly workers at its more than 4,000 stores in the U.S. was an existential danger. Operating free of unions was as essential to Walmart's business as its rock-bottom prices.

[...] Internally, however, Walmart considered the [OUR Walmart] group enough of a threat that it hired an intelligence-gathering service from Lockheed Martin, contacted the FBI, staffed up its labor hotline, ranked stores by labor activity, and kept eyes on employees (and activists) prominent in the group. During that time, about 100 workers were actively involved in recruiting for OUR Walmart, but employees (or associates, as they're called at Walmart) across the company were watched; the briefest conversations were reported to the "home office," as Walmart calls its headquarters in Bentonville, Ark.

The details of Walmart's efforts during the first year it confronted OUR Walmart are described in more than 1,000 pages of e-mails, reports, playbooks, charts, and graphs, as well as testimony from its head of labor relations at the time. The documents were produced in discovery ahead of a National Labor Relations Board hearing into OUR Walmart's allegations of retaliation against employees who joined protests in June 2013. The testimony was given in January 2015, during the hearing. OUR Walmart, which split from the UFCW in September, provided the documents to Bloomberg Businessweek after the judge concluded the case in mid-October. A decision may come in early 2016.

Original Submission

posted by cmn32480 on Monday November 30, @07:10PM   Printer-friendly
from the whale-you-stop-harassing-the-dolphins? dept.

The Chinese white dolphin, also known as the pink dolphin, has long been a popular tourist attraction in Hong Kong. However, Samuel Hung, chairman of the Hong Kong Dolphin Conservation Society believes that overfishing, pollution, and water traffic are driving the animals away.

Hung reports that only 60 dolphins now remain in the area, compared to 158 in 2003. Disruption of dolphin habitats by the ongoing construction of a 50km bridge to Macau, combined with future plans for construction of a third runway at Hong Kong's Chek Lap Kok airport, could make the dolphins even more scarce.

Original Submission

posted by cmn32480 on Monday November 30, @05:01PM   Printer-friendly
from the PARTY!-PARTY!-PARTY! dept.

Distillation involves heating a liquid until it boils, then condensing and collecting the vapors that come off the liquid. When distilling ethanol, the process is fundamentally limited such that the maximum concentration of alcohol is around 95-percent. A new method has been developed whereby gold-silica nanoparticles are added to the liquid and it is illuminated from above. The photons are either absorbed by the nanoparticles and the particles heat up, or they scatter and strike other nanoparticles. This causes local heating near the liquid surface, which drives off the volatile, such as ethanol. With this method, ethanol concentrations can reach 99-percent.

And could light be used to distil hooch? 'We've joked about this in the lab,' says Halas. 'But rather than moonshine it would of course have to be called sunshine!'

Original Submission

posted by cmn32480 on Monday November 30, @02:51PM   Printer-friendly
from the for-the-grey-beards-among-us dept.

What seems like a long time period at age thirteen seems significantly shorter when you're over double that age. With that in mind, the entire "hacker phenomenon" should be viewed as an extreme bit of ephemera, the result of a naive convergence between technology and what can be stereotyped as 1980's teenage angst and rebellion. The "hacker kid" made famous in every 1980's movie became (in a matter that Jean Baudrillard would be proud of) not only a reflection of ourselves, but an ideal we aspired to as well... and was really only a viable archetype for less than ten years. This should be kept in mind by any third-party who's attempting to put this scene in some sort of historical perspective. While there might be "hackers" in some sense even in the new millennium, this file specifically relates experiences of those of us who saw John Hughes movies at an actual movie theater back in the 80's. ("Hackers" generally meaning self-described phone phreaks and those who obtained unauthorized access to corporate computer networks, not just people good with computers).

These ramblings were inspired by my recent discovery of some old BBS buffers and text files I had booted up on my old Apple IIe while recently visiting my parents' house. Luckily (or unluckily) for you, I have a near-photographic memory of all of these events. (Too bad my post-high school years are rather hazy...) ;)

This surely has thousands of corollaries from around the country. My question is: where are you all now?

Original Submission

posted by cmn32480 on Monday November 30, @12:43PM   Printer-friendly
from the we-are-using-too-much-stuff-again dept.

A shortage of a rare mineral could spur global market instabilities, according to a new analysis of international commodity trade networks.

Shortages of natural resources--minerals such as copper, aluminum, and mercury--could lead to cascading shocks and lead to instabilities in the global trade system, according to a study published today [November 13, 2015] in the journal Science Advances .

Mineral resources are increasingly important in the production of modern devices such as mobile phones and medical technologies. These resources are mined and shipped around the world through increasingly interlinked global trade networks.

"Regional shortages of minerals necessary for the manufacture of modern technologies could ripple throughout the trade system, leading to a sharp increase in the price volatility of such minerals in the global markets," says Peter Klimek, a researcher at the Medical University of Vienna, who led the study in collaboration with IIASA researchers.

Original Submission

posted by cmn32480 on Monday November 30, @10:38AM   Printer-friendly
from the fight-back-on-both-sides-of-the-pond dept.

The head of the UK ISP Andrews & Arnold, Adrian Kennard, has pointed out a number of major technical issues with the proposed Investigatory Powers Bill (aka the Snooper's Charter). Kennard and other representatives of the UK Internet Service Provider's Association (ISPA) met with the Home Office on Tuesday, where they presented a number of ethical, technical, and privacy related issues with the incoming new law. These issues, plus some of the Home Office's responses, can be found in written evidence (PDF) penned by Kennard.

Kennard's key point is that the Internet Connection Records, which lie at the heart of the UK government's proposals, are largely meaningless for most modern online services. He recounts that, in the Home Office briefing this week, the example of a girl going missing was used once more to illustrate why the authorities want to be able to see which services she accessed just before disappearing, in the same way that they can track her phone calls. But Kennard and the other ISPA members pointed out this example betrayed a lack of understanding of how the Internet works today:

"If the mobile provider was even able to tell that she had used twitter at all (which is not as easy as it sounds), it would show that the phone had been connected to twitter 24 hours a day, and probably Facebook as well. This is because the very nature of messaging and social media applications is that they stay connected so that they can quickly alert you to messages, calls, or amusing cat videos, without any delay."

He also pointed out that the main protocol used online, TCP, can maintain a connection for hours or even days at a time, and that others such as SCTP and MOSH are designed to keep a single connection active indefinitely even with changes to IP addresses at each end,

Kennard discusses several other technical problems, for example the widespread use of encrypted connections, concluding with this zinger:

"It seems clear that the retention of any sort of 'Internet connection record' is of very limited use at present. The current proponents of this logging do not understand how the Internet works. Experience of Denmark for 10 years suggests that it is not useful. It is also clear that over time the availability of such logs and usefulness of the logs will diminish."

Original Submission

posted by cmn32480 on Monday November 30, @08:31AM   Printer-friendly
from the fight-back dept.

The NSA can't capture everything that crosses the Internet—but doesn't need to.

Amongst very nerdy constitutional law circles, the Third Amendment is practically a joke. It's never been the primary basis of a Supreme Court decision, and it only turns up rarely in legal cases. The reality is that the federal government isn't going to be sending American soldiers to individual homes anytime soon. Even The Onion tackled the issue in 2007: "Third Amendment Rights Group Celebrates Another Successful Year."

But in a recent op-ed in the Los Angeles Times , one California state lawmaker, Assemblyman Mike Gatto, has proposed a novel legal theory that could allow this amendment to fuel a major legal challenge to the American surveillance state:

Let's examine whether a case may be made. The National Security Agency is part of the Department of Defense and therefore of our nation's military. By law, the NSA director must be a commissioned military officer, and per its mission statement, the NSA gathers information for military purposes. That's strong evidence that NSA personnel would qualify as soldiers under the 3rd Amendment.

And why did the framers prohibit the government lodging soldiers in private homes? Besides a general distaste for standing armies, quartering was costly for homeowners; it was also an annoyance that completely extinguished a family's sense of privacy and made them feel violated. Sound familiar?

Just like many cases before him, Elliott Schuchardt could not prove standing.

"I think they need to start taking other tools from the toolbox," Gatto told Ars. "It's definitely a long shot argument and is definitely one that has certain deficiencies, but what got me going on that line of reasoning is that when it has been cited in privacy cases it's been big landmark privacy cases—you get a sense that our Founding Fathers valued privacy. There's a clear message that privacy is something."

Original Submission

posted by cmn32480 on Monday November 30, @06:23AM   Printer-friendly
from the control-your-own-treatment dept.

The Internet of Things has introduced security issues to hundreds of devices that previously were off-limits to hackers, turning innocuous appliances like refrigerators and toasters into gateways for data theft and spying. But most alarmingly, the Internet of Things has created a whole new set of security vulnerabilities with life-threatening risks. We're talking about the cars and, particularly, medical devices that are now in the sights of hackers—including drug infusion pumps, pacemakers, and other critical hospital equipment.

Now a California medical doctor is teaming up with technologists and patients to develop a new technical standard to secure insulin pumps used by diabetics. The standard, expected to be completed by July, could become a model to help secure other medical equipment in the future—especially because, in an unconventional move, the doctor is collaborating with patients who tinker with their own medical devices.

Dr. David Klonoff, an endocrinologist and medical director of the Diabetes Research Institute at the Mills-Peninsula Health Services facility, became concerned for the safety of his patients after reading stories about security researchers like Jay Radcliffe who found vulnerabilities in his own insulin pump in 2012. The vulnerabilities would allow a hacker to manipulate the dosage and deliver too much insulin, causing a patient's blood sugar to plummet and lead him to potentially fall into a diabetic coma or die. "Right now there is no [security] standard for any medical device," Klonoff notes. "As health-care professionals, we all want to see our patients have safe equipment and not be at risk."

Klonoff wants to find a way to secure insulin pumps to shut out nefarious hackers while still letting patients hack their own pumps for better performance.

Creating a security standard for insulin pumps, however, comes with a caveat: it has to consider the needs of a special group of do-it-yourself patients and technologists who use an existing vulnerability in current insulin pumps to hack their devices and produce better, personalized results.

The diabetes community has a heightened interest in their medical equipment that exceeds that of other patient communities. Klonoff says his committee wants to embrace that rather than discount it. "We have to keep in mind the tradeoff between wanting security and maintaining usability ... and make it possible that a do-it-yourselfer can still do some things with their device," he says. "If we make the standard too tight ... a lot of patients will complain, 'Now I can't use my device.' There is always going to be this tradeoff."

Original Submission

posted by cmn32480 on Monday November 30, @04:19AM   Printer-friendly
from the thought-provoking dept.

In 1999, Butler Lampson gave a talk about the past and future of "computer systems research" [PDF]. Here are his opinions from 1999 on "what worked".


Virtual memory
Address spaces
Packet nets
Objects / subtypes
Bitmaps and GUIs


Garbage collection


Fancy type systems
Functional programming
Formal methods
Software engineering
Distributed computing

Basically everything that was a Yes in 1999 is still important today.

The article is a current snapshot on those issues. Do you agree?

Original Submission

posted by cmn32480 on Monday November 30, @02:27AM   Printer-friendly
from the let-me-know-when-regular-people-can-afford-it dept.

A 'head-up' display for passenger vehicles developed at Cambridge, the first to incorporate holographic techniques, has been incorporated into Jaguar Land Rover vehicles.

Cambridge researchers have developed a new type of head-up display for vehicles which is the first to use laser holographic techniques to project information such as speed, direction and navigation onto the windscreen so the driver doesn't have to take their eyes off the road. The technology – which was conceptualised in the University's Department of Engineering more than a decade ago – is now available on all Jaguar Land Rover vehicles. According to the researchers behind the technology, it is another step towards cars which provide a fully immersive experience, or could even improve safety by monitoring driver behaviour.

Cars can now park for us, help us from skidding out of control, or even prevent us from colliding with other cars. Head-up displays (HUD) are one of the many features which have been incorporated into cars in recent years. Alongside the development of more sophisticated in-car technology, various companies around the world, most notably Google, are developing autonomous cars.

"We're moving towards a fully immersive driver experience in cars, and we think holographic technology could be a big part of that, by providing important information, or even by encouraging good driver behaviour," said one of the technology's developers, Professor Daping Chu of the University's Department of Engineering, who is also Chairman of the Centre for Advanced Photonics and Electronics (CAPE).


But according to Chu, the technology's potential has yet to be fully realised, and its real advantage is what it could be used for in future models. "What we really want to see is a fully 3D display which can provide much more information to the driver in a non-intrusive way – this is still a first generation piece of technology," he said.

For a technology that feels somewhat futuristic, HUDs actually have a long history. The earliest HUDs were developed during the Second World War to help pilots hit their targets while manoeuvring. The modern HUD became commonplace in military aircraft in the 1960s, in commercial aircraft in the 1970s, and in 1988, the first production car with a HUD was introduced.

Original Submission

posted by cmn32480 on Monday November 30, @12:35AM   Printer-friendly
from the they-all-go-boom-when-exposed-to-water dept.


After two years of research, a French team, mostly including researchers from the CNRS and CEA within the RS2E network on electrochemical energy storage have just designed an alternative technology to Li-ion for application in specific sectors. The researchers have developed the first battery using sodium ions in the usual "18650" format, an industry standard. The main advantage of the prototype is that it relies on sodium, an element far more abundant and less costly than lithium. The batteries have displayed performance levels comparable to their lithium counterparts, and this new technology is already attracting industrial interest. It could be used to store renewable energies in the future.

The idea for using sodium in batteries dates back to the 1980s. At the time, lithium was preferred to sodium as the material of choice and it has been widely used ever since for portable electronic devices such as tablets, laptops and electric vehicles. However, lithium has a major drawback in that it is fairly rare on our planet. Teams from the RS2E (with the CNRS as the leading partner) therefore turned towards sodium, a thousand times more abundant. They developed sodium-ion battery prototypes where sodium ions move from one electrode to another in a liquid during the charge and discharge cycles.

Original Submission

posted by cmn32480 on Sunday November 29, @11:13PM   Printer-friendly
from the my-teacup-affects-your-galaxy dept.

Many physicists believe that entanglement is the essence of quantum weirdness — and some now suspect that it may also be the essence of space-time geometry.

A successful unification of quantum mechanics and gravity has eluded physicists for nearly a century. Quantum mechanics governs the world of the small — the weird realm in which an atom or particle can be in many places at the same time, and can simultaneously spin both clockwise and anticlockwise. Gravity governs the Universe at large — from the fall of an apple to the motion of planets, stars and galaxies — and is described by Albert Einstein's general theory of relativity, announced 100 years ago this month. The theory holds that gravity is geometry: particles are deflected when they pass near a massive object not because they feel a force, said Einstein, but because space and time around the object are curved.

Both theories have been abundantly verified through experiment, yet the realities they describe seem utterly incompatible. And from the editors' standpoint, Van Raamsdonk's approach to resolving this incompatibility was  strange. All that's needed, he asserted, is 'entanglement': the phenomenon that many physicists believe to be the ultimate in quantum weirdness. Entanglement lets the measurement of one particle instantaneously determine the state of a partner particle, no matter how far away it may be — even on the other side of the Milky Way.

Original Submission

posted by martyb on Sunday November 29, @10:13PM   Printer-friendly
from the Rosie++ dept.

The World Robot Conference in Beijing was reportedly taken by storm this week when the latest iteration of Geminoid F – an almost terrifyingly-realistic robot woman – made an appearance during the show.

Geminoid F, the rubber-skinned robot star of an upcoming Japanese film, looks more and more like a real woman with every update.

Known to many as "the world's sexiest robot," the rubber-skinned android can speak, sing, and even act according to China's state-run news service.

She made headlines just a few weeks ago, in fact, when it was announced that she was starring in the Japanese disaster flick Sayonara, making her the first robot to score an actress profile on IMDB.

We have come a long ways from "Rosie" on "The Jetsons."

Daily Mirror 1:17 video.

Original Submission

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