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Google

Google Looked Into Space Elevator, Hoverboards, and Teleportation 81

Posted by Soulskill
from the go-big-or-go-home-on-your-hoverboard dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Google has a huge research budget and an apparent willingness to take on huge projects. They've gotten themselves into autonomous cars, fiber optic internet, robotics, and Wi-Fi balloons. But that raises a question: if they're willing to commit to projects as difficult and risk as those, what projects have they explored but rejected? Several of the scientists working at Google's 'innovation lab' have spilled the beans: '[Mag-lev] systems have a stabilizing structure that keeps trains in place as they hover and move forward in only one direction. That couldn't quite translate into an open floor plan of magnets that keep a hoverboard steadily aloft and free to move in any direction. One problem, as Piponi explains, is that magnets tend to keep shifting polarities, so your hoverboard would constantly flip over as you floated around moving from a state of repulsion to attraction with the magnets. Any skateboarder could tell you what that means: Your hoverboard would suck. ... If scaling problems are what brought hoverboards down to earth, material-science issues crashed the space elevator. The team knew the cable would have to be exceptionally strong-- "at least a hundred times stronger than the strongest steel that we have," by Piponi's calculations. He found one material that could do this: carbon nanotubes. But no one has manufactured a perfectly formed carbon nanotube strand longer than a meter. And so elevators "were put in a deep freeze," as Heinrich says, and the team decided to keep tabs on any advances in the carbon nanotube field.'"
Technology

San Francisco's Housing Crisis Explained 308

Posted by Soulskill
from the you-are-forgiven-for-tldr'ing-this-one dept.
An anonymous reader writes "We've heard a few brief accounts recently of the housing situation in San Francisco, and how it's leading to protests, gentrification, and bad blood between long-time residents and the newer tech crowd. It's a complicated issue, and none of the reports so far have really done it justice. Now, TechCrunch has posted a ludicrously long article explaining exactly what's going on, from regulations forbidding Google to move people into Mountain View instead, to the political battle to get more housing built, to the compromises that have already been made. It's a long read, but well-researched and interesting. It concludes: 'The crisis we're seeing is the result of decades of choices, and while the tech industry is a sexy, attention-grabbing target, it cannot shoulder blame for this alone. Unless a new direction emerges, this will keep getting worse until the next economic crash, and then it will re-surface again eight years later. Or it will keep spilling over into Oakland, which is a whole other Pandora's box of gentrification issues. The high housing costs aren't healthy for the city, nor are they healthy for the industry. Both thrive on a constant flow of ideas and people.'"
Transportation

How Apple's CarPlay Could Shore Up the Car Stereo Industry 169

Posted by Soulskill
from the but-i-like-having-63-tiny-buttons-to-press-while-driving dept.
Velcroman1 writes: "Car stereo salesmen and installers around the country are hoping Apple's CarPlay in-car infotainment system will have a big presence in the aftermarket car stereo industry. The Nikkei Asian Review reports that Alpine is making car stereo head units for between $500 – $700 that will run the iOS-like system Apple unveiled last month, and Macrumors added Clarion to the list of CarPlay supporters. Pioneer is also getting into the game, with support said to be coming to existing car stereo models in its NEX line ($700 – $1400) via firmware update, according to Twice. Given Apple's wildly supportive fan base, its likely that a lot of aftermarket CarPlay units are about to fly off stereo shop shelves. Indeed, CarPlay coming to aftermarket stereo units could bring back what Apple indirectly stole from the industry going back as far as 2006."
Encryption

Snowden Used the Linux Distro Designed For Internet Anonymity 161

Posted by Soulskill
from the NSA-can't-make-heads-or-something-of-it dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes: "When Edward Snowden first emailed Glenn Greenwald, he insisted on using email encryption software called PGP for all communications. Now Klint Finley reports that Snowden also used The Amnesic Incognito Live System (Tails) to keep his communications out of the NSA's prying eyes. Tails is a kind of computer-in-a-box using a version of the Linux operating system optimized for anonymity that you install on a DVD or USB drive, boot your computer from and you're pretty close to anonymous on the internet. 'Snowden, Greenwald and their collaborator, documentary film maker Laura Poitras, used it because, by design, Tails doesn't store any data locally,' writes Finley. 'This makes it virtually immune to malicious software, and prevents someone from performing effective forensics on the computer after the fact. That protects both the journalists, and often more importantly, their sources.'

The developers of Tails are, appropriately, anonymous. They're protecting their identities, in part, to help protect the code from government interference. 'The NSA has been pressuring free software projects and developers in various ways,' the group says. But since we don't know who wrote Tails, how do we know it isn't some government plot designed to snare activists or criminals? A couple of ways, actually. One of the Snowden leaks show the NSA complaining about Tails in a Power Point Slide; if it's bad for the NSA, it's safe to say it's good for privacy. And all of the Tails code is open source, so it can be inspected by anyone worried about foul play. 'With Tails,' say the distro developers, 'we provide a tongue and a pen protected by state-of-the-art cryptography to guarantee basic human rights and allow journalists worldwide to work and communicate freely and without fear of reprisal.'"
Science

Paper Microscope Magnifies Objects 2100 Times and Costs Less Than $1 83

Posted by Soulskill
from the i-can-see-my-house-from-here dept.
ananyo writes: "If ever a technology were ripe for disruption, it is the microscope. Microscopes are expensive and need to be serviced and maintained. Unfortunately, one important use of them is in poor-world laboratories and clinics, for identifying pathogens, and such places often have small budgets and lack suitably trained technicians. Now Manu Prakash, a bioengineer at Stanford University, has designed a microscope made almost entirely of paper, which is so cheap that the question of servicing it goes out of the window. Individual Foldscopes are printed on A4 sheets of paper (ideally polymer-coated for durability). A pattern of perforations on the sheet marks out the 'scope's components, which are colour-coded in a way intended to assist the user in the task of assembly. The Foldscope's non-paper components, a poppy-seed-sized spherical lens made of borosilicate or corundum, a light-emitting diode (LED), a watch battery, a switch and some copper tape to complete the electrical circuit, are pressed into or bonded onto the paper. (The lenses are actually bits of abrasive grit intended to roll around in tumblers that smooth-off metal parts.) A high-resolution version of this costs less than a dollar, and offers a magnification of up to 2,100 times and a resolving power of less than a micron. A lower-spec version (up to 400x magnification) costs less than 60 cents."
Security

OpenBSD Team Cleaning Up OpenSSL 274

Posted by timothy
from the devil-you-say dept.
First time accepted submitter Iarwain Ben-adar (2393286) writes "The OpenBSD has started a cleanup of their in-tree OpenSSL library. Improvements include removing "exploit mitigation countermeasures", fixing bugs, removal of questionable entropy additions, and many more. If you support the effort of these guys who are responsible for the venerable OpenSSH library, consider a donation to the OpenBSD Foundation. Maybe someday we'll see a 'portable' version of this new OpenSSL fork. Or not."
The Internet

Netflix Gets What It Pays For: Comcast Streaming Speeds Skyrocket 316

Posted by timothy
from the everyone-should-get-the-same-amount-of-water-and-electricty dept.
jfruh (300774) writes "Back in February, after a lengthy dispute, Netflix agreed to pay Comcast for network access after being dogged by complaints of slow speeds from Comcast subscribers. Two months later, it appears that Comcast has delivered on its promises, jumping up six places in Netflix's ISP speed rankings. The question of whether this is good news for anyone but Comcast is still open."
Government

Is Crimea In Russia? Internet Companies Have Different Answers 259

Posted by timothy
from the now-that-depends-who-you-gentleman-are-with dept.
judgecorp (778838) writes "Three weeks after Russia asserted that Crimea is part of its territory, the social networks have a problem: how to categories their users from the region? Facebook and the largest Russian social network, Vkontakte, still say Crimeans are located in Ukraine, while other Russian social networks say they are Russians. Meanwhile, on Wikipedia, an edit war has resulted in Crimea being part of Russia, but shaded a different colour to signify the territory is disputed. Search engine Yandex is trying to cover both angles: its maps service gives a different answer, depending on which location you send your query from."
Technology

This 1981 BYTE Magazine Cover Explains Why We're So Bad At Tech Predictions 268

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the futuristic-but-not-too-futuristic dept.
harrymcc (1641347) writes "If you remember the golden age of BYTE magazine, you remember Robert Tinney's wonderful cover paintings. BYTE's April 1981 cover featured an amazing Tinney image of a smartwatch with a tiny text-oriented interface, QWERTY keyboard, and floppy drive. It's hilarious — but 33 years later, it's also a smart visual explanation of why the future of technology so often bears so little resemblance to anyone's predictions. I wrote about this over at TIME.com. 'Back then, a pundit who started talking about gigabytes of storage or high-resolution color screens or instant access to computers around the world or built-in cameras and music players would have been accused of indulging in science fiction.'"
Windows

Microsoft Confirms It Is Dropping Windows 8.1 Support 551

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the little-orphan-windows dept.
snydeq (1272828) writes "Microsoft TechNet blog makes clear that Windows 8.1 will not be patched, and that users must get Windows 8.1 Update if they want security patches, InfoWorld's Woody Leonhard reports. 'In what is surely the most customer-antagonistic move of the new Windows regime, Steve Thomas at Microsoft posted a TechNet article on Saturday stating categorically that Microsoft will no longer issue security patches for Windows 8.1, starting in May,' Leonhard writes. 'Never mind that Windows 8.1 customers are still having multiple problems with errors when trying to install the Update. At this point, there are 300 posts on the Microsoft Answers forum thread 'Windows 8.1 Update 1 Failing to Install with errors 0x80070020, 80073712 and 800F081F.' The Answers forum is peppered with similar complaints and a wide range of errors, from 800F0092 to 80070003, for which there are no solutions from Microsoft. Never mind that Microsoft itself yanked Windows 8.1 Update from the corporate WSUS update server chute almost a week ago and still hasn't offered a replacement.'"
Mozilla

Mozilla Appoints Former Marketing Head Interim CEO 202

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the but-chris-beard-hates-kittens dept.
itwbennett (1594911) writes "Following the contentious and ultimately failed appointment of Brendan Eich as CEO last month, the Mozilla Corporation has appointed Chris Beard to the board of directors and made him interim CEO. Beard starting working as chief marketing officer for Mozilla in 2004, and oversaw the launch of its current browser, Firefox, in 2005. Beard also managed the launches of Firefox on Android and the Firefox OS for mobile phones." See the official announcement. Quoting: "We began exploring the idea of Chris joining the Board of Directors some months ago. Chris has been a Mozillian longer than most. He’s been actively involved with Mozilla since before we shipped Firefox 1.0, he’s guided and directed many of our innovative projects, and his vision and sense of Mozilla is equal to anyone’s. I have relied on his judgement and advice for nearly a decade. This is an excellent time for Chris to bring his understanding of Mozilla to the Board."
Medicine

Carpenter Who Cut Off His Fingers Makes "Robohand" With 3-D Printer 90

Posted by samzenpus
from the finger-jam dept.
mpicpp (3454017) writes with the ultimate DIY story about a carpenter in South Africa who lost his fingers in an accident, and now runs a company that makes mechanical prosthetics with 3D printing technology. "'I was in a position to see exactly what happens in the human hand. I got the basics of what it's all about and thought yeah, I'll make my own.' Richard van As is recalling the moment in May 2011 when he sat in a Johannesburg hospital waiting to hear if his fingers could be stitched back on. Just an hour earlier, he had been in his carpentry workshop sawing wood when the saw slipped and ripped diagonally through the four fingers on his right hand....After days of scouring the Internet he couldn't find anywhere to buy a functional prosthetic finger and he was astonished at the cost of prosthetic hands and limbs which began in the tens of thousands of dollars. But his online surfing paid off as it brought him to an amateur video posted by a mechanical effects artist in Washington State, by the name of Ivan Owen. Together, the pair developed a mechanical finger for van As, but their partnership has also gone on to benefit countless hand and arm amputees around the globe, through the birth of the company "Robohand." Officially launched in January 2012, Robohand creates affordable mechanical prosthetics through the use of 3D printers. Not only that, but it has made its designs open source, so that anyone with access to such printers can print out fingers, hands and now arms as well.'"
Google

Google Buys Drone Maker Titan Aerospace 41

Posted by samzenpus
from the welcome-to-the-google dept.
garymortimer (1882326) writes "Google has acquired drone maker Titan Aerospace. Titan is a New Mexico-based company that makes high-flying solar powered drones. There's no word on the price Google paid, but Facebook had been in talks to acquire the company earlier this year for a reported $60 million. Presumably, Google paid more than that to keep it away from Facebook. 'Google had just recently demonstrated how its Loon prototype balloons could traverse the globe in a remarkably short period of time, but the use of drones could conceivably make a network of Internet-providing automotons even better at globe-trotting, with a higher degree of control and ability to react to changing conditions. Some kind of hybrid system might also be in the pipeline that marries both technologies.'"
Transportation

Will This Flying Car Get Crowdfunded? 155

Posted by samzenpus
from the what-about-my-jetpack? dept.
cartechboy (2660665) writes "We all just have too much money on our hands, and we really want a flying car, right? Well that's what Skylys thinks, as it's trying to crowdfund a flying car. According to its website, 'In detail we aim to create an urban dual-mode, hybrid flight and electric drive motorized vehicle that fits into sustainable mobility.' How much money does it need? Oh about $3,111,075. Apparently the company has run out of money and needs more to 'start construction on our two prototypes to confirm our technical specifications; pay the chaps in the legal department; industrial engineers and take up occupancy of our future offices in Silicon Valley, where our backers can of course pay us a visit.'"
Technology

Reviving a Commodore 64 Computer Using a Raspberry Pi 159

Posted by samzenpus
from the taking-a-step-back-forward dept.
concertina226 (2447056) writes "A group of Commodore fans are working on a new emulator with the ability to turn the Raspberry Pi £30 computer into a fully functioning Commodore 64 fresh from the 1980s. Scott Hutter, creator of the Commodore Pi project, together with a team of developers on Github, are seeking to build a native Commodore 64 operating system that can run on Raspberry Pi. 'The goal will be to include all of the expected emulation features such as SID sound, sprites, joystick connectivity, REU access, etc. In time, even the emulation speed could be changed, as well as additional modern graphics modes,' he writes on his website."
Space

Using Supercomputers To Predict Signs of Black Holes Swallowing Stars 31

Posted by samzenpus
from the hungry-hungry-black-holes dept.
aarondubrow (1866212) writes "A 'tidal disruption' occurs when a star orbits too close to a black hole and gets sucked in. The phenomenon is accompanied by a bright flare with a unique signature that changes over time. Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology are using Stampede and other NSF-supported supercomputers to simulate tidal disruptions in order to better understand the dynamics of the process. Doing so helps astronomers find many more possible candidates of tidal disruptions in sky surveys and will reveal details of how stars and black holes interact."
Transportation

The Best Parking Apps You've Never Heard Of and Why You Haven't 163

Posted by samzenpus
from the park-that-anywhere dept.
Bennett Haselton writes "If you read no further, use either the BestParking or ParkMe app to search all nearby parking garages for the cheapest spot, based on the time you're arriving and leaving. I'm interested in the question of why so few people know about these apps, how is it that they've been partially crowded out by other 'parking apps' that are much less useful, and why our marketplace for ideas and intellectual properly is still so inefficient." Read below to see what Bennett has to say.
Twitter

44% of Twitter Users Have Never Tweeted 120

Posted by samzenpus
from the 140-characters-to-go dept.
First time accepted submitter RileyWalz (3614865) writes "Twopcharts (a third party website that records and monitors activity on Twitter) is reporting that about 44 percent of all 947 million accounts on Twitter have never posted a single tweet. Of the 550 million users who have tweeted before, 43 percent posted their last tweet over a year ago. And only about 13.3 percent have tweeted in the last 30 days. This could be a sign of many users just signing up and forgetting about their account, or they just prefer reading other's posts. Twitter is not commenting on this data, saying that they do not talk about third-party information related to its service."
Transportation

First Glow-In-the-Dark Road Debuts In Netherlands 180

Posted by samzenpus
from the shine-on dept.
An anonymous reader writes "A 500 meter (0.3 mile) stretch of road in the Netherlands has opened without the standard crop of streetlights lining its perimeter. The streetlights are believed to be unnecessary since the road markings were painted on with a mix of photo-luminescent powder, which absorbs sunlight during the day and radiates a portion of that energy back at night. Whether the modified road paint can withstand harsh weather or even provide sufficient lighting given insufficient exposure to sunlight during the day remains to be seen. The project was orchestrated by Studio Roosegaarde, which in the future plans to implement weather-sensitive road markings that would inform drivers when outside temperatures drop or rise above certain levels."
Google

Mr. Schmidt Goes To Washington: A Look Inside Google's Lobbying Behemoth 111

Posted by samzenpus
from the mr.-president-we-seem-to-be-alone dept.
barlevg (2111272) writes "In May 2012, in the midst of an FTC investigation into Google's search practices, the law school at George Mason University in Northern Virginia hosted a conference attended by congressmen, regulators and staffers. The topic: competition, search and social media. What none of the attendees of the conference knew was that Google was pulling many of the strings behind the event, even going so far as to suggest invited speakers. This event, as documented in The Washington Post is just a snapshot of the operations of one of the largest and highest spending lobbying entities in DC, a far cry from the one-man shop it started out as nine years ago, from a company "disdainful" of Washington's "pay-to-play" culture."

He keeps differentiating, flying off on a tangent.

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