Science & Tech News

Quarter of California’s snowpack loss is from human-made warming

New Scientist - Breaking news - Wed, 03/22/2017 - 5:28am
California’s reservoirs depend on the gradual melting of winter snow in the Sierra Nevada mountains, but the snowpack is dwindling and may not return
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Burglars Can Easily Make Google Nest Security Cameras Stop Recording

Slashdot Updates - Tue, 03/21/2017 - 2:40pm
Orome1 quotes a report from Help Net Security: Google Nest's Dropcam, Dropcam Pro, Nest Cam Outdoor and Nest Cam Indoor security cameras can be easily disabled by an attacker that's in their Bluetooth range. The vulnerabilities are present in the latest firmware version running on the devices (v5.2.1). They were discovered by researcher Jason Doyle last fall, and their existence responsibly disclosed to Google, but have still not been patched. The first two flaws can be triggered and lead to a buffer overflow condition if the attacker sends to the camera a too-long Wi-Fi SSID parameter or a long encrypted password parameter, respectively. Triggering one of these flaws will make the devices crash and reboot. The third flaw is a bit more serious, as it allows the attacker to force the camera to temporarily disconnect from the wireless network to which it is connected by supplying it a new SSID to connect to. If that particular SSID does not exist, the camera drops its attempt to associate with it and return to the original Wi-Fi network, but the whole process can last from 60 to 90 seconds, during which the camera won't be recording. Nest has apparently already prepared a patch but hasn't pushed it out yet. (It should be rolling out "in the coming days.")

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Wells Fargo: All ATMs Will Take Phone Codes, Not Just Cards

Slashdot Updates - Tue, 03/21/2017 - 2:00pm
Given the prevalence of smartphones nowadays, Wells Fargo has announced plans to upgrade all 13,000 of its ATMs next week to allow customers to access their money using their cellphones instead of traditional bank cards. Wells Fargo would be the first to upgrade all of its ATMs with the feature across the United States. ABC News reports: To access their money, customers would get unique eight-digit codes from their Wells Fargo smartphone app, and enter the code into the ATM along with their PIN number. The machines will still accept debit cards as well. One limitation of the one-time code, though, is that it won't work on the secure doors that many branches have for non-business hours that require a customer to swipe an ATM or debit card to gain entry. Wells Fargo said those secure doors are found at a small percentage of branches, mostly in major metropolitan areas like New York City or Chicago. Wells said it plans to roll out another upgrade to its ATMs later this year, which will allow customers to access the ATMs by holding their smartphones up to a reader on the machine, instead of entering the eight-digit code. It would be similar to using Apple Pay or Samsung Pay, the bank said.

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Trump Adds To NASA Budget, Approves Crewed Mission To Mars

Slashdot Updates - Tue, 03/21/2017 - 1:20pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from NBC News: President Donald Trump signed a law on Tuesday authorizing funding for a crewed NASA mission to Mars. The new bill (S.442) adds a crewed mission to the red planet as a key NASA objective and authorizes the space agency to direct test human space flight programs that will enable more crewed exploration in deep space. The space agency has $19.5 billion in funding for the 2018 fiscal year, which starts this October. Trump had allocated $19.1 billion for NASA in his budget, which is slightly down from the current year, but still an improvement from the past decade, which saw the end of the space shuttle program. The commander in chief signed the bill surrounded by astronauts and his former Republican rivals, Senator Ted Cruz of Texas and Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, who both sponsored the bill. Getting to Mars, though, isn't expected to happen during the Trump presidency. NASA has its sights set on getting to the red planet in the 2030s. In the near term, NASA plans to test its Orion spacecraft and Space Launch System rocket, in addition to visiting an asteroid and redirecting a chunk of it into orbit around the moon. Astronauts could later visit the boulder and use the mission to test some of the tools needed for a Mars mission.

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Who's Liable For Decisions AI and Robotics Make?

Slashdot Updates - Tue, 03/21/2017 - 12:40pm
An anonymous reader shares a BetaNews article: Reuters news agency reported on February 16 that "European lawmakers called [...] for EU-wide legislation to regulate the rise of robots, including an ethical framework for their development and deployment and the establishment of liability for the actions of robots including self-driving cars." The question of determining "liability" for decision making achieved by robots or artificial intelligence is an interesting and important subject as the implementation of this technology increases in industry, and starts to more directly impact our day to day lives. Indeed, as application of Artificial Intelligence and machine learning technology grows, we are likely to witness how it changes the nature of work, businesses, industries and society. And yet, although it has the power to disrupt and drive greater efficiencies, AI has its obstacles: the issue of "who is liable when something goes awry" being one of them. Like many protagonists in industry, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) are trying to tackle this liability question. Many of them are calling for new laws on artificial intelligence and robotics to address the legal and insurance liability issues. They also want researchers to adopt some common ethical standards in order to "respect human dignity."

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AMD Confirms It's Issuing a Fix To Stop New Ryzen Processors From Crashing Desktops

Slashdot Updates - Tue, 03/21/2017 - 12:00pm
AMD says the company has been able to figure out why FMA3 code is causing system hangs on PCs using a new Ryzen desktop processor. From a report: Although AMD didn't provide a detailed report on the problem's root cause, the company said that BIOS changes will be distributed to motherboard manufacturers to resolve the issue. Customers are encouraged to keep an eye on their motherboard vendor's website for an update. "We are aware of select instances where FMA code can result in a system hang," the company said. "We have identified the root cause." AMD released three Ryzen-branded desktop processors at the beginning of March that plug into motherboards based on AMD's new AM4 socket. The trio of processors include the Ryzen 7 1800X, the Ryzen 7 1700X, and the Ryzen 7 1700. However, all three reportedly cause a hard system lock when running certain FMA3 workloads. The problem was replicated across all three processors and a variety of motherboards.

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Microsoft Outlook, Skype, OneDrive Hit By Another Authentication Issue

Slashdot Updates - Tue, 03/21/2017 - 11:20am
Two weeks after a widespread authentication issue hit Outlook, Skype, OneDrive, Xbox and other Microsoft services, it's happening again. From a report: On March 21, users across the world began reporting via Twitter that they couldn't sign into Outlook.com, OneDrive and Skype, (and possibly more). I, myself, am unable to sign into Outlook.com, OneDrive or Skype at 2:30 pm ET today, but my Office 365 Mail account is working fine. (Knock wood.) I believe the issue started about an hour ago, or 1:30 p.m. ET or so. MSA is Microsoft's single sign-on service which authenticates users so they can log into their various Microsoft services. As happened two weeks ago, Skype Heartbeat site, has posted a message noting that users may be experiencing problems sending messages and signing in.

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Android O First Developer Preview Featuring Notification Channels, Background Limits Now Available

Slashdot Updates - Tue, 03/21/2017 - 10:43am
A year after Google released the Android N Developer Preview, the company has made available the developer preview of the next major version of Android, "Android O." You will not want to put it on your primary Android smartphone as the preview is likely to have rough edges. Google says as much. "it's early days, there are more features coming, and there's still plenty of stabilization and performance work ahead of us. But it's booting :)." The company is using the developer preview to give beta testers a sneak peek into some new features, such as "notification channels," which will offer users the ability to group notifications. There is also Picture in Picture, which will enable you to have a video appear in a small window on top of homescreen or any application. Google is also adding "multi-display support" and improved "keyboard navigation." Your guess is as good as mine as to what these features will actually do. There's also better "background limits" which will supposedly help save battery, and wider Wi-Fi support to include things like Neighborhood Aware Networking (NAN). No word on what "O" in Android O stands for.

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Twitter Suspended Hundreds of Thousands of Accounts Amid 'Violent Extremism'

Slashdot Updates - Tue, 03/21/2017 - 10:00am
Twitter said on Tuesday it had suspended more than half a million accounts since the middle of 2015 as the company steps up efforts to tackle "violent extremism" on its microblogging platform. From a report: The company shut down a total of 376,890 accounts in the last six months of 2016, Twitter said in its latest transparency report.

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Microsoft Just Showed Off Exactly What Salesforce Was Worried About

Slashdot Updates - Tue, 03/21/2017 - 9:20am
Microsoft just took a direct swipe at Salesforce with a new enterprise-ready version of LinkedIn's customer relationship management product called Sales Navigator. From a report on CNBC: "Today's announcements take Sales Navigator to the next level," Doug Camplejohn, LinkedIn sales solutions head of product, said in a blog. The new product steps up competition with arch rival Salesforce. Microsoft beat out Salesforce to acquire Linkedin for $26.2 billion -- by far the company's largest acquisition to date -- in June. Salesforce CEO Marc Benioff was so concerned, he accused the company of "anti-competitive behavior" and urged regulators to investigate. Flash-forward less than a year and Microsoft's new Sales Navigator Enterprise Edition incorporates many features aimed at turning LinkedIn into a must-have tool for sales teams at big companies.

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IBM, Remote-Work Pioneer, is Calling Thousands Of Employees Back To the Office

Slashdot Updates - Tue, 03/21/2017 - 8:41am
An anonymous reader shares a report: Less than a year into her tenure as IBM's chief marketing officer, Michelle Peluso prepared to make an announcement that she knew would excite some of her 5,500 new employees, but also, inevitably, inspire resignation notices from others. In a video message, Peluso explained the "only one recipe I know for success." Its ingredients included great people, the right tools, a mission, analysis of results, and one more thing: "really creative and inspiring locations." IBM had decided to "co-locate" the US marketing department, about 2,600 people, which meant that all teams would now work together, "shoulder to shoulder," from one of six different locations -- Atlanta, Raleigh, Austin, Boston, San Francisco, and New York. Employees who worked primarily from home would be required to commute, and employees who worked remotely or from an office that was not on the list (or an office that was on the list, but different than the one to which their teams had been assigned) would be required to either move or look for another job. Similar announcements had already been made in other departments, and more would be made in the future. At IBM, which has embraced remote work for decades, a relatively large proportion of employees work outside of central hubs. (By 2009, when remote work was still, for most, a novelty, 40% of IBM's 386,000 global employees already worked at home). [...] "When you're playing phone tag with someone is quite different than when you're sitting next to someone and can pop up behind them and ask them a question," Peluso says. Not all IBM employees see it that way.

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UK Flight Ban On Devices To Be Announced

Slashdot Updates - Tue, 03/21/2017 - 8:00am
The UK is due to announce a cabin baggage ban on laptops, tablets and DVD players on certain passenger flights, after a similar US move. From a report on BBC: It is understood the UK restrictions may differ from the US Department of Homeland Security's ban, although details have not yet been released. Flights from 10 airports in eight Muslim-majority countries are subject to the US announcement. US officials said bombs could be hidden in a series of devices. BBC home affairs correspondent Daniel Sandford said the expected move was "obviously part of coordinated action with the US." The attempted downing of an airliner in Somalia last year was linked to a laptop device, and it appears the security precautions are an attempt to stop similar incidents, our correspondent added.

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GitHub Now Lets Its Workers Keep the IP When They Use Company Resources For Personal Projects

Slashdot Updates - Tue, 03/21/2017 - 7:20am
If it's on company time, it's the company's dime. That's the usual rule in the tech industry -- that if employees use company resources to work on projects unrelated to their jobs, their employer can claim ownership of any intellectual property (IP) they create. But GitHub is throwing that out the window. From a report on Quartz: Today the code-sharing platform announced a new policy, the Balanced Employee IP Agreement (BEIPA). This allows its employees to use company equipment to work on personal projects in their free time, which can occur during work hours, without fear of being sued for the IP. As long as the work isn't related to GitHub's own "existing or prospective" products and services, the employee owns it. Like all things related to tech IP, employee agreements are a contentious issue. In some US states, it's not uncommon for contracts to give companies full ownership of all work employees produce during their tenure, and sometimes even before and after their tenure, regardless of when or how they produce it. These restrictions have led to several horror stories, like the case of Alcatel vs. Evan Brown.

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Google To Revamp Policies, Hire Staff After UK Ad Scandal

Slashdot Updates - Tue, 03/21/2017 - 6:43am
Google vowed on Tuesday to police its websites better by ramping up staff numbers and overhauling its policies after several companies deserted the internet giant for failing to keep their adverts off hate-filled videos. From a report on Reuters: Google has found itself at the center of a British storm in recent days after major companies from supermarkets to banks and consumer groups pulled their adverts from its YouTube site after they appeared alongside videos carrying homophobic and anti-Semitic messages. Alphabet's Google launched a review of the problem on Friday, apologized on Monday and said on Tuesday it had revamped its policies to give advertisers more control.

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Apple iPad is a Faster, Cheaper iPad Air 2

Slashdot Updates - Tue, 03/21/2017 - 6:01am
Say good-bye to the iPad Air, it's just the iPad now. From a report on CNET: Apple announced on Tuesday morning that it will be dropping the price of the 9.7-inch iPad by $70. The tablet's A8X processor will be getting an upgrade too, jumping over to the A9 chip used in the iPad Pro. The upgrade will replace the iPad Air 2, but the iPad Mini 4 will live on, starting at $399. The updated pricing will start on Friday, at $329 for the 32GB model and $459 for the 32GB WiFi with cellular service model. It's Apple's cheapest iPad, after the company decided to replace the iPad Mini 2, which started at $269. Although Apple's iPad is leading the tablet market, it's still a tumbling one as demand takes a decline thanks to people holding onto their tablets longer.

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Trump’s tragic budget kills vital science to boost defence

New Scientist - Breaking news - Tue, 03/21/2017 - 5:10am
The US president's spending plan ramps up defence at huge cost to climate and energy research. The contradictions are beyond belief, says physicist Raymond Pierrehumbert
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Artificial lungs in a backpack may free people with lung failure

New Scientist - Breaking news - Tue, 03/21/2017 - 5:00am
People with lung failure usually have to stay connected to unwieldy machines. Now a set of portable mechanical lungs could restore mobility and keep them healthier
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John Goodenough's Colleagues Are Skeptical of His New Battery Technology

Slashdot Updates - Tue, 03/21/2017 - 5:00am
Earlier this month, a research team led by John Goodenough announced that they had created a new fast charging solid-state battery that can operate in extreme temperatures and store five to ten times as much energy as current standard lithium-ion batteries. The announcement was big enough to have Google's Eric Schmidt tweeting about it. However, there are some skeptics, including other leading battery researchers. "For his invention to work as described, they say, it would probably have to abandon the laws of thermodynamics, which say perpetual motion is not possible," reports Quartz. "The law has been a fundamental of batteries for more than a century and a half." Quartz reports: Goodenough's long career has defined the modern battery industry. Researchers assume that his measurements are exact. But no one outside of Goodenough's own group appears to understand his new concept. The battery community is loath to openly challenge the paper, but some come close. "If anyone but Goodenough published this, I would be, well, it's hard to find a polite word," Daniel Steingart, a professor at Princeton, told Quartz. Goodenough did not respond to emails. But in a statement released by the University of Texas, where he holds an engineering chair, he said, "We believe our discovery solves many of the problems that are inherent in today's batteries. Cost, safety, energy density, rates of charge and discharge and cycle life are critical for battery-driven cars to be more widely adopted." In addition, Helena Braga, the paper's lead author, in an exchange of emails, insisted that the team's claims are valid. For almost four decades, Goodenough has dominated the world of advanced batteries. If anyone could finally make the breakthrough that allows for cheap, stored electricity in cars and on the grid, it would figure to be him. Goodenough invented the heart of the battery that is all but certainly powering the device on which you are reading this. It's the lithium-cobalt-oxide cathode, invented in 1980 and introduced for sale by Sony in 1991. Again and again, Goodenough's lab has emerged with dramatic discoveries confirming his genius. It's what is not stated in the paper that has some of the battery community stumped. How is Goodenough's new invention storing any energy at all? The known rules of physics state that, to derive energy, differing material must produce differing eletro-chemical reactions in the two opposing electrodes. That difference produces voltage, allowing energy to be stored. But Goodenough's battery has pure metallic lithium or sodium on both sides. Therefore, the voltage should be zero, with no energy produced, battery researchers told Quartz. Goodenough reports energy densities multiple times that of current lithium-ion batteries. Where does the energy come from, if not the electrode reactions? That goes unexplained in the paper.

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Electronic devices banned on US-bound flights from 8 countries

New Scientist - Breaking news - Tue, 03/21/2017 - 4:05am
The US bans passengers flying from countries including Jordan and Saudi Arabia from bringing laptops and other electronics in their carry-on luggage
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Special glasses give people superhuman colour vision

New Scientist - Breaking news - Tue, 03/21/2017 - 2:40am
A pair of spectacles filter light to trick the eyes into seeing colour differently, letting people distinguish between hues that look the same but aren't
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