Science & Tech News

A Lowe's Hardware Store Is Trialling Exoskeletons To Give Workers a Helping Hand

Slashdot Updates - Mon, 05/15/2017 - 2:40pm
slew writes: Okay, this isn't Aliens 2, but hardware chain Lowe's is "outfitting employees with a simple exoskeleton to help them on the job," reports The Verge. "The company has partnered with Virginia Tech to develop the technology, which makes lifting and moving heavy objects easier. The non-motorized exoskeletons are worn like a harness, with carbon fiber rods acting as artificial tendons -- bending when the wearer squats, and springing back when they stand up. Lowe's has issued four of the custom-built suits to employees at a store in Christiansburg, Virginia. The equipment has been in use for over a month and the company says early feedback is extremely positive. '[Employees] wear it all day, it's very comfortable, and it makes their job easier,' says Kyle Nel, the director of Lowe's Innovation Labs, adding that Lowe's is working with scientists from Virginia Tech to conduct a proper survey of the technology's usefulness. 'It's early days, but we're doing some major studies,' he says."

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Apple Releases macOS 10.12.5, iOS 10.3.2, watchOS 3.2.2, tvOS 10.2.1

Slashdot Updates - Mon, 05/15/2017 - 2:00pm
On Monday, Apple released point updates to all its operating systems. Starting with the desktop, the macOS 10.12.5 update for Sierra is the fifth major update since the operating system was released in September of 2016. The iPhone-maker also released the iOS 10.3.2 for iPhones, iPads and iPods to the public. The update for Macs offers a range of bug fixes, improvements to Night Shift, and a long list of security patches. The iOS 10.3.2 update offers "bug fixes and improves the security." More details -- including what's new in tvOS, and watchOS -- here.

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Judge's Order Bars Uber Engineer From LiDAR Work, Demands Returns of Stolen Files

Slashdot Updates - Mon, 05/15/2017 - 1:20pm
An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: A U.S. federal judge has ordered Uber to bar its top self-driving car engineer from any work on LiDAR, and return stolen files to Google's self-driving car unit Waymo. Today's order by U.S. District Judge William Alsup demands Uber do "whatever it can to ensure that its employees return 14,000-plus pilfered files to their rightful owner." The files must be returned by May 31. The order was granted last week, but just made public in an unsealed document this morning. U.S. District Judge William Alsup found that Uber "likely knew or at least should have known" that the man it hired as its top self-driving car engineer, Anthony Levandowski, took and kept more than 14,000 Waymo files. Those files "likely contain at least some trade secrets," making some "provisional relief" for Waymo appropriate. Levandowski has previously asserted his Fifth Amendment rights with respect to his possession of the files. "If Uber were to threaten Levandowski with termination for noncompliance, that threat would be backed up by only Uber's power as a private employer, and Levandowski would remain free to forfeit his private employment to preserve his Fifth Amendment privilege," Alsup wrote. Several factors limit the amount of relief Waymo might receive. First of all, in the judge's view, not all of the 121 elements that Waymo defines as "trade secrets" are really trade secrets. Additionally, the judge has slapped aside Waymo's patent infringement accusations as "meritless."

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UK Tabloids Doxxed the 'Hero' Hacker Who Stopped a Global Cyberattack

Slashdot Updates - Mon, 05/15/2017 - 12:40pm
The UK-based security researcher, who "accidentally" halted the spread of the ransomware Wanna Decryptor over the weekend, has been doxxed by UK tabloids. From a report: [...] Journalists have published his name against his will, bringing him unwanted attention and sending a signal to privacy-sensitive researchers that no good deed goes unpunished. The researcher, writing under the username MalwareTechBlog, published a blog post on his personal site with findings about the virus, explaining how it was stopped and what would have to be done to prevent it from coming back. News outlets, including the Daily Mail, The Guardian, and CNN called the anonymous researcher a hero. The researcher was initially responsive to press inquiries. He told reporters that he was 22, lived in the south of England with his parents, and worked for an L.A. security firm. However, he told The Guardian that he wanted to remain anonymous "because it just doesn't make sense to give out my personal information, obviously we're working against bad guys and they're not going to be happy about this." It took about a day for UK papers, including The Mail, The Sun, The Telegraph, and The Mirror, to suss out the researcher's name and publish photos of him, show up at his house, and track down his friends and associates for interviews. "It's caused a fair bit of stress," he told Forbes. "I don't want fame."

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Ladybird’s transparent shell reveals how it folds its wings

New Scientist - Breaking news - Mon, 05/15/2017 - 12:00pm
The unusual way ladybird wings fold and unfold could help us design solar array paddles that unfold in space and even pave the way to better umbrellas
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The Reign of the $100 Graphing Calculator Required By Every US Math Class Is Finally Ending

Slashdot Updates - Mon, 05/15/2017 - 12:00pm
If you took a math class at some point in the US, there is likely a bulky $100 calculator gathering dust somewhere in your closet. Fast forward to today, and the Texas Instruments 84 -- or the TI 84-Plus, or the TI-89 or any of the other even more expensive hardware variants -- is quickly losing relevance. Engadget adds: Thanks to a new deal, they'll soon get a free option. Starting this spring, pupils in 14 US states will be able to use the TI-like Desmos online calculator during standardized testing run by the Smarter Balanced consortium. "We think students shouldn't have to buy this old, underpowered device anymore," Desmos CEO Eli Luberoff said. The Desmos calculator will be embedded directly into the assessments, meaning students will have access during tests with no need for an external device. It'll also be available to students in grades 6 through 8 and high school throughout the year. The calculator is free to use, and the company makes money by charging organizations to use it, according to Bloomberg.

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'U Can't Talk to Ur Professor Like This'

Slashdot Updates - Mon, 05/15/2017 - 11:20am
Millennial college students have become far too casual when they talk with their professors, reads an opinion piece on The New York Times. Addressing professors by their first names and sending misspelled, informal emails with text abbreviations have become common practices (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; here's a syndicated source) among many students than educators would like, Molly Worthen, an assistant professor of history at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill adds. From the article: Over the past decade or two, college students have become far more casual in their interactions with faculty members. My colleagues around the country grumble about students' sloppy emails and blithe informality. "When students started calling me by my first name, I felt that was too far, and I've got to say something," Mark Tomforde, a math professor at the University of Houston said. Sociologists who surveyed undergraduate syllabuses from 2004 and 2010 found that in 2004, 14 percent addressed issues related to classroom etiquette; six years later, that number had more than doubled, to 33 percent. This phenomenon crosses socio-economic lines. My colleagues at Stanford gripe as much as the ones who teach at state schools, and students from more privileged backgrounds are often the worst offenders. [...] Insisting on traditional etiquette is also simply good pedagogy. It's a teacher's job to correct sloppy prose, whether in an essay or an email. And I suspect that most of the time, students who call faculty members by their first names and send slangy messages are not seeking a more casual rapport. They just don't know they should do otherwise -- no one has bothered to explain it to them. Explaining the rules of professional interaction is not an act of condescension; it's the first step in treating students like adults.

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Motorola Looks at Dirt-Cheap Smartphones Again, Launches Moto C and Moto C Plus

Slashdot Updates - Mon, 05/15/2017 - 10:40am
We have seen over hundreds of manufacturers launch over thousands of smartphone models in the past three years. One of the remarkable smartphones, aimed at those who aren't planning to break a bank for it, has been Motorola's Moto E. Priced at $129, unlocked, without a contract, the handset was immensely popular in the developing markets. It changed the smartphone ecosystem at places like Indonesia and India, pushing several other Android OEMs to step up their game -- and they did. Three years later, after a series of "overpriced" phones, Motorola is attempting to break the affordable smartphone market again. From a report on CNET: The most important thing to know about the Moto C and C Plus, it seems, is that the phones are cheap. Like, really cheap. Motorola's Moto C starts at 89 euros (which converts to $98), and the more advanced C Plus begins at 119 euros (that coverts to $131). As for the specs, the Moto C sports a 5-inch display (854x480 pixel-resolution), 5-megapixel rear camera, 2-megapixel front-facing camera with flash, 1.3GHz quad-core processor (unspecified model), 4G support, 2,350mAh removable battery, 8GB storage, 1GB RAM, and support for two-SIM cards. The handsets run Android 7.0.

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'Don't Tell People To Turn Off Windows Update, Just Don't'

Slashdot Updates - Mon, 05/15/2017 - 10:00am
Security researchers Troy Hunt, writing on his blog: Often, the updates these products deliver patch some pretty nasty security flaws. If you had any version of Windows since Vista running the default Windows Update, you would have had the critical Microsoft Security Bulletin known as "MS17-010" pushed down to your PC and automatically installed. Without doing a thing, when WannaCry came along almost 2 months later, the machine was protected because the exploit it targeted had already been patched. It's because of this essential protection provided by automatic updates that those advocating for disabling the process are being labelled the IT equivalents of anti-vaxxers and whilst I don't fully agree with real world analogies like this, you can certainly see where they're coming from. As with vaccinations, patches protect the host from nasty things that the vast majority of people simply don't understand. This is how consumer software these days should be: self-updating with zero input required from the user. As soon as they're required to do something, it'll be neglected which is why Windows Update is so critical.

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Google Owns the Classroom

Slashdot Updates - Mon, 05/15/2017 - 9:20am
An anonymous reader writes: The NYT's Natasha Singer has a fascinating, provocative look at "How Google Conquered The American Classroom." "[M]ore than half the nation's primary- and secondary-school students -- more than 30 million children -- use Google education apps like Gmail and Docs... Chromebooks, Google-powered laptops that initially struggled to find a purpose... account for more than half the mobile devices shipped to schools."

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How Australia Bungled Its $36 Billion High-Speed Internet Rollout

Slashdot Updates - Mon, 05/15/2017 - 8:40am
Not very pleased with your internet speeds? Think about the people Down Under. Australia's "bungled" National Broadband Network (NBN) has been used as a "cautionary tale" for other countries to take note of. Despite the massive amount of money being pumped into the NBN, the New York Times reports, the internet speeds still lagged behind the US, most of western Europe, Japan and South Korea -- even Kenya. The article highlights that Australia was the first country where a national plan to cover every house or business was considered and this ambitious plan was hampered by changes in government and a slow rollout (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternative source), partly because of negotiations with Telstra about the fibre installation. From the report: Australia, a wealthy nation with a widely envied quality of life, lags in one essential area of modern life: its internet speed. Eight years after the country began an unprecedented broadband modernization effort that will cost at least 49 billion Australian dollars, or $36 billion, its average internet speed lags that of the United States, most of Western Europe, Japan and South Korea. In the most recent ranking of internet speeds by Akamai, a networking company, Australia came in at an embarrassing No. 51, trailing developing economies like Thailand and Kenya. For many here, slow broadband connections are a source of frustration and an inspiration for gallows humor. One parody video ponders what would happen if an American with a passion for Instagram and streaming "Scandal" were to switch places with an Australian resigned to taking bathroom breaks as her shows buffer. The article shares this anecdote: "Hundreds of thousands of people from around the world have downloaded Hand of Fate, an action video game made by a studio in Brisbane, Defiant Development. But when Defiant worked with an audio designer in Melbourne, more than 1,000 miles away, Mr. Jaffit knew it would be quicker to send a hard drive by road than to upload the files, which could take several days."

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What vision of doom made Hawking seek a faster Earth exit plan?

New Scientist - Breaking news - Mon, 05/15/2017 - 8:30am
Stephen Hawking now says humanity must colonise other worlds within a century, rather than 1000 years, to ensure survival. Why the rush, asks Dirk Schulze-Makuch
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Diesel fumes lead to thousands more deaths than thought

New Scientist - Breaking news - Mon, 05/15/2017 - 8:01am
Cars, lorries and buses that drive on diesel churn out far more air pollution than standard testing procedures suggest, even without any emissions cheating devices
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Gizmodo Went Phishing With the Trump Team -- Will They Catch a Charge?

Slashdot Updates - Mon, 05/15/2017 - 8:00am
Earlier this month, technology publication Gizmodo published a report on how it "phished" members of the administration and campaign teams of President Donald Trump. The blog said it identified 15 prominent figures on Trump's team and sent e-mails to each posing as friends, family members, or associates containing a faked Google Docs link. But did the publication inadvertently break the law? ArsTechnica reports: "This was a test of how public officials in an administration whose president has been highly critical of the security failures of the DNC stand up to the sort of techniques that hackers use to penetrate networks," said John Cook, executive editor of Gizmodo's Special Projects Desk, in an e-mail conversation with Ars. Gizmodo targeted some marquee names connected to the Trump administration, including Newt Gingrich, Peter Thiel, (now-ex) FBI director James Comey, FCC chairman Ajit Pai, White House press secretary Sean Spicer, presidential advisor Sebastian Gorka, and the administration's chief policymakers for cybersecurity. The test didn't appear to prove much. Gingrich and Comey responded to the e-mail questioning its provenance. And while about half of the targeted officials may have clicked the link -- eight devices' IP addresses were recorded accessing the linked test page -- none entered their login credentials. The test could not determine whose devices clicked on the link. What the test did manage to do is raise the eyebrows of security experts and some legal experts. That's because despite their efforts to make it "reasonably" apparent that this was a test, Gizmodo's phishing campaign may have violated several laws, ignoring many of the restrictions usually placed on similar tests by penetration-testing and security firms. At a minimum, Gizmodo danced along the edges of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA).

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Netflix Says No To Unlocked Android Smartphones

Slashdot Updates - Mon, 05/15/2017 - 7:20am
An anonymous reader writes: Last week Netflix app started showing up as "incompatible" on the Play Store for rooted and unlocked Android devices. However, the app itself continued to work fine, leading some to think it could have been an accident. However, Netflix has now confirmed to blog AndroidPolice that blocking modified devices from downloading the app was intentional. This is the full statement: "With our latest 5.0 release, we now fully rely on the Widevine DRM provided by Google; therefore, many devices that are not Google-certified or have been altered will no longer work with our latest app and those users will no longer see the Netflix app in the Play Store."

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Slashdot Asks: In the Wake Of Ransomware Attacks, Should Tech Companies Change Policies To Support Older OSs Indefinitely?

Slashdot Updates - Mon, 05/15/2017 - 6:40am
In the aftermath of ransomware spread over the weekend, Zeynep Tufekci, an associate professor at the School of Information and Library Science at the University of North Carolina, writes an opinion piece for The New York Times: At a minimum, Microsoft clearly should have provided the critical update in March to all its users, not just those paying extra. Indeed, "pay extra money to us or we will withhold critical security updates" can be seen as its own form of ransomware. In its defense, Microsoft probably could point out that its operating systems have come a long way in security since Windows XP, and it has spent a lot of money updating old software, even above industry norms. However, industry norms are lousy to horrible, and it is reasonable to expect a company with a dominant market position, that made so much money selling software that runs critical infrastructure, to do more. Microsoft supported Windows XP for over a decade before finally putting it to sleep. In the wake of ransomware attacks, it stepped forward to release a patch -- a move that has been lauded by columnists. That said, do you folks think it should continue to push security updates to older operating systems as well?

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Tiny invasive sea creatures hitch a ride in rabbitfish guts

New Scientist - Breaking news - Mon, 05/15/2017 - 6:00am
Rabbitfish ingest microscopic marine creatures while grazing on algae. Some of them may survive long trips and wreak havoc far from home when the fish defecate
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Cyberattacks From WannaCry Ransomware Slow But Fears Remain

Slashdot Updates - Mon, 05/15/2017 - 6:00am
WannaCry ransomware, which has spread across 150 countries, appears to be slowing down with few reports of fresh attacks in Asia and Europe on Monday. A report on BBC adds: However staff beginning the working week have been told to be careful. The WannaCry ransomware started taking over users' files on Friday, demanding $300 to restore access. Hundreds of thousands of computers have been affected so far. Computer giant Microsoft said the attack should serve as a wake-up call. BBC analysis of three accounts linked to the ransom demands suggests only about $38,000 had been paid by Monday morning.

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Ransomware attack hits 200,000 computers across the globe

New Scientist - Breaking news - Mon, 05/15/2017 - 5:10am
The ransomware software, which hit hospitals in the UK particularly severely, is thought to be based upon a spying tool stolen from the US National Security earlier this year
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First timeline of a cancer tracks tumours from origin to spread

New Scientist - Breaking news - Mon, 05/15/2017 - 4:45am
One man’s bowel cancer has been tracked from the very start to the very end, revealing some of the surprising ways in which the disease spreads through the body
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