Taxpayer Subsidies To ULA To End
Because it has concluded that they make it impossible to have a fair competition for contracts, the Air Force has decided to phase out taxpayer subsidies to the United Launch Alliance (ULA). The specific amounts of these subsidies have been effectively buried by the Air Force in many different contracts, so we the taxpayers really don't know how much the are. Nonetheless, this decision, combined with the military report released yesterday that criticized the Air Force's over-bearing and restrictive certification process with SpaceX indicates that the political pressure is now pushing them hard to open up bidding to multiple companies, which in turn will help lower cost and save the taxpayer money.
UK Licensing Site Requires MSIE Emulation, But Won't Work With MSIE
Anne Thwacks writes
The British Government web site for applying for for a licence to be a security guard requires a plugin providing Internet Explorer emulation on Firefox to login and apply for a licence. It won't work with Firefox without the add-on, but it also wont work with Internet Explorer! (I tried Win XP and Win7 Professional). The error message says "You have more than one browser window open on the same internet connection," (I didn't) and "to avoid this problem, close your browser and reopen it." I did. No change.
I tried three different computers, with three different OSes. Still no change. I contacted their tech support and they said "Yes ... a lot of users complain about this. We have known about it since September, and are working on a fix! Meanwhile, we have instructions on how to use the "Fire IE" plugin to get round the problem." Eventually, I got this to work on Win7pro. (The plugin will not work on Linux). The instructions require a very old version of the plugin, and a bit of trial and error is needed to get it to work with the current one. How can a government department concerned with security not get this sort of thing right?"
New Screenshots Detail Spartan Web Browser For Windows 10 Smartphones
One of the most anticipated new features in Windows 10 is the Spartan web browser, which will replace the long-serving Internet Explorer. We've seen Spartan in action on the desktop/notebook front, but we're now getting a closer look at Spartan in action on the mobile side thanks to some newly leaked screenshots. Perhaps the biggest change with Spartan is the repositioning of the address bar from the bottom of the screen to the top (which is also in line with other mobile browsers like Safari and Chrome). The refresh button has also been moved from its right-hand position within the address bar to a new location to the left of the address bar. Reading Lists also make an appearance in this latest build of Spartan along with Microsoft's implementation of "Hubs" on Windows 10 for mobile devices.
Iowa's Governor Terry Branstad Thinks He Doesn't Use E-mail
Earthquake Retrofit writes
The Washington Post reports the governor of Iowa denying he uses e-mail, but court documents expose his confusion. From the article: "Branstad's apparent confusion over smartphones, apps and e-mail is ironic because he has tried to portray himself as technologically savvy. His Instagram account has pictures of him taking selfies and using Skype... 2010 campaign ads show him tapping away on an iPad. 'Want a brighter future? We've got an app for that.' Earlier this month, the governor's office announced that it had even opened an account on Meerkat, the live video streaming app." Perhaps he's distancing himself from e-mail because it's a Hillary thing.
Notel Media Player Helps North Koreans Skirt Censorship
An anonymous reader writes
A small portable media device, costing roughly $50, is allowing North Koreans to access and view foreign media despite tight government censorship, according to a Reuters report. The 'Notel', a mashup of notebook and television, is being described as a symbol of change in the repressed society. Used to watch DVDs and shared content from USB sticks and SD cards, the media player can be easily concealed and transported among families and friends. According to correspondents in the region, as many as half of all urban North Korean households have a notel and are swapping a broad range of banned media such as soaps and TV dramas from South Korea and China, Hollywood blockbusters, and news clips — all of which is strictly forbidden by Pyongyang law.
Ellen Pao Loses Silicon Valley Gender Bias Case Against Kleiner Perkins
As reported by the New York Times, USA Today and other publications, a jury of six men and six women rejected current Reddit Inc CEO Ellen Pao's claims against her former employer, the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers. Ms. Pao's suit, that allegged employment discrimination based on gender, workplace retaliation and failure to take reasonable steps to prevent gender discrimination, asked $16 million in compensatory damages plus punitive damages. The jury decided, after more than two days of deliberation and more than four weeks of testimony, that her formed employer neither discriminated against the former junior partner for her gender, nor fired the complainant because of a high-profile gender discrimination lawsuit against the firm in 2012. She alleged that Kleiner Perkins had promoted male partners over equally qualified women at the firm, including herself, and then retaliated against her for raising concerns about the firm's gender dynamics by failing to promote her and finally firing her after seven years at the firm after she filed her 2012 lawsuit.
Dark Matter Is Even More of a Mystery Than Expected
Using the Hubble and Chandra space telescopes astronomers have discovered that dark matter is not only invisible to direct observation, it is invisible to itself! Quoting: "As two galactic clusters collide, the stars, gas and dark matter interact in different ways. The clouds of gas suffer drag, slow down and often stop, whereas the stars zip past one another, unless they collide — which is rare. On studying what happens to dark matter during these collisions, the researchers realized that, like stars, the colliding clouds of dark matter have little effect on one another. Thought to be spread evenly throughout each cluster, it seems logical to assume that the clouds of dark matter would have a strong interaction — much like the colliding clouds of gas as the colliding dark matter particles should come into very close proximity. But rather than creating drag, the dark matter clouds slide through one another seamlessly." The data here is on the very edge of reality, built on too many assumptions. We know that something undetected as yet is influencing the motions of galaxies, but what exactly it is remains completely unknown. These results only make the mystery more mysterious.
Toshiba Announces 3D Flash With 48 Layers
Admitting it has bumped up against a 15 nanometer process wall, Toshiba announced it's focusing its efforts on three dimensional NAND using its Bit Cost Scalable technology (PDF) in order to increase capacity. It has dedicated a Japanese fab plant to it and developed 48-level 3D NAND, which bumps density up 33% over previous 3D NAND flash. The new 3D NAND will be able to store 128Gb of data per chip (16GB). Samsung has been mass producing 32-layer, triple-level cell (TLC) 3D NAND since last October and has incorporated it into some of its least expensive SSDs. Yesterday, Micron and Intel announced their own 32-layer 3D TLC NAND, which they claimed will lead to 10TB SSDs. While Toshiba's 3D NAND is multi-level cell (meaning it stores two bits per transistor versus three), the company does plan on developing a TLC version. Toshiba said it's not abandoning 15nm floating gate flash, but it will focus those efforts on lower capacity applications.
Hoax-Detecting Software Spots Fake Papers
In 2005, three computer science Ph.D. students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology created a program to generate nonsensical computer science research papers. The goal was "to expose the lack of peer review at low-quality conferences that essentially scam researchers with publication and conference fees." The program — dubbed SCIgen — soon found users across the globe, and before long its automatically generated creations were being accepted by scientific conferences and published in purportedly peer-reviewed journals. But SCIgen may have finally met its match. Academic publisher Springer this week is releasing SciDetect, an open-source program to automatically detect automatically generated papers. SCIgen uses a "context-free grammar" to create word salad that looks like reasonable text from a distance but is easily spotted as nonsense by a human reader.
Google Loses Ruling In Safari Tracking Case
mpicpp sends this report from CNET:
The floodgates are now open for UK users to sue Google over privacy violations tied to tracking cookies. In a landmark ruling, the UK's Court of Appeal has dismissed Google's request to prevent British Web users from suing the company over tracking cookies and privacy violations. The decision was announced Friday, according to the BBC. In spite of default privacy settings and user preferences — including an opt-out of consent to be tracked by cookies — Google's tracking cookies gathered information on Safari browser users for nine months in 2011 and 2012.
Amazon Requires Non-Compete Agreements.. For Warehouse Workers
Rick Zeman writes:
Amazon, perhaps historically only second to Newegg in the IT nerdling's online shopping heart, has not only subjected their warehouse employees to appalling working conditions, but they're also making them sign a non-compete agreement for the privilege. Here's an excerpt from the agreement: "During employment and for 18 months after the Separation Date, Employee will not, directly or indirectly, whether on Employee's own behalf or on behalf of any other entity (for example, as an employee, agent, partner, or consultant), engage in or support the development, manufacture, marketing, or sale of any product or service that competes or is intended to compete with any product or service sold, offered, or otherwise provided by Amazon (or intended to be sold, offered, or otherwise provided by Amazon in the future)."
Behind the Scenes At a Quantum Dot Factory
Tekla Perry writes:
In a nondescript office complex in Milpitas, Calif., Nanosys is making enough quantum dots to populate 6 million 60-inch television screens annually. "The process goes on in what looks like a microbrewery. In about half a dozen large metal tanks ... Nanosys combines cadmium and selenium and adjusts the temperature, concentration, and catalysts added to force these precursors to combine into stable crystals of cadmium selenide. Then, by readjusting the conditions, the system stops the formation of crystals and triggers the beginning of crystal growth. A computer controls the process according to a programmed “recipe;” staff members monitor the growth of the crystals by shining light on them and measuring the wavelength of the fluorescence; the smallest crystals don’t fluoresce at all, then, as the crystals get larger, the wavelength changes. Nanosys stops the process when the fluoresced light hits the target wavelength, which varies depending on what particular display industry standard that the batch of film is designed to meet."
Ask Slashdot: What Makes Some Code Particularly Good?
When developers talk about what makes some source code particularly 'good,' a handful of qualities tend to get mentioned frequently (functional, readable, testable). What would you add to this list?
Rebuilding the PDP-8 With a Raspberry Pi
Hacker Oscarv wanted a PDP-8 mini computer. But buying a real PDP-8 was horribly expensive and out of the question. So Oscarv did the next best thing: he used a Raspberry Pi as the computing engine and interfaced it to a replica PDP-8 front panel, complete with boatloads of fully functional switches and LEDs.
Modern Cockpits: Harder To Invade But Easier To Lock Up
Jad Mouawad And Christopher Drew write in the NY Times that although airplane cockpits are supposed to be the last line of defense from outside aggressors, airlines have fewer options if the threat comes from within. One of the major safety protocols that actually made planes safer in the past 15 years was that the cockpits were turned into fortresses. Unfortunately, that exact advantage was exploited by the co-pilot of the Germanwings plane on Tuesday to crash it intentionally. "It is shocking to me that there was not a second person present in the cockpit," says Mark Rosenker, a former chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board. Access to the cockpit is strictly regulated in the United States. Passengers are not allowed to congregate near the cockpit door, and whenever the door is open, no one is allowed in the forward bathroom and flight attendants usually block aisle access, sometimes using a food cart. The Federal Aviation Administration mandates that a flight attendant must sit in the cockpit when either pilot steps into the passenger area; European regulations do not have a similar two-person rule, but they're now talking about creating one.
The Germanwings accident also points to potential shortcomings in how pilots are screened for mental problems, a recurring concern for an industry that demands focus and discipline in an increasingly technical job, often in stressful situations. In 2012, a well-regarded pilot with JetBlue, one of the airline's earliest employees, was physically restrained by passengers on a flight from New York to Las Vegas after displaying erratic behavior. In that case, the co-pilot locked the pilot out of the cabin and made an emergency landing in Amarillo, Tex. "Aircraft-assisted pilot suicides," as the Federal Aviation Administration calls them, are rare. They include the November 2013 crash of a Mozambique Airlines plane bound for Luanda, Angola, which bears an eerie resemblance to the Germanwings plane's demise. When the flight's co-pilot left to use the lavatory, the captain locked him out of the cockpit and manually steered the aircraft earthward. The crash of Egypt Airlines Flight 990 off Nantucket, Mass., in 1999, which killed all 217 people on board, was also caused by deliberate action, a National Transportation Safety Board investigation concluded. Experts on suicide say that the psychology of those who combine suicide with mass murder may differ in significant ways from those who limit themselves to taking their own lives.