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Are Matt's Robot Hexapods Creepy or Cute? (Video)

SlashDot - Wed, 09/17/2014 - 17:03
University of Arizona grad student Matt Bunting doesn't come across as a mad scientist. That's a very good thing, because his robot hexapod creations are easy to imagine crawling across the USA in large hordes, devouring everything in their path and using all the electricity they come across to feed their Queen Hexapod, a 3-D printer mounted on a hexapod chassis that turns everything fed to it into more robots. Luckily, the real life Matt is an affable (self-described) "Roboticist, Electrical Engineer, Musician, and Rock Crawler" who freely admits that at this time his robotic creations have no practical application whatsoever. This is probably true, except for the fact that they can liven up a music video like mad, as you can see on YouTube in Pedals Music Video (featuring REAL robots) . Our little video is a lot simpler, of course. In it, we interview Matt and he tells us what he's up to with his robots, and gives some 'how to get started with robotics' advice for budding young engineers. (Alternate Video Link)

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Use of Forced Labor "Systemic" In Malaysian IT Manufacturing

SlashDot - Wed, 09/17/2014 - 16:18
itwbennett (1594911) writes "The use of forced labor is so prevalent in the Malaysian electronics manufacturing industry that there is hardly a major brand name that isn't touched by the illegal practice, according to a report funded by the U.S. Department of Labor and undertaken by Verité, a nonprofit organization focused on labor issues. The two-year study surveyed more than 500 migrant workers at around 200 companies in Malaysia's IT manufacturing sector and found one in three were working under conditions of forced labor."

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eBay Redirect Attack Puts Buyers' Credentials At Risk

SlashDot - Wed, 09/17/2014 - 15:35
mrspoonsi points out this BBC story about an eBay breach that was directing users to a spoof site. "eBay has been compromised so that people who clicked on some of its links were automatically diverted to a site designed to steal their credentials. The spoof site had been set up to look like the online marketplace's welcome page. The firm was alerted to the hack on Wednesday night but removed the listings only after a follow-up call from the BBC more than 12 hours later. One security expert said he was surprised by the length of time taken. 'EBay is a large company and it should have a 24/7 response team to deal with this — and this case is unambiguously bad,' said Dr Steven Murdoch from University College London's Information Security Research Group. The security researcher was able to analyze the listing involved before eBay removed it. He said that the technique used was known as a cross-site scripting (XSS) attack."

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How Flickr Is Courting the Next Generation of Photographers

SlashDot - Wed, 09/17/2014 - 14:52
First time accepted submitter Molly McHugh writes Flickr Vice President Bernardo Hernandez explains how the beloved photo platform is targeting a new generation that's addicted to smartphones. “10 or 15 years ago it was expensive and complicated to explore the world of photography,” Hernandez said. "Very few people could afford that—[it is] no surprise the best photographers 20 years ago were older people. We believe all of that is changing with the mobile [photography] revolution."

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Obama Presses Leaders To Speed Ebola Response

SlashDot - Wed, 09/17/2014 - 14:10
mdsolar writes with the latest plan from the U.S. government to fight the Ebola epidemic in West Africa, and a call for more help from other nations by the President. President Obama on Tuesday challenged world powers to accelerate the global response to the Ebola outbreak that is ravaging West Africa, warning that unless health care workers, medical equipment and treatment centers were swiftly deployed, the disease could take hundreds of thousands of lives. "This epidemic is going to get worse before it gets better," Mr. Obama said here at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, where he met with doctors who had just returned from West Africa. The world, he said, "has the responsibility to act, to step up and to do more. The United States intends to do more." Even as the president announced a major American deployment to Liberia and Senegal of medicine, equipment and 3,000 military personnel, global health officials said that time was running out and that they had weeks, not months, to act. They said that although the American contribution was on a scale large enough to make a difference, a coordinated assault in Africa from other Western powers was essential to bringing the virus under control.

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Is the Tesla Model 3 Actually Going To Cost $50,000?

SlashDot - Wed, 09/17/2014 - 13:28
cartechboy writes How low can battery costs go, and how fast? That's the question automakers are dealing with when it comes to the future of electric cars. Tesla is betting big on electric and has already proven many skeptics wrong with its Model S sedan. The company is making even bolder claims with its upcoming Model 3 stating it'll have about 200 miles of range and a base price of $35,000. That's a nice goal, but is it possible. Battery skeptic Menahem Anderman wrote a new report suggesting that the pace of cost reduction for electric car batteries won't be as swift as Tesla's CEO Elon Musk suggests. This leads Anderman to predict the actual price of the upcoming Model 3 will be in the range of $50,000-$80,000.

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Wave Power Fails To Live Up To Promise

SlashDot - Wed, 09/17/2014 - 12:46
the_newsbeagle writes: One of the leading companies developing wave power devices, Ocean Power Technologies, has dramatically scaled down its ambitions. The company had planned to install the world's first commercial-scale wave farms off the coast of Australia and Oregon, but has now announced that it's ending those projects. Instead it will focus on developing next-gen devices. Apparently the economics of wave power just don't make sense yet.

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ISIS Bans Math and Social Studies For Children

SlashDot - Wed, 09/17/2014 - 10:43
mpicpp sends this news from CNN: In swaths of Syria now controlled by ISIS, children can no longer study math or social studies. Sports are out of the question. And students will be banned from learning about elections and democracy. Instead, they'll be subjected to the teachings of the radical Islamist group. And any teacher who dares to break the rules "will be punished." ISIS revealed its new educational demands in fliers posted on billboards and on street poles. The Sunni militant group has captured a slew of Syrian and Iraqi cities in recent months as it tries to establish a caliphate, or Islamic state, spanning Sunni parts of both countries. Books cannot include any reference to evolution. And teachers must say that the laws of physics and chemistry "are due to Allah's rules and laws."

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Logitech Aims To Control the Smart Home

SlashDot - Wed, 09/17/2014 - 10:00
An anonymous reader writes: Household devices are getting smarter these days: the so-called internet of things is bringing software-controlled thermostats, lighting, and other appliances into the mainstream. Many companies are fighting for a piece of the pie, but Logitech is taking a different approach. They're mostly known for computer peripherals, but they also make multi-function remote controls, and now they're trying to build remotes that will control all of a home's smart devices. "Logitech doesn't want to own the device, it wants to own the app experience. But to do that, it had to build a software overlay and a controller that would convince people to put it in their homes. So it's offering a $100 hub that combines IR, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth and RF that will let you use the Logitech Harmony app to control gear that uses those protocols. This means if you have a SmartThings, a Peq or a Lutron hub, the Wi-Fi in the Logitech device will let you control the others' gear from Logitech, which so far seems to have a much nicer interface." They've worked out partnerships with a lot of companies that are big in the home, like Nest, Honeywell, and Philips, all of whom seem to want this extra layer of control for the user.

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Why Is It Taking So Long To Secure Internet Routing?

SlashDot - Tue, 09/16/2014 - 19:19
CowboyRobot writes: We live in an imperfect world where routing-security incidents can still slip past deployed security defenses, and no single routing-security solution can prevent every attacks. Research suggests, however, that the combination of RPKI (Resource Public Key Infrastructure) with prefix filtering could significantly improve routing security; both solutions are based on whitelisting techniques and can reduce the number of autonomous systems that are impacted by prefix hijacks, route leaks, and path-shortening attacks. "People have been aware of BGP’s security issues for almost two decades and have proposed a number of solutions, most of which apply simple and well-understood cryptography or whitelisting techniques. Yet, many of these solutions remain undeployed (or incompletely deployed) in the global Internet, and the vulnerabilities persist. Why is it taking so long to secure BGP?"

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What To Expect With Windows 9

SlashDot - Tue, 09/16/2014 - 18:21
snydeq writes: Two weeks before the its official unveiling, this article provides a roundup of what to expect and the open questions around Windows 9, given Build 9834 leaks and confirmations springing up all over the Web. The desktop's Start Menu, Metro apps running in resizable windows on the desktop, virtual desktops, Notification Center, and Storage Sense, are among the presumed features in store for Windows 9. Chief among the open questions are the fates of Internet Explorer, Cortana, and the Metro Start Screen. Changes to Windows 9 will provide an inkling of where Nadella will lead Microsoft in the years ahead. What's your litmus test on Windows 9?

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The Case For a Federal Robotics Commission

SlashDot - Tue, 09/16/2014 - 17:40
New submitter hmcd31 writes: In a new paper for Brookings' series on the future of civilian robotics, University of Washington Law Professor Ryan Calo argues the need for a Federal Robotics Commission. With advancements such as driverless cars and drones taking to the roads and skies, Calo sees a need for a government agency to monitor these changes. His paper details many benefits a robotics commission could bring, from funding to assisting in law and policy issues. The policies developed by this FRC are argued to be particularly important, as their impact in creating an early infrastructure for robotics could create an environment that lets the technology grow even more.

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New Global Plan Would Crack Down On Corporate Tax Avoidance

SlashDot - Tue, 09/16/2014 - 13:28
HughPickens.com writes: Reuters reports that plans for a major rewriting of international tax rules have been unveiled by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) that could eliminate structures that have allowed companies like Google and Amazon to shave billions of dollars off their tax bills. For more than 50 years, the OECD's work on international taxation has been focused on ensuring companies are not taxed twice on the same profits (and thereby hampering trade and limit global growth). But companies have been using such treaties to ensure profits are not taxed anywhere. A Reuters investigation last year found that three quarters of the 50 biggest U.S. technology companies channeled revenues from European sales into low tax jurisdictions like Ireland and Switzerland, rather than reporting them nationally. For example, search giant Google takes advantage of tax treaties to channel more than $8 billion in untaxed profits out of Europe and Asia each year and into a subsidiary that is tax resident in Bermuda, which has no income tax. "We are putting an end to double non-taxation," says OECD head of tax Pascal Saint-Amans.For the recommendations to actually become binding, countries will have to encode them in their domestic laws or amend their bilateral tax treaties. Even if they do pass, these changes are likely 5-10 years away from going into effect. Speaking of international corporate business: U.K. mainframe company Micro Focus announced it will buy Attachmate, which includes Novell and SUSE.

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Developing the First Law of Robotics

SlashDot - Tue, 09/16/2014 - 12:48
wabrandsma sends this article from New Scientist: In an experiment, Alan Winfield and his colleagues programmed a robot to prevent other automatons – acting as proxies for humans – from falling into a hole. This is a simplified version of Isaac Asimov's fictional First Law of Robotics – a robot must not allow a human being to come to harm. At first, the robot was successful in its task. As a human proxy moved towards the hole, the robot rushed in to push it out of the path of danger. But when the team added a second human proxy rolling toward the hole at the same time, the robot was forced to choose. Sometimes, it managed to save one human while letting the other perish; a few times it even managed to save both. But in 14 out of 33 trials, the robot wasted so much time fretting over its decision that both humans fell into the hole. Winfield describes his robot as an "ethical zombie" that has no choice but to behave as it does. Though it may save others according to a programmed code of conduct, it doesn't understand the reasoning behind its actions.

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Ask Slashdot: Any Place For Liberal Arts Degrees In Tech?

SlashDot - Tue, 09/16/2014 - 12:00
Nerval's Lobster (2598977) writes A new article in Fast Company suggests tech CEOs want employees with liberal arts degrees, because those graduates have critical thinking skills. Meanwhile, a new article on Dice (yes, yes, we know) posits that STEM degrees such as data science, IT admin, and electrical engineering are what science-and-tech companies are going to want for the foreseeable future. What do you think? What place do those with liberal arts degrees have in companies such as, say, Tesla or a biomedical engineering firm?

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AT&T Proposes Net Neutrality Compromise

SlashDot - Tue, 09/16/2014 - 07:12
An anonymous reader writes: The net neutrality debate has been pretty binary: ISPs want the ability to create so-called "fast lanes," and consumers want all traffic to be treated equally. Now, AT&T is proposing an alternative: fast lanes under consumer control. Their idea would "allow individual consumers to ask that some applications, such as Netflix, receive priority treatment over other services, such as e-mail or online video games. That's different from the FCC's current proposal, which tacitly allows Internet providers to charge content companies for priority access to consumers but doesn't give the consumers a choice in the matter." AT&T said, "Such an approach would preserve the ability of Internet service providers to engage in individualized negotiations with [content companies] for a host of services, while prohibiting the precise practice that has raised 'fast lane' concerns." It's not perfect, but it's probably the first earnest attempt at a compromise we've seen from either side, and it suggests the discussion can move forward without completely rejecting one group's wishes.

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NSW Police Named as FinFisher Spyware Users

SlashDot - Tue, 09/16/2014 - 04:25
Bismillah writes Wikileaks' latest release of documents shows that the Australian New South Wales police force has spent millions on licenses for the FinFisher set of law enforcement spy- and malware tools — and still has active licenses. What it uses FinFisher, which has been deployed against dissidents by oppressive regimes, for is yet to be revealed. NSW Police spokesperson John Thompson said it would not be appropriate to comment "given this technology relates to operational capability".

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Why Apple Should Open-Source Swift -- But Won't

SlashDot - Tue, 09/16/2014 - 02:31
snydeq writes: Faster innovation, better security, new markets — the case for opening Swift might be more compelling than Apple will admit, writes Peter Wayner. "In recent years, creators of programming languages have gone out of their way to get their code running on as many different computers as possible. This has meant open-sourcing their tools and doing everything they could to evangelize their work. Apple has never followed the same path as everyone else. The best course may be to open up Swift to everyone, but that doesn't mean Apple will. Nor should we assume that giving us something for free is in Apple's or (gasp) our best interests. The question of open-sourcing a language like Swift is trickier than it looks."

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MIT's Cheetah Robot Runs Untethered

SlashDot - Tue, 09/16/2014 - 01:12
An anonymous reader writes: It's easy to make a robot walk, but hard to keep it from falling over. We've seen a number of crazy robot prototypes, but they're usually tethered and/or stuck on a treadmill. Now, researchers from MIT have developed an algorithm that allows their giant robot cheetah to run around outdoors at up to 10mph. They expect the robot to eventually hit speeds of 30mph. "The key to the bounding algorithm is in programming each of the robot's legs to exert a certain amount of force in the split second during which it hits the ground, in order to maintain a given speed: In general, the faster the desired speed, the more force must be applied to propel the robot forward. ... Kim says that by adapting a force-based approach, the cheetah-bot is able to handle rougher terrain, such as bounding across a grassy field." The MIT cheetah-bot also runs on a custom electric motor, which makes it significantly quieter than gas-powered robots. "Our robot can be silent and as efficient as animals. The only things you hear are the feet hitting the ground."

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The Growing Illusion of Single Player Gaming

SlashDot - Mon, 09/15/2014 - 23:08
An anonymous reader writes: Multiplayer modes used to be an extra part of most games — an optional addition that the developers could build (or not) as they saw fit. These days, it's different: many games are marketed under the illusion of being single-player, when their focus has shifted to an almost mandatory multiplayer mode. (Think always-online DRM, and games as services.) It's not that this is necessarily bad for gameplay — it's that design patterns are shifting, and if you don't like multiplayer, you're going to have a harder time finding games you do like. The article's author uses a couple recent major titles as backdrop for the discussion: "With both Diablo III and Destiny, I'm not sure where and how to attribute my enjoyment. Yes, the mechanics of both are sound, but given the resounding emptiness felt when played solo, perhaps the co-op element is compensating. I'd go so far as to argue games can be less mechanically compelling, so long as the multiplayer element is engaging. The thrill of barking orders at friends can, in a way, cover design flaws. I hem and haw on the quality of each game's mechanics because the co-op aspect literally distracted me from engaging with them to some degree."

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