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Sci-Fi

Frank Herbert's Dune, 50 Years On 18 18

An anonymous reader writes: This October will be the 50th anniversary of Frank Herbert's massively popular and influential sci-fi novel Dune. The Guardian has written a piece examining its effects on the world at large, and how the book remains relevant even now. Quoting: 'Books read differently as the world reforms itself around them, and the Dune of 2015 has geopolitical echoes that it didn't in 1965, before the oil crisis and 9/11. ... As Paul's destiny becomes clear to him, he begins to have visions 'of fanatic legions following the green and black banner of the Atreides, pillaging and burning across the universe in the name of their prophet Muad'Dib.' If Paul accepts this future, he will be responsible for 'the jihad's bloody swords,' unleashing a nomad war machine that will up-end the corrupt and oppressive rule of the emperor Shaddam IV (good) but will kill untold billions (not so good) in the process. In 2015, the story of a white prophet leading a blue-eyed brown-skinned horde of jihadis against a ruler called Shaddam produces a weird funhouse mirror effect, as if someone has jumbled up recent history and stuck the pieces back together in a different order."
Build

When Nerds Do BBQ 38 38

Rick Zeman writes: On this 4th of July, the day when Americans flock to their grills and smokers, Wired has a fascinating article on a computerized smoker designed by Harvard engineering students. They say, "In prototype form, the smoker looks like a combination of a giant pepper mill, a tandoori oven, and V.I.N.CENT from The Black Hole. It weighs 300 pounds. It has a refueling chute built into the side of it. And it uses a proportional-integral-derivative controller, a Raspberry Pi, and fans to regulate its own temperature, automatically producing an ideal slow-and-low burn."

After cooking >200 lbs of brisket while fine-tuning the design, the students concluded, "Old-school pitmasters are like, 'I cook mine in a garbage can,' and there's a point of pride in that. A lot of the cutting edge is when you take an art form and drag it back onto scientific turf and turn it into an algorithm. I don't think we've diluted the artistic component with this."
The Almighty Buck

Ask Slashdot: How Much Did Your Biggest Tech Mistake Cost? 145 145

NotQuiteReal writes: What is the most expensive piece of hardware you broke (I fried a $2500 disk drive once, back when 400MB was $2500) or what software bug did you let slip that caused damage? (No comment on the details — but about $20K cost to a client.) Did you lose your job over it? If you worked on the Mars probe that crashed, please try not to be the First Post, that would scare off too many people!
Transportation

Why Electric Vehicles Aren't More Popular 278 278

An anonymous reader writes: Ars takes a look at a recent report from the National Academy of Sciences into the reasons why more people aren't driving electric vehicles. Of course infrastructure issues are a part of it — until charging stations are ubiquitous, the convenience factor for using a gas-powered car will weigh heavily on consumers's minds. (This despite the prevalence of outlets at home and work, where the vast majority of charging will be done even with better infrastructure.) But other reasons are much more tractable. Simply giving somebody experience with an EV tends to make the fog of mystery surrounding them dissipate, and the design of the car counts for a lot, too. It turns out car buyers don't want their EVs to look different from regular cars.
Transportation

Solar Impulse 2 Completes Record-Breaking Flight 16 16

An anonymous reader writes: Solar Impulse 2, the airplane powered only by the sun's light, has completed its flight from Japan to Hawaii. The distance sets the record for manned, solar-powered flight, both by distance (7,200 km, according to the BBC) and by time spent aloft (118 hours). This was one leg in a longer journey to fly around the world, and by far the longest they've attempted. Their next leg will send them across the rest of the Pacific Ocean, landing in Phoenix, Arizona. Then they'll stop off at New York before crossing the Atlantic Ocean on their way back to the journey's starting point, Abu Dhabi. Pilot Andre Borschberg was in good shape, despite spending almost five consecutive days in command of the aircraft. He was only allowed to sleep for up to 20 minutes at a time, so he took about a dozen naps every day. He did this at an altitude of 9,000 meters, and while taking medication to prevent thrombosis. Borschberg's partner, Bertrand Piccard, will fly the aircraft during the next leg to Phoenix. This will happen as soon as the plane is checked out and meteorologists think the weather will be placid enough for a safe crossing.
United States

Wired Cautions Would-Be Drone Photogs on the 4th 55 55

Last year's spectacular but unauthorized you-are-there video from the inside of a fireworks display has probably inspired quite a few people to try getting their own bird's-eye view this year. Wired cautions photographers, though, that many municipalities have specifically banned (and some will be looking for) unauthorized airborne visitors, and that the FAA's guidelines for legal flight are tricky to comply with during a fireworks show. This is both because it's hard to maintain visual contact with a drone amid the dark and smoke of a show, and because of the altitude at which many commercial firework shells burst. In addition, even if a drone photo mission goes under the radar vis-a-vis local authorities, if resulting footage appears on an ad-supported site, like YouTube, the FAA may be a bit more interested than the pilot would like.
Games

Someone Will Die Playing a Game In Virtual Reality 102 102

SlappingOysters writes: Grab It has detailed a hands-on session with horror VR title Kitchen — from Resident Evil creator Capcom — and argues how the physical reaction to the experience could lead to death. The site also believes that classifying VR games will be a challenge and many titles could be banned. Virtual Reality has a big year ahead, with the HTC Vive, Oculus Rift and Project Morpheus all set to release, while Microsoft is working on the HoloLens, which the site argues adds a further challenge to traditional gaming.
AI

Machine Learning System Detects Emotions and Suicidal Behavior 26 26

An anonymous reader writes with word as reported by The Stack of a new machine learning technology under development at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology "which can identify emotion in text messages and email, such as sarcasm, irony and even antisocial or suicidal thoughts." Computer science student Eden Saig, the system's creator, explains that in text and email messages, many of the non-verbal cues (like facial expression) that we use to interpret language are missing. His software applies semantic analysis to those online communications and tries to figure out their emotional import and context by looking for word patterns (not just more superficial markers like emoticons or explicit labels like "[sarcasm]"), and can theoretically identify clues of threatening or self-destructive behavior.
Movies

How To Design Robot Overlords For "Robot Overlords" 14 14

Hallie Siegel writes: Ever wonder how they make robots look so awesomely real in movies? Visual effects expert Graham Edwards goes behind the scenes with the makers of Robot Overlords to take you through the development of the robots in this movie, from script development and sketches, to filming and post FX. Really cool to see how these robots come to life.
Crime

In Response to Open Letter, France Rejects Asylum For Julian Assange 125 125

Several outlets report that Julian Assange has requested, but been denied, political asylum in France, by means of an open letter published by Le Monde. From The Globe and Mail's coverage, linked above: Less than an hour after his letter was published by Le Monde's website, Hollande's office issued a statement saying the asylum request was rejected.

"France has received the letter from Mr. Assange. An in-depth review shows that in view of the legal and material elements of Mr Assange's situation, France cannot grant his request," the statement said.

"The situation of Mr. Assange does not present any immediate danger. He is also the target of a European arrest warrant," it noted.

Assange wrote in the letter that his youngest child is French, and so is the child’s mother. "I haven't been able to see them in five years, since the political persecution against me started," he said.
Worth noting: Assange's legal team says that Assange's letter has been mischaracterized, and that it is in fact not a request for asylum per se; instead, they assert, the letter merely expresses Assange's "willingness 'to be hosted in France if and only if an initiative was taken by the competent authorities.'"
Google

Japanese Court Orders Google To Delete Past Reports Of Man's Molestation Arrest 197 197

AmiMoJo writes: The Saitama District Court has ordered Google Inc. to delete past reports on a man's arrest over molestation from its online search results after ruling that they violate the man's personal rights. The man, who was arrested about three years ago after molesting a girl under 18, and fined 500,000 yen (£2600, $4000). "He harbors remorse over the incident and is leading a new life. The search results prevent him from rehabilitating himself," the man's defense counsel said. The presiding judge recognized that the incident was not of historical or social significance, that the man is not in public office and that his offense was relatively minor. He concluded there was little public interest in keeping such reports displayed online three years after the incident. The judge acknowledged that search engines play a public role in assisting people's right to know. (AmiMoJo spotted the story on Surado, the new name for Slashdot Japan.)
Cellphones

Turing Near Ready To Ship World's First Liquid Metal Android Smartphone 79 79

MojoKid writes: Liquid Metal is an alloy metal (technically, bulk metallic glass) that manages to combine the best features of a wide variety of materials into one product. Liquid Metal also has high corrosion resistance, high tensile strength, remarkable anti-wear characteristics and can also be heat-formed. Given its unique properties, Liquid Metal has been used in a number of industries, including in smartphones. Historically, it has been limited to small-scale applications and pieces parts, not entire products. However, Turing Robotic Industries (TRI) just announced pre-orders for the world's first liquid metal-frame smartphone. The Turing Phone uses its own brand of Liquid Metal called Liquidmorphium, which provides excellent shock absorption characteristics. So instead of making a dent in the smartphone casing or cracking/chipping like plastic when dropped, a Turing Phone should in theory "shake it off" while at the same time protecting the fragile display from breaking. The Turing Phone does not come cheap, however, with pricing starting at $610 for a 16GB model and escalating quickly to $740 and $870 respectively for the 64GB and 128GB models, unlocked. Pre-orders open up on July 31.
Piracy

FBI Wants Pirate Bay Logs For Criminal Investigation Into Copyright Trolls 72 72

the simurgh writes: It has been revealed today that In the past few months, two of the Pirate Bay co-founders have been repeatedly questioned by Swedish authorities, acting on behalf of the FBI. The internet now has clear evidence that Prenda is indeed being investigated by the U.S. Government for uploading their own copyrighted content in torrents placed onto The Pirate Bay, for the sole purpose of creating a honeypot trap to sue over pirated downloads.
Programming

Clang Plays Tetris -- Tetris As a C++ Template Metaprogram 60 60

New submitter mjvzb writes: Ever wish compiling was more fun? Well, I recently implemented Tetris as a C++ template metaprogram (code at Github). The game is played by recompiling its source, taking player input by compiler flag. The runtime program is only needed to print the game screen to the console and save the game state across compiler runs.

Implementing Tetris in templates is not as horrific as you may imagine, and I've put together a post covering the details. Once you get over the syntax, C++ metaprogramming is just like functional programming.
Biotech

3-D Ultrasonic Fingerprint Scanning Could Strengthen Smartphone Security 30 30

Zothecula sends news that researchers from the University of California are developing new fingerprint scanning technology that could one day enhance the security of mobile devices. The new technique scans a fingertip in 3D, capturing the tiny ridges and valleys that make up a fingerprint, as well as the tissue beneath the surface. This guards against attackers unlocking a device with an image of the fingerprint, or by attempting to dust the scanner. The basic concepts behind the researchers’ technology are akin to those of medical ultrasound imaging. They created a tiny ultrasound imager, designed to observe only a shallow layer of tissue near the finger’s surface. "Ultrasound images are collected in the same way that medical ultrasound is conducted," said [Professor David] Horsley. "Transducers on the chip’s surface emit a pulse of ultrasound, and these same transducers receive echoes returning from the ridges and valleys of your fingerprint’s surface." The basis for the ultrasound sensor is an array of MEMS ultrasound devices with highly uniform characteristics, and therefore very similar frequency response characteristics. ... To fabricate their imager, the group employed existing microelectromechanical systems (MEMS) technology, which smartphones rely on for such functions as microphones and directional orientation. They used a modified version of the manufacturing process used to make the MEMS accelerometer and gyroscope found in the iPhone and many other consumer electronics devices.
Hardware Hacking

Ask Slashdot: What Is Your Most Unusual Hardware Hack? 169 169

An anonymous reader writes: Another Slashdotter recently asked what kind of things someone can power with an external USB battery. I have a followup along those lines: what kind of modifications have you made to your gadgets to do things that they were never meant to do? Consider old routers, cell phones, monitors, etc. that have absolutely no use or value anymore in their intended form. What can you do with them? Have you ever done something stupid and damaged your electronics?
Graphics

Square Enix Pulls, Apologizes For Mac Version of Final Fantasy XIV 84 84

_xeno_ writes: Just over a week after Warner Bros. pulled the PC version of Batman: Arkham Knight due to bugs, Square Enix is now being forced to do the same thing with the Mac OS X version of Final Fantasy XIV (which was released at the same time as Batman: Arkham Knight). The rather long note explaining the decision apologizes for releasing the port before it was ready and blames OS X and OpenGL for the discrepancy between the game's performance on identical Mac hardware running Windows. It's unclear when (or even if) Square Enix will resume selling an OS X version — the note indicates that the development team is hopeful that "[w]ith the adoption of DirectX 11 for Mac, and the replacement of OpenGL with a new graphics API in Apple's next OS, the fundamental gap in current performance issues may soon be eliminated." (I'm not sure what "the adoption of DirectX 11 for Mac" refers to. OS X gaining DirectX 11 support is news to me — and, I suspect, Microsoft.) Given that the game supports the aging PS3 console, you'd think the developers would be able to find a way to get the same graphics as the PS3 version on more powerful Mac OS X hardware.
The Almighty Buck

Leased LEDs and Energy Service Contracts can Cut Electric Bills (Video) 49 49

I first heard of Consumer Energy Solutions from a non-profit's IT guy who was boasting about how he got them to lease him LED bulbs for their parking lot and the security lights at their equipment lot -- pretty much all their outdoor lighting -- for a lot less than their monthly savings on electricity from replacing most of their Halogen, fluorescent, and other less-efficient lights with LEDs. What made this a big deal to my friend was that no front money was required. It's one thing to tell a town council or non-profit board, "If we spend $180,000 on LEDs we'll save it all back in five years" (or whatever). It's another thing to say, "We can lease LEDs for all our outdoor lighting for $4,000 per month and save $8,000 on electricity right away." That gets officials to prick up their ears in a hurry.Then there are energy service contracts, essentially buying electricity one, two or three years in advance. This business got a bad name from Enron and their energy wholesaling business, but despite that single big blast of negative publicity, it grows a little each year. And the LED lease business? In many areas, governments and utility companies actually subsidize purchases of anything that cuts electricity use. Totally worth checking out.

But why, you might ask, is this on Slashdot? Because some of our readers own stacks of servers (or work for companies that own stacks of servers) and need to know they don't have to pay whatever their local electric utility demands, but can shop for better electricity prices in today's deregulated electricity market. And while this conversation was with one person in this business, we are not pushing his company. As interviewee Patrick Clouden says at the end of the interview, it's a competitive business. So if you want the best deal, you'd better shop around. One more thing: the deregulated utility market, with its multitude of suppliers, peak and off-peak pricing, and (often) minute-by-minute price changes, takes excellent software (possibly written by someone like you) to negotiate, so this business niche might be one an entrepreneurial software developer should explore.
Media

Rumblefish Claims It Owns 'America the Beautiful' By United States Navy Band 87 87

ptorrone writes: Adafruit is now shipping the USA-made open-source Arduinos. In celebration Ladyada the engineer posted an Arduino rotating in front of an American flag with the public domain "America the Beautiful" by the United States Navy Band as background music. Adafruit immediately received notice from from YouTube stating that the song is owned by Rumblefish. Rumblefish previously claimed to own copyright to ambient birdsongs, too.
Nintendo

A Look At the Rare Hybrid Console Built By Sony and Nintendo 36 36

An anonymous reader writes: Long before Sony and Nintendo were rivals, the two companies were partners for a brief time. In 1988 the duo started work on SNES-CD, a video game media format that was supposed to augment the cartridge-based SNES by adding support for higher-capacity CDs. In 1991 at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Sony introduced the "Play Station" (yes, with a space) but it never saw the light of day. Now, more than two decades later, Imgur user DanDiebold has uploaded images of the unreleased console. This particular model (about 200 Play Station prototypes were created) confirms that the system was supposed to be compatible with existing SNES titles as well as titles to be released in the SNES-CD format. In other words, it would have been the world's first hybrid console: game developers and gamers alike would be able to use both SNES cartridges and CDs. If you want to learn more about this particular prototype, check out the following thread on Assembler Games.