Google Helped Cause the Mysterious Increase In 911 Calls SF Asked It To Solve 3

theodp writes: Android users have long complained publicly that it's way too easy to accidentally dial 911. So it's pretty astonishing that it took a team of Google Researchers and San Francisco Department of Emergency Management government employees to figure out that butt-dialing was increasing the number of 911 calls. The Google 9-1-1 Team presented its results in How Googlers helped San Francisco Use Data Science to Understand a Surge in 911 Calls , a Google-sponsored presentation at the Code for America Summit, and in San Francisco's 9-1-1 Call Volume Increase , an accompanying 26-page paper.

Mozilla Sets Out Its Proposed Principles For Content Blocking ( 41

Mark Wilson writes: With Apple embracing ad blocking and the likes of AdBlock Plus proving more popular than ever, content blocking is making the headlines at the moment. There are many sides to the debate about blocking ads — revenue for sites, privacy concerns for visitors, speeding up page loads times (Google even allows for the display of ads with its AMP Project), and so on — but there are no signs that it is going to go away. Getting in on the action, Mozilla has set out what it believes are some reasonable principles for content blocking that will benefit everyone involved. Three cornerstones have been devised with a view to ensuring that content providers and content consumers get a fair deal, and you can help to shape how they develop.

SIgn Of the Times: Calif. Privacy Protections Signed Into Law 15

The EFF reports a spot of bright news from California: Governor Jerry Brown today signed into law the California Electronic Communications Privacy Act. CalECPA, says the organization, "protects Californians by requiring a warrant for digital records, including emails and texts, as well as a user's geographical location. These protections apply not only to your devices, but to online services that store your data. Only two other states have so far offered these protections: Maine and Utah." The ACLU provides a fact sheet (PDF) about what the bill entails, which says: SB 178 will ensure that, in most cases, the police must obtain a warrant from a judge before accessing a person's private information, including data from personal electronic devices, email, digital documents, text messages, and location information. The bill also includes thoughtful exceptions to ensure that law enforcement can continue to effectively and efficiently protect public safety in emergency situations. Notice and enforcement provisions in the bill provide proper transparency and judicial oversight to ensure that the law is followed.

Dell Brings 4K InfinityEdge Display To XPS 15 Line, GeForce GPU, Under 4 Pounds ( 29

MojoKid writes: There's no doubt that Dell's new XPS 13 notebook, when it debuted earlier this year, was very well received. Dell managed to cram a 13.3-inch 3200x1800 QHD+ display into a 12-inch carbon fiber composite frame. Dell has now brought that same InfinityEdge display technology to its larger XPS 15, which the company boasts has the same footprint as a 14-inch notebook. But Dell didn't just stay the course with the QHD+ resolution from the smaller XPS 13; the company instead is offering an optional UltraSharp 4K Ultra HD panel with 8 million pixels and 282 pixels per inch (PPI). The 350-nit display allows for 170-degree viewing angles and has 100 percent minimum Adobe RGB color. Dell also beefed up the XPS 15's internals, giving it sixth generation Intel Core processors (Skylake), support for up to 16GB of memory and storage options that top out with a 1TB SSD. Graphics duties are handled by either integrated Intel HD Graphics 530 or a powerful GeForce GTX 960M processor that is paired with 2GB GDDR5 memory. And all of this squeaks in at under 4 pounds.

Man Behind Week-Long Bitcoin Attacks Reveals Himself 31

An anonymous reader writes: A Russian man that calls himself "Alister Maclin" has been disrupting the Bitcoin network for over a week, creating duplicate transactions, and annoying users. According to Bitcoin experts, the attack was not dangerous and is the equivalent of "spam" on the Bitcoin blockchain servers, known in the industry as a "malleability attack," creating duplicate transactions, but not affecting Bitcoin funds. Maclin recently gave an interview to Vice.

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Complex Living Brain Simulation Replicates Sensory Rat Behaviour ( 25

New submitter physick writes: The Blue Brain project at EPFL, Switzerland today published the results of more than 10 years work in reconstructing a cellular model of a piece of the somatosensory cortex of a juvenile rat. The paper in Cell describes the process of painstakingly assembling tens of thousands of digital neurons, establishing the location of their synapses, and simulating the resulting neocortical microcircuit on an IBM Blue Gene supercomputer. “This is a first draft reconstruction of a piece of neocortex and it’s beautiful,” said Henry Markram, director of the Blue Brain Project at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Lausanne. “It’s like a fundamental building block of the brain.”

How Analog Tide Predictors Changed Human History ( 21

szczys writes: You'd think Tide prediction would be quite easy, it comes in, it goes out. But of course it's driven by gravity between the moon and earth and there's a lot more to it. Today, computer models make this easy, but before computers we used incredible analog machines to predict the tides. The best of these machines were the deciding factor in setting a date for the Allies landing in Europe leading to the end of the second world war. From the Hackaday story: "In England, tide prediction was handled by Arthur Thomas Doodson from the Liverpool Tidal Institute. It was Doodson who made the tidal predictions for the Allied invasion at Normandy. Doodson needed access to local tide data, but the British only had information for the nearby ports. Factors like the shallow water effect and local weather impact on tidal behavior made it impossible to interpolate for the landing sites based on the port data. The shallow water effect could really throw off the schedule for demolishing the obstacles if the tide rose too quickly. Secret British reconnaissance teams covertly collected shallow water data at the enemy beaches and sent it to Doodson for analysis. To further complicate things, the operatives couldn’t just tell Doodson that the invasion was planned for the beaches of Normandy. So he had to figure it out from the harmonic constants sent to him by William Ian Farquharson, superintendent of tides at the Hydrographic Office of the Royal Navy. He did so using the third iteration of Kelvin’s predictor along with another machine. These were kept in separate rooms lest they be taken out by the same bomb.

In Midst of a Tech Boom, Seattle Tries To Keep Its Soul 225 writes: Nick Wingfield has an interesting article in the NYT about how Seattle, Austin, Boulder, Portland, and other tech hubs around the country are seeking not to emulate San Francisco where wealth has created a widely envied economy, but housing costs have skyrocketed, and the region's economic divisions have deepened with rent for a one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco at more than $3,500 a month, the highest in the country. "Seattle has wanted to be San Francisco for so long," says Knute Berger. "Now it's figuring out maybe that it isn't what we want to be." The core of the debate is over affordable housing and the worry that San Francisco is losing artists, teachers and its once-vibrant counterculture. "It's not that we don't want to be a thriving tech center — we do," says Alan Durning. "It's that the San Francisco and Silicon Valley communities have gotten themselves into a trap where preservationists and local politics have basically guaranteed buying a house will cost at least $1 million. Already in Seattle, it costs half-a-million, so we're well on our way."

Seattle mayor Ed Murray says he wants to keep the working-class roots of Seattle, a city with a major port, fishing fleet and even a steel mill. After taking office last year, Murray made the minimum-wage increase a priority, reassured representatives of the city's manufacturing and maritime industries that Seattle needed them., and has set a goal of creating 50,000 homes — 40 percent of them affordable for low-income residents — over the next decade. "We can hopefully create enough affordable housing so we don't find ourselves as skewed by who lives in the city as San Francisco is," says Murray. "We're at a crossroads," says Roger Valdez. "One path leads to San Francisco, where you have an incredibly regulated and stagnant housing economy that can't keep up with demand. The other path is something different, the Seattle way."

University of Cape Town Team Breaks World Water Rocketry Record ( 20

New submitter Cycliclogic writes: A team of engineers based at the University of Cape Town recently had their record breaking flights of their water powered rocket Ascension III ratified by the Water Rocket Achievement World Record Association. This record is for a single stage rocket power purely on pressurized water. Two launches must be completed within two hours, the record being set at the mean above-ground altitude of the two flights. The record now stands at a whopping 2723 Feet (830m). You can watch videos of the launches here. (Warning: they're loud.)

Volkswagen Boss Blames Software Engineers For Scandal ( 341

hattig writes: Today VW's Michael Horn is testifying to Congress and has blamed the recent scandal on engineers saying: "It's the decision of a couple of software engineers, not the board members." However, 530,000 cars in the U.S. will need to be recalled for significant engine modifications, not a software fix. Only 80,000 Passats are eligible for the software fix. There is no word on the effects these modifications will have on the cars' performance, fuel consumption, etc. The BBC reports: "The issue of defeat devices at VW has been a historic problem, points out a Congress panel member questioning VW US chief Michael Horn. In 1974, VW had a run-in with US authorities regarding the use of defeat devices in 1974, and in December 2014 it recalled cars to address nox emissions."

Former Reuters Media Editor Found Guilty of Helping Anonymous Hack Into LA Times ( 32

An anonymous reader writes: Prolific tweeter and former Reuters social media editor Matthew Keys, charged with computer hacking under the Computer Fraud & Abuse Act, was found guilty today on all counts and faces up to 25 years in prison when sentenced in January. Wired reports: "According to authorities, during a recorded FBI interview with Keys in October 2012 at his home, prior to his indictment, he admitted to his involvement in the hacking of the L.A. Times, and to sending a series of disparaging, sometimes threatening e-mails to a former employer. Keys waived his Miranda rights at the time of the interview and was concerned that the case not be publicized, apparently believing he might get off as a cooperating witness."

'Voices From Chernobyl' Author Svetlana Alexievich Wins Lit Nobel ( 35

Lawrence Bottorff writes: The author of Voices from Chernobyl: The Oral History of a Nuclear Disaster, Svetlana Alexievich, has won the Nobel Prize in Literature. It's somewhat surprising, since she is an investigative journalist and not a fiction writer/novelist. And yet her "novels in voices" style, as the Nobel jurists believe, clearly has a literary impact. Here's what a review from the Journal of Nuclear Medicine says about Voices from Chernobyl:

"Alexievich was a journalist living in Minsk, the capital of Belarus, at the time of the Chernobyl accident. Instead of choosing the usual approach of trying to quantify a disaster in terms of losses and displacement, the author chose instead to interview more than 500 eyewitnesses over a span of 10 years. ... It tells us about the psychologic and personal tragedy of the modern-day nuclear disaster. It is about the experiences of individuals and how the disaster affected their lives."

Although the Nobel Prize in Literature is awarded based on "lifetime work" rather than an individual book, Voices... is her best-known and most celebrated work.


Volvo Will Accept Liability For Self-Driving Car Crashes ( 177

An anonymous reader writes: Volvo has announced it will accept "full liability" for accidents when one of its cars is driving autonomously. It joins Mercedes and Google in this claim, hoping to convince regulators that it's worthwhile to allow testing of such vehicles on public roads. Volvo's CTO said, "Everybody is aware of the fact that driverless technology will never be perfect — one day there will be an accident. So the question becomes who is responsible and we think it's unrealistic to put that responsibility on our customers." Of course, this is limited to flaws in the self-driving system. If the driver does something inappropriate, or if another vehicle causes the accident, then they're still liable. It's also questionable how the courts would treat a promise for liability, but presumably this can be cleared up with agreements when customers start actually using the technology.

Not All iPhone 6s Processors Are Created Equal ( 217

itwbennett writes: Apple is splitting the manufacture of the A9 processor for its iPhone 6s between TSMC (~60%) and rival Samsung (~40%) — "and they are not created equal," writes Andy Patrizio. For starters, Chipworks noted that Samsung uses 14nm while TSMC uses 16nm. A Reddit user posted tests of a pair of 6s Plus phones and found the TSMC chip had eight hours of battery life vs. six hours for the Samsung. Meanwhile, benchmark tests from the folks at MyDriver (if Mr. Patrizio's efforts with Google Translate got it right) also found that the Samsung chip is a bigger drain on the phone's battery, while the TSMC chip is slightly faster and runs a bit cooler. So how do you know which chip you got? There's an app for that.

MIT Master's Program To Use MOOCs As 'Admissions Test' ( 98

jyosim writes: In what could usher a new way of doing college admissions at elite colleges, MIT is experimenting with weighing MOOC performance as proof that students should be accepted to on-campus programs. The idea is to fix the "inexact science" of sorting through candidates from all over the world. And it gives students a better sense of what they're getting into: "When you buy a car, you take a test drive. Wouldn't it be a great value for prospective students to take a test course before they apply?" said one academic blogger.