Timothy Lord starts this video with these words: "Sensors are a big deal at CES this year. They are small devices that track everything from the location of your pets to how many steps you have taken today." And so he chatted with Phillip Bolliger, founder of Swiss company Koubachi AG, which makes Wi-Fi sensors that help you give your plants the right amount of water and light and to keep them at the right temperature. As of this writing, the prices on their online store are in Euros, not dollars, but the sensors are now available through Amazon with U.S. pricing. Koubachi also has a free app for your iOS device, and a Facebook app for your computer or Android device, that will help you give your plants the right amount of fertilizer and other love even if you don't buy a Koubachi sensor.
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Orome1 writes "Barracuda Networks has released firmware updates that remove SSH backdoors in a number of their products and resolve a vulnerability in Barracuda SSL VPN that allows attackers to bypass access restrictions to download potentially insecure files, set new admins passwords, or even shut down the device. The backdoor accounts are present on in all available versions of Barracuda Spam and Virus Firewall, Web Filter, Message Archiver, Web Application Firewall, Link Balancer, Load Balancer, and SSL VPN appliances." Here's Barracuda's tech note about the exploitable holes.
Titus Andronicus writes "fuse-exfat, a GPLv3 implementation of the exFAT file system for Linux, FreeBSD, and OS X, has reached 1.0 status, according to an announcement from Andrew Nayenko, the primary developer. exFAT is a file system designed for sneaker-netting terabyte-scale files and groups of files on flash drives and memory cards between and among Windows, OS X, and consumer electronics devices. It was introduced by Microsoft in late 2006. Will fuse-exfat cut into Microsoft's juicy exFAT licensing revenue? Will Microsoft litigate fuse-exfat's developers and users into patent oblivion? Will there be a DKMS dynamic kernel module version of the software, similar to the ZFS on Linux project? All that remains to be seen. ReadWrite, The H, and Phoronix cover the story."
Un pobre guey writes "'To understand the impact technology is having on middle-class jobs in developed countries, the AP analyzed employment data from 20 countries; tracked changes in hiring by industry, pay and task; compared job losses and gains during recessions and expansions over the past four decades; and interviewed economists, technology experts, robot manufacturers, software developers, entrepreneurs and people in the labor force who ranged from CEOs to the unemployed.' Their findings: Technology has consistently reduced the number of manufacturing jobs for 30 years; people with repetitive jobs have been easy to replace in the past, and task jugglers like managers and supervisors will be likely targets in the future; companies in the S&P 500 have expanded their business and increased profits, but reduced staffing, thanks to tech; and startups are launching much more easily these days. The response to the article includes the dutifully repeated bad-government-is-at-fault and don't-worry-it's-like-the-Industrial-Revolution memes. But what if this time it's different? What if delegating everything to machines is a radical and fundamental new change in the course of human history?"
SternisheFan sends news of researchers who encoded an MP3, a PDF, a JPG, and a TXT file into DNA, along with another file that explains the encoding. The researchers estimate the storage density of this technique at 2.2 petabytes per gram (abstract). "We knew we needed to make a code using only short strings of DNA, and to do it in such a way that creating a run of the same letter would be impossible. So we figured, let's break up the code into lots of overlapping fragments going in both directions, with indexing information showing where each fragment belongs in the overall code, and make a coding scheme that doesn't allow repeats. That way, you would have to have the same error on four different fragments for it to fail – and that would be very rare," said one of the study's authors. "We've created a code that's error tolerant using a molecular form we know will last in the right conditions for 10 000 years, or possibly longer," said another.
Decatxt chording keyboard may be new and exciting to him, and he says has a patent on it so apparently the USPTO found it novel and original, but it's not the first chording keyboard by many long shots. The idea has been around (at least) since 1968. And let's not forget Braille chording keyboards, as described in a 1992 IEEE paper. And if you have an iPhone and want to experiment with a virtual Braille chording keyboard, there's an app for that. Maybe we're just jaded. Or maybe we've known a lot of blind people who used one-handed Braille chording keyboards to type as fast with one hand as a sighted person using a QWERTY keyboard and two hands. So it's hard for us to get excited about a chording keyboard. Be that as it may, we wish Wayne Rasanen all the luck in the world as he brings his invention to market.
coop0030 writes "Open source hardware company Adafruit has announced a new tiny wearable electronics platform board called the Gemma. The Gemma is a tiny, 1-inch diameter and 4-mm thick package. It's powered by an Attiny85 and programmable with an Arduino IDE over USB. There are three available I/O pins, one of which is also an analog input and two of which can do PWM output. Gemma is currently wrapping up development, but should be available soon."
Zothecula writes "Given that most real-life superheroes don't have the budget of Tony Stark or Bruce Wayne, you would assume that their gadgetry wouldn't be quite on par with what we're used to seeing in the movies. German cyber weapons hobbyist Patrick Priebe, however, has built his own working laser gauntlet... just like the one made famous by a certain Iron Man."
kkleiner writes "No longer will they say, 'He's going to end up flipping burgers.' Now, robots are taking even these ignobly esteemed jobs. San Francisco based Momentum Machines makes a robot called the Alpha that can churn out 360 gourmet burgers per hour. The company plans on launching the first ever burger restaurant chain with a cook staff made entirely of robots. You think Americans are obese right now? Just wait."
mynamestolen writes "In order to read paper-based books many visually impaired people want to attach a webcam to a computer and attach the computer to a TV. Some Electronic Magnifiers are purpose-built to provide a similar solution. Different organisations around the world (such as in the UK) have help pages. But I have not been able to find a guide to set up my own system. So I'm asking Slashdot readers how to go about it. What is the best camera to use if I want to hold the camera in my hand and point it at book or magazine? What parameters should I adjust, either in the software or on the camera? Depth of view, refresh rates, contrast, color balance and resolution might be key problems. My system is Linux and getting drivers for a good camera might also be a problem."
Nerval's Lobster writes "For quite some time Mozilla has been working on Firefox OS, a lightweight mobile OS built in HTML5. Now it's whipped the curtain back from the first developer preview phones. The developer preview phones are unlocked, requiring the user insert their own SIM card. If those specs seem a little underpowered compared to other smartphones on the market, it's because Firefox OS is intended for lower-end smartphones; target markets include developing countries such as Brazil and China. (The first developer preview phones will be available in February.) The Firefox OS (once known as 'Boot to Gecko') is based on a handful of open APIs. The actual interface is highly reminiscent of Google Android and Apple iOS, with grids of icons linked to applications." The specs really aren't that bad; reader sfcrazy points out that they include the usual features baked into medium- and high-end phones these days: Wifi N, light and proximity sensors, and an accelerometer (though no mention of NFC).
Nerval's Lobster writes "Last week, Facebook announced Graph Search, a system for searching the social network's vast collection of users, photos, and 'Liked' interests. But how will Facebook power it? The Disaggregated Rack, which will separate compute, RAM, storage, and caching functions in order to remain flexible in the face of Graph Search's changing needs. By breaking up resources and scaling them independently of each other, Facebook can scale without needing to constantly open up new servers and upgrade new hardware."
Will the Open Compute Project’s Common Slot specification and Facebook’s Group Hug board commoditize the data center hardware market even further? Analyst opinions vary widely, indicating that time and additional development work may be necessary before any sort of consensus is reached. At the Open Compute Summit last week, Frank Frankovsky, director of hardware design and supply chain operations at Facebook, announced both the Open Slot specification and Facebook’s prototype Open Slot board, known as “Group Hug.” Group Hug’s premise is simple: disaggregate the CPU in a way that allows virtually any processor to be linked to the motherboard. This has never been done before with a CPU, which has traditionally required its own socket, its own chipset, and thus its own motherboard. Group Hug is designed to accommodate CPUs from AMD, Intel, and even ARM vendors such as Applied Micro and Calxeda.
Zothecula writes "Scientists based at Empa, the Swiss Federal Laboratories for Materials Science and Technology, have set a new efficiency record for thin-film copper indium gallium (di)selenid (or CIGS) based solar cells on flexible polymer foils, reaching an efficiency of 20.4 percent. This is an increase from a previous record of 18.7 percent set by the team back in 2011."
Kim Dotcom's new "Mega" cloud service appears to be a hit. According to Dotcom over 1 million have signed up for their free 50 gigabytes of storage. Although that is about 1% of the Dropbox user base, it's not a bad start. From the article: "Mega quickly jumped up to around 100,000 users within an hour or so of the site's official launch. A few hours after that, Mega had ballooned up to approximately a quarter of a million users. Demand was great enough to knock Mega offline for a number of users attempting to either connect up or sign up for new accounts, and Mega's availability remains spotty as of this articles' writing."