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Robotics

Intel Demos A New Robotics Controller Running Ubuntu (hackerboards.com) 20

Intel demoed their new robotics compute module this week. Scheduled for release in 2017, it's equipped with various sensors, including a depth-sensing camera, and it runs Ubuntu on a quad-core Atom. Slashdot reader DeviceGuru writes: Designed for researchers, makers, and robotics developers, the device is a self contained, candy-bar sized compute module ready to pop into a robot. It's augmented with a WiFi hotspot, Bluetooth, GPS, and IR, as well as proximity, motion, barometric pressure sensors. There's also a snap-on battery.

The device is preinstalled with Ubuntu 14.04 with Robot Operating System (ROS) Indigo, and can act as a supervisory processor to, say, an Arduino subsystem that controls a robot's low-level functions. Intel demoed a Euclid driven robot running an obstacle avoidance and follow-me tasks, including during CEO Brian Krzanich's keynote (YouTube video).

Intel says they'll also release instructions on how to create an accompanying robot with a 3D printer. This plug-and-play robotics module is a proof-of-concept device -- the article includes some nice pictures -- but it already supports programming in Node.js (and other high-level languages), and has a web UI that lets you monitor performance in real-time and watch the raw camera feeds.
Earth

Flaming 'Blue Whirl' Could Be Used In Fuel Spill Cleanup (sciencenews.org) 39

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Science News: An unfortunate mix of electricity and bourbon has led to a new discovery. After lightning hit a Jim Beam warehouse in 2003, a nearby lake was set ablaze when the distilled spirit spilled into the water and ignited. Spiraling tornadoes of fire leapt from the surface. In a laboratory experiment inspired by the conflagration, a team of researchers produced a new, efficiently burning fire tornado, which they named a blue whirl. To re-create the bourbon-fire conditions, the researchers, led by Elaine Oran of the University of Maryland in College Park, ignited liquid fuel floating on a bath of water. They surrounded the blaze with a cylindrical structure that funneled air into the flame to create a vortex with a height of about 60 centimeters. Eventually, the chaotic fire whirl calmed into a blue, cone-shaped flame just a few centimeters tall, the scientists report online August 4 in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. The soot-free blur whirls could be a way of burning off oil spills on water without adding much pollution to the air, the researchers say, if they can find a way to control them in the wild. You can view the clean-burning 'blue whirl' here.
Transportation

World's Largest Aircraft Completes Its First Flight (cnn.com) 187

The world's largest aircraft has finally completed its first flight after months of preparation and years of searching for funding. The Airlander 10 as it's called spent 20 minutes in the air on Wednesday, landing safely at Cardington Airfield north of London. CNNMoney reports: "Part airship, part helicopter, part plane, the 300-foot long aircraft is about 50 feet longer than the world's biggest passenger planes. The Airlander, made by British company Hybrid Air Vehicles, has four engines and no internal structure. It maintains its shape thanks to the pressure of the 38,000 cubic meters of helium inside its hull, which is made from ultralight carbon fiber. The aircraft was originally designed for U.S. military surveillance. But the project was grounded in 2013 because of defense spending cuts. [The team behind the giant blimp-like aircraft] said the aircraft could carry communications equipment or other cargo, undertake search and rescue operations, or do military and commercial survey work. The Airlander can stay airborne for up to five days at a time if manned, and for more than two weeks if unmanned. It can carry up to 10 tons of cargo at a maximum speed of 91 miles per hour. The aircraft doesn't need a runway to take off, meaning it can operate from land, snow, ice, desert and even open water." You can view the historic flight for yourself here (Warning: headphone users beware of loud sound).
ISS

Astronauts To Install A Parking Space For SpaceX and Boeing At The ISS (popularmechanics.com) 77

Since Boeing and SpaceX will begin sending NASA astronauts into orbit next year, the International Space Station is going to need a place for them to park. Astronauts Jeff Williams and Kate Rubins will journey outside the ISS on Friday to install a new docking adapter for these two private companies. Popular Mechanics reports: "Installing these adapters is a necessary step in NASA's Commercial Crew Program, which seeks to spur development of commercial crew spacecraft. The spacewalk is scheduled to begin at 8:05 a.m. on Friday, and live coverage will start at 6:30. This will be Williams' fourth spacewalk, and Rubins' first." In the meantime, you can watch this video describing exactly what the spacewalk will entail.
Intel

Intel Unveils Project Alloy 'Merged Reality' Wireless Headset (hothardware.com) 43

MojoKid writes: Intel CEO Bryan Krzanich took to the stage at the Moscone Center in San Francisco today to kick off this year's Intel Developers Forum. Kyrzanich unveiled a number of new projects and products including a product code-named "Project Alloy." The device is an un-tethered, merged reality Head Mounted Device (HMD) that combines compute, graphics, multiple RealSense modules, various sensors, and batteries into a self-contained headset that offers a full six degrees of freedom. Unlike the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive, Project Alloy does not need to be wired to a PC or other device and it does not require externally mounted sensors to define a virtual space. Instead, it uses RealSense cameras to map the actual physical world you're in while wearing the HMD. The RealSense cameras also allow the device to bring real-world objects into the virtual world, or vice versa. The cameras and sensors used in Project Alloy offer full depth sensing, so obstacles can be mapped, and people and objects within camera range -- like your hand, for example -- can be brought into the virtual world and accurately tracked. During a live, on-stage demo performed by Intel's Craig Raymond, Craig's hand was tracked and all five digits, complete with accurate bones and joint locations, were brought into the the VR/AR experience. Project Alloy will be supported by Microsoft's Windows Holographics Shell framework.
Google

Google Is Discontinuing Google+ Hangouts On Air On September 12 (venturebeat.com) 75

An anonymous reader writes: Google today quietly announced that Google+ Hangouts On Air will no longer be available on September 12. Four weeks from now, Google users will be asked to use YouTube Live instead. Google first debuted the livestreaming feature for its Hangouts group video chat on Google+ back in September 2011, though it was only available to select performers and celebrities. Google started making Hangouts On Air available to all its users in May 2012, and completed the rollout a month later. But then in May 2013, Google debuted YouTube Live, which also gradually became available to more and more users.
Classic Games (Games)

Hacked Hobbit Pinball Machine Joins IoT, Broadcasts Itself Over Twitch (lachniet.com) 45

Random web surfers could send a text message or even upload an image to be displayed on the back glass of Mark Lachniet's pinball machine, according to Mael517, while the machine itself webcast footage of both its playing field and backglass using Twitch. Interestingly, all the extra functionality was coded directly into the machine, according to Lachniet, who added only the webcam and an ethernet cord. The Hobbit [machine] has a whole bunch of hardware that I don't really understand and can barely fix... However, it has a computer in its guts, and this I can mostly understand.
After identifying the pinball machine's motherboard, CPU, operating system (Ubuntu) and an SQL database, Lachniet was able to backup its software, and then create his own modifications. He envisions more possibilities -- for example, the ability to announce high scores on social media accounts or allow remote servicing of the machine. Lachniet even sees the possibility of a world-wide registry of pinball game scores with each player's location overlaid on Google Maps "so you could view pinball hot spots and where the high scores were coming from," and maybe even networking machines together to allow real-time global competition."
Space

Fourth SpaceX Rocket Successfully Landed on A Drone Ship (theverge.com) 71

Saturday a SpaceX rocket completed the company's fourth successful landing at sea (watched by over 100,000 viewers on YouTube and Flickr). Saturday's landing means Elon Musk's company has now recovered more than half the rockets they've launched. An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes Saturday's report from The Verge: Tonight's landing was particularly challenging for SpaceX... The Falcon 9 had to carry its onboard satellite -- called JCSAT-16 -- into...a highly elliptical orbit that takes the satellite 20,000 miles out beyond Earth's surface. Getting to GTO requires a lot of speed and uses up a lot of fuel during take off, more so than getting to lower Earth orbit. That makes things difficult for the rocket landing afterward...there's less fuel leftover for the vehicle to reignite its engines and perform the necessary landing maneuvers.

CEO Elon Musk said the company is aiming to launch its first landed rocket sometime this fall...SpaceX's president, Gwynne Shotwell, estimates that reusing these landed Falcon 9 vehicles will lead to a 30 percent reduction in launch costs.

SpaceX named their drone ship "Of Course I Still Love You."
Encryption

Tor Promises Not To Build Backdoors Into Its Services (engadget.com) 69

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Engadget: Tor has published what it calls a "Social Contract" comprised of promises to users and the principles the team believes in. Whatever the reason is, its social contract contains one interesting pledge: "We will never implement front doors or back doors into our projects," the team wrote. Tor's ability to keep users anonymous made it the go-to browser of people looking for drugs, illegal firearms, hitmen, child porn and other things you won't find on eBay or YouTube. If there's a browser law enforcement agencies would want a backdoor to, it's Tor, especially since its main source of funding is the U.S. government. That's right -- the famous anonymizing network gets most of its money from a government known for conducting mass surveillance on a global scale. Loudly proclaiming that it will never build a backdoor into its services might not even matter, though. The government already proved once that it's capable of infiltrating the dark web. If you'll recall, the FBI identified 1,500 users of a child porn website called "Playpen" by deploying a Tor hacking tool. It led to numerous court battles that opened up the discussion on the validity of evidence obtained without warrant through malware. "We believe that privacy, the free exchange of ideas, and access to information are essential to free societies. Through our community standards and the code we write, we provide tools that help all people protect and advance these rights," Tor writes in the contract.
Communications

Assange Implies Murdered DNC Staffer Was WikiLeaks' Source (washingtonpost.com) 705

Okian Warrior quotes a report from Fox News: WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange implied in an interview that a murdered Democratic National Committee staffer was the source of a trove of damaging emails the rogue website posted just days before the party's convention. Speaking to Dutch television program Nieuswsuur Tuesday after earlier announcing a $20,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of Seth Rich's killer, Assange said the July 10 murder of Rich in Northwest Washington was an example of the risk leakers undertake. The Washington Post provides some details of the murder in its report: "Rich was shot twice in the back as he walked to his townhouse about 4:20 a.m. Nothing was taken, but police have said attempted robbery is their leading theory for a motive, noting a spike in robberies in the neighborhood in the preceding weeks. WikiLeaks released the trove of emails later that month, on July 22. Rich, 27, had worked for the DNC for two years and helped develop a computer program to make it easier for people to find polling places on Election Day. After his death, the DNC's then-chairwoman, Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (Fla.), attended a vigil for Rich in front of his home, and Hillary Clinton, before she was nominated in her run for president, evoked his name during a speech in which she advocated for limiting the availability of guns."
Media

NASA: Revolutionary Camera Recording Propulsion Data Completes Test (theverge.com) 81

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Verge: NASA has created a camera that can film slow motion footage of booming rocket engines with higher dynamic range than ever before. It's called the High Dynamic Range Stereo X camera, or HiDyRS-X (PDF), and late last week the agency released some of its footage to the public for the first time. The three-minute clip shows the most recent test of one of the boosters for NASA's upcoming Space Launch System rocket in unprecedented detail. SLS will use two of these 17-story tall solid rocket boosters, each of which is capable of burning 5.5 tons of propellant per second to create 3.6 million pounds of thrust. The problem when it comes to filming tests like these (and eventually, launches) is that the plumes of fire they produce are extremely bright. This usually leaves camera operators with two choices. They can either expose the footage for the bright plume, which will leave everything else in the shot looking dark and underexposed. Or they can expose for everything else in the shot, which leaves the plume looking bright white and void of detail. The HiDyRS-X camera solves this problem because the camera can capture all of this detail in one shot, and it does this in a fairly clever way. Where regular high-speed cameras usually only captures video one exposure at a time, HiDyRS-X can capture multiple exposures at a time. NASA did however report some failures with the test: the camera's automatic timer failed to go off, thus failing to record the igniting of the rocket, and the pressure being generated from the booster knocked the camera's power source loose.
Security

Hacker Uses Fake Boarding Pass App To Get Into Fancy Airline Lounges (helpnetsecurity.com) 55

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Help Net Security: Przemek Jaroszewski, the head of Poland's Computer Emergency Response Team (CERT), says anyone can bypass the security of the automated entrances of airlines' airport lounges by using a specially crafted mobile app that spoofs boarding pass QR codes. He created one for himself, and successfully tried it out on a number of European airports. Usually, to enter these lounges, travelers need to let the scanner at the entrance scan the QR code on their boarding pass, and the doors open automatically. Jaroszewski created an Android app that creates fake but acceptable QR codes. He says that aside from a valid flight number, the QR code doesn't have to include correct information (traveller's name, flight destination, etc.). According to WIRED, the U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and the International Air Transport Association (IATA) don't consider this particular issue a problem that needs fixing. They said "any such boarding pass security flaw would be the airlines' issue." Here is an unlisted video of the hack in action.
Crime

Car Thieves Arrested After Using Laptop and Malware To Steal More Than 30 Jeeps (abc13.com) 215

New submitter altnuc writes: Two thieves in Houston stole more than 30 Jeeps by using a laptop and a stolen database. The thieves simply looked up the vehicles' VIN numbers in a stolen database, reprogramed a generic key fob, started the cars, and drove away. Chrysler has confirmed that more than 100 of their vehicles have been stolen in the Houston area since November. Chrysler/Jeep owners should always make sure their vehicles are locked! The Wall Street Journal issued a report in July with more details about how hackers are able to steal cars with a laptop. The whole process takes roughly 6 minutes. CrimeStopHouston has posted a video on YouTube of one of the thieves in action.
Security

Hackers Bring Ethics To Las Vegas (backchannel.com) 33

Steven Levy, who has been extensively covering the world of hackers for decades (fun fact: the first time he wrote about it, the word "hacker" didn't really mean much), is sharing the changing perception about hacker conferences, and hackers themselves. In a newsletter, Backchannel's Levy writes about Black Hat conference: What I find most striking in the coverage of these events is that they are no longer seen as outlaw gatherings, but rather conclaves that form a valuable portion of the digital security mosaic. This is a big change from the long period, beginning in the late 1980s, during which the term "hacker" became synonymous with malfeasants, punks, and criminals. The glorious originals -- people who invented just about everything great we do on computers, including the internet -- were outraged at the denigration of a word that was once a badge of honor. [...]
The hackers who attend those conferences are true to that ethic. There's a core morality to both events, built on privacy, equal access to systems, and personal freedom. There's indignation at poorly built systems. There's contempt at those who see computers and the internet as means of controlling people instead of seeing them as tools of liberation.
So who gets to decide what a hacker is in 2016? The question comes up constantly because the term retains some fuzziness. I'll put aside the unquestioned hacker status of coders and designers who innovate on products and private infrastructure. Blissfully, it's now OK for Silicon Valley geeks to proudly declare themselves hackers, the best example of which is Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg's naming of his corporate philosophy as "The Hacker Way." But I'm wondering about those people who take the law into their own hands, sometimes not even taking care to limit collateral damage of innocent people. While true hackers generally don't wreak actual destruction, there are some who invade or even tamper with systems for what they consider moral purposes. Some call it hacktivism. Does that mean they are still hackers? That's tough to answer. Hacking into a system doesn't make you a hacker. Using a computer to steal a credit card or a Bitcoin doesn't do it, either. If you work for China and hack into Google; if you work for Russia and hack into the DNC; or if you work for the United States of America and plant a software time bomb in a nuclear centrifuge in Iran -- you are not necessarily a hacker.

Operating Systems

LibreOffice 5.2 Officially Released (softpedia.com) 103

prisoninmate writes from a report via Softpedia: LibreOffice 5.2 is finally here, after it has been in development for the past four months, during which the development team behind one of the best free office suites have managed to implement dozens of new features and improvements to most of the application's components. Key features include more UI refinements to make it flexible for anyone, standards-based document classification, forecasting functions in Calc, the spreadsheet editor, as well as lots of Writer and Impress enhancements. A series of videos are provided to see what landed in the LibreOffice 5.2 office suite, which is now available for download for GNU/Linux, Mac OS X, and Microsoft Windows operating systems.
Security

QRLJacking Attack Can Bypass Any QR Login System (helpnetsecurity.com) 31

dinscott and an anonymous reader are reporting of a new type of attack that bypasses SQRLs or Secure, Quick, Reliable Logins: "[As detailed by Seekurity Labs researcher Mohamed A. Baset], QRLJacking (i.e. Quick Response Code Login Jacking) is a method for tricking users into effectively logging into an online account on behalf of the attacker by making them scan the wrong QR code," reports Help Net Security. An anonymous Slashdot reader adds from a report via Softpedia: "In a Facebook post, Baset says he tested his attack on sites such as WhatsApp, WeChat, Line, Weibo, QQ Instant Messaging, QQ Mail, Alibaba, and more," reports Softpedia. The QRLJacking attack is nothing more than a social engineering attack that works by requesting a QR code for the service the victim is trying to log in to and modifying the QR code to send the confirmation message to the attacker's computer. The crook can modify these login details, add the data belonging to his PC, relay the data from his phone to the default login server, and access the victim's account from his PC. This attack needs both the attacker and the victim to be online at the same time, and can be defeated by any user that pays attention to the URL [of the page they're logging into with an account]. Judging that it's 2016 and people are still falling victim to phishing attacks, there's a high chance the attack can work. Baset demonstrated the attack against a WhatsApp user in a video posted to YouTube.
Youtube

Google Says 97% Of Connections To YouTube Are Now Encrypted (techcrunch.com) 46

Google said Monday that HTTPS now accounts for 97% of all connections to YouTube. In a blog post, the video portal made the announcement, also underscoring the challenges it faced making the site more secure. TechCrunch reports:Given its massive scale, YouTube obviously presents some extra challenges for Google. But the company argues that its Global Cache content delivery network is able to handle encrypted connections relatively easily, in large parts because hardware acceleration for AES, the algorithm at the core of the HTTPS protocol, is now ubiquitous. Google also argues that using HTTPS connections has improved the user experience on YouTube. "You watch YouTube videos on everything from flip phones to smart TVs," the team writes today. "We A/B tested HTTPS on every device to ensure that users would not be negatively impacted. We found that HTTPS improved quality of experience on most clients: by ensuring content integrity, we virtually eliminated many types of streaming errors."
Censorship

Chased Off of YouTube, Leaked 'No Man's Sky' Footage Runs to Pornhub (vice.com) 134

An anonymous reader quotes Vice:I always feel a little dirty when I look at leaked footage of any kind, but rarely so much as when I brought up Pornhub yesterday to check out a video featuring the hyped space exploration game No Man's Sky... I had to go to Pornhub, as this corner of the web was the only place I'd been able to find the footage after it'd been yanked off of DailyMotion, YouTube, and almost every other video hosting site...

The PornHub video shows 21 minutes of footage with awful resolution, and none of it's particularly exciting to watch (which may say something about the game)...

On July 7, when the game was ready to ship, No Man's Sky creator Sean Murray posted on Twitter "I'm so incredibly proud of this tiny team. 4 years of emotions," then addressed the leaked footage on Friday, tweeting "We've spent years filling No Man's Sky with surprises. You've spent years waiting. Please don't spoil it for yourself..." A later Twitter post added "Take a break from reading about it, and picking vids apart. You can experience for yourself so soon."
Power

A Look Inside Tesla's $5 Billion Gigafactory (cnet.com) 60

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNET: A joint effort between Tesla and Panasonic, the Gigafactory is a $5 billion project that will create the world's premier battery manufacturing facility. The Gigafactory will not only be physically larger than any other cell-packing plant on the planet, it'll produce more batteries than the entire industry did back in 2013. That's a lot of batteries, enough to meet Tesla's 500,000-per-year manufacturing goals -- and potentially even more. When completed, the factory will cover five million square feet of the desert floor just outside of Reno, Nevada. Right now, the uncompleted but already-operational factory sits on 800,000 square feet. Over the next four years the building will grow and grow again, swelling to its full size while production dials up simultaneously. The roof will be covered in solar panels, with the goal of producing enough electricity to power the entire thing. Tesla is already assembling Powerwall units here, but the first Model 3 battery packs are expected to roll off the line by the middle of next year. From there, Tesla will have to scale quickly to meet the company's Model 3 production goals for 2018. And, once the company does, the cost savings will begin. The "Tesla Gigafactory Tour" video can also be viewed on YouTube via Roadshow.
Robotics

US Military Using $600K 'Drone Buggies' To Patrol Camps In Africa (cnbc.com) 60

An anonymous reader quotes a report from CNBC: The U.S. military is using an unmanned robotic vehicle to patrol around its camps in the Horn of Africa. The remote controlled vehicle is the result of a 30-year plan after military chiefs approved the concept of a robotic security system in 1985. Now the Mobile Detection Assessment and Response System, known as MDARS, are carrying out patrols in the east African country of Djibouti, under the control of the Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa. The area is known as home to a number of hostile militant groups including the al-Qaeda-affiliated al-Shabaab. An operator sits in a remote location away from the vehicle watching the terrain via a camera link which is fixed to the chassis. U.S. military software engineer Joshua Kordanai said in a video presentation that the vehicle drives itself, freeing the remote operator to monitor video. "The vehicle has an intruder detection payload, consisting of radar, a night vision camera, a PTZ [pan-tilt-zoom] camera and two-way audio, so the system will be able to detect motion," he added. One report prices the cost of an earlier version of the military 'drone buggy' at $600,000 each.

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