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Newly Discovered Virus Widespread in Human Gut

/. - 27 July 2014 - 8:35pm
A newly discovered virus has been found by a San Diego State University team to live inside more than half of all sampled human gut cells sampled. Exploring genetic material found in intestinal samples, the international team uncovered the CrAssphage virus. They say the virus could influence the behaviour of some of the most common bacteria in our gut. Researchers say the virus has the genetic fingerprint of a bacteriophage - a type of virus known to infect bacteria. Phages may work to control the behaviour of bacteria they infect - some make it easier for bacteria to inhabit in their environments while others allow bacteria to become more potent. [Study lead Dr. Robert] Edwards said: "In some way phages are like wolves in the wild, surrounded by hares and deer. "They are critical components of our gut ecosystems, helping control the growth of bacterial populations and allowing a diversity of species." According to the team, CrAssphage infects one of the most common types of bacteria in our guts. National Geographic gives some idea why a virus so common in our gut should have evaded discovery for so long, but at least CrAssphage finally has a Wikipedia page of its own.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

The Pirate Bay Opens Mobile Site

Soylent New - 27 July 2014 - 7:57pm

El Reg reports:

The Pirate Bay has poked Big Content's sore spot again, by erecting a site for mobile devices at themobilebay.org. [blocked in some countries]

The new site doesn't do much beyond features offered by The Pirate Bay's other ventures. The site's overseers told Torrent Freak that "The normal version of the site renders like crap on mobile devices", an experience the small-screen version seems designed to improve.

BitTorrent clients exist for Android, iOS devices (after jailbreak), and BlackBerry, so the existence of a mobile site does make it possible more torrents will land in mobile devices.

Read more of this story at SoylentNews.

Off the Florida Coast, Astronauts Train For Asteroid Mission

/. - 27 July 2014 - 7:06pm
Space.com gives an overview of the training that four astronauts are undergoing over 9 days submerged off the coast of Florida near Key Largo. The training mission, dubbed NEEMO 18, is one step toward a proposed (mid-2020s) mission to actually visit a captured asteroid in lunar orbit. In addition to the complications of working outside their school-bus sized habitat while awkwardly suited up in a low-gravity (or at least high buoyancy) environment, their mission also includes a 10-minute communications delay, to simulate the high-latency communications with mission control that would be inevitable for an actual asteroid mission. The experiments astronauts are doing during the mission, which began Monday (July 21), range from the physical to the behavioral. For example, each of the crew members sports a sensor that records how close the crew members work with each other inside the school-bus-size habitat. ... Communications with NEEMO Mission Control is usually constant, and there is the ability to send items to and from the habitat as needed. Also living inside the habitat are two support staff who are assisting with Aquarius maintenance and systems, as required. The crew members also have Internet and phone service to talk with family and friends.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

The Emerging Smart City

Soylent New - 27 July 2014 - 6:38pm

The [Woodrow] Wilson Center has a series of articles looking at the idea of the 'Smart City'. In addition to an introduction the 24 page pdf includes articles discussing New York, Ahmedabad, Sao Paulo, and Beijing.

New York: Though not as cutting edge as the gleaming digital solutions imagined by many smart city advocates, New York's procedure for public review of new development is a pragmatic example of how smart technologies can improve public participation in an important city process. 

Ahmedabad: Transportation is one of the biggest infrastructure challenges for cities at all stages of development; it affects all layers of society and can have tremendous benefits. It is also a challenge that the concepts and technologies behind "smart cities" are well suited to address.

Sao Paulo: While the transformation of Sao Paulo into a "smart city" - through the adoption of new technological tools and the expansion of physical infrastructure - is the order of the day for many stakeholders, what matters first and foremost for the future of the metropolis is its spatial reorganization, lest these new technologies become accessories to the chaos. 

Beijing: As urban agriculture becomes more popular, it's actively reshaping the urban and peri-urban spatial framework, breaking up the monopoly of concrete and strengthening rural-to-urban linkages.

What would be essential in your ideal next-gen smart city?

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Valencia Linux School Distro Saves 36 Million Euro

/. - 27 July 2014 - 6:04pm
jrepin (667425) writes "The government of the autonomous region of Valencia (Spain) earlier this month made available the next version of Lliurex, a customisation of the Edubuntu Linux distribution. The distro is used on over 110,000 PCs in schools in the Valencia region, saving some 36 million euro over the past nine years, the government says." I'd lke to see more efforts like this in the U.S.; if mega school districts are paying for computers, I'd rather they at least support open source development as a consequence.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

A Router-Based Dev Board That Isn't a Router

/. - 27 July 2014 - 5:10pm
An anonymous reader writes with a link to an intriguing device highlighted at Hackaday (it's an Indiegogo project, too, if it excites you $90 worth, and seems well on its way to meeting its modest goal): The DPT Board is something that may be of interest to anyone looking to hack up a router for their own connected project or IoT implementation: hardware based on a fairly standard router, loaded up with OpenWRT, with a ton of I/O to connect to anything. It's called the DPT Board, and it's basically an hugely improved version of the off-the-shelf routers you can pick up through the usual channels. On board are 20 GPIOs, USB host, 16MB Flash, 64MB RAM, two Ethernet ports, on-board 802.11n and a USB host port. This small system on board is pre-installed with OpenWRT, making it relatively easy to connect this small router-like device to LED strips, sensors, or whatever other project you have in mind.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Tailor Creates Cycling Suit for Businessmen

Soylent New - 27 July 2014 - 4:33pm

BBC News reports that:

A Yorkshire tailor inspired by the Tour de France's visit to the county has created a cycling suit for businessmen.

Designed by Owen Scott Bespoke Tailors, the suit has a padded crotch area and detachable fluorescent pocket flaps, trouser turn-ups and collar.

Company director Scott Hufton said: "We're based in Huddersfield and Leeds, where the Tour de France set off, and I thought what can I do to mark that?

"I started drawing and doodling and before I knew it had it on paper."

Having reflective surfaces visible on turned-up collars and legwear may be of general benefit.

Read more of this story at SoylentNews.

Satellite Images Show Russians Shelling Ukraine

/. - 27 July 2014 - 4:05pm
U.S. officials today made public satellite imagery which they say proves that Russian forces have been shelling eastern Ukraine in a campaign to assist rebel groups fighting Ukraine’s government. The U.S. Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which released the civilian-taken satellite images Sunday, said they show visual evidence that Russia has been firing shells across the border at Ukrainian military forces. Officials also said the images show that Russia-backed separatists have used heavy artillery, provided by Russia, in attacks on Ukrainian forces from inside Ukraine. One image dated July 25/26 shows what DNI claims is “ground scarring” on the Russian side of the border from artillery aimed at Ukrainian military units in Ukraine, as well as the resultant ground craters on the Ukrainian side of the border:

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Linus Torvalds: "GCC 4.9.0 Seems To Be Terminally Broken"

/. - 27 July 2014 - 2:40pm
hypnosec (2231454) writes to point out a pointed critique from Linus Torvalds of GCC 4.9.0. after a random panic was discovered in a load balance function in Linux 3.16-rc6. in an email to the Linux kernel mailing list outlining two separate but possibly related bugs, Linus describes the compiler as "terminally broken," and worse ("pure and utter sh*t," only with no asterisk). A slice: "Lookie here, your compiler does some absolutely insane things with the spilling, including spilling a *constant*. For chrissake, that compiler shouldn't have been allowed to graduate from kindergarten. We're talking "sloth that was dropped on the head as a baby" level retardation levels here .... Anyway, this is not a kernel bug. This is your compiler creating completely broken code. We may need to add a warning to make sure nobody compiles with gcc-4.9.0, and the Debian people should probably downgrate their shiny new compiler."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Subjective Knowledge and Choice Overload

Soylent New - 27 July 2014 - 2:29pm

Researchers have investigated (abstract) the degree to which consumers perceive themselves to be knowledgeable about a product and how that influences the likelihood that they will buy a particular product. The study confirmed "choice overload" - feeling so overwhelmed that you end up unhappy with a decision or even fail to make a decision - as expected, however with an important caveat; Consumers with low subjective knowledge are more likely to purchase products from large selections only when the product information is easily understandable.

So, for example, participants with low subjective knowledge preferred having more options when they were asked to choose a bottle of wine but only when the options included helpful information such as notes about the flavor or grape varietal for each wine. They did not prefer having more options when the information provided was less useful, such as the name of the winery.

Read more of this story at SoylentNews.

SpaceX Executive Calls For $22-25 Billion NASA Budget

/. - 27 July 2014 - 1:37pm
MarkWhittington (1084047) writes "While participating in a panel called "The US Space Enterprise Partnership" at the NewSpace Conference that was held by the Space Frontier Foundation on Saturday, SpaceX Chief Operating Officer Gwynne Shotwell opined that NASA's budget should be raised to $22-25 billion, according to a tweet by Space Policy Online's Marcia Smith. The theory is that a lot of political rancor has taken place in the aerospace community because of the space agency's limited budget. If the budget were to be increased to pay for everything on the space wish list, the rancor will cease. The statement represents something of a departure of the usual mutual antagonism that exists between some in the commercial space community and some at NASA. Indeed Space Politics' Jeff Foust added a tweet, "Thought: a panel at a Space Frontier Foundation conf is talking about how to increase NASA budget. Imagine that in late 90s." The Space Frontier Foundation has been a leading voice for commercializing space, sometimes at the expense of NASA programs."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Ask Slashdot: What Would You Do With Half a Rack of Server Space?

/. - 27 July 2014 - 12:40pm
New submitter Christian Gainsbrugh (3766717) writes I work at a company that is currently transitioning all our servers into the cloud. In the interim we have half a rack of server space in a great datacenter that will soon be sitting completely idle for the next few months until our lease runs out. Right now the space is occupied by around 8 HP g series servers, a watchguard xtm firewall, Cisco switch and some various other equipment. All in all there are probably around 20 or so physical XEON processors, and probably close to 10 tb of storage among all the machines. We have a dedicated 10 mbs connection that is burstable to 100mbs. I'm curious what Slashdot readers would do if they were in a similar situation. Is there anything productive that could be done with these resources? Obviously something revenue generating is great, but even if there is something novel that could be done with these servers we would be interested in putting them to good use.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Sanctity of Copying: Imprisoned Pirate Bay Co-Founder Demands Kopimist Priest

Soylent New - 27 July 2014 - 12:12pm

RT reports that:

The incarcerated co-founder of torrent tracker site The Pirate Bay, Peter Sunde, has found a new way to be a thorn in the back of Swedish authorities holding him. He demands that his religious needs are met with a visit from a Kopimist priest.

Earlier Sunde complained that the Västervik Norra prison, where he is serving a term for assisting in copyright infringement, can't accommodate his vegetarian diet choice, a problem that has already resulted in him losing 5 kg in weight.

The Church of Kopimism (wikipedia) is a peculiar phenomenon. Founded by a group of self-styled internet pirates four years ago, it holds sacred the copying of information and people's right to do it without restrictions. It even declared keyboard shortcuts for copy and paste commands Ctrl-C and Ctrl-V as its holy symbols.

In December 2011, at its third attempt it was officially recognized as a religion in Sweden and now enjoys all the legal protection that goes with the status.

So, is this a case of religious oppression?

Read more of this story at SoylentNews.

Amputee Is German Long Jump Champion

/. - 27 July 2014 - 11:33am
hweimer (709734) writes "German long jumper Markus Rehm has written sports history yesterday, becoming the first disabled athlete to win a national able-bodied championship. His jump to 8.24 meters put him on the 9th place of the current season rankings and make him egligible to compete in the upcoming European championships, further sparking the debate whether his prosthetic leg provides him with an unfair advantage."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Experts Say Autonomous Cars Are Unlikely to Master Urban Driving Anytime Soon

Soylent New - 27 July 2014 - 10:41am

Google describes its work on robotic cars with its typical tight-lipped optimism but academic experts in robotics are cautious about the prospects. They estimate it will be decades until they can perform as well as human drivers in all situations if they ever do at all.

When surveyed by the organizers of the Automated Vehicles Symposium, the 500 experts in attendance were not optimistic such problems would be solved soon. Asked when they would trust a fully robotic car to take their children to school, more than half said 2030 at the very earliest. A fifth said not until 2040, and roughly one in 10 said "never."

For an alternative viewpoint, consider the first and fourth(!) of Sir Arthur C. Clarke's Three Laws:

  1. When a distinguished but elderly scientist states that something is possible, he is almost certainly right. When he states that something is impossible, he is very probably wrong.
  2. The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible.
  3. Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.
  4. For every expert, there is an equal and opposite expert.(*)

(*) Arthur C. Clarke's Profiles of the Future (new edition, 1999).

Read more of this story at SoylentNews.

Nasty Business: How To Drain Competitors' Google AdWords Budgets

/. - 27 July 2014 - 10:25am
tsu doh nimh (609154) writes KrebsOnSecurity looks at a popular service that helps crooked online marketers exhaust the Google AdWords budgets of their competitors.The service allows companies to attack competitors by raising their costs or exhausting their ad budgets early in the day. Advertised on YouTube and run by a guy boldly named "GoodGoogle," the service employs a combination of custom software and hands-on customer service, and promises clients the ability to block the appearance of competitors' ads. From the story: "The prices range from $100 to block between three to ten ad units for 24 hours to $80 for 15 to 30 ad units. For a flat fee of $1,000, small businesses can use GoodGoogle's software and service to sideline a handful of competitors' ads indefinitely."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

In France, Most Comments on Gaza Conflict Yanked From Mainstream News Sites

/. - 27 July 2014 - 9:27am
An anonymous reader writes with an unpleasant statistic from France, quoting David Corchia, who heads a service employed by large French news organizations to sift through and moderate comments made on their sites. Quoting YNet News: Corchia says that as an online moderator, generally 25% to 40% of comments are banned. Moderators are assigned with the task of filtering comments in accordance with France's legal system, including those that are racist, anti-Semitic or discriminatory. Regarding the war between the Israelis and Hamas, however, Corchia notes that some 95% of online comments made by French users are removed. "There are three times as many comments than normal, all linked to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict," added Jeremie Mani, head of another moderation company Netino. "We see racist or anti-Semitic messages, very violent, that also take aim at politicians and the media, sometimes by giving journalists' contact details," he added. "This sickening content is peculiar to this conflict. The war in Syria does not trigger these kinds of comments."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Technical Problems Plague BBC Online Services - Again

Soylent New - 27 July 2014 - 8:45am

After last weekend's sustained outage at the BBC, a promised explanation has been published. It appears that several concurrent sporting events pushed application load over usual levels. Given that caching and CDNs are used extensively, this shouldn't be an issue. However:

At almost the same time we had a second problem. We use a caching layer in front of most of the products on BBC Online, and one of the pools failed. The products managed by that pool include BBC iPlayer and the BBC homepage, and the failure made all of those products inaccessible. That opened up a major incident at the same time on a second front.

Our first priority was to restore the caching layer. The failure was a complex one (we're still doing the forensics on it), and it has repeated a number of times. It was this failure that resulted in us switching the homepage to its emergency mode ("Due to technical problems, we are displaying a simplified version of the BBC Homepage"). We used the emergency page a number of times during the weekend, eventually leaving it up until we were confident that we had completely stabilised the cache.

Unfortunately, the root cause doesn't appear to have been identified or corrected because video streaming is equally unresponsive this weekend.

Read more of this story at SoylentNews.

Do Apple and Google Sabotage Older Phones? What the Graphs Don't Show

/. - 27 July 2014 - 8:26am
Harvard economics professor Sendhil Mullainathan takes a look in the New York Times at interesting correlations between the release dates of new phones and OSes and search queries that indicate frustration with the speed of the phones that people already have. Mullainathan illustrates with graphs (and gives plausible explanations for the difference) just how different the curves are over time for the search terms "iPhone slow" and "Samsung Galaxy slow." It's easy to see with the iPhone graph especially how it could seem to users that Apple has intentionally slowed down older phones to nudge them toward upgrading. While he's careful not to rule out intentional slowing of older phone models (that's possible, after all), Mullainathan cites several factors that mean there's no need to believe in a phone-slowing conspiracy, and at least two big reasons (reputation, liability) for companies — Apple, Google, and cellphone manufacturers like Samsung — not to take part in one. He points out various wrinkles in what the data could really indicate, including genuine but innocent slowdowns caused by optimizing for newer hardware. It's an interesting look at the difference between having mere statistics, no matter how rigorously gathered, and knowing quite what they mean.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Report: Nuclear Plants Should Focus On Risks Posed By External Events

/. - 27 July 2014 - 7:21am
mdsolar (1045926) writes "Engineers at American nuclear plants have been much better at calculating the risk of an internal problem that would lead to an accident than they have at figuring the probability and consequences of accidents caused by events outside a plant, a report released Thursday by the National Academy of Science said. Accidents that American reactors are designed to withstand, like a major pipe break, are "stylized" and do not reflect the bigger source of risk, which is external, according to the study. That conclusion is one of the major lessons from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident in Japan in 2011, which began after an earthquake at sea caused a tsunami.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.