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Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive

Handhelds

Nokia Had a Production-Ready Web Tablet 13 Years Ago 33

Posted by Soulskill
from the beginning-of-the-end dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Here's another story of a tech gadget that arrived before its time. Nokia created a web-ready tablet running EPOC (later to be renamed as Symbian) thirteen years ago. The tablet was set to go into full production, and they actually built a thousand units just before it was canceled. The tablet was scrubbed because market research showed there wasn't demand for the device. The team got devices for themselves and the rest were destroyed. The team was then fired. The lesson: Don't try to be pioneer if you're relying on market research studies."
Education

Kids Can Swipe a Screen But Can't Use LEGOs 110

Posted by Soulskill
from the also-struggle-with-concept-of-hopscotch dept.
SpankiMonki sends this news from The Guardian: "Children are arriving at nursery school able to 'swipe a screen' but lack the manipulative skills to play with building blocks, teachers have warned. They fear that children are being given tablets to use 'as a replacement for contact time with the parent' and say such habits are hindering progress at school. Addressing the Association of Teachers and Lecturers conference in Manchester on Tuesday, Colin Kinney said excessive use of technology damages concentration and causes behavioural problems such as irritability and a lack of control."
Handhelds

Intel Pushes Into Tablet Market, Pushes Away From Microsoft 44

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the wither-wintel dept.
jfruh (300774) writes "The Wintel cartel appears to be well and truly dead, as Intel chases after ARM with grim determination into the rapidly growing world of Android tablets. 'Our mix of OSes reflects pretty much what you see in the marketplace,' the company's CEO said, a nice way of saying they see more potential growth from white-box Chinese tablet makers than from Microsoft Surface. Intel managed to ship 5 million tablet chips in the first quarter of the year, although plunging PC sales meant that company profit overall was still down."
Space

Astronomers Solve Puzzle of the Mountains That Fell From Space 25

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the just-a-crashed-ring-station dept.
KentuckyFC (1144503) writes "Iapetus, Saturn's third largest moon, was first photographed by the Cassini spacecraft on 31 December 2004. The images created something of a stir. Clearly visible was a narrow, steep ridge of mountains that stretch almost halfway around the moon's equator. The question that has since puzzled astronomers is how this mountain range got there. Now evidence is mounting that this mountain range is not the result of tectonic or volcanic activity, like mountain ranges on other planets. Instead, astronomers are increasingly convinced that this mountain range fell from space. The latest evidence is a study of the shape of the mountains using 3-D images generated from Cassini data. They show that the angle of the mountainsides is close to the angle of repose, that's the greatest angle that a granular material can form before it landslides. That's not proof but it certainly consistent with this exotic formation theory. So how might this have happened?

Astronomers think that early in its life, Iapetus must have been hit by another moon, sending huge volumes of ejecta into orbit. Some of this condensed into a new moon that escaped into space. However, the rest formed an unstable ring that gradually spiraled in towards the moon, eventually depositing the material in a narrow ridge around the equator. Cassini's next encounter with Iapetus will be in 2015 which should give astronomers another chance to study the strangest mountain range in the Solar System."
The Courts

Lavabit Loses Contempt Appeal 81

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the don't-leave-your-lawyer-at-home dept.
After being forced to turn over encryption keys (being held in contempt of court for several weeks after initially refusing to comply), secure mail provider Lavabit halted all operations last year. With the assistance of the EFF, an appeal was mounted. Today, the appeals court affirmed the district court decision and rejected the appeal. From Techdirt: "The ruling does a decent job explaining the history of the case, which also details some of the (many, many) procedural mistakes that Lavabit made along the way, which made it a lot less likely it would succeed here. ... The procedural oddities effectively preclude the court even bothering with the much bigger and important question of whether or not a basic pen register demand requires a company to give up its private keys. The hail mary attempt in the case was to argue that because the underlying issues are of 'immense public concern' (and they are) that the court should ignore the procedural mistakes. The court flatly rejects that notion: 'exhuming forfeited arguments when they involve matters of “public concern” would present practical difficulties. For one thing, identifying cases of a “public concern” and “non-public concern” –- divorced from any other consideration –- is a tricky task governed by no objective standards..... For another thing, if an issue is of public concern, that concern is likely more reason to avoid deciding it from a less-than-fully litigated record....'"
Microsoft

Microsoft Brings Office Online To Chrome OS; Ars Reviews Windows Phone 8.1 40

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the worst-frenemies dept.
SmartAboutThings (1951032) writes "While we are still waiting for the official Windows 8.1 touch-enabled apps to get launched on the Windows Store, Microsoft went and decided that it's time to finally bring the Office online apps to the Chrome Web Store, instead. Thus, Microsoft is making the Web versions of its Word, Excel, PowerPoint and OneNote apps available to users through the Chrome Web Store and also improving all of them with new features, along with several bug fixes and performance improvements." More on the Microsoft front: an anonymous reader wrote in with a link to Ars Technica's review of the upcoming Windows Phone 8.1 release: "It is a major platform update even if it is just a .1 release. Updates include the debut of Cortana, using the same kernel as Windows 8.1 and the Xbox One, a notebook reminder app, inner circle friend management, IE 11, Nokia's camera app by default, lock screen and background customizations, a much improved email client with calendar support, more general Windows 8.1 API inclusion for better portability, and a notification center. Ars rated it more of a Windows Phone 9 release than .1 update."
United States

Retired SCOTUS Justice Wants To 'Fix' the Second Amendment 855

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the invest-in-crossbows dept.
CanHasDIY (1672858) writes "In his yet-to-be-released book, Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution, John Paul Stevens, who served as an associate justice of the Supreme Court for 35 years, believes he has the key to stopping the seeming recent spate of mass killings — amend the Constitution to exclude private citizens from armament ownership. Specifically, he recommends adding 5 words to the 2nd Amendment, so that it would read as follows: 'A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms when serving in the Militia shall not be infringed.'

What I find interesting is how Stevens maintains that the Amendment only protects armament ownership for those actively serving in a state or federal military unit, in spite of the fact that the Amendment specifically names 'the People' as a benefactor (just like the First, Fourth, Ninth, and Tenth) and of course, ignoring the traditional definition of the term militia. I'm personally curious about his other 5 suggested changes, but I guess we'll have to wait until the end of April to find out."
Debian

All Packages Needed For FreedomBox Now In Debian 33

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the i-think-you-mean-gnu-slash-freedom dept.
Eben Moglen's FreedomBox concept (personal servers for everyone to enable private communication) is getting closer to being an easy-to-install reality: all packages needed for FreedomBox are now in Debian's unstable branch, and should be migrating to testing in a week or two. Quoting Petter Reinholdtsen: "Today, the last of the packages currently used by the project to created the system images were accepted into Debian Unstable. It was the freedombox-setup package, which is used to configure the images during build and on the first boot. Now all one need to get going is the build code from the freedom-maker git repository and packages from Debian. And once the freedombox-setup package enter testing, we can build everything directly from Debian. :) Some key packages used by Freedombox are freedombox-setup, plinth, pagekite, tor, privoxy, owncloud, and dnsmasq. There are plans to integrate more packages into the setup. User documentation is maintained on the Debian wiki." You can create your own image with only three commands, at least if you have a DreamPlug or Raspberry Pi (you could also help port it to other platforms).
Media

Bill Gates Patents Detecting, Responding To "Glassholes" 113

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the fighting-back-against-the-thousand-eyes dept.
theodp (442580) writes "As Google Glass goes on sale [ed: or rather, went on sale] to the general public, GeekWire reports that Bill Gates has already snagged one patent for 'detecting and responding to an intruding camera' and has another in the works. The invention proposes to equip computer and device displays with technology for detecting and responding to any cameras in the vicinity by editing or blurring the content on the screen, or alerting the user to the presence of the camera. Gates and Nathan Myhrvold are among the 16 co-inventors of the so-called Unauthorized Viewer Detection System and Method, which the patent application notes is useful 'while a user is taking public transportation, where intruding cameras are likely to be present.' So, is Bill's patent muse none other than NYC subway rider Sergey Brin?" A more cynical interpretation: closing the analog hole. Vaguely related, mpicpp pointed out that Google filed a patent for cameras embedded in contact lenses.
Bitcoin

Mt. Gox Ordered Into Liquidation 39

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the even-the-pretend-assets dept.
An anonymous reader writes "The Japanese edition of The Wall Streeet Journal reports that Mt. Gox has filed for liquidation under Japanese bankruptcy law (link to article in Japanese, U.S. version may be paywalled). The article cites a 'related party' as saying that Mt. Gox was unable to work out how to deal with creditors spread out all over the globe, nor design a realistic rebuilding plan. The article adds a comment from the company lawyer: Mark Karpeles will not be attending the bankruptcy court hearing in the United States scheduled for April 17th." The announcement from Mt. Gox's lawyer.
China

Pollution In China Could Be Driving Freak Weather In US 128

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the blame-canada dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "Jonathan Kaiman reports at The Guardian that China's air pollution could be intensifying storms over the Pacific Ocean and altering weather patterns in North America leading to more ... warm air in the mid-Pacific moving towards the north pole. 'Mid-latitude storms develop off Asia and they track across the Pacific, coming in to the west coast of the U.S.,' says Ellie Highwood, a climate physicist at the University of Reading. 'The particles in this model are affecting how strong those storms are, how dense the clouds are, and how much rainfall comes out of those storms.' Fossil fuel burning and petrochemical processing in Asia's rapidly developing economies lead to a build-up of aerosols, fine particles suspended in the air. Typically, aerosol formation is thought of as the antithesis to global warming: it cools our Earth's climate. But researchers say, too much of any one thing is never good. 'Aerosols provide seeds for cloud formation. If you provide too many seeds, then you fundamentally change cloud patterns and storm patterns,' says co-author Renyi Zhang. China's leaders are aware of the extent of the problem and will soon revise China's environmental protection law for the first time since 1989 ... 'The provisions on transparency are probably the most positive step forward,' says Alex Wang, expert in Chinese environmental law at UCLA. 'These include the requirement that key polluters disclose real-time pollution data.'"
Education

Student Records Kids Who Bully Him, Then Gets Threatened With Wiretapping Charge 580

Posted by Soulskill
from the it-takes-real-effort-to-be-this-wrong dept.
An anonymous reader tips news of an incident in a Pennsylvania high school in which a student, Christian Stanfield, was being bullied on a regular basis. He used a tablet to make an audio recording of the bullies for the purpose of showing his mother how bad it was. She was shocked, and she called school officials to tell them what was going on. The officials brought in a police lieutenant — but not to deal with the bullies. Instead, the officer interrogated Stanfield and made him delete the recording. The officer then threatened to charge him with felony wiretapping. The charges were later reduced to disorderly conduct, and Stanfield was forced to testify before a magistrate, who found him guilty. Stanfield's mother said, "Christian's willingness to advocate in a non-violent manner should be championed as a turning point. If Mr. Milburn and the South Fayette school district really want to do the right thing, they would recognized that their zero-tolerance policies and overemphasis on academics and athletics have practically eliminated social and emotional functioning from school culture."
Google

Google Looked Into Space Elevator, Hoverboards, and Teleportation 81

Posted by Soulskill
from the go-big-or-go-home-on-your-hoverboard dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Google has a huge research budget and an apparent willingness to take on huge projects. They've gotten themselves into autonomous cars, fiber optic internet, robotics, and Wi-Fi balloons. But that raises a question: if they're willing to commit to projects as difficult and risk as those, what projects have they explored but rejected? Several of the scientists working at Google's 'innovation lab' have spilled the beans: '[Mag-lev] systems have a stabilizing structure that keeps trains in place as they hover and move forward in only one direction. That couldn't quite translate into an open floor plan of magnets that keep a hoverboard steadily aloft and free to move in any direction. One problem, as Piponi explains, is that magnets tend to keep shifting polarities, so your hoverboard would constantly flip over as you floated around moving from a state of repulsion to attraction with the magnets. Any skateboarder could tell you what that means: Your hoverboard would suck. ... If scaling problems are what brought hoverboards down to earth, material-science issues crashed the space elevator. The team knew the cable would have to be exceptionally strong-- "at least a hundred times stronger than the strongest steel that we have," by Piponi's calculations. He found one material that could do this: carbon nanotubes. But no one has manufactured a perfectly formed carbon nanotube strand longer than a meter. And so elevators "were put in a deep freeze," as Heinrich says, and the team decided to keep tabs on any advances in the carbon nanotube field.'"
United States

Study Finds US Is an Oligarchy, Not a Democracy 586

Posted by Soulskill
from the cats-and-dogs-governing-together dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Researchers from Princeton University and Northwestern University have concluded, after extensive analysis of 1,779 policy issues, that the U.S. is in fact an oligarchy and not a democracy. What this means is that, although 'Americans do enjoy many features central to democratic governance,' 'majorities of the American public actually have little influence over the policies our government adopts.' Their study (PDF), to be published in Perspectives on Politics, found that 'When the preferences of economic elites and the stands of organized interest groups are controlled for, the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.'"
Games

Your StarCraft II Potential Peaked At Age 24 93

Posted by Soulskill
from the but-you're-getting-better-at-producing-lots-of-vespene-gas dept.
An anonymous reader writes "StarCraft II is popular among competitive gamers for having the depth necessary to reward differences in skill. A new study has found that your ability keep up with the game's frantic pace starts to decline at age 24. This is relevant to more than just StarCraft II players: 'While many high-performance athletes start to show age-related declines at a young age, those are often attributed to physical as opposed to brain aging. ... While previous lab tests have shown faster reaction times for simple individual tasks, it was never clear how much relevance those had to complex, real-world tasks such as driving. Thompson noted that Starcraft is complex and quite similar to real-life tasks such as managing 911 calls at an emergency dispatch centre, so the findings may be directly relevant. However, game performance was much easier to analyze than many real-life situations because the game generates detailed logs of every move. In a way, Thompson said, the study is a good demonstration of what kinds of insights can be gleaned from the "cool data sets" generated by our digital lives.'"

He keeps differentiating, flying off on a tangent.

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