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Power

Solar Plant Sets Birds On Fire As They Fly Overhead 44

Posted by Soulskill
from the free-hot-wings dept.
Elledan writes: Federal investigators in California have requested that BrightSource — owner of thermal solar plants — halt the construction of more (and bigger) plants until their impact on wildlife has been further investigated. "Unlike many other solar plants, the Ivanpah plant does not generate energy using photovoltaic solar panels. Instead, it has more than 300,000 mirrors, each the size of a garage door. Together, they cover 1,416 hectares. Each mirror collects and reflects solar rays, focusing and concentrating solar energy from their entire surfaces upward onto three boiler towers, each looming up to 40 stories high. The solar energy heats the water inside the towers to produce steam, which turns turbines that generate enough electricity for 140,000 homes." The concentrated solar energy chars and incinerates the feathers of passing birds. BrightSource estimates about a thousand bird die this way every year, but an environmental group claims the real number is much higher.
Operating Systems

Operating Systems Still Matter In a Containerized World 41

Posted by Soulskill
from the try-to-contain-yourself dept.
New submitter Jason Baker writes: With the rise of Docker containers as an alternative for deploying complex server-based applications, one might wonder, does the operating system even matter anymore? Certainly the question gets asked periodically. Gordon Haff makes the argument on Opensource.com that the operating system is still very much alive and kicking, and that a hardened, tuned, reliable operating system is just as important to the success of applications as it was in the pre-container data center.
Classic Games (Games)

Fifth Edition Dungeons and Dragons Player's Handbook Released 60

Posted by Soulskill
from the roll-for-free-shipping dept.
New submitter GammaKitsune writes: "The Player's Handbook for the fifth edition of Dungeons and Dragons, formerly known as "D&D Next," released today to major bookstores and online retailers across the U.S. The Player's Handbook, which contains core rules for gameplay and character creation, is one of thee core rulebooks that developer Wizards of the Coast plans to release in 2014. The Monster Manual is scheduled to release in late September, and the Dungeon Master's Guide will release in mid November. Also out today is the first of two adventure modules in which players team up to battle against the dragon goddess Tiamat.

Fifth edition has a lot to prove following the highly-controversial fourth edition, the rise of competing roleplaying game Pathfinder, and two years of public playtesting. Initial reviews posted on Amazon appear overwhelmingly positive at the time of writing, but more skeptical gamers may wish to take a look at the free "Basic Rules" posted on the official D&D website. The basic rules contain all the bare essentials needed to create a character or run your own adventure, and will serve both as a free introduction for new players and as a holdover for long time players until the remaining two rulebooks are released.
Businesses

Comcast Training Materials Leaked 97

Posted by Soulskill
from the how-to-be-a-jerk-in-3-easy-steps dept.
WheezyJoe writes: The Verge reports on leaked training manuals from Comcast, which show how selling services is a required part of the job, even for employees doing tech support. The so-called "4S training material" explicitly states that 20 percent of a call center employee's rating for a given call is dependent on effectively selling the customer new Comcast services. "There are pages of materials on 'probing' customers to ferret out upsell opportunities, as well as on batting aside customer objections to being told they need to buy something. 'We can certainly look at other options, but you would lose which you mentioned was important to you,' the guide suggests clumsily saying to an angry customer who doesn't want to buy any more Comcast services." Images of the leaked documents are available on the Verge, making for fun reading.
Network

Netflix CEO On Net Neutrality: Large ISPs Are the Problem 101

Posted by Soulskill
from the but-large-ISPs-are-so-well-liked dept.
KindMind writes: At Wired, Netflix CEO Reed Hastings has posted his take on net neutrality. He lays the problem at the feet of the large ISPs. Hastings says, "Consider this: A single fiber-optic strand the diameter of a human hair can carry 101.7 terabits of data per second, enough to support nearly every Netflix subscriber watching content in HD at the same time. And while technology has improved and capacity has increased, costs have continued to decline. A few more shelves of equipment might be needed in the buildings that house interconnection points, but broadband itself is as limitless as its uses. We'll never realize broadband's potential if large ISPs erect a pay-to-play system that charges both the sender and receiver for the same content. ... It's worth noting that Netflix connects directly with hundreds of ISPs globally, and 99 percent of those agreements don't involve access fees. It is only a handful of the largest U.S. ISPs, which control the majority of consumer connections, demanding this toll. Why would more profitable, larger companies charge for connections and capacity that smaller companies provide for free? Because they can."
The Almighty Buck

$125,000 Settlement Given To Man Arrested for Photographing NYPD 120

Posted by Soulskill
from the cheaper-than-a-trial dept.
mpicpp sends word of a $125,000 settlement for a man who was arrested for photographing members of the New York Police Department. On June 14th, 2012, the man was sitting in his car when he saw three African-American youths being stopped and frisked by police officers. He began taking pictures of the encounter, and after the police were done, he advised the youths to get the officers' badge numbers next time. When the officers heard him, they pulled him violently from his car and arrested him under a charge of disorderly conduct. The police allegedly deleted the pictures from his phone (PDF). Rather than go to trial, the city's lawyers decided a settlement was the best course of action.
Power

If Fusion Is the Answer, We Need To Do It Quickly 149

Posted by Soulskill
from the taming-a-small-star dept.
Lasrick writes: Yale's Jason Parisi makes a compelling case for fusion power, and explains why fusion is cleaner, safer, and doesn't provide opportunities for nuclear smuggling and proliferation. The only downside will be the transition period, when there are both fission and fusion plants available and the small amount of "booster" elements (tritium and deuterium) found in fusion power could provide would-be proliferators what they need to boost the yield of fission bombs: "The period during which both fission and fusion plants coexist could be dangerous, however. Just a few grams of deuterium and tritium are needed to increase the yield of a fission bomb, in a process known as 'boosting.'" Details about current research into fusion power and an exploration of relative costs make fusion power seem like the answer to a civilization trying to get away from fossil fuels.
Youtube

YouTube Music Subscription Details Leak 54

Posted by Soulskill
from the hitting-some-of-the-right-notes dept.
Several readers sent word that Android Police has leaked details about YouTube's upcoming subscription service, Music Key. The benefits for users will include ad-free music, offline playback, and audio-only streams. It's expected to cost $10 per month. "Of course, one of Music Key's major value propositions is that users will have access not just to official discographies, but to concert footage, covers, and remixes. Play Music already houses some remixes and covers, but YouTube as a platform is significantly more open and workable for derivative content — the platform is much easier to add content to, and user discoverability is substantially different from Play Music." Others note Google still has to negotiate terms with many independent musicians, who could subsequently see their work blocked if they aren't willing to play by Google's rules.
ISS

Scientists Find Traces of Sea Plankton On ISS Surface 76

Posted by Soulskill
from the space-stations-like-to-swim dept.
schwit1 sends this report from the ITAR-TASS News Agency: An experiment of taking samples from illuminators and the ISS surface has brought unique results, as scientists had found traces of sea plankton there, the chief of an orbital mission on Russia's ISS segment told reporters. Results of the scope of scientific experiments which had been conducted for a quite long time were summed up in the previous year, confirming that some organisms can live on the surface of the International Space Station for years amid factors of a space flight, such as zero gravity, temperature conditions and hard cosmic radiation. Several surveys proved that these organisms can even develop. He noted that it was not quite clear how these microscopic particles could have appeared on the surface of the space station.
Mars

Modular Hive Homes Win Mars Base Design Competition 45

Posted by Soulskill
from the i'll-order-a-dozen dept.
In June, we discussed news that JPL and MakerBot were teaming up to host a competition for designing a futuristic Mars base. The competition is now over, and the top three designs have been chosen. First place went to Noah Hornberger, who designed a base with hexagonal rooms and shielding made of depleted uranium. Second place went to a martian pyramid with an aquaponics system on top, mirror-based solar collectors, central water storage, and compartmentalized living spaces. The third place award went to Chris Starr for his Mars Acropolis, which was styled upon the ancient Greek Acropolis. It has a water tower at the top of the structure, a series of greenhouses at the bottom, and living quarters in between. The full list of 227 entries is browse-able on Thingiverse.
Microsoft

Ballmer Leaves Microsoft Board 106

Posted by Soulskill
from the retirement!-retirement!-retirement! dept.
jones_supa writes: After leaving his position as CEO of Microsoft a year ago, Steve Ballmer has still held a position as a member of the board of directors for the company. Now, he is leaving the board, explaining why in a letter to fresh Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella. "I have become very busy," Ballmer explains. "I see a combination of Clippers, civic contribution, teaching and study taking up a lot of time." Despite his departure, the former-CEO is still invested in the company's success, and he spent most of the letter encouraging Nadella and giving advice. Nadella shot back a supportive, equally optimistic response, promising that Microsoft will thrive in "the mobile-first, cloud-first world."
Open Source

At Home with Tim O'Reilly (Videos 1 and 2 of 6) 7

Posted by Roblimo
from the not-just-a-man-but-a-vital-force-behind-open-source dept.
Wikipedia says Tim O'Reilly "is the founder of O'Reilly Media (formerly O'Reilly & Associates) and a supporter of the free software and open source movements." And so he is. O'Reilly Media is also the company from which Make magazine and the assorted Maker Faires sprang, before spinning off into an ongoing presence of their own. (This year's Solid conference, as well as the confluence of hardware and software at OSCON demonstrate O'Reilly's ongoing interest in the world of makers, though.) O'Reilly has been a powerful force in technical book publishing, popularized the term Web 2.0, and has been at least a godfather to the open source movement. He's also an interesting person in general, even more so when he's hanging out at home than when he's on stage at a conference or doing a formal interview. That's why we were glad Timothy Lord was able to get hold of Tim O'Reilly via Hangout while he was in a relaxed mood in a no-pressure environment, happy to give detailed responses based on your questions, from small (everyday technology) to big (the Internet as "global brain").

We've run a few two-part videos, but this is the first time we've split one video into six parts -- with two running today, two tomorrow, and two Thursday. But then, how many people do we interview who have had as much of an effect on the nature of information transmission -- as opposed to just publishing -- as Tim O'Reilly? We don't know for sure, but there's a good chance that O'Reilly books are owned by more Slashdot readers than books from any other publisher. That alone makes Tim O'Reilly worth listening to for nearly an hour, total. (Alternate Video Links: Video 1 ~ Video 2; transcript below covers both videos.)
Government

German Intelligence Spying On Allies, Recorded Kerry, Clinton, and Kofi Annan 124

Posted by Soulskill
from the turnabout-is-fairly-played-out dept.
cold fjord writes: According to Foreign Policy, "The revelation that Germany spies on Turkey, a NATO member, should dispel any notion that spying on allies violates the unwritten rules of international espionage. ... For nearly a year, the extent of NSA surveillance on German leaders ... has drawn stern rebuke from the German political and media establishment. ... Merkel went so far as to publicly oust the CIA station chief in Berlin. 'Spying among friends is not at all acceptable,' Merkel said. ... [C]alls made by Secretary of State John Kerry and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were accidentally recorded. ... 'It's a kind of delightful revelation given the fact that the Germans have been on their high horse.' Christian Whiton, a former ... State Department senior advisor, added that the report on German spying is a perfect example of why rifts over intelligence among allies should be handled quietly and privately." The Wall Street Journal adds, "Cem Özdemir, the head of the Green party and a leading German politician of Turkish descent, told Spiegel Online it would be 'irresponsible' for German spies not to target Turkey given its location as a transit country for Islamic State militants from Europe." Further details at Spiegel Online and The Wall Street Journal."
Google

Google's Driverless Cars Capable of Exceeding Speed Limit 384

Posted by Soulskill
from the how-should-i-feel-when-a-driverless-car-tailgates-me? dept.
mrspoonsi sends a report about how Google's autonomous vehicles handle speed limits. It's easy to assume that driverless cars will simply be programmed never to exceed a posted speed limit, but Google has found that such behavior can actually be less safe than speeding a bit. Thus, they've allowed their cars to exceed the speed limit by up to 10 miles per hour. In July, the U.K. government announced that driverless cars will be allowed on public roads from January next year. In addition, ministers ordered a review of the U.K.'s road regulations to provide appropriate guidelines. This will cover the need for self-drive vehicles to comply with safety and traffic laws, and involve changes to the Highway Code, which applies to England, Scotland and Wales. Commenting on Google self-drive cars' ability to exceed the speed limit, a Department for Transport spokesman said: "There are no plans to change speed limits, which will still apply to driverless cars." In a separate development on Monday, the White House said it wanted all cars and light trucks to be equipped with technology that could prevent collisions.
Robotics

FarmBot: an Open Source Automated Farming Machine 115

Posted by Soulskill
from the rise-of-the-technofarmer dept.
New submitter ErnieKey writes: Farming has been stuck in a bit of a rut, when compared to other industries. Businesses across the globe have been innovating for decades, while farming has been using techniques that have been handed down from centuries ago. The FarmBot Foundation is creating a machine, similar to that of a CNC mill and/or 3D printer, which is capable of being run by sophisticated software and equipped with any tools you can imagine, including seed injectors, plows, burners, robotic arms (for harvesting), cutters, shredders, tillers, discers, watering nozzles, sensors and more. The goal? To increase food production by automating as much of it as possible.

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