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Microsoft

Microsoft Lost a City Because They Used Wikipedia Data (theregister.co.uk) 99

"Microsoft can't tell North from South on Bing Maps," joked The Register, reporting that Microsoft's site had "misplaced Melbourne, the four-million-inhabitant capital of the Australian State of Victoria." Long-time Slashdot reader RockDoctor writes: Though they're trying to minimise it, the recent relocation of Melbourne Australia to the ocean east of Japan in Microsoft's flagship mapping application is blamed on someone having flipped a sign in the latitude given for the city's Wikipedia page. Which may or may not be true. But the simple stupidity of using a globally-editable data source for feeding a mapping and navigation system is ... "awesome" is (for once) an appropriate word.

Well, it's Bing, so at least no-one was actually using it.

"Bing's not alone in finding Australia hard to navigate," reports The Register. "In 2012 police warned not to use Apple Maps as it directed those seeking the rural Victorian town of Mildura into the middle of a desert."
United Kingdom

British Companies Are Selling Advanced Spy Tech To Authoritarian Regimes (vice.com) 56

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Since early 2015, over a dozen UK companies have been granted licenses to export powerful telecommunications interception technology to countries around the world, Motherboard has learned. Many of these exports include IMSI-catchers, devices which can monitor large numbers of mobile phones over broad areas. Some of the UK companies were given permission to export their products to authoritarian states such as Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Turkey, and Egypt; countries with poor human rights records that have been well-documented to abuse surveillance technology. In 2015, the UK's Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) started publishing basic data about the exportation of telecommunications interception devices. Through the Freedom of Information Act, Motherboard obtained the names of companies that have applied for exportation licenses, as well as details on the technologies being shipped, including, in some cases, individual product names. The companies include a subsidiary of defense giant BAE Systems, as well as Pro-Solve International, ComsTrac, CellXion, Cobham, and Domo Tactical Communications (DTC). Many of these companies sell IMSI-catchers. IMSI-catchers, sometimes known as "Stingrays" after a particularly popular brand, are fake cell phone towers which force devices in their proximity to connect. In the data obtained by Motherboard, 33 licenses are explicitly marked as being for IMSI-catchers, including for export to Turkey and Indonesia. Other listings heavily suggest the export of IMSI-catchers too: one granted application to export to Iraq is for a "Wideband Passive GSM Monitoring System," which is a more technical description of what many IMSI-catchers do. In all, Motherboard received entries for 148 export license applications, from February 2015 to April 2016. A small number of the named companies do not provide interception capabilities, but defensive measures, for example to monitor the radio spectrum.
The Internet

Internaut Day Might Not Be the Web Anniversary You're Looking For (fortune.com) 70

David Meyer, reporting for Fortune: The web arguably went public before August 23, 1991. Social media users are enthusiastically celebrating "Internaut Day" on Tuesday. They're thanking Tim Berners-Lee, the creator of the World Wide Web, for first providing public access to it on this day in 1991, precisely a quarter of a century back. The only problem is that the supposed importance of Internaut Day doesn't seem to be supported by much evidence. Berners-Lee submitted his seminal proposal for a new information management system to CERN on March 12, 1989, a date which Berners-Lee celebrates as the birthday of the web. The building blocks were specified and written up by October 1990, and the first webpage went live in December that year. So when somebody celebrates the "Internaut Day" today, it really doesn't seem like the right occasion. The report adds: According to Wikipedia, that's when "new users could [first] access" the web -- and that's what a gazillion news stories on Tuesday are supposedly celebrating. But it doesn't square with what the Web Foundation and CERN say.
Crime

Turkish Journalist Jailed For Terrorism Was Framed, Forensic Report Shows (vice.com) 96

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Motherboard: Turkish investigative journalist Baris Pehlivan spent 19 months in jail, accused of terrorism based on documents found on his work computer. But when digital forensics experts examined his PC, they discovered that those files were put there by someone who removed the hard drive from the case, copied the documents, and then reinstalled the hard drive. The attackers also attempted to control the journalist's machine remotely, trying to infect it using malicious email attachments and thumb drives. Among the viruses detected in his computer was an extremely rare trojan called Ahtapot, in one of the only times it's been seen in the wild. Pehlivan went to jail in February of 2011, along with six of his colleagues, after electronic evidence seized during a police raid in 2011 appeared to connect all of them to Ergenekon, an alleged armed group accused of terrorism in Turkey. A paper recently published by computer expert Mark Spencer in Digital Forensics Magazine sheds light into the case after several other reports have acknowledged the presence of malware. Spencer said no other forensics expert noticed the Ahtapot trojan in the OdaTV case, nor has determined accurately how those documents showed up on the journalist's computer. However, almost all the reports have concluded that the incriminating files were planted. "We are not guilty," Baris Pehlivan told Andrada Fiscutean via Motherboard. "The files were put into our computers by a virus and by [attackers] entering the OdaTV office secretly. None of us has seen those documents before the prosecutor showed them to us." (OdaTV is the website Pehlivan works for and "has been critical of the government and the Gulen Movement, which was accused by Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan of orchestrating the recent attempted coup.") In regard to the report, senior security consultant at F-Secure, Taneli Kaivola, says, "Yes, [the report] takes an impressive level of conviction to locally attack a computer four times, and remotely attack it seven times [between January 1, 2011, and February 11, 2011], as well as a certain level of technical skill to set up the infrastructure for those attacks, which included document forgery and date and time manipulation."
Twitter

Twitter Announces New Blocking and Filtering Features (wired.co.uk) 118

Twitter just began rolling out "new ways to control your experience," promising the two new features "will give you more control over what you see and who you interact with on Twitter." An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes a report from Wired UK: First up, notification settings will allow those using Twitter on the web or on desktop to limit the notifications they receive for @ mentions, RTs, and other interactions to just be from people they follow. The feature can be turned on through the notifications tab. Twitter is also expanding its quality filter -- also accessible through notifications. "When turned on, the filter can improve the quality of Tweets you see by using a variety of signals, such as account origin and behavior," the company's product manager Emil Leong said in a blog post.

In December 2015, the company changed its rules to explicitly ban "hateful conduct" for the first time, while back in February last year, Twitter's then-CEO Dick Costolo admitted the network needed to improve how it handled trolls and abuse. In a leaked memo he said: "I'm frankly ashamed of how poorly we've dealt with this issue during my tenure as CEO. It's absurd. There's no excuse for it. I take full responsibility for not being more aggressive on this front. It's nobody else's fault but mine, and it's embarrassing."

Meanwhile, the Twitter account of Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales was hacked on Saturday.
Wikipedia

Wikiverse Turns Wikipedia Into a Marvelous Galaxy of Knowledge (thenextweb.com) 34

An anonymous reader shares a The Next Web report: If recklessly clicking through hundreds of Wikipedia entries at a time no longer does it for you, Wikiverse is about to become your new favorite way of browsing the internet's richest encyclopedia. Built by Owen Cornec, it's a Web-based interactive 3D map of Wikipedia that visualizes the website as a cosmic web of information, literally turning it into a marvelous galaxy of knowledge you can conveniently explore with your mouse. To accomplish this, Wikiverse sources thousands of articles from Wikipedia and then generates a map where it showcases the countless connections and overlaps of information between each entry. In Wikiverse, each article appears as a star within larger domains and clusters of knowledge. To access any entry on Wikipedia, simply click on a star and Wikiverse will pull up the information for you.
Communications

US Air Force Wants To Plasma Bomb The Sky To Improve Radio Communication (newscientist.com) 159

An anonymous reader quotes a report from New Scientist: [The U.S. Air Force has plans to improve radio communication over long distances by detonating plasma bombs in the upper atmosphere using a fleet of micro satellites. It's not the first time we've tried to improve radio communication by tinkering with the ionosphere. HAARP, the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program in Alaska, stimulates the ionosphere with radiation from ground-based antennas to produce radio-reflecting plasma.] Now the USAF wants to do this more efficiently, with tiny satellites -- such as CubeSats -- carrying large volumes of ionized gas directly into the ionosphere. As well as increasing the range of radio signals, the USAF says it wants to smooth out the effects of solar winds, which can knock out GPS, and also investigate the possibility of blocking communication from enemy satellites. [There are at least two major challenges. One is building a plasma generator small enough to fit on a CubeSat -- roughly 10 centimeters cubed. Then there's the problem of controlling exactly how the plasma will disperse once it is released. The USAF has awarded three contracts to teams who are sketching out ways to tackle the approach. The best proposal will be selected for a second phase in which plasma generators will be tested in vacuum chambers and exploratory space flights.]
First Person Shooters (Games)

'GoldenEye: Source' Updated: A Classic, Free Multiplayer Game (theverge.com) 65

An anonymous reader quotes The Verge: GoldenEye: Source received its first update in more than three years this week. It's free to download and it features 25 recreated maps, 10 different multiplayer modes, and redesigned versions of the original game's 28 weapons. It was created using Valve's Source engine, the same set of tools used to create Counter Strike and Half-Life games. So it's a massive step up in both visuals and performance for one of the more drastically dated gaming masterpieces of the last 20 years...

GoldenEye 007, the beloved N64 first-person shooter, has been recreated in high-definition glory by a team of dedicated fans over the course of 10 years...the attention to detail and the amount of effort that went into GoldenEye: Source make it one of the most polished HD remakes of a N64 classic.

With 8 million copies sold, Wikipedia calls it the third best-selling Nintendo 64 game of all-time (although this version doesn't recreate its single-player campaigns). Anyone have fond memories of playing Goldeneye 007?
Space

Barry Jenner, Who Played Admiral Ross On 'Star Trek: Deep Space Nine,' Dies At 75 (deadline.com) 59

New submitter bufo333 quotes a report from Deadline: Character actor Barry Jenner, best known for his pivotal role as Admiral William Ross on "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" and with credits including recurring roles on "Dallas," "Knott's Landing," "Family Matters" and many others, died on August 9, his family has announced. He was 75.
Businesses

Google Ventures CEO and Founder Bill Maris Is Leaving (recode.net) 13

According to a report from Recode, the founder and CEO of Google Ventures (GV), Bill Maris, is leaving the firm and its parent company, Alphabet. Recode reports: "Sources say Maris is being replaced by David Krane, a managing partner for the venture arm and one of the earliest corporate communications managers at Google. Maris, an early web entrepreneur, founded Google's venture capital arm in 2009 and quickly built it into a formidable presence in Silicon Valley. In 2015, the firm managed upwards of $2.4 billion in capital. Although GV cut back on investments in Europe and with early stage companies, the firm is still willing to cut checks. For the first six months of this year, it passed Intel Capital as the most active corporate venture arm, according to CB Insights. Under Maris, GV has had some high-profile misses -- most notably, the disastrous app Secret. But those were outweighed by early bets in gigantic startups like Uber, Nest, Slack and Jet.com, which just went to Walmart for $3 billion. Lately, GV has upped its investment in startups working on health and biotech, a strong interest of Maris's." Recode followed up with Maris in a separate report and asked him several questions. When asked why he is leaving, Maris said, "I'm leaving because everything is great."
IT

IFTTT Enables 3rd-Party Devs To Integrate the Service Into their Products (techhive.com) 18

IFTTT (short for If this then that) has made a name for itself as a platform for people to easily automate tasks between various apps. The company announced on Wednesday that it is now allowing developing partners to embed those IFTTT recipes directly in their own third-party apps. TechHive adds: This should enable IFTTT to expand its user base beyond the 1.4 million enthusiasts who are already using the service. Smart-home device users who own products such as the Ring video doorbell, LIFX smart bulbs, the Foobot indoor air monitor, and the Garagio smart garage-door operator will gain the capability to use IFTTT recipes directly from their product's apps starting Wednesday. You'll still need to sign up for an IFTTT account if you don't have one, but you'll be able to do that without leaving the third-party device's app. "It lets them tell the story now," said CEO Linden Tibbett. "A good analogy is to think of how PayPal handles payment... We want to be that standard for asking and granting access from one service to another."
Open Source

Ask VideoLAN President and Lead VLC Developer Jean-Baptiste Kempf Your Questions 204

VLC remains one of the most popular applications. First released over 15 years ago, VLC is open-source, and is available across multiple platforms including Windows, OS X, Linux, Android, ChromeOS, iOS, and it's coming to the Xbox One later this year. We thought it would be great to have Jean-Baptiste Kempf, President of VideoLAN non-profit organization (the maker of VLC media player). In addition, he is also a lead developer of VLC.

Leave your questions in the comments section below. Let's get this going.
Medicine

Soylent Coffee: Nootropics, Fat, Carbs, Protein -- But Will It Give You The Toots? (arstechnica.com) 148

An anonymous reader writes from a report via Ars Technica: Soylent has ventured in a new direction with its latest beverage: breakfast. Called Coffiest, the new offering has the same ingredient makeup, nutritional mix, and 47/33/20 percent fat/carb/protein calorie distribution as the 2.0 premixed version, but it also adds coffee flavoring, 150mg of caffeine per serving, and 75mg of the nootropic L-Theanine. According to Soylent founder Rob Rhinehart, a bottle of Coffiest supplies the drinker with about 400 kilocalories and about 20 percent of the daily recommended values for "all essential vitamins and minerals." "A lot of people are skipping breakfast," Rhinehart told Ars in a phone interview. "We wanted to provide a convenient and also really tasty option for them to enjoy in the morning." Additionally, the company will also be releasing a nutrition bar, called the Soylent Bar. This one will deliver 250 kilocalories per bar, and has a macronutrient breakdown of 38/43/19 percent fat/carb/protein. "Coffee flavor is extremely complex," Rhinehart told Ars. "The direction I gave was a little bit of a more darker, richer roast it's a little darker coffee. A little bit of cocoa powder, just a barely perceptible amount, but it rounds out the flavor nicely." "It was a huge challenge to develop a coffee flavor that would survive processing," he continued. "You can't take any risks with health or safety, so we have to eliminate any sources of contamination from the product and that involves heat. So we had some great food scientists and flavor scientists work out a flavor system that combines natural coffee extracts with an artificial flavor system. And it turned out pretty great." As for the toots, neither Coffiest nor the Soylent Bar will cause consumers to erupt with "horse-killing farts," a complaint made by many of Soylent's customers as well as Ars Technica writer Lee Hutchinson. For those interested in Soylent's latest concoction, Coffiest is available for purchase today at the Soylent site for about $40 for a pack of 12 servings (or $37.05 with a recurring subscription). The Soylent Bar will launch later for about $2 per bar. You can view Coffiest's nutrition facts here.
Transportation

Luxury Liner SS United States Cannot Be Put Back In Service (miamiherald.com) 118

tomhath writes: Once the fastest ocean liner ever built, the SS United States has been mothballed for almost 50 years. An ambitious project to refurbish the SS United States as a luxury liner has been abandoned due to insurmountable technical and commercial obstacles. Plan B, to turn it into a floating hotel/convention center, might go forward. Miami Herald provides some history of the SS United States in its report: "The iconic 1950s vessel, which was bigger than the Titanic and once carried celebrities across the Atlantic Ocean, was set for a $700 million overhaul by the Los Angeles-based luxury line, which also has offices in Miami. The SS United States was decommissioned in 1969 and has been gutted and docked in Philadelphia for two decades on the Delaware River. On its maiden voyage in 1952, the ship traversed the Atlantic in three days, 10 hours and 42 minutes -- a record it held until 1990."
Science

Scientists Argue the US Ban on Human Gene Editing Will Leave It Behind (vice.com) 183

Alex Pearlman, reporting for Motherboard: As the biotech revolution accelerates globally, the U.S. could be getting left behind on key technological advances: namely, human genetic modification. A Congressional ban on human germline modification has "drawn new lines in the sand" on gene editing legislation, argues a paper published today in Science by Harvard law and bioethics professor I. Glenn Cohen and leading biologist Eli Adashi of Brown University. They say that without a course correction, "the United States is ceding its leadership in this arena to other nations." Germline gene modification is the act of making heritable changes to early stage human embryos or sex cells that can be passed down to the next generation, and it will be banned in the US. This is different from somatic gene editing, which is editing cells of humans that have already been born. The ban, added by the House of Representatives as a rider to the fiscal year 2016 budget, could have far-reaching implications if it continues to be annually renewed, according to the authors. It "undermines ongoing conversations on the possibility of human germline modification" and also affects "ongoing efforts by the FDA [Food and Drug Administration] to review the prevention of mitochondrial DNA diseases," including some kinds of hearing and vision impairments, among other serious illnesses that tend to develop in young children.
Mars

NASA's 'Journey To Mars' Initiative Might Be Delayed Due To Government Audit (natureworldnews.com) 65

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Christian Science Monitor: NASA has taken bold steps toward crewed Mars exploration in recent years. But according to a new audit, the agency may be moving too hastily. The Government Accountability Office (GAO) expressed concerns this past week about the feasibility of NASA's Orion crew capsule and Space Launch System (SLS). In two government-requested audits, the GAO questioned NASA's ability to meet program deadlines, citing insufficient funding and internal management issues. According to the GAO, however, the agency's schedule just isn't realistic. By pushing for earlier launch dates, NASA is increasing the inherent risk of a deep space mission. NASA's budgeting practices are also scrutinized in GAO's audit. In September, the agency asked for $11.3 billion to prepare Orion for launch. "Ideally, if these programs go forward, NASA would be taking actions to reduce the risks we see now, which are being caused by management issues," says Cristina Chaplain, who led the GOA audit, in an interview with the Monitor. "They're going to face the technical issues no matter what. But they're exacerbating them with management concerns, like not having accurate cost estimates." The report adds: "NASA's 'Journey to Mars' initiative has been a source of both excitement and controversy. The Asteroid Redirect Mission, in which the agency will send four astronauts to redirect an asteroid into the moon's orbit, is slated to launch sometime in the next decade. The mission is designed to test new propulsion technology for future crewed Mars missions. In the 2030s, NASA hopes to send an Orion crew to the red planet. NASA plans to complete the first SLS launch in 2018. In the test mission, called Exploration Mission 1, the rocket will carry an empty Orion into orbit around the moon. In subsequent missions, SLS/Orion will launch with a full crew. NASA has scheduled Exploration Mission 2 for April 2023, but administrators hope to launch as early as 2021."
Education

Seymour Papert, Creator of the Logo Language, Dies At 88 (mit.edu) 68

New submitter gwolf writes: The great educator, creator of the Logo programming language, and the enabler for computer education in the 1980s has passed away. Listing his contributions is impossible in an article summary, but the ACM has published a short in-memoriam note for him. Papert is, without exaggeration, one of the people I owe my career and life choices to.
Biotech

Google's Alphabet and GSK Forge $715 Million Bioelectronic Firm To Fight Diseases Without Meds (reuters.com) 27

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Reuters: GlaxoSmithKline (GSK) and Google parent Alphabet's life sciences unit are creating a new company focused on fighting diseases by targeting electrical signals in the body, jump-starting a novel field of medicine called bioelectronics. Verily Life Sciences -- known as Google's life sciences unit until last year -- and Britain's biggest drugmaker will together contribute 540 million pounds ($715 million) over seven years to Galvani Bioelectronics, they said on Monday. The new company, owned 55 percent by GSK and 45 percent by Verily, will be based at GSK's Stevenage research center north of London, with a second research hub in South San Francisco. Galvani will develop miniaturized, implantable devices that can modify electrical nerve signals. The aim is to modulate irregular or altered impulses that occur in many illnesses. GSK believes chronic conditions such as diabetes, arthritis and asthma could be treated using these tiny devices, which consist of a electronic collar that wraps around nerves. Kris Famm, GSK's head of bioelectronics research and president of Galvani, said the first bioelectronic medicines using these implants to stimulate nerves could be submitted for regulatory approval by around 2023. GSK first unveiled its ambitions in bioelectronics in a paper in the journal Nature three years ago and believes it is ahead of Big Pharma rivals in developing medicines that use electrical impulses rather than traditional chemicals or proteins.
Earth

World's Largest Solar Power Plant Planned For Chernobyl Nuclear Wasteland (electrek.co) 159

An anonymous reader writes from a report via Electrek: Chernobyl, the world's most famous and hazardous nuclear meltdown, is being considered for the world's largest solar power plant. Even though nearly 1,600 square miles of land around Chernobyl has radiation levels too high for human health, Ukraine's ecology minister has said in a recent interview that two U.S. investment firms and four Canadian energy companies have expressed interest in Chernobyl's solar potential. Electrek reports: "According to PVTech, the Ukrainian government is pushing for a 6 month construction cycle. Deploying this amount of solar power within such a time frame would involve significant resources being deployed. The proposed 1GW solar plant, if built today, would be the world's largest. There are several plans for 1GW solar plants in development (Egypt, India, UAE, China, etc) -- but none of them have been completed yet. One financial benefit of the site is that transmission lines for Chernobyl's 4GW nuclear reactor are still in place. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development has stated they would be interested in participating in the project, 'so long as there are viable investment proposals and all other environmental matters and risks can be addressed to the bank's satisfaction.'"
NASA

Class of Large But Very Dim Galaxies Discovered (nature.com) 105

schwit1 writes from a report via Nature: Astronomers have now detected and measured a new class of large but very dim galaxy that previously was not expected to exist. Nature reports: "'[Ultradiffuse]' galaxies came to attention only last year, after Pieter van Dokkum of Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut, and Roberto Abraham of the University of Toronto in Canada built an array of sensitive telephoto lenses named Dragonfly. The astronomers and their colleagues observed the Coma galaxy cluster 101 megaparsecs (330 million light years) away and detected 47 faint smudges. 'They can't be real,' van Dokkum recalls thinking when he first saw the galaxies on his laptop computer. But their distribution in space matched that of the cluster's other galaxies, indicating that they were true members. Since then, hundreds more of these galaxies have turned up in the Coma cluster and elsewhere. Ultradiffuse galaxies are large like the Milky Way -- which is much bigger than most -- but they glow as dimly as mere dwarf galaxies. It's as though a city as big as London emitted as little light as Kalamazoo, Michigan." More significantly, they have now found that these dim galaxies can be as big and as massive as the biggest bright galaxies, suggesting that there are a lot more stars and mass hidden out there and unseen than anyone had previously predicted.

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