Apple releases iOS8

by in apple on 2014-09-17 14:08 (#2SH1)

Apple released the 8th version of its popular iOS operating system today, and as far as this editor can tell, the entire Internet experienced a collective nerdgasm. Every major tech site is either reporting on it, speculating on it, or promising sneak previews of hitherto undisclosed features.

Apple themselves are calling iOS8 "the biggest update ever." So we turn to the Register, who gives us a more precise list of new features:
IOS 8 can automatically filter, straighten and crop snaps, and it eases the process of sharing photos and others files with people ... will record time-lapse videos, if you want. And the iOS Messages app will be updated to include location info, video and voice records, and self-deleting vids, apparently. ...
The update will also include the HealthKit personal monitoring API that was seen at WWDC back in June. Other features include supposedly better predictive typing for the on-screen keyboard, and Siri apparently works better with getting information from maps and news. Not all the features will be available in all countries, however. Siri's ability to reserve restaurant tables, for example, will only be offered to people in North America when the OS launches. And, of course, the update will use the iPhone 6 smartphone and 6 Plus' NFC hardware as a cash substitute thanks to Apple Pay. That service is supported by many of the largest banks and credit card companies – although third-party app makers are frozen out of the party.
So what say you P8rs? Is this a revolution in pocket computing, or a marginal update to existing features? Or something in between?

How Made In Space's 3-D Printer Could Revolutionize the Final Frontier

by in space on 2014-09-17 13:57 (#2SGY)

story imageWhen the first 3-D printer designed to work in a weightless environment is sent up to the International Space Station – as early as next week! – it will mark one small step toward a giant leap for manufacturing in outer space.

"Imagine if you're going to Mars, and instead of packing along 20,000 spare parts, you pack along a few kilograms of 'ink,'" NASA astronaut Reid Wiseman said in a video recorded in March before starting his stint on the station. "Now you don't even need to know what part is going to break. You can just print out that part. ... I really like that, and it'll be fun to play with that in orbit."

[Ed note: finally able to use the "printer" icon in a "space" article. Life is good.]

Qt is about to be independent again

by in code on 2014-09-17 13:54 (#2SGX)

Once upon a time, the Qt developer kit was written and published by Trolltech. Then it was sold to Nokia. Then Nokia sold it to Digia. And now, Digia is spinning it off as an independent entity. Freedom at last?!

The Register reports:
While Digia puts an upbeat spin on the separation, it's hard to avoid wondering if, like Trolltech and Nokia before it, the company has found it hard to reconcile the coexistence of the open source and commercial versions of the platform.

It said as much in August, noting that “The installers and product packages for the open source and enterprise versions are different, and there is a complete disconnect between and the commercial pages on” when it announced its intention to create the subsidiary.

Digia holds 100 per cent of the new Qt company at this point, and said one of the aims of the new operation will be to unify the two sets of packages, starting with one set of installers.

The first step of the creation of a new Qt has now gone live, and a few days ago the unified operation popped its head up at the IBC conference in Amsterdam to position its capabilities as a set-to-box and digital TV UI development environment.
[Ed. note: Now that Qt is on its own, they should come up with a good name for the organization. I propose "Trolltech" - just so we can truly come full-circle.]
[2014-09-17 15:15 Title updated from QT to Qt]

Enlightenment E19 released with full Wayland support

by in linux on 2014-09-17 13:24 (#2SGS)

The Enlightenment team announced this week that the 19th version of their popular-but not popular enough- desktop environment has been released. Enlightenment DR 0.19 brings a number of useful improvements, refinements, or fixes, including a new profile for tiling workspace windows, better video previews, the return of the E16-style live pager, a new compositor API, non-recursive make files for building the system, and improvements to the file manager, system action menus, better performance on multiple monitors, support for high DPI monitors, and better rendering of shaped (non-rectangular) windows. It also has full support for Wayland including its own, rewritten Wayland compositor.

The Enlightenment project has always marched to the beat of a different drum. So their disclaimer: "Enlightenment developers cannot be responsible for any successes which occur during testing of E19" seems like they're still having a lot of fun.

If you're interested in seeing what E19 is capable of, Bodhi has a good intro to Enlightenment E17 on their site, but this Youtube video of E17 is also a good place to start.

Scientists raise air-breathing fish on land to test evolution

by in science on 2014-09-17 11:43 (#2SGP)

story imageAmong the more interesting aquatic species on our earth is Polypterus senegalus ("Bichr"), a modern African fish that has lungs for breathing air, and stubby fins. It can use the to pull itself along on land for short periods of time. That makes it an good candidate for research into previously unknown aspects of evolution. So scientists have raised a bunch of them out of water for eight months to better understand how ancient creatures may have transitioned to life on land. Have a look here for a picture of the species.1
"The researchers discovered the bichir raised on land were dramatically different than those raised in water. The land-raised fish lifted their heads higher, held their fins closer to their bodies, took faster steps and undulated their tails less frequently and had fins that slipped less often than bichir raised in water. These land-based fish also underwent changes in their skeletons and musculature that likely paved the way for their changes in behavior."
The Bichr is a pretty interesting fish. From Wikipedia, "Bichirs possess paired lungs which connect to the esophagus via a glottis. They are obligate air-breathers, requiring access to surface air to breathe in poorly oxygenated water. Their lungs are highly vascularized to facilitate gas exchange. Deoxygenated arterial blood is brought to the lungs by paired pulmonary arteries, which branch from the fourth efferent branchial arteries (artery from the fourth gill arch), and oxygenated blood leaves the lungs in pulmonary veins. Unlike most lungfish and tetrapods, their lungs are smooth sacs instead of alveolated tissue. Bichirs are unique in that they breathe using a recoil aspiration."

1 So, a bichr is worth a thousand words? Sorry.

Attachmate and MicroFocus to merge, SUSE Linux unaffected

by in linux on 2014-09-17 11:04 (#2SGG)

Richard Brown reported on Google Plus that Attachmate has entered into an agreement with Micro Focus, a UK enterprise software company. Under the terms of the agreement, both institutions will merge. You might already know that Attachmate is the company that owns and manages SUSE Linux out of Nurenburg, Germany. So what does this mean for SUSE and OpenSUSE? Maybe nothing! That's great news. From the letter sent by Attachmate to the Board of Directors of SUSE Linux:
* Business as Usual: There are no changes planned for the SUSE business structure and leadership. There is no need for any action by
the openSUSE Project as a result of this announcement.

* Commitment to Open Source: SUSE remains passionately committed to innovation through Open Source. This has always been the foundation of our business and that will continue as we grow and innovate in new areas.

* Commitment to openSUSE: SUSE is also fully committed to being a sponsor and supporter of an open, highly independent and dynamic openSUSE community and project. We are proud of openSUSE and greatly value the collaborative relationship between SUSE and the openSUSE community.

* The combination of the Attachmate Group and Micro Focus creates a larger, global enterprise software entity, operating at a greater global scale. This provides an even stronger foundation for the continued investment in SUSE and our continued innovation through Open Source."
That's good news for fans of the openSUSE Linux distro, as well as SUSE customers everywhere. I would argue that Attachmate's purchase of SUSE from Novell was the best thing that happened to SUSE in years; glad this isn't going to have an impact on a great distro.

DARPA develops tiny implants that treat diseases and depression without medication

by in science on 2014-09-16 14:39 (#2SFB)

story imageSo, how y'all feeling? We can fix that.

DARPA, on the back of the US government’s BRAIN program, has begun the development of tiny electronic implants that interface directly with your nervous system and can directly control and regulate many different diseases and chronic conditions, such as arthritis, PTSD, inflammatory bowel diseases (Crohn’s disease), and depression. The program, called ElectRx (pronounced ‘electrics’), ultimately aims to replace medication with “closed-loop” neural implants, which constantly assess the state of your health, and then provide the necessary nerve stimulation to keep your various organs and biological systems functioning properly.

The old joke is that there's no need to study biology since eventually it's all just chemistry anyway. But maybe behind the chemistry it's actually all just electrical? If that's the case, I'd like a USB port wired in, please.

What's next for tablets running Linux?

by in linux on 2014-09-16 11:09 (#2SEW)

story imagePut aside the "Android is based on Linux" argument for a second, and let's look at the state of tablet hardware running the Linux operating system instead of Android. And it doesn't look good.

Network World reports Ubuntu Touch might be our last and best hope for tablets running Linux:
Canonical says that they expect Ubuntu Touch-powered tablets to start shipping in the second half of this year. When I took Ubuntu Touch for a spin on my Nexus 7 last October, it definitely had promise (if it was a bit on the buggy side). And it has certainly improved a great deal since then. Unfortunately, the ability to run traditional Linux desktop software isn't the focus of Ubuntu Touch. In theory, this will be possible, but I've yet to see this actually happen. So I'm not holding my breath.
Not too long ago, Aaron Seigo and a group of KDE hackers was making a big splash about the upcoming Vivaldi tablet, which was to be a Linux tablet running a customized version of the KDE Plasma environment (KDE4 reconfigured in ways that make sense for a tablet). I was looking forward to that device, as KDE4 was rejiggered specifically to permit this kind of innovation in interfaces and avoid the whole "if Gnome3 is good enough for a tablet it's good enough for your desktop" attitude. Unfortunately, when the Vivaldi tablet project met with a lack of supporters willing to put up cold hard cash, it bit the dust:
Announcing the ‘wrap up’ in an e-mail sent to backers of the Improv ARM-based development board the team suggests that the FOSS community is ‘not ready’ to put its weight behind the ‘pressing issue of hardware freedom’, adding: “We greatly appreciate everyone’s support, whether it was purchases, donations or words of wisdom and encouragement. There was simply not enough support to make the project work, despite having fully functional, production ready devices and a strong commitment to succeed.”
Well, there's still the Pengpod, currently in crowd funding. But it's barely there as a product, reliant on going from crowd-funding to crowd-funding to push out new versions of their interesting product. What is there to do if you want Linux apps on tablet hardware? For the moment, it seems the answer is "be patient."

Confirmed: Microbial life found half mile below Antarctic ice sheet

by in science on 2014-09-16 10:38 (#2SET)

Wednesday, Nature (a scientific journal focused on the natural science) reported something either astonishing or expected, depending on your own personal mood: close to 4,000 species of microbes have been discovered growing in the cold, dark environment of Subglacial Lake Whillans in western Antarctica. Each quarter teaspoon of the tea-colored lake water brought to the surface had about 130,000 cells in it.

In the lightless environment of Subglacial Lake Whillans, the microbes rely on minerals from the bedrock and sediments. The pressure of the slowly moving ice above the lake grinds the underlying rock into a powder, liberating the minerals in the rock into the water, and making them accessible to the microorganisms living there. The microbes act on those iron, ammonium and sulphide compounds to create energy.

From the LA Times:
Scientists have discovered a diverse ecosystem of single-celled organisms that have managed to survive without ever seeing the light of the sun. The discovery, reported Wednesday in the journal Nature is not so much a surprise as a triumph of science and engineering. The research team spent 10 years and more than $10 million to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that life did indeed exist in sub-glacial lakes near the South Pole.

WikiLeaks: German intel using weaponized surveillance malware

by Anonymous Coward in security on 2014-09-16 10:02 (#2SER)

WikiLeaks has released previously unseen copies of weaponised German surveillance malware used by intelligence agencies around the world to spy on journalists, political dissidents and others.
"FinFisher (formerly part of the UK based Gamma Group International until late 2013) is a German company that produces and sells computer intrusion systems, software exploits and remote monitoring systems that are capable of intercepting communications and data from OS X, Windows and Linux computers as well as Android, iOS, BlackBerry, Symbian and Windows Mobile devices. FinFisher first came to public attention in December 2011 when WikiLeaks published documents detailing their products and business in the first SpyFiles release. ...

FinFisher continues to operate brazenly from Germany selling weaponised surveillance malware to some of the most abusive regimes in the world. The Merkel government pretends to be concerned about privacy, but its actions speak otherwise. Why does the Merkel government continue to protect FinFisher? This full data release will help the technical community build tools to protect people from FinFisher including by tracking down its command and control centers."

FinFisher Relay and FinSpy Proxy are the components of the FinFisher suite responsible for collecting the data acquired from the infected victims and delivering it to their controllers. It is commonly deployed by FinFisher's customers in strategic points around the world to route the collected data through an anonymizing chain, in order to disguise the identity of its operators and the real location of the final storage, which is instead operated by the FinSpy Master."
Let's go back in time to a couple of months ago when the German government was furious to learn the US had eavesdropped on Ms. Merkel's cellphone conversations. That anger looks a bit different now, mmmm?