Climb der Waals with gecko-inspired grippers

by evilviper@pipedot.org in science on 2014-11-23 05:15 (#2V6P)

New invention outperforms nature with new gecko-inspired devices that have been used to climb glass walls. "To be able to climb glass felt a little bit magical — it feels like you're hooking this device onto a perfectly flat smooth surface, and it doesn't feel possible," Hawkes said.

Geckos can scale vertical walls and even hang upside down because their plump toes are covered in hundreds of microscopic bristles called setae, which generate a kind of electric force known as van der Waals force, strong enough to keep geckos stuck onto surfaces. The devices are about the size of a human hand but are nevertheless strong enough to support the weight of a person. In contrast, real gecko feet would require a sticky surface at least 186 square inches (1,200 square centimeters) large, nearly twice the size of a modern tennis racket.

In addition to futuristic gear used by soldiers and spies to climb walls, the researchers suggest their new invention could lead to boots that help astronauts conducting spacewalks and to mechanical grippers that snag debris in orbit.

FreeBSD 10.1 Released!

by bsdguy@pipedot.org in bsd on 2014-11-21 20:08 (#2V56)

The FreeBSD team has released FreeBSD 10.1!

You can read more about some of the highlights at the FreeBSD announcement, but in brief, they include: updated network drivers, updates to ZFS, sendmail, the use ofunbound in place of bind as default resolver, the bhyve hypervisor, and lots of userland updates.

Important to this FreeBSD user is the new vt virtual console driver, as 10.0 introduced a bug that disabled virtual consoles for anyone with an Intel video chip (imagine a FreeBSD install that requires a GUI!). Lots of work is being put into this new driver, to bring FreeBSD's virtual consoles up to speed with Linux.

As always, the new version comes in ISO and USB formats, netboot, and more; and for the amd64, i386, ia64, powerpc, powerpc64, sparc64, and armv6 architectures.

Opensource game rejected from Debian for authors' social beliefs

by Anonymous Coward in linux on 2014-11-21 19:59 (#2V55)

An open source casino video game was recently posted to the Debian bug tracker as a request for packaging, as is the standard method for pursuing such things in Debian. The bug was quickly closed, tagged as "won't fix." The reason given by one of the Debian developers alluded to the authors' conservative views and his advocacy of them.

The author in question clearly expressed his views back in 2005, resulting in him being the first person ever banned from Debian mailing lists, and a month later from the bug tracking system.

The piece of software in question is licensed under the GPL and is one of the only of it's kind for Linux (ASCII-art console slot machine software). Is professing progressive politics now a hard requirement for being allowed to contribute to open source?

[Ed. note: The question is, rather, where should the line be between personal and professional?]

Mysterious Secret Russian Satellite May Be A Weapon

by evilviper@pipedot.org in space on 2014-11-19 08:36 (#2V4G)

As news of the Virgin Galactic crash, Antares explosion and Rosetta exploration filled science pages, another space drama has quietly unfurled. In May, Russia launched a rocket to add several satellites to its existing constellation. In the process, it deployed what was first believed to be a piece of space debris but has now become a matter of great speculation.

Russia did not declare its orbit, and now the U.S. military, space experts and amateur sleuths have been closely tracking its movements, each of which has been deliberate and precise. The unidentified satellite — called Object 2014-28E — recently navigated toward other Russian space objects, its voyage culminating in its recent hookup with the remains of the rocket stage that originally launched it.

There are whispers it could be the return of the ‘satellite killer’. The Soviet anti-satellite weaponry program called “Istrebitel Sputnikov” in the 1960s was believed to be permanently retired by the Soviet Union's collapse.

Scientists Determined to Clone Woolly Mammoths

by evilviper@pipedot.org in science on 2014-11-19 08:31 (#2V4F)

story imageGet ready for Pleistocene Park

South Korea's Sooam Biotech Research Foundation (which has been cloning dogs for years) is partnering with Russian researchers to clone a woolly mammoth, if only they can find suitable cells.

Russian and South Korean scientists who recovered a well-preserved frozen woolly mammoth from Siberia's permafrost last year raised hopes that researchers could find an intact cell nucleus that contained the full set of DNA instructions for making a mammoth. If that could be done, the nucleus could be inserted into an elephant egg, sparked into cell division, and then implanted into a surrogate mother elephant. The result? A clone that should be virtually identical to the long-dead mammoth.

Carbon dating of the mammoth's flesh determined that she lived about 40,000 years ago. (Earlier estimates suggested the remains were just 10,000 years old.) Growth rings in the tusk suggested she was in her late 50s when she died.

Ask Pipedot: small office collaboration/messaging

by zafiro17@pipedot.org in ask on 2014-11-17 13:35 (#2V33)

Here's the situation: you've got a small office of 8-20 employees who work in a consulting business and whose main products/deliverables are reports, spreadsheets, occasional CAD drawings, Gantt charts, project plans, and the like. Not only do they produce those things, they receive reports for which they produce comments/observations. Much of what they produce is collaborative or iterative (ie, not necessarily 'live editing' of spreadsheets, but several people must all contribute to a doc over the space of a week or so). To do so, they need efficient means of communication, discussion, versioning, etc.

Needs: document repository, shared editing of many types of documents, a messaging system for internal office communication, "sharing" system that permits clients to upload or download large files, a managed-content "front page" web site, an internal intranet, shared calendars, contacts lists, some sort of system to produce and maintain office policies and procedures, and otherwise manage internal communications and office admin. Some considerations for discussion, so I'm intentionally not specifying: (1) ideally, systems are usable by different OSes. Obviously there are going to be problems ensuring total OS independence. (2) ideally, the system doesn't require full-time online presence. Should a consultant wind up in a basement office with no internet, he won't be totally lost (again, not perfect). Note: no obligation for Free/Open Source software, although they are preferred. The goal here is an office that communicates and collaborates efficiently.

Ten years ago, you'd be sitting in a cube farm, using Microsoft Office and a shared drive and emailing documents back and forth. Later they'd have added Sharepoint. These days, there's been a ton of innovation in these areas, and there's consensus that collaboration-by-email is not fun. And there are lots of new approaches to these age-old problems.

So, how would you do it?

Google Glass future clouded as some early believers lose faith

by tanuki64@pipedot.org in hardware on 2014-11-17 09:22 (#2V2X)

story imageReuters is reporting a drop in usage of Google Glass. Turns out:
After two years of popping up at high-profile events sporting Google Glass, the gadget that transforms eyeglasses into spy-movie worthy technology, Google co-founder Sergey Brin sauntered bare-faced into a Silicon Valley red-carpet event on Sunday.
Google Glass may be losing its mojo as users struggle to accept obviously creepy spy aspects of the new technology. A quick Google search turns up things like:
  1. TechCrunch: MPAA Bans Google Glass And Other Wearable Cameras From Movie Theaters
  2. Mew York Post: The revolt against Google ‘Glassholes’
  3. Gizmodo: Is Google Glass Dying?
That's an inauspicious start to a new technology, and certainly the price tag doesn't help either: the test version of Google Glass comes with a $1,500 price tag. Says Reuters:
While Glass may find some specialized, even lucrative, uses in the workplace, its prospects of becoming a consumer hit in the near future are slim, many developers say.

Of 16 Glass app makers contacted by Reuters, nine said that they had stopped work on their projects or abandoned them, mostly because of the lack of customers or limitations of the device. Three more have switched to developing for business, leaving behind consumer projects.
[Author note: My personal experience? Google Glass is a difficult market even for business developers. As freelancing software developer I asked several of my customers what they think about possible Google Glass solutions. I pointed out some ideas how Google Glass could be used to benefit their business. Though the ideas were generally well received, they usually were answered with: Sounds very good, perhaps in the future. We are watching Google Glass. We thought about it ourselves, but don't think that at this point the necessary investments will pay off.

My advice to Google? Cut the price. For $150 I'd take the risk. Many nerd developers would. Google Glass needs a better reputation and a few killer apps. Only Google has the money and interest to improve the reputation of Google Glass. To find a killer app, it needs an as large as possible developer base. One does not get the latter with a $1500 product with a questionable future.]

[edited 2014-11-17 15:01 GMT: inauspicious, not auspicious]

New BeagleBoard-X15 announced

by axsdenied@pipedot.org in hardware on 2014-11-13 13:20 (#2V1H)

Following closely on the new Raspberry Pi A+ announcement from yesterday, the new BeagleBoard-X15 has been announced:
http://linuxgizmos.com/beagleboard-x15-features-dual-core-cortex-a15-sitara/

The device has decent specs: 2x 1.5GHz Cortex-A15, 2GB RAM, 4GB eMMC, eSATA port, 2xGigBit Ethernet, 3xUSB 3.0 ports, 1xHDMI.

From the site:
The original BeagleBoard pretty much single-handedly started the trend of open-spec Linux SBCs supported by hacking communities. It helped inspire the Raspberry Pi and dozens of other hacker boards. It had appeared that the BeagleBoard line would continue to fade into legacy as BeagleBoard.org focused on the BeagleBone, but the brand has come roaring back to life.

eLinux.org says it is hosting the official wiki for the device, and will offer more details in the coming weeks. The X15 is in beta and will ship from BeagleBoard.org and its hardware partners in late February, says ELinux.
No price has been announced yet.

Microsoft vulnerability allows remote code execution via a malformed SSL packet

by Anonymous Coward in security on 2014-11-13 13:18 (#2V1G)

Microsoft has quietly patched a serious SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) bug that allows remote code to be executed on any system configured to accept SSL transactions. That is to say, essentially, every Windows system ever made.

The bug is being discussed on Pastebin, where it is being alleged that Microsoft has seriously understated the seriousness of this bug, potentially in an effort to downplay its use as a potential zero day. The same folks are making threats about what will happen if Microsoft doesn't get around to producing patches for legacy systems as well, given how prevalent SSL technology is in today's web browsing environment.

Philae lander: touchdown on Comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko

by zafiro17@pipedot.org in space on 2014-11-12 18:26 (#2V0N)

story imageWe live in amazing times. Ten years after the mission was conceived and set into motion, European scientists have landed a spacecraft on the surface of a comet. Despite the fear stemming from the unknown consistency of the comet's surface, which could have ranged from powdery to tarry frozen to anything in between, Philae sank only 4cm into the surface, which indicates perhaps a slight coating of dust.
Over the coming months as Philae piggybacks on the comet and Rosetta maintains orbit, the data they send back could be key to unlocking answers about the formation of the Solar System, the origins of water on Planet Earth and perhaps even life itself.

Rosetta selfie with Comet 67P in background
The challenge for the flight team operating Rosetta from back on Earth was to land Philae on a rotating, duck-shaped comet travelling through space at 18km/s (40,000mph).
The BBC has tons of coverage of the event. Amazing, simply amazing. If you checked my productivity and web-browsing habits today, you'd discover I checked into the BBC's live coverage this morning and was glued to it for the rest of the day. I wasn't around when we landed on the moon, but this is an even more impressive, technical feat. Congrats to everyone who made this happen!
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