Pushing the Limits of Network Traffic With Open Source ( 12

An anonymous reader writes: CloudFlare's content delivery network relies on their ability to shuffle data around. As they've scaled up, they've run into some interesting technical limits on how fast they can manage this. Last month they explained how the unmodified Linux kernel can only handle about 1 million packets per second, when easily-available NICs can manage 10 times that. So, they did what you're supposed to do when you encounter a problem with open source software: they developed a patch for the Netmap project to increase throughput. "Usually, when a network card goes into the Netmap mode, all the RX queues get disconnected from the kernel and are available to the Netmap applications. We don't want that. We want to keep most of the RX queues back in the kernel mode, and enable Netmap mode only on selected RX queues. We call this functionality: 'single RX queue mode.'" With their changes, Netmap was able to receive about 5.8 million packets per second. Their patch is currently awaiting review.

Ask Slashdot: Knowledge Management Systems? 39

Tom writes: Is there an enterprise level equivalent of Semantic MediaWiki, a Knowledge Management System that can store meaningful facts and allows queries on it? I'm involved in a pretty large IT project and would like to have the documentation in something better than Word. I'd like it to be in a structured format that can be queried, without knowing all the questions that will be asked in the future. I looked extensively, and while there are some graphing or network layout tools that understand predicates, they don't come with a query language. SMW has both semantic links and queries, but as a wiki is very free-form and it's not exactly an Enterprise product (I don't see many chances to convince a government to use it). Is there such a thing?

The Rise and Fall of NASA's Shuttle-Centaur ( 26

An anonymous reader writes: An article at Ars Technica tells the story of Shuttle-Centaur, a NASA project during the mid-1980s to carry a Centaur rocket to orbit within the cargo bay of a space shuttle. As you might expect, shuttle launches became vastly more complex with such heavy yet delicate cargo. Still, officials saw it as an easy way to send probes further into the solar system. They developed a plan to launch Challenger and Atlantis within 5 days of each other in mid-1986 to bring the Ulysses and Galileo probes to orbit, each with its own Shuttle-Centaur. Though popular opinion at the time was that the shuttle program was "unstoppable," individuals within NASA were beginning to push back against slipping safety standards. "While a host of unknowns remained concerning launching a volatile, liquid-fueled rocket stage on the back of a space shuttle armed with a liquid-filled tank and two solid rocket boosters, NASA and its contractors galloped full speed toward a May 1986 launch deadline for both spacecraft." The destruction of Challenger in January, 1986 put Shuttle-Centaur on hold. The safety investigation that ensued quickly came to the conclusion that it presented unacceptable risks, and the project was canceled that June.

Twitter To Begin Layoffs ( 75

An anonymous reader writes: Just a few days ago, Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey returned to the company and took over the role of CEO. Now, the NY Times reports that the company will be facing layoffs as he cuts the company's costs. Twitter somehow manages to employ over 4,100 people across 35+ offices, so many investors are thrilled with the news. "Twitter's spending has been rising. In the last quarter for which Twitter reported financial results, costs and expenses totaled $633 million, up 37 percent from a year earlier. The layoffs will most likely affect multiple areas of the company, including the engineering and media teams, according to the people with knowledge of the plans." The company is also dropping plans to build a 100,000 square-foot expansion to its headquarters.

Source Code On Trial In DNA Matching Case ( 63

An anonymous reader writes: While computer analysis by other programs was inconclusive in matching DNA evidence to a suspect, one program, TrueAllele, gave a match. As reported in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, an expert witness for the defense wants access to the 170,000 lines of source code to determine whether the match is scientifically valid. Not surprisingly, the software creator is resisting. From the article: "TrueAllele, created by Dr. Perlin and in its current version since 2009, is the only computer software system of its kind that interprets DNA evidence using a statistical model. It can single out individuals in a complex DNA mixture by determining how much more probable a match is versus mere coincidence. Complex mixtures can involve multiple people, as well as degraded or small DNA samples. ... Although the technology is patented, the source code itself is not disclosed by any patent and cannot be derived from any publicly disclosed source. The source code has never been revealed, he said, and it would cause irreparable harm to the company if it were. In his declaration, Dr. Perlin said that reading the source code is unnecessary to validate the program, and that a review could be done in his office or online."

Study Finds Higher Rates of Premature Birth Near Fracking Sites ( 85

An anonymous reader writes: Researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health have published a study (abstract) noting that pregnant women are more likely to give birth prematurely if they live close to fracking sites. The researchers used data from 40 counties in Pennsylvania, in which 10,946 babies were born between January 2009 and January 2013. They compared the data with the fast spread of fracking sites across the state — thousands have been built since 2006.

"The researchers found that living in the most active quartile of drilling and production activity was associated with a 40 percent increase in the likelihood of a woman giving birth before 37 weeks of gestation (considered pre-term) and a 30 percent increase in the chance that an obstetrician had labeled their pregnancy "high-risk," a designation that can include factors such as elevated blood pressure or excessive weight gain during pregnancy. When looking at all of the pregnancies in the study, 11 percent of babies were born preterm, with the majority (79 percent) born between 32 and 36 weeks."

Open Source

Linux Foundation: Security Problems Threaten 'Golden Age' of Open Source ( 34

Mickeycaskill writes: Jim Zemlin, executive director of the Linux Foundation, has outlined the organization's plans to improve open source security. He says failing to do so could threaten a "golden age" which has created billion dollar companies and seen Microsoft, Apple, and others embrace open technologies. Not long ago, the organization launched the Core Infrastructure Initiative (CII), a body backed by 20 major IT firms, and is investing millions of dollars in grants, tools, and other support for open source projects that have been underfunded. This was never move obvious than following the discovery of the Heartbleed Open SSL bug last year. "Almost the entirety of the internet is entirely reliant on open source software," Zemlin said. "We've reached a golden age of open source. Virtually every technology and product and service is created using open source. Heartbleed literally broke the security of the Internet. Over a long period of time, whether we knew it or not, we became dependent on open source for the security and Integrity of the internet."

Firefox Support For NPAPI Plugins Ends Next Year ( 90

An anonymous reader writes: Mozilla announced that it will follow the lead of Google Chrome and Microsoft Edge in phasing out support for NPAPI plugins. They expect to have it done by the end of next year. "Plugins are a source of performance problems, crashes, and security incidents for Web users. ... Moreover, since new Firefox platforms do not have to support an existing ecosystem of users and plugins, new platforms such as 64-bit Firefox for Windows will launch without plugin support." Of course, there's an exception: "Because Adobe Flash is still a common part of the Web experience for most users, we will continue to support Flash within Firefox as an exception to the general plugin policy. Mozilla and Adobe will continue to collaborate to bring improvements to the Flash experience on Firefox, including on stability and performance, features and security architecture." There's no exception for Java, though.
First Person Shooters (Games)

Open-Source Doom 3 Advances With EAX Audio, 64-bit ARM/x86 Support ( 31

An anonymous reader writes: Dhewm3, one of the leading implementations of the Doom 3 engine built off the open-source id Tech 4 engine, has released a new version of the GPL-licensed engine that takes Doom 3 far beyond where it was left off by id Software. The newest code has full SDL support, OpenAL + OpenAL EFX for audio, 64-bit x86/ARM support, better support for widescreen resolutions, and CMake build system support on Linux/Windows/OSX/FreeBSD. This new open-source code can be downloaded from Dhewm3 on GitHub but continues to depend upon the retail Doom 3 game assets.

BBC Optimizing UHD Video Streaming Over IP ( 60

johnslater writes: A friend at the BBC has written a short description of his project to deliver UHD video over IP networks. The application bypasses the OS network stack, and constructs network packets directly in a buffer shared with the network hardware, achieving a ten-fold throughput improvement. He writes: "Using this technique, we can send or receive uncompressed UHD 2160p50 video (more than 8 Gbps) using a single CPU core, leaving all the rest of the server's cores free for video processing." This is part of a broader BBC project to develop an end-to-end IP-based studio system.

Over 10,000 Problems Fixed In Detroit Thanks To Cellphone App ( 133

An anonymous reader writes: Six months ago, Detroit's city officials launched a smartphone app called "Improve Detroit." The idea was to give residents a way to easily inform city hall of problems that needed to be fixed. For example: potholes, abandoned vehicles, broken hydrants and traffic lights, water leaks, and more. Since that time, over 10,000 issues have been fixed thanks to reports from that app. "Residents have long complained about city hall ignoring litter and broken utilities. But the app has provided a more transparent and direct approach to fixing problems." Perhaps most significant is its effect on the water supply: running water has been shut off to almost a thousand abandoned structures, and over 500 water main breaks have been located with the app's help. Crowd-sourced city improvement — imagine if apps like this become ubiquitous.

Scientists Control a Fly's Heartbeat With a Laser ( 17

the_newsbeagle writes: Researchers have demonstrated a laser-based pacemaker in fruit flies, and say that a human version is "not impossible."

The invention makes use of optogenetics, a technique in which the DNA that codes for a light-sensitive protein is inserted into certain cells, enabling those cells to be activated by pulses of light. Researchers often use this method to study neurons in the brain, but in this case the researchers altered flies' heart cells. Then they activated those cardiac cells using pulses of light, causing them to contract in time with the pulses (abstract). Voila, they had an optical pacemaker that worked on living adult fruit flies.

Don't worry, no one can control your heartbeat with a laser just yet. That would require inserting foreign DNA into your heart cells, and also finding a way to shine light through the impediment of your flesh and bones. But lead researcher Chao Zhou of Lehigh University is working on it.


EFF: the Final Leaked TPP Text Is All That We Feared ( 311

An anonymous reader writes: Wikileaks has released the finalized Intellectual Property text of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which international negotiators agreed upon a few days ago. Unfortunately, it contains many of the consumer-hostile provisions that so many organizations spoke out against beforehand. This includes the extension of the copyright term to life plus 70 years, and a ban on the circumvention of DRM. The EFF says, "If you dig deeper, you'll notice that all of the provisions that recognize the rights of the public are non-binding, whereas almost everything that benefits rightsholders is binding. That paragraph on the public domain, for example, used to be much stronger in the first leaked draft, with specific obligations to identify, preserve and promote access to public domain material. All of that has now been lost in favor of a feeble, feel-good platitude that imposes no concrete obligations on the TPP parties whatsoever." The EFF walks us through all the other awful provisions as well — it's quite a lengthy analysis.
Hardware Hacking

ARM Processor On a Breadboard ( 77

An anonymous reader writes: A normal Arduino is easy to use and cheap, but it is a reasonably slow 8-bit processor with limited memory. Why do people use them? They are simple to use and set up. Hackaday shows how to take a cheap ($6) 32-bit CPU in a breadboard-friendly package, plug in a small number of parts (resistors, LEDs, and a cable), and use an online Arduino-like IDE to program it. The chip is way more powerful than an 8-bit Arduino and the code is comparable in complexity to an Arduino sketch that does the same thing. It's an easy way to get into embedded without having to suffer through 8-bit processors. And the new Arduinos also use 32-bit ARM, so that's an option too.

Disclosed Netgear Flaws Under Attack ( 14

msm1267 writes: A vulnerability in Netgear routers, already disclosed by two sets of researchers at different security companies, has been publicly exploited. Netgear, meanwhile, has yet to release patched firmware, despite apparently having built one and confirmed with one of the research teams that it addressed the problem adequately. The vulnerability is a remotely exploitable authentication bypass that affects Netgear router firmware N300_1.1.0.31_1.0.1.img, and N300- The flaw allows an attacker, without knowing the router password, to access the administration interface.

Amazon: a Single Disaster Made Us Rethink Our Cloud Supply Chain ( 35

1sockchuck writes: At this week's AWS re:Invent conference, Amazon Web Services introduced new features and looked ahead to a future in which enterprise computing shifts to the cloud. But AWS also looked back at how a disaster reshaped its supply chain. In 2011, an unusually heavy monsoon season led to massive flooding in Thailand, which at the time manufactured nearly half of the world's supply of hard disk drives (HDDs). Prices soared and shortages developed, and Amazon's usual vendors were unable to deliver the volume the company sought to support its fast-growing cloud computing platform. "When a single flood hits half the manufacturing supply, and you don't have a direct relationship with suppliers, it turns out to be hard to get what you need," said AWS executive Jerry Hunter. So AWS executives jumped on a plane, flew to Thailand, and began building direct relationships that would support their shift to company-built hardware.

Microsoft's Mission To Reignite the PC Sector ( 225 writes: Sales of personal computers have been declining for so long — 14 consecutive quarters — that it's hard remember a time when PCs ruled the tech world. Now Nick Wingfield writes in the NY Times that Microsoft is leading the way on a mission to re-ignite the PC market by taking the once-unthinkable step of competing with its hardware partners. This week, Microsoft dived even further into the business with a laptop device, the Surface Book. The stated reason that Microsoft got into the PC hardware business three years ago, with the original Surface, was not to put PC companies out of business — but to better illustrate the capabilities of its software, providing devices that would inspire PC makers to be more innovative.

One of the most remarkable things about Microsoft's growing presence in the hardware business is that it has not led to open revolt among its partners. Initially, many of them were not happy about Microsoft's moves, complaining in private. "It's positioned as a laptop, very squarely against the MacBook Pro as an example. But that could also be extended to a Dell XPS 13, or an HP x360," says Patrick Moorhead. One reason there hasn't been more pushback from OEMs is that Microsoft's Surface business is still relatively small. Another is that the money Microsoft has poured into marketing Surface has raised the broader profile of Windows PCs. While Microsoft obviously risks alienating its partners, it's doing so with a much bigger fight in mind. "Right now Microsoft really believes that it has to have a combined hardware, software, and services play to go up against the likes of Apple," says Moorhead. "That's why it's doing this. That's why it's taking such an aggressive stance now, moving to laptops."

Operating Systems

NetBSD 7.0 Released ( 51

An anonymous reader writes: After three years of development and over a year in release engineering, NetBSD 7.0 has been released. Its improvements include added support for many new ARM boards including the Raspberry Pi 2, major improvements to its multiprocessor-compatible firewall NPF, kernel scripting in Lua, kernel mode-setting for Intel and Radeon graphics chips, and a daemon called blacklistd(8) which integrates with numerous network daemons and shields them from flood attempts.

Linus: '2016 Will Be the Year of the ARM Laptop' ( 152

jones_supa writes: Linus Torvalds took the stage at LinuxCon Europe in Dublin, Ireland, and talked about a number of things, including security and the future for Linux on ARM hardware. There is nothing that will blow your mind, but there are a couple of interesting statements nonetheless. Chromebooks are slowly taking over the world, and a large number of those Chromebooks are powered by ARM processors. "I'm happy to see that ARM is making progress. One of these days, I will actually have a machine with ARM. They said it would be this year, but maybe it'll be next year. 2016 will be the year of the ARM laptop," said Linus excitedly. He also explained that one of the problems now is actually finding people to maintain Linux. It's not a glorious job, and it usually entails answering emails seven days a week. Finding someone with the proper set of skills and the time to do this job is difficult.