China

China's Island-Building In Pictures 17 17

An anonymous reader writes: The South China Sea is just small enough to have high strategic value for military operations and just large enough to make territorial claims difficult. For over a year now, the world has been aware that China is using its vast resources to try and change that. Instead of fighting for claims on existing islands or arguing about how far their sovereignty should extend, they simply decided to build new islands. "The islands are too small to support large military units but will enable sustained Chinese air and sea patrols of the area. The United States has reported spotting Chinese mobile artillery vehicles in the region, and the islands could allow China to exercise more control over fishing in the region." The NY Times has a fascinating piece showing clear satellite imagery of the new islands, illustrating how a fleet a dredgers have dumped enormous amounts of sand on top of existing reefs. "Several reefs have been destroyed outright to serve as a foundation for new islands, and the process also causes extensive damage to the surrounding marine ecosystem." We can also see clear evidence of airstrips, cement plants, and other structures as the islands become capable of supporting them.
The Almighty Buck

Will Autonomous Cars Be the Insurance Industry's Napster Moment? 86 86

An anonymous reader writes: Most of us are looking forward to the advent of autonomous vehicles. Not only will they free up a lot of time previously spent staring at the bumper of the car in front of you, they'll also presumably make commuting a lot safer. While that's great news for the 30,000+ people who die in traffic accidents every year in the U.S. alone, it may not be great news for insurance companies. Granted, they'll have to pay out a lot less money with the lower number of claims, but premiums will necessarily drop as well and the overall amount of money within the car insurance system will dwindle.

Analysts are warning these companies that their business is going to shrink. It will be interesting to see if they adapt to the change, or cling desperately to an outdated business model like the entertainment industry did. "One opportunity for the industry could be selling more coverage to carmakers and other companies developing the automated features for cars. ... When the technology fails, manufacturers could get stuck with big liabilities that they will want to cover by buying more insurance. There's also a potential for cars to get hacked as they become more networked."
Transportation

Munich Planning Highway System For Cyclists 62 62

An anonymous reader writes: The German city of Munich has been looking for solutions to its traffic problem. Rush hour traffic is a parking lot, and public transit is near capacity. They think their best bet is to encourage (and enable) more people to hop on their bikes. Munich is now planning a Radschnellverbindungen — a highway system just for cyclists. Long bike routes will connect the city with universities, employment centers, and other cities. The paths themselves would be as free from disruption as possible — avoiding intersections and traffic lights are key to a swift commute. They'll doubtless take lessons from Copenhagen's bike skyway: "Cykelslangen (pronounced soo-cool-klag-en) adds just 721 feet of length to the city's 220 miles of bicycle paths, but it relieves congestion by taking riders over instead of through a waterfront shopping area."
IT

System Administrator Appreciation Day 2015 30 30

ninjagin writes: They might be underneath a desk, hauling cables above your ceiling, swapping out a drive in your data center, putting the blue smoke back inside that old pizza box on the rack, up at 2 :00AM dealing with an alarm, or upgrading or patching your systems over the weekend. But wherever they are today, take a moment to thank your friendly neighborhood system administrator. We always look to them to fix things up when things go bad, but they are rarely recognized for the majority of their effort — the quiet work they do in the background to keep the bits flying and things running smoothly.
Networking

$340 Audiophile Ethernet Cable Tested 168 168

An anonymous reader writes: Ars Technica has posted a series of articles attempting to verify whether there's any difference between a $340 "audiophile" Ethernet cable and a $2.50 generic one. In addition to doing a quick teardown, they took the cables to Las Vegas and asked a bunch of test subjects to evaluate the cables in a blind test. Surprise, surprise: the expensive cables weren't any better. The subjects weren't even asked to say which one was better, just whether they could tell there was a difference. But for the sake of completeness, Ars also passed the cables through a battery of electrical tests. The expensive cable met specs — barely, in some cases — while the cheap one didn't. The cheap one passed data, but with a ton of noise. "And listeners still failed to hear any difference."
Medicine

Ebola Vaccine 100% Successful In Guinea Trial 80 80

An anonymous reader writes: Doctors and researchers have been testing a vaccine to protect against Ebola in the west African nation of Guinea. Trials involving 4,000 people have now shown a 100% success rate in preventing infection. "When Ebola flared up in a village, researchers vaccinated all the contacts of the sick person who were willing — the family, friends and neighbors — and their immediate contacts. Children, adolescents and pregnant women were excluded because of an absence of safety data for them. In practice about 50% of people in these clusters were vaccinated. To test how well the vaccine protected people, the cluster outbreaks were randomly assigned either to receive the vaccine immediately or three weeks after Ebola was confirmed. Among the 2,014 people vaccinated immediately, there were no cases of Ebola from 10 days after vaccination — allowing time for immunity to develop — according to the results published online in the Lancet medical journal (PDF). In the clusters with delayed vaccination, there were 16 cases out of 2,380."
Cellphones

Samsung Wants To Bring Back the Flip Phone With Bendable Screens 48 48

redletterdave writes: A new patent filed last April but published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office earlier this month suggests Samsung might be working on a smartphone that can bend in half like a flip phone. The biggest problem, according to the patent, is all the strain that accumulates by continually folding the display, or keeping the display folded for a long period of time, which can result in deformations and imperfections, Samsung notes. But Samsung's patent also describes how the phone could keep track of how long it's been in the folded and unfolded states, so as to alert the user of any strain that needs to be relieved. This could help extend the lifetime of the phone and its display.
NASA

NASA's Drone For Other Worlds 26 26

An anonymous reader writes: A group of engineers is building a new drone. What sets this apart from the hundreds of other drone development projects going on around the world? Well, these engineers are at the Kennedy Space Center, and the drone will be used to gather samples on other worlds. The drone is specifically designed to be able to fly in low- or no-atmosphere situations. Senior technologist Rob Mueller describes it as a "prospecting robot." He says, "The first step in being able to use resources on Mars or an asteroid is to find out where the resources are. They are most likely in hard-to-access areas where there is permanent shadow. Some of the crater walls are angled 30 degrees or more, and that's far too steep for a traditional rover to navigate and climb." They face major challenges with rotor and gas-jet design, they have to figure out navigation without GPS, and the whole system needs to be largely autonomous — you can't really steer a drone yourself with a latency of several minutes (or more).
Portables

NVIDIA Recalls Shield Tablets Over Heat Risk 25 25

An anonymous reader writes: NVIDIA has issued a recall for 88,000 units of its 8-inch Shield tablet sold in the past year. Predictably, it's because of the battery. There have been reports of overheating, including two reports that the tablet got so hot it damaged the floor it was resting on. Oddly, the company is requiring anyone returning the tablet to update its OS to the latest release.
Mozilla

Mozilla CEO: Windows 10 Strips User Choice For Browsers and Other Software 265 265

puddingebola writes: Mozilla CEO Chris Beard has sent an open letter to Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella complaining about the default settings in Windows 10. Users who upgrade to 10 will have their default browser automatically changed to the new Edge browser. Beard said, "We appreciate that it’s still technically possible to preserve people’s previous settings and defaults, but the design of the whole upgrade experience and the default settings APIs have been changed to make this less obvious and more difficult. It now takes more than twice the number of mouse clicks, scrolling through content and some technical sophistication for people to reassert the choices they had previously made in earlier versions of Windows. It’s confusing, hard to navigate and easy to get lost. ... We strongly urge you to reconsider your business tactic here and again respect people’s right to choice and control of their online experience by making it easier, more obvious and intuitive for people to maintain the choices they have already made through the upgrade experience.
Google

Google Rejects French Order For 'Right To Be Forgotten' 254 254

Last month, French data protection agency CNIL ordered Google to comply with the European "right to be forgotten" order by delisting certain search results not just on the European versions of Google's search engine, but on all versions. Google has now publicly rejected that demand. CNIL has promised a response, and it's likely the case will go before local courts. Google says, This is a troubling development that risks serious chilling effects on the web. While the right to be forgotten may now be the law in Europe, it is not the law globally. Moreover, there are innumerable examples around the world where content that is declared illegal under the laws of one country, would be deemed legal in others: Thailand criminalizes some speech that is critical of its King, Turkey criminalizes some speech that is critical of Ataturk, and Russia outlaws some speech that is deemed to be "gay propaganda." If the CNIL's proposed approach were to be embraced as the standard for Internet regulation, we would find ourselves in a race to the bottom. In the end, the Internet would only be as free as the world's least free place.
Robotics

A Robot That Can Walk and Jump On Water 29 29

Taco Cowboy writes: Researchers from Seoul University and Harvard have constructed tiny robots that can walk across the surface of standing water, and even jump into the air. The robots were designed to imitate the way pond-skimmer insects take advantage of surface tension to maneuver on top of still bodies of water. After studying the insects, the researchers found their legs started with a small amount of movement before gradually accelerating downward into a jump. The insects also sweep their legs inward during the jump to maximize the amount of time they stay in contact with the surface (abstract). "Using these principles, the researchers developed an ultra light robot made out of nickel titanium with a 2 centimeter long body inspired by origami. Its 5 centimeter long wire legs are curved at the tips like a real water strider's and coated with a material that repels water." Pictures of the robots are available here and here, as well as this animated gif.
Japan

Ex-TEPCO Officials To Be Indicted Over Fukushima 62 62

AmiMoJo writes: Three former executives of Tokyo Electric Power Company will face mandatory indictment over the March 2011 nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant. The prosecution inquest panel of randomly-selected citizens voted for the indictment on Friday, for professional negligence resulting in death and injury. "Tokyo prosecutors in January rejected the panel's judgment that the three should be charged, citing insufficient evidence. But the 11 unidentified citizens on the panel forced the indictment after a second vote, which makes an indictment mandatory. The three are former chairman Tsunehisa Katsumata, 75, and former executives Sakae Muto, 65, and Ichiro Takekuro, 69. Citizens' panels, made up of residents selected by lottery, are a rarely used but high-profile feature of Japan's legal system introduced after World War Two to curb bureaucratic overreach."
Intel

Why Micron/Intel's New Cross Point Memory Could Virtually Last Forever 151 151

Lucas123 writes: As they announced their new 3D XPoint memory this week, Micron and Intel talked a lot about its performance being 1,000X that of NAND flash, but what they talked less about was how it also has the potential to have 1,000X the endurance of today's most popular non-volatile memories. NAND flash typically can sustain from 3,000 to 10,000 erase-write cycles — more with wear-leveling and ECC. If Micron and Intel's numbers are to be believed, 3D XPoint could exceed one million write cycles. The reason for that endurance involves the material used to create the XPoint architecture, which neither company will disclose. Unlike NAND flash, cross point resistive memory does not use charge trap technology that wears silicon oxide over time or a typical resistive memory filamentary architecture, which creates a statistical variation in how the filaments form each time you program them; that can slow ReRAM's performance and make it harder to scale. Russ Meyer, Micron's director of process integration, said 3D XPoint's architecture doesn't store electrons or use filaments. "The memory element itself is simply moving between two different resistance states," which means there's virtually no wear.
Earth

Google Straps Aclima Sensors To Street View Cars To Map Air Pollution 47 47

Eloking writes: Google and a San Francisco-based Aclima have equipped Google's Street View cars with environmental sensors in order to map urban air quality. The project aims to create high resolution maps of air quality across cities by measuring carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, particulate matter, Volatile Organic Compounds, and other pollutants. “We have a profound opportunity to understand how cities live and breathe in an entirely new way by integrating Aclima’s mobile sensing platform with Google Maps and Street View cars,” said Davida Herzl, co-founder and CEO of Aclima. “With more than half of the world’s population now living in cities, environmental health is becoming increasingly important to quality of life. Today we’re announcing the success of our integration test with Google, which lays the foundation for generating high resolution maps of air quality in cities.”