Daily Archives: July 4, 2016

Man vs. Snake: A thrilling documentary about a boring game


The excellent The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters exposed the wider world to the strange subculture of classic video game high score competitions in 2007. Now that the ensuing quest for ever higher and higher Donkey Kong scores looks like it’s coming to an end, it’s the perfect time for a new documentary focused on an even stranger sub-niche: players who spend days “marathoning” classic arcade games for high scores. In other words, it’s the perfect time for Man vs. Snake: The Long and Twisted Tale of Nibbler.

Man vs. Snake (currently available for download and in an extremely limited theatrical run) includes a number of amusingly candid quotes along the lines of “What the fuck is Nibbler?” You’d be forgiven if you were thinking the same thing; the 1982 release’s mix of Pac-Man and Snake gameplay failed to impact the arcade marketplace at the time, and it wasn’t a massive seller for jukebox manufacturer Rock-Ola, either. But the game did catch the eye of Tim McVey, who became the first person ever confirmed to score 1 billion points on any video game in early 1984, winning himself a Nibbler arcade cabinet in the process.

continue http://arstechnica.com/gaming/2016/06/man-vs-snake-a-thrilling-documentary-about-a-boring-game/

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Earliest Pay Stub Shows Workers Were Paid in Beer

The cuneiform tablet.   (British Museum)

(Newser) – Rather be paid in beer than money? You might’ve enjoyed life in Mesopotamia. Scientists have discovered one of the earliest examples of writing in the form of “the world’s oldest known payslip.” Dating to around 3300 BC, the clay tablet found in the Mesopotamian city of Uruk in modern-day Iraq and now housed at the British Museum—written in a picture language known as cuneiform—is just one example of how people kept records at the time, including of payments owed, per Ars Technica. As there was no real money, people were paid in other ways—in the case of this tablet, with beer. “We can see a human head eating from a bowl, meaning ‘ration,’ and a conical vessel, meaning ‘beer.’ Scattered around are scratches recording the amount of beer for a particular worker,” Alison George writes at New Scientist.

continue http://www.newser.com/story/227355/earliest-pay-stub-shows-workers-were-paid-in-beer.html

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Radioactive Waste and the “Nuclear War” against Australia’s Aboriginal people

Australia’s nuclear industry has a shameful history of ‘radioactive racism’ that dates from the British bomb tests in the 1950s, writes Jim Green. The same attitudes persist today with plans to dump over half a million tonnes of high and intermediate level nuclear waste on Aboriginal land, and open new uranium mines. But now Aboriginal peoples and traditional land owners are fighting back!

It wouldn’t be an overstatement to say that the never-ending nuclear war against Australia’s Aboriginal people amounts to cultural genocide. Indeed it would be a statement of the obvious.

From 1998-2004, the Australian federal government tried – but failed – to impose a national nuclear waste dump on Aboriginal land in South Australia.

Then the government tried to impose a dump on Aboriginal land in the Northern Territory, but that also failed.

Muckaty Traditional Owner Kylie Sambo is an objector to what she considers radioactive blackmail: education in return for accepting nuclear waste. 'As Australians we should be already entitled to that.'

Muckaty Traditional Owner Kylie Sambo is an objector to what she considers radioactive blackmail: education in return for accepting nuclear waste. ‘As Australians we should be already entitled to that.

Now the government has embarked on its third attempt and once again it is trying to impose a dump on Aboriginal land despite clear opposition from Traditional Owners.

The latest proposal is for a dump in the spectacular Flinders Ranges, 400 km north of Adelaide in South Australia, on the land of the Adnyamathanha Traditional Owners.

The government says that no group will have a right of veto, which is coded racism: it means that the dump may go ahead despite the government’s acknowledgement that “almost all Indigenous community members surveyed are strongly opposed to the site continuing.”

The proposed dump site was nominated by former Liberal Party politician Grant Chapman but he has precious little connection to the land. Conversely, the land has been precious to Adnyamathanha Traditional Owners for millennia.

‘It was like somebody ripped my heart out’

The site is adjacent to the Yappala Indigenous Protected Area (IPA). “The IPA is right on the fence – there’s a waterhole that is shared by both properties”said Yappala Station resident and Adnyamathanha Traditional Owner Regina McKenzie.

The waterhole – a traditional women’s site and healing place – is one of many archeological and culturally significant sites in the area that Traditional Owners have registered with the South Australian government over the past six years. Two Adnyamathanha associations – Viliwarinha Aboriginal Corporation and the Anggumathanha Camp Law Mob – wrote in November 2015 statement:

continue http://www.globalresearch.ca/radioactive-waste-and-the-nuclear-war-against-australias-aboriginal-people/5533841

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New NASA transfer protocol makes space Wi-Fi better than yours

NASA has been working on a space-friendly internet technology for years and earlier this month their efforts have been rewarded. The agency has installed the first functioning Delay/Disruption Tolerant Networking (DTN,) system aboard the ISS. It is expected to improve data availability and automate transfer for space station experimenters, resulting in more efficient bandwidth utilization and more data return.

Keeping an open line between our planet and outer space is a very difficult task at best. The huge distances involved are the foremost problem, but there’s also radiation waves to consider plus planets and asteroids and spacecraft whizzing about, blocking the signal.

Up to now, NASA handled data transfer through three networks of distributed ground stations and relay satellites, supporting both their own and non-NASA missions: the Deep Space Network (DSN), the Near Earth Network (NEN), and the Space Network (SN). All of them transfer information using point-to-point (or direct) relaying between two nodes — similarly to how a telephone landline works.

The problem is that successful space exploration requires the ability to exchange data, a lot of data, fast and reliably, between many different nodes. It’s not something you can handle over the phone, even with the most stable of lines. So NASA has been looking to adapt the terrestrial Internet, on a much wider scale, for space use.

continue with video http://www.zmescience.com/research/dtn-protocol-57458/

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CIA Kept Man in Secret Prison Despite Knowing He Was Innocent


(Newser) – German citizen Khaled al Masri was held and interrogated in a secret CIA prison in Afghanistan for five months in 2004—during which time he was kept in a “small cell with … a bucket for his waste”—despite the CIA being fairly certain he wasn’t a terrorist and didn’t know any terrorists. That’s old news at this point. But an internal CIA report released this month following a Freedom of Information Act request from the ACLU shows Masri’s detention was “even more outrageous” than previously believed, McClatchy DC reports. To start with, the report reveals two CIA agents justified Masri’s continued detention in the face of a complete lack of evidence because they just “knew he was bad.” And it gets worse.

continue http://www.newser.com/story/227505/cia-kept-man-in-secret-prison-despite-knowing-he-was-innocent.html

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Prison inmate kills 80-year-old cellmate because he looked like Santa Claus

David Gomersall

By: Mahesh Sarin

A prison inmate was arrested on a charge of murder after allegedly killing his elderly cellmate because he looked like Santa Claus, according to police in the United Kingdom.

Nottinghamshire Police said that they have arrested 25-year-old David Gomersall, after being accused of choking to death 80-year-old John Coxall.

According to the police investigation, Gomersall was serving a three year prison sentence for threatening to kill someone while Coxall was in jail for violating a restraining order

continue https://tinyurl.com/zyevex5

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C++17: New Features Coming To 33-Year-Old Programming Language

c++17 programming languageShort Bytes: The C++17 standard is taking shape and adding new features to the vintage programming language. This major update aims to make C++ an easier language to work with and brings powerful technical specifications.

If you are fond of the relatively newer programming languages like Apple’s Swift, you might be too comfortable calling C++ a bloated programming language. To tackle such questions and improve the support for large-scale software, C++17 is expected to ship in 2017.At the recent standards meeting in Oulu, Finland, the actual and final features list of C++ has been finalised. As a result, C++17 has become a major release just like C++98 and C++11.

The new C++ 17 standards are introducing new features like structured bindings and if initialisers, making this vintage programming language “feature complete”.

The C++ community is calling C++17 the start of a new era that will bring powerful technical specifications. The non-C++17 features will be released later as add-ons in future releases.

continue http://fossbytes.com/c17-programming-language-update/

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First Known Tesla Autopilot Death Spurs Federal Investigation


A common pitch for self-driving cars is safety benefits—a common figure is that they could save 300,000 lives per decade if implemented in the United States.

But that doesn’t mean they’re foolproof, nor an immediate fix to traffic fatalities. Following the first known death in an autonomous or semi-autonomous car, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is investigating Tesla’s semi-autonomous Autopilot feature on the company’s Model S car.

Tesla released its response today, titled ‘A Tragic Loss.’

We learned yesterday evening that NHTSA is opening a preliminary evaluation into the performance of Autopilot during a recent fatal crash that occurred in a Model S. This is the first known fatality in just over 130 million miles where Autopilot was activated. Among all vehicles in the US, there is a fatality every 94 million miles. Worldwide, there is a fatality approximately every 60 million miles. It is important to emphasize that the NHTSA action is simply a preliminary evaluation to determine whether the system worked according to expectations.

continue http://www.popsci.com/first-known-tesla-autopilot-death-spurs-federal-investigation

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Amazing Dogs Can Smell When Diabetics Need Help

Getty Images

Specially trained (and often adorable) service dogs are able to alert their diabetic owners to dangerous dips in their blood sugar levels. Scientists have long known that it’s possible to train dogs in this way, but now they’ve finally figured out why: When blood sugar plummets, the body produces a greater amount of a chemical called isoprene.

This chemical ends up in the breath, and dogs use their keen sense of smell to detect it. But identifying the chemical means that scientists may be able to create non-canine methods of identifying it, and helping stave off dangerous drops in blood sugar.

Diabetes, a disease in which the body can’t produce the hormone insulin, which regulates blood sugar, requires constant maintenance. If a person with diabetes’ blood sugar gets too high or too low, serious health consequences—from shakiness to seizures or unconsciousness—can occur. When sugar dips dangerously low, a state called hypoglycemia, it can do so quickly. The only way head symptoms off is for diabetics to check their blood sugar before they start using a blood glucose meter. That’s why dogs that can alert diabetics to their low blood sugar—quickly and without the finger prick—have been particularly useful, though scientists puzzled by how, exactly, the dogs were doing it.

continue http://www.vocativ.com/334092/diabetes-dogs/

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ACLU sues to kill decades-old hacking law

Does a ban on hacking also prohibit free speech?

That’s a question at the heart of a lawsuit filed by the American Civil Liberties Union against US Attorney General Loretta Lynch, claiming the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act makes it impossible for researchers to legally investigate websites for discriminatory and poor behavior.

“Websites have been found to use demographic data to raise or lower prices, show different advertisements, or steer people to different content,” wrote ACLU spokeswoman Noa Yachot, in a statement. The result, she said, is people have paid more for car loans and seen ads for predatory lending based on their skin color.

“One recent study by Harvard computer scientist Latanya Sweeney found that searches for names typically associated with Black people were more likely to bring up ads for criminal records,” she added.

continue https://tinyurl.com/hkljhrq

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Wonder what your plants are ‘saying’? Device lets you listen in

I’m concentrating at my computer when my peace lily lets out a wail. It’s a wavering electric howl that finishes as abruptly as it began. But what does it mean?

Nigel Wallbridge doesn’t know, but he wants to find out. He’s a co-founder of Vivent, the company whose device is giving my peace lily an electronic voice. His hope is that this new way of tracking plant activity will help us to understand and manage them better.

The device, called PhytlSigns, measures voltage in plants using two electrodes, one inserted into the soil and the other attached to a leaf or stem. When the speaker squeals, it means the voltage is changing: the higher the wail, the faster the change.

PhytlSigns listening in


Plant scientists have little idea what’s actually going on inside plants when these shifts happen. “When and why a plant uses electrical signals, and their role in plant communication, is not well understood,” says Gerhard Obermeyer, a plant biophysicist at the University of Salzburg in Austria.

continue https://tinyurl.com/zwmtqh3

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Feds And Cops Encountered Encryption in Only 13 Wiretaps in 2015

Government officials haven’t stopped complaining about how the rise of encryption is becoming an ever-growing problem that’s threatening to make life harder for investigators trying to catch criminals and terrorists.

But the little official data that’s publicly available keeps countering that narrative. Once again, for the second straight year, the number of times state or federal wiretaps that encountered encryption decreased, though cops and feds couldn’t break encryption in more cases (11) than ever, according an annual government report called Wiretap Report.

The FBI calls it the “going dark issue” and the feds have fought it publicly for years now, with the battle intensifying in the last two years. The issue was highlighted in the high-profile Apple vs FBI case, where the FBI wanted the company’s help getting into the iPhone of one of the San Bernardino shooting suspects. US government officials have often alluded to cases where encryption thwarted investigations. But some of those have been debunked, or were vague enough that could not be verified.

The Wiretap Report is the only official government report that publishes data on the issue, though it only covers the interception of communications, not cases where investigators could not break into a phone like in the recent case against Apple.

In 2015, out of a total of 4,148 wiretaps, according to the new data published on Thursday, “the number of state wiretaps in which encryption was encountered decreased from 22 in 2014 to 7,” and “six federal wiretaps were reported as being encrypted.” In 11 of those 13 wiretaps, however, authorities could not get the data.

continue https://tinyurl.com/jugnc4b

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