Banned Weight-loss Drug Could Combat Liver Disease, Diabetes

Slashdot - Fri, 02/27/2015 - 11:03am
sciencehabit writes: A drug the U.S. government once branded "extremely dangerous and not fit for human consumption" deserves a second chance, a study of rats suggests. Researchers report (abstract) that a slow-release version of the compound reverses diabetes and nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD), an untreatable condition that can lead to cirrhosis and liver cancer.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Open Source, Technology

Why Every Watch Will Soon Be Smart

ReadWriteWeb - Fri, 02/27/2015 - 10:29am
Time and activity tracking on one face.

The biggest gadget makers are getting into watches, and now watch makers are starting to respond. Mondaine is the first of the major Swiss manufacturers to release a watch with extra smarts—primarily activity tracking—and the company will be showing it off at the Baselworld trade show in March in a few weeks' time.

The Mondaine Helvetica No 1 Smart can track number of steps taken, distance travelled, and sleep quality. It features a second activity dial much like the Withings Activité. Notably, the watch includes the same MotionX and Sleeptracker sensors found in wearables from Jawbone and Nike—these off-the-shelf electronic components offer anyone a way in to smartwatches.

With the necessary sensors now available and inexpensive enough to incorporate into existing designs, you can expect to see plenty more timepiece lines make the jump from watch to smartwatch. Tag Heuer, Swatch, and several other respected watch makers all have smartwatches in the pipeline.

The established brands in the watch market are bringing in expertise from Silicon Valley. Fossil, for example, announced a partnership with Intel last September that has both companies working together "to further develop wearable technology for the fashion industry."

The Helvetica No 1 Smart

Mondaine's new watch "proudly references its past, while simultaneously taking a bold step into its future," according to the company behind it. It will be able to gently rouse users at naturally beneficial points in their sleep cycle, and provide "Get-Active alerts and Smart coaching" through a companion app running on a phone or tablet.

Getting the software side of the experience right is likely to be more of a challenge for the established watch manufacturers—it's the area that they don't have any previous track record in.

As the watch uses a standard watch battery, it can last for more than two years before a replacement is required, which is quite a contrast to the daily charging routine that Apple Watch owners will have to go through.

The Helvetica No 1 Smart is also the first smartwatch to make use of the Horological Smartwatch Open Platform, a join venture between Silicon Valley-based Fullpower Technologies and Union Horlogère Holding, owner of several Swiss watch brands.

The platform provides back-end number-crunching and sensor monitoring to ensure accurate results from a watch and informed advice based on them. The technology has already been confirmed as powering several other upcoming watches besides the Mondaine model.

Mondaine's first foray into smartwatches will go on sale in the fall of 2015 for an approximate retail price of CHF 850 (around US$900 at today's exchange rate). As yet there's no word on worldwide availability or mobile platform compatibility, but more will be revealed at Baselworld 2015.

Header image courtesy of Mondaine

Categories: Technology

Researchers Create World's First 3D-Printed Jet Engines

Slashdot - Fri, 02/27/2015 - 10:20am
Zothecula writes: Working with colleagues from Deakin University and CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization), researchers from Australia's Monash University have created the world's first 3D-printed jet engine. While they were at it, they created the world's second one, too. One of them is currently on display at the International Air Show in Avalon, Australia, while the other can be seen at the headquarters of French aerospace company Microturbo, in Toulouse.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Open Source, Technology

Can We Please Stop Fighting The Native vs. Web App Wars?

ReadWriteWeb - Fri, 02/27/2015 - 9:50am

James Long, a developer at Mozilla (and proponent of the web), insists that the mobile Web will never compete with native app development. Ever. While Long is intentionally provocative with his prophecies, he may also be correct.

At the same time, it's increasingly clear that this debate does not matter. At all.

Forrester insists that we'll go back to the future; that "[n]ative apps [dominated] client server days, but Web apps took over" and "History will repeat itself in mobile." Maybe. 

But if Facebook's ReactJS is any indication, the future of "native" and "web" is really all about "hybrid." In fact, this future is already here.

The Web Is "Too Slow"

The problem with web apps, as Long describes it, is that the DOM (the document object model, the API that describes how to programmatically access a document or web page/app) is "too slow," and will never get faster. To those that think it's going to get faster, he argues that this claim is

based on nothing. There's no indication the DOM will ever be fast enough, and if it does happen it's light-years away on mobile. I've seen no technical description of a truly plausible way to make it significantly faster. This is like trying to optimize your rendering loop to render a model with a million polygons, when what you really need to do is reduce the number of polygons in your model.

Which is basically what React Native does, skipping the DOM altogether.

Flipboard, for example, goes this route, as explained in a recent blog post. The reason for going this route, as the company insists, is that "You cannot build a 60fps scrolling list view with DOM." Bold. Possibly true.

Or, as John Gruber notes, "Flipboard more or less built their own web app framework based on the HTML5 <canvas> element, completely eschewing the DOM and traditional CSS," which translates into a "scathing condemnation of the DOM/CSS web standards stack."

Except that it's not. Not really.

Politics And The Mobile Web

We're not talking about some grand political declaration that Flipboard and others are making. We're just talking about "getting stuff done." It turns out that hybrid approaches to application development are a great way to accomplish this, and always have been.

The reality is that when we say "native apps" we're already talking about "hybrid apps," as most apps include at least some HTML. Not because it's somehow The Right Thing To Do in any moralistic sense, but because it's how good app developers work.

Take Instagram, for example. 

Instagram doesn't make a lot of noise about the fact that its timeline is a web view, and why should it? Instagram's developers aren't trying to fight a political battle; they're just trying to build a great app. And a hybrid approach generally helps developers do that.

While Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg once famously (and wrongly) declared HTML5 was Facebook's "biggest mistake," it's clear that Facebook-owned Instagram missed that memo.

All Hybrid, All The Time

The key to all of this is to stop fixating on how an app was developed and just focus on building great apps. 

Hence, while Nic Raboy hums a paean to the virtues of hybrid apps, he gets closer to the truth when he opts to eschew calling out the how of app development and instead focuses on the what of development:

All my applications, native and hybrid, have mostly positive reviews and if you visit the apps on Google Play, you’ll see no reviews include mention about how the application was crafted. This is an important thing to notice because many haters will attack developers on the idea that hybrid applications do not perform or look as good as native applications. This is simply not true. Native or hybrid, if the developer or designer is no good, the application will suffer regardless.

So, yes, he's right to argue that Web technologies are easy to learn; that hybrid apps are time and cost effective (important given the true cost of developing an app); that it's possible to deliver high-performance hybrid apps. All of these things are true.

They also don't matter. 

Because what app developers want is to build the best app in the shortest amount of time. Which means hybrid. Almost always.

Today that means interspersing web views throughout otherwise "native" apps. But with ReactJS, it may mean something slightly different. 

As VisionMobile notes in a recent report:

Facebook’s newly announced React Native is a glimpse at a possible future where full native app performance can be achieved whilst the UI is declared much more like a Web app and the code is mostly written in JavaScript.

In a React Native world, we may be able to go "all in" on the web, which is nice.       

However such apps are technically achieved, however, the song remains the same: hybrid. That's how modern mobile apps are built, even when we call them "native." Maybe React Native changes the degree to which we build for the mobile web, but it doesn't change our mostly hybrid ways. 

That's mostly a matter of developer marketing, and it's just fine.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Categories: Technology

Apple's Going To Talk More About Its Watch On March 9

ReadWriteWeb - Fri, 02/27/2015 - 9:46am

Apple has just set a date and time to reveal more about the Apple Watch.

The company Thursday sent out invitations to an event on March 9 at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Theater in San Francisco. The invitations simply say “Spring Forward,” which many are interpreting as a pun on traditional watch technology (or, alternatively, daylight savings time).

Apple first announced the smart watch during a September press conference, then informed attendees it wouldn’t be available until spring. In January, CEO Tim Cook gave an update to say development was progressing “right on schedule.”

See also: What You Can Do With The Apple Watch

As a result, we’ve got only a general idea of what the watch is supposed to do. Cook said the watch will “redefine what people expect from its category,” serving not only as a wrist-mounted communicator, but a health tracker loaded with sensors, too.

Hopefully, Cook will take the March event to answer some of the more pressing concerns about the watch, like whether it really needs to be charged every couple of hours. Constructed with luxury metals like 18k gold, it’s also possible that Apple will announce a fleet of brick-and-mortar stores exclusively for Apple Watches, according to recent reports.

See also: The Apple Watch Could Get Its Own Dedicated Store

Apple may have eliminated more of the mystery than usual by announcing the watch months before it would become available, but it’s clear consumers still have plenty of questions. Now we only need to wait until March 9 before all is revealed. 

Lead image courtesy of Apple

Categories: Technology

How to Sabotage Encryption Software (And Not Get Caught)

Wired - Top Stories - Fri, 02/27/2015 - 9:45am

When crypto researchers set out to discover the best way to undermine encryption software, they did so believing it would help them eradicate backdoors in the future. Here's what they found.

The post How to Sabotage Encryption Software (And Not Get Caught) appeared first on WIRED.

Categories: Open Source, Technology

Harrison Ford To Return In Blade Runner Sequel

Slashdot - Fri, 02/27/2015 - 9:39am
An anonymous reader sends news that Harrison Ford is now confirmed to be returning as Rick Deckard in the upcoming sequel to Blade Runner. Ridley Scott is now officially an executive producer for the film as well, and Denis Villeneuve will direct. It's set to begin production in the summer of 2016.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Open Source, Technology

A Picture-Sharing App That Lets You Experience the Life of a Total Stranger

Wired - Top Stories - Fri, 02/27/2015 - 9:30am

Tworlds offers shades of Snapchat, and even Chatroulette.

The post A Picture-Sharing App That Lets You Experience the Life of a Total Stranger appeared first on WIRED.

Categories: Open Source, Technology

Facebook Lets You Write In Whatever Gender You Want

ReadWriteWeb - Fri, 02/27/2015 - 9:00am

Thursday, Facebook announced the addition of a free-form field to the Gender options area in Facebook profiles. The new "custom" option space allows users to write in any description they want—whether "dog-loving master of bro-associated domains" or "cheese-eating king." 

Facebook explains the change in a post on the Facebook Diversity Page, noting that if you don't identify with available gender identities offered, you can add your own. People “can add up to ten gender terms and also have the ability to control the audience with whom you would like to share you custom gender,” the company wrote. 

See also: Facebook Provides 56 New Gender Identity Options

The post suggests the custom field joins the drop-down list of 56 different gender options Facebook introduced last year. But when we checked it out, that drop-down no longer appears, indicating it replaced the hefty list. Perhaps it's all for the best. Who would go with a canned description when you could be a "couch-surfing artist sloth"? 

The move may finally please critics, particularly folks who have been clamoring for the right to describe themselves however they want. 

Saving Face

Facebook made its first big change to the Gender section of users' About page after Olu George posted a complaint in the company's help center last year: “As someone who doesn’t identify with female or male pronouns, I feel like FB is excluding people. FB needs to create another option for people who identify as genderqueer/two spirit/transgender etc.” George suggested that FB change its gender options to Male, Female and Other: Genderqueer/Two Spirit/Trans. 

Facebook responded with more than just an “other” option. The company crammed in dozens of possibilities, including genderqueer, intersex, pangender, trans, transsexual and two-spirit. Now, with the latest ability for write-in designations, gender identification on Facebook opens up more flexibility and maybe even a playful fluidity. 

Mine now reads as "I am gender: 'pink cat baby owl blue flowers dog bowl furball' but prefer pronoun 'She'." 

To change your gender description, log into your Facebook profile, hit the "update info" button, go to "contact and basic info" and scroll down to the gender section. Under "Male" and "Female," there's a new "Custom" option.

You can change your gender description or preferred pronoun whenever they want—Facebook does not lock people into what they've chosen on any given day. 

Facing Reality

As great a tool as it could be for self-expression, the custom gender field could also come with some down sides. 

Facebook seemingly acknowledges the fluidity in the way some people identify their genders. Instead of forcing fixed labels, people can fill in whatever they want. (Though the company contradicts itself by only offering three pronouns: He, She, and They.) But the move could open up fluidity of another kind as well. 

On the other hand, fill-in-the-blank genders could also turn into an Internet joke or, at its worst, even a tool for prejudice. Imagine coming across a profile and seeing someone identify as a homo-bashing super-hater. The Internet is rife with trolls, some of whom will use anything they can to spread their vitriol. 

See also: Your Twitter Gender Is Probably Male, Even If You're Female

But a bigger question remains: Can we trust Facebook to handle those issues, some of which will almost certainly crop up. And if the complexities prove too challenging to deal with, will it back-pedal once again and remove the field? 

Facebook has not shown the deftest of hands in dealing with complex matters. The company's ill-advised "crackdown" on pseudonyms used by drag queens kicked up quite a fuss in the LGBTQ community, which was incensed by the so-called “real name” policy. Facebook reversed its decision, but it’s unclear if the network will know how to provide a safe place for people to express non-normative self-identifiers. 

Lead photo by evan courtney; Facebook photo and screencaps by Alicia Eler for ReadWrite

Categories: Technology

Microsoft Closing Two Phone Factories In China

Slashdot - Fri, 02/27/2015 - 8:47am
randomErr writes: Microsoft is closing two factories in China by the end of March. About 9,000 people worked in these factories, and those jobs were cut a while back as part of the company's major restructuring after its Nokia purchase. Much of the equipment located in these factories from Beijing and the southeastern city of Dongguan is being shipped to Vietnam.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Open Source, Technology

The Physics of a Record Breaking Long Jump

Wired - Top Stories - Fri, 02/27/2015 - 8:40am

Here is a record breaking standing long jump by Byron Jones. What physics can we see in a standing long jump?

The post The Physics of a Record Breaking Long Jump appeared first on WIRED.

Categories: Open Source, Technology

Surgeon: First Human Head Transplant May Be Just Two Years Away

Slashdot - Fri, 02/27/2015 - 8:05am (3830033) writes "Michelle Star writes at C/net that Surgeon Sergio Canavero, director of the Turin Advanced Neuromodulation Group in Italy, believes he has developed a technique to remove the head from a non-functioning body and transplant it onto the healthy body. According to Canavero's paper published in Surgical Neurology International, first, both the transplant head and the donor body need to be cooled in order to slow cell death. Then, the neck of both would be cut and the major blood vessels linked with tubes. Finally, the spinal cords would be severed, with as clean a cut as possible. Joining the spinal cords, with the tightly packed nerves inside, is key. The plan involves flushing the area with polyethylene glycol, followed by several hours of injections of the same, a chemical that encourages the fat in cell membranes to mesh. The blood vessels, muscles and skin would then be sutured and the patient would be induced into a coma for several weeks to keep them from moving around; meanwhile, electrodes would stimulate the spine with electricity in an attempt to strengthen the new nerve connections. Head transplants has been tried before. In 1970, Robert White led a team at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, US, that tried to transplant the head of one monkey on to the body of another. The surgeons stopped short of a full spinal cord transfer, so the monkey could not move its body. Despite Canavero's enthusiasm, many surgeons and neuroscientists believe massive technical hurdles push full body transplants into the distant future. The starkest problem is that no one knows how to reconnect spinal nerves and make them work again. "This is such an overwhelming project, the possibility of it happening is very unlikely," says Harry Goldsmith."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Open Source, Technology

12 Motorcycles That Trace the Evolution of the All-American Chopper

Wired - Top Stories - Fri, 02/27/2015 - 7:31am

The distinctively-styled Chopper, epitomized by Easy Rider's Captain America, is the culmination of decades of motorcycle culture.

The post 12 Motorcycles That Trace the Evolution of the All-American Chopper appeared first on WIRED.

Categories: Open Source, Technology

A Respirator Device That Looks Like Cool, Retro Kitchen Gear

Wired - Top Stories - Fri, 02/27/2015 - 7:19am

There's a deeper insight behind the clean lines.

The post A Respirator Device That Looks Like Cool, Retro Kitchen Gear appeared first on WIRED.

Categories: Open Source, Technology

The ‘Reanimation Horror’ Influences of the New Movie The Lazarus Effect

Wired - Top Stories - Fri, 02/27/2015 - 7:00am

The latest Blumhouse Productions offering The Lazarus Effect is the latest in a long line of reanimation horror films. Here are its antecedents.

The post The ‘Reanimation Horror’ Influences of the New Movie The Lazarus Effect appeared first on WIRED.

Categories: Open Source, Technology

Scientists Are Wrong All the Time, and That’s Fantastic

Wired - Top Stories - Fri, 02/27/2015 - 7:00am

On February 28, 1998, the eminent medical journal The Lancet published an observational study of 12 children: Ileal-lymphoid-nodular hyperplasia, non-specific colitis, and pervasive development disorder in children. It might not sound sexy, but once the media read beyond the title, into the study’s descriptions of how those nasty-sounding symptoms appeared just after the kids got vaccinated, the impact was clear: The measles-mumps-rubella […]

The post Scientists Are Wrong All the Time, and That’s Fantastic appeared first on WIRED.

Categories: Open Source, Technology

Absurd Creature of the Week: The Legless Amphibian That Eats Its Mother’s Skin

Wired - Top Stories - Fri, 02/27/2015 - 7:00am

Perhaps the most contentious title out there is “World’s Greatest Mom.” My mother probably thinks she is, but so too does her mother, and I think they could both make pretty strong cases. But the sacrifices that human moms make pale in comparison to what’s going on in nature. There’s a bug, for instance, whose […]

The post Absurd Creature of the Week: The Legless Amphibian That Eats Its Mother’s Skin appeared first on WIRED.

Categories: Open Source, Technology

What Happens When You Let Fireflies Loose in Your Darkroom

Wired - Top Stories - Fri, 02/27/2015 - 6:45am

A photogram is a type of photograph made without the use of a camera, by exposing photosensitive paper to light, making inanimate objects placed on the paper appear as silhouettes. Daniel Kukla has turned the idea of a photogram on its head by placing things on the paper that emit light themselves: fireflies. Kukla arrived at […]

The post What Happens When You Let Fireflies Loose in Your Darkroom appeared first on WIRED.

Categories: Open Source, Technology

Fighting Scams Targeting the Elderly With Old-School Tech

Slashdot - Fri, 02/27/2015 - 5:31am
itwbennett writes Sharp is launching a pair of landline phones designed to counter a growing form of fraud in Japan that preys upon the elderly. The 'ore ore' ('it's me, it's me') fraudsters pretend to be grandchildren in an emergency and convince their victims to send money, generally via ATM. Sharp's new phones are designed to alert seniors to the dangers of unknown callers. When potential victims receive that are not registered in the internal memory of Sharp's new phones, their LED bars glow red and the phones go into anti-scam mode. An automated message then tells the caller that the call is being recorded and asks for the caller to state his or her name before the call is answered.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Categories: Open Source, Technology