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Comcast Sues Nashville To Halt Rules That Give Google Fiber Faster Access To Utility Poles ( 73

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Ars Technica: Comcast yesterday sued the Nashville metro government and mayor to stop a new ordinance designed to give Google Fiber faster access to utility poles. Comcast's complaint in U.S. District Court in Nashville (full text) is similar to one already filed by AT&T last month. Both ISPs are trying to invalidate a One Touch Make Ready ordinance that lets new ISPs make all of the necessary wire adjustments on utility poles themselves instead of having to wait for incumbent providers like AT&T and Comcast to send work crews to move their own wires. The ordinance was passed largely to benefit Google Fiber, which is offering service in Nashville but says that it hasn't been able to deploy faster because it is waiting to get access to thousands of poles. Nearly all the Nashville utility poles are owned either by the municipal Nashville Electric Service or AT&T. Because Comcast has wires on many of the poles, it has some control over how quickly Google Fiber can expand its network. When Google Fiber wants to attach wires to a new pole, it needs to wait for ISPs like Comcast to move their wires to make room for Google Fiber's. The Nashville One Touch Make Ready ordinance "permits third parties to move, alter, or rearrange components of Comcast's communications network attached to utility poles without Comcast's consent, authorization, or oversight, and with far less notice than is required by federal law and by an existing Comcast contract with Metro Nashville," Comcast's complaint said. Comcast asked the court to declare the ordinance invalid and permanently enjoin Nashville from enforcing it. The pre-existing Make Ready process "seek[s] to ensure that all providers can share available pole space cooperatively and safely, without interfering with or damaging any provider's equipment or services," Comcast said. The new procedures mandated by Nashville "are so intrusive that, tellingly, Metro Nashville has wholly exempted its own utility pole attachments from the Ordinance's coverage." Even though Google Fiber announced yesterday that it will pause operations and cut 9% of its staff, the ISP said it would continue operations in Nashville.

Those Facebook Live Videos From Space That Are Going Viral Are Fake, NASA Confirms ( 37

Earlier this morning, a Facebook Live video allegedly showed a live feed of the International Space Station (ISS). The video has gone viral on the internet, with more than 17 million views, two million likes, and 400,000 shares. The only problem: that video feed is fake, a NASA spokesperson told Mashable. It said, "there is no spacewalk being conducted outside the International Space Station today." The video was shared by UNILAD, Viral USA, and Interstinate Facebook pages. From the report: NASA announces it whenever a spacewalk is expected to occur on the station, and they don't have anything about a spacewalk on their schedule for today. If the livestreams are showing spacewalks, that's a big hint they're fake.Good thing Facebook insists it isn't a media company.

Curious Tilt of the Sun Traced To Undiscovered Planet ( 206

An anonymous reader writes: Planet Nine - the undiscovered planet at the edge of the solar system that was predicted by the work of Caltech's Konstantin Batygin and Mike Brown in January 2016 -- appears to be responsible for the unusual tilt of the Sun, according to a new study. The large and distant planet may be adding a wobble to the solar system, giving the appearance that the Sun is tilted slightly. "Because Planet Nine is so massive and has an orbit tilted compared to the other planets, the solar system has no choice but to slowly twist out of alignment," says Elizabeth Bailey, a graduate student at Caltech and lead author of a study announcing the discovery. All of the planets orbit in a flat plane with respect to the Sun, roughly within a couple degrees of each other. That plane, however, rotates at a six-degree tilt with respect to the Sun -- giving the appearance that the Sun itself is cocked off at an angle. Until now, no one had found a compelling explanation to produce such an effect. "It's such a deep-rooted mystery and so difficult to explain that people just don't talk about it," says Brown, the Richard and Barbara Rosenberg Professor of Planetary Astronomy.

Elon Musk's Mars Colony Would Have a Horde of Mining Robots ( 218

An anonymous reader shares an Engadget report: If it wasn't already clear that Elon Musk has considered virtually every aspect of what it would take to colonize Mars, it is now. As part of his Reddit AMA session, the SpaceX founder has revealed that his vision of a permanent colony would entail a huge number of "miner/tunneling droids." The robots would build large volumes of underground pressurized space for industrial activity, leaving geodesic domes (made of carbon fiber and glass) for everyday living. As a resident, you might never see the 'ugly' side of settling the Red Planet. Musk also explained how his colony would get to the point where it can reliably refuel spacecraft all by itself. Dragon capsules would serve as scouts, helping find the "best way" to extract water for fuel reactions. An unmanned Heart of Gold spaceship would then deliver the basics for a propellant plant, while the first crewed mission would finish that plant. After that, SpaceX would double the number of flights between each ideal Earth-Mars rendezvous (every 26 months) until the colony can reliably produce fuel by itself. Oh, and don't worry about today's Falcon 9 rockets being consigned to the history books. Although the main booster for interplanetary travel will "have an easier time of things," Musk believes that the final iteration of Falcon 9 (Block 5) could be used "almost indefinitely" if properly maintained. Production on Block 5 should fly in the next 6 to 8 months.

"Splat" of Schiaparelli Mars Lander Likely Found ( 104

Long-time Slashdot reader Tablizer quotes Space Flight Now: Views from NASA's Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter released Friday show the crash site where Europe's experimental Schiaparelli lander fell to the red planet's surface from a height of several miles, leaving a distinct dark patch on the Martian landscape...The image from MRO's context camera shows two new features attributed to the Schiaparelli spacecraft, including a large dark scar spanning an estimated 50 feet (15 meters) by 130 feet (40 meters). Schiaparelli's ground team believes it is from the high-speed impact of the lander's main body... A little more than a half-mile (1 kilometer) to the south, a bright spot appears in the image, likely the 39-foot-diameter (12-meter) supersonic parachute and part of Schiaparelli's heat shield, which released from the lander just before ESA lost contact."

Governor Cuomo Bans Airbnb From Listing Short-Term Rentals In New York ( 157

An anonymous reader quotes a report from New York Post: Gov. Cuomo on Friday bowed to pressure from the hotel industry and signed into law one of the nation's toughest restrictions on Airbnb -- including hefty fines of up to $7,500 for people who rent out space in their apartments. Backers of the punitive measure -- which applies to rentals of less than 30 days when the owner or tenant is not present -- say many property owners use Airbnb and similar sites to offer residential apartments as short-term rentals to visitors, hurting the hotel business while taking residential units off the Big Apple's high-priced housing market. Enforcement, however, will be a huge challenge, as thousands of short-term apartment rentals are listed in the city despite a 2010 law that prohibits rentals of less than 30 days when the owner or tenant is not present. Violators could be turned in by neighbors or landlords opposed to the practice, or the state could monitor the site to look for potential violations. But beyond that how the law would be enforced was not immediately clear. The new law won't apply to rentals in single-family homes, row houses or apartment spare rooms if the resident is present. But will apply to co-ops and condos. Airbnb mounted a last-ditch effort to kill the measure, proposing alternative regulations that the company argued would address concerns about short-term rentals without big fines. Tenants who violate current state law and list their apartments for rentals of less than 30 days would face fines of $1,000 for the first offense, $5,000 for the second and $7,500 for a third. An investigation of Airbnb rentals from 2010 to 2014 by the state attorney general's office found that 72 percent of the units in New York City were illegal, with commercial operators constituting 6 percent of the hosts and supplying 36 percent of the rentals. As of August, Airbnb had 45,000 city listings and another 13,000 across the state.

Schiaparelli Mars Lander May Have Exploded On Impact, European Agency Says ( 112

Instead of drifting gently onto Mars' surface, the Schiaparelli Mars lander hit the planet hard -- and possibly exploded, the European Space Agency said today. NPR adds: The NASA images, taken on Oct. 20, show two recent changes to the landscape on Mars' surface -- one dark blotch, and one white speck -- which are being interpreted as Schiaparelli's parachute and its crash site. With the warning that analysis is still ongoing, here are the details the ESA is sharing Friday: "Estimates are that Schiaparelli dropped from a height of between 2 and 4 kilometers, therefore impacting at a considerable speed, greater than 300 km/h [186 mph]. The relatively large size of the feature would then arise from disturbed surface material. It is also possible that the lander exploded on impact, as its thruster propellant tanks were likely still full." That sequence of events followed the lander's largely trouble-free approach to the Martian surface, a trip that was being widely watched on Wednesday, when the craft lost contact with the ESA and its Mars mothership, the Trace Gas Orbiter, just before its touchdown.

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos Thinks Space Can Be the New Internet ( 90

Speaking at the Vanity Fair New Establishment Summit in San Francisco today, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos said space is essentially a new internet, as it is the next frontier that needs new infrastructure to support new entrepreneurs. He said the purpose of Blue Origin is to build out a similar kind of infrastructure for space that Amazon used to operate during the days of the early internet, such as the United States Postal Service and long distance phone network. The Verge reports: "Two kids in their dorm room can reinvent an industry," Bezos said, referring to the strengths of the modern internet. "Two kids in their dorm room cannot do anything interesting in space." Bezos says rocket reusability needs to be improved, and both Blue Origin and Elon Musk's SpaceX are working toward the goal of vastly reducing the cost of sending payloads to space. Bezos said there's also a number of restraints right now that prevent the kind of entrepreneurial spirit that helped create Amazon do the same for a next-generation space venture. "We need to be able to put big things in space at low cost." Bezos talked of his earliest days at Amazon more than 20 years ago, where he was driving packages himself to the post office with a 10-person team. "We were sitting on a bunch of a heavy lifting infrastructure," he said. "For example, there was already a gigantic network called United States Postal Service. The internet itself was sitting on time of the long distance phone network." This is the kind of infrastructure Bezos hopes to build out with Blue Origin. "Every time you figure out some way of providing tools and services that allow other people to deploy their creativity, you're really onto something," Bezos said. But building that infrastructure space is still the grandest dream. "I think space is about to enter a golden age."

Schiaparelli Mars Probe's Parachute 'Jettisoned Too Early', Whereabouts Still Unknown ( 184

An anonymous reader writes: Europe's Schiaparelli lander did not behave as expected as it headed down to the surface of Mars on Wednesday. Telemetry data recovered from the probe during its descent indicates that its parachute was jettisoned too early. The rockets it was supposed to use to bring itself to a standstill just above the ground also appeared to fire for too short a time. The European Space Agency (Esa) has not yet conceded that the lander crashed but the mood is not positive. Experts will continue to analyse the data and they may also try to call out to Schiaparelli in the blind hope that it is actually sitting on the Red Planet intact. In addition, the Americans will use one of their satellites at Mars to image the targeted landing zone to see if they can detect any hardware. Although, the chances are slim because the probe is small. For the moment, all Esa has to work with is the relatively large volume of engineering data Schiaparelli managed to transmit back to the "mothership" that dropped it off at Mars - the Trace Gas Orbiter.
Operating Systems

Researchers Bypass ASLR Protection On Intel Haswell CPUs ( 72

An anonymous reader writes: "A team of scientists from two U.S. universities has devised a method of bypassing ASLR (Address Space Layout Randomization) protection by taking advantage of the BTB (Branch Target Buffer), a component included in many modern CPU architectures, including Intel Haswell CPUs, the processor they used for tests in their research," reports Softpedia. The researchers discovered that by blasting the BTB with random data, they could run a successful collision attack that reveals the memory locations where apps execute code in the computer's memory -- the very thing that ASLR protection was meant to hide. While during their tests they used a Linux PC with a Intel Haswell CPU, researchers said the attack can be ported to other CPU architectures and operating systems where ASLR is deployed, such as Android, iOS, macOS, and Windows. From start to finish, the collision attack only takes 60 milliseconds, meaning it can be embedded with malware or any other digital forensics tool and run without needing hours of intense CPU processing. You can read the research paper, titled "Jump Over ASLR: Attacking Branch Predictors to Bypass ASLR," here.

ESA Lander's Signal Cut Out Just Before It Was Supposed To Land on Mars ( 244

An anonymous reader shares an ArsTechnica report: On Wednesday, the European Space Agency sought to become the second entity to successfully land a spacecraft on Mars with its Schiaparelli lander. And everything seemed to be going swimmingly right up until the point that Schiaparelli was to touch down. The European scientists had been tracking the descent of Schiaparelli through an array of radio telescopes near Pune, India and were able to record the moment when the vehicle exited a plasma blackout. The scientists also received a signal that indicated parachute deployment. But during the critical final moments, when nine hydrazine-powered thrusters were supposed to fire to arrest Schiaparelli's descent, the signal disappeared. At that point, the European Space Agency's webcast went silent for several minutes before one of the flight directors could be heard to say, "We expected the signal to continue, but clearly it did not. We don't want to jump to conclusions."

Amazon Japan's Manga-Ready Kindle Has 8 Times the Storage ( 82

Amazon Japan has an unusual challenge with the Kindle: it not only has to cater to your typical bookworm, but to a local fondness for image-heavy (and thus storage-intensive) manga books. What it's going to do? Release a special model just for those readers, apparently. Engadget reports: The company has introduced a manga version of the Kindle Paperwhite with 32GB of storage, or eight times as much space as the run-of-the-mill 4GB model. You could cram every single volume of Asari-chan, Kochikame and Naruto into this e-reader, Amazon says. The manga Kindle is available for pre-order now, with pricing commanding a slight premium over the usual Paperwhite. You're spending about $157 or $118.

Venus May Have Been the First Habitable Planet In Our Solar System, Study Suggests ( 125

An anonymous reader quotes a report from The Guardian: Venus is often referred to as Earth's evil twin, but conditions on the planet were not always so hellish, according to research that suggests it may have been the first place in the solar system to have become habitable. The study, due to be presented this week at the at the American Astronomical Society Meeting in Pasadena, concludes that at a time when primitive bacteria were emerging on Earth, Venus may have had a balmy climate and vast oceans up to 2,000 meters (6,562 feet) deep. Michael Way, who led the work at the Nasa Goddard Institute for Space Studies in New York City, said: "If you lived three billion years ago at a low latitude and low elevation the surface temperatures would not have been that different from that of a place in the tropics on Earth," he said. Crucially, if the calculations are correct the oceans may have remained until 715m years ago -- a long enough period of climate stability for microbial life to have plausibly sprung up. "The oceans of ancient Venus would have had more constant temperatures, and if life begins in the oceans -- something which we are not certain of on Earth -- then this would be a good starting place," said Way. With an average surface temperature of 462C (864F), Venus is the hottest planet in the solar system today, thanks to its proximity to the sun and its impenetrable carbon dioxide atmosphere, 90 times denser than Earth's. At some point in the planet's history this led to a runaway greenhouse effect. Way and colleagues simulated the Venusian climate at various time points between 2.9 billion and 715 million years ago, employing similar models to those used to predict future climate change on Earth. The scientists fed some basic assumptions into the model, including the presence of water, the intensity of the sunlight and how fast Venus was rotating. In this virtual version, 2.9 billion years ago Venus had an average surface temperature of 11C (52F) and this only increased to an average of 15C (59F) by 715m years ago, as the sun became more powerful. Details of the study are also published in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

Orbital ATK Returns To Flight With Successful Antares Launch To Space Station ( 68

An anonymous reader quotes a report from TechCrunch: The Orbital ATK Antares rocket -- the same rocket that exploded on its way to the International Space Station two years ago -- returned to flight today with a much-anticipated launch. Lifting off from NASA's Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia, the Antares rocket is now on its way to deliver the Cygnus spacecraft filled with over 5,000 pounds of cargo to crew members aboard the ISS. Today's launch was particularly special for Orbital ATK, a company contracted by NASA to deliver 66,000 pounds of cargo to the ISS through 2018. After their Antares rocket exploded during a launch in 2014, destroying thousands of pounds of experiments and cargo bound for the space station, Orbital ATK worked for two years to upgrade that rocket and prepare for its return to flight. Today, the Orbital ATK was finally able to fly Cygnus on top of their own rocket again. The RD-181-equipped Antares rocket carried Cygnus, which housed science experiments and supplies for the ISS crew, for their fifth operational cargo resupply mission for NASA. Along with crew supplies, spacewalk equipment and computer resources, Cygnus will bring over 1,000 pounds of science investigations to the five crew members on the ISS. One of those experiments is Saffire-II, the second Saffire experiment to be conducted inside Cygnus in order to study realistic flame propagation in space. Cygnus will spend over a month attached to the ISS. In late November, the spacecraft will be filled with about 3,000 pounds of trash and then released to begin its descent back to Earth. During reentry through Earth's atmosphere, the spacecraft, along with trash and Saffire-II, will be destroyed.

China Just Launched Two Astronauts Into Orbit ( 265

An anonymous Slashdot reader quotes the BBC: China has launched two men into orbit in a project designed to develop its ability to explore space. The astronauts took off from the Jiuquan Satellite Launch Centre in northern China at 23:30 GMT on Sunday [7:30 p.m. EST].

The plan is for them to dock with and then spend 30 days on board the Tiangong 2 space station testing its ability to support life. This and previous launches are seen as pointers to possible crewed missions to the Moon or Mars.

NBC calls this evidence of "the intensifying U.S.-China space rivalry... With the current U.S.-led International Space Station expected to retire in 2024, China could be the only nation left with a permanent presence in space."

NASA's Plan To Put Juno Closer To Jupiter Delayed ( 6

An anonymous reader shares an IANS report: Mission managers for the Juno probe to Jupiter have decided to delay the upcoming burn of its main rocket motor -- designed to put the spacecraft closer to the largest planet in our solar system -- until December, the US space agency said on Saturday. The decision was made in order to further study the performance of a set of valves that are part of the spacecraft's fuel pressurization system. This burn, originally scheduled for October 19, called the period reduction maneuver (PRM), was to reduce Juno's orbital period around Jupiter from 53.4 to 14 days. "It is important to note that the orbital period does not affect the quality of the science that takes place during one of Juno's close flybys of Jupiter," said Scott Bolton, principal investigator of Juno from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. "The mission is very flexible that way. The data we collected during our first flyby on August 27th was a revelation, and I fully anticipate a similar result from Juno's October 19th flyby," Bolton noted.

NASA Has No Plans To Buy More Soyuz Seats ( 87

schwit1 writes: Both Boeing and SpaceX better get their manned capsules working by 2019, because NASA at this point has no plans to buy more seats on Russian Soyuz capsules after the present contract runs out. Spaceflight Now reports: "Even as the commercial crew schedules move later into 2018, NASA officials say they are not considering extending the contract with Roscosmos -- the Russian space agency -- for more launches in 2019. The last Soyuz launch seats reserved for U.S. astronauts are at the end of 2018. It takes more than two years to procure components and assemble new Soyuz capsules, so Russia needed to receive new Soyuz orders from NASA by some time this fall to ensure the spacecraft would be ready for liftoff in early 2019." The second paragraph above notes that even if NASA decided it needed more Soyuz launches, it is probably too late to buy them and have them available by 2019. "A Soyuz is a complicated vehicle, and a complicated vehicle doesn't come into existence in a matter of days," said Kirk Shireman, NASA's space station program manager. "It takes over two years to build a Soyuz, so yes, at some point in time, building a new Soyuz vehicle is not an option. We're working with our Russian counterparts on exactly when that is. We have not crossed that date yet, but I believe the date is in sight. It will be this calendar year when we will cross the point where we won't be able to build a Soyuz in time for when our last seats that we've already procured expire," Shireman said.

President Obama Orders Government To Plan For 'Space Weather' ( 169

An anonymous reader quotes a report from Network World: President Barack Obama today issued an Executive Order that defines what the nation's response should be to a catastrophic space weather event that takes out large portions of the electrical power grid, resulting in cascading failures that would affect key services such as water supply, healthcare, and transportation. The Executive Order ideally will coordinate the responses across government agencies such as NASA, the Departments of Homeland Security, Energy and others to help minimize economic loss and save lives by enhancing national security, identifying successful mitigation technologies, and ordering the creation of nationwide response and recovery plans and procedures, the White House stated. Further, the Executive Order will enhance the scientific and technical capabilities of the United States, including improved prediction of space-weather events and their effects on infrastructure systems and services. By this action, the Federal Government will lead by example and help motivate State and local governments, and other nations, to create communities that are more resilient to the hazards of space weather. The Executive Order reinforces the formal National Space Weather Strategy and accompanying Action Plan which were announced last year. It also bolsters other work such as the replacement of aging satellites that monitor and help forecast space weather, proposing space-weather standards for both the national and international air space, development of regulations to ensure the continued operation of the electric grid during an extreme space weather event, proposing a new option for replacing crucial Extra High Voltage (EHV) transformers damaged by space weather, and developing domestic production sources for EHV transformers, the White House wrote.

The Universe Has 20 Times More Galaxies Than We Thought ( 258

A new study by a team of international astronomers has produced some astounding results: they concluded that the universe contains at least two trillion galaxies -- as much as 20 times more than previously thought. The study adds that 90 percent of all galaxies are hidden from us. This hidden portion can't be seen even with our most powerful telescopes. Gizmodo adds: Consequently, this means we also have to update the number of stars in the observable universe, which now numbers around 700 sextillion (that's a 7 with 23 zeros behind it, or 700 thousand billion billion). And that's just within the observable universe. Because the cosmos emerged some 13.8 billion years ago, we're only able to observe objects up to a certain distance from Earth. Anything outside this "Hubble Bubble" is invisible to us because the light from these distant objects simply haven't had enough time to reach us. It's difficult -- if not impossible -- to know how many galaxies reside outside this cosmological blind spot.

Scientists Unveil Plans For First Space Nation 'Asgardia,' Open Citizenship Applications ( 275

Scientists and legal experts have unveiled plans for the "first nation state in space." The state is called "Asgardia" after one of the mythical worlds inhabited by the Norse gods, and it will eventually become a member of the United Nations -- complete with its own flag and anthem. The Guardian reports: According to the project website, Asgardia "will offer an independent platform free from the constraint of a land-based country's laws. It will become a place it in orbit which is truly 'no man's land.'" Initially, it would seem, this new nation will consist of a single satellite, scheduled to be launched next year, with its citizens residing firmly on terra firma. Speaking to the Guardian through an interpreter, the project lead Igor Ashurbeyli, said: "Physically the citizens of that nation state will be on Earth; they will be living on different countries on Earth, so they will be a citizen of their own country and at the same time they will be citizens of Asgardia." "When the number of those applications goes above 100,000 we can officially apply to the UN for the status of state," he added. According to the project website, "Any human living on Earth can become a citizen of Asgardia," with the site featuring a simple registration form. At the time of writing more than 1000 individuals had already signed up. At present, the Outer Space Treaty that underpins international space law states that responsibility and liability for objects sent into space lies with the nation that launched them. But the project team claims that Asgardia will set a new precedent, shifting responsibility to the new "space nation" itself. "The existing state agencies represent interests of their own countries and there are not so many countries in the world that have those space agencies," said Ashurbeyli. "The ultimate aim is to create a legal platform to ensure protection of planet Earth and to provide access to space technologies for those who do not have that access at the moment."

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