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Science

Carbon Dating Shows Koran May Predate Muhammad 606

HughPickens.com writes: Brian Booker writes at Digital Journal that carbon dating suggests the Koran, or at least portions of it, may actually be older than the prophet Muhammad himself, a finding that if confirmed could rewrite early Islamic history and shed doubt on the "heavenly" origins of the holy text. Scholars believe that a copy of the Koran held by the Birmingham Library was actually written sometime between 568 AD and 645, while the Prophet Mohammad was believed to have been born in 570 AD and to have died in 632 AD. It should be noted, however, that the dating was only conducted on the parchment, rather than the ink, so it is possible that the Koran was simply written on old paper. Some scholars believe, however, that Muhammad did not receive the Koran from heaven, as he claimed during his lifetime, but instead collected texts and scripts that fit his political agenda. "This gives more ground to what have been peripheral views of the Koran's genesis, like that Muhammad and his early followers used a text that was already in existence and shaped it to fit their own political and theological agenda, rather than Muhammad receiving a revelation from heaven," says Keith Small, from the University of Oxford's Bodleian Library. "'It destabilises, to put it mildly, the idea that we can know anything with certainty about how the Koran emerged," says Historian Tom Holland. "and that in turn has implications for the history of Muhammad and the Companions." Update: 09/01 17:32 GMT by S : There was a typo in the dates used by the original linked article — in the press release from the University of Birmingham, the date range given for the parchment is between 568 AD and 645 AD, which overlaps more closely with Muhammad's lifetime. The dates and link have been fixed now in the summary. Historians say this new information highlights the uncertainty surrounding the emergence of such religious texts, rather than being a major upheaval.
Space

World's Most Powerful Digital Camera Sees Construction Green Light 88

An anonymous reader writes: The Department of Energy has approved the construction of the Large Synoptic Survey Telecscope's 3.2-gigapixel digital camera, which will be the most advanced in the world. When complete the camera will weigh more than three tons and take such high resolution pictures that it would take 1,500 high-definition televisions to display one of them. According to SLAC: "Starting in 2022, LSST will take digital images of the entire visible southern sky every few nights from atop a mountain called Cerro Pachón in Chile. It will produce a wide, deep and fast survey of the night sky, cataloging by far the largest number of stars and galaxies ever observed. During a 10-year time frame, LSST will detect tens of billions of objects—the first time a telescope will observe more galaxies than there are people on Earth – and will create movies of the sky with unprecedented details. Funding for the camera comes from the DOE, while financial support for the telescope and site facilities, the data management system, and the education and public outreach infrastructure of LSST comes primarily from the National Science Foundation (NSF)."
The Internet

Metal Gear Solid V PC Disc Contains Steam Installer, Nothing Else 186

dotarray writes: The boxed copy of Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain reportedly contains nothing but a Steam installer. That's right, even if you fork out real-world money for a physical copy of the game, you'll still have to download the whole thing from the internet. The game officially launches tomorrow. Early critical reviews are quite positive, though you should take that with a grain of salt until the game is more widely distributed. Game Informer says, "Unlike the linear design of previous entries, The Phantom Pain rarely assumes you have particular weapons and equipment, so the missions are brilliantly designed with multiple paths to success." The Washington Post notes, "The Phantom Pain’s openness feels like Kojima finally found a technical platform broad enough to make use of all of those tools and trusts players to build their own narrative drama from the way they choose to put these tools together for each mission." IGN has this criticism: "... where Phantom Pain’s gameplay systems are far richer and meatier than any the series has ever seen, its story feels insubstantial and woefully underdeveloped by comparison." Metal Gear Solid 5 is launching for PCs, current consoles, and previous-gen consoles; Digital Foundry thinks is likely to be the last true cross-generation AAA title.
Privacy

Ashley Madison CEO Steps Down, Reporter Finds Clues To Hacker's Identity 213

Dave Knott writes: Following the recent hacks on the infidelity website Ashley Madison, Noel Biderman has stepped down as CEO of both AshleyMadison.com and its parent company. Avid Life Media Inc., the company that owns the site and many others, announced Biderman's move in a short press release on Friday: "Noel Biderman, in mutual agreement with the company, is stepping down as chief executive officer of Avid Life Media Inc. (ALM) and is no longer with the company. Until the appointment of a new CEO, the company will be led by the existing senior management team." Before the data hack, the company was planning an IPO in London that would have taken in as much as $200 million from investors. According to regulatory filings, the company had $115 million in revenue last year, more than four times the amount it obtained in 2009.

Meanwhile, in related news, Brian Krebs (the reporter who first uncovered the hack) says he has uncovered clues to the possible identity of the hacker. Krebs says he noticed the Twitter account operated by a known hacker recently posted a link to Ashley Madison's stolen proprietary source code before it was made public. Intrigued by the poster's apparent access, he examined the account's posting history and noticed a predilection for the music of Australian hard rock band AC/DC. This jibes with the behavior of the hacker(s), who had displayed threatening messages on the computers of Ashley Madison employees, accompanied by AC/DC song Thunderstruck. In a series of tweets, the owner of the account, one Thadeus Zu, appears to deny that he was behind the hack, and indeed makes several suggestions that the account itself isn't even run by one person, but is instead an amalgam of like-minded digital vigilantes.
The NY Times also reports that people whose details were contained in the leak are beginning to face threats of blackmail.
Privacy

German Intelligence Traded Citizen Data For NSA Surveillance Software 68

An anonymous reader sends news that Germany's domestic intelligence agency, the BfV, was so impressed with the NSA's surveillance software that they were willing to "share all data relevant to the NSA's mission" in order to get it. "The data in question is regularly part of the approved surveillance measures carried out by the BfV. In contrast, for example, to the Bundesnachrichtendienst (BND), Germany’s foreign intelligence agency, the BfV does not use a dragnet to collect huge volumes of data from the Internet. Rather, it is only allowed to monitor individual suspects in Germany -- and only after a special parliamentary commission has granted approval. ... Targeted surveillance measures are primarily intended to turn up the content of specific conversations, in the form of emails, telephone exchanges or faxes. But along the way, essentially as a side effect, the BfV also collects mass quantities of so-called metadata. Whether the collection of this data is consistent with the restrictions outlined in Germany's surveillance laws is a question that divides legal experts."
Security

Most Healthcare Managers Admit Their IT Systems Have Been Compromised 122

Lucas123 writes: Eighty-one percent of healthcare IT managers say their organizations have been compromised by at least one malware, botnet or other kind of cyber attack during the past two years, and only half of those managers feel that they are adequately prepared to prevent future attacks, according to a new survey by KPMG. The KPMG survey polled 223 CIOs, CTOs, chief security officers and chief compliance officers at healthcare providers and health plans, and found 65% indicated malware was most frequently reported line of attack during the past 12 to 24 months. Additionally, those surveyed indicated the areas with the greatest vulnerabilities within their organization include external attackers (65%), sharing data with third parties (48%), employee breaches (35%), wireless computing (35%) and inadequate firewalls (27%). Top among reasons healthcare facilities are facing increased risk, was the adoption of digital patient records and the automation of clinical systems.
Communications

A "Public Health" Approach To Internet of Things Security 46

New submitter StewBeans writes: Guaranteeing your personal privacy in an era when more and more devices are connecting our daily lives to the Internet is becoming increasingly difficult to do. David Bray, CIO of the FCC, emphasizes the exponential growth we are facing by comparing the Internet we know today to a beachball, and the Internet of Everything future to the Sun. Bray says unless you plan to unplug from the Internet completely, every consumer needs to assume some responsibility for the security and overall health of the Internet of Everything. He says this might look similar to public health on the consumer side — the digital equivalent of hand washing — and involve an open, opt-in model for the rapid detection of abnormal trends across global organizations and networks.
Privacy

Tech Nightmares That Keep Turing Award Winners Up At Night 82

itwbennett writes: At the Heidelberg Laureate Forum in Germany this week, RSA encryption algorithm co-inventor Leonard Adelman, "Father of the Internet" Vint Cerf, and cryptography innovator Manuel Blum were asked "What about the tech world today keeps you up at night?" And apparently they're not getting a whole lot of sleep these days. Cerf is predicting a digital dark age arising from our dependence on software and our lack of "a regime that will allow us to preserve both the content and the software needed to render it over a very long time." Adelman worries about the evolution of computers into "their own species" — and our relation to them. Blum's worries, by contrast, lean more towards the slow pace at which computers are taking over: "'The fact that we have brains hasn't made the world any safer,' he said. 'Will it be safer with computers? I don't know, but I tend to see it as hopeful.'"
Privacy

How To Keep Microsoft's Nose Out of Your Personal Data In Windows 10 423

MojoKid writes: Amid the privacy concerns and arguably invasive nature of Microsoft's Windows 10 regarding user information, it's no surprise that details on how to minimize leaks as much as possible are often requested by users who have recently made the jump to the new operating system. If you are using Windows 10, or plan to upgrade soon, it's worth bearing in mind a number of privacy-related options that are available, even during the installation/upgrade. If you are already running the OS and forgot to turn them off during installation (or didn't even see them), they can be accessed via the Settings menu on the start menu, and then selecting Privacy from the pop-up menu. Among these menus are a plethora of options regarding what data can be gathered about you. It's worth noting, however, that changing any of these options may disable various OS related services, namely Cortana, as Microsoft's digital assistant has it tendrils buried deep.
Facebook

Facebook Is Now Working On Its Own Digital Assistant Called M 56

Mark Wilson writes: Sounding like a character from a James Bond movie, M is Facebook's personal digital assistant. Ready to compete with the likes of Cortana, M will live inside Facebook Messenger and take artificial intelligence a step further. Rather than just helping you to find information or create calendar entries, M will actually perform tasks on your behalf.

Once up and running, M will be able to book restaurants for you, purchase shopping, and more. It will also be possible to use the service to ask for advice — such as looking for somewhere to visit nearby, or gift suggestions — and Facebook says the AI behind M is "trained and supervised by people".
Input Devices

Skylake Has a Voice DSP and Listens To Your Commands 99

itwbennett writes: Intel's new Skylake processor (like the Core M processor released last year) comes with a built-in digital signal processor (DSP) that will allow you to turn on and control your PC with your voice. Although the feature is not new, what is new is the availability of a voice controlled app to use it: Enter Windows 10 and Cortana. If this sounds familiar, it should, writes Andy Patrizio: 'A few years back when the Xbox One was still in development, word came that Kinect, its motion and audio sensor controller, would be required to use the console and Kinect would always be listening for voice commands to start the console. This caused something of a freak-out among gamers, who feared Microsoft would be listening.'
Media

A Farewell To Flash 202

An anonymous reader writes: The decline of Flash is well and truly underway. Media publishers now have no choice but to start changing the way they bring content to the web. Many of them are not thrilled about the proposition (change is scary), but it will almost certainly be better for all of us in the long run. "By switching their platform to HTML5, companies can improve supportability, development time will decrease and the duplicative efforts of supporting two code bases will be eliminated. It will also result in lower operating costs and a consistent user experience between desktop and mobile web." This is on top of the speed, efficiency, and security benefits for consumers. "A major concern for publishers today is the amount of media consumption that's occurring in mobile environments. They need to prioritize providing the best possible experience on mobile, and the decline of Flash and movement to HTML5 will do just that, as Flash has never worked well on mobile."
Bitcoin

Bitcoin Fork Divides Community 185

HughPickens.com writes: The Bitcoin community is facing one of the most momentous decisions in its six-year history. The Bitcoin network is running out of spare capacity, and two increasingly divided camps disagree about what, if anything, to do about the problem. The technical issue is that a block, containing a record of recent transactions, currently has a 1MB limit. Increasing the block size would allow more transactions on the network at once, helping it to scale up to meet growing demand. But it would also make it more difficult for ordinary users to host full network "nodes" that validate new transactions on the network, potentially making the digital currency more centralized as a result. Now Rob Price writes that two high-profile developers have released a competing version of the codebase that risks splitting the digital currency in two.

Gavin Andresen and Mike Hearn have released Bitcoin XT, an alternative version of the core software that supports increasing the block size when required. Bitcoin users will now be forced to decide between "Bitcoin Core" and Bitcoin XT, raising the prospect of a "fork," where the digital currency divides into two competing versions. According to Price, Core and XT are compatible right now. However, if XT is adopted by 75% of users by January 2016, it will upgrade to a larger block size that will be incompatible with Core — meaning that if the other 25% don't then choose to convert, it will effectively split the currency into two. So far, 7.7% of the network has adopted XT, according to website XTnodes.com. "Ultimately, how the dispute is resolved may matter more than the specific decision that's reached," says Timothy B. Lee. "If the community is ultimately able to reach a consensus, the process could become a template for resolving future disagreements. On the other hand, if disagreements fester for months — or, worse, if a controversial software change splits the Bitcoin network into two warring camps — it could do real damage to Bitcoin's reputation."
Businesses

Data-Crunching Could Kill Your Downtime At Work 170

An anonymous reader writes: How many of you are reading this at work? One of the unspoken perks of many white collar jobs is that you can waste time while still appearing productive. Workplaces are aware that this goes on, and they police it to some extent by blocking Facebook or simply looking over your shoulder — but there's only so much they can do. The new generation of workplace analytics software is starting to change that. "Employers of all types — old-line manufacturers, nonprofits, universities, digital start-ups and retailers — are using an increasingly wide range of tools to monitor workers' efforts, help them focus, cheer them on and just make sure they show up on time." This inevitably leads to the question: does cracking the whip more often actually increase productivity? To hear the makers of this software tell it, the value is almost limitless, and it will never be misused to micromanage your job. But the article lacks any independent support for that idea, and I'm sure many of you could provide examples where time-keeping software has only been a hindrance.
Programming

Rupert Murdoch Won't Be Teaching Your Children To Code After All 57

theodp writes: Plans for Rupert Murdoch & Co. to teach your children to code just hit a bump in the road. Murdoch's News Corp. last week announced it plans to exit the education business as it announced a $371 million write-down of the investment in its Amplify education unit, which aimed to reinvent education via digital tools, tablets and curriculum reinforced with snazzy graphics. The news may help to explain why Amplify MOOC, the entity that offered online AP Computer Science A to high school students, was re-dubbed Edhesive ("online education that sticks") a couple of months ago. Tech-backed Code.org, whose $1+ million "Gold Supporters" include the James and Kathryn Murdoch-led Quadrivium Foundation, announced a partnership with Edhesive to bring CS to schools in June, around the same time Edhesive LLC was formed.
Medicine

Could a Digital Pen Change How We Diagnose Brain Function? 23

An anonymous reader writes: By using custom tracking software to monitor the output from a digital pen, MIT researchers say they have found a way to better predict the onset of brain conditions like Alzheimer's and Parkinson's. according to MIT: "For several decades, doctors have screened for conditions including Parkinson's and Alzheimer's with the CDT, which asks subjects to draw an analog clock-face showing a specified time, and to copy a pre-drawn clock. But the test has limitations, because its benchmarks rely on doctors' subjective judgments, such as determining whether a clock circle has 'only minor distortion.' CSAIL researchers were particularly struck by the fact that CDT analysis was typically based on the person's final drawing rather than on the process as a whole. Enter the Anoto Live Pen, a digitizing ballpoint pen that measures its position on the paper upwards of 80 times a second, using a camera built into the pen. The pen provides data that are far more precise than can be measured on an ordinary drawing, and captures timing information that allows the system to analyze each and every one of a subject's movements and hesitations."
Books

XKCD Author's New Unpublished Book Becomes Scientific Best-Seller 90

An anonymous reader writes: XKCD cartoonist Randall Munroe will be publishing a new book in November, but it's already become Amazon's #1 best-seller in two "Science & Math" subcategories, for mechanics and scientific instruments. Inspired by a cartoon describing NASA's Saturn V rocket as "the up-goer V", Randall's created a large-format collection of blueprints describing datacenters, tectonic plates, and even the controls in an airplane cockpit — using only the thousand most common English words. "Since this book explains things, I've called it Thing Explainer," Randall writes on the XKCD blog, trying to mimic the humorously simple style of his book. Randall's previous book of scientific hypotheticals — published one year ago — is still Amazon's #1 best-selling book in their "Physics" category, ranking higher than Stephen Hawking's "A Brief History of Time."
Microsoft

How Microsoft Built, and Is Still Building, Windows 10 193

An anonymous reader writes with this Venturebeat story about how Windows 10 is different from previous versions because of the way it was designed, including 15 public preview builds, and how much work is still being done. Windows 10 for PCs arrived two weeks ago. Thankfully, we don't need to wait years to say this will be a Microsoft operating system release like no other. The most obvious clue is not the fact that Windows 10 was installed on more than 14 million devices in 24 hours, that you can get it for cheap or upgrade to it for free, nor even that it ships with a digital assistant and a proper browser. No, the big deal here is that Microsoft is turning its OS into a service, and that means as you read these words, it's still being built. For the next few years, we'll be getting not just Windows 10 updates and patches, but new improvments and features. This is possible because Microsoft built this version very differently from all its previous releases.