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Hardware Hacking

Ask Slashdot: What's the Most Hackable Car? 183

Posted by Soulskill
from the aside-from-the-delorean dept.
An anonymous reader writes: When looking for a new (or used) car, I have readily available information regarding features, maintenance history, and potential issues for that specific model or generation. What I would really like is a car that is readily hackable on the convenience-feature level. For example, if I want to install a remote starter, or hack the power windows so holding 'up' automatically rolls it up, or install a readout on the rear of the car showing engine RPMs, what make/model/year is the best pick? Have any of you done something similar with your vehicle? Have you found certain models to be ideal or terrible for feature hacking?
Google

Google Maps Crunches Data, Tells You When To Drive On Thanksgiving 60

Posted by timothy
from the could-have-told-you-that-for-free dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes Whatever your plans for Thanksgiving, Google can offer some advice: try to avoid driving anywhere the day before. Analysts from the search-engine giant's Google Maps division crunched traffic data from 21 U.S. cities over the past two years and found that the Wednesday before Thanksgiving is by far the worst traffic day that week, with some notable exceptions. (In Honolulu, Providence, and San Francisco, the worst traffic is always on Saturday; in Boston, it's Tuesday.) Unfortunately, Wednesday is often the only available travel day for many Americans—but Google thinks they can beat the worst of the traffic if they leave before 2 P.M. or after 7 P.M. on that day. Traffic on Thanksgiving itself is also light, according to the data. When it comes to driving back home, Sunday beats Saturday from a traffic perspective. According to Google Maps' aggregated trends, Americans also seek out "ham shop," "pie shop," and "liquor store" on the day before Thanksgiving, as they rush to secure last-minute items.
Transportation

Martin Jetpack Closer To Takeoff In First Responder Applications 53

Posted by samzenpus
from the when-you-have-to-get-there-in-a-hurry dept.
Zothecula writes Last year's redesign of the long-awaited Martin Jetpack was accompanied by plans to begin commercial sales in 2014, starting with emergency response services and individual sales to follow thereafter. The release date for the first responder Jetpack has since been revised to 2016, a prediction bolstered by the fresh announcement of a partnership between Martin Aircraft Company and US company Avwatch to develop air-based, first responder solutions for the US Department of Homeland Security and Department of Defense.
Canada

City of Toronto Files Court Injunction Against Uber 168

Posted by Soulskill
from the a-very-polite-injunction dept.
Sebolains writes: The city of Toronto in Ontario, Canada has filed a court injunction on Uber Canada Inc. today that requests for all operations in the city to cease. Uber has been operating there since 2012 without a license from the city, and so officials are concerned that Uber's operations pose a risk to both drivers and riders. How quickly this will happen, we don't know, but the city has asked the courts to be expedient in hearing this application.
Transportation

Collin Graver and his Wooden Bicycle (Video) 70

Posted by Roblimo
from the we'll-stick-to-our-metal-bikes-for-the-moment-thank-you dept.
This is not a practical bike. "Even on smooth pavement, your vision goes blurry because you're vibrating so hard," Collin said to an Atlanta Journal-Constitution reporter back in 2012 when he was only 15 -- and already building wooden bicycles. Collin's wooden bikes are far from the first ones. Wikipedia says, "The first bicycles recorded, known variously as velocipedes, dandy horses, or hobby horses, were constructed from wood, starting in 1817." And not all wooden bicycles made today are as crude as Collin's. A Portland (OR) company called Renovo makes competition-quality hardwood bicycle frames -- for as little as $2200, and a bunch more for a complete bike with all its hardware fitted and ready to roll.

Of course, while it might be sensible to buy a Renovo product if you want a wood-framed bike to Race Across America, you won't improve your woodworking skills the way Collin's projects have improved his to the point where he's made a nice-looking pair of wood-framed sunglasses described in his WOOD YOU? SHOULD YOU? blog. (Alternate Video Link)
The Media

Uber Threatens To Do 'Opposition Research' On Journalists 297

Posted by timothy
from the is-any-publicity-good-publicity dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes A senior executive at Uber reportedly told a Buzzfeed writer that the company "should consider hiring a team of opposition researchers to dig up dirt on its critics in the media — and specifically to spread details of the personal life of a female journalist who has criticized the company." As detailed by the executive, Uber would spend a million dollars on the effort, which would involve "four top opposition researchers and four journalists," and dig into personal lives and families. Uber has pushed back against the report, insisting that it's never done opposition research, but the idea of any company engaging in such practices seems more like something Nixon would have dreamed up at his worst than a strategy by a "disruptive" startup.
Transportation

Toyota Names Upcoming Hydrogen Fuel Cell Car 192

Posted by samzenpus
from the a-car-by-any-other-name-would-drive-as-clean dept.
An anonymous reader writes Toyota has announced the name of its new hydrogen-powered car: Mirai, which means "future" in Japanese. Toyota CEO Akio Toyoda said: "Today, we are at a turning point in automotive history. A turning point where a four-door sedan can travel 300 miles on a single tank of hydrogen, can be refueled in under five minutes and emit only water vapor."
Japan

Japanese Maglev Train Hits 500kph 418

Posted by timothy
from the for-amtrak-that-takes-negligence dept.
An anonymous reader writes Japan has now put 100 passengers on a Maglev train doing over 500kph. That's well over twice as fast as the fastest U.S. train can manage, and that only manages 240kph on small sections of its route. The Japanese Shinkansen is now running over 7 times times as fast as the average U.S. express passenger train. 500kph is moving towards the average speed of an airliner. Add the convenience of no boarding issues, and city-centre to city-centre travel, and the case for trains as mass-transport begins to look stronger.
The Almighty Buck

The Downside to Low Gas Prices 554

Posted by timothy
from the speak-for-yourself-hummer-buyers dept.
HughPickens.com writes Pat Garofalo writes in an op-ed in US News & World Report that with the recent drop in oil prices, there's something policymakers can do that will offset at least some of the negative effects of the currently low prices, while also removing a constant thorn in the side of American transportation and infrastructure policy: Raise the gas tax. The current 18.4 cent per gallon gas tax has not been raised since 1993, making it about 11 cents per gallon today, in constant dollars. Plus, as fuel efficiency has gotten better and Americans have started driving less, the tax has naturally raised less revenue anyway. And that's a problem because the tax fills the Highway Trust Fund, which is, not to put too fine a point on it, broke so that in recent years Congress has had to patch it time and time again to fill the gap. According to the Tax Policy Center's Howard Gleckman, if Congress doesn't make a move, "it will fumble one of those rare opportunities when the economic and policy stars align almost perfectly." The increase can be phased in slowly, a few cents per month, perhaps, so that the price of gas doesn't jump overnight. When prices eventually do creep back up thanks to economic factors, hopefully the tax will hardly be noticed.

Consumers are already starting to buy the sort of gas-guzzling vehicles, including Hummers, that had been going out of style as gas prices rose; that's bad for both the environment and consumers, because gas prices are inevitably going to increase again. According to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, taxes last year, even before the current drop in prices, made up 12 percent of the cost of a gallon of gasoline, down from 28 percent in 2000. And compared to other developed countries, US gas taxes are pretty much a joke. While we're at it, an even better idea, as a recent report from the Urban Institute makes clear, would be indexing the gas tax to inflation, so this problem doesn't consistently arise. "The status quo simply isn't sustainable, from an infrastructure or environmental perspective," concludes Garofalo. "So raise the gas tax now; someday down the line, it will look like a brilliant move."
Transportation

Will Lyft and Uber's Shared-Ride Service Hurt Public Transit? 237

Posted by samzenpus
from the forget-the-bus dept.
An anonymous reader writes Lyft and Uber have already undercut the price of a taxi in most markets, but with this new service, both are now taking aim at public transit systems. By attempting to offer a viable alternative to the bus and metro, Lyft and Uber are offering new options to consumers in a space where few existed before. As Timothy Lee writes at Vox, "Until recently, there weren't many services in this 'in between' category. If you were going to the airport, you could get a shared-ride van. And some urban areas had dollar vans. But these were limited services in niche markets." If you're traveling with multiple people over short distances, Lyft Line and UberPool can be quite affordable, but it's still not cheap enough.
Privacy

Carmakers Promise Not To Abuse Drivers' Privacy 98

Posted by timothy
from the how-far-can-you-throw-this-vehicle? dept.
schwit1 provides this excerpt from an Associated Press report: "Nineteen automakers accounting for most of the passenger cars and trucks sold in the U.S. have signed onto a set of principles they say will protect motorists' privacy in an era when computerized cars pass along more information about their drivers than many motorists realize. The principles were delivered in a letter Wednesday to the Federal Trade Commission, which has the authority to force corporations to live up to their promises to consumers. Industry officials say they want to assure their customers that the information that their cars stream back to automakers or that is downloaded from the vehicle's computers won't be handed over to authorities without a court order, sold to insurance companies or used to bombard them with ads for pizza parlors, gas stations or other businesses they drive past, without their permission. The principles also commit automakers to 'implement reasonable measures' to protect personal information from unauthorized access." Also at the Detroit News. Adds schwit1: "It's a meaningless gesture without being codified into law. A greedy car manufacturer or NSL trumps any 'set of principles'." The letter itself (PDF) isn't riveting, but it's more readable than some such documents, and all the promises it makes are a good reminder of just how much data modern cars can collect, and all the ways that it can be passed on.
EU

European Parliament Considers Sharing Passenger Information By Default 58

Posted by samzenpus
from the open-book dept.
An anonymous reader writes The EU Passenger Name Record (PNR) proposal which was defeated in April of last year has returned to consideration in the European Parliament today. The law would require that airlines provide extensive personal details of anyone flying into or out of Europe. The information would include name, address, phone numbers, credit card information and travel itinerary. Director of Europol Rob Wainwright says that PNR is within the bounds of "reasonable measures" in the struggle against terrorism, and that possible threats against Europe have increased in the more than 12 months since the law was last rejected. Dutch MEP Sophie In't Veld is arguing that the Data Protection Directive should be put into place before any such systematized disclosure be ratified. "They want unlimited powers," she said. "they don't want to be bound by rules or data protection authorities and that's the reality."
Earth

Denmark Faces a Tricky Transition To 100 Percent Renewable Energy 485

Posted by Soulskill
from the it-ain't-easy-being-green dept.
HughPickens.com writes Justin Gillis writes in the NYT that Denmark is pursuing the world's most ambitious policy against climate change, aiming to end the burning of fossil fuels in any form by 2050 — not just in electricity production, as some other countries hope to do, but in transportation as well. The trouble is that while renewable power sources like wind and solar cost nothing to run, once installed, as more of these types of power sources push their way onto the electric grid, they cause power prices to crash at what used to be the most profitable times of day. Conventional power plants, operating on gas or coal or uranium, are becoming uneconomical to run. Yet those plants are needed to supply backup power for times when the wind is not blowing and the sun is not shining. With their prime assets throwing off less cash, electricity suppliers in Germany and Denmark have applied to shut down a slew of newly unprofitable power plants, but nervous governments are resisting, afraid of being caught short on some cold winter's night with little wind. "We are really worried about this situation," says Anders Stouge, the deputy director general of the Danish Energy Association. "If we don't do something, we will in the future face higher and higher risks of blackouts."

Environmental groups, for their part, have tended to sneer at the problems the utilities are having, contending that it is their own fault for not getting on the renewables bandwagon years ago. But according to Gillis, the political risks of the situation also ought to be obvious to the greens. The minute any European country — or an ambitious American state, like California — has a blackout attributable to the push for renewables, public support for the transition could weaken drastically. Rasmus Helveg Petersen, the Danish climate minister, says he is tempted by a market approach: real-time pricing of electricity for anyone using it — if the wind is blowing vigorously or the sun is shining brightly, prices would fall off a cliff, but in times of shortage they would rise just as sharply.
AT&T

AT&T Won't Do In-Flight Wi-Fi After All 35

Posted by timothy
from the back-to-the-ebooks dept.
jfruh writes In-flight Wi-Fi services tend to be expensive and disappointingly slow. So when AT&T announced a few months ago that it was planning on getting into the business, with customer airlines being able to connect to AT&T's LTE network instead of slow satellite services, the industry shook. But now AT&T has announced that, upon further review, they're not going to bother.
Transportation

333 Km/h Rocket-Powered Bicycle Sets New Speed Record 51

Posted by timothy
from the hope-they-used-a-good-zamboni dept.
Dave Knott writes François Gissy of France has claimed a new bicycle speed record. As you might guess, he was not pedalling – he was seated atop a hydrogen peroxide-powered rocket with three thrusters fastened to the frame of an elongated, but otherwise ordinary-looking bicycle. In a video posted on YouTube that announces the record, a Ferrari racing the bike is left far behind within seconds of leaving the starting line. The bike, designed by Gissy's friend, Arnold Neracher, reached its top speed of 333 km/h (207mph) in just 4.8 seconds and 250 metres. According to Guinness World Records, the fastest speed ever for a bicycle that wasn't rocket powered was 268.831 km/h by Fred Rompelberg of the Netherlands, riding behind a wind-shield fitted dragster in 1995 and assisted by the slipstream of the car. The current unassisted bicycle speed record is 133.8 km/h — a record that a team in Toronto is trying to break.
NASA

NASA Tests Aircraft With Shape Shifting Wings 55

Posted by samzenpus
from the a-shape-for-all-occasions dept.
Zothecula writes In January, we first heard about FlexFoil; a variable geometry airfoil system that seamlessly integrates into the trailing edge of the wing. During the year the system has made the leap from the test bench to the sky, with NASA conducting tests of the FlexFoil on a modified Gulfstream III business jet.
Transportation

Americans Rejoice At Lower Gas Prices 334

Posted by timothy
from the another-shoe-will-aways-drop dept.
HughPickens.com writes Drivers across America are rejoicing at falling gasoline prices as pumps across the country dip below $3 a gallon. According to Sharon E. Burke while it's nice to get the break at the gas pump and the economic benefits of an energy boom at home, the national security price of oil remains high and the United States should be doing everything it can to diversify global energy suppliers. Ultimately, the only way to solve our long term energy problem is to make a sustained, long-term investment in the alternatives to petroleum. But October saw a 52 percent jump in Jeep SUV sales and a 36 percent rise in Ram trucks while some hybrid and electric vehicle sales fell at the same time. "This is like putting a Big Mac in front of people who need to diet or watch their cholesterol," says Anthony Perl. "Some people might have the willpower to stick with their program, and some people will wait until their first heart attack before committing to a diet—but if we do that at a planetary scale it will be pretty traumatic."

Nicholas St. Fleur writes at The Atlantic that low oil prices may also undermine the message from the UN's climate panel. The price drop comes after the UN declared earlier this week that fossil fuel emissions must drop to zero by the end of the century in order to keep global temperatures in check. "I don't think people will see the urgency of dealing with fossil fuels today," says Perl. Falling oil prices may also deter businesses from switching to energy-saving technology, as a 2006 study in the Energy Journal suggested. Saving several pennies at the pump, Perl says, may tempt Americans away from actions that can lead to a sustainable, post-carbon future.
Crime

Dealer-Installed GPS Tracker Leads To Kidnapper's Arrest in Maryland 271

Posted by timothy
from the cheaper-than-lojack dept.
New submitter FarnsworthG writes A news story about the capture of a kidnapper mentioned that he was caught because a car dealer had secretly installed a GPS device on his car. Apparently this is becoming common for "buy-here-pay-here" dealers. The devices are sold by Spireon, among many others. Raises interesting privacy questions. FarnsworthG also points to this Jalopnik article condemning the practice, when it's done without disclosure. The kidnapping itself, of Philadelphia nursing assistant Carlesha Freeland-Gaither, was captured by a surveillance camera.
Businesses

Tesla Delays Launch of Model X Until Q3 2015 111

Posted by timothy
from the building-up-enough-static-electricity dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Tesla on Wednesday announced that it was pushing back the release of its highly anticipated Model X until the third quarter of 2015. Explaining the delay, Tesla relayed the following in its quarterly shareholder letter: "Work continues on the finalization of Model X with the testing of Alpha prototypes and initial builds of the first Beta prototypes. Model X powertrain development is almost complete with the early introduction of Dual Motor drive on Model S. We recently decided to build in significantly more validation testing time to achieve the best Model X possible. This will also allow for a more rapid production ramp compared to Model S in 2012." During Tesla's subsequent earnings conference call, Tesla CEO Elon Musk shed a bit more light on all things Model X, including the fact that if you order one today, it won't arrive until early 2016. Forbes goes into more on the business end of what's caused delays for the company, as well as how investors should see it (critically, they say).
Network

Gigabit Internet Connections Make Property Values Rise 108

Posted by Soulskill
from the let-the-bytes-flow dept.
Jason Koebler writes: When families go to buy a new home, they're most often looking for a couple things: Good schools, a safe neighborhood, maybe something that's near public transportation. And, increasingly and undeniably, access to gigabit internet service. A study by RVA LLC Market Research and Consulting found that fiber optic internet adds roughly $5,250 to the value of a $300,000 home. "It's getting to the point where, if my neighboring community has a gig and we're still doing satellite, the property value in that town is going to go up," Deb Socia, director of Next Century Cities, a coalition of cities trying to provide gigabit internet speeds to their citizens, said. "You're going to lose people and you're going to lose revenue without it. I'm hearing it from folks in different chambers of commerce, in real estate, in politics."

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