Curiosity’s handlers sent no commands to the rover for most of April, because Mars was on the opposite side of the sun from Earth at the time. But this planetary alignment, known as a Mars solar conjunction, is now over, and the mission team is planning to drill into a Red Planet rock soon and then send Curiosity off on an epic, miles-long trek to the base of a huge and mysterious mountain.
“A couple of weeks to move to the site and drill, and then the experiments themselves can take also a couple of weeks — that’s about the time scale we’re looking at,” said Curiosity deputy project scientist Ashwin Vasavada, of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Calif. “And then we’d hopefully get going.”
He stressed, however, that this timeframe could shift depending on how the drilling operation goes, and what Curiosity discovers.
Curiosity healthy after ‘spring break’
The Curiosity rover wasn’t idle during conjunction. It continued monitoring Martian weather and radiation and perfomed some relatively simple science work using commands sent up in advance, Vasavada said.
“That all went fine — it kind of executed flawlessly a long set of preplanned activities,” he told SPACE.com. “We had never planned 30 days at once [before], so that was a relief.”
But things have picked up since mission controllers got back in touch with Curiosity late last week. They’ve already uploaded a minor software update to the rover, which emerged from conjunction in fine health, Vasavada said.
Curiosity continues to operate on its backup, or B-side, computer, which it switched to after a glitch knocked out its primary computer (or A-side) in late February.
The rover team has still not fully figured out what happened to the A-side, but engineers have made significant troubleshooting progress. For example, Curiosity would have been OK if an issue during conjunction had forced the rover to swap back over to the A-side computer, Vasavada said.
Drilling another hole
The rover team has already checked off this primary goal, announcing in March that a spot dubbed Yellowknife Bay was indeed habitable billions of years ago. Scientists reached this conclusion after studying Curiosity’s analyses of material pulled from a 2.5-inch-deep (6.4 centimeters) hole the rover drilled into a Red Planet outcrop.
Now that conjunction’s over, the mission team wants to drill another hole in a nearby rock, to confirm and perhaps extend the exciting results gleaned from the first drilling activity.
“Probably in the next week or two, we will slightly move the rover to a new location, which the science team is actively choosing right now,” Vasavada said. “Primarily, it will be to duplicate the results from the first hole, because they were so exciting and, in some cases, unexpected that the people who run the experiments just want to make sure it’s really correct before writing all the papers up.” Read the rest of this entry »
It’s hard to be a torrent site
The file-sharing site had only been at the Somalian address since last November, but it appears a crackdown has forced it to move again, Mashable reports. The domain frequently rotates between different countries.
KickassTorrents is one of the Internet’s most popular web sites, ranked by online analytics company Alexa as the world’s 68th biggest.
Torrents have come under increased scrutiny after recent server raids on the popular torrent site the Pirate Bay, and investigations by the U.S. Department of Justice into sites like Demonoid and Torrentz in 2011.
Narrated by Tim Allen (voice of Buzz Lightyear), this is a complete behind-the-scenes feature on the $30 million Google Lunar XPRIZE, the largest incentivized prize in history. Adapted from the award-winning digital planetarium show, the 24-minute movie chronicles 18 teams from around the world looking to make history by landing a privately funded robotic spacecraft on the Moon. This global competition is designed to spark imagination and inspire a renewed commitment to space exploration, not by governments or countries – but by the citizens of the world. Learn more
Clifford Coonan reports: A state-run Chinese newspaper has run a commentary condemning the terror attack on the Charlie Hebdo magazine, but at the same time underlined how the incident exposes the dangers of press freedom.
“Even after China officially determines their terrorist nature, Western mainstream media puts quotation marks when describing these bloody assaults as ‘terrorist,’ saying that it is a claim of the Chinese government. This always upsets Chinese people.”
“We notice that many Western leaders and mainstream media outlets highlighted their support for press freedom when commenting on the incident. This remains open to question,” ran the commentary in the Global Times newspaper, part of the group that publishes the official Communist Party newspaper, the People’s Daily.
“It’s inspiring that mainstream opinion worldwide supports Paris. But if the West can be milder in expressing cultural clashes and consider the feelings of many others, it would be very rewarding and respectable.”
China’s media are all state-controlled and content is heavily censored, and the ruling Communist Party keeps a tight grip on dissenting views and rejects calls for greater press freedom, saying it is Western core value.
“If the West thinks of globalization as an absolute expansion and victory of certain values, then it is in for endless trouble.”
The attack should make Western governments and media rethink their approach to press freedom when it comes to causing conflict with other cultures. Read the rest of this entry »
Gmail Appeared to Be Blocked on Applications That Were Previously Able to Connect With It
BEIJING— Chuin-Wei Yap reports: Google Inc. ’s popular Gmail email service has become unavailable in China, in what appears to be the latest move by Beijing to curb the U.S. search giant’s presence there.
“Chinese authorities, who strictly control online content, sometimes block or unblock Internet sites and services without stating a reason. It wasn’t clear whether Gmail access would return.”
Data on Google’s website showed Gmail traffic in China dropped sharply beginning on Friday. The service appeared to be blocked on computer applications that were previously able to connect with it.
Google spokesman Taj Meadows said Monday that “there’s nothing wrong on our end.”
“Foreign services such as Facebook Inc., Twitter Inc. and Google’s YouTube, among others, are blocked in China.”
China’s State Internet Information Office didn’t respond to a request for comment Monday. At a daily press briefing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said she wasn’t aware of the matter. She added that the government “always welcomes foreign businesses to carry out relevant work in China.”
Chinese authorities, who strictly control online content, sometimes block or unblock Internet sites and services without stating a reason. It wasn’t clear whether Gmail access would return. Read the rest of this entry »
George Will writes: Intellectually undemanding progressives, excited by the likes of Senator Elizabeth Warren (D., Mass.) — advocate of the downtrodden and the Export-Import Bank — have at last noticed something obvious: Big government, which has become gargantuan in response to progressives’ promptings, serves the strong. It is responsive to factions sufficiently sophisticated and moneyed to understand and manipulate its complexity.
Hence Democrats, the principal creators of this complexity, receive more than 70 percent of lawyers’ political contributions. Yet progressives, refusing to see this defect — big government captured by big interests — as systemic, want to make government an ever-more-muscular engine of regulation and redistribution. Were progressives serious about what used to preoccupy America’s Left — entrenched elites, crony capitalism, and other impediments to upward mobility — they would study “The New Class Conflict“, by Joel Kotkin, a lifelong Democrat.
The American majority that believes life will be worse for the next few decades — more than double the number who believe things will be better — senses that 95 percent of income gains from 2009 to 2012 went to the wealthiest 1 percent.
“The fortunes of those Kotkin calls ‘the new Oligarchs’ are based ‘primarily on the sale of essentially ephemeral goods: media, advertising and entertainment.'”
This, Kotkin believes, reflects the “growing alliance between the ultra-wealthy and the instruments of state power.” In 2012, Barack Obama carried eight of America’s ten wealthiest counties.
“In 2013…Houston had more housing starts than all of California.”
In the 1880s, Kotkin says, Cornelius Vanderbilt’s railroad revenues were larger than the federal government’s revenues. That was the old economy. This is the new: In 2013, the combined ad revenues of all American newspapers were smaller than Google’s; so were magazines’ revenues. In 2013, Google’s market capitalization was six times GM’s, but Google had one-fifth as many employees. The fortunes of those Kotkin calls “the new Oligarchs” are based “primarily on the sale of essentially ephemeral goods: media, advertising and entertainment.”
“Since 1945, government employment has grown more than twice as fast as America’s population. The Founders worried about government being captured by factions; they did not foresee government becoming society’s most rapacious and overbearing faction.”
He calls another ascendant group the Clerisy, which is based in academia (where there are now many more administrators and staffers than full-time instructors), media, the nonprofit sector, and, especially, government: Since 1945, government employment has grown more than twice as fast as America’s population. The Founders worried about government being captured by factions; they did not foresee government becoming society’s most rapacious and overbearing faction. Read the rest of this entry »
Originally posted on TechCrunch:
After years of using Moffett Field as the home and launch pad for the private jets of Google’s founders, the company has agreed to a deal in which it will lease the airfield from NASA for the next 60 years. As part of the lease, Google will take over operations of the airfield while the U.S. government retains ownership of the land.
In a press release, NASA announced that Planetary Ventures LLC, a shell organization operated by Google for real estate deals, will contribute $1.16 billion over the course of the lease, while reducing the government agency’s maintenance and operation costs by $6.3 million annually.
The best part of the press release is this quote from NASA Administrator Charles Bolden: “As NASA expands its presence in space, we are making strides to reduce our footprint here on Earth,” he says.
NASA and the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) will…
View original 285 more words
First Apple and then Google announced that they would use encryption on new phones that wouldn’t permit them to help police execute warrants to examine data on a cell phone or other device.
For City Journal, Judith Miller writes: Law enforcement officials in New York and Washington criticized technology superpowers Google and Apple this week for selling cell phones and other devices that cannot be accessed by the government, warning that such technology jeopardizes public safety.
In his first major policy address, FBI director James B. Comey called on Congress and the Obama administration to counter the expanding use of such devices, which he and other law enforcement officials assert endanger efforts to prevent terrorism and fight crime. Without lawful government access to cell phones and Internet devices, Comey warned, “homicide cases could be stalled, suspects could walk free, and child exploitation victims might not be identified or recovered.”
“Law enforcement officials many legitimate ways to obtain the data stored on our devices. Weakening the security of smartphones and trusted communications infrastructure should not be one of them.”
– Nuala O’Connor, president of the Center for Democracy and Technology
Comey, who became FBI director last year, said that he understood Americans’ “justifiable surprise” at former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden’s revelations about U.S. government surveillance practices. Read the rest of this entry »
Macs and iPhones finally speak the same language.
I can begin replying to an email on my phone, then walk over to my laptop and finish it off there. While my phone charges on my nightstand, I can pick up calls from my mom with a mouse click at my desk. And when someone texts me a photo, it’s already on my laptop, where I can quickly jazz it up in Photoshop then tweet it.
With the Thursday release of the Mac’s free OS X Yosemite update, Apple is finally getting its devices to behave like a real, happy family—a family that not only talks to each other but even looks very much alike. The Mac operating system has acquired apps and features from iOS—and vice versa—over the past few years, but this is the biggest leap toward each other yet.
The advantage is so big that if you are an iPhone or iPad owner but don’t have a Mac, Yosemite might get you to consider buying one. It makes living in Apple’s ecosystem harder to resist. But before you fall into the Apple trap, keep in mind that there are still plenty of reasons to play with Google (and even Microsoft ) on a Mac or iPhone.
An iOS-Inspired Face-Lift
Late one night, Jony Ive, Apple’s design chief, threw on the “White Album,” took out a bucket of translucent primer, mixed it together with some of his rainbow-colored iOS paint and tossed it at the computer screen. At least, that’s how I imagine the Mac operating system got its new look.
There are traces of iPhone and iPad design everywhere you look. Icons have been revamped to look flatter and more modern. The edges of windows are translucent so you can see what’s behind them. The red, yellow and green window-position buttons look like a futuristic traffic light. Even the notification pane now has a “Today” view that is identical to the iPhone’s. Read the rest of this entry »
Journalists covering the protests include some who have been expelled from China amid crackdowns
Oct. 5, 2014 5:03 p.m. ET, L. Gordon Crovitz writes: Information has been the main currency of Hong Kong since colonial days, when word reached mainland Chinese that if they escaped to “touch base” in Hong Kong, they would get refuge under British rule. Hong Kong became Asia’s first global city thanks to hardworking immigrants who made the most of their open trade, English legal system and free speech.
“By breaking the promise that Hong Kong can select its own government, China’s current rulers are violating clear obligations.”
Hong Kong protesters are driven by hope that a leader selected by Hong Kong voters—as Beijing promised for 2017 before it reneged—can protect their way of life. But as the Communist Party narrows freedoms on the mainland, Deng Xiaoping ’s “one country, two systems” formulation for the 1997 handover entails a widening gap between life in Hong Kong and the rest of China. Without a government to represent them, Hong Kong people had no better choice than to take to the streets.
“This year has seen unprecedented physical attacks on journalists in Hong Kong, presumably at Beijing’s behest. China extorted advertising boycotts of pro-democracy publishers in Hong Kong. It forced critical bloggers to close down.”
Mainland China is in an era of brutal suppression. Beijing jails reformers, controls journalists and employs hundreds of thousands of censors on social media. Twitter , Facebook , YouTube and many global news sites are blocked. Instagram was closed down after mainlanders shared photos of Hong Kong people using umbrellas against pepper spray and tear gas.
“Hong Kong’s fate is to be the world’s window on an unpredictable China. “
As a financial capital, Hong Kong cannot survive without open access to information. It has more newspapers than any other city in the world. It’s been a window on China since the communist revolution. An unintended consequence of Beijing’s recent crackdown is that expelled foreign journalists now operate from Hong Kong, delivering news of the protests.
Google searches from China are routed to Hong Kong servers so that results can be delivered uncensored
The Wall Street Journal’s first overseas edition was launched in Hong Kong in 1976. A running joke among Journal opinion writers is that it’s the only place in the world where our free-market, free-people beliefs are mainstream. Google searches from China are routed to Hong Kong servers so that results can be delivered uncensored. Read the rest of this entry »
Security experts say China is a leading source of hacking attacks aimed at foreign governments and companies to computers in China
HONG KONG (AP) — The Chinese government might be using smartphone apps to spy on pro-democracy protesters in Hong Kong, a U.S. security firm said.
“The Xsser mRAT represents a fundamental shift by nation-state cybercriminals from compromising traditional PC systems to targeting mobile devices.”
The applications are disguised as tools created by activists, said the firm, Lacoon Mobile Security. It said that once downloaded, they give an outsider access to the phone’s address book, call logs and other information.
The identities of victims and details of the servers used “lead us to believe that the Chinese government are behind the attack,” said a Lacoon statement.
China is, along with the United States and Russia, regarded as a leader in cyber warfare research. Security experts say China is a leading source of hacking attacks aimed at foreign governments and companies to computers in China. Read the rest of this entry »
In a statement released Thursday, Microsoft says about 12,500 of the professional and factory positions will be cut as part of its $7.2 billion acquisition of Nokia’s handset business. Read the rest of this entry »
What is perverse, is that we look for bloggers who are influential, but only if they are nice about people.”
— Caroline Doudet, Blogger
– Translated from French via Google Translate –
“New: restaurants continue their customers who dare to criticize I must say they are the judges to prove them right.”. The lawyer-blogger Maître Eolas was surprised last night of the decision of the Tribunal de Grande Instance de Bordeaux on June 30, which condemned referred blogger “The Irregular” € 1500 as a provision on damages 1000 € of costs of proceedings (Article 700 of the Code of Civil Procedure) for a review of a restaurant in Cap Ferret (33).
[A better analysis of this at The Corner by National Review‘s Ian Tuttle – “French Court Criminalizes Food Critic’s Google Success”]
This restaurant had just enjoyed a post “The Irregular” titled “The place to be avoided at Cap-Ferret” followed by the name of the institution (the article has since been removed but is still available in the cache here) published in August 2013, and appeared on the first page of Google when you typed the name of the restaurant.
‘The Place to be Avoided at Cap-Ferret’
The paper lamented including disruption of service in the institution and the attitude of the owner of the premises, described as a “diva”. “All that for two appetizers … take what wars” concluded the post with reference to a dark history of appetizers arrived at the same time as the main course (the blogger had therefore returned). Read the rest of this entry »
SANTA CRUZ, Calif. (AP) — A high-priced prostitute accused of leaving a Google executive to die on his yacht in California after shooting him up with a fatal hit of heroin has pleaded not guilty to manslaughter and heroin charges.
Twenty-six-year-old Alix Tichelman entered the plea on Wednesday in a Santa Cruz County courtroom. Prosecutors, additionally, charged her with great bodily injury.
A judge refused to reduce her $1.5 million bail.
Police say Tichelman did not help 51-year-old Forrest Hayes or call 911 as he went unconscious after she administered heroin to him.
According to police, surveillance footage from the yacht shows Tichelman gather her belongings, including the heroin and needles, casually step over Hayes’ body to finish a glass of wine, clean up a counter, then lower a blind before leaving the yacht on Nov. 23.
Hayes was found the next day. Read the rest of this entry »
Police hunted down the prostitute accused of watching a Google exec overdose—and found a trail of dead and damaged men in her past
But the detectives could see no drugs and no syringe on the yacht where 51-year-old Forrest Timothy Hayes had been found dead from a heroin overdose. What the detectives did see was a pair of wine glasses on a table. They also noted that somebody appeared to have straightened up the cabin.
“We’re like, ‘Holy smoke, this isn’t her first rodeo.'”
The body had been discovered on the floor of the main cabin by the captain, who had been retained by Hayes after he purchased the 50-foot powerboat. Hayes had started out as an automotive executive in his native Michigan, which was in keeping with his decision to eschew eco-friendly sails such as were favored by other Silicon Valley types and buy a craft powered by big fuel guzzlers.
But he had come West to take increasingly senior positions with Sun Microsystems and then Apple and finally with Google X, the research and development division whose projects included the perfect one for a one-time car guy: the self-driving auto. Hayes had become enough of a techie that he had installed a wireless surveillance camera system on his yacht. Read the rest of this entry »
For the LATimes, Joseph Serna reports: The woman accused of being a high-priced escort who administered a lethal dose of heroin to a former tech executive on his yacht in Santa Cruz will not be charged with murder in the case, but still faces manslaughter, prostitution and drug counts, prosecutors said Wednesday.
“Police identified her as a suspect after learning that she and Hayes allegedly had a relationship that began with the help of Seeking Arrangements, a website that caters to affluent clients seeking ‘sugar babies.'”
“Rather than trying to help or calling 911, police say, Tichelman packed up the drugs and needles and at one point stepped over the body to finish a glass of wine before leaving.”
Tichelman had been booked on suspicion of murder, but on Wednesday, Santa Cruz County prosecutors charged her with eight counts, including manslaughter, prostitution, destroying evidence and several related to administering and possessing heroin.
Tichelman’s arraignment was postponed until July 16, but she remained in custody in lieu of $1.5-million bail.
Prosecutors said the charges could still change as the investigation continues. Read the rest of this entry »
EUGENE VOLOKH writes:
The New York Times Bits blog reports:
Google on Wednesday released statistics on the makeup of its work force, providing numbers that offer a stark glance at how Silicon Valley remains a white man’s world.
But wait — just a few paragraphs down, the post notes that non-Hispanic whites are 61 percent of the Google work force, slightly below the national average. (That average, according to 2006-10 numbers, is 67 percent.) Google is thus less white than the typical American company. White men are probably slightly overrepresented; assuming that the 30 percent number it gives for women Google employees worldwide carries over to the U.S. (the article gives no separate number for U.S. women Google employees), white men are 42 percent of the Google work force, and 35 percent of the U.S. work force — not a vast disparity. Indeed, if the goal is “reflecting the demographics of the country” as to race –
Google’s disclosures come amid an escalating debate over the lack of diversity in the tech industry. Although tech is a key driver of the economy and makes products that many Americans use everyday, it does not come close to reflecting the demographics of the country — in terms of sex, age or race.
– Google can only accomplish that by firing well over three-quarters of its Asian employees, and replacing them with blacks and Hispanics (and a few whites, to bring white numbers up from 61 percent to 67 percent). Read the rest of this entry »