dcblogs writes With parts from an electric motor, a few household items, an open-source hardware board running Linux, and some coding, Thomas Ruecker, built a connected toilet that Tweets with each flush. The first reaction to the Twitter feed at @iotoilets may be a chuckle. But the idea behind this and what it illustrates is serious. It tracks water usage, offers a warning about the future of privacy in the Internet of Things, and may say something about the modern job hunt. Ruecker built his device on a recent long weekend after he was laid off as an open source evangelist at a technology firm undergoing "rightsizing," as he put it.
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Zothecula writes While their contents might be considered an environmental hazard by many, disposable diapers themselves pose a more significant problem for the environment. According to the EPA, the average baby will work their way through 8,000 of them before they end up in landfill where they'll take centuries to break down. In an effort to reduce the problem, scientists at Mexico's Autonomous Metropolitan University, Azcapotzalco (UAM-A), have turned used diapers to the task of growing mushrooms.
Esther Schindler writes "You're not alone in your struggle against people who think a shell is something you hold to your ear," writes Carol Pinchefsky. "Other techies are out there supporting users in remote offices, fighting the good fight against computer- and user-related mishaps – or at least tolerating user frustration with a modicum of grace." One example she gives is a tech support person whose systems in Brazil went down — during Carnival: "...We had to wait more than a week for the locals to sober up enough to reconnect the line. In the end, I had to walk a tech (who did not know the system) through the process step by step via an interpreter. Of course, the interpreter was not technical. So it was kind of like explaining to your mom to tell your grandfather (who is hard of hearing) how to do something while she is on the phone and he is across the room from her."
An anonymous reader writes with news that the NSF has just awarded a group of researchers a grant to study the life cycle of memes. "Indiana University is receiving nearly $1 million in federal grant money to investigate the genesis, spread, and demise of Internet memes. The grant from the National Science Foundation awards four Indiana researchers $919,917 to for a project called Truthy that will, as the grant's abstract explains, "explore why some ideas cause viral explosions while others are quickly forgotten." (And yes, in case you're wondering, the name was inspired by Stephen Colbert's neologism "truthiness.") The government-funded research is aimed at identifying which memes are organic and which ones are mere astroturf. "While the vast majority of memes arise in a perfectly organic manner, driven by the complex mechanisms of life on the Web, some are engineered by the shady machinery of high-profile congressional campaigns," Truthy's About page explains."
An anonymous reader writes A Florida man currently on trial for murder reportedly attempted to use Siri to garner ideas about where to bury the body of his dead roommate. According to police allegations, a University of Florida student named Pedro Bravo murdered his roommate via strangulation in late September of 2012 over a dispute involving Bravo's ex- girlfriend. According to a detective working the case, Bravo subsequently fired up Siri on his iPhone and asked it "I need to hide my roommate."
An anonymous reader writes The entire South Korean space program has been forced to shut down after its only astronaut resigned for personal reasons. Yi So-yeon, 36, became the first Korean in space in 2008 after the engineer was chosen by the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) to lead the country's $25m space project. Her resignation begs questions of KARI regarding whether she was the right person to lead the program and whether the huge cost of sending her into space was a waste of taxpayer's money.
cartechboy writes Self-driving cars are coming, that's nothing new. People are somewhat nervous about this technology, and that's also not news. But it appears self-driving cars are already here, and one idiot was dumb enough to climb out of the driver's seat while his car cruised down the highway. The car in question is a new Infiniti Q50, which has Active Lane Control and adaptive cruise control. Both of which essentially turn the Q50 into an autonomous vehicle while at highway speeds. While impressive, taking yourself out of a position where you can quickly and safely regain control of the car if needed is simply dumb. After watching the video, it's abundantly clear why people should be nervous about autonomous vehicles. It's not the cars and tech we need to worry about, it's idiots like this guy.
Nerval's Lobster writes The "Compubody Sock," which anyone with knitting skills can make at home, is a giant sock-hoodie-bag in which you place your laptop or tablet, along with your head and hands, giving you total privacy while freaking out anyone who happens to be sitting next to you. Designer Becky Stern told Forbes' Kashmir Hill that the Sock was meant more as commentary on privacy and device addiction; even so, considering how NSA employees reportedly drape themselves in hoods in order to thwart hidden cameras while typing in passwords, it's not outside the realm of possibility that an ultra-paranoid someone could find a practical use for a body sock. But that paranoid android better have expert knitting skills: putting together the Sock necessitates a whole lot of steps ("Purl 5, purl 2 together, purl 1, turn the work," etc.). Your other option, of course, is to simply avoid working on sensitive stuff in public.
itwbennett writes Don't forget that July 25th is Sysadmin Day — a good day to show love to the folks who save your butt again and again when you mess up your computer. Forget the chocolate and flowers, long-time sysadmin Sandra Henry-Stocker has tailored some poems to celebrate these under appreciated, hard-working souls.
redletterdave writes Dan Petro, a security analyst for the Bishop Fox IT consulting firm, built a proof of concept device that's able to hack into any Google Chromecasts nearby to project Rick Astley's "Never Gonna Give You Up," or any other video a prankster might choose. The "Rickmote," which is built on top of the $35 Raspberry Pi single board computer, finds a local Chromecast device, boots it off the network, and then takes over the screen with multimedia of one's choosing. But it gets worse for the victims: If the hacker leaves the range of the device, there's no way to regain control of the Chromecast. Unfortunately for Google, this is a rather serious issue with the Chromecast device that's not too easy to fix, as the configuration process is an essential part of the Chromecast experience.
An anonymous reader writes If you're tired of yelling at the kids without the help of technology, Toyota has a van for you. From the article: "The latest version of the company's Sienna minivan has a feature called 'Driver Easy Speak.' It uses a built-in microphone to amplify a parent's voice through speakers in the back seats. Toyota says it added Easy Speak 'so parents don't have to shout to passengers in the back.' But chances are many parents will yell into the microphone anyway. And the feature only works one way, so the kids can't talk back. At least not with amplified voices. The feature is an option on the 2015 Sienna, which is being refreshed with a totally new interior. It also has an optional 'pull-down conversation mirror' that lets drivers check on kids without turning around."
MatthewVD writes Almost half a century ago, New York Central Railroad engineer Don Wetzel and his team bolted two J47-19 jet engines, throttled up the engines and tore down a length of track from Butler, Indiana to Stryker, Ohio at almost 184 mph. Today, the M-497 still holds the record for America's fastest train. This is the story of how it happened.
hypnosec writes After several controversies arising about in-app purchases, a Chinese couple has done the unthinkable by selling their sons to buy in-app items. An unmarried couple, A Hui and A Mei, severely addicted to online games, were accused of selling their sons and were arrested. In an interview with Guangdong TV, they revealed that they chose to sell their sons to child traffickers. A Hui said A Mei is fond of playing online games and likes to buy game items. As he could not give up his in-app purchases, he was not able to support his first son and they sold him to Fujian-based child traffickers. When the wife bore another son, they felt they would not be able to support their second child either, and they again sold him to the traffickers.
v3rgEz writes Marc Abrahams, founder of the Ig Nobel Prize, has put together a fascinating history of people patenting the wheel, including one inventor that did it to prove how ridiculous Australia's patent system was and another that put wheels on a wheel so it could wheel while it wheels. From the article: "I discovered today that the Australian patent office has — quietly — revoked the patent it granted, in the year 2001, for the wheel. The patent office had awarded Innovation Patent #2001100012 to John Keogh of Hawthorn, Victoria, Australia. Keogh’s application called his invention a “circular transportation facilitation device.” I became acquainted with Mr. Keogh when we awarded him — and the Australian Patent Office — an Ig Nobel Prize, in 2001."
An anonymous reader writes with news about a dream job for binge-watching couch potatoes in the UK. Ploughing through your new favourite series on Netflix is something you probably enjoy doing after a working day, but what if it was your working day? You see, Netflix has a fancy recommendation engine that suggests movies and shows you might like based on your prior viewing habits. To do that successfully, it needs information from a special group of humans that goes beyond the basics like genre and user rating. "Taggers," as they're known, analyse Netflix content and feed the recommendation engine with more specific descriptors if, for example, a film is set in space or a cult classic. In short, these people get paid to watch TV all day, and Netflix is currently hiring a new tagger in the UK.