s.s. nautilus
slashdot le : 26/11/2020 09:00:09
Amateur astronomer and YouTuber Alberto Caballero, one of the founders of The Exoplanets Channel, has found a small amount of evidence for a source of the notorious Wow! signal. Phys.Org reports: Back in 1977, astronomers working with the Big Ear Radio Telescope -- at the time, situated in Delaware, Ohio -- recorded a unique signal from somewhere in space. It was so strong and unusual that one of the workers on the team, Jerry Ehman, famously scrawled the word Wow! on the printout. Despite years of work and many man hours, no one has ever been able to trace the source of the signal or explain the strong, unique signal, which lasted for all of 72 seconds. Since that time, many people have suggested the only explanation for such a strong and unique signal is extraterrestrial intelligent life.

In this new effort, Caballero reasoned that if the source was some other life form, it would likely be living on an exoplanet -- and if that were the case, it would stand to reason that such a life form might be living on a planet similar to Earth -- one circling its own sun-like star. Pursuing this logic, Caballero began searching the publicly available Gaia database for just such a star. The Gaia database has been assembled by a team working at the Gaia observatory run by the European Space Agency. Launched back in 2013, the project has worked steadily on assembling the best map of the night sky ever created. To date, the team has mapped approximately 1.3 billion stars. In studying his search results, Caballero found what appears to fit the bill -- a star (2MASS 19281982-2640123) that is very nearly a mirror image of the sun -- and is located in the part of the sky where the Wow! signal originated. He notes that there are other possible candidates in the area but suggests his candidate might provide the best launching point for a new research effort by astronomers who have the tools to look for exoplanets.
Caballero shared his findings via arXiv.

slashdot le : 23/11/2020 22:00:09
New submitter thegreatbob shares a report: The General Image Manipulation Program, GIMP, has turned 25. A brief celebration post detailed how the package started life as a July 1995 Usenet thought bubble by then-student Peter Mattis, who posted the following to several newsgroups: Suppose someone decided to write a graphical image manipulation program (akin to photoshop). Out of curiosity (and maybe something else), I have a few (2) questions: What kind of features should it have? (tools, selections, filters, etc.) What file formats should it support? (jpeg, gif, tiff, etc.)" Four months later, Mattis and fellow University of California Berkeley student Spencer Kimball delivered what they described as software "designed to provide an intuitive graphical interface to a variety of image editing operations."

The software ran on Linux 1.2.13, Solaris 2.4, HPUX 9.05, and SGI IRIX. The answer to the file format support question turned out to be GIF, JPEG, PNG, TIFF, and XPM. The rest is history. Richard Stallman gave Mattis and Kimball permission to change the "General" in its name to "GNU", reflecting its open-source status. Today the program is released under the GNU General Public License. As the program added features such as layers, it grew more popular and eventually became a byword for offering a FOSS alternative to Photoshop even though the project pushes back against that description. The project's celebration page says volunteers did their "best to provide a sensible workflow to users by using common user interface patterns. That gave us a few questionable monikers like 'Photoshop for Linux', 'free Photoshop', and 'that ugly piece of software'. We still can wholeheartedly agree with the latter one only!"

slashdot le : 23/11/2020 05:00:17
This week Purism began shipping its mass-produced Librem 5 phone to customers, according to announcement from the company: The Librem 5 is a one-of-a-kind general-purpose computer in a phone form-factor that Purism has designed and built from scratch following a successful crowdfunding campaign that raised over $2.2 million. Both the hardware and software design is focused on respecting the end user's freedom and giving them control over their privacy and security.

The Librem 5 doesn't run Android nor iOS but instead runs the same PureOS operating system as Purism's laptops and mini PC.

The Librem 5 has unique hardware features including a user-removable cellular modem, WiFi card, and battery. Like with Librem laptops, the Librem 5 also features external hardware kill switches that cut power to the cellular modem, WiFi/Bluetooth, and front and back cameras and microphone so that the user can control when these devices are in use. All hardware switches can also be triggered together to enable "lockdown mode" which also disables the GPS, accelerometer and all other sensors...

Another unique feature of the Librem 5 is convergence: the ability to connect the Librem 5 to a monitor or laptop dock and use it as a desktop computer running the same full-sized desktop applications as on Librem laptops. When in a phone form-factor, applications behave much like "responsive websites" and change their appearance for the smaller screen. This allows you to use the Librem 5 as a phone, a desktop, or a laptop with the same applications and same files.

Their announcement notes their work on software making desktop applications "adaptive" to phone form factors, adding "This suite of software has now become the most popular software stack to use on other handheld Linux hardware." And they close with an appreciative comment from Purism's founder and CEO Todd Weaver:

"Shipping the Librem 5 has been an immense multi-year developmental effort. It is the culmination of people's desire to see an alternative to Android and iOS and fund it, coupled with dedication from a team of experts addressing hardware, kernel, operating system, and applications that has turned a lofty near-impossible goal into reality. We have built a strong foundation and with the continued support of customers, the community, and developers, we will continue to deliver revolutionary products like the Librem 5 running PureOS."

slashdot le : 19/11/2020 22:00:09
The Arecibo telescope's long and productive life has come to an end. From a report: The National Science Foundation (NSF) announced today it will decommission the iconic radio telescope in Puerto Rico following two cable breaks in recent months that have brought the structure to near collapse. The 57-year-old observatory, a survivor of numerous hurricanes and earthquakes, is now in such a fragile state that attempting repairs would put staff and workers in danger. "This decision was not an easy one to make," Sean Jones, NSF's assistant director for mathematical and physical sciences, said at a news briefing today. "We understand how much Arecibo means to [the research] community and to Puerto Rico." Ralph Gaume, director of NSF's astronomy division, said at the briefing the agency wants to preserve other instruments at the site, as well as the visitor and outreach center. But they are under threat if the telescope structure collapses. That would bring the 900-ton instrument platform, suspended 137 meters above the 305-meter-wide dish, crashing down. Flailing cables could damage other buildings on the site, as could the three support towers if they fell, too. "There is a serious risk of an unexpected and uncontrolled collapse," Gaume said. "A controlled decommissioning gives us the opportunity to preserve valuable assets that the observatory has." Over the next few weeks, engineering firms will develop a plan for a controlled dismantling. It may involve releasing the platform from its cables explosively and letting it fall.

slashdot le : 02/11/2020 16:00:09
The Raspberry Pi Foundation has announced the Raspberry Pi 400, a compact keyboard with an ARM-based computer built in. Just plug it into a TV or monitor using one of its two micro HDMI ports, insert a microSD card, attach a power cord and mouse, and you've got yourself a basic computer for day-to-day tasks, coding, or media playback. It's available starting today as a standalone machine for $70 or in a bundle including a mouse, power supply, microSD card, HDMI cable, and beginner's guide for $100. From a report: The hope is the Pi 400's form factor, plus these optional bundled items, makes it more approachable and user-friendly. That's important when you're selling an affordable computer, and it's especially important when you're selling an accessible device to help children learn to code. It looks more like a piece of consumer electronics than the basis for a DIY project. [...] Aside from its keyboard and form factor, the Raspberry Pi 400 is a very similar computer to last year's Raspberry Pi 4. It's got a slightly faster quad-core 1.8GHz ARM Cortex-A72 CPU, up from 1.5GHz in the Pi 4, 4GB of RAM, Gigabit Ethernet, Bluetooth 5.0, and 802.11ac Wi-Fi. There are a pair of micro HDMI ports that can each output up to 4K / 60Hz, two USB 3.0 ports, and a single USB 2.0 port. Power is provided via a USB-C port, there's a microSD card slot for storage, and there's a GPIO header for attaching a variety of more niche devices.