New Media Giants Take Out Print Ad Against SOPA
"Slashdot readers will recall that the SOPA hearings earlier this week 'excluded any witnesses who advocate for civil rights. Google's Katherine Oyama was the only witness to object to the bill in a meaningful way.' So to get the attention of lawmakers, new media giants Google, Facebook, and Zynga turned to the only place they knew that politicians gather daily. They took out a full page ad in the New York Times. The irony of taking out a newspaper ad to protect the Web is certainly lost on no one."
New Study Finds People Remember More Than They Think
An anonymous reader writes
"A new study has shown that people subconsciously retain information about things they've seen even if they can't consciously remember. From the article: 'Luis Martinez of CSIC- Miguel Hernandez University in Spain and his team "read minds" with the Princess Card Trick, an act invented by magician Henry Hardin in 1905. Participants in the study mentally picked out a playing card from a group of six cards, which then disappeared. When a second group of cards appeared, the researchers had amazingly figured out which card a person had in mind and removed it. Very few people caught the trick: All of the cards in the second set were different, not just the card that people had chosen. This trick is well-known to confuse the masses, even via the Internet a magician's sleight of hand can make it seem as though he/she legitimately "read your mind" A few moments after viewing the two panels of cards, volunteers were asked which of two new cards was present in the first set of cards. None of the volunteers could actually recall which card was present. Despite claiming that they had no idea, when they were forced to choose, people got the right answer around 80 percent of the time. “People say they don’t know, but they do,” Martinez said. “The information is still there, and we can use it unconsciously if we are forced to.”'"
Designers Build 35-Foot Robot Snake
An anonymous reader writes
"Canadian robotic design house eatArt has released a video of its latest project: the Titanoboa, a robotic snake based on a 50-foot long prehistoric serpent. The video pits the basilisk-like robot against the Mondo Spider, a walking machine large enough to hold a man, and there's obvious competition between the two. While eatArt showed a shorter version of the snake rollerblading at the Burning Man festival earlier this year, at 35 feet this is the largest version of the robot so far, with the team aiming to reach the full length in the next year or so."
PayPal Launches Facebook App For Sending Money
angry tapir writes
"PayPal has launched a Facebook application designed to let users of the social networking site send money to each other. The application, named Send Money, features a greeting card component for accompanying the money transfer with an e-card containing a message, photos and videos to mark occasions like birthdays and anniversaries."
The $443 Million Smallpox Vaccine That Nobody Needs
Hugh Pickens writes
"Once feared for its grotesque pustules and 30% death rate, smallpox was eradicated worldwide as of 1978 and is known to exist only in the locked freezers of a Russian scientific institute and the US government. There is no credible evidence that any other country or a terrorist group possesses smallpox, but if there were an attack, the government could draw on $1 billion worth of smallpox vaccine it already owns to inoculate the entire US population and quickly treat people exposed to the virus. The vaccine, which costs the government $3 per dose, can reliably prevent death when given within four days of exposure. David Williams writes that over the last year, the Obama administration has aggressively pushed a $433-million plan to buy an experimental smallpox drug, despite uncertainty over whether it is needed or will work. So why did the government award a "sole-source" procurement to Siga Technologies Inc., whose controlling shareholder is billionaire Ronald O. Perelman, calling for Siga to deliver 1.7 million doses of the drug for the nation's biodefense stockpile at a price of approximately $255 per dose. 'We've got a vaccine that I hope we never have to use — how much more do we need?' says epidemiologist Dr. Donald A. Henderson who led the global eradication of smallpox for the WHO. 'The bottom line is, we've got a limited amount of money.'"
Giant Chinese Desert Mystery Structure Solved
"Slashdotters read Monday about strange symbols in the Gobi Desert recently imaged and indexed by Google Maps. Alien landing zones? Some military thingy? Bizarre art project? Nope. The grids of zigzagging white lines seen in two of the images — the strangest of the various desert structures — are spy satellite calibration targets, according to one NASA scientist."
Ask Slashdot: Best Tools To Aid When "On Call"?
An anonymous reader writes
"Since most readers of slashdot are IT'ers, I assume this is a familiar story: when working in IT, it often happens you need to be standby or 'on call' during a certain period. That may mean you can receive phone calls or text messages from a monitoring system in the middle of the night. I've been looking for a way to have those alerts wake me in the middle of the night but not my partner, who is sleeping right next to me. Are there hardware aids out there that can alert a person without troubling their close environment? I'm thinking armwrists, vibrating head pillows, ..."
Toronto School Bans Hard Balls
In an attempt to finally "think of the children," Earl Beatty Public school has
prohibited students from playing with balls after a "few serious incidents" in which students and staff were hit or almost hit by balls. From the article: "The happy days of kicking a ball around at recess ended Monday after students took home a letter advising that henceforth, no child could bring a soccer ball, football, volleyball or even tennis ball to the junior and senior school in the area of Coxwell and Danforth Aves." I assume all lunches will soon be taken via feeding tube to minimize choking hazards.
EU Speaks Out Against US Censorship
"The EU Parliament has adopted, 'by a large majority,' a statement warning the US to refrain 'from unilateral measures to revoke IP addresses or domain names' due to the 'need to protect the integrity of the global internet and freedom of communications.' This resolution highlights both the practices prescribed in SOPA/PIPA... but also the actions of Homeland Security and ICE in seizing domain names. By adopting a resolution against domains seizures the European Parliament recognizes the dangerous precedent the pending SOPA legislation would set, and it wouldn't be a surprise if more foreign criticism follows. No country should have the ability to simply take over international domain names, and surely the US would feel the same if this plan was put in motion by a foreign country. Or as some 60 press freedom and human rights advocate groups put it in their letter to the US representatives: 'This is as unacceptable to the international community as it would be if a foreign country were to impose similar measures on the United States.'"
Computing Pioneers Share Their First Tech Memories
An anonymous reader writes
"Major names from the world of computing and technology such as Vint Cerf, William Gibson, Richard Stallman, Michael Dell and Hermann Hauser have shared their memories on their first computers and what inspired them to get involved with the computer. Highlight's include Cerf recalling his experience with the valve-based US air defense network Sage — as seen in Dr Strangelove — and Acorn co-founder Hauser building an eight bit computer out of marbles and a shoebox."
Microturbines Power, Cool Servers Simultaneously
"The infrastructure of a large data center poses two main problems: You need to find a way to reliably power all those servers, and you need to figure out a way to deal with the heat those servers put off. Syracuse University and the University of Toledo are experimenting with one gadget to solve both problems. Small power units that run on natural gas, called microturbines, provide reliable DC power separate from the utility grid, and their heat output can paradoxically be harnessed to cool the servers and transmit the heat to other buildings on campus."
Windows 8 Secure Boot Defeated
"An Austrian security researcher is scheduled to release the first 'bootkit' for Windows 8 at the upcoming MalCon in Mumbai. This exploit loads in the MBR and stays memory resident until Windows loads, resulting in root access to the system. This allegedly defeats the new secure boot features in Windows 8's bootloader."
Apple Addresses Factory Pollution In China
"Apple reportedly sent five employees to meet with five different Chinese environmental groups on Nov. 15, only to learn about several troubling environmental issues at as many as 22 different product parts suppliers. In the three-hour meeting, the Chinese environmentalist coalition claimed the factories were releasing toxic gasses, heavy metal sludge and other pollutants. Apple acknowledged that a number of its supply firms have failed to properly keep track of their wastewater emissions and vowed to improve its environmental standards for suppliers; this is the first time Apple has admitted any wrongdoing in relation to environmental pollution from any of its Chinese supply chains. The meeting comes one month after one of Apple's Chinese suppliers of MacBook parts was shut down by China's government in response to resident complaints of 'unbearable odors,' which were described as a mix of chemical fertilizer and burning plastic."
The Futility of Developer Productivity Metrics
"Fatal Exception's Neil McAllister discusses why code analysis and similar metrics provide little insight into what really makes an effective software development team, in the wake of a new scorecard system employed at IBM. 'Code metrics are fine if all you care about is raw code production. But what happens to all that code once it's written? Do you just ship it and move on? Hardly — in fact, many developers spend far more of their time maintaining code than adding to it. Do your metrics take into account time spent refactoring or documenting existing code? Is it even possible to devise metrics for these activities?' McAllister writes. 'Are developers who take time to train and mentor other teams about the latest code changes considered less productive than ones who stay heads-down at their desks and never reach out to their peers? How about teams that take time at the beginning of a project to coordinate with other teams for code reuse, versus those who charge ahead blindly? Can any automated tool measure these kinds of best practices?'"
"The ubiquitous EULA — reams of baffling text imposing draconian terms on software users — infuriate most Slashdot users and are routinely ignored by everyone else (until they suddenly cause trouble, of course). But it doesn't have to be that way. Several European countries are considering laws mandating user-friendly EULAs, and some companies provide them voluntarily."
Energy Firm Wants To Be First To Mine the Moon
"By 2020, the Shackleton Energy Company says it intends to be operating the world's first lunar base and propellant depot for all manner of spacecraft. Shackleton stated that after a phase of robotic prospecting, its crews will establish the infrastructure in space and basecamps in the lunar polar crater regions to supervise industrial machinery for mining, processing and transporting lunar products to market in Low Earth Orbit and beyond. The company said it will use a mix of industrial astronauts and advanced robotic systems to provide a strategically-assured, continuous supply of propellants for spacecraft."
Recreating a Mysterious, 2,100-Year-Old Clock
"Swiss watchmaker Hublot has created a scaled-down working replica of the ancient Antikythera mechanism. The question is — why on Earth would you want to strap one of these to your wrist? It barely tells the time, and it can't take pictures, tweet or connect to your Facebook. In fact, very few people would have the faintest idea what it is, or why you'd want one at all. But for those that do recognize its intricate gears and dials, this tiny, complex piece of machinery tells a vivid and incredible tale of gigantic scientific upheaval, of adventure and shipwreck on the high seas, of war and death."
Desura Game Distribution Service Releases On Linux
An anonymous reader writes
"Desura is a digital distribution platform for video games, focusing on releases from indie developers and mods rather than AAA titles. After a two-month beta period, Desura has launched a Linux client, which supports the installation and patching of games on any Linux distribution. With this release, Desura is the first client to work on both Windows and Linux systems, enabling games to be installed with a click. They're currently in discussions to release the code under the GPL."
"CNN is reporting another Occupy movement — Occupy Flash. Their aim: get rid of Flash completely. They explain: 'Why does it matter when HTML5 has clearly won the fight for the future of our web browsing? Well, as we've seen with other outdated web technologies (most notably the much-lamented Internet Explorer 6), as long as software is installed on machines, there will be a contingent of decision makers who mandate its use, and there will be a requirement of continued support, the plugin will live on, and folks will continue to develop for it.' In response, a group of Flash developers have started Occupy HTML in Flash's defense. Popcorn, anyone?"
Working On Man Made Lightning
"There is a very cool write up on the Make blog about an effort to build the world's largest tesla coils. Quoting: '"Somehow lightning can generate huge discharges with only about a fifth of the voltage per foot that lab discharges require," Leyh explains. "The part that especially fascinates me is that this mysterious ability kicks in around 200' in length, which is right at the edge of what we can produce with a practical machine." Leyh wants to see if humans can replicate this voltage economy effect, and has launched a Kickstarter campaign to fund the building of two 10-story Tesla Coil towers (obviously superseding his current coil-size world record).'"
Net Neutrality and Carrier Incentives To Invest
An anonymous reader writes
"In policy debates before Congress and the FCC, the big ISPs and wireless carriers (Verizon, AT&T, Comcast, Cox, Sprint) argued that net neutrality rules would give them less incentive to upgrade their networks. The reality is just the opposite, says Infoworld's Bill Snyder, citing a game-theoretic work done by two researchers at the U. of Florida's business school. If carriers can charge premium prices for expedited service, they have an incentive not to invest. Hmm, this reminds me of the agriculture business, where prices are sometimes propped up by paying farmers not to grow crops."
Boeing Delivers Massive Ordnance Penetrator
Hugh Pickens writes
"In an age of drones and lightweight weaponry, the U.S. Air Force's purchase of the first batch of 30,000-pound bombs designed to pulverize underground enemy hide-outs highlights the military's need to go after hard and deeply buried targets. The weapon's explosive power is 10 times greater than its bunker-buster predecessor, the BLU-109 and it is nearly five tons heavier than the 22,600-pound GBU-43 MOAB surface bomb, sometimes called the 'mother of all bombs.' 'Our past test experience has shown that 2,000-pound penetrators carrying 500 pounds of high explosive are relatively ineffective against tunnels, even when skipped directly into the tunnel entrance,' says a 2004 Pentagon report on the Future Strategic Strike Force. 'Instead, several thousand pounds of high explosives coupled to the tunnel are needed to blow down blast doors and propagate a lethal air blast throughout a typical tunnel complex' (PDF). Experts note that the military disclosed delivery of the new bunker-busting bomb less than a week after a United Nations agency warned that Iran was secretly working to develop a nuclear weapon and is known to have hidden nuclear complexes that are fortified with steel and concrete, and buried under mountains. 'Heck of a coincidence, isn't it?' says John Pike, director of Globalsecurity.org."
Potential 0-Day Vulnerability For BIND 9
"BIND, the popular DNS server software, has been crashing all over the Internet. The root cause is believed to be a 0-day vulnerability in BIND's resolver. The ISC has issued an alert. Quoting: 'An as-yet unidentified network event caused BIND 9 resolvers to cache an invalid record, subsequent queries for which could crash the resolvers with an assertion failure. ISC is working on determining the ultimate cause by which a record with this particular inconsistency is cached. At this time we are making available a patch which makes named recover gracefully from the inconsistency, preventing the abnormal exit.'"
Apple's New Patent Weapon — Location Services
"Once again, it seems Apple is about to take intellectual property claims to a new level. Apple has been reissued a patent they acquired from Xerox that pretty much wraps up what we know as 'location services' as their own. In the overview, the patent says the system involved will display information specific to the location the device is in. The language used in the patent is broad and powerful. I guess now we wait and see whom Apple will use this against?"
Intel's Plans For X86 Android, Smartphones, and Tablets
"'Last week, Intel announced that it had added x86 optimizations to Android 4.0, Ice Cream Sandwich, but the text of the announcement and included quotes were vague and a bit contradictory given the open nature of Android development. After discussing the topic with Intel we've compiled a laundry list of the company's work in Gingerbread and ICS thus far, and offered a few of our own thoughts on what to expect in 2012 as far as x86-powered smartphones and tablets are concerned.' The main points: Intel isn't just a chip maker (it has oodles of software experience); Android's Native Development Kit now includes support for x86 and MMX/SSE instruction sets and can be used to compile dual x86/ARM, 'fat' binaries; and development tools like Vtune and Intel Graphics Performance Analyzer are on their way to Android."
Identifying Nuclear Scientists Willing To Sell Their Knowledge
"This is an interesting piece on U.S. programs most people don't know about: programs to identify and win over nuclear scientists who might be willing to sell their know-how to non-nuclear countries. Fascinating discussion, and points to the alleged Russian scientist who is reported to have sold information to Iran. How could he have been stopped?"
Has Apple Made Programmers Cool?
An anonymous reader writes
"CNET suggests that Apple has totally changed the general public's perception of programmers: It's now suddenly cool to code. No matter what platform you're on. They argue that App Store millionaire success stories have 'turned a whole generation of geek coders from social misfits into superheroes.' Apparently, gone are the days when a programmer was the last person you wanted to talk to at a party: 'Mention to someone that you make apps and their interest will pick up instantly. This is an astonishing change from what a programmer in the 80s could have expected in reaction to their job description.' The App Store millionaires, or 'Appillionaires', may have done all of us programmers a huge favor. Programming is now socially acceptable: 'Previous generations strapped on electric guitars and fought for super-stardom in sweaty dive bars, but today's youth boot up Xcode on their MacBook Pros.'"
BT Fiber Infrastructure Plans 'Fatal' To Competition
"BT today revealed it is to start selling its Physical Infrastructure Access (PIA) for fiber broadband product to other providers later this month, but the announcement was met with one particularly cold response. Geo Networks, which is helping deliver superfast networks in Wales in partnership with the Welsh Assembly, said it was going to withdraw bidding for Government-provided BDUK funds and in all next-generation access sales. 'Inadequacies of the current PIA product are fatal to infrastructure competition,' he added. 'The Government's stated desire for a competitive market in the provision of new optical fiber infrastructure is at risk of complete failure.'"