By Soulskill from Slashdot's to-file-a-complaint-please-use-Netscape-Navigator-1.22 department
An anonymous reader writes: This article details a Linux user's struggles to submit a grant application when the process requires finicky, proprietary software. It also covers familiar ground made timely by the upcoming elections: the U.S. should prefer open source software and open standards over proprietary alternatives. The grant application required a PDF created by Adobe Acrobat — software Adobe no longer supports for Linux. Once the document was created, attempting to submit it while using Ubuntu fails silently. (On Windows 7, it worked immediately.) The reader argues, "By requiring Acrobat the government gives preference to a particular software vendor, assuring that thousands of people who otherwise would not choose to use Adobe software are forced to install it. Worse, endorsing a proprietary, narrowly supported technology for government data poses the risk that public information could become inaccessible if the vendor decides to stop supporting the software. Last but not least, there are privacy and fairness issues at stake. Acrobat is a totally closed-source program, which means we have to take Adobe's word for it that nothing sketchy is going on in its code. ... It would seem to be in the interest of the public for the government to prefer an open source solution, since it is much harder to hide nefarious features inside code that can be publicly inspected."Read Replies (0)
By Soulskill from Slashdot's good-luck-getting-50+-people-to-agree-on-anything department
An anonymous reader writes: Who doesn't love a good conspiracy theory? Well, I don't — they're usually annoying daydreams from annoying people. Fortunately, an Oxford mathematician seems to feel the same way. Dr. David Grimes just published research in PLOS One establishing a formula for determining the likelihood of a failed conspiracy — in other words, how likely some of its participants are to spill the beans. There are three main factors: number of conspirators, the amount of time passed since it started, and how often we can expect conspiracies to intrinsically fail (a value he derived by studying actual conspiracies that were exposed). From the article: "He then applied his equation to four famous conspiracy theories: The belief that the Moon landing was faked, the belief that climate change is a fraud, the belief that vaccines cause autism, and the belief that pharmaceutical companies have suppressed a cure for cancer. Dr. Grimes's analysis suggests that if these four conspiracies were real, most are very likely to have been revealed as such by now. Specifically, the Moon landing 'hoax' would have been revealed in 3.7 years, the climate change 'fraud' in 3.7 to 26.8 years, the vaccine-autism 'conspiracy' in 3.2 to 34.8 years, and the cancer 'conspiracy' in 3.2 years."Read Replies (0)
By Soulskill from Slashdot's past-time,-actually department
An anonymous reader writes: AMD has called for the opening up of GPU technology to developers. Nicolas Thibieroz, a senior engineering manager for the company, announced today the launch of GPUOpen, its initiative to provide code and documentation to PC developers, embracing open source and collaborative development with the community. He says, "Console games often tap into low-level GPU features that may not be exposed on PC at the same level of functionality, causing different — and usually less efficient — code paths to be implemented on PC instead. Worse, proprietary libraries or tools chains with "black box" APIs prevent developers from accessing the code for maintenance, porting or optimizations purposes. Game development on PC needs to scale to multiple quality levels, including vastly different screen resolutions." And here's how AMD wants to solve this: "Full and flexible access to the source of tools, libraries and effects is a key pillar of the GPUOpen philosophy. Only through open source access are developers able to modify, optimize, fix, port and learn from software. The goal? Encouraging innovation and the development of amazing graphics techniques and optimizations in PC games." They've begun by posting several technical articles to help developers understand and use various tools, and they say more content will arrive soon.Read Replies (0)
By timothy from Slashdot's but-books-get-better-with-age department
peetm writes: I have an above averagely bright nephew, aged 10, who's into maths and whose birthday is coming up soon. I'd like to get him a suitable present – most likely one that's mathematically centred. At Christmas we sat together while I helped him build a few very simple Python programs that 'animated' some simple but interesting maths, e.g., we built a factorial function, investigated the Collatz conjecture (3n + 1 problem) and talked about, but didn't implement Eratosthenes' Sieve – one step too far for him at the moment perhaps. I've looked about for books that might blend computing + maths, but haven't really found anything appropriate for a 10-year-old. I should be indebted to anyone who might suggest either a suitable maths book, or one that brings in some facet of computing. Or, if not a book, then some other present that might pique his interest.Read Replies (0)
By timothy from Slashdot's convenient-time-for-it department
According to The Next Web, the NSA would like to get rid of something that a lot of people wish they'd never had in the first place: phone records that the agency has collected over a
half (more, really)
However, the EFF wants to make sure that the evidence of snooping doesn't get buried along with the actual recorded data. From the article: [T]he government says that it can't be sued by bodies like the EFF. The organization is currently involved in two pending cases seeking a remedy for the past 14 years of illegal phone record collection.
EFF wrote a letter (PDF) to the secret Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act court last December which it has now made public, explaining that it is ready to discuss options that will allow destruction of the records in ways that still preserve its ability to prosecute the cases.
It'll be interesting to see how this pans out: if the government doesn't agree to a discussion about how to handle these phone records, it's possible that they will remain on file for years to come. Plus, it could allow the NSA to avoid being held accountable for its illegal mass surveillance.Read Replies (0)