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Can Anyone Become a Programmer?
Posted by News Fetcher on September 16 '12 at 11:15 AM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's special-and-unique-snowflakes department:
another random user writes "A Q&A on Ars Technica asks about an old adage that many programmers stick to: 'It takes a certain type of mind to learn programming, and not everyone can do it.' Users at Stack Exchange are wading in with their answers, but what do Slashdot users think?"

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NASA To Face $1.3 Billion Cut Next Year Under Sequestration
Posted by News Fetcher on September 16 '12 at 10:00 AM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's more-for-less department:
littlesparkvt writes "A budget forecast that was released on Friday shows that the defense department isn't the only department getting hammered, NASA is as well if the automatic budget cuts happen. According to Nature magazine, NASA will lose '$417 million from its science budget, $346 for space operations, $309 for exploration, $246 for cross agency support, among other cuts.'"

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BitInstant CEO Says World Operates "On an Inferior Monetary System"
Posted by News Fetcher on September 16 '12 at 08:45 AM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's your-money-is-no-good-here department:
hypnosec writes "BitInstant's CEO Charlie Shrem and Erik Voorhees were invited to speak about virtual currency at the NACHA (the North American Payments Association) Annual Global Payments Forum held in Rio de Janeiro. At the conference the duo stated that the world operates 'on an inferior monetary system'. One of the more interesting parst of the whole forum was how Bitcoin as a currency and transaction system "works within current legal frameworks." A presentation by Senior Legal Counsel to the Federal Reserve titled 'The Implications of Dodd-Frank Section 1073' sheds light on requirements that need to be fulfilled by "Remittance Payment Company" (RPC) guidelines. This law requires such companies to disclose a lot of information about money transactions. This is where Bitcoin as a currency and system collide head-on with the law."

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The Passing of the Personal Computer Era
Posted by News Fetcher on September 16 '12 at 07:45 AM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's turn-the-page department:
An anonymous reader writes "AllThingsD columnist Arik Hesseldahl noticed another milestone marking the passing of the personal computer era: for the first time since the early '80s, the share of worldwide sales of DRAM chips consumed by PCs (desktop and laptop computers, but not tablets) has dropped below fifty percent. Perhaps a more important milestone was reached last year, when more smartphones were shipped (not sold) worldwide than the combined total of PC's and tablets (also noticed by Microsoft watcher Joe Wilcox here). While this is certainly of tremendous marketing and business importance to the likes of Apple, Microsoft, Google, Adobe, and PC OEMs, others may reflect on the impending closing of the history books on the era that started in Silicon Valley a little over 35 years ago."

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The Linux-Proof Processor That Nobody Wants
Posted by News Fetcher on September 16 '12 at 06:30 AM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's last-kid-picked department:
Bruce Perens writes "Clover Trail, Intel's newly announced 'Linux proof' processor, is already a dead end for technical and business reasons. Clover Trail is said to include power-management that will make the Atom run longer under Windows. It had better, since Atom currently provides about 1/4 of the power efficiency of the ARM processors that run IOS and Android devices. The details of Clover Trail's power management won't be disclosed to Linux developers. Power management isn't magic, though - there is no great secret about shutting down hardware that isn't being used. Other CPU manufacturers, and Intel itself, will provide similar power management to Linux on later chips. Why has Atom lagged so far behind ARM? Simply because ARM requires fewer transistors to do the same job. Atom and most of Intel's line are based on the ia32 architecture. ia32 dates back to the 1970's and is the last bastion of CISC, Complex Instruction Set Computing. ARM and all later architectures are based on RISC, Reduced Instruction Set Computing, which provides very simple instructions that run fast. RISC chips allow the language compilers to perform complex tasks by combining instructions, rather than by selecting a single complex instruction that's "perfect" for the task. As it happens, compilers are more likely to get optimal performance with a number of RISC instructions than with a few big instructions that are over-generalized or don't do exactly what the compiler requires. RISC instructions are much more likely to run in a single processor cycle than complex ones. So, ARM ends up being several times more efficient than Intel."

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Ask Slashdot: When Does Time Tracking at Work Go Too Far?
Posted by News Fetcher on September 16 '12 at 05:30 AM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's your-time-is-our-time department:
An anonymous reader writes "I work in a call center, full time, for a large mail order pharmacy. Recently, as part of their campaign to better track time spent both at and away from our desks, they have started tracking bathroom breaks. They use a Cisco phone system, and there is now a clock out option that says 'Bathroom.' My question is whether or not this is in any way acceptable in a large corporate environment (Around 800 people work at this same pharmacy) and is it even legal? How invasive would this really be considered, and beyond privacy concerns, how are they going to deal with the humiliation that their employees feel as a result of this? Has this happened to any of you?"

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Chicago Teachers Rip 'Big Money Interest Groups'
Posted by News Fetcher on September 16 '12 at 04:30 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's all-about-the-benjamins department:
theodp writes "The striking Chicago Teachers Union (CTU) is holding a massive 'Wisconsin-style rally' Saturday as ongoing negotiations try to bring an end to the strike that has put education on hold for 350,000 of the city's schoolchildren. 'The 30,000 teachers, school social workers, clerks, vision and hearing testers, school nurses, teaching assistants, counselors, and other school professionals of the Chicago Teachers Union are standing strong to defend public education from test pushers, privatizers, and a national onslaught of big money interest groups trying to push education back to the days before teachers had unions,' explains the CTU web site. 'Around the country and even the world, our fight is recognized as the front line of resistance to the corporate education agenda.' Some are calling the strike — which has by most accounts centered on salary schedules (CPS salary dataset), teacher performance evaluations, grievance procedures, and which teachers get dibs on new jobs — a push-back to education reform that has possible Presidential election implications. The big winners in the school strike, Bloomberg reports, are the city's largely non-union 100+ charter schools, which remained open throughout the strike. Charter school enrollment swelled to 52,000 students this fall as parents worried by strike rumors sought refuge in schools like those run by the Noble Charter Network, which enjoys the deep-pocket support of many wealthy 'investors.'"

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The Implications of Google Restricting Access To Anti-Islam Film
Posted by News Fetcher on September 16 '12 at 01:30 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's universality-for-some department:
ideonexus writes "While the decision has been a footnote in most news stories, the Washington Post is raising the question of what it means that Google can shutdown access to the anti-Islam film in countries where that film has sparked riots, something the American government cannot do thanks to our First Amendment. A popular meme in the Information Age is that the Internet spreads democracy by enabling citizens to organize and speak out, but we forget that much of that speech is now hosted by third-parties who are under no obligation to protect it."

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Microsoft Patents Whacking Your Phone To Silence It
Posted by News Fetcher on September 15 '12 at 10:45 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's until-it-learns-to-fear-you department:
another random user writes with news of a patent application from Microsoft that details a method for silencing your phone by giving it a whack. "There are a variety of circumstances under which it may be desirable to quickly control a device without having to interact with a traditional user interface. For example, often mobile device users forget to set their mobile devices in a silent or vibrate mode and the device rings or makes sounds at an inopportune moment." And yes, 'whack' is the technical term used in the patent (20120231838): "receiving information indicative of acceleration of the mobile communications device; determining correlation between the information indicative of acceleration of the mobile communications device and exemplar whack event data; and based at least on the correlation, controlling an audio signal of the mobile communications device." This method is not recommended for controlling the audio output of animals or children.

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Two Teams Win the BotPrize
Posted by News Fetcher on September 15 '12 at 07:30 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's just-make-them-swear-a-lot-over-xbox-live department:
An anonymous reader writes "For the past five years, the 2K BotPrize has challenged artificial intelligence researchers and programmers to create a computer-game-playing bot that plays like a person. It's one thing to make bots that play computer games very well — computers are faster and more accurate than a person can ever be — but it's a different thing to make bots that are fun to play against. In a breakthrough result, after years of striving and improvement from 14 different international teams from nine countries, two teams have crossed the humanness barrier! The teams share $7000 in prize money and a trip to games company 2K's Canberra studio. The winners are the UT^2 team from the University of Texas at Austin, and Mihai Polceanu, a doctoral student from Romania, currently studying Artificial Intelligence at ENIB CERV — Centre de Réalité Virtuelle, Brest, France. The UT^2 team is Professor Risto Miikulainen, and doctoral students Jacob Schrum and Igor Karpov. The bots created by the two teams both achieved a humanness rating of 52%, easily exceeding the average humanness rating of the human players, at 40%. It is especially fitting that the prize has been won in the 2012 Alan Turing Centenary Year. The famous Turing test — where a computer has to have a conversation with a human, and pretends to be another human — was the inspiration for the BotPrize competition. Where to now for human-like bots? Next year we hope to propose a new and exciting challenge for game playing bot creators to push their technologies to the next level of human-like performance."

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How Indie Devs Made an 1,800-Player Action Game Mod In Their Spare Time
Posted by News Fetcher on September 15 '12 at 05:45 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's massively-multiplayer-regular-game department:
An anonymous reader writes "Just Cause 2 Multiplayer has been getting a lot of press lately, but this making-of feature points out how the mod raises serious questions about the games industry: if 1,800-player massively multiplayer action games are possible on one server, why did it take a group of modders to prove it? From the article: 'There’s more chaos to come. That 1,800 player limit isn’t maxing out the server or the software by any means. Foote says that the team, who first met online seven years ago playing the similar Multi Theft Auto GTA mod, are "yet to reach any real barrier or limitation preventing us from reaching an even higher player count than the previous public tests." When it’s ready, the team will release the software for everyone to download and run their own servers, wherever they are in the world.'"

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AMD's Hondo Chip 'A Windows 8 Product'
Posted by News Fetcher on September 15 '12 at 04:15 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's riding-a-new-horse department:
dgharmon points out comments from AMD's Steve Belt, who was asked about the company's upcoming Hondo APU. Hondo is their biggest attempt to date to break into the tablet market, and they're doing so with a distinct focus on Windows 8. Belt said, "This is a Windows 8 product, only. We're not doing Android on this platform, at least not now. ... It is a conscious decision not to go after Android. We think the Windows 8 space has a lot of opportunity, there's plenty of TAM [total addressable market] there for us to go at. So we don't need to spread ourselves into other markets, we think Windows 8 is a great place to start. Down the road we may look at Android, right now we're focused on Windows 8." The article adds, "With both AMD and Intel readying Hondo and Clover Trail respectively for Windows 8 and pushing their respective customers to come up with designs at roughly the same time, it will be interesting to see just how many Windows RT tablets will appear at the operating system's launch. However one thing is clear, neither AMD nor Intel will have Android x86 tablets running with their respective next generation ultra low voltage chips." Fortunately, there's nothing stopping users and manufacturers from running other OSes on Hondo.

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Are Commercial Games Finally Going To Make It To Linux?
Posted by News Fetcher on September 15 '12 at 03:00 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's yes-no-maybe department:
colinneagle writes "Those of us who actively promote Linux as a viable desktop alternative to Windows are often greeted with the following refrain: 'Nobody will use Linux because there are no good games.' The prevailing wisdom is that the abundance of high-quality, commercial video gaming is a key factor in the market-share dominance that Microsoft Windows enjoys. And, in all reality, this is somewhat true. So, then, the obvious course of action is to convince the video game publishers and developers of the world that Linux is a viable (if, perhaps, a bit niche) market. And by 'viable' I mean one thing and one thing only – 'profitable.'Luckily, there have been three high-profile recent examples of Linux users going absolutely nuts over video games, forking over their hard-earned cash in the process: the Humble Indie Bundle (drawing in huge numbers of sales — for a DRM-free product, no less — with sales numbers by Linux users consistently beating out sales to MacOS X users); Canonical's Ubuntu Software Center (where video games make up the top 10 paid software packages); Valve's announcement that it is bringing the Steam store, and community portal, to Linux desktop (specifically Ubuntu). Will the indie game developers (along with Valve) reap the bulk of the rewards that releasing games on Linux is offering...or will some of the big publishers realize what they're missing out on and join in the fun?"

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Pirate Bay Co-Founder Detained In Sweden
Posted by News Fetcher on September 15 '12 at 02:00 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's stockholm-syndrome department:
wiredmikey writes "The co-founder of The Pirate Bay filesharing website was detained in Sweden on Friday, days after his deportation from Cambodia, officials said. Gottfrid Svartholm Warg, 27, faces a one-year prison sentence for promoting copyright infringement in his home country. He current detention is for an investigation into his involvement in the hacking of a Swedish IT firm named Logica. He was arrested in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh on August 30 at Stockholm's behest and expelled late on Monday."

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Bringing Free Software To a Street Near You
Posted by News Fetcher on September 15 '12 at 01:00 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's first-hit-is-free-but-so-are-all-the-others department:
Blug_fred writes "It's that time of year again; the nights are drawing in, the leaves are beginning to turn, and literally hundreds of teams of dedicated F/OSS enthusiasts from around the world are preparing to hit the streets in celebration of Software Freedom Day 2012. In an effort to increase awareness of free and open source software among the general public, SFD teams will be standing around town centers and shopping malls, holding talks at schools and universities, giving demonstrations and handing out GNU/Linux and FOSS collections for Windows on CD. With money being tight and paranoia about malware and viruses at an all-time high, the time is right to help consumers switch to the myriad of quality open source applications available. If you would like to check for an SFD team in your area and consider attending, be it to help out or simply learn more about free software for yourself, there's an interactive map to help you find your way."

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Chrome To Get 'Do Not Track'
Posted by News Fetcher on September 15 '12 at 12:00 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's saddling-up-in-the-tracking-arms-race department:
puddingebola tips news that support for the 'do-not-track' privacy setting will soon be coming to Google Chrome. The feature was implemented for Chromium v23.0.1266.0 in a recent revision. Google has said DNT will make it into the public release of Chrome by the end of year. This will bring Chrome up to speed with Firefox, which has had it for a while, and IE 10, which will have it turned on by default. As for why Google is the last of the three do implement it, the LA Times points out a post earlier this year from Google's Susan Wojcicki: 'There’s been a lot of debate over the last few years about personalization on the web. We believe that tailoring your web experience — for example by showing you more relevant, interest-based ads, or making it easy to recommend stuff you like to friends — is a good thing.'"

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Can Nintendo Court the Casuals Again?
Posted by News Fetcher on September 15 '12 at 11:00 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's i-think-they'll-manage department:
An anonymous reader sends this quote from Eurogamer:
"Do you remember the last time? When the Wii launched at the tail end of 2006, it was to an air of excited curiosity that went well beyond the borders of core gamers, with Nintendo conjuring what ran close to a full-blown phenomenon. ... Nintendo's masterstroke, of course, has been resurrecting the ultimate hardcore poster girl with the announcement that Bayonetta 2 is heading exclusively to the Wii U. There's something slightly incongruous about an over-sexed, incredibly violent action game rubbing shoulders with Mario and co., but then again that's exactly what makes the proposition so very exciting. ... There's still one very important section of the market that may prove a little tougher to persuade. Right now it's harder to see the broader appeal of the Wii U, and it's not simply a case of fearing that it'll fail to replicate the success of its predecessor — there's every chance that it could endure the same rocky start that plagued Nintendo's 3DS."

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Detailed Images Show Intra-Molecular Bonds
Posted by News Fetcher on September 15 '12 at 09:45 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's pretty-pictures department:
Techmeology writes "A team from IBM in Zurich has published images of molecules that are detailed enough to show the lengths of atomic bonds. 'The IBM team's innovation to create the first single molecule picture, of a molecule called pentacene, was to use the tip to pick up a single, small molecule made up of a carbon and an oxygen atom. This carbon monoxide molecule effectively acts as a record needle, probing with unprecedented accuracy the very surfaces of atoms. It is difficult to overstate what precision measurements these are. The experiments must be isolated from any kind of vibration coming from within the laboratory or even its surroundings. They are carried out at a scale so small that room temperature induces wigglings of the AFM's constituent molecules that would blur the images, so the apparatus is kept at a cool -268C.' This allows an analysis of imperfections in the molecular structure (abstract). The team plans to use the method to examine molecules of graphene."

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Zynga Sues EA For 'Anti-competitive' Practices
Posted by News Fetcher on September 15 '12 at 08:45 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's fight-fight-fight department:
An anonymous reader writes "In early August, Electronic Arts sued Zynga for allegedly copying EA's Sims Social game. Zynga has now launched a counterattack, suing EA for 'anticompetitive and unlawful business practices, including legal threats and demands for no-hire agreements.' The company also accuses EA of copying a Zynga game called YoVille. Zynga has also demanded a jury trial to settle EA's claims."

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X11 Window System Turns 25 Years Old
Posted by News Fetcher on September 15 '12 at 08:15 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's old-enough-to-rent-a-car department:
An anonymous reader writes "The widely used X11 Window System has turned 25 years old today. Version 11 of the X Window System is likely to remain in use for many years to come for backwards compatibility with the many legacy applications, BSD/Solaris systems, and Enterprise Linux distributions. Meanwhile, Wayland is still working to unseat the X Server for the common Linux desktop."

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