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Perseids Meteor Shower Maximum Is This Weekend
Posted by News Fetcher on August 10 '12 at 02:00 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's comets-throwing-rocks-at-us department:
New submitter turp182 writes to remind us that the Perseid meteor shower will be visible this weekend (Aug. 11-13). Astronomers are anticipating the Perseid shower being the best of the year, forecasting rates as high as 100 meteors per hour. They'll be visible through the night, but viewing will be at its best in the hours before dawn. NASA points out that this shower will be particularly interesting thanks to appearances from Venus, Jupiter, and the crescent moon.
"On August 11th, a 33% crescent Moon will glide by Jupiter, temporarily forming a bright pair directly above brilliant Venus. Red-giant star Aldebaran will be there, too, adding a splash of color to the gathering. On August 12th, the narrowing 24% crescent Moon will drop down between Jupiter and Venus. Together they make a bright 3-point line in the sky, frequently bisected by shooting stars. On August 13th, with the shower just beginning to wane, the planets put on their best show yet: The 17% crescent moon will pass less than 3 degrees from Venus as Jupiter hovers overhead. Sky watchers say there's nothing prettier than a close encounter between the slender crescent Moon and Venus--nothing, that is, except for the crescent Moon, Venus and a flurry of Perseids."

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Google To Start Punishing Pirate Sites In Search Results
Posted by News Fetcher on August 10 '12 at 01:30 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's arrrr-me-hearties department:
An anonymous reader sends word of a change Google will be making to its search algorithms. Beginning next week, the company will penalize the search rankings of websites who are the target of many copyright infringement notices from rightsholders. Quoting The Verge:
"Google says the move is designed to 'help users find legitimate, quality sources of content more easily' — meaning that it's trying to direct people who search for movies, TV shows, and music to sites like Hulu and Spotify, not torrent sites or data lockers like the infamous MegaUpload. It's a clear concession to the movie and music industries, who have long complained that Google facilitates piracy — and Google needs to curry favor with media companies as it tries to build an ecosystem around Google Play. Google says it feels confident making the change because because its existing copyright infringement reporting system generates a massive amount of data about which sites are most frequently reported — the company received and processed over 4.3 million URL removal requests in the past 30 days alone, more than all of 2009 combined. Importantly, Google says the search tweaks will not remove sites from search results entirely, just rank them lower in listings."

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Ask Slashdot: Best On-Site Backup Plan?
Posted by News Fetcher on August 10 '12 at 12:45 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's giant-stack-of-floppy-disks department:
An anonymous reader writes "I know most people use backup services in the cloud now, off-site, but does anyone have good ideas on how to best protect data without it leaving the site? I'm a photographer and, I shoot 32GB to 64GB in a couple of hours. I've accumulated about 8TB of images over the past decade and just can't imagine paying to host them somewhere off-site. I don't make enough money as it is. Currently I just redundantly back them up to hard drives in different rooms of my house, but that's a total crapshoot — if there's a fire, I'd be out of luck. Does anyone keep a hard disk or NAS inside a fireproof safe? In a bunker in the cellar? In the detached garage? It's so much data that even doing routine backups bogs the system down for days. I'd love suggestions, especially from gamers or videographers who have TBs of data they need to back up, on what options there are with a limited budget to maximize protection."

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PlayStation Boss Defends Vita, Slams Social Gaming
Posted by News Fetcher on August 10 '12 at 12:30 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's one-for-two-ain't-bad department:
donniebaseball23 writes "Sony Computer Entertainment America boss Jack Tretton has come out swinging to defend the lackluster response the games industry has seen with the PS Vita. He deemed the sales level for the portable as 'acceptable' so far, and he brushed off any notion that social and free-to-play games are putting huge pressure on the portable and dedicated consoles market. 'I think the opportunity to be in the console business is greater than ever before,' he told GamesIndustry International. '[Social and free-to-play] is a business I think a lot of companies are learning is difficult to sustain for the long term. It's an adjunct or it's an add-on, but it's not where gaming is headed. It's an additive diversion. There's a place for social and freemium, but it's not going to replace the business models that are out there.'"
The company is having a hard time getting third-party developers interested in the Vita platform.

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Meet DARPA's New Militarized Earthworm
Posted by News Fetcher on August 10 '12 at 12:15 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's that-sure-is-something department:
derekmead writes "Meshworm is a toughened, robotic earthworm that can crawl virtually silently at a speed of about 5 millimeters per second. DARPA wants to send it into battle. Believe it or not, the Pentagon's been working on building a robotic earthworm for a while. They tried putting one together with gears. They tried with air-powered and pneumatic pumps, but the results were bulky and untenable. Then, researchers at Harvard, MIT and Seoul National University in Korea put their heads together and designed an 'artificial muscle.' It's essentially a polymer mesh that's wrapped with nickel and titanium wire designed to stretch and contract with heat. When an electric current is applied, the mesh mimics the circular muscle system of an earthworm to scoot forward."

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Google Granted Cloud OS Patent
Posted by News Fetcher on August 10 '12 at 11:30 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's i-invented-the-raindrop department:
An anonymous reader writes "This week, Google was given approval of a network OS patent that it applied for back in 2009. The design of the OS is built for 'providing an operating system over a network to a local device' to provision new versions of operating systems onto hardware devices. Filed in March 2009, the idea for Chrome OS was protected by Google early in the development process of the OS, but it was hardly new and unique, given the general description of its features in the patent itself. It is the best sign yet that Google is working toward seamless hardware and software experiences."

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IBM Reportedly Eyeing RIM's Enterprise Services Unit
Posted by News Fetcher on August 10 '12 at 11:00 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's best-enjoyed-before-the-expiration-date department:
PolygamousRanchKid sends this excerpt from ZDNet:
"Research In Motion's enterprise services unit have attracted the interest of IBM, which has made an 'informal approach' on potentially acquiring the division. The division operates a network of secure servers used to support its BlackBerry devices, a source who declined to be named told Bloomberg in a Friday report. However, no party has yet shown interest in buying all of RIM or the division which manufactures its BlackBerry phones, but the Canadian company will wait for the rollout of BlackBerry 10 phones next year before making any decisions on a sale, the person said. During its fourth quarter earnings call in March this year, RIM CEO Thorsten Heins said it plans to refocus on the enterprise business and capitalize on its position in the segment."

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Training Cops To Use Social Media Information
Posted by News Fetcher on August 10 '12 at 10:45 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's hashtag-protect-and-serve department:
jfruh writes "Cynthia Navarro starts her sessions training police to mine social media in dramatic fashion: by quickly finding data about the officers themselves. She also provides information about who's where online — for instance, younger suspects will probably be focused on Twitter, while older folks are on Facebook or even MySpace. 'How much information can be gathered? Look no further than the 2011 Stanley Cup Riots in Vancouver, BC. By examining hours of video and social media posts made during the event, a taskforce was able to post pictures of over 100 suspected rioters online — over 30 of which were identified by police.' It's all part of a drive to teach even nontechnical police officers at small and midsized departments how to use social media to track suspects."

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Former Goldman Sachs Programmer Arrested and Charged Again For Code Theft
Posted by News Fetcher on August 10 '12 at 09:45 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's round-two-starts-now department:
hypnosec writes with news that Sergey Aleynikov, once a programmer for Goldman Sachs, has been arrested and charged again for stealing code from his employer in 2009. Aleynikov was originally charged for the crime in 2009. He was convicted in 2010 and sentenced to 97 months in prison, but an appeals court overturned the verdict, saying the corporate espionage laws were misapplied. Manhattan District Attorney Cryus Vance said, "This code is so highly confidential that it is known in the industry as the firm's 'secret sauce.' Employees who exploit their access to sensitive information should expect to face criminal prosecution in New York State in appropriate cases." The Fifth Amendment's "double jeopardy" clause is unlikely to stop this case because it's within a different jurisdiction — the earlier trial was in federal court, and this one is in New York State court.

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CowboyNeal Weighs In On the Windows 8 "Metro" GUI
Posted by News Fetcher on August 10 '12 at 09:15 AM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's we-fear-change department:
With the availability
of RTM builds of Windows 8
this past week, it's become clear that
at least for the initial release, they won't be providing a way to disable the
controversial new "Windows 8 style UI," formerly
known as "Metro."
While I think this issue is a long way from being
fully resolved one way or the other, it will be something that will hound both
the release and adoption of Windows 8. Read on for my thoughts.

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Nokia Feeds a Patent Troll
Posted by News Fetcher on August 10 '12 at 08:30 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's om-nom-nom department:
New submitter glebovitz writes "In case anyone missed the other Nokia news: on the same day they announced the sale of Qt to Digia, they also sold 500 patents to Vringo. Vringo, a video ring tone company, recently merged with patent portfolio company Innovate/Protect which includes Donald Stout, the founder of patent holding company NTP, on its board. Forbes refers to NTP as 'a patent troll which milked Research In Motion for $612.5 million in a patent infringement settlement reached in 2006.' As Eric Savitz writes in the article, 'Vringo decided to basically turn itself into a patent troll.'"

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How Pictures Skew Our Judgment
Posted by News Fetcher on August 10 '12 at 07:45 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's it's-true-i-saw-it-on-tv department:
An article at Ars summarizes a study into how simply seeing pictures can alter what we believe, even if the pictures don't provide any information about the topic at hand (abstract). Researchers asked true-or-false questions to a group of test subjects about whether a minor celebrity was still alive. When they provided a picture of the celebrity, more people evaluated the statement as 'true' than when no picture was provided. The researchers then switched the question, asking whether it was true or false that the celebrity was dead. Again, the subjects shown a picture were more likely to respond with 'true.' Experiments also showed this phenomenon wasn't limited to questions about people, but general knowledge as well.
"The authors spend a bit of time discussing why this sort of truth bias might arise. In cases where we have rich information—a photo or detailed description of something—it's easier to pull additional information out of our memory. So, even if a photo doesn't tell us much about whether the person is alive, it does make it easier to retrieve relevant information on them—if they're wearing a suit in the photo, we might reason they're a political or financial figure, etc. When the information flows that readily, we're more likely to conclude that we're familiar with the question that's being posed, and will then tend to conclude it's true."

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Poll Finds Americans Think the TSA Is 'Doing a Good Job'
Posted by News Fetcher on August 10 '12 at 07:00 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's also-think-whoppers-are-healthy department:
OverTheGeicoE writes "Why is it that airport security never seems to change in the United States? Perhaps it's because most Americans think the TSA is doing a 'good job,' according to a surprise Gallup poll, allegedly commissioned by no one but the kind editors at Gallup. The poll found that 54% of Americans believe the TSA is doing a good or excellent job, and that 57% have a good or excellent opinion of the agency. So why all the criticism? According to the article, criticism of the TSA comes primarily from 'Internet sites, where reporting standards are generally not at the same level as newspapers, where reporters are taught to consider what is told to them with skepticism and to seek responses to charges.' Furthermore, 'the TSA is put into a difficult situation when such charges are posted with little or no fact checking by reporters.' Other sources, of course, have different interpretations of Gallup's results, including questions about whether the poll was biased. If Americans secretly do love the TSA, that could explain why the recent whitehouse.gov petition failed to gather enough signatures for a 'response.' In fact, you'll find so little information about the petition remains on whitehouse.gov that you'll wonder if my link is correct. And these are not the droids you're looking for. Move along."

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Vaporizing the Earth In the Name of Science
Posted by News Fetcher on August 10 '12 at 06:30 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's what-better-reason department:
cylonlover writes "Unlike in old B movies, real scientists don't scream, 'Fools! I'll destroy them all!' before throwing the switch on their doomsday device. At least, most of the them don't. However, the August 10 issue of the Astrophysical Journal reports that a team of scientists are working on destroying the world – not once, but repeatedly (abstract). Fortunately, the world they're vaporizing exists only in a computer simulation and its destruction is in the service of learning more about planets revolving around other stars."

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Software Engineering Has Its Own Political Axis From Conservative To Liberal
Posted by News Fetcher on August 10 '12 at 05:45 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's another-thing-for-pudge-and-jamie-to-argue-about department:
An anonymous reader writes "Steve Yegge is back at it again. This essay is on the notion that software engineers range from conservative to liberal in their notion of software and how it should be built. He says, 'Just as in real-world politics, software conservatism and liberalism are radically different world views. Make no mistake: they are at odds. They have opposing value systems, priorities, core beliefs and motivations. These value systems clash at design time, at implementation time, at diagnostic time, at recovery time. They get along like green eggs and ham. I think it is important for us to recognize and understand the conservative/liberal distinction in our industry. It probably won't help us agree on anything, pretty much by definition. Any particular issue only makes it onto the political axis if there is a fundamental, irreconcilable difference of opinion about it. Programmers probably won't — or maybe even can't — change their core value systems. But the political-axis framework gives us a familiar set of ideas and terms for identifying areas of fundamental disagreement. This can lead to faster problem resolution.'"

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Wall Street and the Mismanagement of Software
Posted by News Fetcher on August 10 '12 at 05:00 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's of-barn-doors-and-horses department:
CowboyRobot writes "Last week, a bug in high-frequency trading software from Knight Capital Group resulted in erroneous trades costing almost a half-billion dollars. So, what went wrong and how can they, or any other software developer, prevent something similar from happening again? In hindsight, it's clear that the developers did not verify the code under enough conditions. But the real issue is how these high-frequency trades work in the first place. Robert Dewar at Dr. Dobb's suggests the financial industry needs to take a page from the avionics rulebook, which has very strict guidelines about what code can be implemented due to the high cost of failure in that field. 'High-frequency automated trading is not avionics flight control, but the aviation industry has demonstrated that safe, reliable real-time software is possible, practical, and necessary. It requires appropriate development technology and processes as well as a culture that thinks in terms of safety (or reliability) first. That is the real lesson to be learned from last week's incident. It doesn't come for free, but it certainly costs less than $440M.'"

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'Smart Fingertips' Pave Way For Virtual Sensations
Posted by News Fetcher on August 10 '12 at 04:15 AM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's let-your-fingers-do-the-virtual-walking department:
sciencehabit writes "Imagine feeling like you're lifting a 50-kilogram weight just by pulling at thin air. That's just one of the possible applications of new 'smart fingertips' created by a team of nanoengineers. The electronic fingers mold to the shape of the hand, and so far the researchers have shown that they can transmit electric signals to the skin. The team hopes to one day incorporate the devices into a smart glove that creates virtual sensations, fooling the brain into feeling everything from texture to temperature."

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Ask Slashdot: Simple Way To Backup 24TB of Data Onto USB HDDs ?
Posted by News Fetcher on August 10 '12 at 01:45 AM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's save-often department:
An anonymous reader writes "Hi there ! I'm looking for a simple solution to backup a big data set consisting of files between 3MB and 20GB, for a total of 24TB, onto multiple hard drives (usb, firewire, whatever) I am aware of many backup tools which split the backup onto multiple DVDs with the infamous 'insert disc N and press continue', but I haven't come across one that can do it with external hard drives (insert next USB device...). OS not relevant, but Linux (console) or MacOS (GUI) preferred... Did I miss something or is there no such thing already done, and am I doomed to code it myself ?"

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Upgrading Software From 350 Million Miles Away
Posted by News Fetcher on August 09 '12 at 11:30 PM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's distant-support department:
CWmike writes "Picture doing a remote software upgrade. Now picture doing it when the machine you're upgrading is a robotic rover sitting 350 million miles away, on the surface of Mars. That's what a team of programmers and engineers at NASA are dealing with as they get ready to download a new version of the flight software on the Mars rover Curiosity, which landed safely on the Red Planet earlier this week. 'We need to take a whole series of steps to make that software active. You have to imagine that if something goes wrong with this, it could be the last time you hear from the rover,' said Steve Scandore, a senior flight software engineer at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory. 'It has to work,' he told Computerworld. 'You don't' want to be known as the guy doing the last activity on the rover before you lose contact.'"

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Scrum/Agile Now Used To Manage Non-Tech Projects
Posted by News Fetcher on August 09 '12 at 10:15 PM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's best-practices department:
jfruh writes "Agile and, in particular, Scrum, have been popular project management methods for software development for more than a decade, and now its use is spreading well beyond software. For example, NPR is using Agile for faster, cheaper development of new radio programs. 'I was looking for some inspiration and found it one floor up inside our building (where Digital Media sits),' says NPR vice president of programming Eric Nuzum. NPR has used this 'Agile-inspired' approach to create several new programs, including TED Radio Hour, Ask Me Another, and Cabinet of Wonders."

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