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Ask Slashdot: Best Way To Jump Back Into Programming?
Posted by News Fetcher on August 05 '12 at 11:15 PM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's both-feet department:
First time accepted submitter FractalFear writes "15 years ago I was programming in BASIC, and doing some C++, after a serious car accident barely making it out alive, my memory went to crud. I have no recolection of how to do anything in either of those languages any more. I've suffered some damage, and my memory isn't all that great. However if I do repetitive work it sticks to me. I've been in IT for 17 years as desktop support, and I fear I won't ever get much further in life due to my handicap. I am hard working and dedicated, I have been reading slashdot regularly for many years now, and I have faith in the Slashdot community advice. I recently bought Head First C#: 2nd Edition(A friend of mine that programs for a living suggested C# as an easier alternative to C++) the first 4 chapters were great, but after that everything just didn't make any sense. My question(s) to you guys is: What was the best way for you to get back into programming? School? Self taught? And what would be the best language for someone like me to get into? My goal is to make games as a hobby for now, but would like to enter into the market of XBOX Arcade, Steam, mobile etc, particularly 2D TBSRPG games like Shining Force. If you prefer self taught what are some really good books you suggest?"

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Curiosity About To Arrive At Mars
Posted by News Fetcher on August 05 '12 at 09:00 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's good-luck department:
The Mars Science Laboratory, a.k.a. Curiosity, is now less than an hour from touchdown on Mars. It's scheduled to land at 1:31 AM EST (0531 UTC). The landing will be monitored by the Odyssey orbiter, which will be the data relay between Curiosity and Earth. The Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter will be listening to Curiosity as well (yes — two of our probes orbiting another world will be watching a third). While Odyssey will be giving us close to real-time updates (as close as possible, given the 14-minute time delay), MRO's data will take a bit longer to be processed and evaluated. NASA is broadcasting from the JPL mission room right now. If you'd like to watch a pretty awesome graphical visualization of the mission, check out eyes.nasa.gov. If you'd like to play around with a Java app showing Mars-local times and seasons, check out Mars24. If you'd like to watch unofficial coverage, Bad Astronomer Phil Plait and a bunch of other astronomers are hosting a public Google Hangout. If you'd like to read a detailed explanation of the landing, checkout NASA's press kit (PDF), and there's also a post about what to expect when the rover starts sending pictures back to Earth, which will be about two hours after the rover lands. Good luck to everyone involved! We'll update this post when we get word on the landing.

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Is Your Neighbor a Democrat? There's an App For That
Posted by News Fetcher on August 05 '12 at 07:00 PM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's how-blue-is-my-neighborhood department:
theodp writes "ProPublica's Lois Beckett reports that the Obama for America campaign's new mobile app is raising privacy concerns with its Google map that recognizes one's current location, marks nearby Democratic households with small blue flags, and displays the first name, age and gender of the voter or voters who live there (e.g.,'Lori C., 58 F, Democrat'). Asked about the privacy aspects of the new app, a spokesperson for the Obama campaign wrote that 'anyone familiar with the political process in America knows this information about registered voters is available and easily accessible to the public.' Harvard law prof Jonathan Zittrain said the Obama app does represent a significant shift. While voter data has been 'technically public,' it is usually accessed only by political campaigns and companies that sell consumer data. 'Much of our feelings around privacy are driven by what you might call status-quo-ism,' Zittrain added, 'so many people may feel that the app is creepy simply because it represents something new.'"

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Apple Is Giving Away Its Secrets By Litigating
Posted by News Fetcher on August 05 '12 at 04:15 PM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's letting-the-icat-out-of-the-bag department:
An anonymous reader writes "Apple, by going to a jury trial to defend the patents of its most prized products, is allowing competitors and the public to see inside one of the most secretive companies in the world. From the article: 'While in court on Friday, Philip W. Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president for worldwide product marketing, pulled the curtain further back when he divulged the company’s advertising budgets — often more than $100 million a year for the iPhone alone. Also at the hearing, Scott Forstall, senior vice president for iPhone software, explained that the early iPhone was called “Project Purple.” Mr. Forstall said it was built in a highly secure building on Apple’s campus. A sign on the back of the building read “Fight Club.” Behind the security cameras and locked doors, most employees on the project did not even know what they were working on.'"

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MSL Landing Timeline: What To Expect Tonight
Posted by News Fetcher on August 05 '12 at 03:15 PM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's break-it-down department:
An anonymous reader writes "When the Curiosity rover lands on Mars later tonight, it'll be executing a complex series of maneuvers. JPL will be relying on the Mars Odyssey orbiter to relay telemetry back to Earth in time-delayed real-time, and if all goes well, we'll be getting confirmation on the success (or failure) of each entry, descent, and landing phase, outlined in detail here."

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Former Facebook Employee Questions the Social Media Life
Posted by News Fetcher on August 05 '12 at 02:00 PM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's none-of-us-are-as-lame-as-all-of-us department:
stevegee58 writes "The Washington Post published an interesting article about Facebook's employee #51, Katherine Losse. As an English major from Johns Hopkins, Losse wasn't the typical Facebook employee. But after starting in customer service, she later became Mark Zuckerberg's personal ghostwriter, penning blog posts in his name. The article traces Losse's growing disillusionment with social networking in general and Facebook in particular. After cashing out some FB stock, Losse resigned and moved to a rural West Texas town to get away from technology and focus on writing."

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The Chinese Telecom That Spooks the World
Posted by News Fetcher on August 05 '12 at 01:00 PM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's trust-us department:
wrekkuh writes "The Economist has printed an interesting look at the concerns and speculations of the fast-growing Chinese telecom giant Huawei, and it's spread into western markets. Of particular concern is Huawei's state funding, and the company's founder, Ren Zhengfei, who once served as an engineer in the People's Liberation Army (PLA). However, another article from The Economist goes into greater detail about the steps Huawei has taken to mitigate some of these concerns in England — including co-operating with the GCHQ in Britain, the UK's signals-intelligence agency, to ensure equipment built by Huawei is not back-doored."

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Apple Support Allowed Hackers Access To User's iCloud Account
Posted by News Fetcher on August 05 '12 at 11:45 AM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's let-me-in department:
Robadob writes "Yesterday a hacker gained access to Mat Honans (An editor at gizmodo) apple iCloud account allowing him to reset his iPhone, iPad and Macbook. He was also able to gain access to google and twitter accounts by sending password recovery emails. At the time this was believed to be down to a brute force attack, however today it has come out that the hacker used social engineering to convince apple customer support to allow him to bypass the security questions on the account."

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DARPA Creates 0.85 THz Solid State Receiver
Posted by News Fetcher on August 05 '12 at 10:45 AM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's from-the-lab department:
hypnosec writes "DARPA, under its THz Electronics program, has designed a solid state receiver capable of THz (terahertz) frequencies thus inching towards the possibilities of transistor-based electronics that will operate at THz frequencies. The newly designed solid state receiver demonstrates a gain of 0.85 THz. This particular milestone is a stepping stone for the next target of 1.03 THz. Because of this achievement a host of DoD electronics capabilities can now be realized. One such application where this can be of use is for a sensor that will operate through clouds under a DARPA program, dubbed, VISAR."

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Meat the Food of the Future
Posted by News Fetcher on August 05 '12 at 09:30 AM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's clean-your-plate department:
Hugh Pickens writes writes "BBC reports that rising food prices, the growing population, and environmental concerns are just a few issues that have food futurologists thinking about what we will eat in the future and how we will eat it. In the UK, meat prices are anticipated to have a huge impact on our diets as some in the food industry prognosticate meat prices could double in the next five to seven years, making meat a luxury item. 'In the West many of us have grown up with cheap, abundant meat,' says Morgaine Gaye. 'Rising prices mean we are now starting to see the return of meat as a luxury. As a result we are looking for new ways to fill the meat gap.' Insects will become a staple of our diet. They cost less to raise than cattle, consume less water and do not have much of a carbon footprint. Plus, there are an estimated 1,400 species that are edible to man. 'Things like crickets and grasshoppers will be ground down and used as an ingredient in things like burgers.' But insects will need an image overhaul if they are to become more palatable to the squeamish Europeans and North Americans, says Gaye. 'They will become popular when we get away from the word insects and use something like mini-livestock (PDF).' Another alternative would be lab grown meat as a recent study by Oxford University found growing meat in a lab rather than slaughtering animals would significantly reduce greenhouse gases, energy consumption and water use. Prof Mark Post, who led the Dutch team of scientists at Maastricht University that grew strips of muscle tissue using stem cells taken from cows, says he wants to make lab meat "indistinguishable" from the real stuff, but it could potentially look very different. Finally algae could provide a solution to some the world's most complex problems, including food shortages as some in the sustainable food industry predict algae farming could become the world's biggest cropping industry. Like insects, algae could be worked into our diet without us really knowing by using seaweed granules to replace salt in bread and processed foods. 'The great thing about seaweed is it grows at a phenomenal rate,' says Dr Craig Rose, executive director of the Seaweed Health Foundation. 't's the fastest growing plant on earth.'"

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The Chaos Within Sudoku - a Richter Scale of Difficulty
Posted by News Fetcher on August 05 '12 at 08:00 AM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's give-it-a-number department:
mikejuk writes "A pair of computer scientists from the Babes-Bolyai University (Romania) and the University of Notre Dame (USA) have made some remarkable connections between Sudoku, the classic k-SAT problem, and the even more classic non-linear continuous dynamics.
But before we go into the detail let's look at what this means for Sudoku enthusiasts. Maria Ercsey-Ravasz and Zoltan Toroczkai have devised a scale that provides an accurate determination of a Sudoku puzzle's hardness. So when you encounter a puzzle labelled hard and you find it easy all you need to do is to compute its , a co-efficient that measures the hardness of the problem.
An easy puzzle should fall in the range 0 3 with the hardest puzzle, the notorious Platinum Blond being top of the scale with = 3.6. We will have to wait to see if newspapers and websites start to use this measure of difficulty.
The difficulty is measured by the time it takes the classical dynamics corresponding to the problem to settle in the ground state and this depends on the degree of chaos in the search for a solution.(pdf)"


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Bedrock Linux Combines Benefits of Other Linux Distros
Posted by News Fetcher on August 05 '12 at 07:00 AM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's best-of-all-worlds department:
First time accepted submitter Paradigm_Complex writes "From the distro's front page: 'Bedrock Linux is a Linux distribution created with the aim of making most of the (often seemingly mutually-exclusive) benefits of various other Linux distributions available simultaneously and transparently. If one would like a rock-solid stable base (for example, from Debian or a RHEL clone) yet still have easy access to cutting-edge packages (from, say, Arch Linux), automate compiling packages with Gentoo's portage, and ensure that software aimed only for the ever popular Ubuntu will run smoothly — all at the same time, in the same distribution — Bedrock Linux will provide a means to achieve this.' The timing of this release is particularly nice for those who were excited to hear that Valve was bringing Steam to Linux, but were disappointed that it was targeting Ubuntu as Ubuntu was not their distro of choice. If it works on Ubuntu, it should work fine on Bedrock Linux, while still ensuring the majority of the system feel very, very similar to Fedora or Slackware or whatever you prefer."

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Lies, Damned Lies, and Quantum Statistics
Posted by News Fetcher on August 05 '12 at 05:45 AM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's do-the-math department:
quax writes "Getting a scientific paper published that goes against the grain of conventional wisdom was never easy. Especially when it seems to contain an obvious glaring mistake. Fortunately despite already being some kind of pop celebrity with no shortage of fan mail, Einstein still opened letters he received from strangers. And this is how a trivial, fateful counting mistake was able to change the course of physics forever."

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Why Internet Pirates Always Win
Posted by News Fetcher on August 05 '12 at 04:30 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's they-make-their-enemies-walk-the-plank department:
An anonymous reader writes "Nick Bilton writes in the NY Times about how the fight against online piracy is 'like playing the world's largest game of Whac-A-Mole.' While this will come as no surprise to Slashdot readers, it's interesting to see how mainstream sources are starting to realize how pointless and ineffective the war on piracy actually is. Bilton writes, 'The copyright holders believe new laws will stop this type of piracy. But many others believe any laws will just push people to find creative new ways of getting the content they want. "There's a clearly established relationship between the legal availability of material online and copyright infringement; it's an inverse relationship," said Holmes Wilson, co-director of Fight for the Future, a nonprofit technology organization that is trying to stop new piracy laws from disrupting the Internet. "The most downloaded television shows on the Pirate Bay are the ones that are not legally available online." The hit HBO show Game of Thrones is a quintessential example of this. The show is sometimes downloaded illegally more times each week than it is watched on cable television. But even if HBO put the shows online, the price it could charge would still pale in comparison to the money it makes through cable operators. Mr. Wilson believes that the big media companies don't really want to solve the piracy problem.'"

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Shadowrun Comes To Linux, MMO Planned
Posted by News Fetcher on August 05 '12 at 02:45 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's two-for-the-price-of-two department:
New submitter junkrig writes "After a highly successful Kickstarter campaign, Jordan Weisman, creator of Shadowrun, has returned to bring the series back to the screen as Shadowrun Returns; an old-school, turn-based tactical RPG. Their successful initial fundraising (over $1.8 million) allowed them to commit to developing a native Linux version of the game. A second team, working closely with Weisman, now hopes to bring a similar, turn-based Shadowrun game to life: Shadowrun Online. To be built with the Unity 4 engine, Shadowrun Online will be massively multiplayer and have native Linux support from the start — assuming, of course, they manage to fund their project. Both games are expected for release in 2013."

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How To Deal With 200k Lines of Spaghetti Code
Posted by News Fetcher on August 05 '12 at 01:30 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's make-sure-it's-al-dente department:
An anonymous reader writes "An article at Ars recaps a discussion from Stack Overflow about a software engineer who had the misfortune to inherit 200k lines of 'spaghetti code' cobbled together over the course of 10-20 years. A lengthy and detailed response walks through how best to proceed at development triage in the face of limited time and developer-power. From the article: 'Rigidity is (often) good. This is a controversial opinion, as rigidity is often seen as a force working against you. It's true for some phases of some projects. But once you see it as a structural support, a framework that takes away the guesswork, it greatly reduces the amount of wasted time and effort. Make it work for you, not against you. Rigidity = Process / Procedure. Software development needs good processes and procedures for exactly the same reasons that chemical plants or factories have manuals, procedures, drills, and emergency guidelines: preventing bad outcomes, increasing predictability, maximizing productivity... Rigidity comes in moderation, though!'"

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Ask Slashdot: Should Valve Start Their Own Steam Linux Distro?
Posted by News Fetcher on August 04 '12 at 10:30 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's bet-they-would-go-with-a-hat-name department:
Duggeek writes "There's been a lot of discussion lately about Valve, Steam and the uncertain future of the Windows platform for gaming. While the effect of these events is unmistakably huge, it raises an interesting question: Would Valve consider putting out its own Linux distro? One advantage of such a dedicated distro would be tighter control over kernel drivers, storage, init processes and managing display(s), but would it be worth all the upstream bickering? Would it be better to start anew, or ride on a mature foundation like Fedora or Debian? Might that be a better option than addressing the myriad differences of today's increasingly fracturing distro-scape?"

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Damn Small Linux Rises From the Dead With a 4.11 RC1 Release
Posted by News Fetcher on August 04 '12 at 09:15 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's sweet-zombie-tux department:
An anonymous reader writes "Damn Small Linux is back from the dead, with a version 4.11 RC1 release announcement at Distrowatch and another at the DSL Forums! Quoting: 'Here is the first release candidate for Damn Small Linux (DSL) 4.11. The changes in this release are a step toward making DSL a friendly alternative for older hardware. I've fixed some bugs, updated some applications, and replaced others. Applications: updated JWM to 2.1.0 (now supports rounding); updated Dillo to 3.0.2 (much improves CSS support); added XChat 1.8.9; added sic 1.1 IRC client; added XCalc-color. Modified desktop functionality: it is now possible to switch between JWM and Fluxbox without shutting down X; added menu items to switch between DFM and xtdesk icon engines or use none at all." Here's the download page."

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Neutrino-Powered Financial Trading In Our Future?
Posted by News Fetcher on August 04 '12 at 07:30 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's a-particle-accelerator-for-every-hedge-fund department:
An anonymous reader writes "In a new feature on the future of high-frequency trading, Wired suggests that neutrino-powered financial trading systems may be coming soon, which would enable extremely low-latency information to be transmitted directly through the center of the Earth between major financial exchanges. If finance becomes the killer app for neutrino communication technology, it may ultimately make Neutrino SETI feasible. Quoting: 'It is only a matter of time, perhaps a few decades, says Alexander Wissner-Gross, a Harvard physicist, before some hedge fund decides it needs a particle accelerator to generate neutrinos, and then everyone will want one. Yes, they travel slower than light, but they indisputably can tunnel through the earth, cutting thousands of miles off an intercontinental message. And just a few days before the Battle of the Quants, right before the bad news about faster-than-light neutrinos, researchers announced they had sent a message by neutrino from the Fermilab accelerator in Chicago to a detector a kilometer away. According to Dan Stancil of North Carolina State University, the signal traveled at "very close to" the speed of light. Unfortunately, the data rate was only about 0.1 bits per second, meaning it would be useless for much more than sending a yes/no signal. "With the right modulation scheme, this could be increased by at least one or two orders of magnitude," Stancil said, adding "I don’t know of a compelling commercial application." But we’ve all heard the (apocryphal) story that Thomas J. Watson of IBM predicted "a world market for maybe five computers."'"

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University Receives $5 Million Grant To Study Immortality
Posted by News Fetcher on August 04 '12 at 04:45 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's paging-connor-macleod department:
Hugh Pickens writes "Humans have pondered their mortality for millennia. Now the University of California at Riversdie reports that it has received a $5 million grant from the John Templeton Foundation that will fund research on aspects of immortality, including near-death experiences and the impact of belief in an afterlife on human behavior. 'People have been thinking about immortality throughout history. We have a deep human need to figure out what happens to us after death,' says John Martin Fischer, the principal investigator of The Immortality Project. 'No one has taken a comprehensive and sustained look at immortality that brings together the science, theology and philosophy.' Fischer says he going to investigate two different kinds of immortality. One is the possibility of living forever without dying. The main questions there are whether it's technologically plausible or feasible for us, either by biological enhancement such as those described by Ray Kurzweil, or by some combination of biological enhancement and uploading our minds onto computers in the future. Second would be to investigate the full range of questions about Judeo, Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, and other Asian religions' conceptions of the afterlife to see if they're theologically and philosophically consistent. 'We'll look at near death experiences both in western cultures and throughout the world and really look at what they're all about and ask the question — do they indicate something about an afterlife or are they kind of just illusions that we're hardwired into?'"

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