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Sixteen Years Later: GNU Still Needs An Extension Language
Posted by News Fetcher on August 31 '11 at 07:30 AM
By Unknown Lamer from Slashdot's one-of-us-one-of-us department:
Fresh from the 2011 GNU Hackers Meeting, Andy Wingo has written a long piece on the status of Guile Scheme, the woefully underutilized official user extension language of GNU. Wingo argues that Guile is the best choice for extension in GNU given the ability of Scheme to adapt to change over time. Presented with using e.g. Javascript instead of Scheme for its popularity: 'We should also consider the costs of using hastily designed languages. JavaScript has some crazy bad stuff, like with, var hoisting, a poor numeric model, dynamic this scoping, lack of modularity regarding binding lookup ... Finally, we have the lifespan issue. If GNU had chosen Tcl because it was popular, we would have a mass of dead code' (it should be noted that Guile does partially support Javascript syntax). With the proliferation of Firefox extensions, Greasemonkey, etc. it is clear there is a large set of power users who want to modify the programs they use without spending years becoming skilled programmers. Perhaps after Emacs has been ported to Guile the philosophy of user extensibility will spread to other parts of the GNU system.

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Panda Poo Yields Key To Cheaper Biofuels
Posted by News Fetcher on August 31 '11 at 07:15 AM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's fuel-panda-makes-fuel department:
An anonymous reader writes "A new study unveiled at the American Chemical Society points to panda poop as a source of remarkably efficient enzyme-producing bacteria that are able to break down plant materials for cheaper and more efficient biofuel production. Inspired by the giant panda's voracious appetite for bamboo, scientists began to study the fecal matter of giant pandas at the Memphis Zoo. A year of samples indicated that the pandas have a unique ability to convert lignocellulose from plant matter into energy. In fact, gut bacteria of a giant panda can convert 95 percent of the plant's biomass into simple sugars."

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Large Improvement in Graphene Photosensitivity Realized
Posted by News Fetcher on August 31 '11 at 06:45 AM
By Unknown Lamer from Slashdot's we-demand-more-bits department:
alphadogg sends in a writeup in NetworkWorld about promising new research with graphene. From the article: "Two Nobel Prize winning scientists out of the U.K. have come up with a new way to use graphene – the thinnest material in the world – that could make Internet pipes feel a lot fatter. University of Manchester professors Andre Geim and Kostya Novoselov ... write in the journal Nature Communications of a method of combining the carbon-based material with metallic nanostructures to use as photodetectors that could greatly increase the amount of light optical communications devices could handle. This advance in graphene light harvesting and conversion into electrical power could lead to communications rates tens or even hundreds of times faster than today's, the researchers say."

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Localizing Language In the Brain
Posted by News Fetcher on August 31 '11 at 06:00 AM
By Unknown Lamer from Slashdot's look-at-my-big-language-center-babe department:
RogerRoast writes "A new study by MIT scientists pinpoints areas of the brain used exclusively for language (PDF), providing a partial answer to a longstanding debate in cognitive science. According to the study, there are parts of our brain dedicated to language and only language. After having their subjects perform the initial language task, which they call a 'functional localizer,' they had each one do a subset of seven other experiments: one on exact arithmetic, two on working memory, three on cognitive control, and one on music; since these are the functions 'most commonly argued to share neural machinery with language.' The authors say the results don't imply that every cognitive function has its own dedicated piece of cortex; after all, we're able to learn new skills, so there must be some parts of the brain that are both high-level and functionally flexible."

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Wikileaks Reveals BitTorrent Lawsuit Background
Posted by News Fetcher on August 31 '11 at 05:16 AM
By Unknown Lamer from Slashdot's one-copyright-regime-to-rule-them-all department:
daria42 writes "A US diplomatic cable published by Wikileaks has revealed much of the previously hidden background behind the BitTorrent court case currently playing out in Australia's High Court, including the Motion Picture Association of America's prime mover role and US Embassy fears the trial could become portrayed as 'giant American bullies versus little Aussie battlers.'' Oops. Looks like there's a little bit of egg on the movie studios' faces!"

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Measles Resurgent Due To Fear of Vaccination
Posted by News Fetcher on August 31 '11 at 04:30 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's don't-take-medical-advice-from-nude-models department:
florescent_beige writes "In the September Mayo Clinic Proceedings, Gregory Poland, M.D. writes that 'More than 150 cases of measles have been reported in the United States already this year and there have been similar outbreaks in Europe, a sign the disease is making an alarming comeback (abstract). The reappearance of the potentially deadly virus is the result of unfounded fears about a link between the measles shot and autism that have turned some parents against childhood vaccination.'"
This follows the recent release of a massive review of studies into the side effects of vaccination, summarized here by Nature, which did not find convincing support for the idea that MMR shots caused autism.

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Swarmanoid 'Bots Rule Air, Land, Bookshelves
Posted by News Fetcher on August 31 '11 at 01:45 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's just-don't-tell-them-where-the-guns-are department:
An anonymous reader writes "The notion of distributed processing isn't new, and its application to robotics leads naturally to the idea of a swarm of robots. However, most swarm-oriented robots are composed of many identical robots (such as The Kilobots). In this case, there are three types of robots: a 'hand-bot,' which can climb bookcases and grab objects with hands; a 'foot-bot,' which can drive around and carry the hand-bot; and an 'eye-bot,' which flies around and perches on the ceiling to provide a perspective to the other bots."
Another reader points out an unrelated but also-impressive video of Kinect being used to develop a user-friendly robot assistant.

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Juno Looks Back, Photographs Earth-Moon System
Posted by News Fetcher on August 30 '11 at 11:45 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's we-tread-upon-specks department:
astroengine writes "Looking back as it zooms through interplanetary space, less than a month into its 445-million mile, five-year journey to the gas giant Jupiter, NASA's spacecraft Juno captured a portrait of the Earth and moon. Juno was 6 million miles away at the time. 'This is a remarkable sight people get to see all too rarely,' said Scott Bolton, Juno principal investigator from the Southwest Research Institute in San Antonio. 'This view of our planet shows how Earth looks from the outside, illustrating a special perspective of our role and place in the universe. We see a humbling yet beautiful view of ourselves.'"

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The Crypto Project Revives Cypherpunk Ethic
Posted by News Fetcher on August 30 '11 at 10:45 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's blast-from-the-past department:
Trailrunner7 writes "When a small group of activists announced the debut of The Crypto Project earlier this year, for many, ahem, mature, security and privacy advocates it brought to mind memories of the original cypherpunk movement that began in the 1990s and that group's seminal efforts to encourage the use of strong cryptography and anonymity online, as well as its successes and failures. The two groups are not allied by anything other than ideology, but The Crypto Project's leaders are aiming to follow in the footsteps of the cypherpunks, build on their accomplishments and make security and privacy tools freely available to the masses. The group is working on a number of projects right now, including setting up an anonymous remailer, putting up a Convergence notary and setting up a Tahoe-LAFS grid. Threatpost has an interview with Sir Valiance, one of the leaders of the project, who talks about the need for better privacy and anonymity online and why the cypherpunks are still important today."

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Alloy Could Produce Hydrogen Fuel Using Sunlight
Posted by News Fetcher on August 30 '11 at 08:46 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's panacea-for-the-zeppelin-industry department:
intellitech writes "Using state-of-the-art theoretical computations, a University of Kentucky-University of Louisville team demonstrated that an alloy formed by a 2 percent substitution of antimony (Sb) in gallium nitride (GaN) has the right electrical properties to enable solar light energy to split water molecules into hydrogen and oxygen, a process known as photoelectrochemical (PEC) water splitting. When the alloy is immersed in water and exposed to sunlight, the chemical bond between the hydrogen and oxygen molecules in water is broken (abstract). Because pure hydrogen gas is not found in free abundance on Earth, it must be manufactured by unlocking it from other compounds. Thus, hydrogen is not considered an energy source, but rather an 'energy carrier.' Currently, it takes a large amount of electricity to generate hydrogen by water splitting. As a consequence, most of the hydrogen manufactured today is derived from non-renewable sources such as coal and natural gas. The team says the GaN-Sb alloy has the potential to convert solar energy into an economical, carbon-free source for hydrogen."

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Akamai Employee Tried To Sell Secrets To Israel
Posted by News Fetcher on August 30 '11 at 06:31 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's nobody-does-it-like-nedry department:
CWmike writes "A 43-year-old former Akamai employee has pleaded guilty to espionage charges after offering to hand over confidential information about the Web acceleration company to an agent posing as an Israeli consular official in Boston. Starting in September 2007, Elliot Doxer played an elaborate 18-month-long game of cloak-and-dagger with James Cromer, a man he thought was an Israeli intelligence officer. He handed over pages and pages of confidential data to Cromer, providing a list of Akamai's clients and contracts, information about the company's security practices, and even a list of 1,300 Akamai employees, including mobile numbers, departments and e-mail addresses. Doxer delivered the information to a dead drop box 62 times. His motivation: To help Israel and to get information on his son and estranged wife, who lived outside the U.S., prosecutors said in court filings. Doxer faces 15 years in prison on the charges."

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James Gosling Leaves Google
Posted by News Fetcher on August 30 '11 at 04:31 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's just-stopping-by department:
scottbomb writes "Well, that didn't take long: 'After only a few months at Google, Java founder James Gosling has left the search engine giant to go to a small startup company specializing in ocean-based robotics.' In a brief blog post about his new company, Gosling says, 'They have a growing fleet of autonomous vehicles that roves the ocean collecting data from a variety of onboard sensors and uploading it to the cloud. The robots have a pile of satellite uplink/GSM/WiMax communication gear and redundant GPS units. They have a bunch of deployments. For example, one is a set of robots patrolling the ocean around the Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico monitoring water chemistry. These craft harvest energy from the waves for propulsion and can stay at sea for a very long time. The longest that one craft has been out is 2.5(ish) years. They can cross oceans.... Slowly. They only move at 1-2 knots, which is a great speed for data collection.'"

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Making Fuel With Newspapers and Bacteria
Posted by News Fetcher on August 30 '11 at 03:46 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's finally-a-use-for-newspapers-in-the-internet-age department:
Debuting on the front page, Lifyre writes "Scientists at Tulane have found a natural bacteria (dubbed TU-103) that produces butanol. While butanol-producing bacteria aren't new, there are a few important points about this particular bacterium. It is the first natural bacteria that converts cellulose directly to butanol without the cellulose needing to be processed into sugar first, and it can do this in the presence of oxygen, which kills other butanol-producing bacteria. The simplification of the process could significantly decrease the production costs of butanol. This bacteria could allow virtually any plant product, such as newspaper or grass clippings, to be used to produce fuel for conventional vehicles."

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Pakistan Bans Encryption
Posted by News Fetcher on August 30 '11 at 03:01 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's for-undecipherable-reasons department:
An anonymous reader writes "After some rumors of this last month, Pakistan has now officially told all of the country's ISPs that they need to block all encrypted VPNs since content running over such services cannot be monitored by the government."

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Novell Wins Against SCO Again
Posted by News Fetcher on August 30 '11 at 02:16 PM
By Unknown Lamer from Slashdot's case-finally-closed department:
duh P3rf3ss3r writes "The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals has just affirmed the District Court ruling in SCO v Novell (PDF) in its entirety. The decision is quite a good read and lays out the reasons why the court has rejected, in toto, SCO's attempt to re-argue the case before the Court of Appeals. Is this the last gasp for SCO or will they try to appeal this to the Supreme Court? The betting lines open at 11..."

Realistically this is the end of the line for the case.

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A Look Back At the Career of Steve Jobs
Posted by News Fetcher on August 30 '11 at 01:31 PM
By Unknown Lamer from Slashdot's remember-when-he-wasn't-evil department:
Zothecula writes with a rather extensive piece in Gizmag about Steve Jobs's various business endeavors. From the article: "Revered by many, hated by some, but respected by most, the indisputable fact remains that Steve Jobs is the most successful business leader of his generation and quite possibly of all time. The numbers are impressive in themselves but the most remarkable aspect of his success is how it was achieved. Though he remains at Apple, the end of his tenure as CEO is the end of an era and an opportunity to try and grasp just exactly what it is he did and what lessons there are for all of us 'trying to make a dent in the universe.'"

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Publicly Shaming Laptop Thieves Catches Bystanders in the Crossfire
Posted by News Fetcher on August 30 '11 at 12:46 PM
By Unknown Lamer from Slashdot's proprietary-software-watches-you-sleep department:
nonprofiteer writes "Embarrassing thieves by exposing them using laptop recovery software makes for fun tech stories, but what about a case of a person being literally exposed after cops and a software company got their hands on naked photos she exchanged with her long-distance boyfriend, not realizing the machine was stolen? (She bought it for $60 so she should have known, but still). The case is going to trial in Ohio in September. The plaintiffs argue that the software company had the right to get the computer's location in order to recover it, but that it should not have intercepted the nude photos and shared those with the cops. Seems like a legitimate complaint and the plaintiffs are especially sympathetic in not realizing the device was stolen."

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Baby Red Dwarf Found Just 27 Light Years Away
Posted by News Fetcher on August 30 '11 at 12:16 PM
By Unknown Lamer from Slashdot's think-i'll-swing-by-for-lunch department:
bazzalunatic writes "Astronomers have found an infant red dwarf star 27 light years away from Earth, and it's just 40 million years old. 'The star has been known about and studied for the past 15 years, but it wasn't realized it was so young and so close, until now,' co-author Simon Murphy, a PhD student from the Australian National University said in the story. More accurate measurements from telescopes have aided the revised distances of the star dubbed 'AP Colombae'."

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One Final Manufacturing Run of Touchpads
Posted by News Fetcher on August 30 '11 at 11:45 AM
By Unknown Lamer from Slashdot's this-is-too-painful-to-watch department:
Accepted on the first attempt, lochnessie writes "HP has announced a limited manufacturing run of Touchpads to be available in the next few weeks. The HP employee making the announcement posted 'I think it's safe to say we were pleasantly surprised by the response' to their massively discounted, sold-at-a-huge-loss tablet."

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EPIC Files For Rehearing In Body Scanner Case
Posted by News Fetcher on August 30 '11 at 11:31 AM
By Unknown Lamer from Slashdot's movement-is-a-privilege-peon department:
OverTheGeicoE writes "The Electronic Privacy Information Center has filed for a rehearing in their case against DHS regarding airport body scanners. In their latest court filing (PDF), EPIC argues that last month's ruling requiring a public comment period but no other changes was based on incorrect information. From TFA: '"The court overstated the effectiveness of the body scanner devices and understated the degree of the privacy intrusion to the travelling public," stated EPIC President Marc Rotenberg. EPIC's petition challenged the Court's finding that the devices detect "liquid and powders," which was never established and was not claimed by the government. EPIC also argued that the court wrongly concluded that the TSA is not subject to a federal privacy law that prohibits video voyeurism. The panel found that TSA body scanner employees are "engaged in law enforcement activity," contrary to the TSA's own regulations.'
Note that this is a request for a rehearing with the same court that rejected their request to stop TSA's use of body scanners. It is not an appeal to a higher court. Is EPIC likely to obtain a more favorable ruling from the same court?"


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