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Senators Question Removal of NASA Program Manager
Posted by News Fetcher on May 30 '10 at 04:15 AM
By kdawson from Slashdot's not-so-fast deptartment:
Hugh Pickens writes "The NY Times reports that one day after the removal of NASA's head of the Constellation Program, Senator John D. Rockefeller IV, chairman of the Committee that oversees NASA, and Senator Kay Bailey Hutchison, the committee's ranking Republican, have asked NASA's inspector general to look into whether the NASA leadership is undermining the agency's moon program and to 'examine whether this or other recent actions by NASA were intended or could reasonably have been expected to foreclose the ability of Congress to consider meaningful alternatives' to President Obama's proposed policy, which invests heavily in new space technologies and turns the launching of astronauts over to private companies. Congress has yet to agree to the president's proposed policy, and has inserted a clause into this year's budget legislation that prohibits NASA from canceling the Constellation program or starting alternatives without Congressional approval. The Constellation manager, Jeffrey M. Hanley, whose reassignment is being called a promotion, had been publicly supported by the NASA administrator and other NASA officials. But he may have incurred displeasure by publicly talking about how Constellation could be made to fit into the slimmed-down budgets that President Obama has proposed for NASA's human spaceflight endeavors."

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BP Says "Top Kill" Operation Has Failed
Posted by News Fetcher on May 30 '10 at 01:15 AM
By kdawson from Slashdot's unlimber-the-nukes deptartment:
MrShaggy sends a quote from a CBC story: "BP has scuttled the 'top kill' procedure of shooting heavy drilling mud into its blown-out oil well in the Gulf of Mexico after it failed to plug the leak. BP chief operating officer Doug Suttles told reporters on Saturday that over the last three days, the company has pumped in more than 30,000 barrels of mud and other materials down the well but has not been able to stop the flow. 'These repeated pumping[s], we don't believe will likely achieve success so at this point it's time to move to the next option,' Suttles said."

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How To Take a Big Vendor To Small Claims and Win
Posted by News Fetcher on May 29 '10 at 10:15 PM
By kdawson from Slashdot's microsoft-tax-refund deptartment:
snydeq writes "Gripe Line's Christina Tynan-Wood offers good news for those harboring grievances about faulty software or unfair licensing practices: it is in fact possible to take a big vendor to small claims court and win. But, as one woman's fight against Adobe demonstrates, detailed evidence and a deep understanding of the laws in question are essential to obtaining justice against big vendor lawyers. 'Evidence is the key factor,' explains one legal expert. 'Often the evidence people present does not show what they think it does. And they fail to make themselves aware of the rules of evidence so they can introduce any evidence they do have in court. These companies will have attorneys and those attorneys will use the rules of civil procedure to take advantage of your lack of knowledge.' Moreover, they will spare little expense no matter the magnitude of claims brought against them. 'The lawyer for Adobe tried an "end-user is stupid" argument,' explains the woman who took on Adobe over a software license she never had the privilege of agreeing to. 'But he gave that up when he learned I wasn't a lame-brain home computer user. I have a software engineering background and worked for Sun Microsystems and Fidelity Investments tech group.'"

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Reproducing an Ancient New World Beer
Posted by News Fetcher on May 29 '10 at 07:15 PM
By kdawson from Slashdot's mmm-ancho deptartment:
The Edible Geography blog has an amusing piece about Patrick McGovern, the "Indiana Jones of Ancient Ales, Wines, and Extreme Beverages," and his role in the production of a 3400-year-old Mesoamerican beer recreated from a chemical analysis of pottery fragments. "McGovern describes his collaboration with Dogfish Head craft brewers... to create a beer based on the core ingredients of early New World alcohol: chocolate beans (in nib form, as the cacao pods are too perishable to transport from Honduras to Delaware), honey, corn, ancho chillis, and annatto. ... The result? Cloudy and quite strong (9% A.B.V.), but more refreshing than you would think: the chocolate is savoury rather than sweet, and the chilli is just a very subtle, almost herbal, aftertaste. There is almost no head..."

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Congressman Steps Up Pressure On Google, Facebook
Posted by News Fetcher on May 29 '10 at 05:00 PM
By kdawson from Slashdot's play-nice-now deptartment:
crimeandpunishment and other readers noted the US government's increasing pressure on Facebook and Google. On Friday the head of the House Judiciary Committee, John Conyers, sent the two companies a letter asking them to cooperate with any government inquiries. It's not clear exactly what purpose the letter served, other than to make Google's and Facebook's lawyers squirm a bit more than they already were, with Germany and courts and the FTC looking hard in their direction; Conyers did not say his committee will be holding hearings. The FTC just asked Google to hold onto the Wi-Fi data that it says it accidentally collected while snapping Street View photos. And in response to the growing outcry since its F8 conference last month, Facebook offered some simplified privacy controls — though opinions vary on how much the new controls simplify things for users.

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When Mistakes Improve Performance
Posted by News Fetcher on May 29 '10 at 02:45 PM
By kdawson from Slashdot's let's-change-everything deptartment:
jd and other readers pointed out BBC coverage of research into "stochastic" CPUs that allow communication errors in order to reap benefits in performance and power usage. "Professor Rakesh Kumar at the University of Illinois has produced research showing that allowing communication errors between microprocessor components and then making the software more robust will actually result in chips that are faster and yet require less power. His argument is that at the current scale, errors in transmission occur anyway and that the efforts of chip manufacturers to hide these to create the illusion of perfect reliability simply introduces a lot of unnecessary expense, demands excessive power, and deoptimises the design. He favors a new architecture, that he calls the 'stochastic processor,' which is designed to handle data corruption and error recovery gracefully. He believes he has shown such a design would work and that it would permit Moore's Law to continue to operate into the foreseeable future. However, this is not the first time someone has tried to fundamentally revolutionize the CPU. The Transputer, the AMULET, the FM8501, the iWARP, and the Crusoe were all supposed to be game-changers but died cold, lonely deaths instead — and those were far closer to design philosophies programmers are currently familiar with. Modern software simply isn't written with the level of reliability the Stochastic Processor requires (and many software packages are too big and too complex to port), and the volume of available software frequently makes or breaks new designs. Will this be 'interesting but dead-end' research, or will Professor Kumar pull off a CPU architectural revolution really not seen since the microprocessor was designed?"

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A New Neutral, Long-Haul Fiber Network
Posted by News Fetcher on May 29 '10 at 01:15 PM
By kdawson from Slashdot's shaking-up-the-neighborhood deptartment:
techclicker sends word on the ambitious plans of Allied Fiber to disrupt the long-haul business in the US. The company is embarking on the first phase of a planned 6-phase build-out of dark fiber, towers, and co-lo facilities ringing the US. The first three phases are budgeted at $670M; the last three are not yet laid out in detail (announcement, PDF). Phase 1 is scheduled for completion in 2010. Allied's business model of selling wholesale bandwidth to all comers is in sharp contrast to that of incumbents such as AT&T, who won't sell backhaul to potential competitors. "Allied is deploying a 432-count, long haul cable coupled with the 216-count, short-haul cable that will be a composite of Single-Mode and Non-Zero Dispersion Shifted fibers. Allied Fiber has implemented a new, multi-duct design for intermediate access to the long-haul fiber duct through a parallel short-haul fiber duct all along the route. This enables all points between the major cities, including wireless towers and rural networks, to gain access to the dark fiber. In addition, the Allied Fiber neutral colocation facilities, located approximately every 60 miles along the route, accommodate and encourage a multi-tenant interconnection environment integrated with fiber that does not yet exist in the United States on this scale."

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What Scientists Really Think About Religion
Posted by News Fetcher on May 29 '10 at 12:00 PM
By kdawson from Slashdot's two-towers deptartment:
Hugh Pickens writes "The Washington Post has a book review of Science and Religion: What Scientists Really Think by Rice University sociologist Elaine Ecklund, who spent 5 years doing a detailed survey of 1,646 scientists at elite American research universities. The study reveals that scientists often practice a closeted faith, worrying about how their peers would react to learning about their religious views. 'After four years of research, at least one thing became clear: Much of what we believe about the faith lives of elite scientists is wrong. The '"insurmountable hostility" between science and religion is a caricature, a thought-cliche, perhaps useful as a satire on groupthink, but hardly representative of reality,' writes Ecklund. Unsurprisingly, Ecklund found that 64 percent of scientists are either atheists (34%) or agnostic (30%). But only five of the 275 in-depth interviewees actively oppose religion; and even among the third who are atheists, many consider themselves 'spiritual.' 'According to the scientists I interviewed, the academy seems to have a "strong culture" that suppresses discussion about religion in many areas,' says Ecklund. 'To remove the perceived stigma, we would need to have more scientists talking openly about issues of religion, where such issues are particularly relevant to their discipline.'"

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Intel Sucks Up Water Amid Drought In China
Posted by News Fetcher on May 29 '10 at 10:45 AM
By kdawson from Slashdot's nor-any-drop-to-drink deptartment:
An anonymous reader sends along a Bloomberg piece on Intel and the coming water wars. "Intel is going head-to-head with businesses like Coca-Cola to swallow up scarce water resources in the developing world. According a 2009 report..., 2.4 billion of the world's population lives in 'water-stressed' countries such as China and India. Chip fabrication plants in those countries, as well factories such as the soft drink giant's bottling plants, are swallowing up scarce resources needed by the 1.6 billion people who rely on water for farming. ... Li Haifeng, vice president of sewage treatment company Beijing Enterprises Water Group, told Bloomberg, 'Wars may start over the scarcity of water.' China's 1.33 billion citizens each have 2,117 cubic meters of water available to them per year... In the US, consumers can count on as much as 9,943 cubic meters."

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The Sun's Odd Behavior
Posted by News Fetcher on May 29 '10 at 09:30 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's to-be-fair-it-was-a-little-tipsy deptartment:
gyrogeerloose writes "Most of us know about the sun's eleven-year activity cycle. However, relatively few other than scientists (and amateur radio operators) are aware that the current solar minimum has lasted much longer than expected. The last solar cycle, Cycle 24, bottomed out in 2008, and Cycle 25 should be well on its way towards maximum by now, but the sun has remained unusually quiescent with very few sunspots. While solar physicists agree that this is odd, the explanation remains elusive."

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Intelligence Density and the Creative Class
Posted by News Fetcher on May 29 '10 at 08:15 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's iq-per-cubic-meter deptartment:
Doofus writes "The Atlantic has an interesting review of some open-sourced work by Rob Pitingolo about the comparative educational attainment levels of various metropolitan areas. While people are now capable of being far more mobile than in generations past, many people remain within 100 miles or so of where they were born. For the technology-partition of the creative class, this is less likely to be the case, in my personal experience. Do we technical people put interesting work and the concentration of human educational capital ahead of other considerations when deciding on a move? Or is it more complicated? Is it more about the fact that the creative jobs are where the creative people are?"

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How CDNs and Alternative DNS Services Combine For Higher Latency
Posted by News Fetcher on May 29 '10 at 07:00 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's taking-the-bad-with-the-good deptartment:
The_PHP_Jedi writes "Alternative DNS services, such as OpenDNS and Google Public DNS, are used to bypass the sluggishness often associated with local ISP DNS servers. However, as more websites, particularly smaller ones, use content distribution networks via embedded ads, widgets, and other assets, the effectiveness of non-ISP DNS servers may be undermined. Why? Because CDNs rely on the location of a user's DNS server to determine the closest server with the hosted content. Sajal Kayan published a series of test results which demonstrates the difference, and also provided the Python script used so you can test which is the most effective DNS service for your own Internet connection."

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Japan Plans Moon Base Built By Robots For Robots
Posted by News Fetcher on May 29 '10 at 05:45 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's ceding-the-moon-to-skynet deptartment:
An anonymous reader writes "The Japanese space agency, JAXA, has plans to build a base on the Moon by 2020. Not for humans, but for robots — and built by robots, too. A panel authorized by Japan's prime minister has drawn up preliminary plans of how humanoid and rover robots will begin surveying the moon by 2015, and then begin construction of a base near the south pole of the moon. The robots and the base will run on solar power, with total costs about $2.2 billion USD, according to the panel chaired by Waseda University President Katsuhiko Shirai. 'As currently envisioned, the robots that will land on the lunar surface in 2015 will be 660-pound behemoths equipped with rolling tank-like treads, solar panels, seismographs, high-def cameras and a smattering of scientific instruments. They'll also have human-like arms for collecting rock samples that will be returned to Earth via rocket.'"

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Google Describes Wi-Fi Sniffing In Pending Patent
Posted by News Fetcher on May 29 '10 at 04:30 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's and-in-the-alternative-yer-honor deptartment:
theodp writes "After mistakenly saying that it did not collect Wi-Fi payload data, Google had to reverse itself, saying 'it's now clear that we have been mistakenly collecting samples of payload data from open (i.e. non-password-protected) WiFi networks.' OK, mistakes happen. But, as Seinfeld might ask, then what's the deal with the pending Google patent that describes capturing wireless data packets by operating a device — which 'may be placed in a vehicle' — in a 'sniffer' or 'monitor' mode and analyzing them on a server? Guess belated kudos are owed to the savvy Slashdot commenter who speculated back in January that the patent-pending technology might be useful inside a Google Street View vehicle. Google faces inquiries into its Wi-Fi packet sniffing practices by German and US authorities."

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Ofcom Unveils Anti-Piracy Policy For UK ISPs
Posted by News Fetcher on May 29 '10 at 01:15 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's regh-yoo-late-uh-rhee deptartment:
krou writes "Under plans drawn up by Ofcom, UK ISPs are going to draw up a list of those who infringe copyright, logging names and the number of times infringement took place. Music and film companies will then be allowed access to the list, and be able to decide whether or not to take legal action. '"It is imperative that a system that accuses people of illegal online activity is fair and clear," said Anna Bradley, chair of the Communications Consumer Panel.' The Panel, in partnership with Consumer Focus, Which, Citizens Advice and the advocacy body the Open Rights Group, has released a set of principles it believes should govern the code of practice. The principles say sound evidence is needed before any action is taken, consumers must have the right to defend themselves, and the appeals process must be free to pursue. The code shall come into practice by 2011, and only initially applies to ISPs with 400,000 customers or more." Update: 05/29 09:11 GMT by T : As an anonymous reader points out below, that's 400,000 users, rather than 40,000 as originally rendered.

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How Google Can Make Android Truly Tablet-Worthy
Posted by News Fetcher on May 28 '10 at 10:15 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's is-tablet-worthy-a-high-goal-or-low? deptartment:
With an Android armada on the horizon (or at least expected), reader androidtablet plugs this piece on ways Android could be truly tablet-friendly. Armchair engineering may be easy to knock, but I like the ideas presented here, like aggressively using the inactive (locked) screen state to display useful information.

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How Viruses Evolve Into All-Purpose Malware
Posted by News Fetcher on May 28 '10 at 07:15 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's increments-of-evil deptartment:
KingofGnG writes "Computer threats are continuously evolving, and some malicious codes are a problem difficult to tackle because of their inherent complexity and an intelligent design capable of constantly putting under pressure security companies. A remarkable 'intelligent' threat is for instance Sality, the 'new generation' file virus that according to Symantec has practically turned into an 'all-in-one' malware incorporating botnet-like functionalities as well."

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Low-Level Format For a USB Flash Drive?
Posted by News Fetcher on May 28 '10 at 05:15 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's back-from-the-living-dead deptartment:
Luyseyal writes "I unwittingly bought one of these terrible flash cards at Fry's and have managed to nuke two of them, successively. I have a USB flash card reader that will read/write the current one at USB 1.0 speed, but it locks up every Ubuntu and XP machine I've come across in high-speed access mode. I have read that if I low-level format it that it could be fixed, though my current one doesn't support it. My Google-fu must be weak because I cannot seem to find a USB flash reader that specifies that it will do low-level formatting." Can anyone offer advice for resurrecting such drives?

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Earthlink Announces It Must Honor Comcast Cap
Posted by News Fetcher on May 28 '10 at 04:30 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's sorry-but-we're-honor-and-duty-bound deptartment:
LostCluster writes "For those in Comcast territory, a popular way to get around Comcast's 250 GB monthly cap was to sign up for EarthLink Powered by Comcast Service, where there was no cap. Forget about that... Earthlink just posted an FAQ explaining that Comcast will enforce the cap against Earthlink customers starting July 1."

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STIX Project Releases v1.0 of Its Scientific Fonts Set
Posted by News Fetcher on May 28 '10 at 03:30 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's now-that's-conservative-versioning deptartment:
starseeker writes "The Scientific and Technical Information Exchange (STIX) font creation project has released version 1.0 of its font set. This release is the product of almost 15 years of work, with the goal of creating a comprehensive set of fonts for scientific and engineering manuscript creation. The fonts have been released under the SIL Open Font License, and can be downloaded here. Among the many potential applications is proper universal support for MathML in web browsers." If you want a peek, here's "a page for viewing the thousands of glyphs (as a first approximation, think of a glyph as an individual character)."

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