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EFF Offers an Introduction To Traitorware
Posted by News Fetcher on December 26 '10 at 10:00 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's stop-being-so-paranoid-number-39 deptartment:
theodp writes "The EFF's Eva Galperin offers a brief primer on Traitorware, devices that act behind your back to betray your privacy. 'Your digital camera may embed metadata into photographs with the camera's serial number or your location,' writes Galperin. 'Your printer may be incorporating a secret code on every page it prints which could be used to identify the printer and potentially the person who used it. If Apple puts a particularly creepy patent it has recently applied for into use, you can look forward to a day when your iPhone may record your voice, take a picture of your location, record your heartbeat, and send that information back to the mothership.' She concludes: 'EFF will be there to fight it [Traitorware]. We believe that your software and devices should not be a tool for gathering your personal data without your explicit consent.'"

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Joel Test Updated
Posted by News Fetcher on December 26 '10 at 08:45 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's inspect-the-width-of-the-coal-chute deptartment:
An anonymous reader writes "In 2000, Joel Spolsky wrote the Joel Test, an excellent and simple way to evaluate a software company. While the test is still used, it's getting outdated, as many companies are moving to web technologies, and new development tools exist. In his blog, Marc Garcia wrote about what could be an update to Joel Test."

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Microsoft, Motorola Add 9 Patents To Ongoing Court Battle
Posted by News Fetcher on December 26 '10 at 07:15 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's who-blinks-first deptartment:
FlorianMueller writes "Patent suits are the IT industry's new Christmas cards: Microsoft and Motorola just added new accusations to their row. Motorola filed another suit in the Western District of Wisconsin, for the first time also attacking the Kinect. Microsoft threw in seven patents in Southern Florida. Two of them cover touchscreen technologies and two allegedly read on Motorola's DVRs. At this stage of the game, 35 patents are in suit between the companies. Afraid to lose track of so much peace and harmony? There's a visualization available (detailed reference material included)."

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If the FCC Had Regulated the Internet From the Start
Posted by News Fetcher on December 26 '10 at 05:45 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's council-of-wise-and-benevolent-men deptartment:
In the spirit of (but with a different approach than) last week's post "Is Net Neutrality Really Needed?", an anonymous reader writes with this "counterfactual history of the internet, but one that is all too plausible. Unfortunately, I can see this happening under the new 'Net Neutrality.'"

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How To Be Popular On Facebook, Quantified
Posted by News Fetcher on December 26 '10 at 03:00 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's logically-the-yankees-suck deptartment:
Hugh Pickens writes "Network World reports that Facebook has just released an analysis of the word usage for about one million status updates from its US English speakers with the words in updates organized into 68 different word categories based on the Linguistic Inquiry and Word Count (LIWC)--a text analysis software program that calculates the degree to which people use different categories of words across a wide array of texts. The results? To be popular on Facebook all you have to do is write longer status updates, talk about music and sports, don't be overly emotional, don't talk about your family, don't refer to time and use the word 'you' a lot. Facebook's study also confirms something that bloggers and Fox News have known for years: negative comments produce more online activity. Sure, Facebook users might click the like button more often on updates expressing positive emotion. But Facebook found you can't beat negativity for user engagement, as dismal status updates garnered more comments than positive ones."

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The Animal World Has Its Junkies, Too
Posted by News Fetcher on December 25 '10 at 11:15 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's entire-mountain-covered-in-snow deptartment:
Phoghat writes "Research scientists have used many animal species in investigating mind-altering drugs, but it may come as a surprise to learn that animals in the wild — from starlings to reindeer — also make use of psychoactive substances of their own accord. It seems that many of these species have a natural desire to experience altered states of consciousness, and man may well have found his way to some of his favourite recreational drugs by observing the behaviour of animals."

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Record Set For World's Youngest Chess Champion
Posted by News Fetcher on December 25 '10 at 08:00 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's odds-are-one-in-a-billiion deptartment:
Pickens writes "Hou Yifan, a 16-year-old chess player from China, became the youngest world chess champion on Friday, in the final of the Women's World Chess Championship held in Antakya, Turkey, toppling a record held since 1978. Currently, the top-ranked woman is Judit Polgar of Hungary, who is thought to be the best female player in history but Polgar, once ranked No. 8 in the world among all players, men and women combined, does not compete in women's tournaments and did not play. No one really knows why the best female players are typically not as good at chess as the best men. One theory, common among some top male players, is that men are usually more aggressive by nature than women, and are therefore better suited to a game that simulates warfare. Another, cited in at least one university study, is that the talent pool among women has not been big enough to produce many great players."

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Apple Forces Steve Jobs Action Figure Off eBay
Posted by News Fetcher on December 25 '10 at 05:00 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's hope-you-got-in-on-the-ground-floor deptartment:
Hugh Pickens writes "Kevin Parrish writes in Tom's Guide that last month, just in time for Christmas holiday gift-giving, M.I.C. Gadget manufacture and sale of a Steve Jobs action figure featuring an oversized head, Steve's trademark black shirt/blue jeans outfit, and a new iPhone 4 like a magical world-saving talisman in Jobs' left hand. The action figure, selling for $79.90, came with an Apple logo stand and cartoon balloons for writing custom messages. Soon a warning letter from Apple stated that the figurine violated a California statute prohibiting the use of a person's likeness in a product without prior authorization and sales ceased. But shortly after production stopped, the figurines began to appear on eBay selling for up to $2,500. Now Apple's lawyers have raided the online marketplace, zeroing in on one Canadian eBay seller who had already sold the figurine for $1,125 and eBay has removed other listings, telling sellers that the object for sale 'violates a celebrity's right of publicity.'"

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The Wrong Way To Weaponize Social Media
Posted by News Fetcher on December 25 '10 at 03:30 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's you-like-this-and-so-does-everyone-else deptartment:
BorgiaPope writes "NYU's Clay Shirky, in the new issue of Foreign Affairs, calls the U.S. government's approach to social media 'dangerous' and 'almost certainly wrong,' as in its favoring Haystack over Freegate. The Political Power of Social Media claims that the freedom of online assembly — via texting, photo sharing, Facebook, Twitter, humble email — is more important even than access to information via an uncensored Internet. Countering Malcolm Gladwell in the New Yorker, Shirky looks at recent uprisings in the Philippines, Moldova, and Spain to make his point that, instead of emphasizing anti-censorship tools, the US should be fighting Egypt's recent mandatory licensing of group-oriented text-messaging services." Only part of Shirky's piece is available for non-subscribers, but Gladwell's New Yorker piece is all online.

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Does Typing Speed Really Matter For Programmers?
Posted by News Fetcher on December 25 '10 at 02:00 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's backspace-speed-is-key deptartment:
theodp writes "I can't take slow typists seriously as programmers,' wrote Coding Horror's Jeff Atwood last fall. 'When was the last time you saw a hunt-and-peck pianist?' Atwood's rant prompted John Cook to investigate just how important it is to be able to type quickly. 'Learning to type well is a good investment for those who are physically able to do so,' concludes Cook, 'but it's not that important. Once you reach moderate proficiency, improving your speed will not improve your productivity much. If a novelist writing 1000 words per day were able to type infinitely fast, he or she could save maybe an hour per day.' At 150 WPM, notes Cook, the world's fastest typist was still only 10x faster than Stephen Hawking."

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VLC For Android May Arrive In Early 2011
Posted by News Fetcher on December 25 '10 at 01:00 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's but-that's-next-year deptartment:
dkd903 writes "The development of an Android client for VLC has been going on for months now, but it has been slowed down by the fact that Android's multimedia output libraries are in Java. VLC itself is based on C and so translating them to Java is difficult and takes time. With the newer Android NDK, however, using native codes for Android apps has been becoming easier. So, the VLC developers have developed two basic modules for audio and video output based on the new NDK and most of the VLC libraries has been ported to Android."

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Google Discontinues On2 Flix Engine Video Encoder
Posted by News Fetcher on December 25 '10 at 11:00 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's save-us-obi-wan-kenobi deptartment:
trawg writes "Google have recently discontinued sales of the Flix Engine, the last remnants of the purchase of On2 that they were selling directly to users. On2, developers of the VP8 video codec that formed the basis of their new WebM video format, was bought by Google early in 2010. The Flix Engine was a comprehensive API for Windows and Linux that allowed integration of On2 encoders directly into any software product. While you can still buy some On2 products from another company, it's not clear what effect this will have on Google's ultimate video strategy."

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Indian Launch Vehicle Explodes After Lift-Off
Posted by News Fetcher on December 25 '10 at 09:30 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's christmas-setback deptartment:
Indian communications satellite GSAT-5P was destroyed by the explosion of its launch vehicle, the Geostationary Satellite Launch Vehicle. The GSLV malfunctioned while still in its first phase of its Christmas launch, after less than a minute of flight. YouTube has a video of the explosion, taken from TV9 Kannada.

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UK Banks Attempt To Censor Academic Publication
Posted by News Fetcher on December 25 '10 at 08:30 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's here-are-some-rugs-for-your-eyes deptartment:
An anonymous reader writes "Representatives of the UK banking industry have sent a take-down notice (PDF link) to Cambridge University, demanding that they censor a student's webpage as well as his masters thesis(PDF) . The banks' objection is that the information contained in the report might be used to exploit a vulnerability in the Chip and PIN system, used throughout Europe and Canada for credit and debit card payments. The system was revealed to be fundamentally flawed earlier this year, as it allowed criminals to use a stolen card with any PIN. Cambridge University has resisted the demands and has sent a response to the bankers explaining why they will keep the page online."

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Pickens Wind-Power Plan Comes To a Whimpering End
Posted by News Fetcher on December 25 '10 at 07:00 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's go-long-on-stocking-coal deptartment:
Spy Handler writes "In 2008, billionaire T. Boone Pickens unveiled his 'Pickens Plan' on national TV, which calls for America to end its dependence on foreign oil by increasing use of wind power and natural gas. Over the next two years, he spent $80 million on TV commercials and $2 billion on General Electric wind turbines. Unfortunately market forces were not favorable to Mr. Pickens, and in December 2010 he announced that he is getting out of the wind power business. What does he plan to do with his $2 billion worth of idle wind turbines? He is trying to sell them to Canada, because of Canadian law that mandates consumers to buy more renewable electricity regardless of cost."

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What Robots Do For Christmas
Posted by News Fetcher on December 25 '10 at 06:00 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's merry-christmas deptartment:
An anonymous reader writes "Several robotics labs in the US and Europe have decided to make themed Christmas/New Years videos. The subject was left open but in the end it should have had a) something to do with the robotics research in each lab and b) a connection to the holidays. Here's the official announcement on the IEEE Spectrum blog. The videos, including a computer-controlled quadrocopter attempting to play jingle bells on a Yamaha keyboard, are available on the Robotics Podcast YouTube channel. (Disclaimer: I made one of the videos!)"

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'Eternal' Solar Plane Stays Two Weeks Aloft
Posted by News Fetcher on December 25 '10 at 03:15 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's for-small-values-of-eternity deptartment:
An anonymous reader writes "The BBC has a story on the confirmation of the record breaking flight of Qinetiq's Zephyr UAV: 'The UK-built solar-powered Zephyr aeroplane has been confirmed as a record-breaker following its non-stop two-week flight earlier this year. The world governing body for air sports records, the Federation Aeronautique Internationale (FAI), gave Zephyr three records including longest time aloft. Built by defence technology company Qinetiq, the craft completed its two-week flight in the US in July. The company sees applications in surveillance and communications. The July feat led to Zephyr being dubbed the "eternal plane."' YouTube has some footage of the Zephyr in action."

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A Real World HTML 5 Benchmark
Posted by News Fetcher on December 25 '10 at 12:15 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's global-variables deptartment:
KidCompy writes "The newest browsers boast huge performance improvements, but how much do you trust benchmarks trotted out to prove those claims? Do they reflect the real uses to which developers will put HTML 5 and JavaScript? We've extracted several benchmarks from our existing programs to measure actual versus theoretical performance."

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Google Pushes Openness Over Rooting
Posted by News Fetcher on December 24 '10 at 09:30 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's but-rooting-sounds-so-cool deptartment:
jamlam writes "The Android developers blog has a comment from their dev team on the recent 'rooting' of their Nexus S phones. It contains a call from Google to handset manufacturers to open up their phones to give users choice. But will this ever happen in a market dominated by lock-'em-down cellular networks?"

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Problems With Truncation On the Common Application
Posted by News Fetcher on December 24 '10 at 06:30 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's when-idiots-set-limits deptartment:
jaroslav writes "A combination of rigid caps on space and poor documentation of the space limits is adding stress on students applying for college using the Common Application, the New York Times reports. The story explains that the application lists word limits for questions, but actually enforces space limits. As a result, an answer with wide characters, such as 'w' or 'm,' may run over space even without reaching the stated word limit. It is not explained why an electronic submission must have such strictly enforced limits."

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