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Microsoft's Lost Decade
Posted by News Fetcher on October 31 '09 at 04:45 PM
By kdawson from Slashdot's no-skill-at-herding-cats deptartment:
theodp writes "Newsweek's Daniel Lyons (that's Fake Steve to you) explains why Steve Ballmer is no Bill Gates, arguing that what most hurt Microsoft was BillG's decision to step down as CEO in January 2000: 'Gates was a software geek. He understood technology. Ballmer is a business guy.' And the problem with putting non-techies in charge of tech companies, concludes Lyons, is that they have blind spots. So while Microsoft's revenues nearly tripled from $23B to $58B on Ballmer's watch, says Lyons, the company became bureaucratic and lumbering, slowing down while the rest of the world — including Google, Apple and Amazon — sped up."

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Zombies As American Zeitgeist Proxies
Posted by News Fetcher on October 31 '09 at 02:30 PM
By kdawson from Slashdot's look-what-plan-9-started deptartment:
blackbearnh writes "No doubt, there will be more than a few brain-munching glassy-eyed zombies showing up on the typical doorstep tonight, demanding brains, brains, brains, or at least some Milk Duds. But according to this essay over on Forbes.com, zombies are more than just the trendy monster on the block, they are to Americans what Godzilla is to Japanese: a personification of our fear of science and technology. 'It seems you can't throw a half-eaten cerebrum these days without hitting a posse of zombies brought to life by some kind of biological mishap (28 Days Later, Resident Evil, Planet Terror, Quarantine). Like Godzilla, zombies keep up with the times, always ready to mirror whatever aspect of science and technology people feel most uncertain about at the moment.'"

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ICANN Might Pre-Register gTLDs To Placate Critics
Posted by News Fetcher on October 31 '09 at 01:30 PM
By kdawson from Slashdot's i-think-i-can deptartment:
judgecorp writes "ICANN is to be congratulated for succeeding in expanding the Internet beyond the Latin alphabet. However, the organization is facing a harder task in extending the Internet's global top-level domains (gTLDs) — its proposal to open up the gTLD space has been plagued by controversy and delays. INCANN faces struggles with trademark owners and competing businesses — but even so it is being criticised for acting slowly (as seen in transcripts from the recent meeting in Seoul). It now seems likely the body will have a pre-registration scheme to gauge demand and placate critics by getting something moving on new gTLDs."

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A Clever New Approach To Desalination
Posted by News Fetcher on October 31 '09 at 12:00 PM
By kdawson from Slashdot's pass-the-salt deptartment:
jbeaupre writes "The Economist reports on progress by a company called Saltworks on using saline gradients to do the heavy lifting of desalination. In essence, Saltworks uses solar energy or waste heat to concentrate sea water. They then use the ionic gradient between the concentrated brine and two sea-water streams to pull ions from from a 3rd sea-water stream. It appears to work with entropy by trading the reduced entropy of the desalinated water against the increased entropy of 'mixing' the brine and the other sea-water streams. The article only discusses Na and Cl, but even just removing these ions is a step in the right direction."

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What Happened To the Bay Bridge?
Posted by News Fetcher on October 31 '09 at 11:00 AM
By kdawson from Slashdot's span-in-the-works deptartment:
farnsworth writes "Tony Alfrey has put together a fascinating page with some history, analysis, and possible explanations for what ultimately went wrong with the recent emergency repair of the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge. The bridge has been closed for days and is not scheduled to open for days to come, hugely inconveniencing more than 250,000 people a day. His analysis touches on possibly poor welding, a possibly flawed temporary fix, and the absence of a long-term fix or adequate follow-up by Caltrans, the agency responsible for the bridge. Slashdot is a great engineering community; what other insights do you have on the bridge situation?"

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Lawmakers Caught Again By File-Sharing Software
Posted by News Fetcher on October 31 '09 at 09:45 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's guns-don't-kill-people,-file-sharers-do deptartment:
An anonymous reader writes "A document, apparently a 'confidential House ethics committee report,' was recently leaked through file-sharing software to the Washington Post. According to the article, 'The committee's review of investigations became available on file-sharing networks because of a junior staff member's use of the software while working from home.' Of course, P2P software is entirely at fault for this incident. If you begin seeing more interest in DRM from Congress, you now know why." Reader GranTuring points out that the RIAA took the opportunity to make a ridiculous statement of their own. They said, "the disclosure was evidence of a need for controls on peer-to-peer software to block the improper or illegal exchange of music."

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Controlling Games and Apps Through Muscle Sensors
Posted by News Fetcher on October 31 '09 at 08:45 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's quick-somebody-patent-air-guitar-hero deptartment:
A team with members from Microsoft, the University of Toronto, and the University of Washington have developed an interface that uses electrodes to monitor muscle signals and translate those into commands or button presses, allowing a user to bypass a physical input device and even control a game or application while their hands are full. The video demonstration shows somebody playing Guitar Hero by making strumming motions and tapping his fingers together, a jogger changing his music without having to touch the device, and a man flexing a muscle to open the trunk of his car while he carries objects in both hands. The academic paper (PDF) is available online.

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Moon-Excavation Robots Face Off
Posted by News Fetcher on October 31 '09 at 07:45 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's can-you-dig-it deptartment:
avishere writes "Student teams designed and built robotic power-lifters to excavate simulated lunar soil (a.k.a. 'regolith') earlier this month, with $750,000 in prizes up for grabs. Excavating regolith, according to NASA, will be an important part of any construction projects or processing of natural resources on the Moon. Interestingly, regolith is especially difficult to dig because its dust particles want to stick together. The whole robotic system has to be sturdy enough to scoop moon dirt and powerful enough to move through the dust while still meeting the weight requirements. The winning excavator from Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts lifted 1,103 pounds within the allotted time, and got a sweet $500,000 for their troubles."

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Journalists Looking For Government Money
Posted by News Fetcher on October 31 '09 at 06:45 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's bizarro-world deptartment:
We've been following the ongoing struggles of the print media, watching as some publications have died off and others have held to outdated principles and decried the influence of the internet. A side effect of this has been many journalists put out of work and many others fearful that informed reporting is on its way out as well. Now, an editorial in the Washington Post calls for a solution journalists would likely have scoffed at only a few years ago: federal subsidies. Robert W. McChesney and John Nichols write, "What to do? Bailing out media conglomerates would be morally and politically absurd. These firms have run journalism into the ground. If they cannot make it, let them go. Wait for 'pay-wall' technologies, billionaire philanthropists or unimagined business models to generate enough news to meet the immense demands of a self-governing society? There is no evidence that such a panacea is on the horizon. This leaves one place to look for a solution: the government." They hasten to add, "Did we just call for state-run media? Quite the opposite."

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Adobe Pushing For Flash and PDF In Open Government Initiative
Posted by News Fetcher on October 31 '09 at 05:45 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's open-is-relative deptartment:
angryrice tips news that Adobe seems to be campaigning for the inclusion of Flash and PDF in the Obama administration's efforts at increasing government transparency and openness. A post from the Sunlight Labs blog is critical of Adobe's undertaking, in part since PDF is often "non-parsable by software, unfindable by search engines, and unreliable if text is extracted." They also say government's priority should be to publish datasets and the APIs to interact with them, rather than choosing how they're displayed in fancy graphs and charts.

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Why Computers Suck At Math
Posted by News Fetcher on October 31 '09 at 04:30 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's must-be-lit-majors deptartment:
antdude writes "This TechRadar article explains why computers suck at math, and how simple calculations can be a matter of life and death, like in the case of a Patriot defense system failing to take down a Scud missile attack: 'The calculation of where to look for confirmation of an incoming missile requires knowledge of the system time, which is stored as the number of 0.1-second ticks since the system was started up. Unfortunately, 0.1 seconds cannot be expressed accurately as a binary number, so when it's shoehorned into a 24-bit register — as used in the Patriot system — it's out by a tiny amount. But all these tiny amounts add up. At the time of the missile attack, the system had been running for about 100 hours, or 3,600,000 ticks to be more specific. Multiplying this count by the tiny error led to a total error of 0.3433 seconds, during which time the Scud missile would cover 687m. The radar looked in the wrong place to receive a confirmation and saw no target. Accordingly no missile was launched to intercept the incoming Scud — and 28 people paid with their lives.'"

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Disease May Prevent Manned Journey To Mars
Posted by News Fetcher on October 31 '09 at 01:45 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's get-your-penicillan-to-mars deptartment:
Pickens writes "Science Daily News reports that human missions to Mars and all other long-term space flights might be compromised by disease, first because space travel appears to weaken astronauts' immune systems; and second, because it increases the virulence and growth of microbes. 'When people think of space travel, often the vast distances are what come to mind first,' says Jean-Pol Frippiat from Nancy-University in France, 'but even after we figure out a way to cover these distances in a reasonable amount of time, we still need to figure out how astronauts are going to overcome disease and sickness.' Frippiat says studies show that immune systems of both people and animals in space flight conditions are significantly weaker than their grounded counterparts and that common pathogens such as Salmonella, E. coli and Staphylococcus reproduce more rapidly in space flight conditions, leading to increased risk of contamination, colonization and serious infection."

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Masten Qualifies For $1 Million Space Prize
Posted by News Fetcher on October 30 '09 at 10:30 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's fly-me-to-the-moon deptartment:
RobGoldsmith writes "Masten Space Systems successfully qualified for first place in level two of the Northrop Grumman Lunar Lander Challenge Wednesday. Flying a brand new vehicle named XA-0.1E (nicknamed Xoie), Masten demonstrated their ability to build, debug and fly a vehicle on a very short timeline. " Reader lessgravity points out a video of the craft completing its mission. Apparently, the team was given an extra shot at the challenge on Friday after having trouble during their scheduled attempts on Wednesday and Thursday, which didn't please John Carmack, founder of rival team Armadillo Aerospace.

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Contest To Hack Brazilian Voting Machines
Posted by News Fetcher on October 30 '09 at 08:15 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's hack-the-vote deptartment:
An anonymous reader writes "Brazilian elections went electronic many years ago, with very fast results but a few complaints from losers, of course. Next month, 10 teams that accepted the challenge will have access to hardware and software (Google translation; original in Portuguese) for the amount of time they requested (from one hour to four days). Some will try to break the vote's secrecy and some will try to throw in malicious code to change the entered votes without leaving traces."

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Android 2.0 — Competition Against the iPhone and the Rest
Posted by News Fetcher on October 30 '09 at 06:30 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's just-stop-the-commercials deptartment:
GMGruman writes "Every few months, it seems, there is a new 'iPhone killer.' Android 2.0, in the guise of the Motorola Droid, is the latest such 'killer.' But what will it really take to beat or match the iPhone (single page), and does Android or any other mobile OS have the right stuff? There's a lot more to the answer than is usually discussed. This article takes a look at the strengths that may allow Droid and Android 2.0 to provide strong competition to devices like the iPhone and the Blackberry, as well as the obstacles it continues to face that could inhibit adoption."

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After 1 Year, Conficker Infects 7M Computers
Posted by News Fetcher on October 30 '09 at 04:15 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's happy-anniversary-now-run-an-antivirus deptartment:
alphadogg writes "The Conficker worm has passed a dubious milestone. It has now infected more than 7 million computers, security experts estimate. On Thursday, researchers at the volunteer-run Shadowserver Foundation logged computers from more than 7 million unique IP addresses, all infected by the known variants of Conficker. They have been able to keep track of Conficker infections by cracking the algorithm the worm uses to look for instructions on the Internet and placing their own 'sinkhole' servers on the Internet domains it is programmed to visit. Conficker has several ways of receiving instructions, so the bad guys have still been able to control PCs, but the sinkhole servers give researchers a good idea how many machines are infected."

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Wait For Windows 7 SP1, Support Firm Warns Users
Posted by News Fetcher on October 30 '09 at 03:30 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's sounds-familiar deptartment:
CWmike writes "Users should wait for Microsoft to work out the bugs in Windows 7 before jumping on the new OS, computer support company Rescuecom said on Friday. 'From the calls we're getting, as well as our own experience in the past with all Microsoft's operating systems, we're recommending that people stick with their time-tested OS and wait for the dust to settle,' said Josh Kaplan, president of Rescuecom. Citing a litany of reasons, ranging from the risk of losing data during an upgrade to tough economic times, Kaplan urged Windows users to put off upgrading to Windows 7 or buying a new PC with the operating system pre-installed. 'There are some compelling reasons for both businesses and home users to move to Windows 7,' Kaplan said, 'so we're saying "just wait for a bit."' Upgrading an existing machine — whether it's running the eight-year-old Windows XP or the much newer Vista — is particularly risky, he added, especially if users haven't taken time to make a full backup before they migrate their machines. Some users have found that out first hand. Among the top subjects on Microsoft's support forum is one that has put some PCs into an endless reboot loop when their owners tried to upgrade from Vista to Windows 7. Microsoft has not yet come up with a solution that works for all the users who have reported the problem, sparking frustration."

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Installing Linux On Old Hardware?
Posted by News Fetcher on October 30 '09 at 02:45 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's where-are-those-old-telegraph-drivers deptartment:
cptdondo writes "I've got an old laptop that I've been trying to resurrect. It has a 486MHz CPU, 28 MB of RAM, a 720 MB HD, a 1.44MB floppy drive, and 640x480 VESA video. It does not have a CD drive, USB port, or a network port. It has PCMCIA, and I have a network card for that. My goal is to get a minimal GUI that lets me run a basic browser like Dillo and open a couple of xterms. I've spent the last few days trying to find a Linux distro that will work on that machine. I've done a lot of work on OpenWRT, so naturally I though that would work, but X appears to be broken in the recent builds — I can't get the keyboard to work. (OK, not surprising; OpenWRT is made to run on WiFi Access Point hardware which doesn't have a keyboard...) All of the 'mini' distros come as a live CD; useless on a machine without a CD-ROM. Ditto for the USB images. I'm also finding that the definition of a 'mini' distro has gotten to the point of 'It fits on a 3GB partition and needs 128 MB RAM to run.' Has Linux really become that bloated? Do we really need 2.2 GB of cruft to bring up a simple X session? Is there a distro that provides direct ext2 images instead of live CDs?"

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Nokia's N-Gage Service To End After 2010
Posted by News Fetcher on October 30 '09 at 01:45 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's putting-a-suffering-dog-to-sleep deptartment:
negRo_slim writes "Who knew the N-Gage was still kicking? Well apparently it still is — however, it looks like 2010 will be the end. From the announcement: 'While the N-Gage.com site together with the N-Gage Arena and other community features will remain in operation throughout 2010, the Ovi Store will be the new central place for all the mobile games that Nokia and other publishers offer from this point forward. We will no longer publish new games for the N-Gage platform.'"

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Hunt For Earth-Like Planets Delayed
Posted by News Fetcher on October 30 '09 at 01:00 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's death-star-needs-new-brake-pads deptartment:
An anonymous reader sends along this excerpt from Nature News: "Kepler, NASA's mission to search for planets around other stars, will not be able to spot an Earth-sized planet until 2011, according to the mission's team. The delays are caused by noisy amplifiers in the telescope's electronics. ... The problem is caused by amplifiers that boost the signals from the charge-coupled devices that form the heart of the 0.95-metre telescope's 95-million-pixel photometer, which detects the light emitted from the distant stars. Three of the amplifiers are creating noise that compromises Kepler's view. The noise affects only a small portion of the data, Borucki says, but the team has to fix the software — it would be 'too cumbersome' to remove the bad data manually — so that it accounts for the noise automatically. He says that the fix should be in place by 2011." Mindful of Halloween's approach, NASA has put up a piece looking at some of the already-known exoplanets that wouldn't be very friendly to human life.

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