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How To Teach a 12-Year-Old To Program?
Posted by News Fetcher on December 27 '09 at 12:15 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's hypnotherapy-might-work deptartment:
thelordx writes "I've got a much younger brother who I'd like to teach how to program. When I was younger, you'd often start off with something like BASIC or Apple BASIC, maybe move on to Pascal, and eventually get to C and Java. Is something like Pascal still a dominant teaching language? I'd love to get low-level with him, and I firmly believe that C is the best language to eventually learn, but I'm not sure how to get him there. Can anyone recommend a language I can start to teach him that is simple enough to learn quickly, but powerful enough to do interesting things and lead him down a path towards C/C++?"

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Fifth Anniversary of a Cosmic Onslaught
Posted by News Fetcher on December 27 '09 at 10:45 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's blast-from-the-past deptartment:
The Bad Astronomer writes "Five years ago today (December 27, 2004), a vast wave of high-energy gamma and X-rays washed over the Earth, blinding satellites and partially ionizing the Earth's atmosphere. The culprit was a superflare from the magnetar SGR 1806-20, located 50,000 light years away. The energy released was mind-numbing: in one-fifth of a second, this supercharged magnetic neutron star blasted out as much energy as the Sun does in 250,000 years!"

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Security In the Ether
Posted by News Fetcher on December 27 '09 at 09:30 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's less-likely-than-ether-in-the-security deptartment:
theodp writes "Technology Review's David Talbot says IT's next grand challenge will be to secure the cloud — and prove we can trust it. 'The focus of IT innovation has shifted from hardware to software applications,' says Harvard economist Dale Jorgenson. 'Many of these applications are going on at a blistering pace, and cloud computing is going to be a great facilitative technology for a lot of these people.' But there's one little catch. 'None of this can happen unless cloud services are kept secure,' notes Talbot. 'And they are not.' Fully ensuring the security of cloud computing, says Talbot, will inevitably fall to emerging encryption technologies."

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Critics Call For NASA TV To "Liven Up"
Posted by News Fetcher on December 27 '09 at 08:30 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's have-the-ISS-astronauts-vote-each-other-off-the-station deptartment:
An article in the LA Times calls NASA out for failing to make broadcasts on their dedicated television network as entertaining as they can be. The author, David Ferrell, complains that fascinating subject matter is often fraught with boring commentary and frequent, extended silences, making most people quickly lose interest. Quoting: "Witness one recent segment about the recovery of a Soyuz capsule upon its return to Earth. The dark, bullet-like object landed in the featureless steppes of Kazakhstan, about 50 miles outside the unheard-of town of Arkalyk. Coverage consisted of video shot from an all-terrain vehicle approaching it — mostly soundless footage of tall grass going by — with an occasional word by an unnamed commentator. 'You can see the antenna that deployed shortly after landing,' the commentator said in that deadpan tone shared by scientists and golf announcers. The camera chronicled the tedious extraction of three crew members weakened by spending six months in orbit; they were loaded one by one onto stretchers. 'Again, a rather methodical process,' the commentator noted, as if grasping for something — anything — to say. Later: 'The official landing time has been revised to 1:15 and 34 seconds a.m., Central Time. The official time was recorded at the Russian Mission Control Center . . . by the Russian flight-control team.' ... Where is Carl Sagan when you need him?"

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Amazon Sells More Ebooks On Christmas Than Real Books
Posted by News Fetcher on December 27 '09 at 07:00 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's takes-way-more-to-stuff-a-stocking-though deptartment:
ctmurray writes "Amazon reports for the first time ever they sold more ebooks on one day than real books. My wife is an ebook-only author and reported her largest single day sales on Christmas day, and December has been her best month ever as well. All those Kindles bought for this season are being seen in ebook sales." The battle with publishers over pricing seems to be coming to the fore as well.

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What DARPA's Been Up To, At Length
Posted by News Fetcher on December 27 '09 at 05:30 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's one-long-list-of-credits deptartment:
The New York Times takes an inside look at DARPA, the secretive defense agency, mentioned frequently on Slashdot, that is "changing the way we use machines — and the way they use us" in the form of a review of Michael Belfiore's The Department of Mad Scientists. Besides tracing the history of the agency, Belfiore's book expounds on the well-known Grand Challenge and its link to ever-more-automated vehicle control in civilian and military contexts, as well as other DARPA pet projects, including robotic surgery, information analysis, and the integration of electronics with the human body.

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World's First Production Hybrid Motorcycle To Hit Market in India
Posted by News Fetcher on December 27 '09 at 02:45 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's so-finish-shopping-quickly deptartment:
bluemanlines writes "The Indian company Eko Vehicles has announced the development of the world's first production hybrid motorcycle, called the ET-120. In short time this motorcycle will run on the Indian streets, offering about 280 miles per gallon with a top speed of 40 miles per hour."

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TSA Wants You To Keep Your Seat, and Your Hands In Sight
Posted by News Fetcher on December 26 '09 at 11:45 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's ex-post-facto deptartment:
An anonymous reader excerpts from an AP story as carried by Yahoo News about changes stemming from yesterday's foiled bombing attempt of a Northwest Airlines flight: "Some airlines were telling passengers on Saturday that new government security regulations prohibit them from leaving their seats beginning an hour before landing. The regulations are a response to a suspected terrorism incident on Christmas Day. Air Canada said in a statement that new rules imposed by the Transportation Security Administration limit on-board activities by passengers and crew in US airspace. ... Flight attendants on some domestic flights are informing passengers of similar rules. Passengers on a flight from New York to Tampa Saturday morning were also told they must remain in their seats and couldn't have items in their laps, including laptops and pillows." The TSA's list of prohibited items doesn't seem to have changed in the last day, though.

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A Brief History of Modems
Posted by News Fetcher on December 26 '09 at 08:45 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's old-familar-cacaphony deptartment:
Ant points out this two-page TechRadar article about the history of modems; the photographs of some behemoth old modems might give you new respect for just how much is packed into modern wireless devices.

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Groklaw Putting Comes v. Microsoft Docs Online
Posted by News Fetcher on December 26 '09 at 03:30 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's unboxing-day deptartment:
An anonymous reader writes "PJ of Groklaw is working on putting the documents from Comes v. Microsoft online, to make them searchable and accessible to everyone. If you don't remember their history, the plaintiffs got these documents from Microsoft during discovery after fighting the lawyers tooth and nail. After realizing how embarrassing the documents were to Microsoft, they put them online and later got a very large settlement from Microsoft by agreeing to take their website down. The web being what it is, these documents had already been mirrored and were later (legally) made available on the Pirate Bay. Now Groklaw has put them online and is looking for people to help transcribe them, so that documents like the infamous Evangelism is War presentation will not be forgotten."

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Patrolling the US Border Via Webcam
Posted by News Fetcher on December 26 '09 at 02:15 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's observe-and-report deptartment:
The BBC features a story today on a controversial effort to patrol the border between Mexico and Texas by means of 21 hidden cameras, the output of which is streamed online for viewers at home, who can then report suspected illegal border crossings; more than 130,000 people have registered to observe the streams, from as far afield as "Australia, Mexico, Colombia, Israel, New Zealand and the UK."

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Real-World Synthehol In Development
Posted by News Fetcher on December 26 '09 at 12:15 PM
By timothy from Slashdot's volstead-was-an-alien deptartment:
Ada_Rules writes "Researchers at the Imperial College London have announced development of an alcohol substitute that has many of the same properties as the Synthehol from the series Star Trek, in that one will get a buzz from it but will not end up with a hangover. In addition you will have the option of getting immediately sober if you so desire it. Let's hope this is not the typical vaporware. It is not that I really want a drink of Synthehol, but with its release I assume Romulan Ale won't be far behind."

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Microbes That Keep Us Healthy Starting To Die Off
Posted by News Fetcher on December 26 '09 at 11:15 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's intestinal-fortitude deptartment:
Dr_Ken writes with a quote from Scientific American: "The human body has some 10 trillion human cells—but 10 times that number of microbial cells. So what happens when such an important part of our bodies goes missing? With rapid changes in sanitation, medicine and lifestyle in the past century, some of these indigenous species are facing decline, displacement and possibly even extinction. In many of the world's larger ecosystems, scientists can predict what might happen when one of the central species is lost, but in the human microbial environment—which is still largely uncharacterized—most of these rapid changes are not yet understood. 'This is the next frontier and has real significance for human health, public health and medicine,' says Betsy Foxman, a professor of epidemiology at the University of Michigan School of Public Health in Ann Arbor. Meanwhile, each new generation in developed countries comes into the world with fewer of these native populations. 'They're actually missing some component of their microbiota that they've evolved to have,' Foxman says."

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Preventing My Hosting Provider From Rooting My Server?
Posted by News Fetcher on December 26 '09 at 09:45 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's booby-traps deptartment:
hacker writes "I have a heavily-hit public server (web, mail, cvs/svn/git, dns, etc.) that runs a few dozen OSS project websites, as well as my own personal sites (gallery, blog, etc.). From time to time, the server has 'unexpected' outages, which I've determined to be the result of hardware, network and other issues on behalf of the provider. I run a lot of monitoring and logging on the server-side, so I see and graph every single bit and byte in and out of the server and applications, so I know it's not the OS itself. When I file 'WTF?'-style support tickets to the provider through their web-based ticketing system, I often get the response of: 'Please provide us with the root password to your server so we can analyze your logs for the cause of the outage.' Moments ago, there were three simultaneous outages while I was logged into the server working on some projects. Server-side, everything was fine. They asked me for the root password, which I flatly denied (as I always do), and then they rooted the server anyway, bringing it down and poking around through my logs. This is at least the third time they've done this without my approval or consent. Is it possible to create a minimal Linux boot that will allow me to reboot the server remotely, come back up with basic networking and ssh, and then from there, allow me to log in and mount the other application and data partitions under dm-crypt/loop-aes and friends?" Read on for a few more details of hacker's situation.

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Scientists Create First Functional Molecular Transistor
Posted by News Fetcher on December 26 '09 at 08:15 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's ever-smaller deptartment:
Dananajaya Ramanayake sends along this excerpt from Wired: "Nearly 62 years after researchers at Bell Labs demonstrated the first functional transistor, scientists say they have made another major breakthrough. Researchers showed the first functional transistor made from a single molecule. The transistor, which has a benzene molecule attached to gold contacts, could behave just like a silicon transistor. The molecule's different energy states can be manipulated by varying the voltage applied to it through the contacts. And by manipulating the energy states, researchers were able to control the current passing through it."

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Man Tries To Use Explosive Device On US Flight
Posted by News Fetcher on December 26 '09 at 07:00 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's bad-at-terrorism deptartment:
reporter writes with news that a Nigerian man allegedly attempted to set off a small explosive device — possibly a firecracker — on a Delta Airbus 330 airliner bound for Detroit yesterday. "There was a pop and then smoke wafted through the cabin. A passenger then climbed over several seats, lunged across the aisle and managed to subdue the suspect, the eyewitnesses said. The Nigerian man was placed in a headlock before being dragged up to the first class cabin. Passenger Zeina Seagal told CNN that after the suspect was collared and parts of his burning pants were removed, flight attendants quickly grabbed fire extinguishers and doused the fire at his seat." The man has claimed links to al-Qaeda, though the investigation hasn't confirmed that yet. (They're not taking anything for granted given that his pants were literally on fire.)

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50 Years of Domesticating Foxes For Science
Posted by News Fetcher on December 26 '09 at 06:00 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's fox-eat-fox-world deptartment:
gamebittk writes "In 1959, Soviet scientist Dmitri Belyaev set out to breed a tamer fox that would be easier for their handlers in the Russian fur industry to work with. Much to the scientist's shock, changes no one had expected emerged after just 10 generations. The foxes began behaving playfully, were smaller in size, and even changed color — much like dogs." Belyaev died in 1985, but the experiment continued (PDF) in his absence, and to this day provides strong evidence to parts of evolutionary theory. The experiment eventually branched out to involve other species as well.

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NetBIOS Design Allows Traffic Redirection
Posted by News Fetcher on December 26 '09 at 02:45 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's you-can't-get-there-from-here deptartment:
iago-vL writes "Security researchers at SkullSecurity have demonstrated how the NetBIOS protocol allows trivial hijacking due to its design, through the use of a tool called 'nbpoison' (in the package 'nbtool'). If a DNS lookup fails on Windows, the operating system will broadcast a NetBIOS lookup request that anybody can respond to. One vector of attack is against business workstations on an untrusted network, like a hotel; all DNS requests for internal resources can be redirected (Exchange, proxy, WPAD, etc). Other attack vectors are discussed in a related blog post. Although similar attacks exist against DHCP, ARP and many other LAN-based protocols, we all know that untrusted systems on a LAN means game over. NetBIOS poisoning is much quieter and less likely to break other things."

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Simplifying Search For a Younger Audience
Posted by News Fetcher on December 25 '09 at 11:15 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's timmy-needs-his-pokemon-strats deptartment:
An article in the NY Times discusses how kids interact with search engines, which are primarily designed for adult users who are familiar with basic internet concepts. From the article: "When considering children, search engines had long focused on filtering out explicit material from results. But now, because increasing numbers of children are using search as a starting point for homework, exploration or entertainment, more engineers are looking to children for guidance on how to improve their tools. ... Stefan Weitz, director of Bing, said that for certain types of tasks, like finding a list of American presidents, people found answers 28 percent faster with a search of images rather than of text. He said that because Bing used more imagery than other search engines, it attracted more children. ... Children also tend to want to ask questions like 'Who is the president?' rather than type in a keyword. Scott Kim, chief technology officer at Ask.com, said that because as many as a third of search queries were entered as questions (up to 43 percent on Ask Kids, a variant designed for children), it had enlarged search boxes on both sites by almost 30 percent."

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Religion in Video Games
Posted by News Fetcher on December 25 '09 at 08:30 PM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's neptune-vs-noah-deathmatch deptartment:
The Opposable Thumbs blog recently took a look at how religious themes are handled in video games. Most makers of mainstream games are hesitant, given the strong feelings of most consumers on the subject, but other companies are trying desperately to bring religion into the spotlight. Quoting: "Part of the problem is that the game industry is often touted as being a corrupting influence for the youth of the world. Criticism against the game industry has come from leaders as high up as the current Pope, and many of us who have been exposed to sermons bemoaning the influence that games and movies have on kids. Even when groups like the Christian Game Developers Foundation put out a video encouraging developers to create wholesome titles for kids, the attitude conveyed towards current members of the industry was contemptuous at best. Needless to say, games with heavy religious content are usually fringe projects, independently created and oftentimes sporting dodgy production values, because publishers wisely don't want to risk boycotts from legions of the faithful."

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