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New USPTO Test Could Limit Software-Based Patents
Posted by News Fetcher on December 22 '09 at 08:30 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's counting-but-on-fingers deptartment:
bizwriter writes "The high tech industry has been waiting for a Supreme Court decision in the Bilski case to decide fundamental questions, like when you can patent software. But there's a new test from the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences (PDF) that just became precedential, meaning that it offers new grounds on which the US Patent and Trademark Office can deny patents on machines that use mathematical algorithms."

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Climate, Habitat Threaten Wild Coffee Species
Posted by News Fetcher on December 22 '09 at 07:45 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's ok-panic deptartment:
An anonymous reader writes "BBC reports that Dr. Aaron Davis of the Royal Botanical Gardens claims 'almost three-quarters of the world's wild coffee species are threatened, as a result of habitat loss and climate change. "Conserving the genetic diversity within this genus has implications for the sustainability of our daily cup, particularly as coffee plantations are highly susceptible to climate change.'"

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CherryPal's $99 "Odd Lots" Netbook
Posted by News Fetcher on December 22 '09 at 07:00 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's cool-approach deptartment:
Robotech_Master writes "CherryPal, which Slashdot last covered back in 2008, has released a $99 netbook, the Africa, aimed at the developing world but (unlike the OLPC) available for sale to the consumer. But unlike most netbooks, the Africa is not actually made to a set design. Instead, it uses a hacker-like approach similar to the way home PC builders build their cheap beige boxes. CherryPal purchases odd lots of whatever components are available most inexpensively, builds netbooks out of them, and calls them Africas. The resulting machines will at least meet and may exceed the minimum specs given on CherryPal's website, and may be built around an ARM, MIPS, or X86-based CPU depending on what parts CherryPal has on hand at the time. The device ships with 'at least' Windows CE or CherryPal's custom 'Green Maraschino' Debian-based Linux distro."

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The Nuking of Duke Nukem
Posted by News Fetcher on December 22 '09 at 06:30 AM
By timothy from Slashdot's nero-fiddles-for-the-soundtrack deptartment:
Rick Bentley writes with more on the story behind the meltdown of Duke Nukem Forever, the game that will now live on only as a cautionary tale: "Although the shutdown was previously reported on Slashdot, this new Wired article goes in-depth behind the scenes to paint a picture of a mushroom cloud-sized implosion. Developers spending a decade in a career holding pattern for below market salary with 'profit sharing' incentives, no real project deadlines, a motion capture room apparently used to capture the motion of strippers (the new game was to take place in a strip club, owned by Duke, that gets attacked by aliens), and countless crestfallen fans. *Sniff*, I would have played that game."

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Cyber-Security Czar To Be Named
Posted by News Fetcher on December 22 '09 at 05:30 AM
By kdawson from Slashdot's lightning-rod-for-blame deptartment:
The Washington Post and everybody else is reporting that on Tuesday President Obama will name Howard A. Schmidt as cyber-security czar. Schmidt was an advisor to President Bush on cyber-security matters. The Post rehearses the reasons why the Obama administration has had difficulty in finding someone for the post, and notes that the turf battles did not start in this administration: "Schmidt was chosen after a long process in which dozens of people were sounded out. Many declined the post, largely out of concern that the job conferred much responsibility with little true authority, some of them said. Meanwhile, the cybersecurity chief at the National Security Council, Christopher Painter, has served as the de facto coordinator, trying to push ahead the 60-day cyberspace policy review plan unveiled by Obama in May. That plan's formulation was led by Melissa Hathaway, who resigned in frustration in August after delays in naming a cyber-coordinator. She had been a contender for the position... Schmidt served as special adviser for cyberspace security from 2001 to 2003 and shepherded the National Strategy to Secure Cyberspace, a plan that then was largely ignored. He left that job also frustrated, colleagues said."

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The 87 Lamest Moments In Tech, 2000-2009
Posted by News Fetcher on December 22 '09 at 03:00 AM
By kdawson from Slashdot's where-to-begin deptartment:
harrymcc writes "The last ten years have been an amazing era for tech — and full of amazingly dumb moments. I rounded up scads of them. I suspect you'll be able to figure out which company is most frequently represented, but Apple, Google, Twitter, Facebook, Sony, and many others are all present and accounted for, too."

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Alternative 2009 Copyright Expirations
Posted by News Fetcher on December 22 '09 at 12:15 AM
By kdawson from Slashdot's world-of-what-if deptartment:
jrincayc writes "It's nearly the end of 2009. If the 1790 copyright maximum term of 28 years was still in effect, everything that had been published by 1981 would be now be in the public domain — so the original Ultima and God Emperor of Dune and would be available for remixing and mashing up. If the 1909 copyright maximum term of 56 years (if renewed) were still in force, everything published by 1953 would now be in the public domain, freeing The City and the Stars and Forbidden Planet. If the 1976 copyright act term of 75* years (* it's complicated) still applied, everything published by 1934 would now be in the public domain, including Murder on the Orient Express. But thanks to the Sonny Bono Copyright Term Extension Act, nothing in the US will go free until 2018, when 1923 works expire." Assuming Congress doesn't step in with a Copyright Extension Act of 2017. What are the odds?

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The Chinese Route To a Web Free of Porn
Posted by News Fetcher on December 21 '09 at 09:30 PM
By kdawson from Slashdot's regarding-babies-and-bathwater deptartment:
An anonymous reader writes "Despite repeated 'for the children' campaigns, the Western Web as a whole has provided little or no isolation of pornography. This is why the Chinese are now attempting to march to a place where no country has been before: a Web without porn. Recent regulations have included closing down 'vulgar' mobile sites, disconnecting 'obscene' servers, and restricting domain registrations. Yet the breaking news for Monday is that the China is planning to enforce a whitelist on foreign domains: in particular, any e-commerce will have to register locally and obey Chinese law before they get whitelisted. Domains will otherwise be 'irresolvable' to Chinese Internet users. Meanwhile, the government is promoting this campaign heavily, calling it a 'fresh start.' It seems the Chinese may have to do without the Internet, before they can rid it of porn."

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The Last GM Big-Block V-8 Rolls Off the Line
Posted by News Fetcher on December 21 '09 at 07:30 PM
By kdawson from Slashdot's blow-it-out-gto deptartment:
DesScorp writes "It's the end of an era in auto technology, as the very last big block V-8 engine from GM has rolled off the production line. The L18 engine was the last variant of an engine that had been in continuous production for over 50 years. The big blocks powered everything from the classic muscle cars of the 60s and 70s to heavy-duty trucks today. From the Buffalo News: 'When GM said last June the L18 would be eliminated by year's end, the announcement triggered another show of devotion to the product. Some customers ordered two years' worth of L18s, to put on the shelf for future use.' More than 5 million big blocks have been produced over the engine's history. The final big block engine to come off the line in Tonawanda, NY is headed for the GM Heritage Center in Sterling Heights, MI."

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Verizon Removes Search Choices For BlackBerrys
Posted by News Fetcher on December 21 '09 at 05:45 PM
By kdawson from Slashdot's you've-been-bung deptartment:
shrugger writes "I picked up my BlackBerry this morning to do a search and noticed Bing as my default search engine. I thought this was very strange, since I didn't pick this setting. I went to change it back to Google and, to my chagrin, Bing was my only option! Apparently Verizon has pushed an update that removes all search providers except Bing. Thanks a lot Verizon!" The Reg notes: "The move is part of the five-year search and advertising deal Verizon signed with Microsoft in January for a rumored $500m."

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Ford's New Cars To Be Wi-Fi Hotspots
Posted by News Fetcher on December 21 '09 at 05:00 PM
By kdawson from Slashdot's high-speed-internet deptartment:
clang_jangle writes "Autoblog and others are reporting on Ford's planned extension to its in-vehicle SYNC multimedia systems — to enable SYNC-equipped Fords as rolling Wi-Fi hotspots. Customers would use their existing cellular USB modems, so for already equipped road warriers there would be no extra monthly charges. While there are other ways to get your car online (Autonet Mobile review here), the SYNC system does look especially simple and practical. Last year BMW made some noise about FOSS for their cars, but they seem to have since stopped talking about it. Will we see a FOSS option for automotive infotainment systems in the future?" The capabilities of SYNC even without W-Fi look potentially pretty distracting. Unless Wi-Fi is blacked out for the driver, the safety implications of this development are worrisome.

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Intel's New Atom D510 Benchmark Tested
Posted by News Fetcher on December 21 '09 at 04:00 PM
By ScuttleMonkey from Slashdot's needs-more-than-new deptartment:
adeelarshad82 writes "The Atom processor in nettops and netbooks is one of Intel's success stories for 2009. Recently PCMag put the new Intel Atom D510 processor through its paces, to see how it stacks up against previous generation Atom CPUs. Using a whitebox system from Intel, they ran their usual set of benchmark tests on the system. In summary the D510-equipped whitebox finished neck and neck with the dual-core powered Acer R3610-U9012. So while there are differences between the two, if you already have a nettop running the dual-core Intel Atom 330 processor you won't have to upgrade 'just because' there's a new CPU in the wings."

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New Antifreeze Molecule Isolated In Alaskan Beetle
Posted by News Fetcher on December 21 '09 at 03:00 PM
By ScuttleMonkey from Slashdot's cold-hard-science deptartment:
Arvisp writes with the news of a recently discovered antifreeze molecule in an Alaskan beetle that departs from most commonly identified natural antifreeze. "'The most exciting part of this discovery is that this molecule is a whole new kind of antifreeze that may work in a different location of the cell and in a different way,' said zoophysiologist Brian Barnes, director of the University of Alaska Fairbanks Institute of Arctic Biology and one of five scientists who participated in the Alaska Upis ceramboides beetle project. Just as ice crystals form over ice cream left too long in a freezer, ice crystals in an insect or other organism can draw so much water out of the organism's cells that those cells die. Antifreeze molecules function to keep small ice crystals small or to prevent ice crystals from forming at all. They may help freeze-tolerant organisms survive by preventing freezing from penetrating into cells, a lethal condition. Other insects use these molecules to resist freezing by supercooling when they lower their body temperature below the freezing point without becoming solid."

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Malware and Botnet Operators Going ISP
Posted by News Fetcher on December 21 '09 at 02:15 PM
By ScuttleMonkey from Slashdot's spam-is-big-business deptartment:
Trailrunner7 writes to mention that malware and botnet operators appear to be escalating to the next level by setting up their own virtual data centers. This elevates the criminals to the ISP level, making it much harder to stop them. "The criminals will buy servers and place them in a large data center and then submit an application for a large block of IP space. In some cases, the applicants are asked for nothing more than a letter explaining why they need the IP space, security researchers say. No further investigation is done, and once the criminals have the IP space, they've taken a layer of potential problems out of the equation. 'It's gotten completely out of hand. The bad guys are going to some local registries in Europe and getting massive amounts of IP space and then they just go to a hosting provider and set up their own data centers,' said Alex Lanstein, senior security researcher at FireEye, an anti-malware and anti-botnet vendor. 'It takes one more level out of it: You own your own IP space and you're your own ISP at that point.'"

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Best Open Source Business Tools?
Posted by News Fetcher on December 21 '09 at 01:15 PM
By ScuttleMonkey from Slashdot's getting-the-details-right deptartment:
An anonymous reader writes "My wife and I started an S Corp in 2009 mainly to provide small scale consulting services for friends with small businesses of their own (we build them websites and do odd technical jobs). Now that the year is closing I'm giving thought to our corporate tax filings which will be due March 15th. I've scoured the web for free/open source legal templates for hiring contractors, issuing W-2s, keeping shareholder minute meetings, etc, but haven't been able to find any decent sources. It seems like this should be a priority of the open source community since reducing the cost of entry into small business could drive open source development. What are the best sources of open source legal templates, tax filing software, corporate compliance templates, etc?" What experiences have others had with open sources businesses and the best way to consolidate the necessary corporate mojo into a workable model?

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Virtual Visits To Doctors Spreading
Posted by News Fetcher on December 21 '09 at 12:30 PM
By ScuttleMonkey from Slashdot's what-could-possibly-go-wrong deptartment:
tresho writes to tell us that virtual doctors visits seem to be on the rise. A new service, most recently deployed in Texas, from "NowClinic" is allowing doctors to make virtual house calls and prescribe anything short of controlled substances. "For $45, anyone in Texas can use NowClinic, whether or not they are insured, by visiting NowClinic.com. Doctors hold 10-minute appointments and can file prescriptions, except for controlled substances. Eventually they will be able to view patients’ medical histories if they are available. The introduction of NowClinic will be the first time that online care has been available nationwide, regardless of insurance coverage."

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Music By Natural Selection
Posted by News Fetcher on December 21 '09 at 12:15 PM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's survival-of-the-grooviest deptartment:
maccallr writes "The DarwinTunes experiment needs you! Using an evolutionary algorithm and the ears of you the general public, we've been evolving a four bar loop that started out as pretty dismal primordial auditory soup and now after >27k ratings and 200 generations is sounding pretty good. Given that the only ingredients are sine waves, we're impressed. We got some coverage in the New Scientist CultureLab blog but now things have gone quiet and we'd really appreciate some Slashdotter idle time. We recently upped the maximum 'genome size' and we think that the music is already benefiting from the change."

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Website Owner's Manual
Posted by News Fetcher on December 21 '09 at 11:45 AM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's read-all-about-it deptartment:
Michael J. Ross writes"Experienced Web designers and developers will readily admit that the most challenging aspect of their professions is not the technical work itself, nor learning the tools of the trade, but rather dealing with clients. Within that area, the most frustrating type of work — aside from the ever-joyless chore of collecting on invoices — is getting (non-technical) clients to understand the possibilities and limitations of Web technologies, design decisions, and all the other factors that can make or break a website project, as well as the site itself. Yet this process can be just as unhappy, and far more confusing, to prospective site owners, who typically are quite knowledgeable of their own fields, but have little to no understanding of how best to ensure the success of any website project they sponsor. Aiming to bridge this gap, is the appropriately-titled Website Owner's Manual." Read on for the rest of Michael's review.

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The Definitive Evisceration of The Phantom Menace *NSFW*
Posted by News Fetcher on December 21 '09 at 10:45 AM
By samzenpus from Slashdot's meesa-completely-agree deptartment:
cowmix writes "When TPM came out ten years ago, its utter crappiness shocked me to the core and wounded a entire generation of geeks. My inner child had been abused and betrayed. I moped around, talking to no one, for almost two weeks. I couldn't bring myself to see #2 or #3, whatever they were called. Now, a decade later, comes Star Wars: The Phantom Menace Review, the ultimate, seven-part, seventy minute analysis of this mother of all train wrecks. Not only does it nail how the film blows, but tells us why. Time, apparently, does not heal all wounds." Or, if you prefer all 7 parts embedded in one page, you can check out slashfilm's aggregation.

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Legislator Wants Cancer Warnings For Cell Phones
Posted by News Fetcher on December 21 '09 at 09:45 AM
By Soulskill from Slashdot's reading-this-may-give-you-cancer deptartment:
Cytalk writes "A Maine legislator wants to make the state the first to require cell phones to carry warnings that they can cause brain cancer, although there is no consensus among scientists that they do and industry leaders dispute the claim. The now-ubiquitous devices carry such warnings in some countries, though no US states require them, according to the National Conference of State Legislators. A similar effort is afoot in San Francisco, where Mayor Gavin Newsom wants his city to be the nation’s first to require the warnings."

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