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NASA On Full Court Press To Deflate Doomsday Prophecies

Dr_Ish What About The Zombie Apocalypse though? (286 comments)

This is all disinformation. I read on the Internet that it was going to be a zombie apocalypse. Hell, even the government has plans preparing for it!

about a year ago
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Ask Slashdot: How To Collect Payments From a Multinational Company?

Dr_Ish Go To The Top (341 comments)

If they are a publicly listed company, then they will probably have 'Investor Relations' information posted somewhere. This is often the fast route to the top of the corporate ladder. Look at the Board members and VPs and determine who would be most likely responsible. Then try and send them an e-mail. Many e-mail addresses are not posted, but are easy to guess. Try the obvious ones systematically (e.g. joeblow@megacorp.com, joe.blow@megacorp.com, etc, until one does not generate an e-mail bounce. I have had good luck with this method with major corporations, as a mere customer. It has even worked with senior political figures in the US government. If this does not work, then try sending an e-mail to the generic 'Investor Relations' e-mail, do not say too much, but ask to be passed on to the relevant person. Using this method, I was able to get to the top of the BP ladder during the Gulf Oil Spill. Needless to say, I was unable to persuade BP to stop acting like jackasses, but at least I got my concerns heard. A final strategy is to file against them in small claims court. This is often cheap and easy to do and does not require a lawyer. There are usually limits to the amount you can claim, so just file for a portion of the bill. No matter how many lawyers they have, they hate to have to have them show up (usually at US$250+ per hour) and argue the case. Good luck!

about a year ago
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A.I. Advances Through Deep Learning

Dr_Ish Old News (162 comments)

While there have been advances since the 1980s, as best I can tell most of this report is yet more A.I. vaporware. It is easy to put out a press release. It is much harder to do the science to back it up. How did this even get posted on the/. front page? If this stuff was true, I'd be happy, as most of my career has been working with so-called 'neural nets'. However, they are not neural, that is just a terminological ploy to get grants (anyone ever heard of the credit assignment problem with bp?) Also, there have been some compelling proofs that most neural networks are just statistical machines. So, move on. Nothing to see here folks, etc.

about a year ago
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Slashdot Anniversary: Lafayette, LA, US

Dr_Ish Please Spread the word and plan to attend! (1 comments)

Hi all, This should be an informal gathering of local Slashdot fans. However, please do not forget to say that you will be attending. This will be needed so that we can claim our free t-shirts. Also, do not forget to spread the word! However, time is getting short. Everyone who wants to get a shirt needs to be signed up by the 29th of Sepr.

about a year and a half ago
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Stubborn Intel Graphics Bug Haunts Ubuntu 12.04

Dr_Ish How I solved the problem... (320 comments)

When I upgraded from Ubuntu 10.04 to 12.04 I ran into exactly this problem. It was a total pain. I looked around the Ubuntu forums, but found very little of anything helpful. I also looked at the Dell Mini 10v forums (as this is the affected computer), but again found nothing. While doing this though, I got increasingly annoyed with both the freezes and the Unity desk top. So, I installed KDE. What do you know, I no longer see the damn bug and I have a desktop that is much more suited to my needs. If you are having this problem, it might be worth giving it a try. Easy to follow instruction can be found at http://blog.sudobits.com/2012/04/14/how-to-install-kde-desktop-on-ubuntu-12-04/.

about a year and a half ago
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Patent Granted on Mandatory Digital Keys to Prevent Textbook Piracy

Dr_Ish When Will Publishers Get It? (168 comments)

This seems typical of the world of publishing today. Many publishers are merely money making machines, with little regard for either students, or knowledge. Unfortunately, as publishers adopt more and more predatory practices, they end up pissing off both students and professors. There is one major academic publisher in my field Cengage (who operate under many other names), whose books I now refuse to use. They update editions every three years, doing little more than changing page numbers and changing the order of exercises. Each new edition comes with a substantial price hike and force me to rework sections of my classes. The result of this? I now have the equivalent of an on-line text I have developed myself over the years. So, they have lost the business.

It is the very same publishing houses who are mean about sending us desk copies and charge us for them, if we do not adopt their texts. Again, they end up as losers, as there is no incentive to use their texts. They also get pissy when we sell the books that they send to us, without our asking. This again is silly. In the State in which I teach, professors have not had a pay rise in four years, so a few bucks to buy lunch was a welcome perk. Stopping this perk does not make us like them any more.

That being said, not all publishers are like this. Some keep their editions for a long time and do not change much when they bring out new editions. A good example of this is Oxford University Press. So, when I need to use a text for a class, all the business goes to OUP. This is the correct way to do business in publishing. It should not be about quarterly results, but rather about building and maintaining long term relationships. The technological innovation described in the post is just yet another step in the wrong direction. Eventually though, publishers will have to work out the errors of their ways, or perish./p

about 2 years ago
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Boycott of Elsevier Exceeds 8000 Researchers

Dr_Ish I signed -- here is why. (220 comments)

I have signed the boycott petition. It is great to have such an opportunity. The reason I signed is because I work at a State university and as such I am a public servant of the State. Doing research is what I am paid to do by the people of my State. However, once research is completed, it needs to get published. I can post it to various sites, but that does little good -- as others have noted, publication in a 'good' place matters. That is what gets visibility. So, I send a paper to a journal. The editorial assisants then send the paper out to referees. The referees are also usually other professors, frequently work at other State institutions. The referees produce reports and make recommendations about whether the paper should be published. However, referees also work for free. If the paper gets accepted, there are usually some changes that need to be made. No problem. Thus far, the whole process is State funded and nobody has made a dime, other than their salary.

The next step is where the the trouble starts. Before the paper will be given final acceptance for publication by the journal, I am required to sign over the entire copyright to the publishers! Thus, far in the process, they have done nothing. Yet, from this point on, they get to profit from my work and that of the referees.

Publishers will provide .pdf versions of off-prints to the authors. How much does that really cost? However, the .pdf files are getting increasingly limited. The .pdf of my most recent paper include my name as the person who downloaded it. I don't know whether the .pdf files will stop printing after a certain number of copies. If the is technically feasible, I bet they do.

If someone wants to read my paper, they must have access to a library with a subscription to the journal. Subscriptions to journals are massively expensive. Should a member of the people of my State want to have access to my work, if they cannot find a library with access, then they must pay the journal publishers for the right to do so.

What is laughable is that the publishers now also do things like offering an option to have the paper available on-line for free. However, to exercise this option, they want *me* to pay them a large fee. This is a crazy set up. They have added little yet get all the cash.

In all fairness, different publishers have different policies on all this. Elsevier (along with Kluwer) just happen to have both the most restrictive policies coupled with the highest prices. However, if I want to get my work out there, or get a promotion (I already have tenure), then I have to play the game the publishers run with fewer morals than a mafia protection racket.

These then are the frustrations that made me sign the anti-Elseview petition. It is makes me mad. The petition shows that I am not alone in this. Perhaps one day Congress will do something useful and outlaw the practices of the publishers. However, as the publishers use their ill gotten gains from the work of others to pay high priced lobbying firms, I doubt this will happen any time soon.

All that being said, there is one tiny plus side. We professors are pretty smart cookies. There are many ways of getting access to materials, even if the library does not have a subscription. This means that there is a thriving set of back-channels that the greed of publishers have created. More than that, I am not prepared to say.

more than 2 years ago
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Congress May Permit Robot Calls To Cell Phones

Dr_Ish The current law is already too weak (619 comments)

Although the idea behind the *Telephone Consumer Protection Act*, as it is currently, is reasonable, in practice, it does little good. I started to get robo-calls some time ago on my land line from 'Tax Resolution Services'. The number has been on the national do not call register for ages. J. K. Harris and Company were particularly aggressive. Although I told them to put me on their do not call list, asked for a written copy of their do not call policy and did all the right things, they did not stop. Fortunately, I documented it all. Eventually, I took them to Small Claims Court, under the right to private action provision of the *Telephone Consumer Protection Act*. I won the case, along with $1,000 damages, court costs and legal interest. That was several months ago. To date, I have not received a penny. They do not respond to e-mails, certified letters, or telephone calls. I cannot go after their assets, as they seem to rent everything and own nothing. It turns out their head of legal services is only a paralegal, not a lawyer, so I cannot even pursue her for failing to live up to the professional standards of South Carolina Bar Association. So, scumbag telemarketers already have ways of getting around the law. Making life even easier for them would thus be a very bad idea.

more than 2 years ago
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Senator Goes After 'Brazen' OnStar Privacy Shift

Dr_Ish Send them a bill! (185 comments)

The solution here is simple: Send OnStar a contract saying that you charge a fee of $10.00 per day for the information that they collect. Make the contract come into force after 30 days, if they do not respond to negotiate. Make sure the contract is sent registered mail to their registered agent in your state. Wait 30 days and send them a bill, again via registered mail. Wait a while longer and then file a claim in small claims court. I bet that would get their attention. My misses has OnStar on her car, which we do not use, so I will be doing this. Although IANAL, I am just a bastard!

more than 2 years ago
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IBM Shows Off Brain-Inspired Microchips

Dr_Ish Re:Ok , its a neural net in hardware. Is this new? (106 comments)

As best I can tell from the scant information in the article, this is merely a hardware implementation of standard neural network architectures. Many of these were described, as software implementations in the mid-1980s by Rumelhart, McClelland et. al. in their two volume work*Parallel Distributed Processing*. Many of the putatively revolutionary features of this implementation, like on-board memory and modifiable connections are described. Since that time, neural network technology has advanced quite a bit, as can be seen by inspecting journals such as *Connection Science*, or *Neural Computation*. So, despite all the hyperbole here, as best I an tell, this is not really news.

more than 2 years ago
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Computers Could Grade Essay Tests Better Than Profs

Dr_Ish This is too simplistic. (323 comments)

As a professor, I can attest that the diagnosis of the problem here is too simplistic and the proposed 'solution' here is unnecessarily complicated. While it is the case that TAs and insecure professors will often inflate grades as they are scared of student appeals, the solution is to employ most experienced professors. There are also relatively simple methods that can be used to prevent grades becoming skewed. For instance, it is easy to grade anonymously. Just ensure that identifying details only go on the first page and turn the work over and grade from the back. One can also compare class mean and median scores (and SDs) with the scores from other sections of the same class. Such methods can ensure fair and consistent grading, without grade inflation. I always use such methods to great effect.

more than 2 years ago
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Measuring Broadband America Report Released

Dr_Ish LUS Fiber (160 comments)

My broadband comes from the town utility system. We reliably get speeds 90% faster than we pay for, at any time of day, or night. So-called 'LUSFiber' (for' Lafayette Utility System Fiber') is the best there is. Their cable offerings are also excellent and beat the opposition (mostly Cox) hands down. What is really cool is that the LUSFiber system stays up, even during a power outage, which none of the opposition does. As we live in an area that gets hurricanes, this is an important advantage. I wish everyone could get their service, it would put the big players to shame.

more than 2 years ago
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Mozilla Labs: the URL Bar Has To Go

Dr_Ish Return of The Command Line? (591 comments)

Once upon a time, in the days of yore, we had something fairly similar to what it sounds like they are proposing: The Command Line. A recent slashdot.org post even demonstrated the concept for younger folks who cannot remember back that far back. While there is new rhetoric about commands being issuable in putative 'natural language', this is something that has been heard before, with diminishing plausibility. So, why does Mozilla insist on going backwards? I like the URL bar. If they do away with it, I'll just have to find an add-on to bring it back. So, I think that this is silly.

more than 2 years ago
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T-Mobile Joins the Capped Data Bandwagon

Dr_Ish Does not seem legal... (112 comments)

Although I am not a lawyer, there would seem to be an issue concerning the sale of "unlimited" plans, if there is a data cap on them. I know when I signed up with T-Mobile I went for the unlimited option and was assured that unlimited meant just that, unlimited. There was no mention of a data cap. By quietly imposing a data cap on so-called 'unlimited' plans, it would appear that T-Mobile are playing rather fast and lose with Federal law. In particular, The Uniform Commercial Code, Section 2-313 (2) states that,

"(a) Any affirmation of fact or promise made by the seller which relates to the goods and becomes part of the basis of the bargain creates an express warranty that the goods shall conform to the affirmation or promise.

(b) Any description of the goods which is made part of the basis of the bargain creates an express warranty that the goods shall conform to the description."

So, why are T-Mobile not in violation of these provisions?Are there any legal types who can explain how this can be legitimate?

more than 2 years ago
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AT&T To Acquire T-Mobile From Deutsche Telekom

Dr_Ish Not Again... (748 comments)

We had been with Centennial Wireless for years, until they were bought out by a combination of AT and T and Verizon. Our region went to Verizon. Thus, as we have to be on a GSM network, we were faced with a choice between AT and T and T-mobile. We went with T-mobile, as AT and T are notoriously unreliable around these parts. T-mobile also offered a much better deal and great prices on great phones. However, if the AT and T and T-mobile deal goes through, we will have no alternatives. The reason we require being on a GSM network is because we travel quite a bit and most of the world (with the exception of the US and Japan) use GSM. Thus, when we travel, we can just change out sim cards and our phones continue to work. It is also the case that being on GSM enables us to get texts from all over the world. These are not options with CDMA and LTE networks. So, it sounds like this deal between AT and T and T-mobile will mean that AT and T will become a monopoly carrier for anyone who travels frequently outside the US. I wonder whether the FCC and the FTC will take this into consideration before they rubber stamp this deal to go through. Has anyone else had to face this conundrum and found a solution?

more than 3 years ago
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Secrets of a Memory Champion

Dr_Ish A useful citation, perhaps. (290 comments)

The claims here are basically sound. The Medievals had a problem with both literacy and the cost of writing materials. Should anyone want to know more about 'older' memory systems, I would recommend, Curruthers, M. (1990), *The Book of Memory: A Study of Memory in Medieval Culture*, Cambridge U.P. This book is not only fascinating, it is also well written.

Sometimes, reinventing, or rediscovering something is useful, I seem to recall. *grin*

more than 3 years ago
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Should Professors Be Required To Teach With Tech?

Dr_Ish And the research says... (319 comments)

Well, as someone who has done, and published, some empirical research on the use of technology in teaching, the one thing we know for sure is that any 'one size fits all' approach will not work well. There are some classes where using technology can be useful. For instance, in a class which involves analyzing passages of text, being able to project the text can be handy. However, in such a case, this is only useful if students can download the text ahead of time so that they can annotate it in class. However, there are other classes, say in mathematics, where technical aids are merely a distraction.

There is an unfortunate tendency in higher education for technology enthusiasts to make a great deal of noise, which can garner attention from the admin types, while the same individuals have a poor grasp of the underlying technology. This situation often leads to expensive train wrecks. Another problem is caused by the folks who are weak faculty members who use technology to cover their shortcomings. Interestingly, blogs are a great favorite with this type.

Really, the issue here is that technology is not an automatic panacea. Moreover, integrating technology into teaching has to be done carefully and in a controlled manner. Different technologies need to be deployed experimentally and incrementally, with a great deal of attention paid to effectiveness. Unfortunately, this happens all too seldom, as the evangelists all too often get the ears of the administrators. However, they are the ones which end up with failed projects, while I am the one with successful projects and publications!

more than 3 years ago
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How Bad Is the Gulf Coast Oil Spill?

Dr_Ish Not in the news... (913 comments)

As someone who lives in Louisiana, all I can say now is that the whole thing is very scary. We will have to see what happens.

However, what may be of interest to some is something I heard today from a friend who has worked on Transoceana/BP rigs. Apparently, what happened was that they were in the very final stages of finishing the well and the down pipe is filled with sea water for that phase, rather than the more traditional mud. What then happened was that there was a release of gas. This would have been held, or at least slowed by the mud, but just rose up through the seawater at a high rate of speed. When it reached the head, it just vented from the top. Now, as the gas is heavier than air, it sank down. While the drilling floor is a spark free zone, not all of the rig is. One spark from an AC unit, or the like is probably what set it all off, too quickly for anybody to do anything. My buddy also told me that the practices out there can be mighty sloppy and not done by the book. He no longer works in the industry and hope all the companies involved get what they deserve.

Any oil engineers out there want to explain what this story means -- I'm no expert, so I do not fully understand it.

more than 3 years ago

Submissions

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BBC Reports 'Vishing'

Dr_Ish Dr_Ish writes  |  about 4 months ago

Dr_Ish (639005) writes "According to the BBC, there has been a sudden surge in 'vishing'. This is phishing, but using the 'phone. Apparently old folk in the UK have been targetted and are especially succeptible. Today might be a good day to call your grannie and warn her about such things."
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British Olympics Cyber-Threat

Dr_Ish Dr_Ish writes  |  about 9 months ago

Dr_Ish (639005) writes "The BBC is reporting that the opening ceremonies of last the Olympics last year were potentially subject to a cyber attack that could have cut all the lights and power. Of course, it did not happen. However, the interesting question is whether this is real, or whether this is a FUD [Fear Uncertainty, or Doubt] story promoted by GCHQ to help shore up their shredded credibility."
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Ubuntu 12.04 a disaster?

Dr_Ish Dr_Ish writes  |  about a year and a half ago

Dr_Ish (639005) writes "When Ubuntu moved from version 10.04 LTS to 12.04 LTS, the process looked pretty slick. There was no need to do a complete re-install, save all those files, etc. However, it seems to be slowly emerging that the transition may be far from smooth. Ubuntu forums are currently flooded with reports of system freezes and crashes. To make matters worse, no solution has been offered, other than generic suggestions about updating drivers and the last. Although the move to the Unity desktop was already controversial, this could be the nail in the coffin if the Ubuntu ascendancy. That being said, it may be a boon for alternative distros, like Mint, if Ubuntu does not address the issue rapidly."
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AT&T Become Spammers?

Dr_Ish Dr_Ish writes  |  more than 2 years ago

Dr_Ish writes "So, I find in my inbox an e-mail from AT&T marketing their services. At the bottom it says:

"Unsubscribe: You have received this email because you are a wireless customer of AT&T.
[I am a land line subscriber, actually] ...If you no longer wish to receive future advertising emails from AT&T, please go here to [Some web page] This is an AT&T promotional email.


So, AT&T are joining the 'opt out' crowd? After years of poor service, it is now certainly time to kill my account. You would think that an ISP would know better though?"
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David Rumelhart, neural network pioneer dies

Dr_Ish Dr_Ish writes  |  more than 3 years ago

Dr_Ish writes "David Rumelhart, one of the main movers and shakes behind the resurgence of artificial neural network research in the mid-80s has died. There is a brief obituary available at http://news.stanford.edu/news/2011/march/david-rumelhart-obit-031711.html. Rumelhart was one of the seminal figures in cognitive science research during the 1980s. His work is still widely cited. He is also the inspiration behind the Rumelhart prize, one of the major awards in the computer science of intelligence. Although in recent years a medical condition had prevented him being an active research contributer, he will still be sorely missed."
Link to Original Source
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Watch Mardi Gras Live

Dr_Ish Dr_Ish writes  |  more than 3 years ago

Dr_Ish writes "This weekend is the beginning of Mardi Gras madness. By grabbing the feeds from city traffic cameras, I have put together a page that lets people watch the Mardi Gras parades in Lafayette, Louisiana. They will be starting between 7pm and 8pm tonight and tomorrow, around the same time on Monday (Lundi Gras) and then from 11am on Fat Tuesday (all times are CST). See http://www.ucs.louisiana.edu/~isb9112/mg/ to access the feeds. Enjoy!"
Link to Original Source
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Does a small ISP beat the odds?

Dr_Ish Dr_Ish writes  |  more than 3 years ago

Dr_Ish (639005) writes "Lafayette, Louisiana is a smallish town (*circa* 160.000) that has a publicly own utility system. In the last couple of years, the utility system has rolled out a fiber to the home system, that has massively annoyed the previous monopoly, Cox. After many court cases and resulting troubles, the system is up and running. However, today it was tested to the max, when half the city lost power for a short time. Even though the power was out. the LUS Fiber system remained up and running. When even TV stations were briefly off-line, the system survived. In an area that is prone to natural disasters like hurricanes, this was a remarkable feat. So, the question here is, how many of you can still connect to your ISP, when all the power is down? Is this really something unusual and noteworthy, or much less than that?"
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Do BP Ads annoy you?

Dr_Ish Dr_Ish writes  |  more than 3 years ago

Dr_Ish (639005) writes "Over the last couple of day I have been in e-mail communication with a senior person at BP (The Director of Brand Communications). I have been trying to persuade her that the commercials they are running on the Gulf coast are a waste of money. When I have been out in public places and the commercials run, people tend to say, or shout nasty things (not suitable for here — although I'm sure you can imagine). Similar things happen in private houses too. Apparently, BP think that their commercials are 'useful information for the public'. They seem to think that they have market research to support this view. My suggestion to them is that the money could be much better spent doing more useful things. I would really appreciate input from people who are afflicted by the BP commercials. Do you think that they do any good, are you persuaded? Do you think that the money could be used better elsewhere? Thank in advance."
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AT & T slamming DSL?

Dr_Ish Dr_Ish writes  |  more than 4 years ago

Dr_Ish (639005) writes "A few days ago, I got a sales call from someone attempting to sign me up for AT and T DSL service (I have long distance service with AT and T). I politely told the person to go to hell, as I have much higher speed and cheaper on-line access through my local utility company. This afternoon, a UPS truck pulled up at the house with a package — a new DSL modem from AT and T! When I called, AT and T claimed that the order had been placed by an external contractor, but they could not identify who. They said they would send me a mailing label, but if they did not get their modem back, then I would be charged for it. To me, this appears to be a blatant case of DSL slamming. Has anyone else had a similar experience?"
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Portable Digital TVs for Hurricane Zones

Dr_Ish Dr_Ish writes  |  more than 4 years ago

Dr_Ish writes "Living in Louisiana, hurricanes are always a potential issue, during the summer. For the last few years when storms have come through and both the power and the cable systems are down, I have relied on a tiny Radio Shack LCD Television. This enables my household to see the Doppler radar and determine whether storms have passed, or whether the eye is just passing overhead. Unfortunately, with the shift to DTV, the old TV will no longer work. I have been trying to find a digital portable TV to replace this, but without much luck. All the options seem to be too large and consume too much power. I was wondering whether any Slashdot readers have found a solution to this kind of problem, or could offer potential solutions?"
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Storms and Video Streams

Dr_Ish Dr_Ish writes  |  more than 5 years ago

Dr_Ish writes "Living in an area that has been in the blast zone for Hurricanes Gustav and to a lesser extent Ike, keeping up to date on what is happening can be important during and after the events. In 2005, during Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, one of the best ways of keeping informed was via live video streams from local TV stations and national media. Often times broadband connections would remain live, even after the power had gone out. This year though there has been a noticeable change. The increasing use of Silverlight and Windows Media formatted streams has made it increasingly difficult to find streams that can be used on non-Windows (i.e. Linux) computers. It is bizarre to be able to get news more easily from the BBC, than from local stations. This seems to be an increasing trend. Other than having a special Windows set up for such events, do any slashdot readers have any suggestions on how to deal with this issue? During times of crisis, this could be important."
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Yaari.com: Spam 2.0?

Dr_Ish Dr_Ish writes  |  about 6 years ago

Dr_Ish (639005) writes "I run a large mailing list for professional philosophers, called PHILOSOP. The list has been around a long time and is quite large. Most posts to the list are mundane notices about conferences and the like. Recently though a message was distributed inviting subscribers to become a 'friend' of one of the list subscribers. This message clearly violated the mailing list terms of use. As a general rule, the mailing list has some quite robust anti-spam measures in place. This one managed to circumvent them all. However, a little investigation showed that the message had not been sent by the user themselves. It seems that the social networking site Yaari.com has come up with a novel way of attracting new users. When someone subscribes to the site from a Gmail, or a Yahoo e-mail account (there may be others too), the user is prompted for their password on those systems and cannot register without providing it. The terms of use of Yaari, which the user has to agree to, gives the site permission to send out invitations to everyone in the users address book. This naturally includes mailing lists like PHILOSOP. Although this issue is clearly mentioned on the registration page, it seems that not all users actually read the warnings (there is a surprise!) There was a little coverage of this issue last year, most notably at Pulse2 and the Profy.com blog. The Yaari.com site has now been added to our blacklist. May I politely suggest that others do likewise?"
Link to Original Source
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Skype Down

Dr_Ish Dr_Ish writes  |  more than 6 years ago

Dr_Ish writes "It seems that the popular and free VoIP application service Skype has run into a software problem today. An announcement on their support web site claims that the problem arises with logging into their system and should be resolved in 12 to 24 hours. In the meantime, downloads of their software hyave temporarily been suspended."
Link to Original Source

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