top Continued Rise In Autism Diagnoses Puzzles Researchers, Galvanizes Advocates
Part of the problem in the UK (so may not be the same in the US) is that there is additional funding and support for kids with diagnoses like ASDs so there is a big incentive for schools and parents to push for it. It's driving a whole approach of medicalising behaviour. Kids who in the past would have been simply regarded as a bit unusual and who a teacher would have had to just cope with are now being given medical diagnoses and possibly additional help.
As discussed in the article what would be interesting to see is more detail on the distribution of ASD diagnoses, in terms of where they sit on the spectrum. If there is an increase the diagnosis of severe autism (the kids who would reasonably have been diagnose as autistic 30 years ago) then that would suggest that there is some environmental factor at work. If, on the other hand it's mostly high functioning and borderline then it seems likely to be mostly down to diagnosis.
While I'm very much in favour of education being better able to deal with kids' differences, I'm not sure medicalising it is the way to go.
top Brazil Blocks Foreign Mobile Phones
This submission appears to be nonsense posted by someone who hasn't read the article they linked to.
This isn't about blocking phones sold outside of Brazil, but models of phones that are not certified for use in Brazil. So you can take your Nexus 5 or iPhone, but it's probable that some no-name cheapo phones may not work.
The IMEI number contains codes for the manufacturer and model, so you can white-list those models that have certification from the Brazilian FCC.
top Google's Scanning of Gmail To Deliver Ads May Violate Federal Wiretap Laws
If the court decides that mail providers cannot, on principle, be allowed to scan the content of a mail message then I don't see why it wouldn't affect content based spam filtering.
This case could have interesting ramifications for all mail providers if the court decides this violates wire-tap laws.
top Ask Slashdot: Setting Up Non-Obnoxious Outdoor Lighting?
Rather than one big light (no matter how well targeted), consider a bunch of smaller lights all the way along the path.
There are various ranges available, most are solar powered LED, some have motion sensors built in. Here are some examples I found on Amazon
Mini "lamp-post style" Motion sensitive, solar powered. Bigger, and you wouldn't need so many Illuminated road/pathway studs. They look like cats-eye road studs, and would illuminate the edge of the path.
There are others that might be more appropriate for your pathway.
Hope that helps.
top Sony Launches Internet Service Offering Twice the Speed of Google Fiber
I'm quite interested to hear what, if any, new and interesting things people are doing with their 1 and 2gbps fibre connections, in Google neighbourhoods and in Japan.
While incremental increases in speed are nice, big jumps like this make whole new uses possible. For example before ADSL and cable we could do most of the things we do today just slower, but usable quality video wasn't really feasible, certainly not on-demand. I have a 120mbps (10mbps up) connection which is great for video on demand, and synching large files with Dropbox etc, but mostly it just lets me do the same old things, but quicker.
Are there any interesting new ways of using the internet that are coming out of these super high-speed areas with their 1 and 2gbps fiber connections. I'm especially interested in the effect having a symmetric connection of that speed, I can see it making video conferencing much, much nicer.
top Should We Be Afraid of Google Glass?
There seems to be a lot of hyperbole going around about Glass, almost makes me wonder if it's Google stirring things up to get more press.
Glass is going to have really interesting effects on how we treat public spaces, but I don't think it's going to destroy privacy for ever in the way some seem to fear.
People are already getting used to the idea that people have cameras ready in their pockets, and are more aware that what they do might not just be seen by others, but may be recorded. I don't think it's going to utterly change behaviour in truly public spaces for most people. Although I fully expect there to be lawsuits, punch-ups and altercations over one off events where people get freaked out because some Glass-wearer is staring at a woman for too long, or watching kids play in a park.
I also expect a lot more "semi-public" places like restaurants, pubs and bar to implement more formal "no-filming" and "no Glasses" policies. These are places that people go to relax and expect a certain level of privacy, and which are private property. Most places I know would probably ask you (politely) to stop/leave if you were constantly filming other patrons with your mobile phone. The same will happen with Glass. No great change here.
Basically it just comes down to people behaving with civility and respect to one another. New norms of society will be worked out and we'll adapt, just as we have with every other technological advance.
Some people will behave like jackasses to each other, just as they already do, while the rest of us get on with being polite and considerate of others.
top Ask Slashdot: Best Pay-as-You-Go Plan For Text and Voice Only?
I knew the US mobile "market" was a bit crap, but I hadn't realised that things have been that badly stitched up.
Not that the UK market is perfect of course (especially now we only have three big operators), but the MVNOs and SIM only plans do create at least some competition.
about a year and a half ago
top Ask Slashdot: Best Pay-as-You-Go Plan For Text and Voice Only?
Here in the UK (and Europe in general) cheap SIM-only plans are numerous, offered by both the major operators and the large number of "virtual" operators (known as MVNOs) who piggy-back on the actual network operators.
No need to buy a cheap phone and remove the SIM, they just pop the SIM in the post, or you can buy them at any mobile phone shop.
There's normally no (or very little) upfront cost. They are available as both pay-as-you-go and contract. Some will offer data, others will be just for voice and text.
Do you not have such things in the US?
about a year and a half ago
top How Much Beef Is In Your Burger?
Various people have commented that this isn't about the fact it was horse, that it's all about deception or poor food quality.
Actually it's about food safety, traceability, and the long shadow of BSE.
After the BSE scandal, the UK and EU introduced some of the strictest standards and processes for the tracking and tracing of meat in the world. These recent cases have demonstrated that these processes do not appear to be working.
The scandal here is not that supermarkets were selling burgers with horsemeat in, it was that they *didn't know* they were selling horsemeat. In theory they should be able to trace every gram of meat in their burgers.
Somehow meat of unknown origin was getting into the food chain.
If we can't prevent horsemeat getting in then we can't prevent infected beef from getting in.
That's the real scandal, that the world's toughest food traceability system appears not to work properly.
about a year and a half ago
top Learn Basic Programming So You Aren't At the Mercy of Programmers
As Dijkstra once said - "computer science is no more about computers than astronomy is about telescopes"
about a year and a half ago
top NASA Plans To "Lasso" Asteroid and Turn It Into Space Station
People keep touting the idea of mining metals from asteroids and using it to build spacecraft outside of the earth's gravity well, but do we actually know how to do that?
The mining side of things seems relatively straight-forward (not easy, but you wouldn't need anything radically new), but smelting and refining significant amounts of ore in low gravity could be rather difficult. As far as I understand, a traditional iron smelting plant uses gravity to help with the purification, allowing the slag to float to the surface, before tapping the good quality iron from the bottom of the blast furnace.
It seems like purifying and working ore in space would require entirely new ways of working with the raw materials. Perhaps using some kind of high temperature centrifuge to spin and separate the material.
I'm not saying it's not possible, but it doesn't seem quite as easy as some of the more excitable science-fictiony plans for space exploration treat it. Many of these plans feature major problems to solve that get glossed over as minor technicalities.
top Is Microsoft's Price Model For the Surface Justifiable?
This is why techies tend to be crap at marketing (that's a complement to techies by the way, I'm a techie).
The purpose of the Surface isn't just to make a profit on each unit (which at this price it probably is), it's to help position Windows 8/RT/Metro or whatever it's called.
The market for cheap tablets is thoroughly occupied by Android. Most people I know, even techies, think of Android tablets as "like an iPad, but cheaper, and therefore not as good". The perception (right or wrong) is that if you want the best you buy an iPad, if you want cheap and cheerful you by an Android tablet. There is no competition at the premium end, it's iPad or nothing. The perception is that the only reason you'd buy Android is because you don't have the money for an iPad.
Pricing the Surface at the same point as the iPad sends out a message to consumers that says "we think the Surface is as good as the iPad". Microsoft clearly want to position Windows 8/RT on tablets as a premium product, it doesn't want to compete with Android, it wants to compete with Apple and iOS.
That won't stop other manufacturers from making cheaper tablets, but Microsoft are setting the bar high. If someone else (e.g. Acer) make a cheap WinRT tablet it will be seen as an affordable version of a premium product, not a "cheap" product.
top Linus Torvalds Answers Your Questions
Couldn't agree more. That was my question, and the answer was better than I could have hoped for.
It's interesting, and probably not that surprising, that those people who actually accomplish stuff rarely seem to be zealots about how they get them done.
I currently do Rails development (after doing everything from embedded systems to Pel hackery), and that community seems to be particularly full of people with a religious fanaticism to certain principles, either methodological or design-pattern wise. The current obsession with the so-called "Single Responsibility Principle" seems to be behind an awful lot of horribly over-complicated code.
The software world needs more outspoken pragmatists before the entire industry disappears up its collective arse.
top Linus Torvalds Will Answer Your Questions
Has there ever been a time in the development of the Linux Kernel where you've wished you'd gone the Hurd-style micro-kernel route espoused by the like of Tannenbaum, or do you feel that from an architectural standpoint Linux has benefitted from having a monolithic design?
Linux has been massively more successful than Hurd, but I wonder how much of that is down to intrinsic technical superiority of its approach, and how much to the lack of a central driving force supported by a community of committed developers? It always seemed like the Hurd model should have allowed more people to be involved, but that has never seemed to be the case.
top Pentagon's In-Orbit Satellite Recycling Program Moving Forward
"If we're ever going to build space craft and other things in orbit, this seems like a great first step."
What, you mean like the ISS (over 100m long and 70m wide)?
I think we took the first steps in building things in orbit quite a long time ago.
I still think this is a very cool idea though, and the more practice we get at building stuff in space the better.
top Landmark Calculation Clears the Way To Answering How Matter Is Formed
Another great example is electricity.
You won't find many today who would argue that electricity has no use. But go back to the very early days of electricity research (I'm talking about Volta and before) and you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who thought it had any practical use at all.
That we have electricity as a practical form of energy is down to a bunch of people who researched it because it was interesting, and a mystery to be investigated, not because they thought there was some obvious practical application for it. Yes, engineers like Tesla, Marconi, et al, did lots of work to make it a widespread and developed useful applications for it, but they wouldn't have been able to had the fundamental research not been carried out.
top Teachers Resist High-tech Push In Idaho Schools
My wife is a secondary school German and French teacher here in the UK.
Her school has a very tech heavy setup, with smart-boards in all the classrooms and all the kids have netbooks.
She really loves the smart-boards, they are incredibly useful because they allow her to use much richer teaching material much more easily than in the past, mixing video, audio, and even letting her create interactive games for the whole class.
The netbooks on the other hand are much less useful. In a class of 30 the odds of all the kids remembering to bring them, and all of them working properly is pretty small. They get broken and lost or infected with viruses. The school's IT team have done a really good job, but with 1200 students it's a sisyphean task to keep them all running.
Don't get me wrong, I think the kids having the netbooks has been a good thing overall, but it's not a magic bullet.
But most importantly the use of the new tech has been driven by the teaching staff, not imposed on them from above, so what they have actually serves an educational purpose.
Politicians should stay out of the minutia of teaching and let teachers and school mangement get on with it. Government should stick to just making sure that the results are good, and intervening where necessary, not ruling by dictat.
top Roundabout Revolution Sweeping US
...is that Americans are dumber than people from Australia, Belgium, China, Denmark, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Cyprus,Israel, Malaysia, Morocco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Portugal, Qatar, Spain, the United Arab Emirates, and the United Kingdom* - all of whom seem to cope quite happily with the concept.
I totally understand that there is a problem with driver education about any kind of new road layout, but the idea that americans are somehow intrinsically incapable of using a roundabout is just weird. Can americans really be intrinsically incapable of cooperating with other road users and generally being aware of those around them?
How do people cope with things like changing lanes or merging onto freeways? Both require awareness of other road users and a certain amount of spontaneous cooperation.
Or are you suggesting that America, the land of personal freedom, only works properly when someone or something (like a set of lights) else tells everyone what to do?
* - according to Wikipedia
top Stallman: eBooks Are Attacking Our Freedoms
I agree with him in so far as the Kindle store is concerned. Being able to effectively "un-sell" a book as happened with 1984 is basically wrong.
However that's a product of the Kindle store, not the device. About two-thirds of the books on my kindle have no DRM. Some of these are Project Gutenberg books, others are Pragmatic Programmers ebooks which are sold in DRM free formats.
There is nothing to stop you from buying a Kindle and then never buying a single ebook from Amazon if you really want.
As with all these sorts of things, the problems lie in the services and publishers, not with the technology.
top Bill Gives Feds "Emergency" Powers To Secure Civilian Nets
Does anyone know if similar powers exist to take over things like power-stations, water supplies etc in the event of some attack/emergency?
The Wired article keeps talking about "covered critical infrastructure" without actually defining exactly what that means.
The described intent (for arguments sake lets assume they are being honest for a change) is to secure critical infrastructure. This could include things like the phone network (essential for the emergency services and governemt to function), the power grid, water supply, gas and electric distribution systems. This is not about taking over Random Corp's internal network.
Of course, as with all "emergency powers" legislation there is massive scope for abuse and for creep in what is defined as "critical", which is why they are almost always a bad idea and should always have very strict checks and balances from all branches of the government and judiciary.