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### Japanese Police Urge ISPs To Block Tor

Two problems here.

(1) The article has nothing to do with Fukushima or TEPCO. It's about someone who sent anonymous death threats.

(2) Sherman and Mangano, the authors of the paper you linked to an article about, are kooks. Just google on their names together, and you'll find plenty of info discrediting their claims, e.g.: http://blogs.scientificamerican.com/observations/2011/12/20/researchers-trumpet-another-flawed-fukushima-death-study/

(3) The Open Journal of Pediatrics appears to be one of the many open-access journals these days that have no standards for publication. See http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/08/health/for-scientists-an-exploding-world-of-pseudo-academia.html for more about these journals. I support the concept of open-access journals, but many of them are junk journals.

(4) Sherman and Mangano's junk science didn't get blocked by evil governments or evil corporations. They put it on the internet and nobody interfered with them.

about a year and a half ago
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### Japanese Police Urge ISPs To Block Tor

a freedom that's also a problem (242 comments)

In the 18th century, privacy was a pretty straightforward thing. That's why, in the 18th-century US, it was straightforward to write the 4th amendment. As a result, the government can't open my snail mail without a warrant, and can't come into my house and search it without a warrant.

The technological reality is very different in the 21st century. I support individuals' rights to use strong crypto and to control their own computer hardware and software. But it's undeniable that these rights carry collateral damage.

In 2012, the University of Pittsburgh was basically shut down for several months by a series of 145 bomb threats that were sent by email, anonymized via Mixmaster. This is not a good outcome.

If someone is using Tor to post death threats anonymously, that's not a good outcome.

Despite these bad outcomes, I still support the individual freedoms that let them happen. But that doesn't mean that it's not a real problem. It's very much like gun violence in the US. I support the 2nd amendement, but I recognize that that comes at a cost.

about a year and a half ago
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### Bruce Schneier On the Marathon Bomber Manhunt

proportion and disproportion (604 comments)

The worst outcome of this isn't necessarily that Boston got locked down, although that's definitely worth discussing.

The worst outcome is that lockdowns are becoming more and more common, far out of proportion to the actual risk. Once it becomes normal to lock down an entire city in response to a very real and significant threat, it then becomes much easier to feel normal about it when we lock down an entire college campus because a mentally ill homeless person made some faculty or staff uncomfortable. It becomes normal to do what some community colleges in my area are doing, which is to have an active shooter drill once a year in which adult college students are locked in a dark room for 30 minutes and told they can't leave. (This passive response is, BTW, not at all in line with what experts recommend in such a situation.)

Destroying 30 minutes of instruction for a whole campus and violating students' civil rights is way out of proportion to the risk of getting killed by an active shooter, which for a college student is on the order of 1 in 300,000 per year. A college student's risk of being a victim of rape, robbery, or assault is about 1 in 100 per year, but we're uncomfortable dealing with that -- in fact, there is a wave of lawsuits right now by women who say their rights were violated when their colleges refused to take action about their being raped.

To use an analogy suggested by Scheneier, active shooters and the marathon bombing are like shark attacks, and other violent crimes are like dog bites. The number of people killed by dogs every year is much, much greater than the number killed by sharks. But we find shark attacks much more psychologically compelling.

about a year and a half ago
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### Extended TeX: Past, Present, and Future

the main event (300 comments)

TFA seems to focus mainly on esoteric typesetting tweaks being worked on in the LaTeX 3 engine. That's cool for people who care a lot about rivers of whitespace in their documents, but there are other things going on in the tex world that I would consider to be more the main event.

Tex predates unicode, postscript and PDF, and modern font formats. There are now versions of tex such as xetex and luatex that accept utf-8 input, generate PDF output directly, and can use whatever fonts you have on your system rather than special-purpose fonts packaged for use with tex. Luatex allows lua to be used as an extension language, which is a great idea considering how much tex sucks as a general-purpose programming language.

The other thing to realize about tex is that today it's the de facto standard input format that people use for creating mathml (since mathml itself is much too cumbersome for humans to write directly). There are technologies like mathjax that support this and that allow mathml to be displayed even in IE, which has never had standards-compliant mathml support.

about a year and a half ago
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### How Would an Astronaut Falling Into a Black Hole Die?

Re:We must find out for sure! (412 comments)

No matter the size of a black hole, gravitational acceleration at the event horizon is c per Planck time.

Total nonsense, modded up to 5 on slashdot. Oh, well.

The gravitational acceleration at the event horizon can take on any value. It depends on the size of the black hole. This is determined by general relativity, which is a classical theory. Because it's a classical theory, it has nothing to say about the Planck time.

about a year and a half ago
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### FCC To Update 1996 Cell Phone Radiation Standard

Re:Change the name (90 comments)

So, just don't call it radiation. Call RF emission or RF power. Just as accurate, just as technical sounding, but less scary to the illiterate.

This is what happened with nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR). It would have been logical to call the medical imaging technique nuclear magnetic resonance imaging, NMRI. Instead we leave off the N and call it MRI.

about a year and a half ago
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### FCC To Update 1996 Cell Phone Radiation Standard

If the burden of proof is on the people who claim there's harm, and you prohibit funding of any further attempts to find such harm, that subverts the scientific process.

By this logic, the NIH should be funding endless studies of all kinds of quackery, such as putting magnets in your shoes to cure arthritis. There isn't unlimited tax money available to do unlimited numbers of studies on topics where no convincing positive evidence exists and there are strong, fundamental reasons to believe that the previous negative results were to be expected.

For a long time people suspected that electricity and magnetism were somehow related, but were unable to figure out how. How would things have turned out if those who believed they weren't related pointed to all the early failures and cited them as reason to cut off all funding for attempts to find a relationship between the two?

This is an apples-and-oranges comparison. In 1820, electricity and magnetism were not well understood at the fundamental level. In 2013, the interaction of nonionizing radiation with matter is well understood at the fundamental level, and has been for 150 years.

But those who claim there is a danger must be allowed to continue trying to prove their viewpoint. Otherwise you've turned science into one big circle jerk of confirmation bias.

I don't advocate prohibiting them from doing studies. I just advocate not continuing to give them tax money to do it, and not continuing to publish their inconclusive results, based on poor methods, in peer-reviewed journals. We don't fund people to continue testing the hypothesis that malaria is caused by bad air, or that maggots arise from decaying flesh by spontaneous generation. That doesn't make the germ theory of disease "one big circle jerk of confirmation bias."

Generally, the government agencies funding those types of studies do a pretty good job of it. They don't just keep funding the same study over and over. In order for the applicant to get funding, s/he has to propose something new and novel - either something which hasn't been studied before, or some way to conduct the study which hasn't been tried before and could give different insight.

What you're describing is the way it's supposed to work. Cell phones and cancer are an example where it doesn't actually work that way.

about a year and a half ago
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### FCC To Update 1996 Cell Phone Radiation Standard

Cell phone radiation is non-ionizing. There is no known, plausible mechanism by which non-ionizing radiation can cause cancer. That puts the burden of proof on the people who claim there's harm. No such effect has been documented in animals. No such effect seems to exist in epidemiological studies in humans.

It's depressing that science education is so poor that ordinary citizens don't seem able to evaluate these facts appropriately.

It's depressing that journalists do such a lousy job that they keep on reporting on a manufactured controversy as if all evidence were of equal value.

It's depressing that funding agencies such as NIH continue to give money to this type of junk science, and that scientific journals continue to publish it.

about a year and a half ago
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### US Senate Passes National Internet Sales Tax Mandate

Re:First! (State) (297 comments)

Before you can even collect sales tax you will have to register with each state and pay for a sales tax id (100 for CT alone). I don't believe for a second that states are going to give sales and use tax ids away for free either. I don't see how this is going to work for anything but the largest online retailers and I'm still not convinced that this doesn't violate interstate commerce. Please read the article. "Forty-six U.S. states now have sales taxes, but a 1992 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court prohibited states from collecting sales tax from catalog sellers because of the burden it would place on the sellers. The court, however, left it up to Congress to allow states to collect sales taxes on remote sales if the states created a streamlined tax collection system." about a year and a half ago top ### Live Tweeting the Symphony? drove me away (166 comments) "Desperate attempts to engage" us drove me and my wife away from our local symphony , the Pacific Symphony in Costa Mesa, CA. We had season tickets for several years. Then they started showing video on a huge screen at their performances -- not all the performances, but about half. It was incredibly annoying. They'd play something that was supposed to be pastoral, and on the giant screen they'd put pictures of mountains and forests and streams -- not the landscapes that I wanted to imagine while listening to the music, but the landscapes that they wanted me to see. They'd do a piano concerto, and for the entire duration of the piece, they'd project live video of the soloist's hands from above, moving around on the screen. Incredibly annoying. We started trying to figure out which concerts had video, and we wouldn't show up for those. When it came time to renew our season tickets, we didn't. We figured we'd just buy tickets to individual performaces that we knew wouldn't have video, but in reality that was too much of a hassle, so we never went back. Hey, Pacific Symphony, want me and my wife back in your concert hall, helping to fill seats and keep you afloat financially? Then please bring a bunch of musicians out on the stage and have them play good music really well. about a year and a half ago top ### More From Canonical Employee On: "Why Mir?" not likely to be competent to do it (337 comments) We know what a disaster it was when Canonical tried to adopt PulseAudio in Ubuntu. Basically they broke audio for no good reason. (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PulseAudio#Problems_during_adoption_phase for more info.) Mir would seem to be an order of magnitude more difficult to pull off, since it's to be developed in-house by Canonical, and video is *much* more complex than audio. Over all, it seems extremely unlikely to me that Canonical is competent to succeed in this. They also don't seem to have learned their lesson from the PulseAudio experience in terms of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." about a year and a half ago top ### Why All the Higgs Hate? It's a 'Vanilla' Boson Re:Discovery and limitations (205 comments) Huh? I thought string theory _required_ the Higgs to exist, and at approximately the energy level at which it has been found, because it requires supersymmetry, and supersymmetry predicts Higgs with an energy of 135 GeV. GP is incorrect, but not for the reasons you're saying. The standard model requires, for its own self-consistency, either the Higgs or some other mechanism to exist at LHC energies. The Higgs has long been the front-running candidate, and basically everyone expected it to be found. If the Higgs had not been found at the LHC, then the LHC would essentially have been guaranteed to find some other new physics, because without it, the standard model would have been inconsistent. Supersymmetry did not predict a specific mass for the Higgs. SUSY can't make predictions like this because it has unknown parameters relating to how the symmetry is broken. ST is believed/hoped to be consistent with the standard model, and the standard model includes a Higgs, so it's certainly nonsense for GP to claim that the Higgs invalidates ST. about a year and a half ago top ### Why All the Higgs Hate? It's a 'Vanilla' Boson Re:Discovery and limitations (205 comments) The actual fact of the matter is that there are some string theorist who are deeply unhappy with the idea of a Higgs being discovered (the jury is technically still out, BTW, until the data analysis is more complete and more experiments run). The reason for this is that the mathematics involved in their theories make them falsifiable by the discovery of a Higgs. This is total nonsense. The existence of the Higgs does not falsify string theory. ST has always been intended to be consistent with the standard model in the low-energy limit, and the Higgs is part of the standard model. It's pathetic when people post authoritative-sounding nonsense about science on slashdot and then get modded up to +5. What is somewhat of a negative for ST is that the LHC doesn't seem to be finding supersymmetry at the electroweak scale. If SUSY doesn't exist at the electroweak scale, then it eliminates a lot of the motivation for SUSY. Since ST has almost always been worked on under the assumption of approximate SUSY, this would tend to make people look at ST more skeptically. However, the choice of an energy scale for breaking SUSY doesn't have any effect on the self-consistency of ST. The problem with ST isn't that ST is in danger of being falsified by experiment. The problem (or one of many problems) is that after 30 years of effort, ST still has not reached the point where it makes any predictions that could be falsified by any experiment in the foreseeable future. This makes it questionable whether ST qualifies as a scientific theory. Scientific theories are supposed to expose themselves to falsification. about a year and a half ago top ### Do Not Track Ineffective and Dangerous, Says Researcher Re:trivial, 99% effective fix (207 comments) That's no good for for those of us who put our computers to sleep instead of shutting down. The cookies go away when you restart your browser, not just when you shut down your computer. about a year and a half ago top ### Do Not Track Ineffective and Dangerous, Says Researcher trivial, 99% effective fix (207 comments) There is a trivial, 99% effective fix for this problem. In firefox, go to Edit:Preferences:Privacy and tell it to forget all cookies when you end a browser session. There is also a facility for whitelisting cookies from certain sites so that, for example, you don't have to log in to slashdot every time. Cookies from the whitelisted sites are remembered across browser sessions. about a year and a half ago top ### Professors Rejecting Classroom Technology Re:I am a chemistry professor... (372 comments) I have used technology, and will continue to, but it's not a major part of my instruction and I could easily do without it entirely. I teach physics at a community college, and for the most part I agree with you. However, I do have one killer app for my classes, which is letting students check their homework answers (both symbolic and numerical) on a computer. Evil textbook publishers (oops, that was redundant) have systems like this that they make students pay for, but the pioneers in the field were open source (Lon-Capa at Michigan State), and there are now many good FOSS systems such as WeBWorK. This is not something that you can do equally well without computers. Before I started doing this, many of my students would hand in homework papers without a single correct answer on them. They simply weren't getting any educational benefit out of the homework. These days, they know if an answer is wrong because the computer tells them so. They show up in my office hours showing me what they did on part c of problem 17. I help them, and it's extremely productive. about a year and a half ago top ### Microsoft Embraces Git For Development Tools zombies, Von Dutch, and git (227 comments) Zombies were cool. Then they got so overexposed that Homeland Security started making videos about the zombie apocalypse. Zombies are now as uncool as Von Dutch. If MS is using git, it's obviously time to switch to something that is way newer, way cooler, and doesn't actually work. about a year and a half ago top ### Free Wi-Fi: the Movement To Give Away Your Internet For the Good of Humanity with cable, you're sharing bandwidth anyway (505 comments) TFA makes the point that, at least in theory, you can bandwidth-limit your router so that the amount of flow your neighbors generate is negligible. Someone who's driving through your neighborhood and is lost can pull over and look at a map on their handheld device, but the guy in the house next door won't be watching netflix all night on your connection and bogging you down. Another thing to realize is that if you have cable modem service, you're sharing bandwidth with your neighbors anyway. For me, the big argument against doing this is simply complexity. Running a home wifi network for my wife and kids is already the biggest %*&%^*& pain in the ass ever. The damn system is fragile as hell. I've tried various things advised by slashdotters (buying brands and models of routers known to be reliable, using a surge protector and battery backup to avoid frying electronics), but the plain truth is that I've utterly failed to make a robust system and I experience constant hassles. It's like working on my own plumbing -- I acknowledge that I'm not competent to do anything more complicated than replacing a washer, and I don't want my plumbing to be a system so complex that it requires frequent maintenance. Others' mileage may vary, and many people here are certainly more competent than I am at networking. If so, more power to them. But personally, I don't want to stress my rickety system any more than I have to by having my neighbors on it. A final issue is simply that wifi tends not to propagate very well. Even within my own house, I have trouble getting decent signal strength from downstairs to upstairs. I've installed repeaters and high-gain antennas, and it still doesn't work well. Our house isn't a mcmansion, but we have hardwood floors, and I think the building materials must really attenuate the signals. about a year and a half ago top ### Mozilla To Enable Click-To-Play For All Firefox Plugins By Default incredibly annoying doorhanger popup in Firefox 19 (181 comments) Hopefully this will mean a complete rewrite of their click-to-play setup, including fixing this incredibly annoying misfeature of Firefox 19: As far as I can tell, this whole aspect of firefox was never designed properly. It grew into an unmaintainable mess, and now they're having a hard time finding their way out. about a year and a half ago # Submissions top ### Brown Signs California Bill for Free Textbooks bcrowell (177657) writes "California Governor Jerry Brown has signed SB 1052 and 1053, authored by state senator Darrell Steinberg, to create free textbooks for 50 core lower-division college courses. SB 1052 creates a California Open Education Resources Council, made up of faculty from the UC, Cal State, and community college systems. The council is supposed to pick 50 core courses. They are then to establish a "competitive request-for-proposal process in which faculty members, publishers, and other interested parties would apply for funds to produce, in 2013, 50 high-quality, affordable, digital open source textbooks and related materials, meeting specified requirements." The bill doesn't become operative unless the legislature funds it — a questionable process in California's current political situation. The books could be either newly produced (which seems unlikely, given the 1-year time frame stated) or existing ones that the state would buy or have free access to. Unlike former Gov. Schwarzenegger's failed K-12 free textbook program, this one specifically defines what it means by "open source," rather than using the term as a feel-good phrase; books have to be under a CC-BY (or CC-BY-SA?) license, in XML format. They're supposed to be modularized and conform to state and W3C accessibility guidelines. Faculty would not be required to use the free books." Link to Original Source top ### California State Senator Proposes Open-Source Text bcrowell (177657) writes "Although former Governor Schwarzenegger's free digital textbook initiative for K-12 education was a failure, state senator Darrell Steinberg has a new idea for the state-subsidized publication of college textbooks (details in the PDF links at the bottom). Newspaper editorials seem positive.[1], [2]. It will be interesting to see if this works any better at the college level than it did for K-12, where textbook selection has traditionally been very bureaucratic. This is also different from Schwarzenegger's FDTI because Steinberg proposes spending state money to help create the books. The K-12 version suffered from legal uncertainty about the Williams case, which requires equal access to books for all students — many of whom might not have computers at home. At the symposium where the results of the FDTI's first round were announced, it became apparent that the only businesses interested in participating actively were not the publishers but computer manufacturers like Dell and Apple, who wanted to sell lots of hardware to schools." Link to Original Source top ### Preventing networked gizmos in exams? bcrowell (177657) writes "I'm a college physics professor. My students all want to use calculators during exams, and some of them whose native language isn't English also want to use electronic dictionaries. I had a Korean student who was upset and dropped the course when I told her she couldn't use her iPod during an exam — she said she used it as a dictionary. It gets tough for me to distinguish networked devices (iPhone? iTouch?) from non-networked ones (calculator? electronic dictionary? iPod?). I give open-notes exams, so it's not memory that's an issue, it's networking. Currently our classrooms have poor wireless receptivity (no wifi, possible cell, depending on your carrier), but as of spring 2011 we will have wifi everywhere. What's the best way to handle this? I'd prefer not to make them all buy the same overpriced graphing calculator. I'm thinking of buying 30 el-cheapo four-function calculators out of my pocket, but I'm afraid that less adaptable students will be unable to handle the switch from the calculator they know to an unfamiliar (but simpler) one." top ### Results of Textbook Initiative Announced bcrowell writes "The results of California Governor Schwarzenegger's Free Digital Textbook Initiative were announced today at a symposium near Los Angeles. Sixteen free high school math and science textbooks were evaluated based on state standards. Almost all the books were Creative Commons-licensed works produced by individuals and nonprofits, with the exception of a consumable biology workbook from Pearson. Participants diverged wildly on open-source versus free-as-in-beer, DRM versus open formats, whether books ought to be fluid or guaranteed not to change for a set period, and on top-down versus bottom-up approaches. Computer manufacturers and traditional publishers were there in force to explain why they should get a bigger share of the shrinking California education budget." Link to Original Source top ### Calif. Lists Books for Free Textbook Initiative bcrowell writes "California governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has released a list of 20 free math and science textbooks that were submitted as part of the state's Free Digital Textbook Initiative. Four of the books are from traditional publisher Pearson Education. The other 16 are from nontraditional content providers (including ck12.org and Sun spin-off Curriki.org), and nearly all of these are under Creative Commons licenses. The press release doesn't include URLs, but here are the ones I was able to track down (all but Pearson's): Earth Science 1, Biology and Life Science: 1, 2, Calculus: 1, 2, 3, 4, Algebra, Trig, and Geometry: 1, 2, 3, Chem and Physics: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5. Submitters had to provide documentation to show that their books were aligned with state standards. The state will now review the books, and will release its final conclusions in August. The project is only dealing with high-school books right now; the state's textbook selection for K-8 books requires a much more arduous review process, which often results in only a couple of books being approved on a particular topic. This transcript of a recent speech by the Governor includes some interesting questions from students and teachers. Schwarzenegger expects that some schools will end up wanting to print out the books, but says that that is still better than buying heavy100 textbooks that are only updated once every six years. The initiative has been discussed previously on slashdot."

Link to Original Source
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### Class Action Settlement in Ameritrade Data Breach

bcrowell writes "Starting in 2005, people like me who used the Ameritrade online stock brokerage received pump-and-dump spam sent to the email addresses we'd supplied to Ameritrade. It was discussed here on Slashdot. Although many of us had used throwaway email addresses from obscure domains, Ameritrade insisted for several years that there was no security breach, and the spammers had found the addresses using "'brute forcing' or dictionary techniques."

Matthew Elvey found a lawyer to file a class action lawsuit in 2007, and posted about it on spamgourmet.com. The settlement was approved in May, and as a member of the class, I got a postcard about it today. Elvey complained that he was kept in the dark about the case, and tells Wired he "was deceived into the terms of the settlement. I don't think it does anything substantial." Members of the class will receive a year's free subscription to Trend Micro Internet Security Pro. The entire $1.9 million cash portion of the settlement will go to Elvey's lawyers. TD Ameritrade now says it was the victim of a network attack (not an inside job), which compromised social security numbers and email addresses. They're going to seed their database with fake user accounts in order to detect any further leaks. Personally, I transferred my stocks from Ameritrade to another brokerage as soon as I saw the problem. I don't want my life's savings being held by a company that's this clueless about security." Link to Original Source top ### Settlement in Google Book Search Lawsuit bcrowell writes "Google has settled the class-action lawsuit that was brought against them because of their Google Book Search program, which has scanned, OCR'd, and indexed the texts of millions of books, both public-domain and copyrighted. Google says the program falls under the fair use exception to copyright, but has settled the suit on terms that require it to pay an initial lump sum, and also to give 63% of revenue to copyright owners. Google can place ads next to copyrighted texts." top ### Open-Source College Textbooks Gaining Mindshare bcrowell writes "The LA Times has a front-page article about how open-source college textbooks starting to gain traction. One author says, "I couldn't continue assigning idiotic books that are starting to break$200," and describes attempts by commercial publishers to bribe faculty to use their books. The Cal State system has started a Digital Marketplace to help faculty find out about their options for free and non-free digital textbooks, and the student group PIRG has collected 1200 faculty signatures on a statement of support for open textbooks."
Link to Original Source
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bcrowell writes "A New York times editorial has a plug for Flat World Knowledge, a startup that will offer college textbooks inexpensively (~$30) in print, and free as PDFs. They plan to make their profits from add-ons like podcast study guides and mobile phone flashcards. Books will be CC-BY-NC licensed. Mashups and customizations are encouraged, but the NC license is incompatible with strong copyleft licenses such as the GFDL used by Wikipedia. Other companies trying to find a workable business model for free textbooks include Ink Textbooks (revenue from online homework) and Freeload Press (revenue from ads inside the books). So far, none of these companies seems to have succeeded in building up much of a catalog of books, and it seems more common for authors of free textbooks to take a DIY approach, putting PDFs on their own web pages, and sometimes arranging POD with vanity-press publishers like lulu.com. Lots and lots of web sites exist to help people find free textbooks, and CalPIRG has an active campaign pushing for affordable textbooks." Link to Original Source top ### A Review of the$200 Wal-Mart Linux PC

bcrowell writes "Wal-Mart's new \$200 Linux PC has generated a lot of buzz among geeks. Although they're sold out of stores, I bought one for my daughter via mail order, and have written up a review of the system. The hardware seems fine for anyone but a hardcore gamer, but the preinstalled gOS flavor of Ubuntu has a lot of rough edges."
Link to Original Source
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### High-Tech Spying in Divorces

Link to Original Source
top bcrowell writes "Nature is reporting on e-mails leaked from the Association of American Publishers, which considers itself "under siege" because of NIH and congressional efforts to get all NIH-funded scientific papers posted for free on PubMed Central. The AAP has hired a PR firm, which is advising them to spread the message that "Public access equals government censorship," and that traditional for-profit print publishing is the same thing as peer peer review."
top bcrowell writes "Sun has launched a new web site called Curriki, which is going to use a XWiki to create textbooks and other educational materials. The site is up, but according to the FAQ, some important functions won't be available until January. The license is CC-BY, which differentiates it from wikipedia and wikibooks, but also makes it incompatible with them. It looks like they plan to have much tighter controls and standards than wikipedia and wikibooks. The Terms of Service say you can't contribute if your're under 18."

# Slashdot: News for Nerds

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