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Comments

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Slashdot Launches Re-Design

pickens Quibbles (2254 comments)

All in all, the look is good but there are some minor tweeks the new slashdot could use:

1. Not enough contrast in the links in stories for them to be easily visible. That makes a big difference to old guys with deteriotating eyesight (like me).

2. No way for a story submitter to attach a link or email address to his username when he/she submits a story.

3. The story box is too small when making a story submission and makes it difficult to submit stories from an ipad.

4. When I look at popular in the firehose, I don't see the colors indicating their popularity anymore. This was really useful.

5. Please bring back the story rejected/accepted page that used to show up when you submitted a story.

6. The good - that you have retained the ability from the classic view to look at stories nested, flat, back to front etc.

more than 3 years ago
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Does Google Pin Copyright Violations On the ASF?

pickens Not a Smoking Gun (136 comments)

http://arstechnica.com/open-source/news/2011/01/new-alleged-evidence-of-android-infringement-isnt-a-smoking-gun.ars

"A close look at the actual files and accompanying documentation, however, suggest that it's not a simple case of copy and paste. The infringing files are found in a compressed archive in a third-party component supplied by SONiVOX, a member of Google's Open Handset Alliance (OHA). SONiVOX, which was previously called Sonic, develops an Embedded Audio Synthesis (EAS) framework and accompanying Java API wrappers which it markets as audioINSIDE."

It's not clear how the zip file got included in the AOSP, but it's obvious that it wasn't intended to be there and isn't actually used by Android in any capacity. Android is using SONiVOX's EAS code, but doesn't use or need the MMAPI wrapper. This incident is very clearly not a case of Android stealing code from Sun or J2ME. It's a handful of test cases from an unrelated and publicly available Sun reference implementation that got uploaded by accident to AOSP in a zip archive supplied by a third party. It's a tacky mistake, but it's hardly serious or damaging. At worst, it warrants a takedown notice. It's certainly not a smoking gun as one might assume when viewing the code out of context.

more than 3 years ago
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Riled Reciept Retaliates with Robocall Revenge

pickens Riled Recipient not Reciept (1 comments)

Riled Recipient Retaliates with Robocall Revenge

more than 3 years ago
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Wired Responds in Manning Chat Log Controversy

pickens Alternate Title of Article (1 comments)

"Wired Defends its Coverage of Bradley Manning"

more than 3 years ago
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Microchips Now in Tombstones, Toilets & Fish L

pickens Title was Truncated (1 comments)

"Microchips Now in Tombstones, Toilets and Fish Lures"

more than 3 years ago
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Privacy Concerns With Android and iPhone Apps

pickens Your Apps Are Watching You (116 comments)

An investigation by the Wall Street Journal of 101 popular smartphone "apps"--games and other software applications for iPhone and Android phones--shows that 56 transmitt the phone's unique device ID to other companies without users' awareness or consent. Forty-seven apps transmitt the phone's location in some way. Five send age, gender and other personal details to outsiders. "In the world of mobile, there is no anonymity," says Michael Becker of the Mobile Marketing Association. A cellphone is "always with us. It's always on." Smartphone users are all but powerless to limit the tracking. With few exceptions, app users can't "opt out" of phone tracking, as is possible, in limited form, on regular computers. Both Apple and Google say they protect users by requiring apps to obtain permission before revealing certain kinds of information, such as location but the investigation found that these rules can be skirted. For example, one iPhone app, Pumpkin Maker (a pumpkin-carving game), transmits location to an ad network without asking permission. Apple declines to comment on whether the app violates its rules.

more than 3 years ago
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Judge Declares Mistrial Because of Wikipedia

pickens You are very observant (2 comments)

Both trials involve Wikipedia but I don't think they were "almost the exact same circumstance."



Trial 1:

Took place in Philippines.

was a Civil Trial (Divorce).

was a decision that was reversed on Appeal.

The Decision was Reversed because the Prosecuting attorney used Wikipedia as a reference.



Trial 2:

Took place in US.

was a Criminal Trial (Rape).

was declared a Mistrial

was declared a Mistrial because the jury was tainted with outside information from Wikipedia.



I submitted two separate stories because I think the differences in the two cases were substantial and interesting enough to warrant a discussion on slashdot.

Yes, Wikipedia is one of my interests and I did used to edit articles for Wikipedia but I submit articles about a lot of subjects that have nothing to do with Wikipedia.

more than 3 years ago
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Judge Focuses on ‘Fair Use’ in Copyrig

pickens Title was Truncated (1 comments)

Judge Focuses on 'Fair Use' in Copyright Lawsuit

or better

Judge Focuses on 'Fair Use' in Righthaven Copyright Lawsuit

more than 3 years ago
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FedEx Misplaces Radioactive Rods

pickens Re:contradiction much .. (165 comments)

Actually at the time this story was submitted to Slashdot and posted to the front page, the rods had not been located.

The story was updated after the rods were found but Fox didn't mention that they had changed the story, given the story a different headline, and kept the whole story at the same URL. Normally when a story changed this substantially, the news organization publishes a new story, or at least notes that the story has been updated or corrected.

Here is the cached version of the story and the headline at the time it was submitted as a story to Slashdot.

http://cc.bingj.com/cache.aspx?q=radioactive+rods+fox+news&d=1094018597270&mkt=en-US&setlang=en-US&w=d977f9e4,d2527ef2

FedEx Searching for Radioactive Shipment That Vanished Between N.D. and Tenn.

more than 3 years ago
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FedEx Misplaces Radioactive Rods

pickens Fox News Changed the Story at the Original URL (165 comments)

Actually at the time this story was submitted, the rods had not been located.

The story was updated on the Fox News Site after the rods were found but they kept the original URL.

Here is the cached version of the story at the time it was submitted as a story to Slashdot.

http://cc.bingj.com/cache.aspx?q=radioactive+rods+fox+news&d=1094018597270&mkt=en-US&setlang=en-US&w=d977f9e4,d2527ef2

FedEx Searching for Radioactive Shipment That Vanished Between N.D. and Tenn.

By Diane Macedo

Published November 26, 2010

| FoxNews.com

MEMPHIS, Tenn. - FedEx reports that a shipment of radioactive rods used in medical equipment has vanished while being sent from North Dakota to Tennessee.

FedEx spokeswoman Sandra Munoz says the rods, which are used for quality control in CT scans, were being returned to their manufacturer in Knoxville, Tenn., from a hospital in Fargo, N.D. Three shipments left the hospital earlier this week, but only two arrived at their destination.

"We're looking for that third one," Munoz told FoxNews.com.

Based on tracking information, FedEx is focusing its search in the Tennessee area, Munoz said, but as a normal precaution the company alerted all of its stations "in the event that it got way late and went to another station by accident."

The rods are incased in a metal container called a pig that Munoz says is roughly 10 inches tall and weighs about 20 pounds.

"As long as people do not try to open the metal container they will not be exposed to any remaining radiation," she said.

But Fox News Medical Contributor Dr. Marc Siegel says if someone does open the container it could pose some serious health risks.

"I don't believe it has the degree of radiation that, if it were opened, your skin would suddenly slop off. But the concern would be, if this got opened inadvertently and someone didn't know what it was and then was repeatedly exposed to it over several days, it could cause a problem with radiation poisoning," Siegel said. "The people that use this equipment in a hospital use protective shielding with it."

The lesson here, he says, is that active medical material must always be transported in a way that ensures that the general public cannot get access to it.

"Medical devices should not be FedEx'ed. They should be sent under a special service," Siegel said. "There are courier services and several other ways to do that without getting into the general pool. I think that was a mistake that's not generally the way medical supplies are sent.

"If FedEx wants to be involved in transporting medical materials, it should be completely separate and with all kinds of checks and balances so this can't happen," he added.

Munoz says FedEx follows a series of regulations when transporting objects like the rods in this shipment. This was no exception.

"There are regulations on how this type of equipment has to be packaged, the quantities that can be shipped, and we were all within the regulatory requirements," she said.

more than 3 years ago
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Researchers Model Discussion Cascades on Slashdot

pickens Wikipedia Discussion Pages (1 comments)

The submission needs to clarify that when the researchers talk about Wikipedia, they are referring to the discussion pages that go with each article in Wikipedia, not the Wikipedia articles themselves.

more than 3 years ago
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Power Failure Shuts Down 50 US Nuclear Missiles

pickens Update to the story (338 comments)

It is now being called an engineering failure not a power failure.

"According to the official, engineers believe that a launch control center computer (LCC), responsible for a package of five missiles, began to "ping" out of sequence, resulting in a surge of "noise" through the system. The LCCs interrogate each missile in sequence, so if they begin to send signals out when they're not supposed to, receivers on the missiles themselves will notice this and send out error codes.

Since LCCs ping out of sequence on occasion, missileers tried quick fixes. But as more and more missiles began to display error settings, they decided to take off-line all five LCCs that the malfunctioning center was connected to. That left 50 missiles in the dark. The missileers then restarted one of the LCCs, which began to normally interrogate the missile transceiver. Three other LCCs were successfully restarted. The suspect LCC remains off-line. "

The missiles were offline for about an hour.

more than 3 years ago

Submissions

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Win the Future says Obama in State of the Union

pickens pickens writes  |  more than 3 years ago

pickens (49171) writes "The Washington Post reports that President Obama repeatedly declared the imperative to "win the future," in his State of the Union address comparing the current need for innovation to the 1950s space race against the Soviet Union and calling for more dedication to research and technology as he raised the specter of a rapidly growing China and India, "This is our generation's Sputnik moment." Obama's proposals — some of them left over from last year's State of the Union address — ranged from increasing math and science teacher training to investing more in developing clean-energy technology. "Half a century ago, when the Soviets beat us into space with the launch of a satellite called Sputnik we had no idea how we'd beat them to the moon. The science wasn't even there yet. NASA didn't exist," he said. "But after investing in better research and education, we didn't just surpass the Soviets; we unleashed a wave of innovation that created new industries and millions of new jobs.""
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DOJ Seeks Mandatory Data Retention for ISP's

pickens pickens writes  |  more than 3 years ago

Hugh Pickens writes "Computerworld reports that in testimony before Congress the US Department of Justice renewed its call for legislation mandating Internet Service Providers (ISP) retain customer usage data for up to two years because law enforcement authorities are coming up empty-handed in their efforts to go after online predators and other criminals because of the unavailability of data relating to their online activities. "There is no doubt among public safety officials that the gaps between providers' retention policies and law enforcement agencies' needs, can be extremely harmful to the agencies' investigations" says Jason Weinstein, deputy assistant attorney general at the Justice Department adding that data retention is crucial to fighting Internet crimes, especially online child pornography (PDF). Weinstein admits that a data retention policy raises valid privacy concerns however, such concerns need to be addressed and balanced against the need for law enforcement to have access to the data. "Denying law enforcement that evidence prevents law enforcement from identifying those who victimize others online," concludes Weinstein."
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Pope Benedict Says Facebooking Not A Sin

pickens pickens writes  |  more than 3 years ago

Pickens writes "Tom's Guide reports that the Pope has officially blessed the use of Internet communication tools, especially social networks, but warned about risks. "In the search for sharing, for 'friends', there is the challenge to be authentic and faithful, and not give in to the illusion of constructing an artificial public profile for oneself," stated Pope Benedict XVI in his statement of "Truth, Proclamation and Authenticity of Life in the Digital Age" reminding Christians not to forget the interaction with others in the real world: "It is important always to remember that virtual contact cannot and must not take the place of direct human contact with people at every level of our lives." The Pope reminded followers that the Vatican is using the new tools as well adding that he would like to "invite Christians, confidently and with an informed and responsible creativity, to join the network of relationships which the digital era has made possible.""
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Chinese Stealth Fighter Jet May Use US Technology

pickens pickens writes  |  more than 3 years ago

Ponca City writes "In 1999 a US F-117 Nighthawk was downed by a Serbian anti-aircraft missile during a bombing raid. It was the first time one of the fighters had been hit, and the Pentagon blamed clever tactics and sheer luck. The pilot ejected and was rescued. Now the Guardian reports that pieces of the wrecked US F-117 stealth fighter ended up in the hands of foreign military attaches. "At the time, our intelligence reports told of Chinese agents crisscrossing the region where the F-117 disintegrated, buying up parts of the plane from local farmers," says Admiral Davor Domazet-Loso, Croatia's military chief of staff during the Kosovo war. "We believe the Chinese used those materials to gain an insight into secret stealth technologies ... and to reverse-engineer them." Zoran Kusovac says the Serbian regime routinely shared captured western equipment with its Chinese and Russian allies. "The destroyed F-117 topped that wish-list for both the Russians and Chinese," says Kusovac."
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Scientists Warn of California Franken-Storm

pickens pickens writes  |  more than 3 years ago

Hugh Pickens writes "The LA Times reports that California's "big one" may not be an earthquake at all, but a devastating megastorm that would inundate the Central Valley, trigger widespread landslides and cause flood damage to 1 in 4 homes costing more than $300 billion in property damage — four times that of a very large earthquake. A team of more than 100 scientists, engineers and emergency planners used flood mapping, climate change projections and geologic flood history to simulate a hypothetical storm so intense that it occurs only every 100 to 200 years with an "atmospheric river" of moisture from the tropical Pacific hitting California with up to 10 feet of rain and hurricane-force winds over several weeks. The simulation is based on a 45-day series of storms that started in December 1861 that turned the Sacramento Valley into an inland sea, pushing California into bankruptacy, forcing the state Capitol to be moved temporarily from Sacramento to San Francisco, and requiring Gov. Leland Stanford to take a rowboat to his inauguration. "We need to recognize that flooding here in California is as much of a risk as an earthquake," says Lucy Jones, chief scientist for the Geological Survey's Multi-Hazards Project. "These storms are like hurricanes in the amount of rain that they produce.""
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New TV Show May Violate Child Pornography Laws

pickens pickens writes  |  more than 3 years ago

Hugh Pickens writes "The Contra Costa Times reports that executives at MTV are concerned that some scenes from the provocative new show "Skins" may violate child pornography statutes defined by the federal government as any visual depiction of someone under 18 engaged in sexually explicit conduct. "Skins" is an import from Britain, a country that has historically displayed a higher tolerance for TV eroticism and episodes there included simulated masturbation, implied sexual assault, and teenagers disrobing and getting into bed together. The early episodes for MTV, including the third one, are virtually identical to the source material. The Parents Television Council, a TV watchdog group, has labeled "Skins" the "most dangerous program that has ever been foisted on your children" and has asked Congress and the Justice Department to investigate because unlike "Glee" and other TV shows depicting sexually active teenagers, the actors in "Skins" are still teenagers, rather than actors in their 20s. However MTV says the show addresses real-world issues confronting teens in a frank way. "We also have taken numerous steps to alert viewers to the strong subject matter so that they can choose for themselves whether it is appropriate.""
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Study Sez Txt Msgs Make Kidz Gr8 Spellrz

pickens pickens writes  |  more than 3 years ago

Picknz writes "The Telegraph reports that researchers have found that texting can improve literacy among pupils by giving them extra exposure to word composition outside the school day. According to the report, the association between spelling and text messaging may be explained by the ''highly phonetic nature' of the abbreviations used by children and the alphabetic awareness required for successfully decoding the words. "It is also possible that textism use adds value because of the indirect way in which mobile phone use may be increasing children’s exposure to print outside of school," says the report. "We are now starting to see consistent evidence that children's use of text message abbreviations has a positive impact on their spelling skills," adds Professor Claire Wood. "There is no evidence that children's language play when using mobile phones is damaging literacy development.""
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Android Code Apparently Lifted From Java

pickens pickens writes  |  more than 3 years ago

Ponca City writes "The San Francisco Chronicle reports that according to new research by an intellectual property lawyer Florian Mueller, a portion of the code for Android is copied directly from Java lending credence to Oracle's intellectual property suit against Google. Mueller took a close look at some of the public evidence in the case, and he claims to have found 43 Android files that were directly copied from Java noting that some of the files were changed slightly, but the differences were "minuscule" — basically, it looks like the coders took the files, added a few comments or moved a few lines around without changing the logic of the code, then put it into the Android source code. Mueller has documented his findings in nine separate PDF files, seven of which compare the decompiled version of a file from Java 2 Standard Edition (J2SE) version 5.0 to the corresponding file in the Android source code tree. Mueller concludes that if the case moves on, the discovery process could be "very fruitful for Oracle, and may become dreadful for Google.""
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Wikileaks Movie Coming to the Big Screen

pickens pickens writes  |  more than 3 years ago

Hugh Pickens writes "First Facebook and now Wikileaks as the Guardian reports that studio executives have picked up the screen rights to the forthcoming Julian Assange biography "The Most Dangerous Man in the World" by award-winning Australian writer Andrew Fowler. The book details Assange's life from his childhood on Magnetic Island in Queensland, Australia, all the way through to his founding of the whistleblower website in 2006 to publish classified material. Producers Barry Josephson and Michelle Krumm, who have optioned The Most Dangerous Man in the World, say they are planning a "suspenseful drama" in the vein of All the President's Men and with the thrill of a Tom Clancy novel. "As soon as I met Andrew and read a few chapters of his profound book, I knew that – with his incredibly extensive depth of knowledge – it would enable us to bring a thought-provoking thriller to the screen," says Krumm."
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The Case of Apple's Mystery Screw

pickens pickens writes  |  more than 3 years ago

Pickens writes "Network World reports that in the past if you wanted to remove the outer case on your iPhone 4 to replace the battery or a broken screen, you could use a Phillip screwdriver to remove two tiny screws at the base of the phone and then simply slide off the back cover. But now Apple is replacing the outer screw with a mysterious tamper-resistant "pentalobular" screw across its most popular product lines, making it harder for do-it-yourselfers to make repairs. What about existing products in the field? Pentalobular screws might find their way into them, too. "Apple's latest policy will make your blood boil," says Kyle Wiens, CEO of iFixit. "If you take your iPhone 4 into Apple for any kind of service, they will sabotage it by replacing your Phillips screws with the new, tamper-resistant screws. We've spoken with the Apple Store geniuses tasked with carrying out this policy, and they are ashamed of the practice." Of course only Apple authorized service technicians have Pentalobular screwdrivers and they're not allowed to resell them. "Apple sees a huge profit potential," says Wiens. "A hundred dollars per year in incremental revenue on their installed base is a tremendous opportunity.""
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Facebook Images to Get Expiration Date

pickens pickens writes  |  more than 3 years ago

Pickens writes "BBC reports that researchers have created software that gives images an expiration date by tagging them with an encrypted key so that once this date has passed the key stops the images being viewed and copied. Professor Michael Backes, who led development of the X-Pire system, says development work began about 18 months ago as potentially risky patterns of activity on social networks, such as Facebook, showed a pressing need for such a system. "More and more people are publishing private data to the internet and it's clear that some things can go wrong if it stays there too long," says Backes. The X-Pire software creates encrypted copies of images and asks those uploading them to give each one an expiration date. Viewing these images requires the free X-Pire browser add-on. When the viewer encounters an encrypted image it sends off a request for a key to unlock it. This key will only be sent, and the image become viewable, if the expiration date has not been passed."
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Astronaut Loses Shuttle Slot after Bike Accident

pickens pickens writes  |  more than 3 years ago

Pickens writes "The Guardian reports that It takes 20 months of intense, dangerous training to go into space on the space shuttle with prospective astronauts flying T-34 aeroplanes, scuba diving, achieving weightlessness inside plunging jumbo jets and undergoing survival exercises in the wilderness so it comes as a disappointment and surprise that lead spacewalker Tim Kopra is being put off the mission after breaking his hip after falling off his bicycle. "It was obviously a disappointment for Tim to not be available for this upcoming launch window, but he understands very well that we have to be prepared to fly," says chief astronaut Peggy Whitson. Astronauts training for flight aren't permitted to do certain high-risk activities like sky diving, snow skiing or motorcycle riding, but routine exercise such as cycling isn't restricted. Kopra, who has made one previous journey into space, could rejoin the crew if the Discovery flight is delayed until Nasa's next launch opportunity in April. Discovery's launch has already been on hold since November due to work to repair cracks in its fuel tank. The mission will involve two spacewalks to repair an ammonia pump and perform other work on the space station."
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Road Train Completes First Trials in Sweden

pickens pickens writes  |  more than 3 years ago

Hugh Pickens writes "BBC reports that technology that links vehicles into "road trains" that can travel as a semi-autonomous convoy has undergone its first real world tests with trials held on Volvo's test track in Sweden slaving a single car to a truck to test the platooning system and researchers believe platoons of cars could be traveling on Europe's roads within a decade cutting fuel use, boosting safety and may even reducing congestion. SARTRE researchers say that around 80% of accidents on the road are due to human error so using professional lead drivers to take the strain on long journeys could, they say, see road accidents fall. They also predict fuel efficiency could improve by as much as 20% if "vehicle platooning" takes off, with obvious benefits for the environment. A video of the trial shows the test car traveling behind a truck and then handing over control to that leading vehicle with commands to steer, speed up and slow down all coming from the driver of the lead vehicle while the driver of the test car is seen taking his hands off the wheel, reading a newspaper and sipping coffee as the journey proceeds. "An automated system is likely to make it safer as it takes away driver error but it would have to be 100% reliable," says John Franklin "This kind of system would also require a complete change in motoring culture for drivers to hand over control,.""
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Are You a Secret Apple Stockholder?

pickens pickens writes  |  more than 3 years ago

Hugh Pickens writes "If you're like most Americans, you probably figure the news about Steve Jobs and Apple doesn't affect you directly, however the WSJ reports that you may not know it, but you are probably a secret Apple stockholder. And maybe a big one. Few stocks are as widely held in regular mutual funds as well as in hedge funds and few affect the performance of so many retirement portfolios. An astonishing 4,100 mutual funds hold stock in Apple compared to just 3,630 for Exxon and J&J and 3,200 for P&G, although the figure for Microsoft is even higher at almost 4,800. So investors are paying attention to Apple as the stock is a major wheelhouse playing an outsized role in many major stock market indexes and investors' portfolios and if Apple stumbles, that could spill over and cause investors to question other stocks. "Apple is a cult stock," says Ken Winans of Winans International. "Cult stocks are always a dangerous animal.""
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Sony, Universal to Beat Piracy with 'Instant Pop'

pickens pickens writes  |  more than 3 years ago

Hugh Pickens writes "The Guardian reports that Britain's two biggest record labels, Sony and Universal, plan to beat music piracy by making new singles available for sale on the day they first hit the airwaves hoping the effort will encourage young people to buy songs they can listen to immediately rather than copying from radio broadcasts online. Songs used to receive up to six weeks radio airplay before they were released for sale, a practice known as "setting up" a record. "What we were finding under the old system was the searches for songs on Google or iTunes were peaking two weeks before they actually became available to buy, meaning that the public was bored of — or had already pirated — new singles," says David Joseph. Sony, which will start the "on air, on sale" policy simultaneously with Universal next month, agreed that the old approach was no longer relevant in an age where, according to a spokesman for the music major, "people want instant gratification"."
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Peace Corps Volunteers Remember Sargent Shriver

pickens pickens writes  |  more than 3 years ago

Peace Corps Online writes "Sargent Shriver, the Kennedy in-law who became the founding director of the Peace Corps, the architect of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s war on poverty, the United States ambassador to France, the Democratic candidate for vice president in 1972, and President of Special Olympics, died today at 95. As the Peace Corps' Founding Director Shriver laid the foundations for the most lasting accomplishment of the Kennedy presidency. As the Peace Corps approaches its 50th anniversary this year, more than 200,000 Americans have served as volunteers in 139 countries. Shriver spoke to returned volunteers at the Peace Vigil at Lincoln Memorial in September, 2001 for the Peace Corps 40th a week after 911. "The challenge I believe is simple — simple to express but difficult to fulfill. That challenge is expressed in these words: PCV's — stay as you are. Be servants of peace. Work at home as you have worked abroad. Humbly, persistently, intelligently. Weep with those who are sorrowful, Care for those who are sick. Serve your wives, serve your husbands, serve your families, serve your neighbors, serve your cities, serve the poor, join others who also serve," said Shriver. "Serve, Serve, Serve. That's the answer, that's the objective, that's the challenge.""
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How Facebook Ships Code

pickens pickens writes  |  more than 3 years ago

Hugh Pickens writes "yeegay has a very interesting article about how Facebook develops and releases software that he has gathered from talking with friends at the company. The two largest teams at Facebook are Engineering and Ops, with roughly 400-500 team members each, together making up about 50% of the company. All engineers go through 4 to 6 week “Boot Camp” training where they learn the Facebook system by fixing bugs. After boot camp, all engineers get access to live DB and any engineer can modify any part of Facebook's code base and check-in at-will so that engineers can modify specs mid-process, re-order work projects, and inject new feature ideas anytime. Then arguments about whether or not a feature idea is worth doing or not generally get resolved by spending a week implementing it and then testing it on a sample of users, e.g., 1% of Nevada users. "All changes are reviewed by at least one person, and the system is easy for anyone else to look at and review your code even if you don’t invite them to," writes yeegay. "It would take intentionally malicious behavior to get un-reviewed code in.” What is interesting for a compnay this size is that there is no official QA group at Facebook but almost every employee is dogfooding the product every day: many times a day and every employee is using a version of the site that includes all the changes that are next in line to go out. All employees are strongly encouraged to report any bugs they see and these are very quickly actioned upon. Facebook has about 60,000 servers with the smallest level comprising only 6 servers and there are nine levels for pushing out new code. For new code the ops team observes those 6 servers at level 1 to make sure that they are behaving correctly before rolling forward to the next level. If a release is causing any issues (e.g., throwing errors, etc.) then the push is halted, the engineer who committed the offending changeset is paged to fix the problem, and then the release starts over again at level 1."
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Riled Robocall Recipient Takes Robo-Revenge

pickens pickens writes  |  more than 3 years ago

Hugh Pickens writes "The Washington Post reports that Maryland resident Aaron Titus jumped out of bed in a panic at 433 am last week awakened by a ringing phone thinking maybe something terrible had happened. Answering the phone halfway into the second ring, Titus, a privacy officer at a company that offers software to help keep personal information on your computer secure and private, listened in disbelief to an automated caller tell him that it was a snow day and school would open two hours late. In other words, he and his family could sleep. Sometime later in the day, the 31-year-old father made a decision that might well bring amused satisfaction to like-minded parents everywhere. Titus found a robocall company online, taped a message and listed every phone number he could find for nine school board members so at 430 the next morning phones began ringing with 29 seconds of automated, mocking objection: "This is a Prince George's County School District parent, calling to thank you for the robocall yesterday at 4:30 in the morning. I decided to return the favor.'' School board member Edward Burroughs III said he had not personally gotten one of Titus's robocall rebukes, but considered it "very clever." The robocall, Burroughs concluded, made a point. "It's certainly something that I welcome all parents to do — communicate with us, by any means necessary." However a complaint has allegedly been filed against Titus with the Virginia State Bar, where Titus is admitted as an attorney because beginning September 1, 2009, prerecorded commercial telemarketing calls to consumers – commonly known as robocalls are prohibited, unless the telemarketer has obtained permission in writing from consumers who want to receive such calls."
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Superstorm is Latest Threat to California

pickens pickens writes  |  more than 3 years ago

Hugh Pickens writes "In December, an atmospheric river threw a series of wet storms at California, breaking rainfall records in many areas across the state but now the Sacramento Bee reports that scientists say that "superstorms" have hit California at least six times in the past 2 millenia and that the state got a relatively tame taste of the phenomenon in December. "This storm, with essentially the same probability as a major earthquake, is potentially four to five times more damaging," says Lucy Jones, USGS chief scientist on the study. "That's not something that is in the public consciousness." A two-year study by the US Geological Survey builds on a new understanding of so-called atmospheric rivers, a focusing of high-powered winds that drag a fire hose of tropical moisture across the Pacific Ocean, pointed directly at California for days on end and potentially causing $1 trillion in damages statewide — five times worse than a massive earthquake, which likely would affect only one region. "For a lot of people in California, we don't think of ourselves as being this flood-prone," says urban planner Laurie Johnson. "It's just too difficult to comprehend.""
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Riled Reciept Retaliates with Robocall Revenge

pickens pickens writes  |  more than 3 years ago

Hugh Pickens writes "The Washington Post reports that Virginia resident Aaron Titus jumped out of bed in a panic at 433 am awakened by a ringing phone thinking maybe something terrible had happened. In a blurry rush, Titus answered the phone halfway into the second ring, listening in disbelief to an automated caller tell him what he already knew: It was a snow day. School would open two hours late. In other words, he and his family could sleep. Sometime later in the day, the 31-year-old father, a lawyer who knows a thing or two about technology, made a decision that might well bring amused satisfaction to like-minded parents everywhere. He found a robocall company online, taped a message and listed every phone number he could find for nine school board members so at 430 the next morning phones began ringing with 29 seconds of automated, mocking objection: "This is a Prince George's County School District parent, calling to thank you for the robocall yesterday at 4:30 in the morning. I decided to return the favor. While I know the school district wanted to ensure I drop my child off two hours late on a snow day, I already knew that before I went to bed. I hope this call demonstrates why a 4:30 a.m. call does more to annoy than to inform.'' School board member Edward Burroughs III said he had not personally gotten one of Titus's robocall rebukes, but considered it "very clever." The robocall, he concluded, made a point. "It's certainly something that I welcome all parents to do — communicate with us, by any means necessary.""

Journals

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Chrome Puts Flash In Security Sandbox

pickens pickens writes  |  more than 3 years ago

Information Week reports that Google and Adobe have announced the addition of a new security sandbox for Adobe Flash Player that will allow the software to operate with less risk in Google's Chrome Web browser. "This initial Flash Player sandbox is an important milestone in making Chrome even safer," say Google engineers Justin Schuh and Carlos Pizano. "In particular, users of Windows XP will see a major security benefit, as Chrome is currently the only browser on the XP platform that runs Flash Player in a sandbox." The timing is good not only for Adobe, which needs to undo its reputation for vulnerable software, but for Google too, which is about to launch its Chrome Web Store. The fact that Chrome is the safest way to run Flash on Windows XP at the moment might just prompt a few more Internet Explorer 6 users to defect to Chrome.

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See-Through Fish Help Cancer Research

pickens pickens writes  |  more than 6 years ago

What is transparent, swims, and helps cure cancer? Caspar the friendly fish - a zebrafish bred with a see-through body to make studying disease processes easier for rapidly changing processes such as cancer, Zebrafish are genetically similar to humans in many ways and serve as good models for human biology and disease. In one experiment, researchers inserted a fluorescent melanoma tumor into the abdominal cavity of the transparent fish and by observing the fish under a microscope, they found that the cancer cells started spreading within five days and could actually see individual cells spreading. "The process by which a tumor goes from being localized to widespread and ultimately fatal is the most vexing problem that oncologists face," says Richard White, a clinical fellow in the Stem Cell Program at Children's Hospital Boston. "We don't know why cancer cells decide to move away from their primary site to other parts in the body." Researchers created the transparent fish, (photo) by mating two existing zebrafish breeds, one that lacked a reflective skin pigment and the other without black pigment. The offspring had only yellow skin pigment, essentially appearing clear.

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Robotic Telescope Installed on Antarctica Plateau

pickens pickens writes  |  more than 6 years ago

Antarctica claims some of the best astronomical sky conditions in the world - devoid of clouds with steady air that makes for clear viewing - that unfortunately lie deep in the interior on a high-altitude plateau called Dome A with an elevation up to 4,093m known as the most unapproachable point in the earth's southernmost region. Now astronomers in a Chinese scientific expedition have set up an experimental observatory at Dome A after lugging their equipment across Antarctica with the help of Australia and the US. The observatory will hunt for alien planets, while also measuring the observing conditions at the site to see if it is worth trying to build bigger observatories there. The observatory is automated, pointing its telescopes on its own while astronomers monitor its progress from other locations around the world via satellite link. PLATO is powered by a gas generator, and has a 4000-litre tank of jet fuel to keep it running through the winter. The observatory will search for planets around other stars using an array of four 14.5-centimetre telescopes called the Chinese Small Telescope Array (CSTAR). Astronomers hope to return in 2009 with new instruments, including the Antarctica Schmidt Telescopes (AST-3), a trio of telescopes with 0.5-metre mirrors, which will be more sensitive to planets than CSTAR.

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Online Gap Widens between Parents and Children

pickens pickens writes  |  more than 6 years ago

A new study by Dafna Lemish from the Department of Communication at Tel Aviv University has found that there is an enormous gap between what parents think their children are doing online and what is really happening. "The data tell us that parents don't know what their kids are doing," says Lemish. The study found that 30% of children between the ages of 9 and 18 delete their search history from their browsers in an attempt to protect their privacy from their parents, that 73% of the children reported giving out personal information online while the parents of the same children believed that only 4% of their children did so, and that 36% of the children admitted to meeting with a stranger they had met online while fewer than 9% of the parents knew that their children had been meeting with strangers or engaging in what could be viewed as very risky behavior. Lemish advises that parents should give their children the tools to be literate Internet users and most importantly, to talk to their children. "The child needs similar tools that teach them to be weary of dangers in the park, the mall or wherever. The same rules in the real world apply online as well."

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Dreams Are Virtual Reality Threat Simulation

pickens pickens writes  |  more than 6 years ago

Psychology Today has an interesting story on a new theory of why we dream. Finnish psychologist Antti Revonsuo believes that dreams are a sort of nighttime theater in which our brains screen realistic scenarios simulating emergency situations and providing an arena for safe training. "The primary function of negative dreams is rehearsal for similar real events, so that threat recognition and avoidance happens faster and more automatically in comparable real situations," he says. We have 300 to 1,000 threat dreams per year--one to four per night and just under half are aggressive encounters: physical aggression such as fistfights, and nonphysical aggression such as verbal arguments. Faced with actual life-or-death situations--traffic accidents, terrorist attacks, street assaults - people report entering a mode of calm, rapid response, reacting automatically, almost without thinking. Afterward, they often say the episode felt unreal, as if it were all a dream. "Dreaming is a sensitive system that tries to pay much attention to the threatening cues in our environment," Revonsuo says. "Their function is to protect and prepare us."

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New Years Resolutions: An Engineering Approach

pickens pickens writes  |  more than 6 years ago

Four out of five people who make New Year's resolutions will eventually break them and a third won't even make it to the end of January says the NY Times but experts say the real problem is that people make the wrong resolutions. The typical resolution often reflects a general desire. To engineer better behavior, it is more productive to focus on a specific goal. "Many clients make broad resolutions, but I advise them to focus the goals so that they are not overwhelmed,'' says Lisa R. Young. "Small and tangible one-day-at-a-time goals work best.'' Here are some resolutions that experts say can work: To lose weight, resolve to split an entree with your dining partner when dining out. To improve your fitness, wear a pedometer and monitor your daily activity. To improve family life, resolve to play with your kids at least one extra day a week. To improve your marriage, find a new activity you and your spouse both enjoy such as taking a pottery class. On a lighter note: What was Steve Jobs' New Year's Resolution?

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Software Detects 100 Foot Rogue Waves

pickens pickens writes  |  more than 6 years ago

For centuries sailors have been telling stories of encountering monstrous ocean waves that tower over one hundred feet in the air and toss ships around like corks. Once dismissed as a nautical myth, Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) from ESA's ERS satellites has helped establish the widespread existence of these 'rogue' waves and study their origins. Over 200 supertankers and container ships have been lost in the past twenty years and rogue waves are now believed to be responsible for many of the losses not only because of the waves' immense size and power, but because rogue waves emerge unpredictably from calm seas. Now Jose Carlos Nieto, a researcher the signal theory department of the University de Alcalá, Madrid has developed a software tool that can detect rogue waves from radar images and monitor their evolution in time and space, giving time to prepare and minimize its effects. The wave dynamics that the software detects could also be used to predict the precise trajectory of oil spills and other contaminants that float on the sea.

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Decoding the Brain's Network of Neurons

pickens pickens writes  |  more than 6 years ago

New technologies that allow scientists to trace the fine wiring of the brain more accurately could soon generate a complete wiring diagram--including every tiny fiber and miniscule connection--of a piece of brain. "The brain is essentially a computer that wires itself up during development and can rewire itself," says Sebastian Seung, a computational neuroscientist at MIT. "If we have a wiring diagram of the brain, we might be able to understand how it works." With an estimated 100 billion neurons and 100 trillion synapses in the human brain, creating an all-encompassing map of even a small chunk is a daunting task. Winfried Denk, a neuroscientist at the Max Planck Institute for Medical Research in Heidelberg, Germany, has developed a new technique to make more fine-scaled wiring maps using electron microscopy. Starting with a small block of brain tissue, the researchers bounce electrons off the top of the block to generate a cross-sectional picture of the nerve fibers in that slice. They then take a very thin--30-nanometer--slice off the top of the block and repeat the process going through slice by slice to trace the path of each nerve fiber. "Repeat this [process] thousands of times, and you can make your way through maybe the whole fly brain," says Denk. The researchers train an artificial neural network to emulate the human tracing process to speed the process about one hundred- to one thousand-fold.

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Are Aliens Living Among Us?

pickens pickens writes  |  more than 6 years ago

Thirty years ago the prevailing view among biologists was that life resulted from a chemical fluke so improbable it would be unlikely to have happened twice in the observable universe. In recent years, however, the mood has shifted dramatically with one scientist calling life "a cosmic imperative" and declaring "it is almost bound to arise" on any Earth-like planet. If life does emerge readily under terrestrial conditions, then perhaps it formed many times on our home planet. To pursue this tantalizing possibility, scientists have begun searching deserts, lakes and caverns for evidence of "alien" life-forms--organisms that would differ fundamentally from all known living creatures because they arose independently. Microbes have already been found inhabiting extreme environments ranging from scalding volcanic vents to the dry valleys of Antarctica. Other so-called extremophiles can survive in salt-saturated lakes, highly acidic mine tailings contaminated with metals, and the waste pools of nuclear reactors. Although "alien" microbes might look like ordinary bacteria, their biochemistry could involve exotic amino acids or different elemental building blocks so researchers are devising tests to identify exotic microbes. If shadow life is confined to the microbial realm, it is entirely possible that scientists have overlooked it.

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Turning E-Mail into a Social Network

pickens pickens writes  |  more than 6 years ago

Saul Hansell at the NY Times has an interesting article on his technology blog about his conversations with executives at Yahoo and Google about how they plan to turn their e-mail systems and personalized home page services into social networks. Web-based e-mail systems already contain much of what Facebook calls the social graph -- the connections between people. That's why social networks offer to import the e-mail address books of new users to jump-start their list of friends. Yahoo and Google realize they can use this information to build their own services that connect people to their contacts. Yahoo is working on what they call "Inbox 2.0" which will display messages more prominently from people who are more important to you, determining the strength of your relationship by how often you exchange e-mail and instant messages with him or her. "The inbox you have today is based on what people send you, not what you want to see," says Brad Garlinghouse, who runs communication and community products for Yahoo. "We can say, here are the messages from the people you care about most." There will also be some sort of profile system attached to Inbox 2.0 with a profile users show to others and a personal page where they can see information from their friends. "The exciting part is that a lot of this information already exists on our network, but it's dormant," Mr. Garlinghouse added.

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US Control of Internet Remains Issue

pickens pickens writes  |  more than 6 years ago

A UN-sponsored Internet conference ended with little progress on the issue of US control over the domain name system run by ICANN, a California-based nonprofit over which the US. government retains veto power. By controlling the core systems, the United States indirectly influences the way much of the world uses the Internet. As the conference drew to a close, the Russian representative, Konstantin Novoderejhkin, called on the United Nations secretary-general to create a working group to develop ''practical steps'' for moving Internet governance ''under the control of the international community.'' The United States insists that the existing arrangements ensure the Internet's stability and there's little indication that the US government and ICANN plan to cede their roles over domain names anytime soon. ''I think (there are) a small number of countries that are very agitated and almost don't care what the facts are,'' said Internet pioneer Vint Cerf, who stepped down as ICANN's chairman earlier this month. ''It's a very small vocal group bothered by this issue. ICANN has existed for eight years and done a great job with its plans for internationalization.'' With no concrete recommendations for action, the only certainty going forward is that any resentment about the American influence will only grow as more users from the developing world come online, changing the face of the global network. The next forum will held next year in New Delhi, India.

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MIT Students Show How the Inca Leapt Canyons

pickens pickens writes  |  more than 6 years ago

When Conquistadors came to Peru from Spain in 1532, they were astonished to see Inca suspension bridges achieve clear spans of at least 150 feet at a time when the longest Roman bridge in Spain had a maximum span of 95 feet. The bridges swayed under the weight of traffic terrifying the Spanish and their horses, even though, as one Spaniard observed, they were almost as "sturdy as the street of Seville." To build the bridges, thick cables were pulled across a river with small ropes and attached to stone abutments on each side. Three of the big cables served as the floor of the bridge, two others served as handrails and pieces of wood were tied to the cable floor before the floor was strewn with branches to give firm footing for beasts of burden. Earlier this year students at MIT built a 70-foot fiber bridge in the style of the Incan Empire. The project used sisal twine from the Yucatan Peninsula and anchored it by wrapping it around massive concrete blocks. The weekend's burst of activity was preceded by 360 hours of rope-twisting as the 50 miles of sisal twine was turned into rope. Working together as a group was part of the exercise. "A third of the time was spent learning to work together," one of the students said. "But after a while, we were banging those cables out."

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New Encryption Standard may Contain Backdoor

pickens pickens writes  |  more than 6 years ago

Bruce Schneier has a story on Wired about the new official standard for random-number generators the NIST released this year that will likely be followed by software and hardware developers around the world. There are four different approved techniques (pdf), called DRBGs, or "Deterministic Random Bit Generators" based on existing cryptographic primitives. One is based on hash functions, one on HMAC, one on block ciphers and one on elliptic curves. The generator based on elliptic curves called Dual_EC_DRBG has been has been championed by the NSA and contains a weakness that can only be described a backdoor. In a presentation at the CRYPTO 2007 conference (pdf) in August, Dan Shumow and Niels Ferguson showed that there are constants in the standard used to define the algorithm's elliptic curve that have a relationship with a second, secret set of numbers that can act as a kind of skeleton key. If you know the secret numbers, you can completely break any instantiation of Dual_EC_DRBG. "We don't know where the constants came from in the first place. We only know that whoever came up with them could have the key to this backdoor. And we know there's no way for NIST -- or anyone else -- to prove otherwise," says Schneier.

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Stopping Cars with Radiation

pickens pickens writes  |  more than 6 years ago

Researchers have created an electromagnetic system that can quickly bring a vehicle to a stop by sending out pulses of microwave radiation to disable the microprocessors that control the central engine functions in a car. A 200-pound unit attached to the roof of a police car can be used to stop fleeing and noncooperative vehicles. The average power emitted in a single shot is about 10 kilowatts at a pulse rate of 100 hertz and since each radiated pulse lasts about 50 nanoseconds, the total energy output is 100 joules at a distance of 15 meters. One concern with the device is that it could cause an accident if a car is disabled and a driver loses steering control. The device could also disable other vehicles in the area so the most practical application may be for perimeter protection at remote areas. Criminals have a work-around too. Since electronic control modules were not built into most cars until 1972, the system will not work on automobiles made before that year.

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The Rules of the Swarm

pickens pickens writes  |  more than 6 years ago

Researchers are starting to discover the simple rules that allow swarms of thousands of relatively simple animals to form a collective brain able to make decisions and move like a single organism. To get a sense of swarms, Dr. Iain Couzin, a mathematical biologist at the Collective Animal Behaviour Laboratory at Princeton University, builds computer models of virtual swarms with thousands of individual agents that he can program to follow a few simple rules. Among the findings are that swarm behavior has patterns common to many different species, that just as liquid water can suddenly begin to boil, swarm behavior can also change abruptly in character, and that just a few leaders can guide a swarm effectively by creating a bias in the swarm's movement that steers it in a particular direction. The rules of the swarm may also apply to the cells inside our bodies and researchers are working with cancer biologists to discover the rules by which cancer cells work together to build tumors or migrate through tissues. Even brain cells may follow the same rules for collective behavior seen in locusts or fish. "How does your brain take this information and come to a collective decision about what you're seeing?" Dr. Couzin says. The answer, he suspects, may lie in our inner swarm.

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Keeping Cool on Venus

pickens pickens writes  |  more than 6 years ago

In the 1970s and 80s, several probes landed on Venus and returned data from the surface but they all expired less than 2 hours after landing because of Venus' tremendous heat. It's hard to keep a rover functioning when temperatures of 450 C are hot enough to melt lead but NASA researchers have designed a refrigeration system that might be able to keep a robotic rover going for as long as 50 Earth days using a reverse Stirling engine. The rover's electronics would be packed in a ceramic-based insulator and placed it inside a metal sphere about the size of a grapefruit. Heat would then be pumped out of the sphere by compressing and then expanding a gas with a piston. When the gas expands, it absorbs heat from the electronics chamber then, as the gas is compressed and its temperature rises, the heat is allowed to dissipate in the atmosphere via a radiator. NASA has not committed to a Venus rover mission, but a 2003 National Academies of Science study recommended that high priority be given to a robot mission to investigate the Venusian surface helping to answer such questions as why Venus ended up so different from Earth and if the changes have taken place relatively recently.

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Even the Masseuse is a Multimillionaire at Google

pickens pickens writes  |  more than 6 years ago

The NY Times is running a story on how stock options that have given an estimated 1,000 employees at Google a net worth of $5 million each affects the culture at Google. Google gives each of its new employees stock options, as well as a smaller number of shares of Google stock, as a recruiting incentive. The average options grant for a "Noogler" (new Google employee) who started a year ago was 685 shares at a price of roughly $475 a share which at last Friday's close would be worth $128,000. But employees say Google is different from other large high-tech companies where the day's stock price is a fixture on many people's computer screens. "It isn't considered 'Googley' to check the stock price," said one engineer adding that it is also considered unseemly to discuss the price with other employees. And the masseuse? In 1999 Bonnie Brown answered an ad for an in-house masseuse at Google "on a lark" and after five years of kneading engineers' backs, she retired, cashing in most of her stock options to travel the world, oversee a charitable foundation she founded, and write a book, still unpublished, titled "Giigle: How I Got Lucky Massaging Google."

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Northeastern sues Google over Database Patent

pickens pickens writes  |  more than 6 years ago

Northeastern University has co-filed a suit claiming that database technology they patented in 1997 was misappropriated by Google. Northeastern's patent describes a "method for object examination in a distributed computer database system having a plurality of examination nodes and a plurality of index nodes connected by a network" that would allow for faster searching of huge databases, like Google's. The alleged patent violation wasn't discovered until 2 1/2 years ago when a representative of a Boston-area law firm described seeing a presentation by Google showing a technique that resembled Northeastern's patented technology. "We are aware of the complaint and believe it to be without merit based upon our initial investigation," said Google spokesman Jon Murchinson. It will be one to two years before the case goes to trial. "We expect them to be generous enough to pay a normal royalty," if we win said Michael Belanger, president of Jarg Corp, who co-filed the suit with Northeastern.

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Thought Controlled Prosthetics?

pickens pickens writes  |  more than 6 years ago

Physiatrist Todd A. Kuiken, M.D., Ph.D. has pioneered a technique known as targeted muscle reinnervation (TMR), that allows a prosthetic arm to respond directly to the brain's signals, allowing wearers to open and close their artificial hands and bend and straighten their artificial elbows nearly as naturally as their own arms. Doctors first perform nerve transfer surgery to redirect nerves that go to the amputated arm to the patient's chest muscles, then when the chest muscle contracts an electromyogram (EMG), picks up the electrical signal to move the prosthetic arm. The result? When the patient thinks "close hand," the hand closes. Now the team wants to see if they can extract more information from the electrical signals produced by the nerves to provide a greater number of hand and arm movements and have been able to identify unique EMG patterns with 95% accuracy for 16 different elbow, wrist, hand, thumb and finger movements. "We've been able to demonstrate remarkable control of artificial limbs and it's an exciting neural machine interface that provides a lot of hope," says Dr. Kuiken.

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Where are the Flying Cars?

pickens pickens writes  |  more than 6 years ago

Complaints of the non-existence of flying cars as expressions of disappointment in the failure of the present to measure up to the glory of past predictions have long been a staple of popular culture but all that is about to change when Terrafugia introduces their $148,000 "Transition," a 19-foot, two-seater that the company describes as a roadable light-sport aircraft. The problem is that the U.S. doesn't have the infrastructure in place to make landing in front of your house a viable alternative yet and a sky filled with people who don't have pilot's licenses could also be a problem. The idea is to take advantage of the 6,000 public airports in the U.S. so a pilot can fly into a small airport (video) and instead of getting a rental car, just fold up the wings on the aircraft and drive away. Terrafugia expects the first production model to be ready in 2009 and says they've already received advanced orders for 30 to 50 Transitions.

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