Hugh Pickens writes "While getting power cords, replacement keyboards, and other sundry computer accessories to employees who need them sounds easy enough, at many companies the process requires filling out order forms that can take IT departments days to fulfill. That's why Facebook CIO Tim Campos decided to take a more user-friendly approach to this common problem, installing custom-made vending machines around the Facebook campus that dispense computer accessories instead of snacks and sodas. When Facebook engineers spill coffee on their keyboard (a common mishap), they head to a nearby vending machine instead of hitting up their IT guy or just grabbing a replacement from a nearby cabinet. They swipe their badge, key in their selection and voila — a brand new keyboard drops down for them to take. According to Campos, they've reduced the cost of managing replacement accessories by about 35%. While products found in the vending machines are free, items are clearly marked with price tags so employees can see the retail value of each accessory they take. The new vending machines also require all employees to swipe their badge before making a selection. That means each and every power cord, keyboard and screen wipe they take can be traced back to their name, ensuring that the system won't be abused. 'I like the assumption that employees will do the right thing,' writes Alexis Madrigal. 'The swipe means that everyone's requests are tracked and I'm sure some algorithm somewhere is constantly sorting the data to see if anyone has pulled 10 sets of headphones out of the system.'"
New submitter ikhider writes "Trisquel, a 'libre' version of Ubuntu GNU/Linux, is now available for download and install (or update for those who already have it). It's one of the easiest 'libre' versions of Gnu/Linux to install and run. This version includes: Linux-Libre 3.2, Xorg, Abrowser 19 (a Firefox derivative that does not recommend non-free software), GNOME 3.4, and LibreOffice 3.5. They're also simplifying their release schedule: 'This release is a Long Term Support one, meaning that bugfix and security updates will be published until 2017. Along with this we have decided to change our release schedule from this point on: we will no longer publish short term support versions every 6 months, but focus on giving the best possible support to the LTS release, providing backported improvements to core packages like the kernel, the browser and the xorg server among others.'"
An anonymous reader writes "The European Parliament passed a proposal Tuesday which included a blanket ban on pornography, including Internet porn, in European Union member states. However, Members of European Parliament (MEPs) removed explanatory wording from the porn ban section, essentially limiting the ban to advertising and print media. The proposal, titled 'Eliminating gender stereotypes in the EU,' was put to a vote in Strasbourg. MEPs passed it 368-159."
MojoKid writes "AMD has just announced a new family of Elite A-Series APUs for mobile applications, based on the architecture codenamed 'Richland.' These new APUs build upon last year's 'Trinity' architecture, by improving graphics and compute performance, enhancing power efficiency through the implementation of a new 'Hybrid Boost' mode which leverages on-die thermal sensors, and offering AMD-optimized applications meant to improve the user experience. AMD is unveiling a new visual identity as well, with updated logos and clearer language, in a bid to enhance the brand. At the top of the product stack now is the AMD A10-5750M, a 35 Watt, 3.5GHz quad-core processor with integrated Radeon HD 8650G graphics, 4MB of L2 cache and a DDR3-1866 capable memory interface. The low-end is comprised of dual-cores with Radeon HD 8400G series GPUs and a DDR3-1600 memory interface."
MrAndrews writes "After reading a Slashdot story about adblocking and the lively discussion that followed, I got to wondering how else sites can support themselves, if paywalls and ads are both non-starters. Microtransactions have been floated for years, but never seem to take off, possibly because they come off as arbitrary taxation or cumbersome walled-garden novelties. Still, it seems like the idea of microtransactions is still appealing, it's just the wrapping that's always been flawed. I wanted to know how viable the concept really was, so I've created a little experiment to gather some data, to put some real numbers to it. It's a purely voluntary system, where you click 1, 2 or 3-cent links in your bookmark bar, depending on how much you value the page you're visiting. No actual money is involved, it's just theoretical. There's a summary page that tells you how much you would have spent, and I'll be releasing anonymized analyses of the data in the coming weeks. If you're game, please check out the experiment page for more information, and give it a go. Even if you only use it once and forget about it, that says something about the concept right there."
Nerval's Lobster writes "How's this for a daunting task? By 2017, IBM must develop low-power microservers that can handle 10 times the traffic of today's Internet — and resist blowing desert sands, to boot. Sound impossible? Hopefully not. Those are the design parameters of the Square Kilometer Array (SKA) Project, the world's largest radio telescope, located in South Africa and Australia amid some of the world's most rugged terrain. It will be up to the SKA-specific business unit of South Africa's National Research Foundation, IBM, and ASTON (also known as the Netherlands Institute for Radio Astronomy) to jointly design the servers. Scientists from all three organizations will collaborate remotely and at the newly established ASTRON & IBM Center for Exascale Technology in Drenthe, the Netherlands. By peering into the furthest regions of space, the SKA project hopes to glimpse 'back in time,' where the radio waves from some of the earliest moments of the universe — before stars were formed — are still detectable. The hardware is powerful enough to pick up an airport radar on a planet 50 light-years away, according to the SKA team."
jfruh writes "Skype made a name for itself by largely bypassing the infrastucture — and the costs, and the regulations — of the legacy telecommunications industry. But now the French telecom regulator wants to change that, at least in France. At issue is not the service's VoIP offering, but rather the Skype Out service that allows users to dial phones on traditional networks. Regulators say that this service necessitates that Skype face the same regulations as other telecoms."
Today Blizzard launched its first expansion to StarCraft 2, titled Heart of the Swarm. When initially developing StarCraft 2, Blizzard made the decision to split the game into three parts, each with a campaign as long as the original StarCraft. The initial release in 2010, Wings of Liberty, centered on the story of the Terrans. The newly-released Heart of the Swarm is focused on the Zerg. The final release, Legacy of the Void, will dedicate its campaign to the Protoss (and does not have a projected release timeframe yet). In addition to the new campaign, new units have been introduced for multiplayer and new maps have been added, which ought to shake things up in the competitive landscape. Blizzard has also made long-awaited improvements to the social system, including support for groups and clans.
sighted writes "NASA is announcing that analysis of a rock sample collected by the Curiosity rover shows ancient Mars could have supported living microbes. Scientists identified sulfur, nitrogen, hydrogen, oxygen, phosphorus and carbon in the powder Curiosity drilled out of a sedimentary rock near an ancient stream bed in Gale Crater last month. The announcement quotes Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA's Mars Exploration Program: 'A fundamental question for this mission is whether Mars could have supported a habitable environment. From what we know now, the answer is yes.'"
adeelarshad82 writes "The SimCity launch debacle is only the latest in an increasingly frustrating string of affronts to gamers' rights as customers. Before SimCity, we had Ubisoft's always-on DRM (that the company only ended quietly after massive outcry from gamers). We had the forced online and similarly unplayable launch of Diablo III. We had games like Asura's Wrath and Final Fantasy: All the Bravest that required you to pay more money just to complete them after you purchase them. And let us never forget the utter infamy of StarForce, SecuROM, and Sony's copy protection, which installed rootkits on computers without users' knowledge. As one recently published article argues, maybe it's time for gamers to demand adoption of a Bill of Rights."
ixarux writes "For the first time ever, a Japanese company has successfully extracted natural gas from frozen methane hydrate off its central coast. The Nankai Trough gas field, located a little more than 30 miles offshore, could provide an alternative energy source for the island nation, reducing its dependence on foreign imports. 'A Japanese study estimated that at least 1.1tn cubic meters of methane hydrate exist in offshore deposits. This is the equivalent of more than a decade of Japan's gas consumption. Japan has few natural resources and the cost of importing fuel has increased after a backlash against nuclear power following the Fukushima nuclear disaster two years ago.'"
New submitter trickymyth writes "For the first time, the United States has mentioned the People's Republic of China in relation to cyber crime, officially acknowledging what has been long suspected by private security experts and the U.S. business community. The Obama Administration seeks to get the Chinese government to acknowledge the problem, to cease any state-sponsored hacker activity, and to start a dialogue on normative behavior on the internet. This announcement follows the recent 60-page report from the American cybersecurity firm Mandiant, who spent two years compiling evidence against the so-called 'Comment Crew.' They traced IP addresses, common behavior, and tools to track the group's activity, which led to a Shanghai neighborhood home to the People's Liberation Army (PLA's) Unit 61398. This tracking came at the behest of the Times, who has experienced some trouble with hacking in the past. The Chinese government rejected the report as 'unprofessional' and 'lacking technical evidence.' This announcement also comes amid a delicate leadership transition in China and numerous new reports on the vulnerability of U.S. business and government networks to attack."
The quote in the title is from www.muckrock.com/about/. And that is exactly what MuckRock is all about: Making FOIA (Freedom of Information Act) requests for you (and investigative reporters) so you don't have to deal with the often-daunting paperwork and runarounds you may run into when you try to pry information out of a recalcitrant government agency. In theory, most government information is public. In practice, many local, state and federal government bodies would just as soon never tell you anything. This is why Tim Lord talked with MuckRock co-founder Michael Morisy, and why we're running this interview in the middle of Sunshine Week, which exists "...to educate the public about the importance of open government and the dangers of excessive and unnecessary secrecy."
New submitter jackdotwa writes "Machines in our computer lab are periodically retired, and we have decided to recycle them and put them to work on combinatorial problems. I've spent some time trawling the web (this Beowulf cluster link proved very instructive) but have a few reservations regarding the basic design and air-flow. Our goal is to do this cheaply but also to do it in a space-conserving fashion. We have 14 E8000 Core2 Duo machines that we wish to remove from their cases and place side-by-side, along with their power supply units, on rackmount trays within a 42U (19", 1000mm deep) cabinet." Read on for more details on the project, including some helpful pictures and specific questions.
New submitter jader3rd writes "Intrade, a popular Irish website that lets people bet on anything, has shut down. In addition to being used by gamblers, Intrade has been used by academics and pundits to track public sentiment. '"... broad crowds have a lot of information and that markets are an effective way of aggregating that information," says Justin Wolfers, "and they often turn out to be much better than experts."' Being forced to lose their U.S. customers couldn't have helped.
Yesterday we ran the first half of Dr. Robert Bakker's essay in response to your questions. Below you'll find the second part which focuses on the history of science and religion, and the patron saint of paleontology, St. Augustine of Hippo. A big thanks goes out to Dr. Bob for his lengthy reply.
New submitter onyxruby writes "On December 29th of last year a comet exploded over Sri Lanka. When examined by Cardiff University one of the comet samples was found to contain micro-fossils akin to plankton. NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center tested additional samples with similar results. The research paper was published in the Journal of Cosmology. In practice this means that the argument that life did not start on Earth has gained additional evidence." Update: 03/12 16:59 GMT by S : On the other hand, Phil Plait says the paper is very flawed; the sample rocks the researchers tested may not even be meteorites.
An anonymous reader writes "Canipre, a Montreal-based intellectual property rights enforcement firm, has admitted that it is behind the Voltage file sharing lawsuits involving TekSavvy in what is described as a 'speculative invoicing' scheme. Often referred to as copyright trolling, speculative invoicing involves sending hundreds or thousands of demand letters alleging copyright infringement and seeking thousands of dollars in compensation. Those cases rarely — if ever — go to court as the intent is simply to scare enough people into settling in order to generate a profit. The Canipre admission is important because it is consistent with arguments that the case involves copyright trolling and that the Canadian Federal Court should not support the scheme by ordering the disclosure of subscriber contact information."
Sparrowvsrevolution writes that at this year's SXSW, Defense Distributed founder Code Wilson has announced a for-profit spinoff of his gun-printing project, from which people will be able to search for and download gun-related CAD files. "Though the search engine will index all types of files, Wilson says he hopes the group's reputation for hosting politically incendiary content will mean users trust that it won't censor search results. 'When we say you should have access to these files, people believe we mean that,' says Wilson. 'No takedowns. No removals. We'd fight everything to the full extent of the law.' Along with the SXSW announcement, Wilson also released a provocative video where he lays out the plan for Defcad.com and criticizes gun control advocates and 'collusive' 3D printing companies like Makerbot."
New submitter minstrelmike points outs a two-page editorial in the NYTimes "about what would have been different legally, morally, and security-wise," had the military information released through WikiLeaks been published by the Times instead. "'If Manning had delivered his material to The Times, WikiLeaks would not have been able to post the unedited cables, as it ultimately did, heedless of the risk to human rights advocates, dissidents and informants named therein. In fact, you might not have heard of WikiLeaks. The group has had other middling scoops, but Manning put it on the map.' The writers also discusses what the Times would and would not have done, admitting they probably wouldn't have shared with other news outlets, but also admitting they would definitely have not shared everything."
eldavojohn writes "Reporters without Borders has released a report on governments and the companies they employ to spy on their own citizens online. Syria and China were singled out as the worst with Iran, Bahrain and Vietnam not far behind. In addition, RSF named names when it came to the corporate entities (a market worth 5 billion dollars) that provided specific services to these oppressive governments: Gamma, Trovicor, Hacking Team, Amesys and Blue Coat. The report is aptly titled 'Enemies of the Internet' and, though lengthy, provides a detailed examination in the destruction of online rights as well as very specific attacks each government employs. RSF also noted the many attempted solutions to these problems and a link to their online survival kit."
New submitter jhantin writes "The Bitcoin blockchain has forked due to a lurking backward-compatibility issue: versions older than 0.8 do not properly handle blocks larger than about 500k, and Slush's pool mined a 974k block today. The problem is that not all mining operations are on 0.8; blocks are being generated by a mix of several different versions of the daemon, each making its own decision as to which of the two forks is preferable to extend, and older versions refuse to honor or extend from a block of this size. The consensus on #bitcoin-dev is damage control: miners need to mine on pre-0.8 code so the backward-compatible fork will outgrow and thus dominate the compatibility-breaking one; merchants need to stop accepting transactions until the network re-converges on the backward-compatible fork of the chain; and average users can ignore the warning that they are out of sync and need to upgrade." Turns out there's an approximately 512K limit to atomic updates in Berkeley DB which were used by versions prior to 0.8. 0.8 uses a new database, allowing blockchains that old versions won't accept to be created.
An anonymous reader writes "OSNews' managing editor Thom Holwerda has posted a lavish five-part retrospective on Palm, covering its history, user interface, internal technology, and competition. Holwerda first pays tribute to the pioneers of automatic handwriting recognition, including two remarkable stylus tablets (connected to mainframe computers) produced by RAND Corporation during the 1960s. The action picks up a couple decades later as Jeff Hawkins implements a handwriting recognition engine for his employer, the makers of the high end GRiD compass (MS-DOS) laptop. Hawkins dreamed of developing handwriting recognition for a device small enough to be carried around in one's pocket and cheap enough to be sold to a mass market. Along the way he had an epiphany: instead of trying to recognize the user's natural handwriting, why not create a simple alphabet that could be recognized reliably by the software? When Bill Gates entered the game, Hawkins had another big idea: why not compete against the Microsofts of the world by having fewer features, instead of more?" The handwriting recognition part is chock full of screenshots and video demos of early recognition systems, too.
thAMESresearcher writes with news about the progress of Mars One. From the article: "Mars One has taken a bold step toward their goal of establishing a human settlement on Mars in 2023 by contracting with its first aerospace supplier, Paragon Space Development Corporation. ... The contract will enable the initial conceptual design of the Environmental Control and Life Support System (ECLSS) and Mars Surface Exploration Spacesuit System. During this study, Paragon will identify major suppliers, concepts, and technologies that exist today and can be used as the baseline architecture for further development. The ECLSS will provide and maintain a safe, reliable environment for the inhabitants, providing them with clean air and water. The Mars suits will enable the settlers to work outside of the habitat and explore the surface of Mars."