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Programming

What Are the Genuinely Useful Ideas In Programming? 598

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the lattices-are-pretty-cool dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Computer Scientist Daniel Lemire has had an interesting discussion going on at his site about the ideas in software that are universally recognized as useful. 'Let me put it this way: if you were to meet a master of software programming, what are you absolutely sure he will recommend to a kid who wants to become a programmer?' Lemire's list currently includes structured programming; Unix and its corresponding philosophy; database transactions; the 'relational database;' the graphical user interface; software testing; the most basic data structures (the heap, the hash table, and trees) and a handful of basic algorithms such as quicksort; public-key encryption and cryptographic hashing; high-level programming and typing; and version control. 'Maybe you feel that functional and object-oriented programming are essential. Maybe you think that I should include complexity analysis, JavaScript, XML, or garbage collection. One can have endless debates but I am trying to narrow it down to an uncontroversial list.' Inspired by Lemire, Philip Reames has come up with his own list of 'Things every practicing software engineer should aim to know.'"
Input Devices

Researchers Create Mid-Air Haptic Feedback System For Touch Displays 62

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the annoys-small-animals dept.
Bismillah writes "University of Bristol researchers have come up with a way to make touch screens more touchy-feely so to speak, using ultrasound waves to produce haptic feedback. You don't need to touch the screen even, as the UltraHaptics waves can be felt mid-air. Very Minority Report, but cooler." The researchers built an ultrasonic transducer grid behind an acoustically transparent display. Using acoustic modeling of a volume above the screen, they can create multiple movable control points with varying properties. A Leap Motion controller was used to detect the hand movements.
Power

Fusion Reactor Breaks Even 429

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the wait'll-the-hippies-learn-it's-nuclear dept.
mysqlbytes writes "The BBC is reporting the National Ignition Facility (NIF), based at Livermore in California, has succeeded in breaking even — 'During an experiment in late September, the amount of energy released through the fusion reaction exceeded the amount of energy being absorbed by the fuel — the first time this had been achieved at any fusion facility in the world.'"
Robotics

Cyborg Cockroach Sparks Ethics Debate 512

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the lightly-sand-the-carapace dept.
sciencehabit writes "A do-it-yourself neuroscience experiment that allows students to create their own 'cyborg' insects is sparking controversy amongst scienitsts and ethicists. RoboRoach #12 is a real cockroach that a company called BackyardBrains ships to school students. The students fit the insect with a tiny backpack, which contains electrodes that feed into its antennae and receive signals by remote control — via the Bluetooth signals emitted by smartphones. A simple swipe of an iPhone can turn the insect left or right. Though some scientists say the small cyborg is a good educational tool, others say it's turning kids into psychopaths." Fitting the backpack requires poking a hole in the roach's thorax and clipping its antennae to insert electrodes.
Chromium

Chromium To Support Wayland 61

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the moving-on dept.
sfcrazy writes "Chromium developers have started porting Chromium to X11 alternatives such as Wayland. Tiago Vignatti sent a message to the freedesktop mailing list, 'Today we are launching publicly Ozone-Wayland, which is the implementation of Chromium's Ozone for supporting Wayland graphics system. Different projects based on Chromium/Blink like the Chrome browser, ChromeOS, among others can be enabled now using Wayland.'"
Transportation

Massive New CT Scanner Assesses Car Crash Data 52

Posted by samzenpus
from the take-a-good-look dept.
cartechboy writes "If you've ever been in a serious car accident, you've probably had a CT scan to give doctors a clearer idea of your injuries. Soon, your car might get a CT scan, too. Scientists at the Fraunhofer Institute have developed a giant new CT scanner (dubbed, yes, XXL CT) that can scan very large objects, like cars. It Turns out a CT scan of a post-crash vehicle offers an unprecedented precision look at the internal damage details, without disturbing the wreckage further. A crashed car is hoisted onto a turntable, and as it turns, two X-ray detectors on either side scan it. Then multiple images are merged into a single, three-dimensional CT scan. The scanner also can handle airplane wings and shipping containers, which means there may be possible anti-terrorism uses in the future."
The Almighty Buck

How Entrepreneurs Overturned California's Retroactive Tax On Startup Founders 105

Posted by samzenpus
from the winning-one-for-the-big-guy dept.
waderoush writes "Startup founders in California can breathe a little easier today — they won't be getting bills from the state for up to $120 million in back taxes. On Friday California Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill prohibiting the state from levying retroactive taxes on founders and other small-business investors who took advantage of a tax break invalidated last year by a state appeals court. California Business Defense, a coalition of entrepreneurs, spent most of 2013 trying to reverse the California Franchise Tax Board's interpretation of the court ruling, under which it planned to hit Californians with new tax bills on the sale of small-business stock going back to 2008 (a story that Slashdot picked up in January). Two bills on the matter reached Governor Brown's desk in September, one fully restoring the investment incentive through 2016, the other partially restoring it. Brown signed AB1412, the bill granting full relief. 'For a bunch of political greenhorns operating in an environment where political partisanship is at an all-time high, we did all right,' writes Brian Overstreet, one of the co-founders of California Business Defense. 'But it should never have been this hard.'"
Government

Since Snowden Leaks, NSA's FOIA Requests Are Up 1,000 Percent 47

Posted by samzenpus
from the checking-the-list dept.
v3rgEz writes "A veritable FOIA frenzy ensued in 2013 following a series of leaks about NSA surveillance programs, recently released documents show. From June 6 to September 4, the National Security Agency's FOIA load increased 1,054 percent over its 2012 intake. In that three-month span, the agency received 3,382 public records requests. For comparison, the NSA received just 293 requests over the same period in 2012. While a few have netted new details about NSA surveillance operations, such as a contract with French security firm VUPEN, the majority appear to have been rejected. MuckRock has a guide on filing with the NSA to maximize your chances of actually getting something back."
Space

Pluto's "Thick" Air Isn't Going Anywhere 42

Posted by samzenpus
from the forget-the-sleet dept.
astroengine writes "When the proposition for NASA's New Horizons mission to Pluto was put forward, there was an air of urgency. The dwarf planet is moving away from the Sun in its eccentric orbit, so astronomers were concerned that the Plutonian atmosphere would freeze out and collapse onto the surface as fresh nitrogen-methane snow before they could get a spacecraft out there to observe it. But according to new research [arXiv], it appears there's little risk of a Pluto air freeze-out. From recent occultation measurements, it appears the atmosphere is becoming denser and more buoyant, meaning it will remain as an atmosphere all (Pluto) year 'round — 248 Earth years long."
Books

Ask Author David Craddock About the Development of Diablo, Warcraft 109

Posted by Soulskill
from the stay-awhile-and-ask-questions dept.
The original Warcraft and Diablo games hold a special status in the hearts of many gamers. Each game brought its genre into focus, and their success elevated the status of Blizzard Entertainment and Blizzard North to the point that further games are still hotly anticipated more than 15 years later. In an effort to discover and document that part of gaming history, author David L. Craddock conducted extensive interviews with early Blizzard developers. His intent was to investigate how both of the Blizzard studios succeeded at breaking into a saturated and competitive industry, and how their design process influenced both their acclaimed releases and the projects they discarded along the way. He's writing a series of books about the history of Blizzard, titled Stay Awhile and Listen. The first is due out on October 31st, and David has agreed to answer your questions about his investigation into those early games. David will be joined by Blizzard North co-founders David Brevik and Max Schaefer. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one question per post.
The Almighty Buck

Sick of Your Local Police Force? Crowdfund Your Own 330

Posted by samzenpus
from the people-police dept.
Nerval's Lobster writes "A subset of Oakland, California residents have decided to crowd-fund a set of private security patrols, via a trio of campaigns on a crowdfunding Website named Crowdtilt. The three patrols, if adequately funded, will cover Lower Rockridge North/West, Lower Rockridge South/West, and Lower Rockridge 'including part of the Uplands.' Each campaign has a different (Facebook verified, apparently) sponsor, and wants between $20,000 and $25,000 to make the dream of private patrols a reality. Unlike Kickstarter, the Crowdtilt campaigns don't feature fabulous prizes for contributing; gifting $100, for example, won't entitle you to 'One (1) free "accidental" shooting of your choice.' That aside, dozens of residents have contributed cash to the loosely allied projects. 'What occurred last week at the Casual Carpool has ignited our neighborhood to act,' reads one of the campaign descriptions, referring to the broad-daylight stickup of commuters waiting in a carpool line on Oakland's Hudson Street. 'While the city and the police are doing what they can, we feel it's time for us as a community to begin exploring a wide range of ideas and taking some action on our own.' All three crowdfunding pages want to hire VMA Security Group for a four-month trial period through February 2014, possibly followed by a continuing contract if everything works out. That security company already patrols the Rockridge commercial district during the holiday season, and protects a number of Oakland businesses and households. While the VMA Security Group's officers are certified to carry firearms, one of the crowdfunding pages plans to ask any of them assigned to the neighborhood to remain unarmed 'unless they feel they cannot accomplish their duties otherwise.' Upscale neighborhoods pay for private security all the time, of course. The question is whether crowdfunding — better known for financing things such as games and indie movies, at this point — could catch on as a way of funding residential projects."
Privacy

UK Minister: British Cabinet Was Told Nothing About GCHQ/NSA Spying Programs 85

Posted by samzenpus
from the this-is-the-first-I've-heard-of-it dept.
dryriver writes "From the Guardian: 'Cabinet ministers and members of the national security council were told nothing about the existence and scale of the vast data-gathering programs run by British and American intelligence agencies, a former member of the government has revealed. Chris Huhne, who was in the cabinet for two years until 2012, said ministers were in "utter ignorance" of the two biggest covert operations, Prism and Tempora. The former Liberal Democrat MP admitted he was shocked and mystified by the surveillance capabilities disclosed by the Guardian from files leaked by the whistleblower Edward Snowden. "The revelations put a giant question mark into the middle of our surveillance state," he said. "The state should not feel itself entitled to know, see and memorize everything that the private citizen communicates. The state is our servant." Huhne also questioned whether the Home Office had deliberately misled parliament about the need for the communications data bill when GCHQ, the government's eavesdropping headquarters, already had remarkable and extensive snooping capabilities. He said this lack of information and accountability showed "the supervisory arrangements for our intelligence services need as much updating as their bugging techniques."'"
Japan

Japan Promises an Ultra-High-Tech 2020 Olympics 106

Posted by samzenpus
from the bring-on-the-robots dept.
jfruh writes "When Japan first hosted the Olympics in 1964, it was a platform for the country to showcase that it was a first-rate technical nation, with brand new bullet trains for visitors and the games broadcast in color via satellite for the first time. Japan's tech industry is already preparing for the 2020 Tokyo Games, with Japanese companies promising ultra-high-def TV, super-fast cell phone networks, and autonomous self-driving cars on the roads."
Japan

Fukushima Nuclear Worker Accidentally Toggles Off Cooling Pumps 190

Posted by samzenpus
from the my-bad dept.
An anonymous reader writes "A Tepco employee carelessly pressed a button shutting off cooling pumps that serve the spent fuel pool in reactor #4 — thankfully a backup kicked in before any critical consequences resulted. The question remains just how vulnerable to simple mistakes (such as a single button push) are these spent fuel pools, filled nearly to capacity as they are with over 12,000 spent fuel rods? From the article: 'The latest incident is another reminder of the precarious state of the Fukushima plant, which has suffered a series of mishaps and accidents this year. Earlier this year, Tepco lost power to cool spent uranium fuel rods at the Fukushima Daiichi plant after a rat tripped an electrical wire.'"
Google

Could IBM's Watson Put Google In Jeopardy? 274

Posted by samzenpus
from the leader-of-the-pack dept.
theodp writes "Over at Wired, Vashant Dhar poses a provocative question: What If IBM's Watson Dethroned the King of Search? 'If IBM did search,' Dhar writes, 'Watson would do much better than Google on the tough problems and they could still resort to a simple PageRank-like algorithm as a last resort. Which means there would be no reason for anyone to start their searches on Google. All the search traffic that makes Google seemingly invincible now could begin to shrink over time.' Mixing supercomputers with a scalable architecture of massive amounts of simple processors and storage, Dhar surmises, would provide a formidable combination of a machine that can remember, know, and think. And because the costs of switching from Google search would not be prohibitive for most, the company is much more vulnerable to disruption. 'The only question,' Dhar concludes, 'is whether it [IBM] wants to try and dethrone Google from its perch. That's one answer Watson can't provide.'"
Cellphones

LG Announces Mass Production of Flexible OLED Phone Displays 123

Posted by samzenpus
from the try-and-break-it dept.
Zothecula writes "LG today announced that it is to start mass producing flexible OLED display panels for smartphones. The company says that its technology uses plastic substrates rather than glass, and claims that a protective film on the back of the display makes it 'unbreakable' as well as bendable."
Google

Whirlpool Ditches IBM Collaboration Software, Moves To Google Apps 101

Posted by samzenpus
from the the-apps-you-know dept.
cagraham writes "Appliance maker Whirlpool has decided to stop using IBM's "Notes" collaboration software, and instead move to Google Apps for Business. The Wall Street Journal reports that the decision was based on both worker's familiarity with Google Apps, and lessening the IT workload. Because most workers have used (or use) apps like Google Calendar and Google Docs, Whirlpool's IT staff won't have to devote as much time to initial software training. This move lines up with recent enterprise reports, which largely forecast an increasing move to cloud based software. Whirlpool's contract with Google will cover all of their 30,000 employees."
Medicine

Ask Professor Kevin Fu About Medical Device Security 57

Posted by samzenpus
from the protect-ya-neck dept.
Kevin Fu is a professor of electrical engineering and computer science at the University of Michigan. He heads a research group on medical-device security, Archimedes, that works to find vulnerabilities in medical equipment. WattsUpDoc, a system that can detect malware on medical devices by monitoring changes in power consumption, is based on his work. Professor Fu has agreed to put down the pacemakers for a moment and answer your questions about his work and medical device security in general. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one question per post.
Privacy

Bennett Haselton's Response To That "Don't Talk to Cops" Video 871

Posted by samzenpus
from the to-talk-or-not-to-talk dept.
In response to both of my previous articles raising questions about the Fifth Amendment, people sent me a link to a famous video titled "Don't Talk To Cops" delivered by Regents University law professor James Duane. Whether his conclusion is correct or not, I think the argument is flawed in several ways. Please continue reading below to see what I think is wrong with his position.
Technology

The Human Brain Project Kicks Off 251

Posted by samzenpus
from the bring-me-a-brain-igor dept.
Velcroman1 writes "What if you could build a computer that works just like the human brain? You could invent new forms of industrial machinery, create fully autonomous thinking cars, devise new kinds of home appliances. And a new project in Europe hopes to create a computer brain just that powerful in the next ten years — and it's incredibly well-funded. The Human Brain Project kicks off Oct. 7 at a conference in Switzerland. Over the next 10 years, about 80 science institutions and at least 20 government entities in Europe will figure out how to make that computer brain. The project will cost about 1.2 billion euros — or about $1.6B in U.S. dollars. The research hinges on creating a super-powerful computer that's 1,000 times faster than those in use today."
Apple

Meet the Voice Behind Siri 114

Posted by samzenpus
from the you-sound-familiar dept.
An anonymous reader writes in with a story about an actress who claims to be the voice behind Siri. "Own an iPhone or iPad? Since Siri was released on the iPhone 4S in 2011, I bet you, like me, have been wondering who the real voice behind Apple Virtual voice assistant Siri is. She has provided weather forecast, restaurants tips and has power announcements at airport around the world. Well, the real voice behind Siri has been revealed, and she is Atlanta-based Actress Susan Bennett. While her name might not ring a bell to you, her friends , those who have worked with her, her family and even forensics expert recognized her voice, and says she is the real Siri."
United States

US Now Produces More Oil and Gas Than Russia and Saudi Arabia 416

Posted by samzenpus
from the black-gold dept.
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Claudia Assis writes that the US will end 2013 as the world's largest producer of petroleum and natural gas, surpassing Russia and Saudi Arabia with the Energy Information Administration estimating that combined US petroleum and gas production this year will hit 50 quadrillion British thermal units, or 25 million barrels of oil equivalent a day, outproducing Russia by 5 quadrillion Btu. Most of the new oil was coming from the western states. Oil production in Texas has more than doubled since 2010. In North Dakota, it has tripled, and Oklahoma, New Mexico, Wyoming, Colorado and Utah have also shown steep rises in oil production over the same three years, according to EIA data. Tapping shale rock for oil and gas has fueled the US boom, while Russia has struggled to keep up its output. 'This is a remarkable turn of events,' says Adam Sieminski, head of the US Energy Information Administration. 'This is a new era of thinking about market conditions, and opportunities created by these conditions, that you wouldn't in a million years have dreamed about.' But even optimists in the US concede that the shale boom's longevity could hinge on commodity prices, government regulations and public support, the last of which could be problematic. A poll last month by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found that opposition to increased use of fracking rose to 49% from 38% in the previous six months. 'It is not a supply question anymore,' says Ken Hersh. 'It is about demand and the cost of production. Those are the two drivers."'"
United Kingdom

Government To Build 4G Into UK Rural Broadband Plans 40

Posted by samzenpus
from the we-can-make-it-better dept.
judgecorp writes "The British Government is discussing a role for 4G in the project to extend rural broadband coverage beyond the reach of fiber. There is £250 million of public money to fill in the gaps left by the £530 Broadband Delivery UK (BDUK) program — BDUK's efforts to extend fiber have been criticized because despite promises of a competitive process, all the BDUK money has gone to BT. At a meeting with mobile operators today, the Department of Culture Media and Sport hopes to set up a more competitive 4G fill-in effort."
Education

All Your Child's Data Are Belong To InBloom 211

Posted by timothy
from the hello-mother-hello-father-I-am-unit-34908-23-N dept.
theodp writes "Q. What do you get when Bill Gates and Rupert Murdoch put their heads together? A. inBloom (aka SLC), the Gates Foundation-bankrolled and News Corp. subsidiary-implemented collaboration whose stated mission is to 'inform and involve each student and teacher with data and tools designed to personalize learning.' It's noble enough sounding, but as the NY Times reports, the devil is in the details when it comes to deciding who sees students' academic and behavioral data. inBloom execs maintain their service has been unfairly maligned, saying it is entirely up to school districts or states to decide which details about students to store in the system and with whom to share them. However, a video on inBloom's Web site suggesting what this techno-utopia might look like may give readers of 1984 some pause. In one scene, a teacher with a tablet crouches next to a second-grader evaluating how many words per minute he can read: 55 words read; 43 correctly. Later, she moves to a student named Tyler and selects an e-book 'for at-risk students' for his further reading. The video follows Tyler home, where his mom logs into a parent portal for an update on his status — attendance, 86%; performance, 72% — and taps a button to send the e-book to play on the family TV. And another scene shows a geometry teacher reassigning students' seating assignments based on their 'character strengths', moving a green-coded female student ('actively participates: 98%') next to a red-and-yellow coded boy ('shows enthusiasm: 67%'). The NYT also mentions a parent's concern that school officials hoping to receive hefty Gates Foundation Grants may not think an agreement with the Gates-backed inBloom completely through."
Cellphones

Leaked Manual Reveals Details On Google's Nexus 5 177

Posted by timothy
from the leaked-with-big-old-air-quotes dept.
Features of Google's next Nexus phone have finally been outed, along with confirmation that the phone will be built by LG, as a result of a leaked service manual draft; here are some of the details as described at TechCrunch: "The new Nexus will likely be available in 16 or 32GB variants, and will feature an LTE radio and an 8-megapixel rear camera with optical image stabilization (there’s no mention of that crazy Nikon tech, though). NFC, wireless charging, and that lovely little notification light are back, too, but don’t expect a huge boost in longevity — it’s going to pack a sealed 2,300mAh battery, up slightly from the 2100mAh cell that powered last year’s Nexus 4. That spec sheet should sound familiar to people who took notice of what happened with the Nexus 4. Just as that device was built from the foundation laid by the LG Optimus G, the Nexus 5 (or whatever it’s going to be called) seems like a mildly revamped version of LG’s G2."

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