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What Are the Genuinely Useful Ideas In Programming? 598

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

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.

Fusion Reactor Breaks Even 429

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.'"

Cyborg Cockroach Sparks Ethics Debate 512

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 To Support Wayland 61

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.'"

Massive New CT Scanner Assesses Car Crash Data 52

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

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.'"

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

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."

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

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."

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

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

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."

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

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 Promises an Ultra-High-Tech 2020 Olympics 106

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."

Fukushima Nuclear Worker Accidentally Toggles Off Cooling Pumps 190

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.'"

Could IBM's Watson Put Google In Jeopardy? 274

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.'"