reifman writes "Perhaps the reason the NSA's surveillance programs are so unpopular with Americans is that we haven't seen any of the potential consumer benefits that spying and big data can provide. Here are ten ideas for the productization and monetization of the NSA's spying infrastructure to inspire Americans to consider the bright side of the dark arts." In case anyone doesn't notice, these suggestions (at least most of them) are presented tongue-in-cheek; a truly secure email system, though, is another story.
jrepin writes "Everywhere you look, change is afoot in computer networking. As data centers grow in size and complexity, traditional tools are proving too slow or too cumbersome to handle that expansion. Dinesh Dutt is Chief Scientist at Cumulus Networks. Cumulus has been working to change the way we think about networks altogether by dispensing with the usual software/hardware lockstep, and instead using Linux as the operating system on network hardware. In this week's New Tech Forum, Dinesh details the reasons and the means by which we may see Linux take over yet another aspect of computing: the network itself."
An anonymous reader writes that although many Linux users (and others) are at home with OpenOffice and LibreOffice, typical organizations are as addicted as ever to MS office formats. In 2011 13% of organizations had OpenOffice variants installed on some computers. Today that number has dipped to 5% according to Forrester Research. ... The poll included [shows totals] over 100% as many organizations have multiple versions of offices installed. Also surprising, Office 2003 is alive kicking and screaming as almost 1/3 of companies and governments still use it even though EOL for Office 2003 ends with XP on the same date! The good news is online cloud-based platforms are gaining traction with Google Docs and Office 365 which are not so tied to Windows on the client."
An anonymous reader writes "Smart watches have arrived, and Google Glass is on its way. As early-adopters start to gain some experience with these devices, they're learning some interesting lessons about how wearable computing affects our behavior differently from even smartphones and tablets. Vint Cerf says, 'Our social conventions have not kept up with the technology.' Right now, it's considered impolite to talk on your cellphone while checking out at the grocery store, or to ignore a face-to-face conversation in favor of texting somebody. But 20 years ago, those actions weren't even on our social radar. Wearable devices create some obvious social problems, like the aversion to Glass's ever-present camera. But there are subtler ones, as well, for which we'll need to develop another set of social norms. A Pebble smart watch user gave an example: 'People thought I was being rude and checking the time constantly when I was really monitoring incoming messages. It sent the wrong signal.' The article continues, 'Therein lies the wearables conundrum. You can put a phone away and choose not to use it. You can turn to it with permission if you're so inclined. Wearables provide no opportunity for pause, as their interruptions tend to be fairly continuous, and the interaction is more physical (an averted glance or a vibration directly on your arm). It's nearly impossible to train yourself to avoid the reflex-like response of interacting. By comparison, a cell phone is away (in your pocket, on a table) and has to be reached for.'"
McGruber writes "Over at Bloomberg Businessweek, Paul Ford explains that the debacle known as healthcare.gov makes clear that it is time for the government to change the way it ships code: namely, by embracing the open source approach to software development that has revolutionized the technology industry." That seems like the only way to return maximum value to the taxpayers, too.
BartlebyScrivener writes "I am a author, screenwriter, law prof, and a hobbyist programmer. I love MacVim and write almost everything in it: Exams, novels, even screenplays now that Fountain is available. I use LaTeX and WordPress and so on, but several years ago I discovered Markdown and the wonderful Pandoc. I searched Slashdot expecting to find lively discussions of both Markdown and Pandoc, but found nothing. Do Slashdotters look down their noses at these tools and do their work in HTML and LaTeX? I can't imagine computer geeks using Word instead of their favorite text editors. If not Markdown and Pandoc, what tools do Slashdotters use when they create documents that probably need to be distributed in more than one format: HTML, PDF, EPUB or perhaps even docx?" And then there's DocBook, LyX, and a host of other markup languages. What do you use, in what context?
MojoKid writes "The LG G2 is the follow-up to LG's Optimus G Pro. It's also one of the few smartphones on the market right now powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon 800 quad-core SoC. The G2 sports a 5.2-inch 1080p display, 2GB of RAM and up to 32GB of on board storage. However, the 2.26GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800 chip on board also has Qualcomm's Adreno 330 GPU that even gives NVIDIA's Tegra 4 a run for its money in gaming and graphics performance. Though the G2 has a rather unorthodox volume rocker and power button assembly on the back of the phone, once you get used to the location, it's actually a pretty comfortable control system. What's pretty impressive though is the G2's performance combined with its 3000mAh battery that offers a solid balance of horsepower and battery life and rivals flagship phones like the Samsung Galaxy S4 and Apple's iPhone 5S."
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Radio Iowa reports that 155 scientists from 36 colleges and universities in Iowa are jointly issuing a call for action against global warming and calling on the US Department of Agriculture to update its policies to better protect the land. 'The last couple of years have underscored the fact that we are very vulnerable to weather conditions and weather extremes in Iowa,' says Gene Takle, director of the Climate Science Program at Iowa State. Both years were marked by heavy spring rains followed by droughts that damaged Iowa's farmland. 'This has become a real issue for us, particularly with regard to getting crops planted in the spring,' says Takle adding that Iowa had 900,000 acres that weren't planted this year because of these intense spring rains. 'Following on the heels of the disastrous 2012 loss of 90% of Iowa's apple crop, the 2013 cool March and record-breaking March-through-May rainfall set most ornamental and garden plants back well behind seasonal norms,' says the Iowa Climate Statement for 2013 . 'Iowa's soils and agriculture remain our most important economic resources, but these resources are threatened by climate change (PDF)." When the Iowa climate change statement was first released in 2011, 44 Iowa scientists signed on and last year's statement was signed by 137 Iowa scientists. "It's easy to set up a straw-man argument, to say, 'Oh, well climates always change; there have been changes in the past. This might just be natural,' " says David Courard-Hauri. "And often that gets played on the Internet as, 'Maybe scientists haven't thought about the fact that there have been natural changes in the past and maybe this is related.' " Of course scientists have thought about that possibility, says Courard-Hauri, but the evidence strongly suggests the climate is changing faster than could be expected to happen naturally."
An anonymous reader writes "University of Nebraska-Lincoln professor Matt Waite waived a government cease and desist letter recently received for his experiments using 3-pound, $500 drones for news reporting (specifically, for a story about drought in Nebraska). He gave journalism organizations the lowdown on what they can expect from the government on this front going forward and said he's posting his experience in trying to get certified by the FAA on GitHub so they can follow along."
rtoz writes "The National Security Agency (NSA ) of United States hacked into the Mexican president's public email account and gained deep insight into policymaking and the political system. The news is likely to hurt ties between the US and Mexico. This operation, dubbed 'Flatliquid,' is described in a document leaked by whistleblower Edward Snowden. Meanwhile U.S. President Barack Obama's administration is urging the Supreme Court not to take up the first case it has received on controversial National Security Agency cybersnooping."
An anonymous reader writes "In a talk at Y Combinator's startup school event, Stanford lecturer Balaji Srinivasan explained his vision for governing systems of the future. The idea is to find space to set up a new 'opt-in' society outside existing governments, and design it to take full advantage of technology to keep people in control of their own lives. That means embracing tech that subverts existing industries and rejecting regulation on new ways of doing things. '[N]ew industries are simultaneously disrupting existing ones while also exiting the system entirely, he says. With 3D printing, regulation is being turned into DRM. With quantified self, medicine is going mobile. With Bitcoin, capital control becomes packet filtering. All of these examples, Srinivasan says, are ways in which technology is allowing people to exit current systems like physical product production and distribution; personal health; and finance in favor of spaces of their own creation.' Srinivasan's ideas are a natural extension of a few proposals already in the works — Peter Thiel has been trying to build a small tech incubator city that floats in international waters, outside of government control. Elon Musk wants to have a Mars colony, and Larry Page has wished for a tech-centric Burning man that's free from government regulation. 'The best part is this,' Srinivasan said. 'The people who think this is weird, the people who sneer at the frontier, who hate technology, won't follow you there.'"
An anonymous reader writes "Richard Schiffman writes in The Guardian that the Republican-led shutdown of the U.S. government caused significant damage to many scientific programs. For example: shortly before the shutdown started, over a hundred scientists had gathered to perform critical equipment tests on the James Webb Space Telescope — Hubble's successor — and that work was unable to continue without the government around. 'Not only did this delay cost the program an estimated $1M a day, but, given NASA's tight schedule, some tests may never get done now.' It doesn't stop there: 'This is only one of untold thousands of projects that were mothballed when Congress's failure to approve a budget defunded the US government at the start of the month. Federal websites were taken offline, scientists couldn't receive emails, attend meetings, or interact with their colleagues. Crucial environmental, food safety and climate monitoring programs were either suspended, or substantially scaled back.' Schiffman provides a few more examples, including one project that's losing a year's worth of work and equipment that will end up buried under snow in Antarctica. But it goes beyond even the basic funding issues; in many cases, scientific work is simply too intertwined with the government to continue without it. Andrew Rosenberg, the director of the Union of Concerned Scientists' center for science and democracy, said, 'It is all so interconnected now. Federal researchers collect data that is utilized by researchers in academia, by people working in industry, at state and local levels, so when you ask how dependent are we on the federal government in terms of science, it's a bit like asking: do you need your left leg?'"
New submitter Enokcc writes "In a series of research articles it was claimed that a famous system of nonlinear differential equations originally used to model atmospheric convection can also be used to model changes in human emotions over time. It took an amateur in psychology with a computer science background to notice how extraordinary these claims were, and with the help of experts on psychology he has now published a critique. The latest of the questionable research articles (with 360 citations) is now 'partially withdrawn.'" Notably, skeptic Nick Brown's paper is co-authored by Alan Sokal, famous for exposing nonsense by less diplomatic means.
An anonymous reader writes "The NY Times has a story about the imminent release of Battlefield 4 on 29 October, as it's one of the most highly-anticipated video games of the year. The most interesting part of the article is where it highlights what a mammoth undertaking such 'AAA' games have become. There are hundreds upon hundreds of people working full time on it, and hundreds of millions of dollars tied up in its development. These number have been rising and rising over the years; how big do they get before it becomes completely unfeasible to top your last game? The article also points out that the PC platform is beginning to wane in popularity. Nobody's quite sure yet whether it'll level out or go into serious decline, but you can bet development studios are watching closely. With bigger and bigger stakes, how long before they decide it's not worth the risk? Even consoles aren't safe: 'Electronic Arts is nevertheless trying to extend franchises like Battlefield to devices, because it must. But at the same time, it has to grapple with the threats undermining traditional gaming. Though the classic consoles are getting reboots this fall, there is no guarantee that new models will permanently revive the format's fortunes.' And of course, the question must be asked: do we even want the 'AAA' games to stick around?"
An anonymous reader writes "All Power Labs in Berkeley, California has produced and sold over 500 machines that take in dense biomass and put out energy. What makes the machines special is that instead of releasing carbon back into the atmosphere, it's concentrated into a lump charcoal that makes excellent fertilizer. The energy is produced cheaply, too; many of the machines went to poor nations who normally pay much more per kilowatt. '[T]he PowerPallets are still relatively simple, at least as far as their users are concerned. For one, thing Price explained, much of the machine is made with plumbing fixtures that are the same everywhere in the world. That means they're easy to repair. At the same time, while researchers at the 50 or so institutions that have bought the machines are excited by opening up the computer control system and poking around inside, a guy running a corn mill in Uganda with a PowerPallet "will never need to open that door and never will," Price said.'"