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Science

+ - 143 New Whale Species Unearthed in California Highway Dig-> 1

Submitted by sciencehabit
sciencehabit (1205606) writes "Thanks to a highway-widening project in California’s Laguna Canyon, scientists have identified several new species of early toothed baleen whales. The new fossils date to 17 to 19 million years ago, or the early-mid Miocene epoch, making them the youngest known toothed whales. Three of the fossils belong to the genus Morawanocetus, which is familiar to paleontologists studying whale fossils from Japan, but hadn’t been seen before in California. These three, along with the fourth new species, which is of a different genus, represent the last known occurrence of aetiocetes, a family of mysticetes that coexisted with early baleen whales. Thus, they aren’t ancestral to any of the living whales, but they could represent transitional steps on the way to today's whales."
Link to Original Source

+ - 153 Why hasn't 3D taken off for the web?

Submitted by
clockwise_music
clockwise_music writes "With HTML5 we're closer to the point where a browser can do almost everything that a native app can do. The final frontier is 3D, but WebGL isn't even part of the HTML5 standard, Microsoft refuse to support it, Apple want to push their native apps and it's not supported in the Android mobile browser. Flash used to be an option but Adobe have dropped mobile support. To reach most people you'd have to learn Javascript, WebGL and Three.js/Scene.js for Chrome/Firefox, then you'd have to learn actionscript + flash for the microsofties, then learn objective c for the apple fanboyz, then learn Java to write a native app for Android. Phew!

When will 3D finally become available for all? Do you think it's inevitable or will it never see the light of day?"
Medicine

+ - 222 Mussel Glue Could Help Repair Birth Defects->

Submitted by sciencehabit
sciencehabit (1205606) writes "When it comes to hanging on tight, the lowly mussel has few rivals in nature. Researchers have sought the secrets behind the bivalve's steadfast grip on wet, slippery rock. Now, a researcher says he has used the mollusk’s tricks to develop medical applications. These include a biocompatible glue that could one day seal fetal membranes, allowing prenatal surgeons to repair birth defects without triggering dangerous premature labor."
Link to Original Source
Patents

+ - 204 Patent trolls claim patent laws protect small inventors, but do they?-> 2

Submitted by whoever57
whoever57 (658626) writes "Patent trolls like to claim that patent laws provide a way that small inventors can create products and benefit financially from their invention. One such inventor faces selling his house, despite inventing a product that has sold tens of millions worldwide."
Link to Original Source
Education

+ - 189 Edwin Mellen Press sues University Librarian over his personal blog posts->

Submitted by McGruber
McGruber (1417641) writes "The Chronicle of Higher Education has the news (http://chronicle.com/article/Librarians-Rally-Behind/137329/) that Herbert Richardson, founder of Edwin Mellen Press (http://mellenpress.com/) is suing McMaster University (http://www.mcmaster.ca/) and University Librarian Dale Askey (http://library.mcmaster.ca/contact/askey-dale) for $3 Million over Mr. Askey's posts on a personal blog.

In 2010 Mr. Askey wrote a blog post about Edwin Mellen Press on his personal Web site, Bibliobrary (http://bibliobrary.net/). Mr. Askey referred to the publisher as "dubious" and said its books were often works of "second-class scholarship." For a few months afterward, several people chimed in in the blog's comments section, some agreeing with Mr. Askey, others arguing in support of the publisher.

In a February 11 statement, the McMaster University Faculty Association (MUFA) (http://www.mcmaster.ca/mufa/AskeyStatementFeb11-13.pdf) stated that The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) "and the MUFA Executive agree that this case represents a serious threat to the freedom of academic librarians to voice their professional judgement and to academic freedom more generally."

Academics around the world are tweeting about the case using the hashtag #FreeDaleAskey. Martha J. Reineke, a professor of religion at the University of Northern Iowa, created an online petition (https://www.change.org/petitions/edwin-mellen-press-end-libel-suit-against-dale-askey-and-mcmaster-university) seeking an end to the lawsuit. It has drawn nearly 1,900 signatures since Friday from Britain, Canada, and the United States."

Link to Original Source
Government

+ - 163 Once a hacker Kevin Mitnick Now Helps Secure Ecuador Presidential Elections->

Submitted by hypnosec
hypnosec (2231454) writes "Kevin Mitnick, who was one of the most wanted computer hacker in the US at one time, is now heading a security consultancy firm – Mitnick Security Consulting, and is entrusted with the task of securing Sunday's presidential elections in Ecuador. Sunday may very well see Rafael Correa win the presidential elections provided nothing goes wrong and Mitnick does the job perfectly which has been assigned to him. Mitnick tweeted, "18 years ago I was busted for hacking. I do the same thing today but with full authorization. How cool is that?" Mitnick has been assigned to protect the Net Lock computer system that has been assigned the task of tabulating Ecuador's elections."
Link to Original Source
Open Source

+ - 200 Hardware Hacker Ladyada Proposes Patent and Education Reform to President of USA->

Submitted by
ptorrone
ptorrone writes "In a welcome turn of events, President Barack Obama spoke directly to the patent troll problem and the need for more comprehensive patent reform yesterday in a "Fireside Hangout" — a live question and answer session hosted in a Google+ hangout. The President was responding to a question by the prominent electrical engineer and entrepreneur Limor "Ladyada" Fried of Adafruit Industries, who in 2009 won an EFF Pioneer Award for her work with free software and open-source hardware."
Link to Original Source
Media

+ - 196 Washington Post fires mobile team-> 1

Submitted by imac.usr
imac.usr (58845) writes "The Huffington Post is reporting that The Washington Post has gone through yet another round of layoffs, but this time instead of cutting editorial positions, they're apparently cutting IT positions, specifically in the mobile applications department. According to Washington, DC media blog FishbowlDC, 54 people, including the General Manager of Mobile and Director of Mobile Products were given the axe on Valentine's Day. A particularly damning quote from the FishbowlDC article: '“[CIO and VP Shaliesh] Prakash thinks these are ‘inefficiencies’ – that is the exact word he uses for human beings who are not useful according to him,” said a source who spoke only on condition of anonymity. “Get rid of experienced people to save money, under the garb of streamlining is the new trend inside the Post.”'

Given that mobile products seem somewhat more likely to succeed than printed newspapers, this seems a strange decision at best."

Link to Original Source
Book Reviews

+ - 112 Enyo: Up and Running 1

Submitted by
Michael Ross
Michael Ross writes "Upon hearing the name "Enyo," one may wonder if the speaker is referring to the Greek war goddess, or if it is the name of some Celtic New Age music with a Latin twist. In the world of front-end software development, Enyo is a cross-platform open-source JavaScript framework that can be used to build HTML5 web applications for the desktop and for mobile devices, including those powered by iOS and Android. The project website bills it as "an object-oriented JavaScript application framework emphasizing modularity and encapsulation." Any programmer interested in learning Enyo — or at least exploring what it is capable of — can consult the online documentation and the forums, but a more time-efficient approach might be to read a book focusing on the topic, such as Enyo: Up and Running, written by Roy Sutton, a contributor to the project.

The book was published by O'Reilly Media on 6 February 2013, under the ISBN 978-1449343125. (My thanks to O'Reilly for providing a review copy.) On the publisher's page, visitors can find limited information about the book and its author, some reader reviews, links to purchase the electronic and print versions, and a page for errata (of which there are none, as of this writing). At 74 pages in length, this title comprises seven chapters, plus an appendix explaining how to set up a local development environment for working with Enyo, with a few options to choose from. Thus, the appendix is where most readers should and likely will start. In the preface, the author notes that the book assumes "some familiarity with HTML, CSS, or JavaScript"; that "or" should be an "and," since all three technologies are foundational to Enyo.

The first chapter introduces Enyo by examining a fairly simple web app — one that displays a traffic light on the web page. Naturally, in a black-and-white book such as this, the red/yellow/green colors are all in grayscale. Much more importantly, of the seven jsFiddle-hosted code examples provided in the chapter, the first five do not work (as of this writing), apparently because in each case there exists in the code some sort of control character, displayed as a red dot. (In the third example, the dot character is in the JavaScript and not the HTML.) Readers should delete that character and click the "Run" button, to see the intended results. The last two examples work only because the dot character comes after the closing </script> tag. It is baffling how these flaws could have gone undetected by the production staff and technical reviewers.

The material seems to raise as many questions as it answers. Assuming that the code printed in the book works (no downloadable code archive is offered), readers will probably be left pondering questions such as: Is create: function() some sort of constructor? Why isn't a new color passed through the call this.colorChanged()? Why is oldValue apparently not used? Where is setColor() defined? While it is a good idea to entice the reader to try a new technology by showing its capabilities, if that reader is expected to understand the example code presented, then it should be fully explained; otherwise, it should not be presented. As an alternative, the author could have limited the discussion to what functionality Enyo provides to the programmer, without listing source code in print or on jsFiddle. This would have provided the reader with greater motivation to invest the time and effort in learning what can be a challenging subject.

As a result of these early problems, this first chapter does not get the book off to a promising start. The second chapter, "Core Concepts," is perhaps the one that should have begun the book, because it describes many of the core ideas critical to Enyo: kinds, encapsulation, published properties, events, signals, inheritance, constructors, and statics. However, the pace is too fast for beginners, and more examples are needed to explain the concepts, step-by-step. By the bottom of page 11, countless readers will likely be bewildered with the terse discussion of getter and setter functions, "changed" functions, construction, and passed values (which are properties or not). Also, readers will again encounter the aforesaid problem of the red dot character breaking the example code on jsFiddle. (Further instances in the book will not be documented here.) The third chapter continues the discussion, focusing on components, menu and form controls, and functions, as well as some components for animation and making web requests. All of the information looks correct. The only puzzling aspect is why break tags are used (on page 22) instead of a CSS display: block; declaration.

User interface is addressed in the next two chapters, the first of which presents layout components commonly needed for Enyo apps — scrollers, repeaters, fittables, lists, and panels. The second one explores CSS styling of an Enyo app, performance considerations of apps on handheld devices, debugging, common mistakes, jsFiddle, internationalization, and localization. With these chapters, the narrative in the book becomes noticeably more comprehensible.

The penultimate chapter — essentially comprising two pages — delineates some options that the Enyo developer has for deploying a newly-built app to any one of the supported platforms. This chapter, like all the earlier ones, ends with a summary that is so brief, and applicable to so few pages, that each one seems pointless. Why do publishers feel obligated to include these useless chapter summaries in almost every technical book? The final chapter is a one-page conclusion, in which the author encourages readers to learn more and become involved in the Enyo community.

This book is more of an introduction, although no reason is provided as to why it was not instead made a more extensive treatment of the subject. Upon completing the book, the average reader will probably conclude that she did not absorb enough knowledge of the Enyo core to begin immediately developing apps using this framework, and the best course of action might be to start over again on page 1, or perhaps seek out a second source, before optionally returning to this one for a second run-through. The material could have been structured so all information is presented sequentially — so the reader does not encounter concepts yet unseen — with more step-by-step explanations.

Rather than presenting the reader with code snippets that have no relation to one another, it would have been much more interesting and motivating if the author had devised and explained code that incrementally builds into a nontrivial app. Furthermore, the example source code should have been made available on the publisher's website, so readers could avoid typing it from the text or extracting it from jsFiddle if they wished to try it in their local development environments.

In terms of typography, the font size of this book is a bit too small, especially for extended reading, and for people with subpar vision. This is even more true for the code snippets, which are in an even smaller font. In many of the lines of prose, the words are too close to one another — a problem exhibited in a few other recent O'Reilly titles. Did the production team feel it necessary to further compress a 74-page book?! In fact, proper names, such as those of components, are oftentimes broken between two lines in the text — sometimes nonsensically, e.g., "FittableR" followed by "owsLayout" (page 32). The book contains several errata: "This is [not] to say" (page viii), "such as [a] local installation" (viii), "url" (27), "we might modify add" (34), "woud" (35), "one [of] the most" (35), and "allow you [to] easily debug" (56). For such a slender volume, the production quality seems to have received less attention than it deserved.

Overall, this offering does not reach O'Reilly's usual high standards. It's a shame, because it seems like such a promising topic — one that could be more thoroughly explored in a larger volume. Perhaps this feedback, and that of other readers, could be folded into a second edition. This is a real possibility, given that the author notes in his conclusion that he considers the book an active project, and intends to keep it up-to-date with the changes to Enyo itself. In the meantime, this is a promising start that can give readers a taste of Enyo's potential for building modern web apps for desktop and mobile platforms.

Michael Ross is a freelance web developer and writer."
Earth

+ - 307 Billionaires Secretly Fund Vast Climate Denial Network 4

Submitted by
Hugh Pickens writes
Hugh Pickens writes writes "Suzanne Goldenberg reports that conservative billionaires used a secretive funding route to channel nearly $120 million to more than 100 groups casting doubt about the science behind climate change, helping build a vast network of think tanks and activist groups working to redefine climate change from neutral scientific fact to a highly polarizing "wedge issue" for hardcore conservatives. "We exist to help donors promote liberty which we understand to be limited government, personal responsibility, and free enterprise," says Whitney Ball, chief executive of the Donors Trust. Ball's organization assured wealthy donors that their funds would never by diverted to liberal causes with a guarantee of complete anonymity for donors who wished to remain hidden. The money flowed to Washington think tanks embedded in Republican party politics, obscure policy forums in Alaska and Tennessee, contrarian scientists at Harvard and lesser institutions, even to buy up DVDs of a film attacking Al Gore. "The funding of the denial machine is becoming increasingly invisible to public scrutiny. It's also growing. Budgets for all these different groups are growing," says Kert Davies, research director of Greenpeace, which compiled the data on funding of the anti-climate groups using tax records. "These groups are increasingly getting money from sources that are anonymous or untraceable.""
Crime

+ - 258 Ask Slashdot; Inexpensive SOHO crime detterence, monitoring, and alerting.->

Submitted by trellz
trellz (1369477) writes "Dear Slashdot,
My sister and brother-in-law are self employed, and run a small business with a storefront. It was broken into about a year ago, and since then they have reinforced physical security; bars on the doors and windows, better locks, etc. Unfortunately, their store was broken into, and vandalized again last week in spite of the added security measures. Being technically savvy, I'm trying to come up with inexpensive ways to add deterrence, monitoring, and alerting to their business. They run an extremely lean lifestyle and profit margin, so the solution needs to be almost free. They do have an internet connection at the store, so motion detection, web cameras, arduino devices, and the like are certainly an option. Ideally I would like a rock solid alerting method. Something like an email or text to a laptop at home, or a dedicated prepaid phone, but without the pitfalls of such a solution(ie random wrong numbers, solicitors, email spam, etc). I'd also prefer not to poke holes in their firewall at the shop if at all possible. I was considering an email with some sort of long code or hash in the body, and then could white list that on the receiving end to key off of. The goal is to never have a false alarm based on the transmission/reception method. I know the physical triggers will have to be fine tuned, but I don't ever want them woken up at night due to some random male enhancement email."

Link to Original Source

+ - 221 The Apple Shop forced to change its name->

Submitted by
tlhIngan
tlhIngan writes "The Apple Shop, in Norfolk, UK is a little corner store that sells apple products. Not Apple products, but apple products, in this case, cider. However, it's been forced to change its name to the Norfolk Cider Shop. However, the name change did not come from any lawsuit from Apple (the Cupertino one, that is), nor has there been any evidence that Apple (Cupertino) knew about them. Instead, they're changing their name because their phones have been ringing constantly from people seeking help with their Apple (Cupertino) products. Apple (Cupertino) opened an Apple store in 2009 in the nearby (larger) town of Norwich."
Link to Original Source
United States

+ - 438 The US Redrawn As 50 Equally Populated States-> 3

Submitted by
Daniel_Stuckey
Daniel_Stuckey writes "Bam! For anyone that's paid a speck of attention to the tedium of political redistricting, which happens while a state grows unevenly, (and must dynamically respond to density, electorate disparity, natural resources and ridgelines, etc.), this is straight out of some psychedelic dream. For Democrats, it could be straight out of a nightmare. That's because Freeman's map necessitates 50 equally populous United States. His methods for creating the map are explained thusly:

"The algorithm was seeded with the fifty largest cities. After that, manual changes took into account compact shapes, equal populations, metro areas divided by state lines, and drainage basins. In certain areas, divisions are based on census tract lines... The suggested names of the new states are taken mainly from geographical features."

The new 50 states would be equally potent in terms of voting, but how many would be red? I made this layered GIF of Romney vs. Obama by county to try and figure things out."

Link to Original Source
Open Source

+ - 228 NetBSD To Support Kernel Development In Lua Scripting->

Submitted by Anonymous Coward
An anonymous reader writes "NetBSD 7.0 will support the Lua scripting language within its kernel for developing drivers and new sub-systems. A Lua scripting interpreter is being added to the NetBSD kernel along with a kernel API so developers can use this scripting language rather than C for developing new BSD kernel components. Expressed reasons for supporting a scripting language in a kernel were rapid application development, better configuration, and "modifying software written in C is hard for users." In a presentation it was said that Lua in the kernel will let users explore their system in an easy way."
Link to Original Source
Security

+ - 284 SSH Password Gropers Are Now Trying High Ports->

Submitted by
badger.foo
badger.foo writes "You thought you had successfully avoided the tiresome password guessing bots groping at your SSH service by moving the service to a non-standard port? It seems security by obscurity has lost the game once more. We're now seeing ssh bruteforce attempts hitting other ports too, Peter Hansteen writes in his latest column."
Link to Original Source
Canada

+ - 325 The IIPA Copyright Demands for Canada and Spain->

Submitted by Dangerous_Minds
Dangerous_Minds (1869682) writes "The International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA) is demanding a number of countries be placed back on the special 301 piracy watchlist. One country being recommended for inclusion is Canada (PDF). Apparently, even though Canada passed copyright reform laws, any compromise to protect consumers is reason for inclusion. Michael Geist offers some analysis on this move. Meanwhile, the IIPA is also recommending that Spain be included in the watchlist. In a separate filing, the IIPA makes a host of reasons why Spain should also be included. One of the main reasons seems to be that even though Spain passed the Sinde Law in spite of protests, the courts aren't simply rubberstamping any takedown requests and that cases that were dismissed due to lack of evidence is cause for concern. Freezenet offers some in-depth analysis on this development while noting towards the end that the Special 301 report suffers from credibility problems."
Link to Original Source

+ - 172 Ask Slashdot: What Does The Free/Open Source Community Currently Need?

Submitted by
d33tah
d33tah writes "In the summer term of my final year of IT's bachelor's course in my university, every student is obliged to develop his own project; the only requirement is that the application would use any kind of a database. While others are thinking of another useless system for an imaginary company that nobody would actually use, I'd rather hack up something the FL/OSS community actually needs. The problem is — how to figure out what could it be?"
Government

+ - 152 Amazon Sells Out Predator Drone Toy After Mocking Reviews

Submitted by parallel_prankster
parallel_prankster (1455313) writes "Amazon users are addressing the drone controversy with sarcasm. Maisto International Inc.’s model Predator drones are selling out on Amazon.com Inc.’s website as parody reviews highlight how the toys can help children hone killing skills, mocking a controversial U.S. practice. The toy is a replica of the RQ-1 Predator, an unmanned aircraft that the U.S. Air Force has used in combat over Afghanistan, Pakistan, Serbia, Iraq and Yemen, according to the product description on Amazon. Only one of the $49.99 military-style toy jets is available for purchase on Amazon’s site, which is brimming with assessments laced with dark humor. “You can’t spell slaughter without laughter,” one pithy joker wrote.
        While Facebook and Twitter have always been more prominent forums for political satire, consumers have flocked to Amazon’s review section before. In October, the user comment section of an Avery Dennison Corp. binder listed on the e- commerce site became the subject of a similar outbreak. Reviewers used Amazon to make light of a comment made by then- Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney during a debate. Amazon’s conditions of use posted on its website say that the Seattle-based company reserves the right to remove or edit reviews, which it doesn’t regularly examine. So far the reviews have not been removed."
Facebook

+ - 355 Facebook paid no taxes despite record profits-> 2

Submitted by Frosty Piss
Frosty Piss (770223) writes "Despite earning more than $1 billion in profits last year, social media juggernaut Facebook paid zilch when it came to federal and state taxes in 2012. In fact, the website will actually be getting a refund totaling $429 million thanks to a tax reduction for executive stock options. In the coming years, Facebook will continue to get monster tax breaks, totaling about $3 billion. 'The employees cash in stock options, and at that point there is tax deduction for the company,' Robert McIntyre, of watchdog group Citizens for Tax Justice, said. 'Because even though it doesn't cost Facebook a nickel, the government treats it as wages and they get a deduction for it. And usually it doesn't wipe out companies whole tax bill, although many companies get big breaks from it.'"
Link to Original Source

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