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Open Source

When Enthusiasm For Free Software Turns Ugly 177

Posted by Soulskill
from the can't-we-all-just-get-along dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Bruce Byfield writes for Linux Magazine about the unfortunate side-effect of people being passionate about open source software: discussions about rival projects can get heated and turn ugly. "Why, for example, would I possibly to see OpenOffice humiliated? I prefer LibreOffice's releases, and — with some misgivings — the Free Software Foundation's philosophy and licensing over that of the Apache Foundation. I also question the efficiency of having two office suites so closely related to each other. Yet while exploring such issues may be news, I don't forget that, despite these differences, OpenOffice and the Apache Foundation still have the same general goals as LibreOffice or the Free Software Foundation. The same is true of other famous feuds. Why, because I have a personal preference for KDE, am I supposed to ignore GNOME's outstanding interface designs? Similarly, because I value Debian's stability and efforts at democracy, am I supposed to have a strong distaste for Ubuntu?"

Comment: Re:Talk about creating a demand (Score 3, Interesting) 334

by 6Yankee (#49568535) Attached to: Why Our Antiquated Power Grid Needs Battery Storage

There are other -- probably cheaper -- solutions for local storage than batteries. A couple of off-the-cuff examples: lifting a very large weight with your excess electricity, then running a generator with it during peak loads or periods. (Did I say VERY large weight?)

Batteries are heavy. Why not do both?

Comment: Higher, again (Score 2) 109

by 6Yankee (#49495839) Attached to: For the most recent tax year ...

Higher than anticipated, again, because I still hadn't learned that my employer doesn't change the amount of tax they forward on even when they increase my salary. They wait for me to tell the tax office that my salary changed and for the tax office to tell them that my salary changed, even though they were the ones who changed it in the first place. Brilliant.

They also lose the documentation sent by the tax office at the start of each year and, in the absence of any better information, deduct SIXTY PERCENT. Every. Single. February. As well as the first month of my job, which is really handy when you've just moved to a foreign country and need to buy just about everything from scratch.

This year I got wise to it and told them to deduct extra. That way there's either a fat refund around Christmas or some margin when they cock it up yet again.

Comment: Good points, bad points (Score 4, Interesting) 287

by Dynamoo (#49331759) Attached to: Ford's New Car Tech Prevents You From Accidentally Speeding
I've driven a car with a manual speed limiter for 10+ years now. I don't understand why all cars don't have one. Entering a 30mph/50kmh zone? Set that as the maximum speed on the limiter and you can drive around normally without having to keep checking your speed. Less time checking your speed equals more time looking where you are going. This is only a good thing.

In Europe, speed limiters seem to be common in Mercedes and Smart cars, Renault, Citroen and Peugeot cars, plus some of the newer Vauxhall/Opel models and Fords. It is built into the cruise control system.

The bad points? Well, reading signs is a so-so thing when it comes to accuracy, and satellite navigation systems sometimes get the speed very badly wrong if they have incorrect data. And just because the speed limit *says* that you can drive at up to whatever-is-on-the-sign, it doesn't mean it is *safe* to do so in the road conditions you actually have.

Comment: Outside Context Problem (Score 5, Interesting) 576

It's the case of the "Outside Context Problem" as described by the late, great Iain M Banks [via]


The usual example given to illustrate an Outside Context Problem was imagining you were a tribe on a largish, fertile island; you'd tamed the land, invented the wheel or writing or whatever, the neighbors were cooperative or enslaved but at any rate peaceful and you were busy raising temples to yourself with all the excess productive capacity you had, you were in a position of near-absolute power and control which your hallowed ancestors could hardly have dreamed of and the whole situation was just running along nicely like a canoe on wet grass... when suddenly this bristling lump of iron appears sailless and trailing steam in the bay and these guys carrying long funny-looking sticks come ashore and announce you've just been discovered, you're all subjects of the Emperor now, he's keen on presents called tax and these bright-eyed holy men would like a word with your priests.

Banks goes on to note that most civilisations tend to encounter an Outside Context Problem only once, at the point where that particular civilisation ends or is subsumed into the more powerful one. (Incidentally this is also the title of a series of eBooks by Christopher Nuttall which are satisfyingly geeky.)

Of course, there are plenty of fictional examples of invasion, I guess ranging from the barely-competent aliens in Niven & Pournelle's "Footfall" (who were easily detected) and the almost-Gods of Arthur C Clarke's "Childhood's End" who basically just turned up without warning. It's too varied a field to come up with an idea of how we could detect them.


Earth's Libration Visualized For the First Time Above the Moon's Far Side 33

Posted by timothy
from the can-you-see-your-house-from-there dept.
StartsWithABang writes Thanks to the fact that the Moon is tidally locked, we can only see 50% of its surface on any given night. Over time, the fact that the Moon's orbit is elliptical, and that it moves faster at perigee and slower at apogee means that up to another 9% is visible over the course of many years. The observed "rocking" and growing/shrinking of the Moon over time is known as lunar libration, an incredibly interesting phenomenon. But now, for the first time, we've been able to visualize how the Earth appears to move as seen from above the far side of the Moon.

Comment: Re:32bit vs 64bit (Score 2) 156

by Dynamoo (#48863961) Attached to: Windows Server 2003 Reaches End of Life In July
Application compatibility in Windows 8.1 is pretty good (except for really ancient 16-bit apps).. but a server environment is different with products that are often much more complicated and with very difficult migration paths to a newer version. If one exists. Take for example database clusters with custom code written by people who no longer work for the organisation - migrating from those is extremely difficult.

But.. although it is a pain, but Microsoft's EOL was well-known many years in advance. People are moaning about the dropping of support, but it has been around for 12 years. For a migration path Windows 2012 R2 will be supported until 2023, Windows 2008 R2 until 2020

Comment: Remember Conficker? (Score 4, Insightful) 156

by Dynamoo (#48863851) Attached to: Windows Server 2003 Reaches End of Life In July
The problem isn't that Windows 2003 will stop working.. the problem is that it won't get patched. Now, servers are generally lower-risk than client PCs because they just tend to do a couple of things without users surfing for porn, reading email or downloading crap. And also the products *running* on those servers may well continue to get updates anyway.

But about once a year or so, there is a vulnerability in Windows that is exploitable over the network remotely without authentication, the sort of thing that Conficker used to spread on (i.e. MS08-067). Wormable vulnerabilities are the highest risk, and the time between the flaw being announced and an exploit being created can just be a matter of days.

So, eventually those Windows 2003 boxes are going to get pwned. It might be weeks or years after 2003 goes EOL, but eventually it will happen.

Comment: It doesn't matter how secure the password is.. (Score 1) 197

by Dynamoo (#48859225) Attached to: The Most Popular Passwords Are Still "123456" and "password"
It doesn't matter how secure the password is, if a site or service gets compromised then it is highly likely that the password will get revealed. What makes a difference in those cases is how well encrytped or hidden the password is, and how determined the attacker is. Attackers can use precomputed tables made up of all sorts of phrases, letters, numbers etc which will get a handle on even very secure passwords.

It's far more important to have a different password on each site.. or at least a different password on each site you care about. For some sites is really doesn't matter if it gets hacked or not. The Gawker breach a few years back for example.. who would really give a stuff about having their Gawker password compromised.

So, it doesn't really matter on a lot of these sites if your password is 123456 because everything of value is protected by something better. Isn't it?

"Pascal is Pascal is Pascal is dog meat." -- M. Devine and P. Larson, Computer Science 340