CountryGeek passed us a link to a story in the Birmingham News, saying that schools in the Alabama city will be the first US students to make use of the XO laptop. The piece touches on a bit of the project's history, and seems to indicate the Birmingham school district is ready to make a serious commitment to these devices. "Langford has asked the City Council to approve $7 million for the laptops and a scholarship program that would give Birmingham students with a C average or above a scholarship to college or tech school of their choice. The City Council has not yet approved the funding. The rugged, waterproof computers will be distributed to students on April 15, Langford said, and children will be allowed to take them home. If a computer is lost, the school system can disable it, rendering it useless, Langford said. Students will turn in their computers at the end of their eighth-grade year."
It wasn't demolished, it was sold on. It's now called the O2 arena or something like that, and it's used as a gig venue.
PCOL writes "When Conquistadors came to Peru from Spain in 1532, they were astonished to see Inca suspension bridges achieve clear spans of at least 150 feet at a time when the longest Roman bridge in Spain had a maximum span of 95 feet. The bridges swayed under the weight of traffic terrifying the Spanish and their horses, even though, as one Spaniard observed, they were almost as "sturdy as the street of Seville." To build the bridges, thick cables were pulled across a river with small ropes and attached to stone abutments on each side. Three of the big cables served as the floor of the bridge, two others served as handrails and pieces of wood were tied to the cable floor before the floor was strewn with branches to give firm footing for beasts of burden. Earlier this year students at MIT built a 70-foot fiber bridge in the style of the Incan Empire. The project used sisal twine from the Yucatan Peninsula and anchored it by wrapping it around massive concrete blocks. The weekend's burst of activity was preceded by 360 hours of rope-twisting as the 50 miles of sisal twine was turned into rope. Working together as a group was part of the exercise. "A third of the time was spent learning to work together," one of the students said. "But after a while, we were banging those cables out.""
scida sends in a link to his blog post exploring the question of whether, roughly speaking, science journalism is an impossible task. From the post: "I have spent the better half of the past six months trying to understand one thing: how can you effectively present primary scientific literature to the general public? Is this even possible? ... During the past few months, I have spent entire days locked up in my office, writing my first manuscript to be submitted to a peer reviewed scientific journal. While doing so, I have come to realize the following: details can change everything. There are a number of assumptions I have been forced to make while analyzing my data, many of which are critical for both my methodology and the development of few of my arguments. Why? Often, the information I require simply isn't available (the studies haven't been done, or the studies that exist are based on assumptions of their own). Now, can someone unfamiliar with a particular field, nay, a sub-discipline of that field, recognize these assumptions for what they are?"
alphadogg writes "For a decade, IPv6 proponents have pushed this upgrade to the Internet's main communications protocol because of its three primary benefits: a gargantuan address space, end-to-end security, and easier network administration through automatic device configuration. Now it turns out that one of these IPv6 benefits — autoconfiguration — may not be such a boon for corporate network managers. A growing number of IPv6 experts say that corporations probably will skip autoconfiguration and instead stick with DHCP, which has been updated to support IPv6."
anzha writes "Sun Microsystems announced today that they are acquiring Cluster File Systems Inc. CFS owns the intellectual property related to and develops the open source file system known as Lustre." Relatedly Sun has also signed an agreement with Microsoft to be a Windows OEM. "Sun and Microsoft will work together to ensure that Solaris runs well as a guest on Microsoft virtualization technologies and that Windows Server runs well as a guest on Sun's virtualization technologies. Sun and Microsoft will work together on a support process for customers who are using the virtualization solutions. This joint commitment to customers ensures that Windows and Solaris will provide a solid virtualization experience."
Jerry Asher writes "Not all of my coworkers are careful about spelling errors. Sometimes this causes real embarrassment as spelling errors creep into software interfaces. Does anyone know of spell checkers for programming languages? I don't want a text spell checker, I want a programming-language-aware spell checker. A spell checker that I can pass all of my code through and will flag spelling errors in function names, variable names, and comments, but will ignore language keywords, language constructs and expressions, and various programming styles (camel code, or underscores, or...). I want a spell checker that knows that void *functionSigniture(char *myRoutine) contains one spelling error. Does anyone have such a thing for Java or C++? Are there any Eclipse plugins that do this?"
An anonymous reader writes "During a keynote address at the O'Reilly Open Source Conference (OSCON), Jimmy Wales announced that Wikia has acquired Grub, the original visionary distributed search project, from LookSmart and released it under an open source license for the first time in four years. Grub operates under a model of users donating their personal computing resources towards a common goal, and is available for download and testing."
Ant writes "The Red Tape Chronicles reports that just last December (2006), the FTC published an optimistic state-of-spam report. It cites research indicating spam had leveled off or even dropped during the previous year. It now appears spammers had simply gone back to the drawing board. There's more spam now than ever before. In fact, there's twice as much spam now as opposed to this time last year. And the messages themselves are causing more trouble. About half of all spam sent now is "image spam," containing server-clogging pictures that are up to 10 times the size of traditional text spam. And most image spam is stock-related, pump-and-dump scams which can harm investors who don't even use e-mail. About one-third of all spam is stock spam now."
Aryabhata writes "Ars Technica reports on a survey by investment firm J.P. Morgan Securities, stating that Google Checkout has had a relatively quick and modest market penetration of six percent since its launch in June of 2006, but lags behind in customer satisfaction vs PayPal. On the customer satisfaction front, only 18.8 percent reported having a 'good' or 'very good' experience with Google Checkout, while 81.2 percent indicated a fair to poor experience customer experience compared to PayPal's 44.2 percent reporting good experiences. Some users have reported anecdotally that Google Checkout mistakenly canceled sales without warning or that the checkout process took too long."
Croakyvoice writes "JK Rowling has today given fans of the Harry Potter books the name of Book 7 of the very popular series via a Christmas present on her site, to get to the name you need to follow a complicated procedure but thankfully the name of the book has been revealed as Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows."
guruevi writes to let us know about a review of Microsoft Vista in the NY Times, in the form of an article and a video, by the known Mac-friendly David Pogue. In the article, Pogue recasts Microsoft's marketing mantra for Vista: "Clear, Confident, Connected" becomes "Looks, Locks, Lacks." Pogue writes that Vista is such a brazen rip-off of Mac OS X that "There must be enough steam coming out of Apple executives' ears to power the Polar Express." But the real fun is in the video, in which Pogue attempts to prove that Vista is not simply an OS X clone.
RobertinXinyang writes "MSN's MoneyCentral has an article on the possibility that the $100 laptop project fails to meet its goals, and the potential of the project to harm people in developing nations. The article goes on to liken the project to 'good-natured showboating', and cites the unreality of a family using the glow from the laptop's screen as the only source of light in their hut. Perhaps there are better things to do with our time and money in developing nations?" From the article: "The entire idea may be misguided and counterproductive. At least that's what Stanford journalism lecturer an Africa watcher G. Pascal Zachary thinks. The basic argument is that with $100 you could almost feed a village for a year, so why waste that sum on a laptop? What are they thinking? The fact that these people need electricity more than they need a laptop is only part of the problem. The real problem is lost mind share. The people are harmed because these sorts of schemes are sopping up mind-share time of the people who might be doing something actually useful."
The results of two scientific studies have shown that dolphins are capable of recognizing rhythms and pitch and are able to reproduce them. In order to best demonstrate this ability the scientists chose the epic, Batman theme song and were able to teach a shortened version to the dolphins who reproduced it in response to certain stimuli.