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+ - Book Review: Build your own website

Submitted by MassDosage
MassDosage (1967508) writes "At the the risk of exposing my age I remember building my first website using a rudimentary Unix text editor (Joe) and carefully handcrafting the Hypertext Markup Language (HTML) while directly logged on to the web server it was being served from. Back then Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) weren’t even a glint in the eyes of their creators. A lot has changed and there’s now a world of fancy WYSIWYG web page editors to choose from as well as Content Management Systems that allow you to create websites without looking at the underlying code at all. While this is all very useful and allows less technical people to create websites I still feel that having at least some knowledge of how everything works under the hood is empowering — especially in situations where you want to go beyond the limits placed on you by a certain tool. This is where Build your own website (A comic guide to HTML, CSS and Wordpress) comes into the picture. Its aim is to enable people new to web development to learn the subject by teaching the fundamentals of HTML and CSS first and only then describing how to use a Content Management System (CMS) — in this case Wordpress. While Wordpress might not be everyone’s kettle of fish it’s a good choice as an example of a modern CMS that is easily accessible and very popular. The concepts presented are simple enough that it should be easy enough for a reader to apply them to a different CMS should they want to.

To be clear, this book is intended for people who have little to no experience building websites and it is appropriately written in a non-formal, fun and non-threatening manner. Each chapter has the same format where a topic is initially covered at a high level in the form of a cartoon that is really easy to grasp. This is then followed by a more in-depth repetition of the same content using more “traditional” text and diagrams. Most chapters then end with a summary of the key points which can be used as a simple reference. This layout means that if you’re a quick learner or are familiar with some of the concepts you can just read the comic section and then try implementing the material covered on your own. On the other hand if you want more information and depth you can read the text that follows.The material is presented in such a way that it should be easy for the reader to “learn by doing” as they copy or modify what the main character in the cartoon does (in this case building a website for her photography portfolio). All that’s needed to get started is a browser, a text editor and some knowledge of how to organise files on a file system. This coverage of raw HTML and CSS may sound off-putting to non-technical people but it’s presented in such a simple manner that pretty much anyone should be able to follow along. The benefit of this “back to the basics” approach is that one is not limited to using only a certain piece of software and instead the fundamentals can be applied to other tools later.

The book provides a good introduction to HTML and describes some useful tags that can be used to start creating a simple website. CSS are explained in a similar manner and the reader is shown how they can be used to easily change the look of a website. These two technologies are the bedrock on top of which pretty much all web development rests and thus understanding them is a prerequisite for anyone wanting to create their own websites. The book also does a good job of showing how a content management system like Wordpress builds on top of these foundations and how you can still get to the underlying HTML and CSS should you want to (as well as why this might be useful if you want to modify something that Wordpress does or doesn’t do). On the Wordpress front the basics are covered — from creating pages and page hierarchies to how these can be categorised and grouped. Unfortunately when going into more detail on this topic things lose a bit of coherence. Wordpress is obviously a big beast which has entire books devoted to it and cramming in a summary of it means having to leave out a lot. It seems as if the author might have had to trim these sections down and this has resulted in the text feeling a bit rushed and confusing which is in contrast with the rest of the book where the topics are covered in a slower and more detailed manner. Any book that describes using a piece of software like Wordpress to the level of explaining how to point and click one’s way through certain step risks becoming outdated as the software changes in future. For the most part this shouldn’t be too much of an issue as Wordpress isn’t covered in too much detail but it does mean that this book probably won’t be a reference you still use in five year’s time.

On the whole Build your own website succeeds in its goal of presenting a gentle learning curve and guiding people through what is needed to create a website from scratch. It is just technical enough that readers should be able to understand the fundamentals of what they are doing while being non-intimidating and introducing concepts at a relaxed and fun pace via the comic format. By the end of this book readers should have a solid grasp of the basics of website creation and be able to set up a simple site themselves, either by coding this up in HTML and CSS directly or by using Wordpress. For anything more advanced one would need to move on to other books or self-teaching but this book is a great starting point if you’re new to the subject.

Full disclosure: I was given a copy of this book free of charge by the publisher for review purposes. They placed no restrictions on what I could say and left me to be as critical as I wanted so the above review is my own honest opinion."
News

In Breakthrough, US and Cuba To Resume Diplomatic Relations 368

Posted by Soulskill
from the pretending-we-like-each-other dept.
HughPickens.com writes: Peter Baker reports at the NYT that in a deal negotiated during 18 months of secret talks hosted largely by Canada and encouraged by Pope Francis, the United States will restore full diplomatic relations with Cuba and open an embassy in Havana for the first time in more than a half-century. In addition, the United States will ease restrictions on remittances, travel and banking relations, and Cuba will release 53 Cuban prisoners identified as political prisoners by the United States government. Although the decades-old American embargo on Cuba will remain in place for now, the administration signaled that it would welcome a move by Congress to ease or lift it should lawmakers choose to. "We cannot keep doing the same thing and expect a different result. It does not serve America's interests, or the Cuban people, to try to push Cuba toward collapse. We know from hard-learned experience that it is better to encourage and support reform than to impose policies that will render a country a failed state," said the White House in a written statement. "The United States is taking historic steps to chart a new course in our relations with Cuba and to further engage and empower the Cuban people."
The Military

Army To Launch Spy Blimp Over Maryland 170

Posted by Soulskill
from the i-can-see-my-house-from-here dept.
FarnsworthG writes: A multi-billion-dollar Army project will soon be able to track nearly everything within 340 miles when an 80-yard-long blimp is hoisted into the air over Maryland. Way to be subtle, guys. From the article: "Technically considered aerostats, since they are tethered to mooring stations, these lighter-than-air vehicles will hover at a height of 10,000 feet just off Interstate 95, about 45 miles northeast of Washington, D.C., and about 20 miles from Baltimore. That means they can watch what’s happening from North Carolina to Boston, or an area the size of Texas."
Australia

New Cargo Ship Is 488 Meters Long 108

Posted by Soulskill
from the go-big-or-go-home dept.
An anonymous reader writes: The BBC reports on the construction of Prelude, a new ship that will be the world's longest vessel. It is 488 meters long and 74 meters wide, built with 260,000 tons of steel and displacing five times as much water as an aircraft carrier. Its purpose is to carry an entire natural gas processing plant as it sits over a series of wells 100 miles off the coast of Australia. Until now, it hasn't been practical to move gas that comes out of the wells with ships. The gas occupies too much volume, so it is generally piped to a facility on shore where it is processed and then shipped off to energy-hungry markets. But the Prelude can purify and chill the gas, turning it into a liquid and reducing its volume by a factor of 600. It will offload this liquid to smaller (but still enormous) carrier ships for transport.

+ - New Cargo Ship Is 488 Meters Long->

Submitted by Anonymous Coward
An anonymous reader writes "The BBC reports on the construction of Prelude, a new cargo ship that will be the world's longest vessel. It is 488 meters long and 74 meters wide, built with 260,000 tons of steel and displacing five times as much water as an aircraft carrier. Its purpose is to carry an entire natural gas processing plant as it sits over a series of wells 100 miles off the coast of Australia. Until now, it hasn't been practical to move gas that comes out of the wells with ships. The gas occupies too much volume, so it is generally piped to a facility on shore where it is processed and then shipped off to energy-hungry markets. But the Prelude can purify and chill the gas, turning it into a liquid and reducing its volume by a factor of 600. It will offload this liquid to smaller (but still enormous) carrier ships for transport."
Link to Original Source
Piracy

Sony Leaks Reveal Hollywood Is Trying To Break DNS 357

Posted by Soulskill
from the scorched-net-policy dept.
schwit1 sends this report from The Verge: Most anti-piracy tools take one of two paths: they either target the server that's sharing the files (pulling videos off YouTube or taking down sites like The Pirate Bay) or they make it harder to find (delisting offshore sites that share infringing content). But leaked documents reveal a frightening line of attack that's currently being considered by the MPAA: What if you simply erased any record that the site was there in the first place? To do that, the MPAA's lawyers would target the Domain Name System that directs traffic across the internet.

The tactic was first proposed as part of the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in 2011, but three years after the law failed in Congress, the MPAA has been looking for legal justification for the practice in existing law and working with ISPs like Comcast to examine how a system might work technically. If a takedown notice could blacklist a site from every available DNS provider, the URL would be effectively erased from the internet. No one's ever tried to issue a takedown notice like that, but this latest memo suggests the MPAA is looking into it as a potentially powerful new tool in the fight against piracy.
Space

NASA Study Proposes Airships, Cloud Cities For Venus Exploration 189

Posted by Soulskill
from the billy-dee-williams-volunteers-to-lead dept.
An anonymous reader writes: IEEE Spectrum reports on a study out of NASA exploring the idea that manned missions to Venus are possible if astronauts deploy and live in airships once they arrive. Since the atmospheric pressure at the surface is 92 times that of Earth, and the surface temperate is over 450 degrees C, the probes we've sent to Venus haven't lasted long. The Venera 8 probe sent back data for only 50 minutes after landing. Soviet missions in 1985 were able to get much more data — 46 hours worth — by suspending their probes from balloons. The new study refines that concept: "At 50 kilometers above its surface, Venus offers one atmosphere of pressure and only slightly lower gravity than Earth. Mars, in comparison, has a "sea level" atmospheric pressure of less than a hundredth of Earth's, and gravity just over a third Earth normal. The temperature at 50 km on Venus is around 75 C, which is a mere 17 degrees hotter than the highest temperature recorded on Earth.

The defining feature of these missions is the vehicle that will be doing the atmospheric exploring: a helium-filled, solar-powered airship. The robotic version would be 31 meters long (about half the size of the Goodyear blimp), while the crewed version would be nearly 130 meters long, or twice the size of a Boeing 747. The top of the airship would be covered with more than 1,000 square meters of solar panels, with a gondola slung underneath for instruments and, in the crewed version, a small habitat and the ascent vehicle that the astronauts would use to return to Venus's orbit, and home."
Programming

New AP Course, "Computer Science Principles," Aims To Make CS More Accessible 195

Posted by Soulskill
from the broadening-the-base dept.
theodp writes: "CS Principles," explains the intro to a Microsoft Research talk on a new Computer Science Toolkit and Gaming Course, "is a new AP course being piloted across the country and by making it more accessible to students we can help increase diversity in computing." Towards this end, Microsoft has developed "a middle school computing toolkit, and a high school CS Principles & Games course." These two projects were "developed specifically for girls," explains Microsoft, and are part of the corporation's Big Dream Movement for girls, which is partnering with the UN, White House, NSF, EU Commission, and others. One of Microsoft's particular goals is to "reach every individual girl in her house." According to a document on its website, Microsoft Research's other plans for Bridging the Gender Gap in computing include a partnership with the University of Wisconsin "to create a girls-only computer science Massive Open Online Course (MOOC)."
Science

A New Law For Superconductors 53

Posted by Soulskill
from the radar-enforced dept.
TaleSlinger sends word of a newly-discovered "mathematical relationship — between material thickness, temperature, and electrical resistance — that appears to hold in all superconductors." The work (abstract), led by Yachin Irvy, comes out of MIT's Research Laboratory of Electronics. Researchers found that a particular superconductor (niobium nitride) didn't fit earlier models estimating the temperature at which it changes from normal conductivity to superconductivity. So the researchers conducted a series of experiments in which they held constant either thickness or “sheet resistance,” the material’s resistance per unit area, while varying the other parameter; they then measured the ensuing changes in critical temperature. A clear pattern emerged: Thickness times critical temperature equaled a constant — call it A — divided by sheet resistance raised to a particular power — call it B. ... The other niobium nitride papers Ivry consulted bore out his predictions, so he began to expand to other superconductors. Each new material he investigated required him to adjust the formula’s constants — A and B. But the general form of the equation held across results reported for roughly three dozen different superconductors.

+ - NASA Study Proposes Airships, Cloud Cities for Venus Exploration - IEEE Spectrum->

Submitted by Anonymous Coward
An anonymous reader writes "IEEE Spectrum reports on a study out of NASA exploring the idea that manned missions to Venus are possible if astronauts deploy and live in airships once they arrive. Since the atmospheric pressure at the surface is 92 times that of Earth, and the surface temperate is over 450 degrees C, the probes we've sent to Venus haven't lasted long. The Venera 8 probe send back data for only 50 minutes after landing. Soviet missions in 1985 were able to get 46 hours of data by suspending their probes from balloons. The new study refines that concept: At 50 kilometers above its surface, Venus offers one atmosphere of pressure and only slightly lower gravity than Earth. Mars, in comparison, has a “sea level” atmospheric pressure of less than a hundredth of Earth’s, and gravity just over a third Earth normal. The temperature at 50 km on Venus is around 75 C, which is a mere 17 degrees hotter than the highest temperature recorded on Earth.

The defining feature of these missions is the vehicle that will be doing the atmospheric exploring: a helium-filled, solar-powered airship. The robotic version would be 31 meters long (about half the size of the Goodyear blimp), while the crewed version would be nearly 130 meters long, or twice the size of a Boeing 747. The top of the airship would be covered with more than 1,000 square meters of solar panels, with a gondola slung underneath for instruments and, in the crewed version, a small habitat and the ascent vehicle that the astronauts would use to return to Venus’s orbit, and home.""

Link to Original Source
Space

SpaceX To Attempt Falcon 9 Landing On Autonomous Spaceport Drone Ship 81

Posted by Soulskill
from the good-luck dept.
An anonymous reader writes: SpaceX has announced that at the conclusion of its next rocket flight, it will attempt a precision landing of its Falcon 9 first stage onto an autonomous ocean platform. They say the odds of success aren't great, but it's the beginning of their work to make this a reality. Quoting: "At 14 stories tall and traveling upwards of 1300 m/s (nearly 1 mi/s), stabilizing the Falcon 9 first stage for reentry is like trying to balance a rubber broomstick on your hand in the middle of a wind storm. To help stabilize the stage and to reduce its speed, SpaceX relights the engines for a series of three burns.

The first burn—the boostback burn—adjusts the impact point of the vehicle and is followed by the supersonic retro propulsion burn that, along with the drag of the atmosphere, slows the vehicle's speed from 1300 m/s to about 250 m/s. The final burn is the landing burn, during which the legs deploy and the vehicle's speed is further reduced to around 2 m/s. ... To complicate matters further, the landing site is limited in size and not entirely stationary. The autonomous spaceport drone ship is 300 by 100 feet, with wings that extend its width to 170 feet. While that may sound huge at first, to a Falcon 9 first stage coming from space, it seems very small. The legspan of the Falcon 9 first stage is about 70 feet and while the ship is equipped with powerful thrusters to help it stay in place, it is not actually anchored, so finding the bullseye becomes particularly tricky."

+ - SpaceX To Attempt Falcon 9 Landing On Autonomus Spaceport Drone Ship->

Submitted by Anonymous Coward
An anonymous reader writes "SpaceX has announced that at the conclusion of its next rocket flight, it will attempt a precision landing of its Falcon 9 first stage onto an autonomous ocean platform. They say the odds of success aren't great, but it's the beginning of their work to make this a reality. Quoting:"At 14 stories tall and traveling upwards of 1300 m/s (nearly 1 mi/s), stabilizing the Falcon 9 first stage for reentry is like trying to balance a rubber broomstick on your hand in the middle of a wind storm. To help stabilize the stage and to reduce its speed, SpaceX relights the engines for a series of three burns. The first burn—the boostback burn—adjusts the impact point of the vehicle and is followed by the supersonic retro propulsion burn that, along with the drag of the atmosphere, slows the vehicle’s speed from 1300 m/s to about 250 m/s. The final burn is the landing burn, during which the legs deploy and the vehicle’s speed is further reduced to around 2 m/s. ... To complicate matters further, the landing site is limited in size and not entirely stationary. The autonomous spaceport drone ship is 300 by 100 feet, with wings that extend its width to 170 feet. While that may sound huge at first, to a Falcon 9 first stage coming from space, it seems very small. The legspan of the Falcon 9 first stage is about 70 feet and while the ship is equipped with powerful thrusters to help it stay in place, it is not actually anchored, so finding the bullseye becomes particularly tricky.""
Link to Original Source
AI

Economists Say Newest AI Technology Destroys More Jobs Than It Creates 596

Posted by Soulskill
from the i'm-sorry-dave,-there's-a-hiring-freeze-right-now dept.
HughPickens.com writes: Claire Cain Miller notes at the NY Times that economists long argued that, just as buggy-makers gave way to car factories, technology used to create as many jobs as it destroyed. But now there is deep uncertainty about whether the pattern will continue, as two trends are interacting. First, artificial intelligence has become vastly more sophisticated in a short time, with machines now able to learn, not just follow programmed instructions, and to respond to human language and movement. At the same time, the American work force has gained skills at a slower rate than in the past — and at a slower rate than in many other countries. Self-driving vehicles are an example of the crosscurrents. Autonomous cars could put truck and taxi drivers out of work — or they could enable drivers to be more productive during the time they used to spend driving, which could earn them more money. But for the happier outcome to happen, the drivers would need the skills to do new types of jobs.

When the University of Chicago asked a panel of leading economists about automation, 76 percent agreed that it had not historically decreased employment. But when asked about the more recent past, they were less sanguine. About 33 percent said technology was a central reason that median wages had been stagnant over the past decade, 20 percent said it was not and 29 percent were unsure. Perhaps the most worrisome development is how poorly the job market is already functioning for many workers. More than 16 percent of men between the ages of 25 and 54 are not working, up from 5 percent in the late 1960s; 30 percent of women in this age group are not working, up from 25 percent in the late 1990s. For those who are working, wage growth has been weak, while corporate profits have surged. "We're going to enter a world in which there's more wealth and less need to work," says Erik Brynjolfsson. "That should be good news. But if we just put it on autopilot, there's no guarantee this will work out."

+ - Economists Say Newest AI Technology Destroys More Jobs Than It Creates

Submitted by HughPickens.com
HughPickens.com (3830033) writes "Claire Cain Miller writes at the NYT that economists long argued that, just as buggy-makers gave way to car factories, technology used to create as many jobs as it destroyed. But now there is deep uncertainty about whether the pattern will continue, as two trends are interacting. First, artificial intelligence has become vastly more sophisticated in a short time, with machines now able to learn, not just follow programmed instructions, and to respond to human language and movement. At the same time, the American work force has gained skills at a slower rate than in the past — and at a slower rate than in many other countries. Self-driving vehicles are an example of the crosscurrents. Autonomous cars could put truck and taxi drivers out of work — or they could enable drivers to be more productive during the time they used to spend driving, which could earn them more money. But for the happier outcome to happen, the drivers would need the skills to do new types of jobs.

When the University of Chicago asked a panel of leading economists about automation, 76 percent agreed that it had not historically decreased employment. But when asked about the more recent past, they were less sanguine. About 33 percent said technology was a central reason that median wages had been stagnant over the past decade, 20 percent said it was not and 29 percent were unsure. Perhaps the most worrisome development is how poorly the job market is already functioning for many workers. More than 16 percent of men between the ages of 25 and 54 are not working, up from 5 percent in the late 1960s; 30 percent of women in this age group are not working, up from 25 percent in the late 1990s. For those who are working, wage growth has been weak, while corporate profits have surged. “We’re going to enter a world in which there’s more wealth and less need to work,” says Erik Brynjolfsson. “That should be good news. But if we just put it on autopilot, there’s no guarantee this will work out.”"

+ - Spacecraft spots probable waves on Titan's seas->

Submitted by sciencehabit
sciencehabit (1205606) writes "It’s springtime on Titan, Saturn’s giant and frigid moon, and the action on its hydrocarbon seas seems to be heating up. Near the moon’s north pole, there is growing evidence for waves on three different seas, scientists reported here today at a meeting of the American Geophysical Union. Researchers are also coming up with the first estimates for the volume and composition of the seas. The bodies of water appear to be made mostly of methane, and not mostly ethane as previously thought. And they are deep: Ligeia Mare, the second biggest sea with an area larger than Lake Superior, could contain 55 times Earth’s oil reserves."
Link to Original Source

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