An anonymous reader writes "The Australian Government's plan to introduce mandatory internet censorship has been scuttled, following an independent senator's decision to join the Greens and Opposition in blocking any legislation needed to start the scheme. Anti-Gambling Senator Nick Xenophon previously supported the filter because it could also block gambling web sites, but today withdrew support saying 'the more evidence that's come out, the more questions there are on this.' This week surveys found only less than 10% of Australians supported the censorship. Censorship Senator Stephen Conroy has consistently ignored advice from technical experts saying the filters would slow the internet, block legitimate sites, be easily bypassed and fall short of capturing all of the nasty content available online. Conroy expanded the list to block Adult R18+ and X18+ web sites, and this week said it would also block sites depicting drug use, crime, sex, cruelty, violence or 'revolting and abhorrent phenomena' that 'offend against the standards of morality.' Last week an anti-abortion website was added to the blacklist, and Conroy said he was considering expanding the blacklist to 10,000 sites and beyond."
An anonymous reader writes "Apparently, Yellowstone National Park has been having a very unusual number of earthquakes. Many of the most recent tremors have been deeper underground, an ominous sign. Combine that with a rapid rise in elevation over the past three years, and the possibility that earthquake activity from surrounding areas could trigger such an eruption on its own, and you've got the possible warning signs of a supervolcano eruption that would wipe out half to 2/3 of the continental US, plunge global temperatures, and wipe out a very significant chunk of world food sources. Here's a little more info to make your New Year brighter!"
Pittsburgh Public Schools officials have enacted a policy that sets 50 percent as the minimum score a student can receive for assignments, tests and other work. District spokeswoman Ebony Pugh said, the 50 percent minimum gives children a chance to catch up and a reason to keep trying. If a student gets a 20 percent in a class for the first marking period, he or she would need a 100 percent during the second marking period just to squeak through the semester. The district and teachers union issued a joint memo to ensure staff members' compliance with the policy, which was already on the books but enforced only at some schools. At this rate, it won't be long before schools institute double extra credit Mondays and Fridays to ensure students don't take three day weekends.
Hugh Pickens writes "Time Magazine reports on a $4 million US Army contract to begin developing 'thought helmets' to harness silent brain waves for secure communication among troops that the Army hopes will 'lead to direct mental control of military systems by thought alone.' The Army's initial goal is to capture brain waves with software that translates the waves into audible radio messages for other troops in the field. 'It'd be radio without a microphone,' says Dr. Elmar Schmeisser, the Army neuroscientist overseeing the program. 'Because soldiers are already trained to talk in clean, clear and formulaic ways, it would be a very small step to have them think that way.' The key challenge will be to develop software able to pinpoint speech-related brain waves and pick them up with a 128-sensor array that ultimately will be buried inside a helmet. Scientists deny charges that they're messing with soldiers' minds. 'A lot of people interpret wires coming out of the head as some sort of mind reading,' says Dr. Mike D'Zmura. 'But there's no way you can get there from here.' One potential civilian spin-off: a Bluetooth Helmet so people nearby can't hear you when you talk on your cell phone."
An anonymous reader writes "The British government's educational IT authority has issued a report advising schools in the country not to upgrade their classroom or office systems to Windows Vista or Office 2007. According to this InformationWeek story, the British Educational Communications and Technology Agency says costs for Vista and Office 2007 'are significant and the benefits remain unclear.' Instead, Becta is advising British schools to take a long look at Linux and open source suites like OpenOffice.org."
ela_gervaise writes "SIGGRAPH 2007 was the stage where Microsoft dropped the bomb, informing gamers that the currently available DirectX 10 hardware will not support the upcoming DirectX 10.1 in Vista SP1. In essence, all current DX10 hardware is now obsolete. But don't get too upset just yet: 'Gamers shouldn't fret too much - 10.1 adds virtually nothing that they will care about and, more to the point, adds almost nothing that developers are likely to care about. The spec revision basically makes a number of things that are optional in DX10 compulsory under the new standard - such as 32-bit floating point filtering, as opposed to the 16-bit current. 4xAA is a compulsory standard to support in 10.1, whereas graphics vendors can pick and choose their anti-aliasing support currently. We suspect that the spec is likely to be ill-received. Not only does it require brand new hardware, immediately creating a minuscule sub-set of DX10 owners, but it also requires Vista SP1, and also requires developer implementation.'"
Shack0ption writes "An unpatched flaw in an ATI driver was at the center of the mysterious Purple Pill proof-of-concept tool that exposed a way to maliciously tamper with the Windows Vista kernel. The utility, released by Alex Ionescu and yanked an hour later after the kernel developer realized that the ATI driver flaw was not yet patched, provided an easy way to load unsigned drivers onto Vista — effectively defeating the new anti-rootkit/anti-DRM mechanism built into Microsoft's newest operating system. Ionescu confirmed his tool was exploiting a vulnerability in an ATI driver — atidsmxx.sys, version 3.0.502.0 — to patch the kernel to turn off certain checks for signed drivers. This meant that a malicious rootkit author could essentially piggyback on ATI's legitimately signed driver to tamper with the Vista kernel."
Lucas123 writes "Using the laser from a DVD burner, this instructional video shows you how to create a hand-held laser that is powerful enough to light a match and pop a balloon. There's some soldering involved and the Maglite's bulb housing needs to be drilled out to fit the new laser diode, but with some basic skill, most people could do this. Just plain cool." Update: 07/09 12:23 GMT by KD : Warning, the device that results from following these instructions will blind you if you look into it.
Sidepocket_Pro sent us a link to this HP press release which reads, "Based on our own testing, HP knows that many variables can affect the outcome of tests for ultrafine particle emissions. Although HP is not aware of all of the specific methodologies used in the Queensland study, based on what we've seen in the report — as well as our own work in this area — we do not believe there is a link between printer emissions and any public health risk. Specifically, HP does not see an association between printer use by customers and negative health effects for volatile organic compounds, ozone or dust. While we recognize ultrafine, fine, and coarse particles are emitted from printing systems, these levels are consistently below recognized occupational exposure limits."
bl8n8r writes "Boeing has announced a contract with the US Army to develop laser cannons that are to be mounted atop 20-ton trucks for the purpose of shooting down incoming artillery, rockets, mortars, or bombs. The High Energy Laser Technology Demonstrator project actually shoots stuff instead of just painting a mark on a target for other armament to hit."
COA writes "Many Vista adopters find User Account Control irritating, but Microsoft thinks it's an approach other OSes should emulate. Microsoft Australia's Chief Security Adviser Peter Watson calls UAC a great idea and 'strategically a direction that all operating systems and all technologies should be heading down.' He also believes Microsoft is charting new territory with UAC. 'The most controversial aspect of Watson's comments all center around the idea that Microsoft is a leader with UAC, and that other OSes should follow suit. UAC is a cousin of myriad "superuser" process elevation strategies, of which Mac OS X and all flavors of Linux already enjoy. The fact is that Microsoft is late to the party with their Microsoftized version of sudo. That's really what UAC is, after all: sudo with a fancy display mechanism (to make it hard to spoof) and extra monitoring to pick up on "suspicious" behavior.'"
Ken Erfourth writes "The Inquirer.net is running a story about what they consider two powerful indications that Vista is failing in the marketplace. One, Dell has reintroduced PCs running Windows XP on its website due to customer demand. Two, Microsoft is conducting a worldwide firesale on a bundle of Microsoft Office 2007/WindowsXP Starter Edition. According to Inquirer.net, at least, these are signs of serious problems selling Vista. Are we seeing the stumbling of the Microsoft Juggernaught with the slow adoption of Windows Vista?"
An anonymous reader writes "A Microsoft exec has turned attack dog, lashing out at Apple's iPhone by saying the device isn't good for business. Why? Because the iPhone is 'a closed device that you cannot install applications on.' Specifically, he's talking about Microsoft Office. 'While the entry of the iPhone (with its cut-down version of Mac OS X) into this market offers new options for consumers, Sorenson believes user familiarity with the Windows Mobile interface — and the ease with which companies can buy and develop applications for the platform — will sustain its increasing popularity and help keep the iPhone out of the lucrative corporate market.'"
An anonymous reader writes "Using radio to eavesdrop on CRTs has been around since the 80s, but Cambridge University researchers have now shown that laptops and flat-panel displays are vulnerable too. Using basic radio equipment and an FPGA board totaling less than $2,000 it was possible for researchers to read text from a laptop three offices away. 'Kuhn also mentioned that one laptop was vulnerable because it had metal hinges that carried the signal of the display cable. I asked if you could alter a device to make it easier to spy on. "There are a lot of innocuous modifications you can make to maximize the chance of getting a good signal," he told me. For example, adding small pieces of wire or cable to a display could make a big difference.'"
DragonTHC asks: "I just visited Movielink's website for research. Their site has a nice message saying, 'Sorry, but in order to enjoy the Movielink service you must use Internet Explorer 5.0 (or higher) or Mozilla/Firefox with an IE Tab Extension (IE installation required).' While allowing the IETab Firefox extension is somewhat progressive, why do companies still force people to use Internet Explorer? Surely the site should work just fine in Firefox? With Firefox's steady gains in market share, you would think that webmasters would get the hint. If you are a webmaster, what are your reasons for forcing IE?"