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Comment: Yeah, what AC said about Open Source docs (Score 1) 52

by billstewart (#46769663) Attached to: All Packages Needed For FreedomBox Now In Debian

In this case I know it's some kind of privacy software, but typically "FooBatz Release 5.4c is out!!!" is some gaming application or whatever. A half-sentence or more in the Slashdot summary would help, and so would a FAQ that starts with a section of "What is FooBatz?" rather than with "Why won't Ver 5.4b build on Slackware?"


Astronomers Solve Puzzle of the Mountains That Fell From Space 51

Posted by Unknown Lamer
from the just-a-crashed-ring-station dept.
KentuckyFC (1144503) writes "Iapetus, Saturn's third largest moon, was first photographed by the Cassini spacecraft on 31 December 2004. The images created something of a stir. Clearly visible was a narrow, steep ridge of mountains that stretch almost halfway around the moon's equator. The question that has since puzzled astronomers is how this mountain range got there. Now evidence is mounting that this mountain range is not the result of tectonic or volcanic activity, like mountain ranges on other planets. Instead, astronomers are increasingly convinced that this mountain range fell from space. The latest evidence is a study of the shape of the mountains using 3-D images generated from Cassini data. They show that the angle of the mountainsides is close to the angle of repose, that's the greatest angle that a granular material can form before it landslides. That's not proof but it certainly consistent with this exotic formation theory. So how might this have happened?

Astronomers think that early in its life, Iapetus must have been hit by another moon, sending huge volumes of ejecta into orbit. Some of this condensed into a new moon that escaped into space. However, the rest formed an unstable ring that gradually spiraled in towards the moon, eventually depositing the material in a narrow ridge around the equator. Cassini's next encounter with Iapetus will be in 2015 which should give astronomers another chance to study the strangest mountain range in the Solar System."

Comment: TurboTax on Windows, Paper Returns (Score 1) 382

by billstewart (#46757551) Attached to: Slashdot Asks: How Do You Pay Your Taxes?

Am I trusting my tax data to online services? Fat chance. Too many people have my data already.

More precisely, my wife runs TurboTax, I run errands and fetch papers and caffeine.
Back in the 80s, we went to H&R Block because of the complexity of moving expenses from my first post-college job, and my wife said "that looks easy", took the H&R Block tax prep course and did a year of working there, then a couple years at another tax/accounting company, then started her own tax business, using TurboTax and a laptop. It was a bit difficult to keep everything working, because TurboTax assumed you had a desktop PC with a real disk drive instead of floppies, but after a couple years of using RAMdoubler and disk compression, she was able to upgrade to a laptop that resembled what TurboTax needed. Eventually she went back to doing computer businesses and was able to get rid of most of her tax clients (and eventually all of them), but she's been doing the taxes in the years since then.

I think we're finally using the personal version of TurboTax by now; we used the tax-preparer version for many years because there were things the personal one just couldn't do or didn't do well (including importing previous years' data from the tax-preparer version, which kept us on that for a couple years after we would have switched.)


IRS Misses XP Deadline, Pays Microsoft Millions For Patches 322

Posted by Soulskill
from the your-tax-dollars-at-work dept.
An anonymous reader writes "When Microsoft terminated official support for Windows XP on April 8th, many organizations had taken the six years of warnings to heart and migrated to another operating system. But not the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. Only 52,000 of their 110,000 Windows-powered computers have been upgraded to Windows 7. They'll now be forced to pay Microsoft for Custom Support. How much? Using Microsoft's standard rate of $200 per PC, it'll be $11.6 million for one year. That leaves $18.4 million of their $30 million budget to finish the upgrades themselves, which works out to $317 per computer."

Comment: Download new OpenSSL, not just recompile (Score 1) 239

by billstewart (#46720753) Attached to: Heartbleed OpenSSL Vulnerability: A Technical Remediation

No, you actually have to fix the code to add bounds checking, or download a new version of OpenSSL (which probably gets you other fixes as well, unless you were already running the latest version.)

Recompiling OpenSSL with the proper flag isn't enough to do the job - there are people who've done that and had problems keeping OpenSSL stable on their platforms, and more importantly, that still doesn't stop the Heartbleed attack from causing trouble. You need to get the code not to try to fetch memory beyond the appropriate object's array bounds, though OpenSSL should also default to using malloc()/free() instead of rolling its own badly.

Comment: Re:WHO (Score 1) 51

by billstewart (#46702369) Attached to: Ties of the Matrix: An Exercise in Combinatorics

Back in the 90s and early 2000s I was consulting, so whether I wore a tie or not depended on the customer. The sales guy I worked with brought me along to one Japanese company in the late 90s, so I guessed conservative and wore a tie. They asked me not to do it again; they'd convinced their management that nobody in Silicon Valley wears ties, and didn't want anybody to mess that up :-)

I did wear a tie to a New Year's party recently, and I wore one to a trade show a year or so ago just because I hadn't had any excuse to wear a tie in ages.

Comment: It's about language theory, not just ties (Score 1) 51

by billstewart (#46702349) Attached to: Ties of the Matrix: An Exercise in Combinatorics

There's a whole lot of deep security and programming thought that goes into most of Meredith and Dan's papers (I don't know the other two authors), so while I haven't read this one yet, I'm expecting good things from it. Go check out the whole "weird machines" security discussion.

Also, I've got a closet full of ties, most of which I haven't worn this millennium, so hey, why not :-)

Comment: MOD PARENT UP PLEASE! (Score 1) 92

Yeah, that's becoming really annoying for a lot of newer systems. One of the good things about the RPi and Beaglebone Black is that both of them have HDMI connectors for the video, uSDHC storage, and USB for other I/O (SATA would be nice as well, but USB gets the job done.)

Comment: RPi GPU is still a major selling point (Score 1) 92

The RPi's GPU may not be the top gaming rig out there, but it's fast enough to play 1080p television. For me, that's fast enough that sometime soon I'm going to get around to getting one and hooking it up to my TV, probably to run XBMC as well as using it as a home file server. The interesting alternative would have been the Beaglebone Black, but it looks like the BBB's GPU is more limited, and can only do 1080 at a really low frame rate. (And of course now the BBB seems to be sold out and backordered - it does have a better CPU.)

Comment: WaPo still won't use word "torture" (Score 5, Insightful) 207

Cowards. They're not willing to call it what it is, because they're still the Establishment Media, and don't want to lose access to the government people who are their big information sources.

At least National Public Radio has the excuse that they're directly funded by the government (and "viewers like you", and grants from Exxon, Archer Daniels Midland, some recent movie, etc.) - it was 10 years after Gitmo before I first heard them use the T-word in a news story; before that it had only been guests on Terry Gross's interview shows (and Terry herself.)

Don't let the right-wingers tell you that either of these are "liberal" media.

Man is the best computer we can put aboard a spacecraft ... and the only one that can be mass produced with unskilled labor. -- Wernher von Braun