The block of garbage at the beginning of the handshake is, as far as I can figure out, a bandwidth test. The pattern is intended to be resistant to compression, so as to more accurately measure the real throughput of the client's connection.
Jared sends word of Ars Technica coverage of Net Applications' monthly browser share numbers. What's significant this time is that Firefox has finally passed IE6 in worldwide share. "Internet Explorer remains ahead of the rest of the competition, but since month after month it continues to lose ground to all other browsers, Firefox has now finally surpassed IE6, which is easily the most hated version of Microsoft's browser. ... In October, all browsers except for IE and Opera showed positive growth. Between October and September, Internet Explorer dropped a significant 1.07 percentage points (from 65.71 percent to 64.64 percent) and Firefox moved up a sizeable 0.32 percentage points (from 23.75 percent to 24.07 percent). ... Although IE's decline seems to be unceasing, the real shame is that the old versions have more share than the newer ones (we can only hope that as Windows 7 gains popularity, this trend will reverse)." Ars presents a graph with their own site's browser share picture, and as you might expect it's very different from the general population's.
ewsnow writes "The Focus Fusion Society reports that the scientists and engineers at Lawrenceville Plasma Physics have finally built an operational Dense Plasma Focus device. While still at less than half power, they were able to achieve a pinch on their device. The small company that Eric Lerner started recently gathered enough funding to start a two-year study on the validity of his theory regarding fusion-inducing plasmoids. If the theory holds, the device will produce more electricity than it consumes. In contrast to the billions of dollars spent on Tokamak fusion (think ITER), LPP is conducting their research on a budget around a million dollars. Yet, if it works, it will provide nuclear fusion with much simpler equipment and much less cost. Eric Lerner and Focus Fusion have been discussed on Slashdot before."
KentuckyFC writes "The way radio signals vary in a wireless network can reveal the movement of people behind closed doors, say researchers who have developed a technique called variance-based radio tomographic imaging which processes wireless signals to peer through walls. They've tested the idea with a 34-node wireless network using the IEEE 802.15.4 wireless protocol (the personal area network protocol employed by home automation services such as ZigBee). The researchers say that such a network could be easily distributed by the police or military wanting to determine what's going on inside a building. But such a network, which uses cheap off-the-shelf components, might also be easily deployed by your neighbor or anybody else wanting to monitor movements in your home."
inject_hotmail.com writes "Internet and law genius Michael Geist writes about some shenanigans by the cell phone carriers and the Canadian government in his column in The Star. Canadian taxpayers funded a 'Cell Phone Cost Calculator' so that the average person could theoretically wade through the disjointed and incongruent package offerings. The calculator wound up being yanked a couple weeks before launch. Geist suggests that the major cell carriers lobbied the appropriate public officials to have the program nixed because it would bite into their profit if the general public could make sense out of pricing and fees. Geist continues, 'Sensing that [Tony] Clement (Industry Minister) was facing pressure to block the calculator, Canadian consumer groups wrote to the minister, urging him to stick with it.' Moving forward, Michael makes a novel suggestion, one that would show an immense level of understanding by the government: 'With public dollars having funded the mothballed project, the government should now consider releasing the calculator's source code and enable other groups to pick up where the OCA (Office of Consumer Affairs) left off.'"
olsmeister writes "The US Court of Appeals Friday threw out the FCC's cap on the number of cable subscribers one operator can serve, saying the FCC was 'derelict' in not giving DBS its due as a legitimate competitor. 'We agree with Comcast that the 30% subscriber limit is arbitrary and capricious. We therefore grant the petition and vacate the Rule,' said the court, which concluded that there was ample evidence of an increasingly competitive communications marketplace and that cable did not have undue control on the programming pipeline. The FCC commissioner's statement (PDF) is available online."
Designers James Auger and Jimmy Loizeau have created a clock that is powered by "eating" bugs. The clock traps insects on flypaper stretched across a roller system and then drops them into a vat of bacteria. The insects are then "digested" and the ensuing chemical reaction is transformed into power that keeps the rollers moving and the LCD clock working. The two offer another version that is powered by mice and an even cooler machine that picks insect fuel from spiderwebs with the help of a robotic arm and a video camera.
pitterpatter writes "A researcher trying to find a use for them claims that after being heated enough to carbonize, chicken feathers hold as much hydrogen as carbon nanotubes do. So chicken feather charcoal might solve the storage problem for the new hydrogen economy. One problem down, half a zillion to go."
Hugh Pickens writes "Vice President Joe Biden lauded Hollywood at a gala dinner in Washington, assailed movie piracy, and promised film executives that the Obama administration would pick 'the right person' as its copyright czar. Biden warned of the harms of piracy at the private event organized by the Motion Picture Association of America in the sumptuous, newly renovated Great Hall of the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. 'It's pure theft, stolen from the artists and quite frankly from the American people as consequence of loss of jobs and as a consequence of loss of income,' Biden said, according to a White House pool report. Biden addressed President Obama's forthcoming decision about who will be named the intellectual-property enforcement coordinator, better known as the copyright czar. Under a law approved by the US Congress last October, Obama is required to appoint someone to coordinate the administration's IP enforcement efforts and prepare annual reports. Copyright industry lobbyists sent a letter to the president asking him to pick someone sympathetic to their concerns, while groups that would curb copyright law sent their own letter (PDF) urging the opposite approach. We 'will find the right person for intellectual property czar,' Biden said."
An anonymous reader writes "Wired has a story about Rob Spence, a Canadian filmmaker who plans to have a mini camera installed in his prosthetic eye. 'A camera module will have to be connected to a transmitter inside the prosthetic eye that can broadcast the captured video footage. To boost the signal, he says he can wear another transmitter on his belt. A receiver attached to a hard drive in a backpack could capture that information and then send it to another device that uploads everything to a web site in real time. ... Even though his project is still in its early stages, Spence says many people have already told him they wouldn't be comfortable being filmed. "People are more scared of a center-left documentary maker with an eye than the 400 ways they are filmed every day at the school, the subway, the mall," he says. He hopes he will help get people thinking about privacy, how surveillance cameras and the footage they record are being used and accessed.'" Spence runs a blog for the 'Eyeborg Project,' as he calls it, and has recently posted a video about the progress they're making.
sciencehabit writes "Science reports that silkworms may be an ideal food source for future space missions. They breed quickly, require little space and water, and generate smaller amounts of excrement than poultry or fish. They also contain twice as many essential amino acids as pork does and four times as much as eggs and milk. Even the insect's inedible silk, which makes up 50% of the weight of the dry cocoon, could provide nutrients: The material can be rendered edible through chemical processing and can be mixed with fruit juice, sugar, and food coloring to produce jam."
schlangemann writes "Check out the paper Towards the Simulation of E-commerce by Herbert Schlangemann, which is available in the IEEEXplor database (full article available only to IEEE members). This generated paper has been accepted with review by the 2008 International Conference on Computer Science and Software Engineering (CSSE). According to the organizers, 'CSSE is one of the important conferences sponsored by IEEE Computer Society, which serves as a forum for scientists and engineers in the latest development of artificial intelligence, grid computing, computer graphics, database technology, and software engineering.' Even better, fake author Herbert Schlangemann has been selected as session chair (PDF) for that conference. (The name Schlangemann was chosen based on the short film Der Schlangemann by Andreas Hansson and Björn Renberg.)"
An anonymous reader was one of several to note a bizarre story in which an Australian judge ruled that drawings can be child porn. In this case, it was knock off drawings of the Simpsons doing naughty things. Good thing they're going to be censoring the Down Undernet soon. Who knows what damage this could cause.
jamie found an account in the NYTimes of the life and death of one of the most important figures in modern neuroscience, Henry Gustav Molaison — a man who could not form memories. Molaison became an amnesiac after a brain operation in 1953. Known worldwide as H.M., Molaison was studied intensively for 55 years. Dr. Brenda Milner, a psychologist from Montreal, was the first researcher to visit Molaison. In 1962 she authored a landmark study demonstrating that a part of Molaison's memory was fully intact. "The implications were enormous. Scientists saw that there were at least two systems in the brain for creating new memories. One, known as declarative memory, records names, faces and new experiences and stores them until they are consciously retrieved. ... Another system, commonly known as motor learning, is subconscious and depends on other brain systems. This explains why people can jump on a bike after years away from one and take the thing for a ride, or why they can pick up a guitar that they have not played in years and still remember how to strum it. Soon 'everyone wanted an amnesic to study,' Dr. Milner said..."
zootropole alerts us to a press release issued today by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, announcing the production of 'billions of particles of anti-matter.' "Take a gold sample the size of the head of a push pin, shoot a laser through it, and suddenly more than 100 billion particles of anti-matter appear. The anti-matter, also known as positrons, shoots out of the target in a cone-shaped plasma 'jet.' This new ability to create a large number of positrons in a small laboratory opens the door to several fresh avenues of anti-matter research, including an understanding of the physics underlying various astrophysical phenomena such as black holes and gamma ray bursts." The press release doesn't characterize the laser used in this experiment, but it may have been this one.