Nerval's Lobster writes "If those newspaper reports are accurate, the NSA's surveillance programs are enormous and sophisticated, and rely on the latest in analytics software. In the face of that, is there any way to keep your communications truly private? Or should you resign yourself to saying or typing, 'Hi, NSA!' every time you make a phone call or send an email? Fortunately there are ways to gain a measure of security: HTTPS, Tor, SCP, SFTP, and the vendors who build software on top of those protocols. But those host-proof solutions offer security in exchange for some measure of inconvenience. If you lose your access credentials, you're likely toast: few highly secure services include a 'Forgot Your Password?' link, which can be easily engineered to reset a password and username without the account owner's knowledge. And while 'big' providers like Google provide some degree of encryption, they may give up user data in response to a court order. Also, all the privacy software in the world also can't prevent the NSA (or other entities) from capturing metadata and other information. What do you think is the best way to keep your data locked down? Or do you think it's all a lost cause?"
AvailableNickname writes "I am currently pursuing a bachelor's in CompSci and I just spent three hours working on a few differential equations for homework. It is very frustrating because I just don't grok advanced math. I can sort of understand a little bit, but I really don't grok anything beyond long division. But I love computers, and am very good at them. However, nobody in the workforce is even going to glance at my direction without a BSc. And to punish me for going into a field originally developed by mathematicians I need to learn all this crap. If I had understood what I was doing, maybe I wouldn't mind so much. But the double frustration of not understanding it and not understanding why the heck I need to do it is too much. So, how important is it?"
PolygamousRanchKid writes in with news about a U.N. plan to get more bugs in your belly. "The U.N. has new weapons to fight hunger, boost nutrition and reduce pollution, and they might be crawling or flying near you right now: edible insects. The Food and Agriculture Organization on Monday hailed the likes of grasshoppers, ants and other members of the insect world as an underutilized food for people, livestock and pets. Insects are 'extremely efficient' in converting feed into edible meat, the agency said. Most insects are likely to produce fewer environmentally harmful greenhouse gases, and also feed on human and food waste, compost and animal slurry, with the products being used for agricultural feed, the agency said. 'Insects are everywhere and they reproduce quickly,' the agency said, adding they leave a 'low environmental footprint.' The agency noted that its Edible Insect Program is also examining the potential of arachnids, such as spiders and scorpions."
An anonymous reader writes "With the personal robotics revolution imminent, a law professor and a roboticist (called Professor Smart!) argue that the law needs to think about robots properly. In particular, they say we should avoid 'the Android Fallacy' — the idea that robots are just like us, only synthetic. 'Even in research labs, cameras are described as "eyes," robots are "scared" of obstacles, and they need to "think" about what to do next. This projection of human attributes is dangerous when trying to design legislation for robots. Robots are, and for many years will remain, tools. ... As the autonomy of the system increases, it becomes harder and harder to form the connection between the inputs (your commands) and the outputs (the robot's behavior), but it exists, and is deterministic. The same set of inputs will generate the same set of outputs every time. The problem, however, is that the robot will never see exactly the same input twice. ... The problem is that this different behavior in apparently similar situations can be interpreted as "free will" or agency on the part of the robot. While this mental agency is part of our definition of a robot, it is vital for us to remember what is causing this agency. Members of the general public might not know, or even care, but we must always keep it in mind when designing legislation. Failure to do so might lead us to design legislation based on the form of a robot, and not the function. This would be a grave mistake."
Dawn Kawamoto writes "Yahoo rolled out an expanded maternity/paternity policy that doubled the family leave for moms to 16 weeks. But new dads at Yahoo get only 8 weeks. It turns out that Yahoo is not the only Fortune 500 company to short-shrift news dads. But, really, do new dads think it's worth crying over? Hmmm...changing diapers or cleaning up code — both are messy, but one smells less."
First time accepted submitter Thorhs writes "According to preliminary results (all votes counted, no official word yet) the Icelandic Pirate Party was able to secure 3 members of the national Parliament, the first PP to reach a national Parliament. Things were hairy election night, the PP lost all their MPs when they dropped below the 5% barrier 'needed' in the somewhat complex election system. Thankfully they managed to slip back up above, with 5.1% of the total votes. The old 'crash parties', the ones in charge before our epic financial crash, (Independent and Progressive parties) are the prime candidates to form a new government with just over 51% of the votes, getting 40 of 63 seats. RUV (Icelandic) has good coverage."
CCP Games, creators of the successful space MMORPG EVE Online, have announced they will be harvesting stories from within the game to create comic books, a TV series, and possibly even films set in the EVE universe. EVE has never set records for the size of its userbase, but it's long been known as a game that generates some of the best emergent gameplay in the industry. From battles involving thousands of players to in-game confidence schemes involving currency worth tens of thousands of real dollars, it's likely you've heard about players' exploits even if you haven't played the game. CCP is now looking to bring the EVE universe to a wider audience, and rather than having a group of writers dictate all of the lore, they're letting the players take part. They've set up a site where users can share their tales and vote on those of others. CCP has partnered with Dark Horse Comics to make a comic book out of the stories, and with a production company to make a live-action TV show.
Shipwack sends this quote from the Guardian: "The Iranian authorities have long accused Google Earth of being a tool for western spy agencies, but now they have taken their attacks on the 3D mapping service one step further — by planning the launch of an 'Islamic' competitor. ... The minister, however, gave little information on what he meant by an Islamic 3D map. 'We are developing this service with the Islamic views we have in Iran and we will put a kind of information on our website that would take people of the world towards reality Our values in Iran are the values of God and this would be the difference between Basir and the Google Earth, which belongs to the ominous triangle of the U.S., England and the Zionists [a reference to Israel].' Experts, however, have serious doubts about the project. An IT consultant who has worked on Iran's national internet project in the past said the announcement was merely an excuse to obtain funds and secure working contracts for the future. 'They have claimed to run their service in four months and said their data centre capacity will reach Google's size in three years,' he said. 'Three-year project, no business model and only relying on government funding, a piece of cake indeed. To have a data centre with such capacity and security level they need power stations, cooler systems, bandwidth, etc, which will require billions of dollars of investment that doesn't fit with Iran's sanctions-hit economy.'"
RougeFemme writes with this story in the New York Times about one disconcerting aspect of the ongoing move to electronic textbooks: "Teachers at 9 colleges are testing technology from a Silicon Valley start-up that lets them know if you're skipping pages, highlighting text, taking notes — or, of course, not opening the book at all. '"It's Big Brother, sort of, but with a good intent," said Tracy Hurley, the dean of the school of business at Texas A&M.' 'Major publishers in higher education have already been collecting data from millions of students who use their digital materials. But CourseSmart goes further by individually packaging for each professor information on all the students in a class — a bold effort that is already beginning to affect how teachers present material and how students respond to it, even as critics question how well it measures learning.'"
New submitter SoVi3t points out comments from Microsoft Studios Creative Director Adam Orth about the debate over always-online DRM, brought to the fore recently by the disastrous launch of SimCity and rumors that the next-gen Xbox console will require it. "Don't want a gaming console that requires a persistent internet connection? 'Deal with it,' says Microsoft Studio's creative director. In what he later termed a 'fun lunch break,' Orth took to Twitter to express his shock at people who take umbrage with the idea of an always-on console. When quizzed by other Twitter users about people with no internet connection, he suggested that they should get one, as it is 'awesome.' He then likened people who worry about intermittent internet connectivity being an issue as the same as someone not buying a vacuum cleaner because the electricity sometimes goes out. While Orth later apologized, saying it had being a bit of banter with friends, it did raise awareness that there are more than a few people who are very unhappy with the possibility of an always-on future version of the Xbox. Orth has also now switched his Twitter account settings to private."
Dishwasha writes "What do you do to stay fit? Probably like many of you, this code monkey has lead a fairly sedentary life consisting most on fritos, tab, and mountain dew. Every time I attempt to incorporate exercise in even the most modest amount it never really seems to work out. 'Just do it' or joining and going to a gym just doesn't seem to work and with time being my most precious resource at this point, I would like to incorporate exercise in to my daily work process. Our office recently switched to standing desks, which is great, and I would like to possibly bring in a flat treadmill that fits under the standing desk, but my bosses have balked unless the equipment is whisper silent. We are a small business in a traditional office park with no exercise facility. Do any other geeks out there have a similar set up and would like to share what they use to stay heart healthy and improve circulation during their work day? What other ways do you incorporate exercise in to your geeky or nerdy lifestyle?"
Nerval's Lobster writes "Google senior vice president Amit Singhal, one of the executives heading up the company's search-engine operations, sat down with Guy Kawasaki, former chief evangelist for Apple and author, at one of this year's SXSW keynotes in Austin, TX. 'Our dream is for search to become the "Star Trek" computer, and that's what we're building today,' Singhal said. But he seemed reluctant to share much about his company on a more tactical level, parrying Kawasaki's queries about everything from the amount of code in Google's search platform to recent cyber-attacks on the company's systems. But the two did have an interesting back-and-forth about SEO. 'We at Google have time and time again said—and seen it happen—that if you build high-quality content that adds value, and your readers and your users seek you out, then you don't need to worry about anything else,' Singhal said. 'If people want that content, your site will automatically work you could make a bunch of SEO mistakes and it wouldn't hurt.' When Kawasaki followed up by asking, 'Is SEO bull****?' Singhal replied: 'That would be like saying marketing is bull****.' That drew a laugh from the audience—and maybe some gritted teeth from people who position themselves as SEO experts. The two talked about much more with regard to Google's future plans."
AlphaWolf_HK writes "I own an HDHomeRun Prime tuner, and unfortunately I live in an area where the cable provider (Cox) blanket flags all channels to be copy restricted. I'm tired of using Windows Media Center due to bugs and other problems, but since the channels are flagged it is the only option. Satellite is of course not an option at all (no cablecard or similar standard.) I've already begun moving most of my content watching to XBMC in the form of using sickbeard and couchpotato, both of which do an amazing job even with torrents now that Usenet has been getting hit pretty hard. To match this, I've already dropped my cable tier to the lowest possible for some basic digital channels that people in my household still watch and aren't available over torrents. But ideally I'd like to cut the cord completely as the service is otherwise useless. Are there any options for obtaining this content without physically moving to Comcast territory where they don't do this? Or perhaps any workarounds for the CCI flag? Ideally, anything that allows XBMC with digital content and no transcoding."
New submitter gameweld writes "Software companies, such as Microsoft, create documentation for millions of topics concerning its APIs, services, and software platforms. Creating this documentation comes at a considerable cost and effort. And after all this effort, much documentation is rarely consulted (citation) and lacking enough examples (citation). A new study suggests that developers are increasingly consulting Stack Overflow and crowd-sourced sites over official documentation, using it as much as 50% of time. How should official documentation be better redesigned? What are the implications of software created from unruly mashups?"
CowboyRobot writes "American companies are demanding more H-1B visas to ensure access to the best and brightest workforce, and outside the U.S. are similar claims of an IT worker shortage. Last month, European Commission VP Neelie Kroes bemoaned the growing digital skills gap that threatens European competitiveness. But a new study finds that imported IT talent is often less talented than U.S. workers. Critics of the H-1B program see it as a way for companies to keep IT wages low, to discriminate against experienced U.S. workers, and to avoid labor law obligations. In his examination of the presumed correlation between talent and salary, researcher Norman Matloff observes that Microsoft has been exaggerating how much it pays foreign workers. Citing past claims by the company that it pays foreign workers '$100,000 a year to start,' Matloff says the data shows that only 18% of workers with software engineering titles sponsored for green cards by Microsoft between 2006 and 2011 had salaries at or above $100,000."