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+ - With Tumbling Oil Prices, Who Wins and Who Loses?

Submitted by (3830033) writes "The price of oil is now under $70 a barrel after OPEC decided it would not cut back production significantly in the months ahead and the latest OPEC move suggests that it isn’t going to reverse course anytime soon.. Now Neil Irwin reports in the NYT that the falling price of oil looks likely to be one of the dominant forces shaping the global economy in 2015. So who wins and who loses? Winner: Global consumers as anybody who drives a car or flies on airplanes gets lower prices for gasoline and jet fuel. Loser: American oil producers — One of the big open questions is just how many of the small, independent producers in the American heartland will still be viable with oil prices in the $60s rather than the $100s. Many have relied on borrowed money, and bankruptcies are possible. Loser: Vladimir Putin — Russia’s economy is already facing its sharpest challenges in years, as Western sanctions imposed after Russian aggression toward Ukraine crimp the nation’s ability to be integrated in the global economy. Russia is a major energy producer, and the falling price of oil compounds the challenge facing its president, Vladimir Putin.

Potential Loser: The environment. As a general rule, the cheaper fossil fuels become, the more challenging it will be for cleaner forms of energy like solar and wind power to be competitive on price. But solar and wind power are sources for electricity, whereas fluctuations in oil prices most directly affect the price of transportation fuels like gasoline and jet fuel. Unless or until more Americans use electric cars, they are largely separate markets, so there’s no reason that cheaper oil should cause a major reduction in investment in renewables. The average pump price of a gallon of regular gasoline in the United States was $3.12 this week, down from $3.80 in October 2012 and down from $3.70 just four months ago. In the past, cheaper gasoline has two environmentally problematic effects: It leads people to drive thirstier cars and trucks and to drive them more miles. This time may be different. The number of miles Americans drive per capita has declined for nine straight years dropping from roughly 10,100 miles in 2004 to about 9,400 miles in 2013. A change that significant suggests a change in lifestyle—one that would be hard to upend. In addition, the average fuel economy of new cars and trucks sold in the United States has increased markedly over the past decade—in contrast to the 1990s, when new-vehicle fuel economy essentially flat-lined. Today, the average new car sold in this country goes 36 miles on a gallon of gasoline, up from 29.5 mpg in 2004. "Times have changed since the dawn of the last era of cheap oil," says Jeffrey Ball. "Even assuming low oil prices are the new normal, a cleaner energy system probably is too.""

+ - A for Domain Names->

Submitted by fsterman
fsterman (519061) writes "Domain name seizures used to be a rare occurrence, but US law enforcement has become adept at exploiting a quirk in the Internet's governance structure that allows them to seize a wide range of domains without due process. The rate has been increasing exponentially, with a total of 87 in 2010 to 1,700 in mid-2013. A month ago, nearly 5,000 domains were seized by a corporation using civil proceedings. The types of attacks targeting DNS have been increasing as well, such as when a US embassy had GoDaddy shut down a political protest site."
Link to Original Source

+ - A Programmer's Life 1

Submitted by theodp
theodp (442580) writes "If you're a programmer who's put a few miles on your life, be sure to check out Stephen Hazel's Bout Steve which may just be the most poignant 'About Me' you'll ever read. Tucked away behind his PianoCheetah piano practice software website, Hazel covers the ups and downs of his journey from being born into a family headed by a manic depressive missionary father to his current life as a (young) grandfather, and he frames it all within the context of an illustrated timeline of family, music, electronics, computers, and software. This is Parenthood for the Slashdot set, kids!"
Input Devices

The Greatest Keyboard Ever Made 304

Posted by Soulskill
from the how-to-irritate-coworkers dept. writes Adi Robertson argues that IBM's Model M keyboard, soon to turn 30 is still the only keyboard worth using for many people. Introduced in 1985 as part of the IBM 3161 terminal, the Model M was initially called the "IBM Enhanced Keyboard." A PC-compatible version appeared the following spring, and it officially became standard with the IBM Personal System / 2 in 1987. The layout of the Model M has been around so long that today it's simply taken for granted, but the keyboard's descendants have jettisoned one of the Model M's most iconic features — "buckling springs," designed to provide auditory and tactile feedback to the keyboard operator. "Model M owners sometimes ruefully post stories of spouses and coworkers who can't stand the incessant chatter. But fans say the springs' resistance and their audible "click" make it clear when a keypress is registered, reducing errors," writes Robertson. "Maybe more importantly, typing on the Model M is a special, tangible experience. Much like on a typewriter, the sharp click gives every letter a physical presence."

According to Robertson, the Model M is an artifact from a time when high-end computing was still the province of industry, not pleasure. But while today's manufacturers have long since abandoned the concept of durability and longevity, refurbished Model Ms are still available from aficionados like Brandon Ermita, a Princeton University IT manager who recovers them from supply depots and recycling centers and sells them through his site, ClickyKeyboards. "For the very few that still appreciate the tactile feel of a typewriter-based computer keyboard and can still appreciate the simplicity of black letters on white keys, one can still seek out and own an original IBM model M keyboard — a little piece of early computing history," says Ermita. As one Reddit user recently commented, "Those bastards are the ORIGINAL gaming keyboards. No matter how much you abuse it, you'll die before it does.""

ACM Blames the PC For Driving Women Away From Computer Science 329

Posted by timothy
from the how-you-slice-and-dice-the-factors dept.
theodp (442580) writes "Over at the Communications of the ACM, a new article — Computing's Narrow Focus May Hinder Women's Participation — suggests that Bill Gates and Steve Jobs should shoulder some of the blame for the dearth of women at Google, Facebook, Apple, Twitter and other tech companies. From the article: "Valerie Barr, chair of ACM's Council on Women in Computing (ACM-W), believes the retreat [of women from CS programs] was caused partly by the growth of personal computers. 'The students who graduated in 1984 were the last group to start college before there was personal computing. So if you were interested in bioinformatics, or computational economics, or quantitative anthropology, you really needed to be part of the computer science world. After personal computers, that wasn't true any more.'" So, does TIME's 1982 Machine of the Year deserve the bad rap? By the way, the ACM's Annual Report discusses its participation in an alliance which has helped convince Congress that there ought to be a federal law making CS a "core subject" for girls and boys: "Under the guidance of the Education Policy Committee, ACM continued its efforts to reshape the U.S. education system to see real computer science exist and count as a core graduation credit in U.S. high schools. Working with the CSTA, the National Center for Women and Information Technology, NSF, Microsoft, and Google, ACM helped launch a new public/private partnership under the leadership of to strengthen high school level computing courses, improve teacher training, engage states in bringing computer science into their core curriculum guidelines, and encourage more explicit federal recognition of computer science as a key discipline in STEM discussions.""

+ - What came first, black holes or galaxies?

Submitted by StartsWithABang
StartsWithABang (3485481) writes "It was one of the most hotly contested questions for decades: we first expected and then found supermassive black holes at the centers of practically all large galaxies. But how did they get there? In particular, you could imagine it happening either way: either there was this top-down scenario, where large-scale structures formed first and fragmented into galaxies, forming black holes at their centers afterwards, or a bottom-up scenario, where small-scale structures dominate at the beginning, and larger ones only form later from the merger of these earlier, little ones. As it turns out, both of these play a role in our Universe, but as far as the question of what came first, black holes or galaxies, only one answer is right."

+ - Hacking Internet Connected Light Bulbs->

Submitted by Anonymous Coward
An anonymous reader writes "We've been calling it for years — connect everything in your house to the internet, and people will find a way to attack it. This post provides a technical walkthrough of how internet-connected lighting systems are vulnerable to outside attacks. Quoting: "With the Contiki installed Raven network interface we were in a position to monitor and inject network traffic into the LIFX mesh network. The protocol observed appeared to be, in the most part, unencrypted. This allowed us to easily dissect the protocol, craft messages to control the light bulbs and replay arbitrary packet payloads. ... Monitoring packets captured from the mesh network whilst adding new bulbs, we were able to identify the specific packets in which the WiFi network credentials were shared among the bulbs. The on-boarding process consists of the master bulb broadcasting for new bulbs on the network. A new bulb responds to the master and then requests the WiFi details to be transferred. The master bulb then broadcasts the WiFi details, encrypted, across the mesh network. The new bulb is then added to the list of available bulbs in the LIFX smart phone application.""
Link to Original Source

+ - Lie Like a Lady: The Profoundly Weird, Gender-Specific Roots of the Turing Test->

Submitted by malachiorion
malachiorion (1205130) writes "Alan Turing never wrote about the Turing Test, that legendary measure of machine intelligence that was supposedly passed last weekend. He proposed something much stranger—a contest between men and machines, to see who was better at pretending to be a woman. The details of the Imitation Game aren't secret, or even hard to find, and yet no one seems to reference it. Here's my analysis for Popular Science about why they should, in part because it's so odd, but also because it might be a better test for "machines that think" than the chatbot-infested, seemingly useless Turing Test."
Link to Original Source

+ - Why does light stretch as the Universe expands?

Submitted by StartsWithABang
StartsWithABang (3485481) writes "On the one hand, galaxies are definitely redshifted, and they're redshifted more severely the farther they are; that's been indisputable since Hubble's data from the 1920s. But spacetime's expansion — the idea that photons get redshfited because expanding space stretches their wavelength — is just one possibility. Sure, it's the possibility predicted by General Relativity, but a fast-moving, receding galaxy could cause a redshift, too. How do we know what the cause is? Here's how."

+ - Radioactivity Cleanup at Hanford, 25 Years On

Submitted by Rambo Tribble
Rambo Tribble (1273454) writes "The cleanup of the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington was supposed to be entering its final stages by now. The reality is far from that. The cleanup was to be managed under the 'Tri-Party Agreement', signed on May 15, 1989, which was supposed to facilitate cooperation between the agencies involved. Today, underfunded and overwhelmed by technical problems, the effort is decades behind schedule. Adding to the frustrations for stakeholders and watchdogs is a bureaucratic slipperiness on the part of the Federal Department of Energy. As one watchdog put it, 'We are constantly frustrated by how easily the Department of Energy slips out of agreements in the Tri-Party Agreement.'"

Physician: One upon whom we set our hopes when ill and our dogs when well. -- Ambrose Bierce