Today Microsoft announced that CEO Steve Ballmer will be retiring within the next 12 months. He said, "There is never a perfect time for this type of transition, but now is the right time. ... My original thoughts on timing would have had my retirement happen in the middle of our company’s transformation to a devices and services company. We need a CEO who will be here longer term for this new direction." Ballmer, 57, has been Microsoft's CEO since taking over the role from Bill Gates in January, 2000. The company's board of directors has formed a committee to find a replacement for Ballmer, and he will continue his duties until a new CEO is found. Questions about Ballmer's fitness to remain CEO have been circulating for the past several years, particularly after the company struggled to get a foothold in the mobile market. It will be interesting to see how this affects Microsoft's stock price. Upon retirement, Ballmer will be able to cash out hundreds of millions of dollars worth of Microsoft stock.
New submitter niftymitch sends this quote from an article at SFGate: "San Francisco's fire chief has explicitly banned firefighters from using helmet-mounted video cameras after images from a battalion chief's Asiana Airlines crash recording became public and led to questions about first responders' actions leading up to a fire rig running over a survivor. ... Filming the scene may have violated both firefighters' and victims' privacy, Hayes-White said, trumping whatever benefit came from knowing what the footage shows. 'There comes a time that privacy of the individual is paramount, of greater importance than having a video,' Hayes-White said. Critics, including some within the department, questioned the chief's order and its timing — coming as Johnson's footage raised the possibility of Fire Department liability in the death of 16-year-old Ye Meng Yuan. .. [Battalion Chief Kevin Smith, president of the employee group that includes Johnson, said,] 'The department seems more concerned with exposure and liability than training and improving efficiency. Helmet cams are the wave of the future - they can be used to improve communication at incidents between firefighters and commanders.'"
New submitter irventu writes "The long-awaited PHP 5.5.0 has finally been released, bringing many new features and integrating Zend's recently open-sourced OPcache. With the new Laravel PHP framework winning RoRs and CodeIgnitor converts by the thousands, Google recently announcing support for PHP in its App Engine and the current PHP renaissance is well underway. This is great news for the web's most popular scripting language." The full list of new features is available at the Change Log, and the source code is at the download page.
Virtucon writes with this snippet from an Associated Press story as carried by TwinCities.com: "'The AP asked for the addresses following last year's disclosures that the former administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency had used separate email accounts at work. The practice is separate from officials who use personal, non-government email accounts for work, which generally is discouraged—but often happens anyway—due to laws requiring that most federal records be preserved. The scope of using the secret accounts across government remains a mystery: Most U.S. agencies have failed to turn over lists of political appointees' email addresses, which the AP sought under the Freedom of Information Act more than three months ago. The Labor Department initially asked the AP to pay more than $1 million for its email addresses.' The reason for the $1 million dollar request was to do research including going to backup tapes. Some of the information has been turned over to AP but it still seems that the government just can't get their hands on e-mail addresses for their own people."
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.'"
An anonymous reader writes "Ars Technica's Peter Bright reports on a Netware 3.12 server that has been decommissioned after over 16 years of continuous operation. The plug was pulled when noise from the server's hard drives become intolerable. From the article: 'It's September 23, 1996. It's a Monday. The Macarena is pumping out of the office radio, mid-way through its 14 week run at the top of the Billboard Hot 100, doing little to improve the usual Monday gloom...Sixteen and a half years later, INTEL's hard disks—a pair of full height 5.25 inch 800 MB Quantum SCSI devices—are making some disconcerting noises from their bearings, and you're tired of the complaints. It's time to turn off the old warhorse.'"
First time accepted submitter Sagan's Pie writes "I'm starting to look for a laptop for college, and the only thing I seem to find are laptops or tablets that have Windows 8. I have used Windows 7 for a long time now, and would not have a problem giving it up, but not for Windows 8. After visiting many major online retail sites, I've found that finding either a Windows 7 laptop, or even a laptop without an operating system is nearly impossible. So where should I go if looking for laptops sans os, or at the very least sans Windows 8?"
An anonymous reader writes with reports that TSMC is preparing to do a first test run of Apple's A6X chipset currently manufactured by Samsung. The TSMC manufactured chips will feature a process shrink from 32nm to 28nm, and there's a good chance Apple will grant them the contract for the next generation A7 chip. From SlashGear: "The test will kick off in Q1 2013, The China Times reports, with TSMC producing a new, 28nm version of the existing 32nm A6X that Samsung has been producing for the full-sized iPad 4th-gen; the smaller chip, which will likely be more power efficient as well, will debut in a new iPad 5th-gen and iPad mini 2."
whisper_jeff writes "A number of newly-purchased standard units are showing an "Assembled in America" notation. While the markings don't necessarily mean that Apple is in the midst of transferring its entire assembly operation from China to the U.S., it does indicate that at least a few of the new iMacs were substantially assembled domestically."
dsinc writes "Last week Curiosity was able to use its SAM (Sample Analysis at Mars) device to confirm the discovery. A robotic arm with a complex system of Spectral Analysis devices was able to vaporize and identify gasses from the sample, concluding that it is in fact plastic. How plastic formed or ended up on the Martian surface is quite an exciting mystery that sparks many questions. The type of plastic sampled as we know so far can only be formed using petrochemicals, meaning not only that there could possibly be a source of oil on the Red Planet, but that somehow it got turned into plastic. Even more interesting is that oil or petrochemicals used to create this type of plastic are only known to come from ancient fossilized organic materials, such as zooplankton and algae, which geochemical processes convert into oil pointing to the earthshaking evidence that there was once life on mars. 'Right now we have multiple working hypotheses, and each hypothesis makes certain predictions about things like what the spherules are made of and how they are distributed,' said Curiosity's principal investigator, Steve Squyres, of Cornell University. 'Our job as we explore Matijevic Hill in the months ahead will be to make the observations that will let us test all the hypotheses carefully, and find the one that best fits the observations.'" Update: Yes, it's a hoax
First time accepted submitter icepick3000 writes "There are probably many digital photoframes unused these days laying around. Mine is from the first generation meaning you can only insert a compact flash card and display photos. Newer models nowadays can display weather, news, and stocks. Anyone have some good idea's how to give these old frames a second life? I have been thinking about compact flash cards that support wifi... maybe someone has a better idea?"
Hugh Pickens writes "BBC reports that nobody would describe North Korea's mission control as imposing. It is a small, unremarkable, two-story building, tiny compared to Nasa's Houston home in America or Russia's space command. But the North's secretive regime, now headed by the third of the Kim dynasty to rule here, Kim Jong-un, is opening up, for the first time in an attempt to allay fears it is about to test missile technology that could deliver a warhead as far as America. 'Sixteen technicians man the satellite command center. Dressed in white coats, like doctors, they sit behind computer screens,' writes Damian Grammaticas. 'On a big screen are live pictures from the launch pad, showing North Korea's rocket being fueled up. The satellite it will carry has already been loaded on board, we are told.' Pyongyang says the minibar refrigerator-sized satellite covered with solar panels and golden foil to protect its instruments will broadcast martial music praising North Korea's founder, Kim Il Sung and is designed to monitor weather, natural disasters and agriculture patterns. As the five-day window for North Korea's rocket launch opens today, the United States has warned a launch would be a breach of UN Security Council resolutions that ban the North from testing missile technology. If North Korea goes ahead it could lead to UN sanctions, it has warned. 'That's why we have invited you, to clearly show that this is a satellite launch not a ballistic missile,' says Paek Chang-ho, head of the satellite control center. 'I hope you become supporters in showing the transparency of our satellite launch.'" After all that North Korea decided to launch a missile anyway. From the article: "The three-stage rocket, called the Unha-3, blasted off from the Soehae launch site near North Korea’s western corner with China, at about 7:39 a.m., the South Korea Defense Ministry said."
sciencehabit writes "The massive oil spill that inundated the Gulf of Mexico in the spring and summer of 2010 severely damaged deep-sea corals more than 11 kilometers from the well site, a sea-floor survey conducted within weeks of the spill reveals. At one site, which hadn't been visited before but had been right in the path of a submerged 100-meter-thick oil plume from the spill, researchers found a variety of corals — most of them belonging to a type of colonial coral commonly known as sea fans — on a 10-meter-by-12-meter outcrop of rock. Many of the corals were partially or completely covered with a brown, fluffy substance that one team member variously calls 'frothy gunk,' 'goop,' and 'snot.'"
New submitter multimediavt writes "Ok, here's my problem. I have a lot of personal data! (And, no, it's not pr0n, warez, or anything the MPAA or RIAA would be concerned about.) I am realizing that I need to keep at least one spare drive the same size as my largest drive around in case of failure, or the need to reformat a drive due to corrupt file system issues. In my particular case I have a few external drives ranging in size from 200 GB to 2 TB (none with any more than 15 available), and the 2 TB drive is giving me fits at the moment so I need to move the data off and reformat the drive to see if it's just a file system issue or a component issue. I don't have 1.6 TB of free space anywhere and came to the above realization that an empty spare drive the size of my largest drive was needed. If I had a RAID I would have the same needs should a drive fail for some reason and the file system needed rebuilding. I am hitting a wall, and I am guessing that I am not the only one reaching this conclusion. This is my personal data and it is starting to become unbelievably unruly to deal with as far as data integrity and security are concerned. This problem is only going to get worse, and I'm sorry 'The Cloud' is not an acceptable nor practical solution. Tape for an individual as a backup mechanism is economically not feasible. Blu-ray Disc only holds 50 GB at best case and takes forever to backup any large amount of data, along with a great deal of human intervention in the process. So, as an individual with a large data collection and not a large budget, what do you see as options for now (other than keeping a spare blank drive around), and what do you see down the road that might help us deal with issues like this?"
pigrabbitbear writes "Google is boasting that more than 90 million people have signed up for its Google+. Those are pretty impressive numbers. I mean, if you had 90 million people at your disposal, you could do anything. You'd rule the Internet. Except there's one little problem: No one is using the site. The Wall Street Journal has the hard, unfiltered truth: According to comScore numbers, users spent an average of 3 minutes on G+ in the entire month of January. Facebook users spent 405 minutes, or nearly 7 hours, on the site. People managed to find 17 minutes to spare to add connections on LinkedIn. Heck, even Myspace users — many of whom are probably ghost accounts — surfed for eight minutes over the month."