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Journal Journal: Slashdot engineering status

I have been reviewing (again) the responses from our last user poll about what you like/dislike about /.. In summary it looks like there is a concern about commenting and story submission. We have spent the last couple of months working on those items and I think the engineering team has done a good job of fixing some problems that have been plaguing the system for some time (new comment loading, submission form, cleanup layout, etc., see:


Russian Websites Critical of Elections Targeted In DDoS Attack 156

theshowmecanuck submits this news from Russia, where "Websites which exposed violations in Russia's parliamentary elections were inaccessible Sunday in a hacking attack they said was aimed at preventing them revealing the extent of election day fraud." Further, says the linked article, "Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, whose United Russia party is expected to win Sunday's polls but with a reduced majority, has denounced non-governmental organisations like Golos, comparing them to the disciple Judas who betrayed Jesus. Russia has seen an upsurge in Internet penetration since the last elections in 2007, and analysts have said the explosion of critical material on the web poses one of the biggest challenges to United Russia's grip on power."

Submission + - STS-135 ET to Transmit Video During Re-Entry

k6mfw writes: STS-135 External Tank to Transmit Video During Re-Entry
M0ODV on writes:
âNASA engineers have installed a camera on the external fuel tank (ET) which will transmit live pictures of its destructive burn up on re-entry. The live FM transmitted signal will be on 2272.5 MHz at 10 watts. The camera captures images at (NTSC) frame rate of 30 frames per second and will burn up over the Pacifc Ocean over the east coast of New Zealand, entry interface (EI) will begin at 400,000 ft over southern Australia and can be seen with the naked eye.”

STS-135: External Tank death camera ready

“We have not yet been able to analytically confirm if a plasma blackout condition will present a TV reception problem prior to breakup.”

STS-135: Tank Camera modification aimed at filming footage of ET-138’s death

“The prospect of footage from the tank itself — as it vents and starts to disintegrate — on the final ever shuttle mission, may not be up to the high standards of the Soyuz ‘Flyabout’ footage of Endeavour and the ISS, but it would provide a potentially stunning viewpoint of the final Shuttle ET, prior to its demise.”

Kepler Investigator Says 'Galaxy Is Rich In Earth-Like Planets' 206

astroengine writes "In a recent presentation, Kepler co-investigator Dimitar Sasselov unexpectedly announced news that the Kepler Space Telescope has discovered scores of candidate Earth-like exoplanets. Not waiting for the official NASA press release to announce the discovery, Sasselov went into some detail at the TEDGlobal talk in Oxford, UK earlier this month. This surprise announcement comes hot on the heels of controversy that erupted last month when the Kepler team said they were withholding data on 400 exoplanet candidates until February 2011. In light of this, Sasselov's unofficial announcement has already caused a stir. Keith Cowing, of, has commented on this surprise turn of events, saying it is really annoying 'that the Kepler folks were complaining about releasing information since they wanted more time to analyze it before making any announcements. And then the project's Co-I goes off and spills the beans before an exclusive audience — offshore. We only find out about it when the video gets quietly posted weeks later.' Although Sasselov could have handled the announcement better (and waited until NASA made the official announcement), this has the potential to be one of the biggest astronomical discoveries of our time — so long as these Earth-like 'candidates' are confirmed by further study."

Ubiquiti Announces RouterStation Challenge Winners 87

Riskable writes "Remember that $200,000 Contest For a Better Open-WRT Wireless Router GUI? Today Ubiquiti posted the winning entries to their support wiki. The grand prize was a tie between PyCI (written by yours truly) and NETSHe with OpenNET as the runner up. Source code and firmware images for each entry are available for download on their respective wiki pages. I'll be setting up a project page for PyCI (and l2sh) soon to make it a participatory open source product. Even if you don't have a RouterStation, or don't care about OpenWRT, there are numerous Python modules and tools inside of PyCI that could prove useful to other open source projects (e.g. can read/interpret over 400 permutations of the iptables command). I'll also be checking the comments if anyone has any questions for me about PyCI or the contest in general. BTW: I'd like to thank all the commenters in the original article that insinuated that the technical requirements were impossible and/or that making a GUI to configure such complex things is a waste of time. I read every one and I wouldn't have made it such an obsession otherwise!"

Home Phone System That Syncs To Computer? 405

An anonymous reader writes 'In comparison to the advanced technology in today's smart phones, the standard home phone is painfully backwards. My current setup is a Panasonic system that has 4 cordless phones over one base station. Setting the time on one phone changes the time on all the phones; however, this is not the case for the phone book. Each entry must be manually copied (pushed) to each handset. Is this as far as home phone technology has come? What I would like is a phone system that I could sync to my computer so I could update the phone book over all the units (if not sync with Address Book or Outlook), keep a log of caller IDs, or even forward me new voicemail notifications. Does anyone know if such a system exists?'

Do Retailers Often Screen User Reviews? 454 writes "I recently purchased a NAS from a well-known online computer component shop. I have purchased several items from the website and have never had much trouble before. That was until I realized what I had bought was a terrible NAS. All the reviews on the site from users seemed very good. After a little research, it became clear that the product in question was indeed terrible. After finding the product pretty much useless for its intended purpose, I proceeded to write a review for it on the website to inform other would-be buyers. After about a week, I noticed that the review never made it up there, so I wrote another one just in case. After several attempts to leave a negative review for the product, I realized that the website was screening reviews and only posting the ones that made the products look good. All the reviews on the website are positive; I've only found one at less than 3 out of 5 stars. Is this legal? Ethically speaking, it's wrong, and it's intentionally misleading to the customer. Is there a good place to report behavior like this? How common is this among online retailers who provide user reviews?"

Irish ISP To Block Access To Pirate Bay 169

flynn writes "Ireland's oldest and largest ISP will be blocking access to The Pirate Bay from September 1st, while other ISPs have rejected the request to block TPB. From the Irish Times: 'Under an out-of-court agreement with EMI Records, Sony Music, Universal Music and Warners in January, Eircom agreed to cut off customers found to be repeatedly downloading music illegally. The deal also required Eircom to cut off access to Pirate Bay if requested. Yesterday, cable TV operator UPC, which has more than 120,000 broadband subscribers, announced it would not comply with a request to block access to Pirate Bay.'"
The Courts

Writing Style Fingerprint Tool Easily Fooled 96

Urchin writes "Some of the techniques used by literary detectives and courts of law to identify the authorship of text are easily fooled, say US researchers. They found that non-professional writers could hide their identity from 'stylometric' techniques by writing in the style of novelist Cormac McCarthy. Stylometric methods have been used in a number of high-profile legal cases in recent decades, including the 'Unabomber' trial. 'We would strongly suggest that courts examine their methods of stylometry against the possibility of adversarial attacks,' say the researchers."

EU Wants Multiple Browser Bundling On New PCs 464

An anonymous reader writes with a link to Ars Technica's report that "the EU is considering forcing Windows users to choose a browser to download and install before they can first browse the Internet, according to The Wall Street Journal (subscription required). While the latest Windows 7 builds let you uninstall IE8, 'third-party browser makers like Opera, Mozilla and Google are pushing for tough sanctions against Microsoft. The EU would rather have a "ballot screen" for users to choose which browsers to download and install as well as which one to set as default. The bundling requirement might end up becoming a responsibility for manufacturers.'"

Mapping Hidden Twitter Data For Epidemiology 75

jamie found this visualization of air travel, which might be usable in some sort of proxy for the spread of flu virus (to choose a random application). Jer Thorp, an artist and educator from Vancouver, Canada (and a former geneticist), searched Twitter for the phrase "Just landed in" and obtained lat/lon coordinates for both the indicated airport and the Twitter user's home location, as recorded in their Twitter profile. He then produced videos of multi-hour stretches of air travel that had been latent in the Twitter information stream.
Linux Business

The Problem With Estimating Linux Desktop Market Share 409

jammag writes "It's long been one of those exceptionally hard-to-quantify numbers: exactly what percentage of the desktop PC market is held by Linux? Doubters suggest it hovers around a negligible one percent, while partisans suggest it's in excess of 10 percent. Bruce Byfield explores the various sources of estimates, dismissers' and fan boys' alike, and guesstimates it might realistically be 5-6%. Still, he admits, 'the objectivity of numbers is often just a myth.'"

Would You Pay For YouTube Videos? 475

secmartin writes "A couple of weeks ago, Google's CEO mentioned to investors that they might start charging YouTube's users for viewing content: 'With respect to how it will get monetized, our first priority, as you pointed out, is on the advertising side. We do expect over time to see micro payments and other forms of subscription models coming as well. But our initial focus is on advertising. We will be announcing additional things in that area literally very, very soon.' With the recent Disney-Hulu deal, Google is under increasing pressure to generate more revenue and at the same time attract more premium content. That means we might see payment options coming even sooner than expected, with control over the pricing models being handed over to the studios providing that content, like the way Apple caved in over variable pricing on iTunes. This raises an important question: would you actually pay for premium content on YouTube and other sites, or will this draw viewers away to other video sites?"

Flu Models Predict Pandemic, But Flu Chips Ready 216

An anonymous reader writes "Supercomputer software models predict that swine flu will likely go pandemic sometime next week, but flu chips capable of detecting the virus within four hours are already rolling off the assembly line. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), which has designated swine flu as the '2009 H1N1 flu virus,' is modeling the spread of the virus using modeling software designed by the Department of Defense back when avian flu was a perceived threat. Now those programs are being run on cluster supercomputers and predict that officials are not implementing enough social distancing--such as closing all schools--to prevent a pandemic. Companies that designed flu-detecting chips for avian flu, are quickly retrofitting them to detect swine flu, with the first flu chips being delivered to labs today." Relatedly, at least one bio-surveillance firm is claiming they detected and warned the CDC and the WHO about the swine flu problem in Mexico over two weeks before the alert was issued.

Firefox Beta Scores 93 On Acid3 Test 282

CodeShark writes "Mozilla released their latest Firefox 3.X beta today (3.5b4), and increased their score on the Acid 3 test to 93 [on my XP laptop], with tests 70, 71, and tests 75-79 being the final challenges. Curiously though, the current release of the top Acid3 performer — Safari — still not only rates higher (I got scores of 99 once and 100 most of the time) but is usually faster by a little (1.1 sec avg. vs. 1.4 over ten runs apiece) but only because the new Firefox beta was all over the map — frequently better by 25% (.85sec) or tanking badly with rendering times in the 2.5 — 3 second range, and both suffer performance hits on one test (#69)."

Take your work seriously but never take yourself seriously; and do not take what happens either to yourself or your work seriously. -- Booth Tarkington