schliz writes "Free software activist Richard Stallman has called for the end of the 'war on sharing' at the World Computer Congress in Brisbane, Australia. He criticized surveillance, censorship, restrictive data formats, and software-as-a-service in a keynote presentation, and asserted that digital society had to be 'free' in order to be a benefit, and not an attack. Earlier in the conference, Stallman had briefly interrupted a European Patent Office presentation with a placard that said: 'Don't get caught in software patent thickets.' He told journalists that the Patent Office was 'here to campaign in favor of software patents in Australia,' arguing that 'there's no problem that requires a solution with anything like software patents.'"
mahiskali writes "A parasite commonly found in cats, Toxoplasma gondii, has an unnerving relation to World Cup victories by country. (This parasite was discussed here twice in 2006.) Toxo can be found in almost every type of mammal, from rats to humans. The overall goal of the parasite is to end up in a feline stomach, which is the only place it can reproduce. In other mammals, humans for example, the parasite heads for the brain. It is estimated that nearly 1/3 of the human population has a latent Toxo infection, with individual countries having infection rates varying from 6% (Korea) to 92% (Ghana). Countries with greater incidence of this parasitic infection in their populations tend to win more World Cups than those without. The article, written by a Stanford University neuroscientist, goes on to try out various rationales for such a correlation, ranging from increased testosterone to increased dissent of authority — all symptoms of a Toxo infection. Now we just need to find a parasite that causes an inability to referee properly, and we'll have this whole World Cup business all sorted out."
Poke someone and end up in the pokey!
KentuckyFC writes "Metamaterials are substances with a permittivity and permeability that has been manipulated in a way that allows fine control over the behavior of light. They have famously been used to create an invisibility cloak that hides objects from view. Now Igor Smolyaninov, a physicist in the US, has calculated how metamaterials could be used for a much more profound demonstration: to reproduce the behavior of light in various kinds of spacetimes, in particular a (2+2) spacetime (one having two dimensions of space and two of time). His method is to show that there is formal mathematical analogy between the way metamaterials and spacetimes affect light. He goes on to show how a phase transition in a (2+2) spacetime leads to the creation of a (2+1) spacetime filled with photons, an event analogous to the Big Bang." Here are the abstract and the preprint (PDF).
EconolineCrush writes "AMD's latest 'Istanbul' Opterons add two cores per socket, for a grand total of six. Despite the extra cores, these new chips reside within the same power envelope as existing quad-core Opterons, and they're drop-in compatible with current systems. The Tech Report has an in-depth review of the new chips, comparing their performance and power efficiency with that of Intel's Nehalem-based Xeons. Istanbul fares surprisingly well, particularly when one considers its performance-power ratio with highly parallelized workloads."
jammag points out a look at statistics from the Popularity Contest projects on Debian and Ubuntu. These projects track the download and upgrade habits of their respective distributions' users, revealing — no surprise here — that Ubuntu users are more likely to be newbies than Debian users. The numbers reveal, for instance, that 86 percent of Ubuntu machines use the proprietary NVidia driver, where only a mere sliver of Debian machines do. Likewise, Debian users are far more eclectic in their software choice, less likely to use any default options. The article concludes with a look at the limits of what conclusions can be drawn from statistics like these. "In general, Debian users seem more eclectic in their use of software than Ubuntu users, and less likely to use an application simply because it is included by default. Debian users also seem more likely to be concerned to maintain a free installation than Ubuntu users — a conclusion that is hardly surprising when you consider Debian's reputation for freedom, but is still interesting to see being supported by statistics. ... To what extent last week's figures are typical is uncertain. Very likely, studying the figures over a longer period would produce different results. Possibly, too, those who participate in the Popularity Contests are not typical users of either Ubuntu or Debian. "
User AttheCoalFac pointed us to an interesting tech support story from Canada. Halifax actress and playwright Carol Sinclair was arrested and is now facing criminal charges after a repairman says she threatened to hold him hostage until he fixed her Internet connection. Mrs. Sinclair denies the allegations and says that she merely stated, 'I don't want to hold you hostage, but would you mind hanging around until the other technician arrives so that the two of you can sort it out.' She was arraigned in Halifax Provincial Court Friday and is now free on conditions including that she have no contact with the repairman or any employee from her ISP. Having a lot of experience on both sides of this issue, I'm not sure who I'm cheering for.
In this week's Disagree Mail, I try to show the range of messages I get. It's not all angry or insane, sometimes it's sent to us for no apparent reason. We start off a little mad, slip into a whole bunch of crazy and finish with someone who has a complaint about racism at his favorite restaurant. Read below to get started.
We get a lot of books for review here at Slashdot. Most are sent out to users on our reviewer list within a few weeks. Others become part of an impressive wall of books on my desk before they find a home. There are a choice few however that are doomed to never see the inside of a Fedex box. This is mostly due to the complete and utter stupidity or absurdness of their subject matter. I've decided to give these failed intellectual endeavors a chance and explore just how big a waste of time a book can be. We start scraping the bottom of the barrel with a little number written by Paul Davidson called, The Lost Blogs. Read below to find out just how bad it got.
I was just looking at the minimum specs for running Flash version 9 http://www.adobe.com/products/flashplayer/productinfo/systemreqs/ which apparently needs a P2-450 to run. I'm curious if this 400 MHz CPU would be fast enough for smooth playability? Lack of Flash support would eliminate a good chunk of uses for this thing.
stoolpigeon writes "IHT is running a David Pogue review of the Chumby. The Chumby is a small computer embedded in a soft case. The Chumby hardware and OS are open, and the review mentions that the device already has a large developer following, cranking out new widgets for owners. Pogue is obviously quite taken with the Chumby and gives a good introduction to a device that may be the inspiration for a new generation of hackers."
Wanker writes "In the wake of a lawsuit by J.K. Rowling against the author of a Harry Potter encyclopedia, the Greensboro Rhino Times has an article by Orson Scott Card blasting J.K. Rowling for 'letting herself be talked into being outraged over a perfectly normal publishing activity.' Orson Scott Card has hit the nail on the head. He understands that authors re-use each others' ideas all the time, and certainly Ender's Game gets its share of re-use. Did Rowling's success go to her head?" Card lays out (something like tongue-in-cheek) some of the similarities between the story in Ender's Game and in the Potter series: "A young kid growing up in an oppressive family situation suddenly learns that he is one of a special class of children with special abilities, who are to be educated in a remote training facility where student life is dominated by an intense game played by teams flying in midair, at which this kid turns out to be exceptionally talented and a natural leader." (And that's just to get started.)
Dekortage writes "How long does it take to make a burger? Students from Purdue University's Society of Professional Engineers won the 2008 Rube Goldberg contest with a device that requires 156 steps to assemble a burger. According to the team captain, 'We put 4,000 to 5,000 man-hours into this machine since September, and all the hard work has been well worth it.' That's a long time to wait for dinner." Here's a video of the winning entry in operation.
An anonymous reader writes "Ars Technica reports that a group of companies and organizations it calls 'big content' is currently engaged in a worldwide 'whisper campaign' against Fair Use. 'The counter-reformation in question takes the form of a "whispering campaign" in which ministries in different countries are told that plans to expand fair use rights might well run afoul of the Berne Convention's "three-step test." The Convention, which goes back to the late 1800s, was one of the earliest international copyright treaties and is now administered by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).'"
Dog owners in Amsterdam are upset that the city has promised to clampdown on people who let their pets walk in one of the cities most famous parks without a leash. They wouldn't be as outraged if the city hadn't also legalized public sex in the same park. A spokesman for the council said, "When the dogs are not kept on a leash they pee on whatever they see and they cause a lot of nuisance for other visitors." Alderman Paul Van Grieken added, "Why should we oppose a rule on something you can't oppose a rule on. Moreover it isn't a nuisance for the other visitors and gives a lot of pleasure to a certain group of people. There still are rules, They must take their garbage with them afterwards and never have intercourse near the playground. The sex must be limited to the evening hours and night."