arisvega writes "Some 400 high-tech South African traffic lights are out of action after thieves in Johannesburg stole the mobile phone SIM cards they contain. JRA (Johannesburg Road Agency) said it is investigating the possibility of an 'inside job' after only the SIM card-fitted traffic lights were targeted. The cards were fitted to notify JRA when the traffic lights were faulty. 'We have 2,000 major intersections in Johannesburg and only 600 of those were fitted with the cards,' the agency's spokesperson Thulani Makhubela told the BBC. 'No-one apart from JRA and our supplier knows which intersections have that system.' The thieves ran up bills amounting to thousands of dollars by using the stolen cards to make calls."
frisket writes "Definitive guides by the authors or maintainers of software systems tend to have the edge over other documentation because of the insight they provide. DocBook 5 — The Definitive Guide comes well up to scratch. DocBook has long been the de facto standard for computer system documentation in XML (and SGML before that), and Norm Walsh has revised and updated both the language and the documentation in a concise and valuable form, usable both by beginners and by tech doc experts." Read on for the rest of frisket's review.
kaptink writes "Dana Kuchler, a 21-year veteran of the West Allis Dispatch Department, was fired from her job for making jokes on her Facebook page about taking drugs. She appealed to an arbitrator, claiming the Facebook post was a joke, pointing out she had written 'ha' in it, and noting that urine and hair samples tested negative for drugs. The arbitrator said she should be entitled to go back to work after a 30-day suspension, but the City of West Allis complained that was not appropriate. Is posting bad jokes on Facebook a justifiable reason to give someone the boot?"
OnlyJedi writes "Hot on the news of Netflix canceling its latest contest over privacy concerns, news has spread that MySpace is going in the opposite direction. Apparently, the one-time leading social network is now selling user data to third party collection firms. From the article, the data that InfoChimps has listed includes 'user playlists, mood updates, mobile updates, photos, vents, reviews, blog posts, names and zipcodes.' InfoChimps is a reseller that deals with individuals and groups, from academic researchers to marketers and industry analysts. So if you're worried about your data on MySpace being sold off to anybody with a few hundred dollars, now's the time to delete that little-used account."
nfarrell writes "Last week, an Australian Judge ruled that copyright laws do not apply to collections of facts, regardless of the amount of effort that was spent collecting them. In this case, the case surrounded the reproduction of entries from the White and Yellow Pages, but the ruling referred to a previous case involving IceTV, which republishes TV guides. Does this mean that other databases of facts, such as financial data, are also legally able to be copied and redistributed?" Here are analyses from a former legal adviser to the directory publisher which prevailed as the defendant in this case, and from Smart Company.
appl_iran writes "Iran's telecommunications agency announced that it would be suspending Google's email services permanently, saying it would roll out its own national email service." From the short WSJ article that is kernel of this Reuters story: "An Iranian official said the measure was meant to boost local development of Internet technology and to build trust between people and the government." Funny way to go about that. Updated 20100211 9:54GMT by timothy: Original link swapped for a more appropriate, updated one.
I Don't Believe in Imaginary Property writes "Craig Mundie, Microsoft's Chief Research and Strategy Officer, called for the creation of an 'Internet Driver's License' at the World Economic Forum in Davos, saying, 'If you want to drive a car you have to have a license to say that you are capable of driving a car, the car has to pass a test to say it is fit to drive and you have to have insurance.' Of course, there are quite a few problems with this. For starters, internet use cannot yet cause death or dismemberment like car accidents can; and this would get rid of most of the good of internet anonymity while retaining all of the bad parts, especially in terms of expanding the market for stolen identities. Even though telephone networks have long been used by scammers and spammers/telemarketers, we've never needed a 'Telephone Driver's License.'"
christian.einfeldt writes "The LinuxTech.net blog points out that Linux notebooks are currently selling quite well on Amazon's list in Germany. The blog includes screenshots showing the Linux Asus and Aspire notebooks in positions 2 and 4, respectively, on that list. These machines are not netbooks, but full notebooks, albeit on the moderate to low side regarding price and performance. That LinuxTech.net blog was dated 23 July 2009, and the Asus machine is still holding second place more than one day later, while the Acer machine slipped to fifth position, despite the volatile nature of Amazon bestseller lists. While these two data points are just snapshots in time, they are consistent with other data showing that Microsoft itself attributes some of its recent weak earnings to surging sales of low-end notebooks, as well as data showing that the Linux-powered and Unix-powered computers topped Amazon's sales charts in all categories for 2007. If there is to ever be a 'year of desktop (or laptop) Linux', it won't happen all at once, but will creep up in ways similar to what we are seeing now."
snydeq writes "Fatal Exception's Neil McAllister questions whether Scheme, a dialect of Lisp taught as part of many first-year CS curricula and considered by some to be the 'latin of programming,' is really the best first language for a young programmer. As he sees it, the essentially write-only Scheme requires you to bore down into the source code just to figure out what a Scheme program is trying to do — excellent for teaching programming but 'lousy for a 15-year-old trying to figure out how to make a computer do stuff on his own.' And though the 'hacker ethic' may in fact be harming today's developers, McAllister still suggests we encourage the young to 'develop the innate curiosity and love of programming that lies at the heart of any really brilliant programmer' by simply encouraging them to fool around with whatever produces the most gratifying results. After all, as Jeff Atwood puts it, 'what we do is craftmanship, not engineering,' and inventing effective software solutions takes insight, inspiration, deduction, and often a sprinkling of luck. 'If that means coding in Visual Basic, so be it. Scheme can come later.'"
MarkN writes "The use of story in video games has come a long way, from being shoehorned into a manual written for a completed game to being told through expensive half-hour cut scenes that put gameplay on hold. To me, the interesting thing about story in games is how it relates the player to the game; in communicating their goals, motivating them to continue, and representing their role as a character in the world. This article talks about some of the storytelling techniques games have employed, and in particular the different styles of narration that have been used to directly communicate information about a story, and how that affects the player's relation to their character and the degree of freedom they're given to shape the story themselves."
gurps_npc writes "Forensics Innovations claims to have for sale a product that detects headerless encrypted files, such as TrueCrypt Dynamic files. It does not decrypt the file, just tells you that it is in fact an encrypted file. It works by detecting hidden patterns that don't exist in a random file. It does not mention steganography, but if their claim is true, it seems that it should be capable of detecting stenographic information as well."
Barence writes "Microsoft is effectively giving away Windows 7 free for a year with the launch of the Release Candidate. The Release Candidate is now available to MSDN and TechNet subscribers, and will go on unlimited, general release on 5 May. The software will not expire until 1 June 2010, giving testers more than a year's free access to Windows 7. 'It's available to as many people who see fit to use it, although we wouldn't recommend it to just your average user,' John Curran, director of the Windows Client Group told PC Pro. 'We'd very strongly encourage anyone on the beta to move to the Release Candidate.'"
CWmike writes "Mozilla is pondering dropping support for Windows 2000 and Windows XP without Service Pack 3 when it ships the follow-up to Firefox 3.5 in 2010, show discussions on the mozilla.dev.planning forum by developers and Mozilla executives, including the company's chief engineer and its director of Firefox. 'Raise the minimum requirements on Gecko 1.9.2 (and any versions of Firefox built on 1.9.2) for Windows builds to require Windows XP Service Pack 3 or higher,' said Michael Conner, one of the company's software engineers, to start the discussion. Mozilla is currently working on Gecko 1.9.1, the engine that powers Firefox 3.5, the still-in-development browser the company hopes to release at some point in the second quarter. Gecko 1.9.2, and the successor to Firefox 3.5 built on it — dubbed 'Firefox.next' and code named 'Namoroka' — are slated to wrap up in 'early-to-mid 2010,' according to Mozilla."
Hugh Pickens writes "According to a survey of college students Facebook users have lower overall grades than non-users. The study by Aryn Karpinski, an education researcher at Ohio State University, found that Facebook user GPAs are in the 3.0 to 3.5 range on average, compared to 3.5 to 4.0 for non-users and that Facebook users also studied anywhere from one to five hours per week, compared to non-users who studied 11 to 15 or more hours per week. Karpinski emphasized that correlation does not equal causation and that the grades association could be caused by something else. 'I'm just saying that there's some kind of relationship there, and there's many third variables that need to be studied.' One hypothesis is that students who spend more time enjoying themselves rather than studying might tend to latch onto the nearest distraction, such as Facebook or that students who use the social networking site might also spend more time on other non-studying activities such as sports or music. 'It may be that if it wasn't for Facebook, some students would still find other ways to avoid studying, and would still get lower grades. But perhaps the lower GPAs could actually be because students are spending too much time socializing online.' As for herself, Karpinski said she doesn't have a Facebook account, although the co-author of the study does. 'For me, I think Facebook is a huge distraction.'"