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Man Builds His Own Subway Screenshot-sm 174

jerryjamesstone writes "Everybody is into rail these days; it is the greenest way to get around next to a bike. Leonid Mulyanchik has been into it for years since before the Berlin Wall fell, since before the first Macintosh, building his own private underground Metro railway system. English-Russia says that he has been doing it with his pension, that it is all legal and approved and that he is still at it. Gizmodo calls it 'Partly the traditional, inspiring, one man against all odds type of persistence, but more the obsessive, borderline insane persistence.'" Update: 06/02 07:33 GMT by T : And if you're the type to visit Burning Man, you can actually ride a home-made monorail this summer, too.
Privacy

Israel's Supreme Court Says Yes To Internet Anonymity 198

jonklinger writes "The Israeli Supreme Court ruled this week that there is no civil procedure to reveal the identity of users behind an IP address, and that until such procedure shall be legislated, all internet postings, even tortious, may remain anonymous. The 69-page decision acknowledges the right to privacy and makes internet anonymity de facto a constitutional right in Israel. Justice Rivlin noted that revealing a person behind an IP address is 'an attempt to harness, prior to a legal proceeding, the justice system and a third party in order to conduct an inquiry which will lead to the revealing of a person committing a tort so that a civil suit could be filed against him.'"
Space

Big Dipper "Star" Actually a Sextuplet System 88

Theosis sends word that an astronomer at the University of Rochester and his colleagues have made the surprise discovery that Alcor, one of the brightest stars in the Big Dipper, is actually two stars; and it is apparently gravitationally bound to the four-star Mizar system, making the whole group a sextuplet. This would make the Mizar-Alcor sextuplet the second-nearest such system known. The discovery is especially surprising because Alcor is one of the most studied stars in the sky. The Mizar-Alcor system has been involved in many "firsts" in the history of astronomy: "Benedetto Castelli, Galileo's protege and collaborator, first observed with a telescope that Mizar was not a single star in 1617, and Galileo observed it a week after hearing about this from Castelli, and noted it in his notebooks... Those two stars, called Mizar A and Mizar B, together with Alcor, in 1857 became the first binary stars ever photographed through a telescope. In 1890, Mizar A was discovered to itself be a binary, being the first binary to be discovered using spectroscopy. In 1908, spectroscopy revealed that Mizar B was also a pair of stars, making the group the first-known quintuple star system."
Image

Zombie Pigs First, Hibernating Soldiers Next Screenshot-sm 193

ColdWetDog writes "Wired is running a story on DARPA's effort to stave off battlefield casualties by turning injured soldiers into zombies by injecting them with a cocktail of one chemical or another (details to be announced). From the article, 'Dr. Fossum predicts that each soldier will carry a syringe into combat zones or remote areas, and medic teams will be equipped with several. A single injection will minimize metabolic needs, de-animating injured troops by shutting down brain and heart function. Once treatment can be carried out, they'll be "re-animated" and — hopefully — as good as new.' If it doesn't pan out we can at least get zombie bacon and spam."
Idle

Canadian Blood Services Promotes Pseudoscience 219

trianglecat writes "The not-for-profit agency Canadian Blood Services has a section of their website based on the Japanese cultural belief of ketsueki-gata, which claims that a person's blood group determines or predicts their personality type. Disappointing for a self-proclaimed 'science-based' organization. The Ottawa Skeptics, based in the nation's capital, appear to be taking some action."
Censorship

Submission + - Australian secret blacklist leaked 1

dysprosia writes: The Australian secret blacklist has been leaked at Wikileaks. There are some "interesting" choices on the list, as the Sydney Morning Herald story suggests, "...about half of the sites on the list are not related to child porn and include a slew of online poker sites, YouTube links, regular gay and straight porn sites, Wikipedia entries, euthanasia sites, websites of fringe religions such as satanic sites, fetish sites, Christian sites, the website of a tour operator and even a Queensland dentist." Not to mention goat.cx, a picture of a suggestive pumpkin...
The Internet

Submission + - Activists use Wikipedia to test Aussie net censors (itnews.com.au)

pnorth writes: Editors at Wikipedia have removed a link to a blacklisted web site that sat uncontested for over 24 hours in the main body of the Australian regulator's own Wikipedia entry. The link, which directs readers to a site containing graphic imagery of aborted foetuses, was inserted into ACMA's Wikipedia entry by a campaigner against Internet filtering to determine whether Australia's communications regulator had a double-standard when it came to censoring web content. The very same link motivated the regulator to serve Aussie broadband forum Whirlpool's hosting company with a 'link deletion notice' and the threat of an $11,000 fine. Last night, the link became the subject of "warring" between several Wikipedia administrators in the lead up to it's removal, with administrators saying they didn't want to be used to prove a point.
Hardware Hacking

Photos of the Damage To the Large Hadron Collider 106

holy_calamity writes "CERN have released images of the damage done to the world's most powerful machine, the Large Hadron Collider, when an electrical fault caused a helium leak. New Scientist has posted them, along with explanations of what you can see. The sudden burst of gas shifted some of the huge superconducting magnets by half a meter, causing at least $21 million in damage."
Image

Woman Unable To Recognize Voices, Unless It's Sean Connery Screenshot-sm 68

A 60-year-old British woman is suffering from a neurological defect that is sure to put her in the next version of "The Man who Mistook His Wife for a Hat." She is unable to recognize any voice she hears — any voice, that is, but Sean Connery's. Unless she sees the face of the person speaking, she has no idea who is talking to her, even her daughter and co-worker's voices are unrecognizable. Dr. Brad Duchaine at University College London, thinks she might have the first documented case of vocal prosopagnosia, a condition which makes it extremely difficult for people to recognize faces. "His accent is distinctive," Duchaine explained. "And she is a British woman in her sixties ... let's say it's probable he got her attention."
Biotech

Submission + - Fungus Fire Spores with 180,000 g Acceleration

Hugh Pickens writes: "Although a variety of spore discharge processes have evolved among the fungi, those with the longest ranges are powered by hydrostatic pressure and include "squirt guns" that are most common in the Ascomycota and Zygomycota. In these fungi, fluid-filled stalks that support single spores or spore-filled sporangia, or cells called asci that contain multiple spores, are pressurized by osmosis. Because spores are discharged at such high speeds, most of the information on launch processes from previous studies has been inferred from mathematical models and is subject to a number of errors but now Nicholas Money, an expert on fungi at Miami University, has recorded the discharges with high speed cameras at 250,000 frames-a-second and discovered that fungi fire their spores with accelerations up to 180,000 g calling it "the fastest flight in nature." Money and his students, in a justified fit of ecstasy, have created a video of the first fungus opera."

Comment The Truth about C++ (Score 5, Funny) 371

On the 1st of January, 1998, Bjarne Stroustrup gave an interview to the IEEE's Computer magazine.

Naturally, the editors thought he would be giving a retrospective view of seven years of object-oriented design, using the language he created.

By the end of the interview, the interviewer got more than he had bargained for and, subsequently, the editor decided to suppress its contents, for the good of the industry, but, as with many of these things, there was a leak.

Here is a complete transcript of what was was said,unedited, and unrehearsed, so it isn't as neat as planned interviews.

You will find it interesting...

Interviewer: Well, it's been a few years since you changed the world of software design, how does it feel, looking back?

Stroustrup: Actually, I was thinking about those days, just before you arrived. Do you remember? Everyone was writing 'C' and, the trouble was, they were pretty damn good at it. Universities got pretty good at teaching it, too. They were turning out competent - I stress the word 'competent' - graduates at a phenomenal rate. That's what caused the problem.

Interviewer: problem?

Stroustrup: Yes, problem. Remember when everyone wrote Cobol?

Interviewer: Of course, I did too

Stroustrup: Well, in the beginning, these guys were like demi-gods. Their salaries were high, and they were treated like royalty.

Interviewer: Those were the days, eh?

Stroustrup: Right. So what happened? IBM got sick of it, and invested millions in training programmers, till they were a dime a dozen.

Interviewer: That's why I got out. Salaries dropped within a year, to the point where being a journalist actually paid better.

Stroustrup: Exactly. Well, the same happened with 'C' programmers.

Interviewer: I see, but what's the point?

Stroustrup: Well, one day, when I was sitting in my office, I thought of this little scheme, which would redress the balance a little. I thought 'I wonder what would happen, if there were a language so complicated, so difficult to learn, that nobody would ever be able to swamp the market with programmers? Actually, I got some of the ideas from X10, you know, X windows. That was such a bitch of a graphics system, that it only just ran on those Sun 3/60 things. They had all the ingredients for what I wanted. A really ridiculously complex syntax, obscure functions, and pseudo-OO structure. Even now, nobody writes raw X-windows code. Motif is the only way to go if you want to retain your sanity.

[NJW Comment: That explains everything. Most of my thesis work was in raw X-windows. :)]

Interviewer: You're kidding...?

Stroustrup: Not a bit of it. In fact, there was another problem. Unix was written in 'C', which meant that any 'C' programmer could very easily become a systems programmer. Remember what a mainframe systems programmer used to earn?

Interviewer: You bet I do, that's what I used to do.

Stroustrup: OK, so this new language had to divorce itself from Unix, by hiding all the system calls that bound the two together so nicely. This would enable guys who only knew about DOS to earn a decent living too.

Interviewer: I don't believe you said that...

Stroustrup: Well, it's been long enough, now, and I believe most people have figured out for themselves that C++ is a waste of time but, I must say, it's taken them a lot longer than I thought it would.

Interviewer: So how exactly did you do it?

Stroustrup: It was only supposed to be a joke, I never thought people would take the book seriously. Anyone with half a brain can see that object-oriented programming is counter-intuitive, illogical and inefficient.

Interviewer: What?

Stroustrup: And as for 're-useable code' - when did you ever hear of a company re-using its code?

Interviewer: Well, never, actually, but...

Stroustrup: There you are then. Mind you, a few tried, in the early days. There was this Oregon company - Mentor Graphics, I think they were called - really caught a cold trying to rewrite everything in C++ in about '90 or '91. I felt sorry for them really, but I thought people would learn from their mistakes.

Interviewer: Obviously, they didn't?

Stroustrup: Not in the slightest. Trouble is, most companies hush-up all their major blunders, and explaining a $30 million loss to the shareholders would have been difficult. Give them their due, though, they made it work in the end.

Interviewer: They did? Well, there you are then, it proves O-O works.

Stroustrup: Well, almost. The executable was so huge, it took five minutes to load, on an HP workstation, with 128MB of RAM. Then it ran like treacle. Actually, I thought this would be a major stumbling-block, and I'd get found out within a week, but nobody cared. Sun and HP were only too glad to sell enormously powerful boxes, with huge resources just to run trivial programs. You know, when we had our first C++ compiler, at AT&T, I compiled 'Hello World', and couldn't believe the size of the executable. 2.1MB

Interviewer: What? Well, compilers have come a long way, since then.

Stroustrup: They have? Try it on the latest version of g++ - you won't get much change out of half a megabyte. Also, there are several quite recent examples for you, from all over the world. British Telecom had a major disaster on their hands but, luckily, managed to scrap the whole thing and start again. They were luckier than Australian Telecom. Now I hear that Siemens is building a dinosaur, and getting more and more worried as the size of the hardware gets bigger, to accommodate the executables. Isn't multiple inheritance a joy?

Interviewer: Yes, but C++ is basically a sound language.

Stroustrup: You really believe that, don't you? Have you ever sat down and worked on a C++ project? Here's what happens: First, I've put in enough pitfalls to make sure that only the most trivial projects will work first time. Take operator overloading. At the end of the project, almost every module has it, usually, because guys feel they really should do it, as it was in their training course. The same operator then means something totally different in every module. Try pulling that lot together, when you have a hundred or so modules. And as for data hiding. God, I sometimes can't help laughing when I hear about the problems companies have making their modules talk to each other. I think the word 'synergistic' was specially invented to twist the knife in a project manager's ribs.

Interviewer: I have to say, I'm beginning to be quite appalled at all this. You say you did it to raise programmers' salaries? That's obscene.

Stroustrup: Not really. Everyone has a choice. I didn't expect the thing to get so much out of hand. Anyway, I basically succeeded. C++ is dying off now, but programmers still get high salaries - especially those poor devils who have to maintain all this crap. You do realise, it's impossible to maintain a large C++ software module if you didn't actually write it?

Interviewer: How come?

Stroustrup: You are out of touch, aren't you? Remember the typedef?

Interviewer: Yes, of course.

Stroustrup: Remember how long it took to grope through the header files only to find that 'RoofRaised' was a double precision number? Well, imagine how long it takes to find all the implicit typedefs in all the Classes in a major project.

Interviewer: So how do you reckon you've succeeded?

Stroustrup: Remember the length of the average-sized 'C' project? About 6 months. Not nearly long enough for a guy with a wife and kids to earn enough to have a decent standard of living. Take the same project, design it in C++ and what do you get? I'll tell you. One to two years. Isn't that great? All that job security, just through one mistake of judgement. And another thing. The universities haven't been teaching 'C' for such a long time, there's now a shortage of decent 'C' programmers. Especially those who know anything about Unix systems programming. How many guys would know what to do with 'malloc', when they've used 'new' all these years - and never bothered to check the return code. In fact, most C++ programmers throw away their return codes. Whatever happened to good ol' '-1'? At least you knew you had an error, without bogging the thing down in all that 'throw' 'catch' 'try' stuff.

Interviewer: But, surely, inheritance does save a lot of time?

Stroustrup: does it? Have you ever noticed the difference between a 'C' project plan, and a C++ project plan? The planning stage for a C++ project is three times as long. Precisely to make sure that everything which should be inherited is, and what shouldn't isn't. Then, they still get it wrong. Whoever heard of memory leaks in a 'C' program? Now finding them is a major industry. Most companies give up, and send the product out, knowing it leaks like a sieve, simply to avoid the expense of tracking them all down.

Interviewer: There are tools...

Stroustrup: Most of which were written in C++.

Interviewer: If we publish this, you'll probably get lynched, you do realise that?

Stroustrup: I doubt it. As I said, C++ is way past its peak now, and no company in its right mind would start a C++ project without a pilot trial. That should convince them that it's the road to disaster. If not, they deserve all they get. You know, I tried to convince Dennis Ritchie to rewrite Unix inC++.

Interviewer: Oh my God. What did he say?

Stroustrup: Well, luckily, he has a good sense of humor. I think both he and Brian figured out what I was doing, in the early days, but never let on. He said he'd help me write a C++ version of DOS, if I was interested.

Interviewer: Were you?

Stroustrup: Actually, I did write DOS in C++, I'll give you a demo when we're through. I have it running on a Sparc 20 in the computer room. Goes like a rocket on 4 CPU's, and only takes up 70 megs of disk.

Interviewer: What's it like on a PC?

Stroustrup: Now you're kidding. Haven't you ever seen Windows '95? I think of that as my biggest success. Nearly blew the game before I was ready, though.

Interviewer: You know, that idea of a Unix++ has really got me thinking. Somewhere out there, there's a guy going to try it.

Stroustrup: Not after they read this interview.

Interviewer: I'm sorry, but I don't see us being able to publish any of this.

Stroustrup: But it's the story of the century. I only want to be remembered by my fellow programmers, for what I've done for them. You know how much a C++ guy can get these days?

Interviewer: Last I heard, a really top guy is worth $70 - $80 an hour.

Stroustrup: See? And I bet he earns it. Keeping track of all the gotchas I put into C++ is no easy job. And, as I said before, every C++ programmer feels bound by some mystic promise to use every damn element of the language on every project. Actually, that really annoys me sometimes, even though it serves my original purpose. I almost like the language after all this time.

Interviewer: You mean you didn't before?

Stroustrup: Hated it. It even looks clumsy, don't you agree? But when the book royalties started to come in... well, you get the picture.

Interviewer: Just a minute. What about references? You must admit, you improved on 'C' pointers.

Stroustrup: Hmm. I've always wondered about that. Originally, I thought I had. Then, one day I was discussing this with a guy who'd written C++ from the beginning. He said he could never remember whether his variables were referenced or dereferenced, so he always used pointers. He said the little asterisk always reminded him.

Interviewer: Well, at this point, I usually say 'thank you very much' but it hardly seems adequate.

Stroustrup: Promise me you'll publish this. My conscience is getting the better of me these days.

Interviewer: I'll let you know, but I think I know what my editor will say.

Stroustrup: Who'd believe it anyway? Although, can you send me a copy of that tape?

Interviewer: I can do that.

Perl

Submission + - Perl helps man find love, and impress her (plover.com)

Christopher Blanc writes: "The other reason that the cover pictures are significant is that since my original goal in writing the programs was to impress my girlfriend, the cover pictures are therefore part of the output of the most successful Perl programs I've ever written. I wish all my programs achieved their design goals so spectacularly.

http://hop.perl.plover.com/cover.html"

Software

Submission + - Freenet releases 0.7.0rc2

evanbd writes: The Freenet Project has announced Freenet 0.7.0rc2. From the announcement: "Freenet is a global peer-to-peer network designed to allow users to publish and consume information without fear of censorship. Freenet 0.7 is a ground-up rewrite of Freenet. The key user-facing feature in Freenet 0.7 is the ability to operate Freenet in a "darknet" mode, where your Freenet node will only talk to other Freenet users that you trust. This makes it much more difficult for an adversary to discover that you are using Freenet, let alone what you are doing with it. 0.7 also includes significant improvements to both security and performance." Of course, for those of us who don't know anyone else running Freenet, or simply prefer it, there's also a non-darknet mode available.
Security

Submission + - Border Patrol Using Domestic Checkpoints (nwsource.com) 5

An anonymous reader writes: The Seattle Times has an article "Border Patrol "spot checks" on ferries provoke outrage in San Juan Islands" [I]n February, when federal agents started corralling everyone off domestic ferries into a fenced-off area in Anacortes and questioning them about their citizenship. It now happens once, maybe twice a week; no one has any way to know if they will be stopped.

The article goes on further, As for residents who refuse to cooperate or answer questions, Giuliano [the Border Patrol's deputy chief patrol agent for the Blaine border sector] said, agents will still run their license-plate numbers and search databases, detaining them until it can be determined whether they are here legally.

Anybody remember the movie, "Born in East L.A.?"

Slashback

Submission + - Views of the internet from 1995

cashman73 writes: I recently came across this article from the February 27, 1995, issue of Newsweek. In it, Clifford Stoll discusses this "new" thing that was just becoming popular at the time, known as the Internet. And proceeds to tell us why it will never really change society and the way in which we live. While he did get a few things right, like more or less correctly describing Usenet as a, "cacophany [that] more closely resembles citizens band radio, complete with handles, harassment, and anonymous threats", he was dead wrong on others. For example, he didn't see that we'd ever replace newspapers with internet websites, or that we'd ever purchase and read books online (a la Amazon & Kindle). He described reading a book online as, "an unpleasant chore: the myopic glow of a clunky computer replaces the friendly pages of a book. And you can't tote that laptop to the beach."

He also described the internet as a, "wasteland of unfiltered data", and told us about this difficulties in trying to hunt for the date of the Battle of Trafalgar, in the pre-Google and pre-Wikipedia era. And then he talks about the failures of the internet in the realm of political campaigning, citing one local government official who put up all his campaign releases online, only to get 30 hits. How shocked he must be today, seeing websites for every major political candidate, from US President on down to local city mayor elections, not to forget about all of the video out there, like the CNN/Youtube debates!

His comments on computers in the classroom were sort of a mixed bag, stating that computers will never replace teachers, but also failing to see how computers will be utilized in the classroom today.

In the end, the thing he argues most as the reason why this new internet thing would never really take off, is the lack of human contact, citing that computer networks isolated us more. He even goes on to say that a, "network chat line is a limp substitute for meeting friends over coffee." Which is interesting because, while he makes a valid point about the lack of in-person contact via the internet, he failed to predict that those same friends that met over coffee in 1995, would still be meeting for coffee today AND accessing the internet via the coffee shop's wireless internet to chat with other friends online.

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