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Comment Re:What do I do with one? (Score 5, Informative) 212

Adafruit has a great series of lessons on how to get it setup and examples of some interesting uses. They also have a ton of useful accessories, cases, etc.

I've done a few Arduino-like experiments using their Pi Cobbler breakout board. I got mine to output status information (date/time, IP Address, network stats) and/or a twitter feed on a cheap 16x2 LCD display. With a cheap wifi dongle and one of those USB emergency cellphone chargers for power, it's completely independent of wires, so I'm thinking about adding some motors and maybe a few IR sensors to create a basic rover. Once you get the distro setup to auto-login and install TightVNC server and enable SSH, you just need to give it a network connection to control it remotely from a PC. I only hooked mine up to an HDMI TV once on first boot to get those things running. Now I just turn it on and wait for the IP to appear on the LCD display and SSH or VNC into it.

I agree that initially it was tough to come up with useful things to do with it, but the Adafruit tutorials went a long way toward inspiring me and walking me through the more mundane details of taking care of the basics (SSH, VNC, WiFi, etc.) so that you can focus on actually doing something cool with it. You can also search around for BeagleBone or Arduino + Ethernet Shield projects for ideas since the Pi can do most of what those can at a fraction of the price. Good luck!

Comment Re:I think that's all college students (Score 3, Interesting) 823

It sounds like you were able to avoid some of the more common pitfalls. Kudos on that. I was always pretty sure I'd stay on the individual contributor path, climbing the technical ladder and writing code for the rest of my career... until I wasn't. At one point, I got a taste of management and became hooked. It rivaled the feeling I got 20+ years ago when I wrote my first program in AppleSoft BASIC and filled up the screen with random colored boxes... I felt like a master of the universe. As much as I have enjoyed commanding electrons to do my bidding, leading a team of talented individuals and pushing them to exceed their perceived/self-imposed limitations, and accomplish something as a team that you never could have done yourself, has also been very rewarding and pushes me to expand my expertise beyond my comfort zone. Now that I only really write code for fun, I think I enjoy it even more than I did when I was getting paid for it.

The other day, I came across a site, http://www.nand2tetris.org/ that is a free course on computer architecture. In it, you build up a computer system from simple Nand gates, up through an ALU, CPU, Memory, and then the entire software stack, from machine code, assembly (via an assembler), high-level code via a compiler, etc. I took a course like this in college and it was another great "Aha!" moment for me where the connection between software and hardware (and eventually the basic physics of semiconductors) all came together for me. It was great to work through the hardware part of this course again (I got through it in an afternoon, but I was pretty addicted once I started). Give it a look, I think you'll enjoy it.

Comment Re:I think that's all college students (Score 2) 823

I don't look at it that way. One of the things that drew me to engineering was the never ending abundance of challenges. I love solving problems and learning new things. Whenever I start to get cocky or too comfortable, it's nice to remind myself (now that I've learned it the hard way) that there's always more out there... more to learn, more difficult problems to solve, different types of challenges (physical, mental, etc.) that I can strive for.

I don't regret any part of my experiences detailed above, I'm grateful for having had the opportunities that I've had. I think the truly depressing view is the one in which you think you've reached the summit of the mountain and there's nowhere to go but down.

Comment Re:I think that's all college students (Score 5, Insightful) 823

Go Big Red!

Seriously though, I think almost all engineers go through a similar progression. Spend high school overachieving (probably at the expense of social development), work hard and get into a great college, get knocked down a peg when you realize that you're either somewhere in the meaty part of the curve among other prospective engineers, or that you'll actually need to *try* in order to get that A for the first time in your life... once you do succeed (or maybe just fail to fail) you graduate college thinking you're ready to take on the world... enter the business world and realize that the fancy education you paid so much for is only good enough to get your foot in the door...come to the realization that respect is earned by experience and demonstrated value... spend a few years building up credibility and expertise, then realize that being a manager (or director, or VP, etc.) requires some serious people skills (remember all those parties and extracurricular activities you skipped in high school in favor of hacking and video games?) and either choose to stay on the individual contributor path and hone your skills to guru level or take the plunge and start educating yourself (both formally and informally) in how to effectively manage a bunch of cocky engineers.

That's my story in a nutshell, and I think there are probably quite a few people out there who can relate. The cyclical nature of it is somewhat poetic. Just when you think you've reached the summit, you're finally able to see the next peak.
Windows

Windows 7 Not Getting A Second Service Pack 441

An anonymous reader writes "Windows 7 was expected to have Service Pack 2 issued roughly 3 years from its introduction (late 2009). People, including myself, have been asking 'Where is it?' and the answer apparently is, 'It isn't, and will never be' which lends itself to the giant pain of installing Windows 7, then Service Pack 1, and hundreds of smaller hotfix patches. Why Microsoft? No go to Service Pack 2 for Windows 7!"

Comment Re:Simple (Score 2) 515

I don't think that's really a fair analogy. Anti-virus software attempts to detect malicious code and prevent it from doing damage. Yes, some malicious code is executed via zero-day vulnerabilities in operating systems (i.e. security guard left a door unlocked), but a lot of virus infections are caused by unsafe user behavior. Users open/execute unknown email attachments, click malicious links, and willingly install sketchy software that purports to do some useful function for free while doing something malicious in the background. In this case, the owner of the building is telling the security guard to give the men in ski masks free reign of the building.

Microsoft's User Account Control attempts to mitigate this risk by requiring the user to confirm any program that requires elevated privileges to run, even if the user is a local administrator ("Are you sure you want to let XYZ program make changes to your computer?"). Even if the user mistakenly grants such privileges, a competent anti-virus package can raise a second alert - hopefully the user realizes they've made a mistake at this point (i.e. security guard says, "hey boss, those guys look like criminals, are you sure you really want me to let them in?). If they override that and let the program run, then all bets are off.

As far as I know, MS has a pretty good track record of fixing vulnerabilities that it knows about (i.e. mistakenly unlocked doors), and the occasional headline about a zero-day exploit shouldn't undermine your trust in their (free) anti-virus product.
Music

Submission + - How The RIAA Lost The Piracy Battle->

nmpost writes: "The RIAA, the Recording Industry Association of America, is a trade group that represents the recording industry. The group is most famous for suing people who illegally downloaded music in the past decade. Though most people could sympathize with a company being stole from, sentiments quickly turned against the association when it went after people for hundreds of thousands of dollars for downloading a few songs. The exorbitant fees were meant to be a warning against file sharing, but it actually had the opposite effect, galvanizing more people to seek free music. The RIAA made a terrible miscalculation by attacking its own consumers. Despite the so called piracy epidemic, the industry was making plenty of money in the early part of the last decade. They went on to spend millions of dollars suing their own consumers, when they should have been trying to innovate and develop a better delivery system. The success of Apple’s iTunes store proved that consumers were willing to pay for music if the delivery system was convenient. To this day millions of people purchase music from iTunes."
Link to Original Source

Comment Re:This is getting beyond ridiculousness. (Score 1) 217

Both analogies (rental car license plates, theater seats) are great and fit the situation very well... 2 of the best I've heard.

My point is that the case should be focused on determining whether or not there is sufficient evidence that the defendant violated the law, and most cases against a John Doe based solely on an IP address should be dismissed immediately based on that criterion. It shouldn't hinge on which side's lesson in network infrastructure resonates better with a technology-ignorant judge. Instead, these suits are allowed to stand and defendants are shaken-down for settlements without a judge ever getting the chance to be enlightened by biased lawyers on the nuances of TCP/IP. I'm not saying they need to be certified Network Engineers, but a basic understanding of the underlying technology (and how the laws apply to it) should be required.

Comment Re:This is getting beyond ridiculousness. (Score 3, Interesting) 217

Judges need to have a basic understanding (beyond that of your average grandparent) about how the underlying technology works in order to make a fair legal decision. One example that comes to mind are the lawsuits brought by the RIAA against John Does based on records of an IP address downloading or uploading a file. IP Addresses do not uniquely identify a person or even (most of the time) a single computer yet they allow these companies to harass individuals without sufficient evidence linking a specific person to any crime. I'm willing to bet that at one point in your life, you have probably operated a WiFi router either without security or using easily-broken WEP. If a stranger used your network to commit a crime, wouldn't you prefer a judge with a basic understanding of how networks and IP addresses work so that you could make an adequate defense? Or would you be ok with the prosecution dumbing it down for the judge and convincing them that "IP addresses are like social security numbers for computers"?
The Courts

Boston Pays Out $170,000 To Man Arrested For Recording Police 270

Ian Lamont writes "The City of Boston has reached a $170,000 settlement with Simon Glik, who was arrested by Boston Police in 2007 after using his mobile phone to record police arresting another man on Boston Common. Police claimed that Glik had violated state wiretapping laws, but later dropped the charges and admitted the officers were wrong to arrest him. Glik had brought a lawsuit against the city (aided by the ACLU) because he claimed his civil rights were violated. According to today's ACLU statement: 'As part of the settlement, Glik agreed to withdraw his appeal to the Community Ombudsman Oversight Panel. He had complained about the Internal Affairs Division's investigation of his complaint and the way they treated him. IAD officers made fun of Glik for filing the complaint, telling him his only remedy was filing a civil lawsuit. After the City spent years in court defending the officers' arrest of Glik as constitutional and reasonable, IAD reversed course after the First Circuit ruling and disciplined two of the officers for using "unreasonable judgment" in arresting Glik.'"
Businesses

Bring Back the 40-Hour Work Week 969

Barbara, not Barbie writes with this quote from an article at AlterNet about how the average work week is becoming longer, and why that's not a good thing: "... overtime is only effective over very short sprints. This is because (as Sidney Chapman showed in 1909) daily productivity starts falling off in the second week, and declines rapidly with every successive week as burnout sets in. Without adequate rest, recreation, nutrition, and time off to just be, people get dull and stupid. They can't focus. They spend more time answering e-mail and goofing off than they do working. They make mistakes that they'd never make if they were rested; and fixing those mistakes takes longer because they're fried. Robinson writes that he's seen overworked software teams descend into a negative-progress mode, where they are actually losing ground week over week because they're so mentally exhausted that they're making more errors than they can fix. For every four Americans working a 50-hour week, every week, there's one American who should have a full-time job, but doesn't. Our rampant unemployment problem would vanish overnight if we simply worked the way we're supposed to by law. We will not turn this situation around until we do what our 19th-century ancestors did: confront our bosses, present them with the data, and make them understand that what they are doing amounts to employee abuse — and that abuse is based on assumptions that are directly costing them untold potential profits."

Comment Re:Comparison of technologies (Score 1) 624

RFID is not a challenge/response system. It's a barcode that is read with RF instead of a laser. There is no microchip, no encryption code running on the passport, or any other intelligence. The only (security) value of RFID over a plain old barcode is that they aren't trivially easy to copy/fake with the average home computer/printer. If you were going to try to modify an e-passport (changing a birthdate or photo, for example), you would need the appropriate hardware and know-how to modify or replace the RFID tag so that the printed data matched the digital data. So it makes it more difficult or inconvenient to circumvent the system, but by no means does it provide the level of security that an active challenge/response sytem (think SmartCard) provides.

The RFID tag typically has all of the information that is visually printed on the passport and some countries encode the person's photo as well. Scanning the tag reads the information, providing a double-check against what's printed on the passport and can also be used to look-up additional information from databases like the no-fly list. The same could theoretically be accomplished with a printed 2D DataMatrix barcode, although if you wanted to encode the photo it would probably need to be pretty large (likely larger than the passport itself).
Education

Pentagon Drafts Kids To Build Drones and Robots 173

MrSeb writes "In a world where warfare is fast becoming fielded by remote controlled and autonomous robots, innovation is the key to victory. The most technologically advanced superpower can see more, plan better, and attack from further away than its inferior adversaries. What better way to revolutionize the drone and robotics industry than use the brilliant minds of our children? That's what DARPA and the Defense Department's research and development arm thinks, anyway. The Manufacturing Experimentation and Outreach Initiative, part of the Adaptive Vehicle Make project, is slated to reach a thousand schools in and out of the country, roping in the brightest minds to develop robotics and advance technology in new and interesting ways. Funded by the Department of Defense, the program comes with a steep cost: The DoD wants unlimited rights to everything the students build. It sounds almost like something Orson Scott Card would dream up."

"The Avis WIZARD decides if you get to drive a car. Your head won't touch the pillow of a Sheraton unless their computer says it's okay." -- Arthur Miller

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