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IT

Ask Slashdot: Unattended Maintenance Windows? 251

Posted by Soulskill
from the wake-me-if-there's-fire dept.
grahamsaa writes: Like many others in IT, I sometimes have to do server maintenance at unfortunate times. 6AM is the norm for us, but in some cases we're expected to do it as early as 2AM, which isn't exactly optimal. I understand that critical services can't be taken down during business hours, and most of our products are used 24 hours a day, but for some things it seems like it would be possible to automate maintenance (and downtime).

I have a maintenance window at about 5AM tomorrow. It's fairly simple — upgrade CentOS, remove a package, install a package, reboot. Downtime shouldn't be more than 5 minutes. While I don't think it would be wise to automate this window, I think with sufficient testing we might be able to automate future maintenance windows so I or someone else can sleep in. Aside from the benefit of getting a bit more sleep, automating this kind of thing means that it can be written, reviewed and tested well in advance. Of course, if something goes horribly wrong having a live body keeping watch is probably helpful. That said, we do have people on call 24/7 and they could probably respond capably in an emergency. Have any of you tried to do something like this? What's your experience been like?
United Kingdom

UK Gov't Plans To Push "Emergency" Surveillance Laws 146

Posted by timothy
from the back-in-line-citizen dept.
beaker_72 (1845996) writes The Guardian reports that the UK government has unveiled plans to introduce emergency surveillance laws into the UK parliament at the beginning of next week. These are aimed at reinforcing the powers of security services in the UK to force service providers to retain records of their customers phone calls and emails. The laws, which have been introduced after the European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled that existing laws invaded individual privacy, will receive cross-party support and so will not be subjected to scrutiny or challenged in Parliament before entering the statute books. But as Tom Watson (Labour backbench MP and one of few dissenting voices) has pointed out, the ECJ ruling was six weeks ago, so why has the government waited until now to railroad something through. Unless of course they don't want it scrutinised too closely.
Earth

Blueprints For Taming the Climate Crisis 384

Posted by Soulskill
from the pump-all-of-our-smog-into-the-sun dept.
mdsolar sends this story from the NY Times: Here's what your future will look like if we are to have a shot at preventing devastating climate change. Within about 15 years every new car sold in the United States will be electric. ... Up to 60 percent of power might come from nuclear sources. And coal's footprint will shrink drastically, perhaps even disappear from the power supply. This course, created by a team of energy experts, was unveiled on Tuesday in a report for the United Nations (PDF) that explores the technological paths available for the world's 15 main economies to both maintain reasonable rates of growth and cut their carbon emissions enough by 2050 to prevent climatic havoc. It offers a sobering conclusion: We might be able to pull it off. But it will take an overhaul of the way we use energy, and a huge investment in the development and deployment of new energy technologies. Significantly, it calls for an entirely different approach to international diplomacy on the issue of how to combat climate change.
The Courts

Tor Project Sued Over a Revenge Porn Business That Used Its Service 309

Posted by Soulskill
from the tor-is-a-series-of-eeeeevil-tubes dept.
redletterdave writes: The Tor Project has been sued in the state of Texas over a revenge porn website that used its free encrypted communications service. The plaintiff in the case — Shelby Conklin, a criminal justice major at the University of North Texas — alleges a revenge porn site called Pinkmeth "gained unauthorized access to nude photographs" she owned and posted them to the internet. She also said Tor, which The Economist once called "a dark corner of the web," was involved in an active "civil conspiracy" with Pinkmeth because the revenge porn website used the anonymous communications service to prevent others from tracking its location.
Math

The Billionaire Mathematician 90

Posted by Soulskill
from the not-enough-room-in-the-margin-for-all-these-benjamins dept.
An anonymous reader writes Dr. James Simons received his doctorate at the age of 23. He was breaking codes for the NSA at 26, and was put in charge of Stony Brook University's math department at 30. He received the Veblen Prize in Geometry in 1976. Today, he's a multi-billionaire, using his fortune to set up educational foundations for math and science. "His passion, however, is basic research — the risky, freewheeling type. He recently financed new telescopes in the Chilean Andes that will look for faint ripples of light from the Big Bang, the theorized birth of the universe. The afternoon of the interview, he planned to speak to Stanford physicists eager to detect the axion, a ghostly particle thought to permeate the cosmos but long stuck in theoretical limbo. Their endeavor 'could be very exciting,' he said, his mood palpable, like that of a kid in a candy store." Dr. Simons is quick to say this his persistence, more than his intelligence, is key to his success: "I wasn't the fastest guy in the world. I wouldn't have done well in an Olympiad or a math contest. But I like to ponder. And pondering things, just sort of thinking about it and thinking about it, turns out to be a pretty good approach."
China

Chinese Company '3D-Prints' 10 Buildings In One Day 118

Posted by Soulskill
from the you-haven't-seen-a-real-mcmansion-yet dept.
Lucas123 writes: A company in China has used additive manufacturing to print 10 single-room buildings out of recycled construction materials in under a day as offices for a Shanghai industrial park. The cost: about $5,000 each. The company, Suzhou-based Yingchuang New Materials, used four massive 3D printers supplied by the WinSun Decoration Design Engineering Co. Each printer is 20 feet tall, 33 feet wide and 132 feet long. Like their desktop counterparts, the construction-grade 3D printers use fused deposition modeling (FDM), where instead of thermoplastics layer after layer of cement is deposited atop one another. The cement contains hardeners that make each layer firm enough for the next. Yingchuang's technique builds structures off site in a factory one wall at a time. The structures are then assembled onsite. The technique is unlike U.S.-based Contour Crafting, a company whose 3D printing technology to form the entire outer structure of buildings at once, The Yingchuang factory and research center, a 33,000 square foot building, was also constructed using the 3D printing manufacturing technique. It only took one month to construct.
Microsoft

Microsoft Opens 'Transparency Center' For Governments To Review Source Code 178

Posted by Soulskill
from the proof-is-in-the-proprietary-pudding dept.
MojoKid writes with news that Microsoft has announced the opening of a 'Transparency Center' at their Redmond campus, a place where governments who use Microsoft software can come to review the source code in order to make sure it's not compromised by outside agencies. (The company is planning another Transparency Center for Brussels in Belgium.) In addition, Microsoft announced security improvements to several of its cloud products: As of now, Outlook.com uses TLS (Transport Layer Security) to provide end-to-end encryption for inbound and outbound email — assuming that the provider on the other end also uses TLS. The TLS standard has been in the news fairly recently after discovery of a major security flaw in one popular package (gnuTLS), but Microsoft notes that it worked with multiple international companies to secure its version of the standard. Second, OneDrive now uses Perfect Forward Secrecy (PFS). Microsoft refers to this as a type of encryption, but PFS isn't a standard like AES or 3DES — instead, it's a particular method of ensuring that an attacker who intercepts a particular key cannot use that information to break the entire key sequence. Even if you manage to gain access to one file or folder, in other words, that information can't be used to compromise the entire account.
United States

30% of Americans Aren't Ready For the Next Generation of Technology 191

Posted by Soulskill
from the controlling-potatoes-with-your-brain dept.
sciencehabit writes: "Thanks to a decade of programs geared toward giving people access to the necessary technology, by 2013 some 85% of Americans were surfing the World Wide Web. But how effectively are they using it? A new survey suggests that the digital divide has been replaced by a gap in digital readiness. It found that nearly 30% of Americans either aren't digitally literate or don't trust the Internet. That subgroup tended to be less educated, poorer, and older than the average American."
Earth

Ninety-Nine Percent of the Ocean's Plastic Is Missing 304

Posted by samzenpus
from the In-his-plastic-house-at-R'lyeh-dead-Cthulhu-waits-dreaming dept.
sciencehabit writes Millions of tons. That's how much plastic should be floating in the world's oceans, given our ubiquitous use of the stuff. But a new study (abstract) finds that 99% of this plastic is missing. One disturbing possibility: Fish are eating it. If that's the case, "there is potential for this plastic to enter the global ocean food web," says Carlos Duarte, an oceanographer at the University of Western Australia, Crawley. "And we are part of this food web."
United States

White House May Name Patent Reform Opponent As New Head of Patent Office 211

Posted by samzenpus
from the fox-in-the-henhouse dept.
An anonymous reader writes The Obama Administration is set to appoint Phil Johnson, a pharmaceutical industry executive, as the next Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, according to sources. The move is likely to anger patent reform advocates given Johnson's past efforts to block legislation aimed at reining in patent trolls, and in light of his positions that appear to contradict the White House's professed goal of fixing the patent system. The top job at the Patent Office has been vacant for around 18-months since the departure of previous director David Kappos in early 2013. Currently, the office is being managed by former Googler Michelle Lee, who was appointed deputy director in December. Earlier this month, Republican Senators led by Orrin Hatch (R-UT) sent a letter to President Obama that praised Lee but that also described the current USPTO management structure as "unfair, untenable and unacceptable for our country's intellectual property agency."

The confusion of a staff member is measured by the length of his memos. -- New York Times, Jan. 20, 1981

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