Bryan Gividen writes "Time.com is running a story on the previously unidentified blob floating off of the coast of Alaska. The article states that the blob is an algae bloom — far less sinister (or exciting) than any The Thing or The Blob comparison that was jokingly made. From the article: '"It's sort of like a swimming pool that hasn't been cleaned in a while." The blob, Konar said, is a microalgae made up of 'billions and billions of individuals.'"
bfwebster writes "Here in Denver, we have E-470, a toll section of the 470 beltway, that uses the usual transponder attached to your windshield. Fair enough, and I make use of it, particularly in driving to the airport. But they've just implemented new technology on E-470 that allows anyone to drive through the automated toll gates. If you don't have a transponder, it takes a photo of your license plate and sends a monthly bill to your house. As a result, the company that runs E-470 plans to close all human-staffed toll booths by mid-summer. And as an article in this morning's Rocky Mountain News notes, 'Such a system could be deployed on other roads, including some that motorists now use free. The result: a new source of money for highways and bridges badly in need of repair.' You can bet that legislators, mayors, and city councilpersons everywhere will see this as an even-better source of income than red-light cameras. You've been warned."
A company nearby recently produced its (estimated) trillionth gel capsule.
An anonymous reader points out news that the music and movie studios are attempting to develop a new type of DRM that would allow customers more flexibility in playing content on multiple devices. The Digital Entertainment Content Ecosystem (DECE) would establish a list of devices in your personal "domain" (unrelated to web domains), and minimizes or removes restrictions within that domain. TechCrunch summarizes DECE and notes that many of the big corporations have decided to support it. "The ecosystem envisioned by Singer et al revolves around a common set of formats, interfaces and other standards. Devices built to the DECE specifications would be able to play any DECE-branded content and work with any DECE-certified service. The goal is to create for downloads the same kind of interoperability that's been true for physical products, such as CDs and DVDs. Where it gets really interesting, though, is the group's stated intention to make digital files as flexible and permissive as CDs, at least within the confines of someone's personal domain. Once you've acquired a file, you could play it on any of your devices -- if it couldn't be passed directly from one DECE-ready device to another, you'd be allowed to download additional copies. And when you're away from home, you could stream the file to any device with a DECE-compatible Web browser."
HangingChad writes: "As if the laptop search at the border wasn't invasive enough, DHS published a new policy that's positively jaw-dropping. According to the article officials may "...may take a traveler's laptop or other electronic device to an off-site location for an unspecified period of time without any suspicion of wrongdoing, as part of border search policies...". It gets better. "...officials may share copies of the laptop's contents with other agencies and private entities for language translation, data decryption or other reasons, according to the policies, dated July 16..." DHS claiming the right to clone off your laptop contents to decrypt and analyze at their convenience. A policy so invasive even our do-nothing Congress has taken note. "The policies . . . are truly alarming," said Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.), who is probing the government's border search practices." Really? Ya think?"
Link to Original Source
Link to Original Source
dstates writes: The Washington Post reports that a new Department of Homeland Security policy allows agents to seize a laptop or other electronic device at a border crossing without the need to show any cause for suspicion. Further, the device can be held for an unspecified period of time, and both the device and its contents may be shared with other government agencies and private entities. The new policies apply to anyone entering the country, including U.S. citizens and covers "any device capable of storing information in digital or analog form," including hard drives, flash drives, cellphones, iPods, pagers, beepers, video and audio tapes and "all papers and other written documentation," including books, pamphlets and "written materials commonly referred to as 'pocket trash' or 'pocket litter.'" Sen. Russell Feingold (D-Wis.) is quoted as saying "The policies . . . are truly alarming,". He is probing the government's border search practices and intends to introduce legislation soon that would require reasonable suspicion for border searches. The full DHS policy statement is available on line.
Pickens writes "Dr. Dobbs has an interesting interview with Paul Jansen, the managing director of TIOBE Software, about the Programming Community Index, which measures the popularity of programming languages by monitoring their web presence. Since the TIOBE index has been published now for more than 6 years, it gives an interesting picture about trends in the usage of programming languages. Jansen says not much has affected the top ten programming languages in the last five years, with only Python entering the top 10 (replacing COBOL), but C and C++ are definitely losing ground. 'Languages without automated garbage collection are getting out of fashion,' says Jansen. 'The chance of running into all kinds of memory problems is gradually outweighing the performance penalty you have to pay for garbage collection.'"
Ponca City, We Love You writes "Factories in China produce iPhones that are exported to the United States and Europe and then smuggled right back in helping explain why Apple says it sold about 3.7 million iPhones last year while only 2.3 million are actually registered in the United States and Europe. For Apple, the booming overseas market for iPhones is a sign of its marketing prowess but also a blow to Apple's business model, costing the company as much as $1 billion over the next three years, according to some analysts. Since negotiations between Apple and China Mobile, the world's biggest mobile-phone service operator with more than 350 million subscribers, broke down last month, the official release of the iPhone in China has been stalled producing a thriving gray market. Copycat models are another possible threat to Apple in China. Not long after the iPhone was released, research and development teams in China were taking it apart, trying to copy or steal the design and software for use in iPhone knockoffs, or iClones and some people who have used the clones say they are sophisticated and have many functions that mimic the iPhone. "A lot of people here want to get an iPhone," says Shanghai lawyer Conlyn Chan."
BobB writes to mention Sun has acquired Innotek, open source desktop virtualization vendor. "VirtualBox will remain free of charge under Sun and be placed in the company's xVM portfolio of virtualization products, Steve Wilson, Sun's vice president of xVM, wrote in a blog posting. 'If we're going to continue to give it away, why is Sun investing in VirtualBox? In short, because the developers that build applications have a huge amount of influence on how they're deployed," Wilson wrote in his blog. "We believe that developers using VirtualBox can help guide their friends in the data center towards xVM Server as the preferred deployment engine. Beyond that, I think there is a huge opportunity to link with Sun's other developer-related assets like NetBeans, Glassfish and (soon) MySQL.'"
An anonymous reader writes "I have code that I've written for my current company that I'd like to open-source. The only problem is that my company has the usual clause that says that anything I write belongs to them. Now that they've decided to abandon my code for another product that replaces its function, I'd like to continue working on my project as well as open it up to the world. The easy part is cleaning it up and posting it on SourceForge and Freshmeat. The hard part is making sure that I am free of any legal complications in the future. I've looked online to try to find a legal document I could present to my employer to get them to sign off on it, but I'm not having any luck. Has anyone else been in this boat or can refer me to some legal documentation that may help out?"
Ponca City, We Love You writes "When government officials announced last month that a top-secret spy satellite would come falling out of the sky they said little about the satellite itself. They didn't need to. Spotters equipped with little more than a pair of binoculars, a stop watch and star charts, had already uncovered some of the deepest of the government's expensive secrets and shared them on the Internet. Thousands of people form the spotter community. Many look for historical relics of the early space age, working from publicly available orbital information. Still others are drawn to the secretive world of spy satellites, with about a dozen hobbyists doing most of the observing. When a new spy satellite is launched the hobbyists will collaborate on sightings around the world to determine its orbit, and even guess at its function. They often share their information on their web site, satobs.org."
On January 15th we asked you for tech-oriented questions we could send to the various presidential candidates, and you responded like mad. The candidates were the exact opposite: not a single one answered emails we sent to their "media inquiry" links or email addresses. Slashdot has more readers than all but a handful of major daily papers, so that's kind of strange. Maybe they figure our votes aren't worth much or that hardly any of us vote. In any case, the Ron Paul campaign finally responded, due to some string-pulling by a Slashdot reader who knows some of Ron Paul's Texas campaign people. Perhaps other Slashdot readers -- like you (hint hint) -- can pull a few strings with some of the other campaigns and get them to communicate with us. Use this email address, please. But first, you'll probably want to read the Ron Paul campaign's answers to your questions (below).
NewScientist is reporting that NASA has kicked their previous space partner, Rocketplane Kistler, to the curb and is in search of a new commercial space partner. The new partnership will try to develop a new shuttle to service the International Space Station. "The GAO's decision clears the way for NASA to select a new COTS partner in addition to SpaceX, whose partnership with NASA continues. Only $32 million was paid to Rocketplane Kistler, leaving $175 million for new partnerships."
Matt Barton writes "Gamasutra is running a feature on the venerable Apple II platform, which practically defined the early home computer industry and was home to many of the greatest games and developers of all time. The authors discuss the platform's lifespan and many iterations, struggles with illegal distribution, and legendary Apple II games such as Prince of Persia, John Madden Football, and Ultima. 'How big of a problem was piracy? Although several software authors claim that they stopped developing games because of rampant piracy and the subsequent loss of revenue, piracy did expose more computer owners to more games than they otherwise would have been -- this was at a time before ubiquitous demos made it easier to "try before you buy." Another benefit of this piracy is that much of the software archived today at online repositories are the cracked versions.'"
An anonymous reader found that "For the last 30 years, Lucasfilm has created special holiday greeting cards for its employees and business partners. For the first time ever, we have compiled most of the Star Wars-themed Holiday Cards on one page." My favorite is 2005. That would make a cool poster or something.