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Submission + - "The Politics of Star Trek" Is Unlikely Trigger Much Discussion On Slashdot

smitty_one_each writes: Timothy Sandefur, a lawyer at the Pacific Legal Foundation has written a breezy overview of the politics of the little-known show Star Trek. His thesis:

the key to Star Trek’s longevity and cultural penetration was its seriousness of purpose, originally inspired by creator Gene Roddenberry’s science fiction vision. Modeled on Gulliver’s Travels, the series was meant as an opportunity for social commentary, and it succeeded ingeniously, with episodes scripted by some of the era’s finest science fiction writers. Yet the development of Star Trek’s moral and political tone over 50 years also traces the strange decline of American liberalism since the Kennedy era.

The article traces through episodes at each phase of the franchise, exploring literary allusions and lamenting that

"Star Trek's latest iterations--the 'reboot' films directed by J.J. Abrams--shrug at the franchise's former philosophical depth"

I mean, if we're going to call it a franchise, why should it not be to thought what fast food is to nutrition?

Submission + - The Ottawa Linux Symposium Needs You! (

smitty_one_each writes: I haven't actually attended since 2008, but OLS is something worth supporting, whether you're a "newbie" like me, an über hacker like Linus, or just want to check out a wonderful Canadian city in the summer. I chipped in a nominal amount.

Check out this Indegogo project, which lays out a sad tale, but with some hope of redemption, and contribute whatever you can to keep a great event alive.

Submission + - Pssst: You Want A Secret Ballot

smitty_one_each writes: Per the Daily Caller

A Clemson University professor is developing a new electronic voting system that will allow voters to cast their ballots from home computers, tablets and smartphones.
As Clemson’s chair of human-centered computing, Juan Gilbert has lead teams of students over the last 10 years to create an online voting system accessible at home or on the go that will be more accurate, have increased verification and make voting more accessible to people with disabilities by offering mobile and voice-command options.

It is laudable to improve accessibility for all voters. If you're getting mugged for taxes, you really should be casting a ballot.
At the same time, retaining anonymity is key. That's why, in the polling location where I've served in the last couple of elections, verifying voter eligibility is separate from the part where the ballot is cast. Information Technology professionals would tend to want to engineer all of the ambiguity out of the system. However, the easier it is to correlate a specific person to an election outcome, the more likely abuses become.
You really don't want Checkov's Gun showing up at election time.

User Journal

Submission + - How about an intelligibile interface (

smitty_one_each writes: Trying to figure out the /. interface.
I know that they are smart, and I am not, but their brains have reached a stage where making a new journal entry seems impossible.
It's clearly my fault for being so stupid, but it seems trying a new submission with a 'journal' tag might work.


Submission + - Alzheimers--virally driven?

smitty_one_each writes: ESR points to a Science Daily article with compelling evidence:

The team discovered that the HSV1 DNA is located very specifically in amyloid plaques: 90% of plaques in Alzheimer's disease sufferers' brains contain HSV1 DNA, and most of the viral DNA is located within amyloid plaques. The team had previously shown that HSV1 infection of nerve-type cells induces deposition of the main component, beta amyloid, of amyloid plaques. Together, these findings strongly implicate HSV1 as a major factor in the formation of amyloid deposits and plaques, abnormalities thought by many in the field to be major contributors to Alzheimer's disease.

As ESR puts it:

Herpes simplex type I is dirt-common — most people have asymptomatic infection by it in their peripheral nervous systems. When you get old and your immune system loses some oomph, the virus can cross the blood-brain barrier and start doing damage. The plaques seem to be the result of virus-induced cell death.

May fortune smile upon the efforts to cure both.


Submission + - Small Car Hybrid Retrofit (

smitty_one_each writes: TreeHugger points to a Danish outfit that can make your small car a hybrid:

Poulsen's Hybrid Kit will work on any car with 5" wheels or larger, be they front drive, rear drive, and all wheel drive. As they put it the kit's development came about from the observation that "only 10-15 horsepower is required to propel a compact or mid-size automobile along a level road at a steady 60 mph. leading to the conclusion that this relatively small amount of electric power would be able to cope with 70-85% of normal driving, only aided by the combustion engine during start up and when extra energy is required for acceleration and hill climbing."

Surely this will warm Al Gore's heart, if not the UAW's.

GNU is Not Unix

Submission + - GCC Plug-in Architecture: Vote Yes

smitty_one_each writes: The Linux Weekly News remains one of the best sources of information on the Linux kernel in particular and F/OSS software in general.
GCC has played a crucial role in getting F/OSS software anyware at all.
LWN has paid attention to the lack of a plugin architecture for GCC here and returns with an update
Historically, the concern has been that plugins might tempt companies to take functionality out of public view, into *gasp* restrictively licensed binaries.
Recent thought is that something akin the the Linux kernel approach of an unstable API might be an effective form of negative feedback for such crassness.
GCC itself has carried a GPL exception anyway, so that proprietary applications compiled with GCC and linking against its runtime library do not, themselves, count as GPL-derivative.
The gist of the current idea is to tweak the exception to foul the GPL exception when non-GPL code is incorporated into GCC.
The benefits for optimization and documentation outweigh such risks as may exist. Much time has passed since the FSF founding, and the threat situation bears review.
Miscreants will fare poorly in the court of public opinion. Happy hacking!
It's funny.  Laugh.

Submission + - BDFL born May, 1995

smitty_one_each writes: Guido's blog on Artima reveals the genesis of the title Benevolent Dictator For Life (BDFL):

I believe I've tracked down the origin of the term Benevolent Dictator For Life (BDFL) to a Python meeting in 1995.

Thus, this term was not cribbed from a Monty Python sketch, and your opportunity to win a Beverage Dat's Free (Libre) of your choice from Cowboy Neal in a bet on the topic has officially been missed.


Submission + - Waiting for a Fritz Lang Time

smitty_one_each writes: It will be instructive to see all of Metropolis

Metropolis, which is set in a futuristic city state and explores the clash between workers and their capitalist exploiters, was at the time one of the most expensive films ever made. Produced in the Babelsberg studios on the outskirts of Berlin, it cost around 7m Reichsmarks, but was hated by critics and the public alike. It was shortened by the American company Paramount Pictures, who considered it impenetrable for the US market, leading to an oversimplification of the plot, the disappearance of key scenes and the sidelining of significant characters.

In the first place, auteurs need to quit underestimating the viewing public. It's OK to challenge people and teach them something.
In the second place, this news serves up a fine excuse for those who haven't seen the movie (me): "I was waiting for it to get out of beta".


Submission + - NASA Voyager Data Rescued

smitty_one_each writes:
Beyond the edge of the solar system, something has gradually dragged two of America's oldest space probes — Pioneer 10 and Pioneer 11 — a quarter-million miles off course. Astrophysicists have struggled 15 years in vain to identify the infinitesimal force at play. The Pioneer anomaly, as it is called, throws a monkey wrench into celestial mechanics.
Slava Turyshev may have found the answer in NASA's trash. Reconstructing decades of discarded spacecraft data, the Russian-born astrophysicist and the private space enthusiasts helping him say they believe they are on the verge of solving a mystery of time and gravity that has perplexed a generation of physicists and might have confounded Newton and Einstein.
Besides the cool astrophysics angle, there is also the data recovery angle:

Then, at JPL in 2002, he discovered 400 computer tapes of Pioneer data gathering dust under a stairwell. In 2005, he intercepted 70 filing cabinets of Pioneer engineering data on their way to the junk heap at the NASA Ames Research Center, at Moffett Field, Calif. The computer files held all of the Pioneer mission data, but they were unreadable.
With no formal NASA funding, almost 6,000 members of The Planetary Society, a space-exploration advocacy group based in Pasadena, Calif., donated $220,000 to translate the antiquated data into a digital format that a modern computer can read.
The Information Age seems counter-intuitive in that, for all of the terabytes of information gathered, there is such a struggle to maintain the information in a usable form.
Will your precious /. posts one day vanish like the works of Ozymandeus?

Submission + - DustStorms: All Your Plankton Are Stimulated By Us

smitty_one_each writes: Science may be just catching up with Muthuh Nature on ideas for growing plankton:

The eastern Atlantic Ocean, for example, is often characterized by large phytoplankton blooms; the source of iron is the aeolian dust that blows off the coast of Africa from the Sahara desert.
Replete with nitrogen, phosphorus and iron — amongst other nutrients — the dust essentially acts as a fertilizer to stimulate the production of large blooms.
Of course, with potable water looming as a major source of geopolitical tension, we should think about desalination plants as well.
Filtering out bogus politics and focusing on cool, rational decisions promises a world of improvements.

Thus spake the master programmer: "Time for you to leave." -- Geoffrey James, "The Tao of Programming"