theodp writes "Like many recent college grads, Steven Lee finds himself unemployed in one of the roughest job markets in decades and saddled with a big pile of debt — he owes about $84,000 in student loans for undergrad and grad school. But what's really got Lee angry are the high interest rates on his government-backed student loans. 'The rate for a 30-year mortgage is around 5%,' Lee said. 'Why should anyone have to pay 8.5%? The government has bailed out homeowners. It's bailed out big businesses. Why can't it also help students?' Not only that, federal student loans are the only loans in the nation that are largely non-dischargeable in bankruptcy, have no statutes of limitations, and can't be refinanced after consolidation, so Lee can forget about pulling a move out of the GM playbook. And unlike mortgages on million-dollar vacation homes, student loans have very limited tax deductability. A spokeswoman for the Department of Education blamed Congress for the rates which she conceded 'may seem high today,' but suggested that students are a credit-unworthy lot who should thank their lucky stars that rates aren't 12% or higher. Makes one long for the good-old-days of 3% student loans, doesn't it?"
Siker writes "In a world of giants such as Gmail and Rackspace, email service provider FastMail.fm is somehow doing great, with signups above the million mark and reliability above four 9s. Email Service Guide interviews Jeremy Howard, founder of FastMail.fm, to find out how. Also covered are the company's contributions to Open Source software such as Cyrus-IMAP and Thunderbird. Jeremy discusses the future of IMAP, how open protocols help FastMail.fm, and why he thinks SLAs from email providers are a con."
BeckySharp writes "With the nearly simultaneous release of Apple's Mac OS X 10.6 'Snow Leopard' (available right now) and Microsoft's Windows 7 (available Oct. 22), you get the inevitable debate: Which is the better operating system, Windows 7 or Snow Leopard? To help determine that, Computerworld's Preston Gralla put both operating systems through their paces, selected categories for a head-to-head competition, and then chose a winner in each category." Relatedly, Phoronix has posted Snow Leopard vs. Ubuntu 9.10 benchmarks. They ran tests from ray tracing to 3D gaming to compilation. Their tests show Ubuntu 9.10 winning a number of the tests, but there are some slowdowns in performance and still multiple wins in favor of Snow Leopard, so the end result is mixed.
David Pogue has distilled into useful form a long-standing complaint I have (and one reason I have long had a voice mail greeting that asked people not to leave me voicemail): cell phone companies set up the greeting, caller instructions, and playback system prompts in large part to maximize their revenue per user; by his calculations, the "mandatory 15-second voicmail instructions" from AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, T-Mobile and others is earning those companies something near a billion dollars a year in charges. Pogue suggests that users should "take back the beep," and to that end provides contact information for the largest cell carriers in order to register a complaint — and, more helpful in the short run, suggests ways in which to make better use of paid-for phone minutes by alerting callers how to bypass the annoying instructions.
As we discussed in June, China has been working on plans to impose further restrictions on the games that can be sold or publicized within its borders. The Chinese government has now begun implementing those plans, starting with games that involve gangs, saying, "These games encourage people to deceive, loot and kill, and glorify gangsters' lives. It has a bad influence on youngsters." According to a Xinhua news agency, "The ministry ordered its law enforcement bodies to step up oversight and harshly punish those sites that continue to run such games."
path0$ writes "British Ex-DJ Steve Miller claims that his Wi-Fi allergy is making his life one big misery , forcing him to live in an iron-clad home far from any neighbors. According to the article, more and more people are suffering from an allergy like his. The only positive side to this is that at least Miller didn't think of suing anybody yet, like these people did, who claim to suffer from the same condition and were mentioned in a Slashdot article in 2008."
jtcm writes "Three men have been charged with conspiring to violate the Digital Millennium Copyright Act after federal investigators found that they allegedly offered a cracker more than $250,000 to assist with breaking Dish Network's satellite TV encryption scheme: '[Jung] Kwak had two co-conspirators secure the services of a cracker and allegedly reimbursed the unidentified person about $8,500 to buy a specialized and expensive microscope used for reverse engineering smart cards. He also allegedly offered the cracker more than $250,000 if he successfully secured a Nagra card's EPROM (eraseable programmable read-only memory), the guts of the chip that is needed to reverse-engineer Dish Network's encryption.' Kwak owns a company known as Viewtech, which imports and sells Viewsat satellite receiver boxes. Dish Network's latest encryption scheme, dubbed Nagra 3, has not yet been cracked by satellite TV pirates."
dp619 writes "Mono, a framework based on Microsoft technology, has become more popular for Linux desktop applications than Java, but recent changes could strengthen Java's hand, SD Times is reporting. The story also touches on the failure of Linux distros to keep pace with Eclipse."
duh P3rf3ss3r writes "The BBC is carrying a report from a team of researchers at Newcastle University who claim to have developed a the first 'artificial' human sperm from stem cells. The research, reported in the journal Stem Cells and Development, involved selecting meristematic germ cells from a human embryonic stem cell culture and inducing meiosis, thus producing a haploid gamete. The authors claim that the resulting sperm are fully formed, mature, human sperm cells but the announcement has been greeted with mixed reaction from colleagues who claim the procedure is ethically questionable and that the gametes produced are of inferior levels of maturation."
The National Institutes of Health has given $423,500 to researchers at Indiana University's Kinsey Institute to figure out why men don't like to wear condoms. The institute will also study why men have trouble using condoms and investigate "penile erection and sensitivity during condom application." "The project aims to understand the relationship between condom application and loss of erections and decreased sensation, including the role of condom skills and performance anxiety, and to find new ways to improve condom use among those who experience such problems," reads the abstract from Drs. Erick Janssen and Stephanie Sanders, both of the Kinsey Institute.
Michael J. Ross writes "Among the more popular and better-regarded content management systems (CMSs), Drupal is distinguished partly by its building-block approach, in which a website's functionality is built up in pieces, each of which is a module (either core or contributed). The opposite approach — using far fewer but more encompassing modules — is generally preferred by non-developers who do not relish integrating a sizable collection of modules or trying to modify the underlying code. Nonetheless, anyone who wishes to build a Drupal-based social website, can learn how to do so in a new e-book titled Drupal 6: Ultimate Community Site Guide." Read below for the rest of Michael's review.
Hugh Pickens writes "The image of scientists as objective seekers of truth is periodically jeopardized by the discovery of a major scientific fraud. Recent scandals like Hwang Woo-Suk's fake stem-cell lines or Jan Hendrik Schön's duplicated graphs showed how easy it can be for a scientist to publish fabricated data in the most prestigious journals. Daniele Fanelli has an interesting paper on PLoS ONE where she performs a meta-analysis synthesizing previous surveys to determine the frequency with which scientists fabricate and falsify data, or commit other forms of scientific misconduct. A pooled, weighted average of 1.97% of scientists admitted to having fabricated, falsified or modified data or results at least once — a serious form of misconduct by any standard — and up to 33.7% admitted other questionable research practices. In surveys asking about the behavior of colleagues, admission rates were 14.12% for falsification, and up to 72% for other questionable research practices. Misconduct was reported more frequently by medical/pharmacological researchers than others. 'Considering that these surveys ask sensitive questions and have other limitations, it appears likely that this is a conservative estimate of the true prevalence of scientific misconduct,' writes Fanelli. 'It is likely that, if on average 2% of scientists admit to have falsified research at least once and up to 34% admit other questionable research practices, the actual frequencies of misconduct could be higher than this.'"
bahstid writes "The NY Times reports that Microsoft and the European Commission have canceled the only hearing planned in an antitrust investigation into the company's tying of Internet Explorer into Windows because of a dispute over the attendance of European regulators serving as advisers. As a result, the commission will reach its decision and levy a fine based on written statements from Microsoft and its adversaries. Microsoft decided against the opportunity to give oral evidence in the case after it was unable to persuade the commission to move the meeting, scheduled for June 3rd through 5th, so that it did not conflict with a global antitrust conference in Zurich that draws European antitrust regulators."
snydeq writes "Fatal Exception's Neil McAllister questions the effect recent developments in the MySQL community will have on MySQL's future in the wake of Oracle's acquisition of Sun. Even before Oracle announced its buyout, there were signs of strain within the MySQL community, with key MySQL employees exiting and forks of the MySQL codebase arising, including Widenius' MariaDB. Now Widenius' Oracle-less Open Database Alliance adds further doubt as to which branch of MySQL will be considered 'official' going forward. 'Forks are a fact of life in the open source community, and arguably an entirely healthy one,' McAllister writes. 'Oracle just better hope it doesn't end up on the wrong side of the fork.' To do so, he suggests Oracle will have to regain the the trust and support of the MySQL community — in other words, 'stop acting like Oracle.'"
Elastic Vapor writes "I'm happy to announce that the US Federal Government earlier today launched the new Data.Gov website. The primary goal of Data.Gov is to improve access to Federal data and expand creative use of those data beyond the walls of government by encouraging innovative ideas (e.g., web applications). Data.gov strives to make government more transparent and is committed to creating an unprecedented level of openness in Government. The openness derived from Data.gov will strengthen the Nation's democracy and promote efficiency and effectiveness in Government." I hope the data reported will be impartially selected, honestly gathered, clearly explained, and perfectly accurate. Perhaps they could start with inspiration from the Concord Coalition's National Debt Counter.