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Submission + - Scientists Speak Out Against Wasting Helium in Balloons

Hugh Pickens writes writes: "BBC reports that Tom Welton, a professor of sustainable chemistry at Imperial College, London, believes that a global shortage of helium means it should be used more carefully and since Helium cools the large magnets inside MRI scanners — the medical devices that provide doctors with detailed images of what is happening inside their patients' bodies, it is wrong to use Helium for balloons used at children's parties. "We're not going to run out of helium tomorrow — but on the 30 to 50 year timescale we will have serious problems of having to shut things down if we don't do something in the meantime," says Welton. "When you see that we're literally just letting it float into the air, and then out into space inside those helium balloons, it's just hugely frustrating. It is absolutely the wrong use of helium." Two years ago, the shortage of helium prompted American Nobel Prize winner Robert Richardson to speak out about the huge amounts of helium wasted every day because the gas is kept artificially cheap by the US government and to call for a dramatic increase in Helium's price. But John Lee, chairman of the UK's Balloon Association, insists that the helium its members put into balloons, was not depriving the medical profession of the gas. "The helium we use is not pure," says Lee. "It's recycled from the gas which is used in the medical industry, and mixed with air. We call it balloon gas rather than helium for that reason.""

Submission + - EU Officials Propose Internet Cops On Patrol, No Anonymity & No Obscure Lang (

king.purpuriu writes: The leaked document contradicts a letter sent from CleanIT Coordinator But Klaasen to Dutch NGO Bits of Freedom in April of this year, which explained that the project would first identify problems before making policy proposals. The promise to defend the rule of law has been abandoned. There appears never to have been a plan to identify a specific problem to be solved – instead the initiative has become little more than a protection racket (use filtering or be held liable for terrorist offences) for the online security industry.
The idea is that "virtual police officers" will be keeping an eye on you — for your own safety, you understand. Other ways in which users will be protected from themselves is through the use of filters.
And where there are laws, it must be OK for law enforcement agencies (LEAs) to ignore them and have content taken down on demand: "It must be legal for LEAs to make Internet companies aware of terrorist content on their infrastructure ('flagging') that should be removed, without following the more labour intensive and formal procedures for 'notice and take action'"
Due process, who needs it? The plans also require some interesting new laws, like this one criminalizing merely posting certain hyperlinks: "Knowingly providing hyperlinks on websites to terrorist content must be defined by law as illegal just like the terrorist content itself"
Incredible though it might sound, that seems to suggest that less common foreign languages would be banned from the European Internet entirely in case anybody discusses naughty stuff without the authorities being able to spy on them (haven't they heard of Google Translate?) You could hardly hope for a better symbol of the paranoid and xenophobic thinking that lies behind this crazy scheme.


Submission + - "UK Law" Could Force Freetnet Developer to Distribute "Corrupted Builds" (

An anonymous reader writes: Matthew Toseland, a.k.a. 'Toad', a lead developer of the Freenet peer-to-peer distribution project, recently wrote a blog post detailing his response to a group of academics' published findings concerning "an effort to unmask Freenet users". Not surprisingly, Toad goes on to describe what the Freenet developers might be able to do to close any perceived security holes, etcetera.

But what is of most interest is this little nugget—perhaps added as a quick afterthought—right at the bottom of the post in bold: "PS if you can run the build verification scripts (in the github maintenance scripts repository), please do! Under UK law likely to be passed soon I could be forced to distribute corrupted builds, and on penalty of 2 years in prison not be allowed to tip anyone off about it."

A search of the net reveals little news about an applicable "UK Law". Is Toad trying to give us all a tip off about some incoming legislative storm? And what could this mean for the code integrity of Freenet and/or other (UK-based) open source projects?


Submission + - High Frequency Trading: Far Worse then you Thought (

Required Snark writes: High Frequency Trading is a software engineering disaster, according to a study by the Chicago Federal Reserve. As reported at The Economic Populist, problems include:

Industry and regulatory groups have articulated best practices related to risk controls, but many firms fail to implement all the recommendations or rely on other firms in the trade cycle to catch an out-of-control algorithm or erroneous trade. In part, this is because applying risk controls before the start of a trade can slow down an order, and high-speed trading firms are often under enormous pressure to route their orders to the exchange quickly so as to capture a trade at the desired price.

Another area of concern is that some firms do not have stringent processes for the development, testing, and deployment of code used in their trading algorithms. For example, a few trading firms interviewed said they deploy new trading strategies quickly by tweaking old code and placing it into production in a matter of minutes.

Chicago Fed staff also found that out-of-control algorithms were more common than anticipated prior to the study and that there were no clear patterns as to their cause. Two of the four clearing BDs/FCMs, two-thirds of proprietary trading firms, and every exchange interviewed had experienced one or more errant algorithms.

To sum things up, the well being of the entire world economy is now in the hands of greedy, incompetent corrupt insiders who will do anything to achieve a profit. The regulators are all off on a permanent vacation. (The Federal Reserve does not regulate HFT.) What could possibly go wrong?


Submission + - W3C Community Group proposed to tackle covert sharing of user agent state. (

FredAndrews writes: "A W3C Community Group (Private User Agent PUA) has been proposed to tackle the privacy of the web browser by developing technical solutions to close the leaks. Current Javascript APIs are capable of leaking a lot of information as we browse the Internet, such as details of our browser that can be used to identify and track our online presence, and the content on the page including any private customizations and the effects of extensions, and can monitor and leak our usage on the page such a mouse movements and interactions on the page. This problem is compounded by the increased use of the web browser as a platform for delivering softare, and also by yet more leak standards are being developed which is often justifying by their authors by pointing to the current leaky infrastructure. While the community ignores the issue, solutions are being developed commercially and patented — we run the risk of ending up unable to have privacy because the solutions are patented. The proposed W3C PUA CG proposes to address the problem with technical solutions at the web browser, such as restricting the back channels available to Javascript, and also by proposing HTML extensions to mitigate lost functionality. Note this work can not address the privacy of information that we overty share, and there are other current W3C innitiatives working on this such as DNT."

Submission + - Ask Slashdot: How to ask college to change Intro to Computing? 3

taz346 writes: I got a Bachelor's degree 30 years ago, but I recently started back to college to get an Associate's degree. Most of the core courses are already covered by my B.A. but one that I didn't take way back when was Introduction to Computing. I am taking that now but have been very disappointed to find that it is really just Introduction to Microsoft Office 2010. That's actually the name of the (very expensive) textbook. It is mindless, boring and pretty useless for someone who's used PCs for about 20 years. But beyond that, why does it have to be all about MS Office and nothing else? Couldn't they just teach people to create documents, etc., and let them use any office software, like Libre Office? It seems to me that would be more useful; students would learn how to actually create things on their computers, not just follow step-by-step commands from a dumbed-down book about one piece of increasingly expensive software. I know doing it the way they do now is easy for the college, but it's not really teaching students much about what they can do with computers. So when the class is over, I plan to write a letter to the college asking them to change the course as I suggested above. I'm not real hopeful, but what the heck. Do folks out there have any good suggestions as to what might be the most persuasive arguments I can make?

Submission + - Google News Turns 10 (

hypnosec writes: Google News, which was launched on September 22, 2002 has turned 10 today. Started as a means to suffice the need of serving news to the internet community after the 9/11 attacks, Google News has become one of the primary source of news on the internet. As pointed out by Google in a blog post, Google News currently has 72 editions in 30 languages and extracts news from a whopping 50,000 news sources and gets around 1 billion unique users a week.

Submission + - Medicare Bills Rise as Records Turn Electronic

theodp writes: As part of the economic stimulus program, the Obama administration put into effect a Bush-era incentive program that provides tens of billions of dollars for physicians and hospitals that make the switch to electronic records, using systems like Athenahealth (which made U.S. CTO Todd Park a wealthy man). The goal was not only to improve efficiency and patient safety, but also to reduce health care costs. But, in reality, the move to electronic health records may be contributing to billions of dollars in higher costs for Medicare, private insurers and patients by making it easier for hospitals and physicians to bill more for their services, whether or not they provide additional care. Hospitals received $1 billion more in Medicare reimbursements in 2010 than they did five years earlier, at least in part by changing the billing codes they assign to patients in emergency rooms, according to a NY Times analysis. There are also fears that features which can be used to automatically generate detailed patient histories and clone examination findings for multiple patients make it too easy to give the appearance that more thorough exams were conducted than perhaps were. Critics say the abuses are widespread. 'It's like doping and bicycling,' said Dr. Donald W. Simborg. 'Everybody knows it's going on.'

Submission + - iOS 6 Adoption At 25-35% After Just 48 Hours (

An anonymous reader writes: iOS 6 has seen rapid adoption among iPhone and iPad users, reports developer David Smith. Smith’s applications like Audiobooks get around 100k downloads weekly and he’s taken to mapping the adoption of Apple’s software releases over the last couple of years. This update’s data shows a 35.4% adoption of iOS 6, with iOS 5.x holding court at 71.5% adoption. That’s a pretty rapid pace, eclipsing Android Jelly Bean’s 2-month adoption levels of 1.2% easily.

Submission + - Gaming with only one hand...

Hork_Monkey writes: I recently sustained a severe injury to one of my arms, and lucky not to be an amputee. I'm an avid gamer (primarily PC, but also XBox) and looking for advice one how to adapt to the challenge now presented of enjoying one of my favorite past times. My google-fu has lead me to some devices and tips, but I wanted to tap the collective while experimenting. I know there has to be some /.'ers in a similar position who could provide some guidance. I'm figuring a few things out, and also hope to share what I find for others in a similar situation.

Submission + - Federal judge says no right to secret ballot (

doug141 writes: A Colorado county put bar codes on printed ballots in a last minute effort to comply with a rule about eliminating identifying markings. Citizens sued, because the bar codes can still be traced back to individual voters. In a surprise ruling, Denver U.S. District Judge Christine Arguello said the U.S. Constitution did not contain a "fundamental right" to secret ballots, the citizens could not show their voting rights had been violated, nor that they might suffer any specific injury from the bar codes.

Submission + - Hydrogen Fuel Cells for Smartphone Charging Coming in 2013 (

hypnosec writes: The search for a hydrogen based cell phone charger is over as ROHM, Aquafairy and Kyoto University have developed a hydrogen based fuel cell that is capable of charging a phone in about 2 hours. Electricity in the compact and portable fuel cell is generated by producing hydrogen through a chemical reaction that involves calcium hydride sheets and water. The fuel cell generates approximately 4.5 liters of hydrogen from the calcium hydride sheet that is less than 3cc in volume thus providing 5Whr of electricity. ROHM said that the new fuel cell operate in ambient temperatures making it suitable for day to day use with smartphones, tablets, other portable devices.

Submission + - Ubuntu Will Now Have Amazon Ads Pre-installed 1

An anonymous reader writes: Scheduled to be released next month, Ubuntu 12.10 now includes both amazon ads in the user's dash and by default an amazon store in the user's launcher. The reason for these "features"? Affiliate revenue. Despite previous controversies with Banshee and Yahoo, Canonical is "confident it will be an interesting and useful feature for
our 12.10 users." But are the "users" becoming products?

Submission + - Google Faces Heavy Antitrust Fines in the EU (

SquarePixel writes: Europe's competition watchdog is considering formal proceedings against Google over antitrust complaints about the way it promotes its own services in search results, potentially exposing the company to a fine of 10 percent of its global turnover. Google is accused of using its search service to direct users to its own services and to reduce the visibility of competing websites and services. If the Commission found Google guilty of breaking E.U. competition rules, it could restrict Google's business activities in Europe and fine the company up to 10 percent of its annual global revenue (US$37.9 billion last year).

Submission + - Intel talks Cloud Gaming (

An anonymous reader writes: Intel researcher Daniel Pohl (also known from projects like Wolfenstein Ray Traced) talked at the Cloud Gaming USA conference about three challenges in cloud gaming today. First cloud games are just the same as their PC and console versions and don't make use of a potential, more powerful cloud to enable more features and higher quality rendering. Second the topic of latency, not only regarding internet, but along the full way from user input to the screen is analyzed in detail. Last an outlook discusses the huge increase in screen resolutions over the next years and therefore the challenge regarding bandwidth and compute. Both slides and a video of the talk are available.

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