Rich0 writes "I own an HP 48 calculator that I'm quite content with, but soon I'll need to take a certification exam where this calculator will not be welcome. I'm sure this is a common problem for those who own higher-end calculators. Sure, I could just buy a random $15 calculator with a few trig functions, but I was wondering who makes the best moderately-priced calculators for somebody who already has and appreciates a programmable calculator and just needs something simple. Bonus points if the calculator can handle polar vector arithmetic and unit conversions, but it has to be simple enough that virtually any exam would accept its use."
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An anonymous reader writes "The FreeBSD Foundation's annual year-end fundraising drive is currently running. Their goal this year is US$ 1M, and they're currently at US$ 427K. In 2013, the efforts that were funded were from the last drive were: Native iSCSI kernel stack, Updated Intel graphics chipset support, Integration of Newcons, UTF-8 console support, Superpages for ARM architecture, and Layer 2 networking updates. Also various conferences and summit sponsorships, as well as hardware purchases for the Project. The Foundation is a US 501(c)3 non-profit, so your donations (if in the US) are tax-deductible. Some of the larger 2013 (corporate?) sponsors so far are NetApp, LineRate, WhatsApp, and Tarsnap."
ClaraBow writes "I find it interesting that Dell has started selling a thin and light touchscreen laptop called the XPS 13 Developer Edition, which will have Ubuntu Linux OS and Intel's fourth-generation Core processors, code-named Haswell. The laptop, code-named Sputnik, has a 13.3-inch touchscreen and will run on Ubuntu 12.04 OS. It is priced starting at $1,250 and is available in the U.S." One thing I wish was addressed in the blog post announcing this newest entry in the Sputnik line, or its listed specs (bad news beats not knowing, in this case), is battery life.
Trailrunner7 writes "Buried underneath the ever-growing pile of information about the mass surveillance methods of the NSA is a small but significant undercurrent of change that's being driven by the anger and resentment of the large tech companies that the agency has used as tools in its collection programs. The changes have been happening since almost the minute the first documents began leaking out of Fort Meade in June. When the NSA's PRISM program was revealed this summer, it implicated some of the larger companies in the industry as apparently willing partners in a system that gave the agency 'direct access' to their servers. Officials at Google, Yahoo and others quickly denied that this was the case, saying they knew of no such program and didn't provide access to their servers to anyone and only complied with court orders. More recent revelations have shown that the NSA has been tapping the links between the data centers run by Google and Yahoo, links that were unencrypted. That revelation led a pair of Google security engineers to post some rather emphatic thoughts on the NSA's infiltration of their networks. It also spurred Google to accelerate projects to encrypt the data flowing between its data centers. These are some of the clearer signs yet that these companies have reached a point where they're no longer willing to be participants, witting or otherwise, in the NSA's surveillance programs."
thomst writes "The Washington Post's Jerry Markon and Alice Crites report that 'The lead contractor on the dysfunctional Web site for the Affordable Care Act is filled with executives from a company that mishandled at least 20 other government IT projects, including a flawed effort to automate retirement benefits for millions of federal workers, documents and interviews show. CGI Federal, the main Web site developer, entered the U.S. government market a decade ago when its parent company purchased American Management Systems, a Fairfax County contractor that was coming off a series of troubled projects. CGI moved into AMS's custom-made building off Interstate 66, changed the sign outside and kept the core of employees, who now populate the upper ranks of CGI Federal.'"
lpress writes "Department of Education officials, led by Under Secretary of Education Martha Kanter, were on our campus last week, soliciting input on The President's College Value and Affordability plan. The discussion focused primarily on the design of a system for rating colleges and to a lesser extent on innovation and improvement. While the feedback was constructive, many attendees pointed out difficulties and limitations of any college rating system. One solution is to open the process by having the Department of Education gather and post data and provide a platform and tools for all interested parties to analyze, visualize and discuss it. Similarly, open innovation should be encouraged, for example, by providing a hosted version of the open source education platform MOOC.ORG."
Nathan Myhrvold's six-volume foodie encyclopedia, Modernist Cuisine, writes reader SmartAboutThings, is one of the most expensive cooking encyclopedias, the original six-volume version retailing for $500, with the two-volume addition that followed after that selling for $115. "Now, Nathan and his team have transformed their huge food encyclopedia into an iPhone/iPad app. It's not just a digital book, but rather an expensive $80 interactive app that can do more than just provide recipes. The interactive digital cookbook is the fruit of a development team of 10-15 people that have worked over nine months on the project. The app contains 37 technique videos, 416 recipes and 1,683 photos."
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes "Matthew Wald reports in the NYT the the Environmental Protection Agency has proposed reducing the amount of ethanol that is required to be mixed with the gasoline supply, the first time it has taken steps to slow down the drive to replace fossil fuels with renewable forms of energy. The move drew bitter complaints from advocates of ethanol, including some environmentalists, who see the corn-based fuel blend as a weapon to fight climate change and was also unwelcome news to farmers, coming at a time when a record corn crop is expected, and the price of a bushel has fallen almost to the cost of production. "Boy, my goodness, are the oil companies going to benefit from this," says Bob Dinneen, president of the Renewable Fuels Association. "We're all just sort of scratching our heads here wondering why this administration is telling us to produce less of a clean-burning American fuel." But the EPA says that a big part of the problem was that automobile fuel systems and service stations were not set up to absorb more than about 10 percent ethanol. Most cars on the road are limited to the current mixture, called E10, and there has been little demand by consumers for more. Reasons for the turnaround are many: The boom in domestic oil drilling has dimmed the urgency to find other alternatives to Mideast petroleum. Demand for gasoline has slumped. And criticism of the environmental impacts of corn ethanol has dimmed its luster nationally. The chill on ethanol will certainly affect the industry's powerhouse, corn ethanol. But the risk is far greater for smaller sectors of the industry still struggling to get out of the gate — those aimed at producing next-generation biofuels like "cellulosic" ethanol, made from ingredients like switchgrass and corn stalks. "I don't know if the EPA is aiming for uncertainty, but they may inadvertently create it," says Jan Koninckx, the global business director of biorefineries for DuPont. "The impact could be that another country will lead this rather than the U.S.""
Lucas123 writes "Google just announced it is investing another $80 million in six new solar power plants in California and Arizona, bringing its total investment in renewable energy to more than $1 billion. The new plants are expected to generate 160MW of electricity, enough to power 17,000 typical U.S. homes. They are expected to be operational by early 2014. With the new plants, Google's renewable power facilities will be able to generate a total of 2 billion watts (gigawatts) of energy, enough to power 500,000 homes or all of the public elementary schools in New York, Oregon, and Wyoming for one year, it said. Currently, Google gets about 20% of its power from renewable energy, but it has set a goal of achieving 100% renewable energy."
mikejuk writes with this tantalizing excerpt about one possible future of furniture:"The mechanism of MIT's new shapeshifting output device is remarkably simple. It is based on the well known pin screen devices that you can use to take a 3D impression of an object. A 2D plate of pins can be moved to create a surface.In the same way, inForm uses a set of rods and actuators to create dynamic surfaces. The big difference is that the actuators are under computer control. Now you have a computer controlled surface and what is really surprising is how much you can get from this simple idea. With the help of a 3D depth camera and some innovative software, the surface can act as an output device that lets you manipulate real objects remotely. If you use the surface as a table then your computer can bring you real objects such as your mobile phone — see the video to believe it. While there are many obvious serious applications such as displaying volumetric CT scans, displaying complex data or providing early experience of prototypes there is also the possibility of having fun with the device. After all simple pinscreens are still sold as executive toys. Could there be a new generation of games in this?"
Rambo Tribble writes "Reuters is reporting that the FBI has issued a warning to several U.S. Government agencies that the Anonymous collective has hacked their systems. Included in the list of compromised agencies are the U.S. Army, Department of Energy, Department of Health and Human Services, and potentially many more agencies. The avenue of attack: Adobe Cold Fusion."
mdsolar writes with this excerpt from Bloomberg News: "Arizona will permit the state's largest utility to charge a monthly fee to customers who install photovoltaic panels on their roofs, in a closely watched hearing that drew about 1,000 protesters and may threaten the surging residential solar market. The Arizona Corporation Commission, which regulates utilities in the state, agreed in a 3-to-2 vote at a meeting [Thursday] in Phoenix that Arizona Public Service Co. may collect about $4.90 a month from customers with solar systems. Arizona Public is required to buy solar power from customers with rooftop panels, and the commission agreed with its argument that the policy unfairly shifts some of the utility's costs to people without panels. Imposing a fee designed to address this issue may prompt power companies in other states to follow suit, and will discourage some people from installing new systems, according to the Sierra Club."
theodp writes "In June, Google unveiled Project Loon to acclaim from the press for its "moonshot" project that aims to use high-altitude balloons to cheaply provide internet connectivity to rural, remote, and underserved areas of the developing world. So it's interesting to see that a just-published Google patent application for Balloon Clumping to Provide Bandwidth Requested in Advance, which pre-dated the Loon launch by a year, paints a not entirely altruistic picture of balloon-powered Internet access technology. Google describes the invention — which had been kept secret with a non-publication request — as just the ticket for those well-to-do enough to pay a tiered-pricing premium to get faster internet access while attending concerts, conferences, air shows, music festivals, and sporting events where a facility's overtaxed Wi-Fi simply won't do. Hope this revelation doesn't make Bill Gates think any less of the project!"
An anonymous reader writes "From the guy who brought you CD syncing and the original music locker (both of which saw lawsuits from record labels) comes the latest invention to rock the music world: a real-time radio search engine. 1000s of worldwide stations are indexed in real-time and users can search and play most any popular artist — even the digital holdouts (Tool, Led Zeppelin, etc) that are unavailable on paid services like Spotify. (Kinda wonder why Google hasn't done this.) Link on main page points to an API for those who want to build mobile and web services."
Jah-Wren Ryel writes "In early-2013, independent security researcher, Evan 'treefort' Booth, began working to answer one simple question: Can common items sold in airports after the security screening be used to build lethal weapons? As it turns out, even a marginally 'MacGyver-esque' attacker can breeze through terminal gift shops, restaurants, magazine stands and duty-free shops to find everything needed to wage war on an airplane." We mentioned Evan's work several months back; now his not-just-a-thought-experiment exploration of improvised weapons has been cleaned up and organized, so you don't have to watch his (fascinating) talks to experience the wonders of the Chucks of Liberty (video) or the Fragguccino (video).