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Slashback

Slashback: Porntrusion, Greenness, Rollercoaster 200

Tonight's Slashback includes updates on the state of MPlayer, Google's API release, DIY backyard transportation, and (thanks to politech) the "hidden camera" bill. Oh, and apparently, Mars is not the lush, green paradise you thought it might be. Read on for the details.

But what about the nude Russian girls who apparently need me? happyclam writes: "The text of the "hidden camera" bill has been posted at politechbot.com. Although we have already beat this one to death, I found the actual bill worth reading. One thing that had not been mentioned is that it allows for civil and criminal liability for spammers who email sexual advertisements without proper markings. Although I still prefer positive labeling (e.g. "kid-safe(tm)") to negative labeling (e.g. "socially questionable"), this bill does, I think, have a few good points to it. Read it."

DVDs want to be free. An Anonymous Coward writes: "According to this email and the latest news the mplayer source code is finally 100% GPL compliant. Maybe an official Debian package will finally be released as well instead of the marillat release. Work on integrating the open source Xvid MPEG4 codec is coming along nicely as well."

Gravity always wins, but likes to play. mzdial writes: "On March 14 you did a piece on this Southern Indiana's man love of roller coasters and how he created his own in his backyard! The Indianapolis Star has done a wonderful story with video and photos about this wonderful contraption. You can find the article here."

They're greedy for hits. ruvreve writes "A follow-up to the recent article about Google's release of an API. This article talks about the apparent success of releasing the API. It mentions that about 10,000 people have signed up and they have received 25 implementations in the first week. It goes on to talk about how Google needs to capitalize on the ability to provide a 'profitable' web service and maintain its position as the number-one search engine."

Chasing green, wet shadows. young-earth writes "In a disappointing followup to this story, an article on astronomy.com shows that what was thought to be chlorophyll on Mars found in the Pathfinder expedition was most probably artifacts of the processing model used. However future missions will profit from the work being done now: "...developing new methods to enable future rovers to select appropriate targets on the martian surface for further spectroscopic or close-up microscopic examination". So maybe in another mission..."

This discussion has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

Slashback: Porntrusion, Greenness, Rollercoaster

Comments Filter:
  • "Mars must be green because we found what we THINK is chlorophyll!" *sigh* What ever happened to science.
    -- Note: I'm aware of all the flaws in my argument. Yes, I know that theories are constantly being disproven and that science has and always will be based upon assumptions. But please let me rant. It's all I have.
    • Scientists should stop realeasing info like that to the stupid press before their results are confirmed.

      Remember when they said the mile-wide asteriod had a 1% chance of hitting in 2021? That got everybody all worked up. When I watched the news, the media spun it that the asteriod was definitely going to hit, just to sensationalize it. Then a few weeks later, the astronomers admitted they fucked up.

      I guess scientists get their research bucks by having stories like these, though.
      • by s20451 ( 410424 ) on Tuesday April 23, 2002 @08:38PM (#3398675) Journal

        Scientists should stop realeasing info like that to the stupid press before their results are confirmed.

        I know I shouldn't feed the trolls, but still. Suppose the research was suppressed due to lack of supporting evidence. The conspiracy theorists would have a field day with "the government" keeping news of "Martian chlorophyll" under wraps -- which means of course that there are secret Martian farms feeding an intelligent super-race, who built the Mars face, and so on. (Just imagine the Fox specials.) The point is that the scientists can't win, so they might as well disclose everything, even their screwups.


      • Money talks, meaning: That for scientists to get cash to keep investigating the asteroid and see if there is indeed a chance it will hit, they need to stir things up. If they'd said that they believe that there might be a million to one chance that an asteroid will pass earth in 20 years, who'd have funded continued research? But if they say that it is likely it will pose a serious threat, here, have another 50 million and some better equipment.

        Now, a cynic might say that this kinda thing happens all the time after 9-11...Attack imminent, gimme money!

      • That's not flamebait, although he is mistaken. Immature, wrong press releases cost you funding. {JOKE}Science is not like IT, where famous screwups are more fundable than competent nobodies (anyone else remember that Dilbert episode?){/JOKE}

        That said, I see no reason (I'm a biologist, not an astronomer) why alien cells would have chlorophyll. If they did find chlorophyll, it woul be a sign that we'd contaminated Mars with terrestrial cells.

        Even if a Martian cell where photosynthetic, I would not expect it to express chlorophyll! Chlorophyll is long, big and complicated. An independently evolved protein, from an alien organism, would never look much like chlorphyll - the odds against such a coincidence are astronomical. Assuming the alien life had membranes, photosynthetic aliens MIGHT use a membrane-bound light-dependent electron pump like the ones found in chloroplasts and their bacterial cousins; however, since there are many, many classes of both light reactive molecules and of redox proteins (electron pumps) in terrestrial organisms, many of these proteins are not-at-all similar to one another, so even if an alien organism "worked the same" as a terrestrial chlorplast (chloroplasts are the cellular organelles in plants that harvest light) it'd have independently evolved proteins with similar functions, they wouldn't be chlorophyll, and they wouldn't be similar to chlorphyll in terms of sequence or overall shape. The odds are incredibly small! Even the twenty amino acids we use are a result of the original molecular evolution of terrestrial life; an alien organism might not have the same twenty (assuming that it had amino acids at all; we don't know enough to make a definitive conclusion, but nucleic acids and amino acids may be the only molecules in existence that could make a biological organism.)

        All musings aside, the original poster was correct. Chlorophyll on Mars was a stupid thing to expect.
        • I'm no biologist, but wouldn't the likelihood that carbon (the swiss army atom) be at the center of any expression of life, anywhere, constrain those expressions within a set of parameters fairly similar to our own?
          IE: the 'metabolism of light' would most likely need iron, hence, chlorophyll?
        • it'd have independently evolved proteins with similar functions, they wouldn't be chlorophyll, and they wouldn't be similar to chlorphyll in terms of sequence or overall shape.
          It's not entirely clear that the proteins wouldn't have similar tertiary and/or quatenary strucure, presuming that they had similar amino acid composition. Obviously, similarities in tertiary/quatenary structure do not necessarily indicate homology, but convergent evolution is not necessarily a phenomenon confined to earth.

          Regardless, in this particular case, they were not testing the protein composition itself, but rather the spectroscopic composition of the protein (which could very easily have similar absorbance frequencies).
        • Even if a Martian cell where photosynthetic, I would not expect it to express chlorophyll! Chlorophyll is long, big and complicated. An independently evolved protein, from an alien organism, would never look much like chlorphyll - the odds against such a coincidence are astronomical.

          Chlorophyll is not a protein, so that argument doesn't apply. It's constructed from a porphyrin ring, much like haemoglobin
          • That's what I get for posting at 1 AM.

            What I meant to say was that Photosystem II is big and complicated; it contains 50 chlorophyll molecules. The properties of chlorophyll, that make it desirable as a primary light harvesting molecule, are heavily bound up in the properties of Photosystem II. The structure of photosystem II also changes the "color" of the Chlorophyll somewhat; but, of course, the robots would extract the chlorophyll into an organic solvent so that would not be an issue. Other photosystems here on Earth contain chromophores that are totally different in color - this is why red algae is red and brown algae is brown (instead of green.) All terrestrial plants happen to contain chlorophyll as well, but there's no reason to think that would be the case on Mars. In fact, there are two totally different classes of molecules that harvest energy from light here on earth (at least; I'm referring to the non-metal-ion carrying chemicals in our eyes and in the eyes of insects) which might form the basis for alien photosynthesis.
      • Scientists should stop realeasing info like that to the stupid press before their results are confirmed.

        ...or we all should stop listening to the press when they publish half-baked science stories. Think about the motivations and potential to learn; any particular scientist who makes themeselves a laughing stock will learn, but they are more or less out of the game by that point. But a newspaper, etc. that suffers a decline in readership directly attributable to publishing half baked claims without a huge disclaimer (or a system, such as slashdot has, allowing readers to attach their own disclaimers [slashdot.org]) will still be in the game and they do learn. In fact, part of the reason the press sucks as much as it does is that they have been learning from us, the general public, what to print and what not to print. So when you see something like this, speak up!

        -- MarkusQ

        P.S. I think I've cancled three subscriptions to Scientific American on this principle so far. They don't seem to have learned yet, but I've enjoyed writing the letters.

      • Scientists should stop realeasing info like that to the stupid press before their results are confirmed.

        I think that a better idea may be to just stop reading media that sensationalizes information like that to such a radical degree. I'm not sure of the facts in this case, but if scientists told the reporter that they found elements with the apparent spectral signature of chlorophyll on Mars, and the reporter translated that to something like "Life on Mars" then the problem really lies in the reporter and the editors. It's really partly our fault. We eat this crap up, thus encouraging rags to print it. When we start getting more discriminating about our news sources, instead of using them as entertainment, this kind of thing will diminish.

        The only problem with my idea is that we'd probably, at least in the short run, have a great deal of difficulty finding any news to read....

    • Isn't science supposed to be testable? With Mars close enough that testing is within the realm of possibility, why publish this type of nearly-tabloid-like supposition prematurely?

      Is real research really that hard up for media attention? Is science not "sellable" unless is about transporters and FTL devices?

      That's my theory, which might also explain why charlatans such as John Edward and James von
      Praagh receive such consistently high ratings...

      The Gates Testimony - Why Microsoft Will Win [microsoft.com]
      • Is real research really that hard up for media attention? Is science not "sellable" unless is about transporters and FTL devices?

        Not to mention that *every* scientific discovery reported must fight bioterrorism. This is really starting to piss me off. Example: that mobile phone hack that uses the RF chip to detect a protein (IIRC). This has obvious medical applications, as well as tricorder-style remote sensing applications. But what does the media hype its use as? It can detect... anthrax!!! Yippee. How many people did the anthrax kill? Now, how many die from salmonella poisoning? This is something that this hack could help detect, assuming salmonella has at least one unique protein.

        Note: I may be way off on it's detection abilities but you get the point. The media is obsessed with a high-profile, low-incidence disease. Hell, more people die from the flu.

  • Why must we exploit our Comrades so...
  • mars (Score:3, Funny)

    by joeldg ( 518249 ) on Tuesday April 23, 2002 @08:06PM (#3398540) Homepage
    That is disappointing about mars... I was really hoping to take my naked russian girls there with my dvd's and ride my rollercoaster.. oh.. I need some coffee....
    • You'll be in violation of the DCMA for playing those disc's in an illegal region, you know.
  • by Trogre ( 513942 )
    ... about "burn the GPL" posted on the MPlayer website previously?

    I see they've changed [mplayerhq.hu] the layout of their site now, but previously there was an anti-GPL logo with a spiel about why the developers hated it so much.

    I guess a change of heart, or perhaps a change of developers? :)

    In either case: good on you MPlayer developers, for a truly excellent piece of software.

  • by tomdarch ( 225937 ) on Tuesday April 23, 2002 @08:25PM (#3398622)
    It's Real, so the 'video quality' sucks, but it's a really nicely done piece - well worth tracking down a Win or Mac box to see. As you see the builder creeping to the top of the hill on his little 'car' I was totally psyched to see the drop! While they tease you for a while, you do get to see the loop in action - it's real!
  • Talking of hidden cameras a great big post appeared outside our house today (which we assume is going to have a CCTV camera stuck on the top). Does anyone know if these need planning permission in the UK?
  • by Racine ( 42787 ) on Tuesday April 23, 2002 @08:29PM (#3398641) Homepage
    Here's another DYI project that might be of interest to some people. A true 6.0 Litre, tuned exhaust, pimped out Rice Toilet [cox.net]. Some people really have too much time.
  • oops! (Score:5, Funny)

    by flynt ( 248848 ) on Tuesday April 23, 2002 @08:32PM (#3398649)
    On March 14 you did a piece on this Southern Indiana's man love of roller coasters

    There's a Freudian slip if there ever was one.
  • by realgone ( 147744 ) on Tuesday April 23, 2002 @08:34PM (#3398659)
    Commencing not later than 12 months after the establishment of the new domain under section 102, any operator of a commercial Internet web site or online service that has as its principal or primary business the making available of material that is harmful to minors shall register such web site or online service with the new domain and operate such web site or online service under the new domain.

    As written, this is laughably vague. Clearly, no company's primary business would be distributing harmful material to minors. For one thing, the lil' buggers don't have credit cards, so profits might be somewhat hard to come by at first. (Dang, there goes the IPO, Chester. Did you save the receipts on that new office furniture?) More appropriate would be to call it "material intended for adults but which may be judged to have a harmful effect on minors".

    Here's something even more troubling. In the section where they attempt to define what's "harmful to minors", here's one of the acceptable standards:

    ...taking the material as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value for minors.

    Again, incredibly vague and open to abuse. Under this definition, material which does have scientific, etc. value for adults but doesn't for minors would be fair game, right?

    Shit! Time to pull down that AARP website fellers!

    • umm.. it says
      any operator of a commercial Internet web site or online service that has as its principal or primary business the making available of material that is harmful to minors

      what this means is.. make a porn site for adults. that material is considered harmful to minors.

      it's primary business therefore is making available said material... which is considered harmful to minors.

      you're reading it as if it says the material is primarily marketed towards youngsters, which it does NOT imply in its wording

      i might not have explained it well enough, but hopefully the point is understood.
      • you're reading it as if it says the material is primarily marketed towards youngsters

        Of course not. I'm suggesting the above language is ambiguous enough that it can be read any number of ways. And as we've seen time and time again, ambiguity in law is A Very Bad Thing(tm).

        Let's use the same construction, different particulars. Hypothetical Bob runs a hunting shop. Its primary business is selling guns that kill people. Have any of Hypothetical Bob's guns ever been used to kill a person? Probably not. Does that change the validity of the sentence? Nope, since guns can still be used to kill people and Hypothetical Bob does sell the things. But, and here's the kicker, is it ambiguous and possibly misleading to characterize Bob's main business as selling items that kill people? Yes. Bob sells items. and the items may be put to certain ends, BUT those uses are intrinsic to the items themselves, not his sale of them.

    • ...any operator of a commercial Internet web site or online service that has as its principal or primary business the making available of material that is harmful to minors...

      In addition to being laughably vague, it's also unenforceable. It's clear that they wanted to avoid the whole community standards issue by using the language "is harmful to minors". However, they've put prosecutors in the position of having to prove that any given material is harmful to minors.

      On the one hand, this could make all sorts of "normal" speech illegal: tobacco ads, discriptions of drunken nights at bars, encouragement to drop out of school, you name it. On the other hand, it doesn't necessarily cover anything in particular, so even the most hardcore porn could argue that it isn't "harmful to minors." Since there's no objective description included in the law, it will be up to prosecutors and juries to decide what constitutes "harmful," and that will lead to an uneven application of the law, which in turn will make it subject to invalidation by the courts.

      My guess is that the law was never intended to be enforced. It's just asking to be struck down by the courts, but the congresspeople who vote for it can wave their little "Morally upright" flag come the next election.

      Cheers
      -b

    • I don't know about you, but I would have thought that selling, say, darkroom chemicals counts as making available material which is harmful to minors.

      After going to such detail in explaining what they mean by porn later (and doesn't it make for fascinating reading), you'd think they'd be a bit more explicit here.

    • > ...taking the material as a whole, lacks serious literary, artistic, political, or scientific value for minors.
      > Under this definition, material which does have scientific, etc. value for adults but doesn't for minors would be fair game, right?

      Right. If it's _also_ appealing or pandering to purient interest _and_ depicts sex etc. in a patently offensive manner. The lacking value bit is necessary but not sufficient.

      Whether any such material exists (or even could exist) is another question, but if there is material is is obscene when considered with respect to minors and has redeeming value _for adults only_, why should that adult value affect its status with respect to minors?

      As an example of the sort of thing this might be aimed at, there's a website out there somewhere with close up comparison photos of natural labias with the constructed ones of post-operative transexuals. If it's being viewed in a school library, it's probably not for its scientific value to adults (which is not to say it should or will actually be covered by this bill).
    • So...

      Does this mean that all religion and cult websites also have to register themselves under this domain? There is lots of evidence of the harmful effects of religious fervor, especially on impressionable children..(See 9/11, Jenin, etc.)

      To protect our children, we must require that churches, too, must register under the new domain.

  • Yes, a lot of people got a lot of play out of them, but more and more developers are finding that they aren't that great. Dave Winer [scripting.com] has found that they were great... for about a week and then just tinkered with other things. Yes, we do care about search, but we all no the url google.com. How can the APIs help out that much?
    • well the releasing of api's can help alot, for both google and for other users. CNN business of all places had a story on this (you can see it here [cnn.com]

      One of the things it talks about in the article is how some users have incorporated the apis into new project already. It is kind of cool, you should check it out so you can see just how the API's and be successful.
  • SIRCML (Score:1, Redundant)

    "on this Southern Indiana's man love of roller coasters"

    Southern Indiana has "man love" for roller coasters? mmmmmmmm, man love.
    • "this Southern Indiana's man love", does this mean that there are other Southern Indianas that are looking for a good time?

      Single Midwestern State seeks Territory with large panhandle & good looking borders.

      Or maybe good ol' Indiana should just hook up with the russian gals.

      -Peverbian

  • by Anonymous Coward
    Will show what the future of the internet we want to live in will look like. Our internet, not Jeff Bezos or the RIAA's.

    Perltop [sourceforge.net] - GTK/Perl desktop environment.
  • Funny you should mention gravity.. i somehow remember a user's plan file that i got to read when i ran finger on our company mail server. It went,

    There's no such thing as gravity... the Earth sucks!

    Oh okay.. i admit it was funny at first.. but, oh nevermind..
  • They pulled into Ivers' driveway, knocked on the door and asked to take some pictures, which they posted on a Web site that subsequently crashed because it attracted so many hits.

    Yep, that was us, all right.
  • by galaga79 ( 307346 ) on Tuesday April 23, 2002 @10:28PM (#3399017) Homepage
    I wonder if this bill comes into effect if it will make filtering out spam a lot easier. I use the very basic elm filter, which can be used to filter mail according to words in the headers, and despite it's simplicity it can be quite effective at targetting spam. Just looking for the keywords of mortgage, insurance, stocks etc it reduces my spam quite signifiantly.

    Yet it's hard to catch spam of a sexual nature because that sort of mail is often quite deceptive in use of the subject headings. Quite often I open a message with innocous the subject of "Hey there" only to discover it's either some girl who likes to 'ride' horses or wants to me pay her college fees via her private webcam.

    Whether this bill comes into effect, and they actually manage to enforce is a whole other issue.
  • Greedy green, wet martians googling over nude russian girls while throwing DVDs at a roller coaster
  • ...why aliens are green themselves!

    You'd sort-of think that it is weird that the aliens that visit us are green instead of some other colour if they come from Mars.
  • by galaga79 ( 307346 ) on Tuesday April 23, 2002 @11:01PM (#3399146) Homepage
    Forgive my ignorance on the subject, but will the GLPing of mplayer improve the chances of default DVD support in any of the Linux distros? Or does the problem in regards to the legality of compiled DeCSS libraries/code still stop this from happening? This is not a troll by any means, I just don't fully understand the situation.
    • Probably not gonna happen. The author(s) of mplayer are very clear about the fact that mplayer contains no decss code. You can --optionally link to this code at compile-time. This of course means that you have the required libs/headers on your system. This also means that in certain countries you have broken the law (DMCA anybody?).
      • One of the primary arguments against DeCSS was that it provided no "useful" functionality other than decryption and ran on an already supported platform (Windows). Foolish as it may seem, courts don't seem to support the practice and learning that comes from such implementations. Since the mplayer stuff runs on an unsupported platform and provides a lot more functionality than DeCSS, it has a lot better chance of holding up in court.

        The question is, which distribution wants to take that kind of legal risk?

        Of course, no one is going to go after you for downloading or building mplayer, giants aren't very good at swatting flies. So it's only distribution that might get you into trouble.
    • Their web site explains the licencing problems they've had pretty clearly [mplayerhq.hu].

      Part of the reason is because they can't distribute binary packages. There are legal reasons, but at this stage of develpment it doesn't make sense for them to worry about bugs in binary distributions. Linux kernel developers will give you similar rhetoric about supporting binary drivers. It's technically doable, but it's so much more work than dealing with source that it's not worth their time.

      There are also technical reasons (like a lack of runtime CPU detection, so you kinda have to compile it locally).

      It also appears that they needed to use non-GPLed codecs in their earlier releases. I think they are either removing them in the .90 release, or they are migrating to GPL-friendly codecs.

      Read their website - it explains pretty much everything.
  • MPlayer alternative (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anthony Boyd ( 242971 ) on Wednesday April 24, 2002 @01:03AM (#3399474) Homepage

    The Xine [sourceforge.net] video player has a feature set similar to MPlayer, but also comes with courteous developers and a ton of RPMs [puc-rio.br] for easy installation on a variety of Linux distros. DEBs too.

    • As it doesn't support WMV files (Quicktime is already nice, though), its use is extremely limitted to me. Supporting de-facto standards like Windows Media Player simply cannot be avoided, like it or not.

  • by prospective_user ( 552211 ) on Wednesday April 24, 2002 @02:30AM (#3399700)
    Well, it seems that while the new mplayer [mplayerhq.hu] 0.90pre1 is technically quite good, it's most important improvement now is the "feature" of being completely GPL now, according to the news of the mplayer site.

    This means that it can now be integrated in all distributions without packagers worrying of legal problems (which obviously includes Debian [debian.org]). A side effect (and equally important, in my opinion) is that this move makes this player available to a larger audience (exposing its remaining bugs and lack of portability to more people) and, of course, benefiting a larger part of the people that install Linux.

    So, please, if you can download it, compile it and report bugs that you find (including people using different architectures). This way, we can all have a first-class, flexible, free movie player for many Operating Systems.

    And contrary to popular belief, if you make a good bugreport [mplayerhq.hu], the mplayer team is very friendly fixing the bugs you find.

    Of course, nobody would see a Doctor saying only "Hey, Doc, I am sick." and expecting a complete diagnostic. The same applies, evidently, to software development.

  • This is the REAL news. I-465 'ramp' renamed I-865

    FROM WEDNESDAY'S STAR

    Safety concerns prompt change for spur linking I-65 in Boone County to the Indianapolis bypass.

    • We've got things more interesting than that going on. How about the fact that due to jail overcrowding, we're letting prostitutes and pot smokers off with just a ticket? [indystar.com]

  • Which I might ass is a kick ass movie player for linux -- Last I checked, the documentation says that you *can not* distribute binary forms of the application because
    1. the source code licenses prohibit it
    2. the binaries are compled for a specific arch (eg, k6 3dNOW v.s. MMX, v.s. MMX2, and SSE)
    What changed?
    • by Anonymous Coward
      The documentation you're looking at is likely outdated. The code has been gradually moved over and rewritten (as well as relicenced to be GPL) and mplayer now has runtime CPU detection.

      You can still build it for a specific x86 architecture, and/or link it to non-GPL code however, but the GPLed ffmpeg plugin, and runtime CPU detection make precompiled binaries a reality.

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