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Dwarf Planets Accumulate In Outer Solar System 93

An anonymous reader tips a piece in Australian Geographic indicating that Pluto may be in for another demotion, as researchers work to define dwarf planets more exactly. "[Australian researchers] now argue that the radius which defines a dwarf planet should instead be from 200–300 km, depending on whether the object is made of ice or rock. They base their smaller radius on the limit at which objects naturally form a spherical rather than potato-like shape because of 'self-gravity.' Icy objects less than 200 km (or rocky objects less than 300 km) across are likely to be potato shapes, while objects larger than this are spherical. ... They call this limit the 'potato radius' ... [One researcher is quoted] 'I have no problem with there being hundreds of dwarf planets eventually.'"

Comment Re:Sub-Orbital == Final Frontier? (Score 4, Interesting) 190

I was actually having an interesting conversation with a research policy advisor in my country last night about this topic.

In her opinion, government research grants should be spent on fields which do not have immediate commercial value, because companies are likely unwilling to pursue it themselves and also because the future value of a technology is difficult to gauge.

For example, when the transistor was invented, it was impossible to tell that one day they would be miniaturized to the point where handheld computers were available. Any attempt to place a value on the invention of the transistor would have massively undervalued it. Companies in the past may have pursued the approach of funding research for giggles, but the business model today has changed and almost everything needs to have profit making potential.

Now there's no way to definitively determine whether a research field will be valuable in the future, but space exploration is probably one of the ones with a large potential. I say this because of the overlap with the rest of the aerospace industry, applications for telecommuncations and materials research.

Comment Re:Right (Score 1) 376

There was an awesome comment in the Globe and Mail in reply to this op-ed by handle:Atreya. I'm reposting it below:

I believe that this article is factually incorrect. The OECD Broadband report HAS a measure of Broadband connections per household. The authors claim that is the real measure of penetration. Then why didn't they use it? The reason is because it would contradict their findings. It shows Canada is 7th, and the US is 17th out of 30.

Also, their claim about actual broadband speeds is patently false. The Google broadband speed tests called Measurement Lab is a much more transparent measure of actual broadband speeds. It shows that European countries have better actual speeds than us in Canada and the US. I can also say from personal experience that the Internet was faster.

Finally, the claim that Canada has the worlds most advanced 3.5G network is a joke. No one else in the world cares about 3.5G. They are going from 3G to 4G. And Canada was far behind the rest of the world in 3G deployment (only Rogers offered it). Also worth mentioning is that Videotron is only in Quebec, and they are still in the planning stages. Other carriers around the world, including the US are much closer to actual deployment.

The truth is, we pay too much for too little in Canada. And that is simply because of deregulation and a lack of competition. We need both. I'm left to wonder if this article is any way related to Bell's parent owning this newspaper.

Comment Re:Fire teachers? Good luck (Score 2, Insightful) 446

It's very easy to point the finger at unions and the difficulty of being fired, but when you look closer at the issue it's not so simple.

As the child of 2 teachers, I hear stories from my parents all the time about the horrors of the teaching system.

In my mother's elementary school, the parents regularly threaten to sue the school board over the grades that their supposedly perfect children are not receiving on homework. The board caves every time a lawsuit threat is filed. I can't even begin to imagine what would happen if the teachers themselves were easier to fire. You'd have great teachers being sued by parents and losing their jobs all the time.

My father's high school is a robotics teacher one of the leading edge tech schools in the city, with over 20 world place finishes in these competitions. Recently, he came under fire from his principal because he wasn't willing to play along with her personal ambitions that were detrimental to the student's education. If it wasn't for his union rights, he would have lost his job over a matter of politics and an unethical principal.

I've had more than my fair share of poor teachers, and I do wish that they could be encouraged to quit. However, I think that stripping union rights would be a case of throwing the baby out with the bath water. There's many better ways to encourage good teaching, such as through positive reinforcement systems.

20 Years of Photoshop 289

benwiggy writes "Photoshop turned 20 on 10th February 2010. Here's an excellent history, including how the Knoll family created one of the biggest apps of all time. The article also has screenshots of the workspace through the versions."

Comment Trac works well (Score 2, Interesting) 428

I've worked with people in the same situation (small office & 1 person IT team) before.

They used Trac ( to keep things organized. It works really well because it has integration with the standard SVN features for software development, while tickets/milestones can be used for non-programming projects. It even scales well with job assignments if you eventually get an IT team.

Microsoft eOpen Site Down For Nearly a Week 133

mauriceh writes "Since Monday Dec. 7, the Microsoft eOpen license website has been mostly 'Down for Maintenance.' When we do not see this message, we still do not see most of the normal functionality. As this is Microsoft's main channel for managing and installing licenses for products such as Server, and for open license products for business, this makes the company effectively 'closed for business!' Attempts to connect to are redirected (after a bad certificate warning) to For those who wish to activate Microsoft Business Solutions software need to obtain Software Registration keys, and these also can not be obtained, as the site does not resolve; instead one gets a Microsoft Search page. Telephone calls to their support numbers for the licensing program yield either busy signals, or a message saying one should 'call back later.'"

Comment Revelation + PasswordSafe (Score 1) 1007

I use a split solution.

On my desktop running Gnome, I use revelation. It has a handy applet you can add to the gnome toolbar.

You can export your password file to something compatible with PasswordSafe and then do a USB key install on it. Since the file is encrypted, you don't need to worry about people getting access to your accounts if you lose the USB key.

Best Tool For Remembering Passwords? 1007

StonyCreekBare writes "Lately I've been rethinking my personal security practices. Should my laptop be stolen, having Firefox 'fill in' passwords automatically for me when I go to my bank's site seems sub-optimal. Keeping passwords for all the varied sites on the computer in a plain-text file seems unwise as well. Keeping them in my brain is a prescription for disaster, as my brain is increasingly leaky. A paper notepad likewise has its disadvantages. I have looked at a number of password managers, password 'vaults' and so on. The number of tools out there is a bit overwhelming. Magic Password Generator add-in for Firefox seems competent, but it's tied to Firefox, and I have other places and applications where I want passwords. And I might be accessing my sites from other computers that don't have it installed. The ideal tool in my mind should be something that is independent of any application, browser, or computer; something that is easily carried, but which if lost poses no risk of compromise. What does the Slashdot crowd like in password tools?"

Comment Re:$699 (Score 1) 109

To be fair, the Litl has some pretty cool hardware features that aren't available on standard netbooks. Take the Easel Mode for example: There also seems to be a lot of hardware that was customized, such as the keyboard.

Also, this seems to be a pretty open source company and they managed to get the Z series atoms working with linux, so that's also pretty impressive. The money from the hardware purchase goes to subsidize open source community development.

Comment Laptop (Score 5, Interesting) 697

An old laptop will probably give you the lowest power for the cheapest cost. It doesn't sound like reliability or performance is your main concern. You can disassemble it and take out the LCD to save a couple more watts if you want, but a typical laptop draws between 10-20 watts.

Comment Re:As in... (Score 1) 576

Not geeky enough. We should be arguing for an extension to the HTML standard allowing a number to be tagged as a distance and assigned a unit, thereby allowing the browser to convert automatically to the units preferred by the reader.

It's really a cool concept. The semantic web movement is allowing this through RDF notation. That's what we really should be arguing for on ./. It goes beyond simple units though, it allows representation of data in any form that suits the user. The downside is that OWL and other extensions to RDF to make it logically consistent are quite complex.

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