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Time for a Vista Do-Over? 746

DigitalDame2 writes "'There's nothing wrong with Vista,' PC Mag editor-in-chief Lance Ulanoff tells a Microsoft rep at this year's CES. 'But you guys have a big problem on your hands. Perception is reality, and the perception is that Vista is a dud.' He goes on to confess that the operating system is too complex and burdened by things people don't need. Plus, Vista sometimes seems so slow. Ulanoff gives four suggestions for a complete Vista makeover, like starting with new code and creating a universal interface table. But will Microsoft really listen?"

Telco Immunity Goes To Full Debate 154

Dr. Eggman notes an Ars Technica analysis of the firefight that is the current Congressional debate over granting retrospective immunity to telecoms that helped the NSA spy on citizens without warrants. A Republican cloture motion, which would have blocked any further attempts to remove the retroactive immunity provision, has failed. This controversial portion of the Senate intelligence committee surveillance bill may now be examined in full debate. At the same time, a second cloture motion — filed by Congressional Democrats in an effort to force immediate vote on a 30 day extension to the Protect America Act — also failed to pass. The Protect America Act has been criticized for broadly expanding federal surveillance powers while diminishing judicial oversight. While the failure of this second cloture motion means the Protect America Act might expire, a vote tomorrow on a similar motion in the House will likely bring the issue back into the Senate in time. It seems, according to the article, that both parties feel that imminent expiration of the Protect America Act is a disaster for intelligence gathering, and each side blames the other as progress grinds to a halt."

Software Tool Strips Windows Vista To Bare Bones 472

Preedit writes "A free download that can cut Windows Vista's gargantuan footprint by half or more is developing a big following on the Internet. vLite is a configuration tool that lets users automatically delete a lot of unnecessary Vista components — such as Windows Media Player and MSN installer — to pare the OS down to a reasonable size. The software is catching on. An InformationWeek story notes that a forum that asks users to suggest new features has drawn nearly 50,000 page views. Meanwhile, Microsoft officials have themselves conceded that Vista is "bloated" and are developing the next version of Windows on a core called MinWin, which is smaller than Vista by an order of magnitude."

Speculation On the Doomed Satellite 229

scim writes "Intelligent speculation has led one knowledgeable observer to believe the satellite recently announced to have failed is a radar satellite named USA 193. According to an earlier story on the satellite: 'The experimental L-21 classified satellite, built for the National Reconnaissance Office at a cost of hundreds of millions of dollars, was launched successfully on Dec. 14 [2006] but has been out of touch since reaching its low-earth orbit.'" The ArmsControlWonk story leads off with what purports to be a photo from the ground of USA 193.

Cell Phone Radiation Detectors Proposed to Protect Against Nukes 238

crosshatch brings us news out of Purdue University, where researchers are developing a radiation detection system that would rely on sensors within cell phones to locate and track potentially hazardous material. From the Purdue news service: "Such a system could blanket the nation with millions of cell phones equipped with radiation sensors able to detect even light residues of radioactive material. Because cell phones already contain global positioning locators, the network of phones would serve as a tracking system, said physics professor Ephraim Fischbach. 'The sensors don't really perform the detection task individually,' Fischbach said. 'The collective action of the sensors, combined with the software analysis, detects the source. Say a car is transporting radioactive material for a bomb, and that car is driving down Meridian Street in Indianapolis or Fifth Avenue in New York. As the car passes people, their cell phones individually would send signals to a command center, allowing authorities to track the source.'"
It's funny.  Laugh.

Texas Creationist Museum Facing Extinction 824

gattaca writes "A small Texas museum that teaches creationism is counting on the auction of a prehistoric mastodon skull to stave off extinction. The founder and curator of the Mt. Blanco Fossil Museum, which rejects evolution and claims that man and dinosaurs coexisted, said it will close unless the Volkswagen-sized skull finds a generous bidder. 'If it sells, well, then we can come another day,' Joe Taylor said. 'This is very important to our continuing.'" Meanwhile, the much larger Creation Museum in Kentucky that we discussed and toured when it opened last year seems to be thriving.

Submission + - Student's Expulsion Over Facebook Photo Reversed 1

__aahuqu9051 writes: Following up Friday's article about a student being expelled for writing a 'threatening' photo description on Facebook, it seems once the pressure of a lawsuit backed by FIRE (Foundation for Individual Rights in Education) came against the Board of Regents, they have backed down. Barnes claims that proper disciplinary processes were not followed for his expulsion and is also asking reimbursement for expenses associated with moving to another university and enrolling there for one semester. Yesterday, the Board of Regents reversed the expulsion of Hayden Barnes. It is unknown at this time whether or not Barnes plans to re-enroll and continue at VSU.

Microsoft Releases Specs for Binary Formats 205

skolima writes "In response to requests for even easier access to the Binary Formats, Microsoft has agreed to remove any intermediate steps necessary to get the documentation. They're going to just post it, making it directly available as a download on the Microsoft web site. Microsoft will also make the Binary Formats subject to its Open Specification Promise by February 15, 2008. They're even planning to include an Open Source converter implementation."

US Satellites Dodging Chinese Missile Debris 331

GSGKT writes "Today's Washington Times runs a story about the increasing problem with space junk orbiting the earth. Debris from the anti-satellite missile test by the Chinese military last year threatens the integrity of more than 800 operating satellites, half of them belonging to the US. Two orbiting U.S. spacecraft were forced to change course to avoid being damaged soon after the incident. Air Force Brig. Gen. Ted Kresge, director of air, space and information operations at the Air Force Space Command in Colorado, estimates that "essentially (Chinese anti-satellite tests) increase the amount of space debris orbiting the Earth by about 20 percent", and the debris might threaten spacecraft for up to 100 years."
Christmas Cheer

Extreme Christmas Lights In Orlando 318

tripmine writes "The Orlando Sentinel has a story about a geek who can't get enough Christmas light. 'This Christmas, tech-savvy people such as Hansen are increasingly building the biggest, most elaborate holiday lights in neighborhoods across Central Florida and throughout the country. They typically work in fields such as computer programming, Web development, engineering or audio and visual services and are armed with a technical knowledge that the average person lacks. They trade tips and stories on message boards and set up Web sites with step-by-step descriptions of how they installed their lights as well as pictures and videos of the finished product.'" Many cities have neighborhoods where the spectacle takes up blocks at a time, not just individual houses, too, as anyone who's strolled down Austin's 37th Street can attest. Links invited (in comments) to the best / worst light-spectacles you know of.
United States

Copy That Floppy, Lose Your Computer 766

Over the weekend we posted a story about a new copyright bill that creates a new govt. agency in charge of copyright enforcement. Kevin Way writes "In particular, the bill grants this new agency the right to seize any computer or network hardware used to "facilitate" a copyright crime and auction it off. You would not need to be found guilty at trial to face this penalty. You may want to read a justification of it, and criticism presented by Declan McCullagh and Public Knowledge." Lots of good followup there on a really crazy development.

France Leading Charge Against OOXML 242

Bergkamp10 writes "As Microsoft's Office Open XML document format waits in ISO limbo, South Africa, Korea, and the Netherlands are now actively pursuing the alternative Open Document Format instead, said the ODF Alliance. The Alliance now claims 500 members, and by their count 13 nations have announced laws or rules that favor the use ODF over Microsoft's Office formats. Those nations include Russia, Malaysia, Japan, France, Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, Germany, and Norway. The French have been the most aggressive in their rejection of Microsoft's standard; nearly half a million French government employees are being switched to OpenOffice. There has been no similar move in the US, though in a speech at Google last week Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama called for data to be stored in 'universally accessible formats.'"

Everyday Copyright Violations 431

Schneier has pointed out a great law review article about the problems with copyright. The author takes a look at normal daily practices and how many commonplace actions actually result in what can be considered copyright violations. "By the end of the day, John has infringed the copyrights of twenty emails, three legal articles, an architectural rendering, a poem, five photographs, an animated character, a musical composition, a painting, and fifty notes and drawings. All told, he has committed at least eighty-three acts of infringement and faces liability in the amount of $12.45 million (to say nothing of potential criminal charges). There is nothing particularly extraordinary about John's activities. Yet if copyright holders were inclined to enforce their rights to the maximum extent allowed by law, he would be indisputably liable for a mind-boggling $4.544 billion in potential damages each year. And, surprisingly, he has not even committed a single act of infringement through P2P file sharing."

DHS to Send Widespread Alerts 265

MarsGov writes "The Department of Homeland Security is gearing up to be able to periodic test 'alerts' to cable television stations, satellite radio, as well as any text-capable device — PDAs, cell phones, and web sites." From the article: Some glitches remain as telephone companies and other networks grapple with potentially trying to alert all of their customers at the same time without jamming their systems, Lawson said. But the alerts could be transmitted by text messages, audio recordings, video or graphics, he said, opening the possibility of sending out additional detailed information to specific sectors, like hospitals or emergency responders."

Bill Gates to Step Down from Microsoft 742

Geoffreyerffoeg writes "According to Microsoft PressPass, Bill Gates will be leaving his role at Microsoft in July 2008. He'll be staying with the company, but is also moving to a more fulltime position with the Gates Foundation. 'Microsoft Corp. today announced that effective July 2008 Bill Gates, chairman, will transition out of a day-to-day role in the company to spend more time on his global health and education work at the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. The company announced a two-year transition process to ensure that there is a smooth and orderly transfer of Gates' daily responsibilities, and said that after July 2008 Gates would continue to serve as the company's chairman and an adviser on key development projects.' CTO Ray Ozzie will assume Gates' role of Chief Software Architect, and CTO Craig Mundie will also take on more leadership responsibility."

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Everything that can be invented has been invented. -- Charles Duell, Director of U.S. Patent Office, 1899