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Programming

Learning Programming In a Post-BASIC World 510

ErichTheRed writes "This Computerworld piece actually got me thinking — it basically says that there are few good 'starter languages' to get students interested in programming. I remember hacking away at BASIC incessantly when I was a kid, and it taught me a lot about logic and computers in general. Has the level of abstraction in computer systems reached a point where beginners can't just code something quick without a huge amount of back-story? I find this to be the case now; scripting languages are good, but limited in what you can do... and GUI creation requires students to be familiar with a lot of concepts (event handling, etc.) that aren't intuitive for beginners. What would you show a beginner first — JavaScript? Python? How do you get the instant gratification we oldies got when sitting down in front of the early-80s home computers?"
Advertising

AP Adopts Firefox's 'Do Not Track'; Others On the Way 80

theweatherelectric writes "As noted by the Mozilla Blog, the AP News Registry is the first large scale service to support the Do Not Track (DNT) feature of Firefox 4 and Internet Explorer 9. They write, 'The Associated Press (AP) is the first company to deploy DNT on a large scale, and it only took a few hours for one engineer to implement. The AP News Registry tracks 1 billion impressions of news content, with 175 million unique visitors per month, and has membership with more than 800 sites. When consumers send a DNT preference via the browser while viewing a story at one of its publisher's sites, the AP News Registry no longer sets any cookies. The previous solution was for users to opt-out via a link to a central opt-out page referenced in each participating news site's privacy policy. They still count the total number of impressions for each news story, but aggregate consumer data for those with DNT in a non-identifiable way.'"

Submission + - Renewable Energy Might Not Be 2

lee1 writes: "Physicist Axel Kleidon of the Max Planck Institute for Biogeochemistry
in Jena, Germany has shown that it is a mistake to consider the wind and
waves to be truly renewable energy sources. Build enough wind farms to
replace fossil fuels, he says, and we would reduce the energy available
in the atmosphere and actually accelerate climate change. We know from
thermodynamics that only a modest fraction of the solar energy reaching
Earth is available as 'free energy' we can use, taking the form of
winds, ocean currents, and lifting of evaporated water. The rest becomes
heat, which is not available to do work. By building wind and wave farms, we
will be converting part of the sun's useful energy into thermal energy.
The effects of this would probably show up first in the wind farms
themselves, where the gains expected will be less than predicted as the
energy of the Earth system is depleted. Kleidon’s calculations show
that the amount of energy which we can harness from the wind is reduced
by a factor of 100 if you take this into account. In addition, sucking that much energy out of the
atmosphere will alter precipitation, turbulence and the amount of solar
radiation reaching the Earth's surface. The effect
will be comparable to the results of doubling
atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide. Even current photovoltaic
designs will contribute to global warming, because they
convert only a small fraction of the light that hits them converting the rest to heat that warms the environment."
Data Storage

Submission + - Confidential Data Not Safe on Solid State Disks (usenix.org)

An anonymous reader writes: I always thought that the SSD was a questionable place to store private data. These researchers at UCSD's Non-Volatile Systems Laboratory have torn apart SSDs and have found remnant data even after running several open source and commerical secure erase tools. They've also proposed some changes to SSDs that would make them more secure. Makes you think twice about storing data on SSDs — once you put it on, getting it off isn't so easy.
Microsoft

Microsoft Bans Open Source From the Windows Market 566

Blacklaw writes "Microsoft has raised the ire of the open source community with its Windows Marketplace licence by specifically refusing to allow software covered under an open licence to be distributed. The licence, which anyone wishing to distribute Windows, Windows Phone, or Xbox applications through the company's copy of Apple's App Store is required to agree to, is the usual torrent of legalese — but hides a nasty surprise for those who support open source ideals."
Businesses

Nokia Plan B Was Just a Hoax 142

suraj.sun writes "There's been a lot of chatter about a 'Nokia Plan B' over the past 48 hours — the site was put up by nine young investors who outlined an audacious plan to rally shareholders, get themselves elected onto Nokia's board, and radically change the company's direction by firing Stephen Elop and committing massive resources to MeeGo. There's just one problem, though: the nine young investors don't really exist — according to the last tweet on the @NokiaPlanB Twitter account, it was all a hoax perpetuated by 'one very bored engineer who really likes his iPhone.' Ouch. That explains why the now-defunct site abruptly gave up the cause this morning after just 36 hours of existence."

AMD Sale to Dell Rumored 325

An anonymous reader writes "Advanced Micro Devices may be up for sale. AMD's shares were significantly up yesterday, apparently on rumors that Dell is interested in buying the American multinational semiconductor company. If AMD ends up being bought out, the purchase by Dell, or any other company for that matter, would be among the biggest the technology industry has seen. It would be of course bigger than when AMD bought ATI in 2006."
Cellphones

Nokia and Microsoft Make Smartphone Alliance 479

pbahra writes "The smart money was right. Nokia has jumped into bed with Microsoft and will produce phones running Windows Phone 7. The cynics would say that, here, we have two lumbering dinosaurs of the technology world clinging to each other hoping that the other gives them a future. Optimists would point to two companies that need each other, both bringing vital components to the alliance. The big winner is Microsoft. Windows Phone 7, while reasonably well received by commentators, has not set the world on fire. An alliance with Nokia gives it access to the world's largest phone maker and its huge mindshare — in many developing nations a mobile phone is known as a Nokia. The biggest loser is MeeGo, the ugly, unloved step-child of operating systems." Nokia wrote to developers, "Qt will continue to be the development framework for Symbian and Nokia will use Symbian for further devices; continuing to develop strategic applications in Qt for Symbian platform and encouraging application developers to do the same."
Science

Submission + - Australian Aborigines the first 'astronomers'? (news.com.au)

brindafella writes: Look out, Stonehenge, here come the Wurdi Youang rocks in the Australian state of Victoria. A semi-circle of stones as been checked by an astrophysicist from Australia's premier research group, the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), who says this arrangement of rocks is a carefully aligned solar observatory that may be 10,000 years old. It would have been created by local Aborigines, the Wathaurong people, who have occupied the area for some 25,000 years.
Science

'Invisibility Cloak' Created Using Crystals 98

Zothecula writes "The quest to build a working 'invisibility cloak' generally focuses on the use of metamaterials – artificially engineered materials with a negative refractive index that have already been used to render microscopic objects invisible in specific wavelengths of light. Now, using naturally occurring crystals rather than metamaterials, two research teams working independently have demonstrated technology that can cloak larger objects in the broad range of wavelengths visible to the human eye. PDFs of the two similarly named research papers are available through arXiv.org."
Hardware Hacking

The Case of Apple's Mystery Screw 845

Pickens writes "Network World reports that in the past if you wanted to remove the outer case on your iPhone 4 to replace the battery or a broken screen, you could use a Phillips screwdriver to remove two tiny screws at the base of the phone and then simply slide off the back cover. But now Apple is replacing the outer screw with a mysterious tamper-resistant 'pentalobular' screw across its most popular product lines, making it harder for do-it-yourselfers to make repairs. What about existing products in the field? Pentalobular screws might find their way into them, too. 'Apple's latest policy will make your blood boil,' says Kyle Wiens, CEO of iFixit. 'If you take your iPhone 4 into Apple for any kind of service, they will sabotage it by replacing your Phillips screws with the new, tamper-resistant screws. We've spoken with the Apple Store geniuses tasked with carrying out this policy, and they are ashamed of the practice.' Of course, only Apple-authorized service technicians have Pentalobular screwdrivers and they're not allowed to resell them. 'Apple sees a huge profit potential,' says Wiens. 'A hundred dollars per year in incremental revenue on their installed base is a tremendous opportunity.'"
Government

UK ID Card Scheme Data Deleted For £400K 149

DaveNJ1987 writes "It will cost the British government only £400,000 to destroy the data for its failed ID card initiative. The data compiled by the National Identity Register, which was scrapped last year by the coalition government, will be disposed of for the relatively small sum — in government figures — Home Office minister Damian Green confirmed."
Security

Espionage In Icelandic Parliament 274

bumburumbi writes "An unauthorised computer, apparently running encrypted software, was found hidden inside an unoccupied office in the Icelandic Parliament, Althingi, connected to the internal network. According to the Reykjavik Grapevine article, serial numbers had been removed and no fingerprints were found. The office had been used by substitute MPs from the Independence Party and The Movement, the Parliamentary group of Birgitta Jonsdottir, whose Twiiter account was recently subpoenaed by US authorities. The Icelandic daily Morgunbladid, under the editorship of Mr David Oddsson, former Prime Minister and Central Bank chief, has suggested that this might be an operation run by Wikileaks. The reporter for the Reykjavik Grapevine, Mr Paul Nikolov is a former substitute MP, having taken seat in Parliament in 2007 and 2008."
Earth

Carbon Trading Halted After EU Exchange Is Hacked 228

chicksdaddy writes "The European Commission (EC) suspended trading in carbon credits on Wednesday after unknown hackers compromised the accounts of Czech traders and siphoned off around $38 million, Threatpost reports. EU countries including Estonia, Austria, The Czech Republic, Poland and France began closing their carbon trading registries yesterday after learning that carbon allowances had been siphoned from the account of the Czech based register. A notice posted on the Web site of the Czech based registry said that it was 'not accessible for technical reasons' on Thursday and the EC issued an order to cease spot trading until January 26 so that it can sort out what appears to be chronic security lapses within the system."
Transportation

Road Train Completes First Trials In Sweden 345

Hugh Pickens writes "BBC reports technology that links vehicles into 'road trains' that can travel as a semi-autonomous convoy has undergone its first real world tests with trials held on Volvo's test track in Sweden. Researchers believe platoons of cars could be traveling on Europe's roads within a decade cutting fuel use, boosting safety and may even reducing congestion. SARTRE researchers say that around 80% of accidents on the road are due to human error so using professional lead drivers to take the strain on long journeys could, they say, see road accidents fall. They also predict fuel efficiency could improve by as much as 20% if 'vehicle platooning' takes off, with obvious benefits for the environment. 'An automated system is likely to make it safer as it takes away driver error but it would have to be 100% reliable,' says John Franklin 'This kind of system would also require a complete change in motoring culture for drivers to hand over control.'"

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