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Submission + - Antivirus Software Performs Poorly Against New Threats

Hugh Pickens writes writes: "Nicole Perlroth writes in the NY Times that the antivirus industry has a dirty little secret: antivirus products are not very good at stopping new viruses. Researchers collected and analyzed 82 new computer viruses and put them up against more than 40 antivirus products, made by top companies like Microsoft, Symantec, McAfee and Kaspersky Lab and found that the initial detection rate was less than 5 percent (PDF). “The bad guys are always trying to be a step ahead,” says Matthew D. Howard, who previously set up the security strategy at Cisco Systems. “And it doesn’t take a lot to be a step ahead.” Part of the problem is that antivirus products are inherently reactive. Just as medical researchers have to study a virus before they can create a vaccine, antivirus makers must capture a computer virus, take it apart and identify its “signature” — unique signs in its code — before they can write a program that removes it. That process can take as little as a few hours or as long as several years. In May, researchers at Kaspersky Lab discovered Flame, a complex piece of malware that had been stealing data from computers for an estimated five years. “The traditional signature-based method of detecting malware is not keeping up," says Phil Hochmuth. Now the thinking goes that if it is no longer possible to block everything that is bad, then the security companies of the future will be the ones whose software can spot unusual behavior and clean up systems once they have been breached. “The bad guys are getting worse,” says Matthew D. Howard. “Antivirus helps filter down the problem, but the next big security company will be the one that offers a comprehensive solution.”"

Submission + - Why the Emancipation Proclamation Spends Most of its Time in the Dark

Hugh Pickens writes writes: "On January 1, 1863 Abraham Lincoln and William Seward affixed their signatures to the Emancipation Proclamation, the document Frederick Douglass called "the first step on the part of the nation in its departure from the thralldom of the ages" and to mark the 150-year anniversary, The Proclamation will be on rare public display at Washington's National Archives until the end of the day. Although the Emancipation Proclamation did not end slavery in the nation, it placed the issue squarely on top of the wartime agenda. It added moral force to the Union cause and was a significant milestone leading to the ratification of the 13th Amendment to the Constitution in 1865, formally outlawing slavery throughout the nation. The Emancipation Proclamation linked the preservation of American constitutional government to the end of slavery, and has become one of our country’s most treasured documents. The Proclamation, unlike the Constitution and the Declaration, spends most of the year stored in darkness, encapsulated in layers of alkaline and inert mylar because its paper and ink have been damaged over the years by improper handling and overexposure to light and much of the frailty comes from the fact that the Proclamation was written on low-quality, machine-made paper — the mass-produced stuff typical of the Industrial Revolution — rather than the heartier, animal-skin-based parchment that hosts the founding charters. "One of the most significant documents in our history — a document created with the express purpose of changing the course of that history — and the history-makers didn't splurge for separate pieces of paper," writes Megan Garber. "Its fragility is a reminder that even the most transcendent decisions are inscribed, because they must be, in their historical moment. Often on very bad paper.""

Submission + - The Science of Successful New Year's Resolutions

Hugh Pickens writes writes: "Lauren Sommer writes that changing behavior is no easy task, but Stanford Professor B.J. Fogg has developed a new technique: Don't worry about abstract goals, instead, focus on creating “tiny habits.” What’s a tiny habit? "I used to play ukulele a lot. But I stopped practicing for a while," says Fogg. "To get back into it I thought I’m going to create a tiny habit of just practicing this cord sequence. I set it right by the piano so right after I finish breakfast I go pick the ukulele up. That’s what a tiny habit is. It’s a very little thing that you sequence into your life in a place that makes sense and you work to make it automatic.” Abstract goals don’t work, when they aren’t tied to specific behaviors and to retain new behavior, it needs to be instinctual. The more you have to remember to do something, the better the chances are that you’ll talk yourself out of it. For example, instead of promising yourself to floss all your teeth every day, Fogg says to start with flossing just one tooth. Next, find a habit you already have and do your new habit immediately after the old habit. “For me and for most people, brushing your teeth is a solid habit. So that can serve as a trigger for the new behavior you want.” Then, reward yourself. “You declare victory. Like I am so awesome, I just flossed one tooth. And I know it sounds ridiculous. But I believe that when you reinforce yourself like that, your brain will say yeah, awesome, let’s do that.” Fogg, the Director of the Persuasive Tech Lab at Stanford University, says if you make the new behavior a pain, a nuisance, an obligation, or in anyway negative, then you won’t be forming a habit. "We humans are wired to avoid the negative stuff. The habit forms as quickly as you have repeated, positive associations..""

Comment Suggestions for Armstrong's First Words (Score 4, Interesting) 149

Even before the landing Armstrong's first word on the moon were much anticipated and there was a lot of discussion for weeks in the press about what they would be.

Esquire Magazine even ran a story before the moon landing where they asked sixty prominent figures at the time including Marshall McLuhan, Isaac Asimov, Buckminister Fuller, Ayn Rand, Bob Hope, Hubert Humphrey, Tiny Tim, Sal Mineo, Vladamir Nabokov, Mohamad Ali, Truman Capote, and John Kenneth Galbraith for their suggestions on what Armstrong should say upon landing on the moon that would "ring through the ages.".

When Neil H. Armstrong, a blond, blue-eyed, thirty-eight-year-old civilian astronaut from Wapakoneta, Ohio, steps out of the lunar landing module this summer and plants his size eleven space boot on the surface of the moon, the event will eclipse in historic importance the landing of Christopher Columbus in the New World. Commander Armstrong's step will not immediately affect the nature of the quality of life on earth, of course (neither did Columbus'), but it will mark the departure point of a fantastic new adventure in the saga of man. For that step onto the moon will signal a readiness to travel throughout the solar system, even the universe â" in flights that will lead not merely to new worlds, new substances, new conceptions about the nature of matter and of life itself, but, it can scarcely be doubted, to contact with new beings as well. Moreover, Armstrong's will be the first such epic stride to be recorded in detail by the microphone and the television camera. Future generations will be able to relive all that was said and done at that moment as never before in the history of exploration. The stupendous magnitude and unprecedented visibility of what Commander Armstrong is about to do, therefore, combine to pose the question: when the astronaut takes the first step on the moon, what should he say?

I believe it may have been Gore Vidal who made the suggestion that still sticks in my mind after forty-three years: "We come in peace for all mankind. Now come out from behind that rock with your hands up."


Submission + - The Power of a Hot Body 1

Hugh Pickens writes writes: "Depending on the level of activity, the human body generates about 60 to 100 Watts of energy in the form of heat, about the same amount of heat given off by the average light bulb. Now Diane Ackerman writes in the NY Times that architects and builders are finding ways to capture this excess body heat on a scale large enough to warm homes and office buildings. At Stockholm’s busy hub, Central Station, engineers harness the body heat issuing from 250,000 railway travelers to warm the 13-story Kungsbrohuset office building about 100 yards away. First, the station’s ventilation system captures the commuters’ body heat, which it uses to warm water in underground tanks. From there, the hot water is pumped to Kungsbrohuset’s heating pipes, which ends up saving about 25 percent on energy bills. Kungsbrohuset’s design has other sustainable elements as well. The windows are angled to let sunlight flood in, but not heat in the summer. Fiber optics relay daylight from the roof to stairwells and other non-window spaces that in conventional buildings would cost money to heat. Constructing the new heating system, including installing the necessary pumps and laying the underground pipes, only cost the firm about $30,000, says Karl Sundholm, a project manager at Jernhusen, a Stockholm real estate company, and one of the creators of the system. "It pays for itself very quickly," Sundholm adds. "And for a large building expected to cost several hundred million kronor to build, that's not that much, especially since it will get 15% to 30% of its heat from the station.""

Submission + - US Firms Race Fiscal Cliff to Install Wind Turbines

Hugh Pickens writes writes: "BBC reports that US energy companies are racing to install wind turbines before a federal tax credit expires at the end of this year which could be lost as congress struggles with new legislation to avoid the "fiscal cliff." "There's a lot of rushing right now to get projects completed by the end of the year," says Rob Gramlich, senior vice president at the American Wind Energy Association. "There's a good chance we could get this extension, it is very hard to predict, but the industry is not making bets on the Congress getting it done," Even if there is an extension there is likely to be a significant curtailment of wind installations in 2013. From 1999 to 2004, Congress allowed the wind energy production tax credit (PTC) to expire three times, each time retroactively extending it several months after the expiration deadline had passed but wind energy companies say they need longer time frames to negotiate deals to sell the power they generate. "Even if the tax credit is extended, our new construction plans likely will be ramped back substantially in 2013 compared with the last few years," says Paul Copleman. "So much time has passed without certainty that a normal one-year extension would not be a game-changer for our 2013 build plans.""

Submission + - Death Valley Dethrones Impostor as Hottest Place on Earth

Hugh Pickens writes writes: "Adam Nagourney reports that after a yearlong investigation a team of climate scientists announced that it is throwing out a reading of 136.4 degrees claimed by the city of Al Aziziyah, Libya on Sept. 13, 1922 making the 134-degree reading registered on July 10, 1913, at Greenland Ranch in Death Valley the official world record as the hottest place on earth. “It’s about time for science, but I think we all knew it was coming,” says Randy Banis. “You don’t underestimate Death Valley. Most of us enthusiasts are proud that the extremes that we have known about at Death Valley are indeed the most harsh on earth.” The final report by 13 climatologists appointed by the World Meteorological Organization, the climate agency of the United Nations, found five reasons to disqualify the Libya claim, including questionable instruments, an inexperienced observer who made the reading and the fact that the reading was anomalous for that region and in the context of other temperatures reported in Libya that day. “The more we looked at it, the more obvious it appeared to be an error,” says Christopher C. Burt, a meteorologist with Weather Underground who started the debate in a blog post in 2010. For the record, Burt says he also has issues with the Death Valley claim of 134 degrees, and suspects it may be wrong. “It’s anomalous, even for Death Valley,” Burt says. But no matter. Even if 134-Death Valley goes the way of 136.4-Libya, the temperature has most assuredly reached 129 degrees in Furnace Creek at least three times, and 129 is just as much a world record as 134. “Death Valley would still win, so to speak, even if the 134 was erroneous.""

Submission + - Even Mark Zuckerberg's Sister Can't Figure Out Facebook Privacy Settings

Hugh Pickens writes writes: "The Washington Post reports that a picture that Mark Zuckerberg’s sister posted on her personal Facebook profile was seen by Callie Schweitzer, a marketing director, who then posted the picture to Twitter and her more than 40,000 followers. That didn’t sit well with Zuckerberg’s sister, Randi, who tweeted at Schweitzer that the picture was meant for friends only and that posting the private picture on Twitter was “way uncool.” Schweitzer replied by saying the picture popped up on her Facebook news feed. Randi Zuckerberg, who used to run Facebook’s marketing department and now produces a reality television show, used the dustup to write about online sharing etiquette. “Digital etiquette: always ask permission before posting a friend’s photo publicly. It’s not about privacy settings, it’s about human decency,” she posted on Twitter. But Randi Zuckerberg’s comments sparked sharp reactions from people who thought the issue wasn’t about etiquette, but rather Facebook’s often changing and often confusing privacy settings. Eva Galperin of the Electronic Frontier Foundation says while Facebook has made improvements in explaining the social network's privacy settings, they remain confusing to most people. “Even Randi Zuckerberg can get it wrong.""

Submission + - Scientists Say Climate Change Sparked Human Evolution

Hugh Pickens writes writes: "Charles Choi writes that recent excavations in Africa suggest that key mental developments within the human lineage may have been linked with a highly variable environment likely guiding early human evolution. New research reveals strong evidence for dramatic ecosystem changes across the African savanna, in which open grassland landscapes transitioned to closed forests about five or six times during a period of 200,000 years. The team used gas chromatography and mass spectrometry to determine the relative abundances of different leaf waxes and the abundance of carbon isotopes for different leaf waxes enabling them to reconstruct the types of vegetation present at very specific time intervals in the Olduvai Gorge area, a steep-sided ravine in the Great Rift Valley where evidence has been found of the production and use of stone tools indicating an increase in human cognitive capacities. "Early humans went from having trees available to having only grasses available in just 10 to 100 generations, and their diets would have had to change in response," says biogeochemist Clayton Magill. "Changes in food availability, food type, or the way you get food can trigger evolutionary mechanisms to deal with those changes. The result can be increased brain size and cognition, changes in locomotion and even social changes — how you interact with others in a group." This variability in the environment coincided with a key period in human evolution, "when the genus Homo was first established and when there was first evidence of tool use.""

Submission + - Google Apps Challenge Microsoft in Business

Hugh Pickens writes writes: "The NY Times reports that it has taken years, but Google seems to be cutting into Microsoft’s stronghold in business with Google scoring an impressive string of wins in the last year, including the Swiss drug maker Hoffmann-La Roche, where over 80,000 employees use Google Apps, and at the Interior Department, where 90,000 use it. “Google is getting traction” on Microsoft, says analyst Melissa Webster. “Its ‘good enough’ product has become pretty good. It looks like 2013 is going to be the year for content and collaboration in the cloud.” One big advantage Google has is price. Google charges $50 a year for each person using its product, a price that has not changed since it made its commercial debut, even though Google has added features. In 2013, the list price for Microsoft’s Office suite of software will be $400 per computer, although many companies pay half that after negotiating a volume deal. “When you add it up, the numbers are pretty compelling,” says Jim Nielsen, manager of enterprise technology for Shaw Industries whose 30,000 employees switched to Google Apps this year for communication tools like e-mail and videoconferencing. Nielsen estimates that using Google instead of similar Microsoft products costs, over seven years, costs less than 10% of Microsoft’s price. Microsoft has responded with Office 365, which starts at $4 per user per month for e-mail, but the version with desktop productivity applications lists for $20 per user per month. “Office 365 has cloud elements but it’s more of a hybrid that remains tied into Microsoft on-premises software," says Michael Cohn of Cloud Sherpa. "When companies move to Google Apps, it’s their last migration. They won’t have to deal with upgrades every three or four years.""

Submission + - The New Ethanol Blend May Damage Your Vehicle 1

Hugh Pickens writes writes: "About 80 percent of the gasoline consumed in the US is blended with ethanol, primarily E10 meaning gasoline with a 10 percent mix of ethanol, generally derived from corn. Now Kate Sheppard writes that the Environmental Protection Agency has approved a new policy that will allow states to raise the blend to up to 15 percent ethanol (also known as E15), approved for use for cars and light trucks from the model year 2001 and later. A few weeks ago, AAA issued a statement saying that the EPA's new policy creates the "strong likelihood of consumer confusion and the potential for voided warranties and vehicle damage." The worry is that people will put E15 in their cars without realizing it. AAA surveyed vehicle manufacturers, and found that only about 12 million of the 240 million vehicles on the roads today are built to use E15 gasoline. The EPA will require that gas pumps with E15 bear a warning sign noting the blend and that it is not recommended for cars older than the 2001 model year. But what happens if you accidentally use it? "Nobody really knows what negative effects [E15 is] going to have on the vehicle," says Brian Lyons, Toyota's safety and quality communications manager. "We think that there needs to be a lot more study conducted to make sure there are no longer term effects on the vehicle. So far everything we've seen says there will be." The concern is that repeated, long-term exposure could cause the higher-alcohol-content fuel to degrade engine parts like valves and cylinder heads—which could potentially cost thousands of dollars to replace. Gas station owners don't like it very much either, because they'd likely have to upgrade their equipment to use it. Nor are environmental groups big fans of the EPA's decision arguing that increasing the use of ethanol can drive up food prices, and isn't the best means of reducing our reliance on foreign fuels. The ethanol lobby is the only group that really seems to like the new rule. "We've force fed a fuel into every American's car that benefits a few thousand corn farmers and ethanol refiners at the expense of virtually every other American," says Scott Faber."

Submission + - The Twelve Days of Christmas Gadgets

Hugh Pickens writes writes: "If you still have some last minute Christmas shopping to do and are looking for cool gifts for the tech nuts in your life David Pogue has put together a list of twelve cheap tech gifts and gadgets that real-world people can give to real-world friends, bosses, employees and family members — nothing over $100. How about a Zapped edition of Monopoly for $25 where there is no paper money in the game. You put your iPhone or iPad in the middle of the Monopoly board — and each player gets a fake credit card. You pay or collect money from the bank electronically, just by placing your card briefly on the touch screen. Or how about a Sound Oasis Sound Therapy Pillow for $38? The speakers are in the pillow, you don’t feel them, and you can drift to sleep with music playing without disturbing whoever is trying to sleep next to you. Then there's the Tagg Pet Tracker ($100, plus $8 a month after three months) that snaps onto your dog or cat’s existing collar. You can use the pettracker.com Web site to find your pet on a map, using your phone or computer. Our favorite is the Cirago iAlert Tag for $50. If you walk away from your smartphone (iPhone, Android phone or BlackBerry), your key chain beeps to alert you and it works the other way, too. If you leave your keys somewhere, the phone beeps to alert you as you walk away! But the weirdest and most memorable of the suggestions are the Necomimi Brain-Powered Cat Ears for $100. It’s a headband with fluffy white cat ears attached that perk up, flop down and otherwise turn, cutely and catlike, in sync with your brainwaves. There’s a good deal of debate online about just how much the ears’ motion is, in fact, governed by your brainwaves but one thing the Necomimis do extremely well is get attention, start conversations and make your holiday gift memorable. Now go start wrapping."

Submission + - Has Lego Sold Out?

Hugh Pickens writes writes: "Matt Richtel and Jesse McKinley write in the NY Times that for generations of American children, Legos were the ultimate do-it-yourself plaything. Little plastic bricks, with scant instructions, just add imagination. But today’s construction sets are often tied to billion-dollar franchises like “Star Wars” and “Lord of the Rings” and invite users to follow detailed directions, not construct their own creations from whole brick. It’s less open-ended, some parents and researchers say, and more like paint-by-numbers. “When I was a kid, you got a big box of bricks and that was it,” says Tracy Bagatelle-Black. “What stinks about Lego sets now is that they’re not imaginative at all.” Lego loyalists are quick to defend the company. Josh Wedin, the managing editor of the Brothers Brick, a Lego blog, called complaints that they are less creative “simply ridiculous,” adding that Legos always included some instructions, though he says he misses the alternative designs that used to be on the back of the box. But Clifford Nass, a sociology professor at Stanford University who studies how people relate to the physical world versus the virtual world, says some essential qualities were lost when Lego became more like other toys. “The genius of Lego was, you had to do the work.” Learning about frustration, Nass says, “is a hugely important thing.”"
The Courts

Submission + - Court Finds Calling Someone a "Terrorist" Online Is Non-Actionable Opinion

Hugh Pickens writes writes: "Eric Goldman writes that after Town Board member Gail Soro of Wawayanda, NY discovered a severed horse head in her swimming pool in July 2006, community members started pointing fingers at each other over whodunit and although it was never determined who was responsible for the incident members of the community started posting accusations on blogs and newspaper websites. ""We all know who was behind the Horse Head . . . there is only one man around town dumb enough, violent enough and with a vendetta to do that . . . Dave LeBlanc . . . I hope all this negative publicity on him destroys his business," wrote one defendant. "Dave LeBlanc is a terrorist." In the modern post-9/11 era where we have sacrificed our liberty for the (usually false) perception of security, calling someone a "terrorist" is among the worst things you can do writes Goldman. However the court found that the "terrorist" epithet was "rhetorical hyperbole" and added that "readers give less credence to allegedly defamatory Internet communications than they would to statements made in other milieus." Still, the news isn't all good for the defendants. The court says it's still defamatory per se to assert that someone put a severed horse head in someone's pool, because "the accusation that the plaintiff placed a horse head in a political rival's pool, if true, describes conduct that would constitute serious crimes" so the court reserves dismissal of that claim."

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"Being against torture ought to be sort of a multipartisan thing." -- Karl Lehenbauer, as amended by Jeff Daiell, a Libertarian