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Education

Submission + - Internet-Deprived Kids Turning to 'McLibraries'

theodp writes: After the school computer lab and public library close for the night in many communities, the local McDonald's is often the only place to turn for students without internet access at home. 'Cheap smartphones and tablets have put Web-ready technology into more hands than ever,' reports the WSJ's Anton Troianovski. 'But the price of Internet connectivity hasn't come down nearly as quickly. And in many rural areas, high-speed Internet through traditional phone lines simply isn't available at any price. The result is a divide between families that have broadband constantly available on their home computers and phones, and those that have to plan their days around visits to free sources of Internet access.' The FCC says it can make broadband available to all Americans by spending $45 billion over 10 years, but until then the U.S. will have to rely on Mickey D's, Starbucks, and others to help address its digital divide. Time to update that iconic McDonald's sign?
Java

Submission + - Java alternative for physics simulations? (infoworld.com) 1

An anonymous reader writes: I'm a physics professor who relies on Java applets in many of my courses. They can do heavy-duty number crunching, and until recently they would run on almost any platform, so it was feasible to write my own simulations and expect every student to be able to run them without hassle. Now that students are migrating to tablets and many computers/browsers are no longer configured to run Java, is there a decent alternative?

Submission + - Startup kick-starting a high-bandwidth Software Defined Radio (SDR) peripheral 2

TwineLogic writes: Many Slashdot readers have been enjoying the availability of $20 USB radios which can tune in the range of 50MHz-2GHz. These devices, while cheap, have limited bandwidth (about 2MHz) and minimal resolution (8-bit).

Nuand, a new start-up from Santa Clara, wants to improve on that. Their Kickstarter proposal for bladeRF, a Software Defined Radio transceiver, will support 20MHz bandwidth and 12-bit samples. The frequency range to be covered is planned as 300MHz-3.6Ghz. In addition to the extended spectrum coverage, higher bandwidth, and increased resolution, the bladeRF will have an on-board FPGA capable of performing signal processing and an Altera processor as well.

SDR hobbyists have been using the inexpensive receivers to decode airplane data transmission giving locations and mechanical condition, GPS signals, and many other digital signals travelling through the air around us. This new device would extend the range of inexpensive SDRs beyond the spectrum of 2.4GHz Wi-Fi. In addition, the peripheral includes a low-power transmitter which the experimenter can use without needing a "Ham" license.
Hardware

Submission + - Magnetic transistor could cut power consumption and make chips reprogrammable (nature.com)

ananyo writes: "Transistors, the simple switches at the heart of all modern electronics, generally use a tiny voltage to toggle between ‘on’ and ‘off’. The voltage approach is highly reliable and easy to miniaturize, but has its disadvantages. First, keeping the voltage on requires power, which drives up the energy consumption of the microchip. Second, transistors must be hard-wired into the chips and can’t be reconfigured, which means computers need dedicated circuitry for all their functions.
Now, researchers have made a type of transistor that can be switched with magnetism. The device could cut the power consumption of computers, cell phones and other electronics — and allow chips themselves to be 'reprogrammed'' (abstract)."

Comment Re:How does cuba have an embargo (Score 1) 325

Neither is democracy any more stable. Most democracies before the US (and some after) did not last long due to the difficulties of starting one. After the US got itself established, democracies had more of a fighting chance because the US generally supports them. Communism never really had a country where it went into a stable state (the revolutions which led up to establishing them did not help) so there was no role model or guiding hand to keep them from becoming totalitarian states.

However, Democracy/Capitalism have the same problems as Communism when it comes to long term success. After a while, people in democracy realize that by voting for people, they can get more money. At this point, they do not vote based on the competence or political views (unrelated to money) of the candidate, but on how much money the candidate pledges to give to them. In a similar way, people in communist states (to each according to his needs) realize that no matter how much they work, they will still receive the same amount of money. Even in socialist states (to each according to his contribution), people realize that, much like in democracies, they can influence the amount of money they receive. Either way, the government will slowly devolve into a totalitarian state.

I am not denouncing either of these ideas, though. They are the best methods by which we have come up with for governing, and may be the best we will ever think of. The United States has done very well over its 200+ year course. Nothing can really be said about communism, since at this point it is still waiting to be actually put into practice and not be used as just a slogan. Unfortunately, the US is already showing signs of decline: the national debt is growing as politicians try to bribe voters with even more money while corporations and banks gain even more power (Oligarchy, anyone?). All this will be solved when we get some angels to govern us, but until then, this is the best we've got.

Submission + - In Calculator Arms Race, Casio Fires Back: Color Touchscreen ClassPad (cemetech.net) 2

KermMartian writes: "In what seems to be an accelerating arms race for graphing calculator supremacy between Texas Instruments and Casio, the underdog Casio has fired a return salvo to the recently-announced TI-84 Plus C Silver Edition. The new ClassPad fx-CP400 has a massive color touchscreen and a Matlab-esque CAS. Though not accepted on the SAT/ACT, will such a powerful device gain a strong following among engineers and professionals?"

Submission + - Color-Screen TI-84 Plus Calculator Leaked (cemetech.net) 1

KermMartian writes: "It has been nearly two decades since Texas Instruments released the TI-82 graphing calculator, and as the TI-83, TI-83+, and TI-84+ were created in the intervening years, these 6MHz machines have only become more absurdly retro, complete with 96x64-pixel monochome LCDs and a $120 price tag. However, a student member of a popular graphing calculator hacking site has leaked pictures and details about a new color-screen TI-84+ calculator, verified to be coming soon from Texas Instruments. With the lukewarm reception to TI's Nspire line, it seems to be an attempt to compete with Casio's popular color-screen Prizm calculator. Imagine the graphs (and games!) on this new 320x240 canvas."
Operating Systems

Submission + - The Impending Demise of Microsoft and the Rise of Linux (cemetech.net)

Forty-3 writes: "Win8 is gonna fail hard. Why? Because it's designed for the tablet and smartphone world. Android and iOS are already entrenched there; anything else that isn't amazingly better will fail. Win8 cannot be amazingly better. Therefore, it will fail.

It will have a side effect, however. Desktop users will be alienated. Microsoft has already done this 2 times in the past, ME and Vista. They can't afford to do it again. Most of their profits come from their desktop OS market and their office market. Without their mainstay in the OS market, they will be unable to continue as a software company. All of their other products are copies of existing software, and have all suffered staggering losses.

There is another problem with Microsoft. They have poor leadership. Even if Gates was evil, he was still a programmer. He programmed at least 1 piece of commercially successful software (Altair Basic). Balmer, on the other hand, is an MBA. He has not programmed one piece of software in his life. He instituted stack ranking, described by Kurt Eichenwald:

Every current and former Microsoft employee I interviewed, every one, cited stack ranking as the most destructive process inside of Microsoft ... If you were on a team of 10 people, you walked in the first day knowing that, no matter how good everyone was, two people were going to get a great review, seven were going to get mediocre reviews, and one was going to get a terrible review source

This caused projects at Microsoft to stagnate as they became entwined into an increasingly large bureaucracy that prevented actual work from happening. Projects like Windows Reader (Originally an eBook), Vista, and Zune, where Microsoft had several years on their competition ended up being released years later, stripped of features and far from their original purpose. There is no reason that win9 will be any different from win8.

I believe that in the next 5 years, users will be increasingly motivated to change OSs as Microsoft takes yet another plunge in their profits. There are currently 2 other viable options to windows: OS X and Linux (I refer to the FOSS BSDs in this statement as well, though they are not strictly linux). Although OS X has a large fanboy userbase, I do not see it gaining more than 5-10% over the next 5 years, as its overpriced hardware is not comparable to the many cheaper PC manufacturers' products. However, Linux has the power to take the computer world by the storm in the next 5 years, as its many variations form themselves against a unique subset of the computing world.

Linux has a large commercial userbase already, as many companies have searched for a more economically viable solution to windows in the post-recession world. According to two surveys by W3Tech and Security Space released in August 2011 and 2009, respectively, Linux now runs 63.9% or greater of all servers. According to a 2012 survey of companies with $500 million or more in revenues, almost 80% of them foresee an increase in linux usage in their company in the next 12 months, and 71.8% are planning to add more linux computers in order to support "Big Data."

The big obstacle we now face is widespread desktop adoption of linux. However, this may have already begun. Current articles place linux usage from 8-10% and growing (source source). With the failure of win8 eminent, we may finally see Linus's World Domination Plan put into effect."

Science

Submission + - Study: You Can Learn New Things in Your Sleep (medicaldaily.com)

bbianca127 writes: Researchers studied classical conditioning in 55 study participants while sleeping or awake. According to the article, "Classical conditioning teaches a person or animal to associate one stimulus with another." The researchers paired tones with scents; when they played a tone, they would let out a particular scent while the participants were sleeping. They found that the participants would make the association between the tones and scents even while awake.

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