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Submission Summary: 0 pending, 10 declined, 0 accepted (10 total, 0.00% accepted)

Software

Submission + - Is Phoning Home Killing Our Computers?

Bones3D_mac writes: As a Mac user, I've been spared much of the headache of viruses and other nasty surprises most PC users have been dealing with on a daily basis. Lately though, I've been looking into the windows side of things to expand my available toolsets, such as tablet laptops for things like photoshop and lightweight 3D modeling work.

The problem, however, is how do I keep a mission-critical system like this safe when the applications being used on it require an internet connection to phone home? Obviously, having no external connections would do a lot to prevent anything from causing damage to the data stored on the system. But it seems that it's become increasingly difficult to keep the internet out of the equation when it comes to the more expensive software.

Should commercial developers be considering other methods of preventing piracy besides just phoning home? Or should we start holding them responsible for making our mission-critical systems needlessly vulnerable due to their software's requirement that an internet connect always be present?
The Internet

Submission + - How do you reason with computer illiterates?

Bones3D_mac writes: Have you ever had to explain a serious computer-related problem to someone who is both complete ignorant of the ramifications involved and unable to comprehend the nature of the problem itself... even when you try to dumb it down with metaphors and pictures?

For example, a relative of mine recently approached me, asking me to download a bunch of copyrighted material off Limewire and burn them onto CDs. Needless to say, I attempted to explain that it wasn't legal to acquire copyrighted content this way, citing some of the numerous cases where the RIAA issued potential life-destroying lawsuits, and suggested using something like Apple's iTunes Music Store instead.

Not satisfied with the option that involved actually "paying" for the content, I was then met with the usual "if it's not legal, then why are the files on there?", and "everyone else I know does it all the time and nothing happens to them!" arguments before they finally got pissed off and stormed off empty handed.

So... how do you reason with such unbelievably flawless logic to get someone to finally understand the potential dangers involved in something they see as being completely harmless?
Biotech

Submission + - Lightning Bug Lighting - Voluntary or Involuntary?

Bones3D_mac writes: Earlier today, a lightning bug managed to sneak into my house and took up a stationary position on the wall. While not entirely exciting by itself, it did allow me to make some observations about what exactly triggers the glow. Although it's widely believed that the glow is somehow used for communication purposes between these insects, I'm starting to question whether this is actually the case, or if it's even voluntary at all.

First off, I've noticed the environment seems to play heavily into when the glow reflex is triggered. However, it doesn't seem to be the state of the environment that matters, so much as changes to the environment itself. In toying with the lightning bug, I had found that blowing small puffs of air toward the bug and rapid changes in lighting both triggered predictable results to the point of getting the glow to occur a specific number of times relative to the number of times each action was performed.

Next, I've noticed at points where the state of the environment was kept static, the glow did not trigger at all at any point the lightning bug remained stationary. However, the glow would consistently be triggered at points immediately before and during the bug's movements, and then discontinue right before movement ceased.

Finally, it seems that not only does movement trigger the glow, but the patterns of the glow generated by the movements varied with the complexity of the movements. For example, walking would trigger a very slow blinking, but flying triggered a more rapid pattern.

Based on these observations, I'm starting to think this idea of the glow being used for communication purposes may be an inaccurate assessment, at least as far as any sort of voluntary communication is concerned. Instead, I'm inclined to believe the glow may actually be more of an involuntary and passive response to the lightning bug's overall brain activity, as opposed to a voluntary decision to light up or not light up.

I'm actually kind of curious what our entomology-minded slashdotter's think. If my thinking on this is correct, it could offer some interesting insight into how the brains of these insects actually work. (Sort of like a primitive, always-on EEG wired directly into the brain.)

More importantly, perhaps this could be used in some manner on more complex creatures to allow for instantaneous visual feedback about the state of that creature's brain, rather than having to remove these creatures from their natural environments to observe them via other methods.
Television

Submission + - Mandatory Television Programming?

Bones3D_mac writes: I've noticed in the last couple days that my DirecTV Plus DVR reciever has recently started to covertly record programming I did not specifically request. While this isn't necessarily a problem by itself, it has become a problem in that I cannot choose to delete, block or opt-out from receiving this content. Instead, I'm apparently "required" to receive this content and forced to keep it stored on my DVR drive until a time and date of DirecTV's choosing, all under the guise of a "feature" called Showcase.

Even more interesting, is that the channel this unwanted content originates from cannot be accessed manually. Also, it doesn't show up in any menu or recording schedule, rendering it invisible and completely unpredictable to the user.

Aside from the obvious inconveniences involved (hijacked disk space, seemingly random interruptions of multi-channel recordings, etc... ), it also raises an important question.

Are we headed for a "Max Headroom"-style future where mandatory television viewing will somehow become required by law? I'd hate to think the only option I have is to throw a towel over my TV screen so I can't see it.

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