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Christmas Cheer

Submission + - Send a name to Mars for Christmas

space_elf writes: The Planetary Society has an interesting program just in time for Christmas, and just perfect for the persnickity someone in your life who seems to have everything. You can submit a name that will be written on a mini-disk and flown aboard the upcoming Phoenix mission to Mars. Included in the free (as in beer) service is a certificate to present to them as proof of their name going into space. Sorry folks, mothers-in-law are not allowed.

BLAST Telescope About To Launch From Antarctica 51

mtruch writes "BLAST, the Balloon-borne Large Aperture Sub-millimeter Telescope, is about to be launched from McMurdo Station, Antarctica. BLAST is a 2700 kg telescope with a 2 meter primary mirror that hangs from a 1.1 million cubic meter balloon floating at an altitude of 38 km that will study the star formation history of the universe. It will float west at nearly constant latitude for about 14 days until it is (hopefully) located over McMurdo again and will be terminated and recovered. Real time position and flight track is available from the CSBF. Watch the launch live via a crappy webcam link. Three of the graduate students working on the project have photo blogs of much of the prep period, and specifically Don's blog should have launch photos soon (bandwidth to/from McMurdo is at a premium). BLAST made it on Slashdot in the past, when it launched from Sweden in June 2005, and indirectly with an interview with Prof. Barth Netterfield and George Staikos. Yes, the flight computers still run Slack, and yes, we still use kst for data viewing and analysis. There is a Discovery Science show about BLAST and high-altitude balloons, and a future documentary film being made as well."
PC Games (Games)

Submission + - Final Beta Phase for Myst Online: Uru Live

aussie_a writes: "Myst Online: Uru Live has entered its final beta phase with it heralding the beginning of a preview storyline for the online game. Myst Online: Uru Live moves away from the typical leveling found in online games in favor of a compelling story which is told through venues such as an in character website coupled with the puzzles that are a hallmark of the Myst franchise."
PC Games (Games)

Submission + - "Violent" Games banned In Turkey

unity100 writes: "Last in a series of moves in order to "protect children" against harmful content, government branches in cities around turkey have banned a list of 19 games including Counter Strike, GTA Vice City, Half Life, GTA San Andreas, Delta Force, Swat, Call Of Duty, Knightonline, The Punisher, Louncher, Hitman, Counter, Hell Forces, Halo, Line Of Sight Vietnam, Pariah, Serious Sam, Return To Castle Wolfenstein as unplayable through internet cafes around turkey. Cafes who are found to have these games are fined 12.000 Turkish Liras, which equal roughly $ 8500, as reported by the website of the foremost newspaper belonging to one of the two biggest media monopolies in turkey : m=1&gid=112&srid=3439&oid=1

The ban was initiated with the directive of governors, and is enforced by police force. Governors are not elected, but appointed in Turkey, by buraeucratic arm of the government. The 'council' that decides these games are 'violent' and therefore 'harmful are comprised of a hilarious compendium of instutitions, which include national lottery instutition, State monopoly instutition, fiscal police instutition, police force (national) and some branches of health ministry and child health branches of some universities — which with a whopping percentage consist of people who are not even able to turn a computer on by themselves.

The move follows on the wake of the turmoil resulting from a high profile child porn distribution crime case, which was also much hyped by the same major newspapers."

Report Says Patents Prevent New Drugs 381

An anonymous reader writes "Current orthodoxy claims patents encourage innovation, by allowing developers to enjoy profitable monopolies on their inventions which in turn inspire them to create new inventions. A new report by the non-partisan General Accounting Office suggests that this orthodoxy is wrong — at least when drug companies are involved. According to the report, existing patent law allows drug companies to patent, and make substantial profits off of, "new" drugs which differ little from existing medicines. Given high profit margins on very minor innovations, the report argues that drug companies have little incentive to produce innovative new drugs. In other words, current patent law actually discourages drug companies from producing new medicines. Responding to the report, Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) released a strongly worded statement suggesting that a legislative response will be forthcoming. "The findings in this new GAO report," said Senator Durbin, "raise serious questions about the pharmaceutical industry claims that there is a connection between new drug development and the soaring price of drugs already on the market. Most troubling is the notion that pharmaceutical industry profits are coming at the expense of consumers in the form of higher prices and fewer new drugs.""
Christmas Cheer

Submission + - Dreaming of a Green Christmas

PreacherTom writes: With global warming high on the list of political discussion, the concept of a "green Christmas" doesn't involve how much snow there will be on Christmas day. For the environmentally-friendly on your list, here are Businessweek's choices of the year's best green presents, along with pictures. Don't worry: keeping with the spirit of holiday giving, all are still really cool toys that you really don't need.

Submission + - Guardian Unlimited names top 100 most useful sites

VonSnouty writes: The influential Guardian Unlimited site has revealed this year's top 100 listing of the most useful sites on the Internet. Controversially, the site calls Digg over Slashdot (it's a marathon not a sprint, right guys?) but to be fair the list seems geared more towards the new and quirky than the tried-and tested. Sure to provoke debate.

Submission + - Drowning in Tech Junk?

JackStrife17 writes: "In an attempt to reduce the clutter in my home office, I've been gathering up all of my spare disk drives, cables, screws, mice and other miscellaneous bits that I have lying around. While a tall cardboard box filled with categorized plastic and anti-static bags was once a satisfactory system of organization, it is no longer working for me. I currently access my "box of holding" about once a day where locating and retrieving things I need has become a tedious affair. With dozens of different types of tools, components, and cables that every nerd needs regular access to, how does Slashdot organize and store its own collections of tech junk?"

Submission + - How Far Are You Willing To Go to Save Energy?

Anonymous writes: Throughout the year, our family has been trying our best to save energy where we can, in our small effort to help reduce emissions. Obviously one household is an extremely small amount in the overall scale of things, but we feel that it's a start, and we've talked to our friends about reducing their energy usage as well. For the first time, we are not putting up exterior christmas lights, we have bought a plastic tree that we will reuse each year in the future (we feel this is better than cutting down a perfectly good tree year after year), and we will only be turning on the lights on the tree Christmas Eve evening and Christmas Day (after much convincing of the wife). We've also been doing the more mundane energy saving activities such as riding my bike to work whenever the weather permits, turning the computer and tv off immediately after use, keeping a minimal amount of lights on at one time, the list goes on. My question to the Slashdot Community is, to what extent are people who are worried about the effects of global warming themselves willing to go without to reduce energy consumption? What other things are you doing that others can do to also reduce energy consumption?

Submission + - The Incredible Microwavable Nanotube

30KW writes: RSC is reporting that researchers at the University of Oxford have discovered a new method by which hollow organic nanotubes can be created. Previously, creating nanotubes involved complicated synthesis and once the tubes were built they could not be modified. This new method involves heating naphthalenediimide molecules in a microwave. The molecules break down and reform into stable nanotube sturctures. The tubes are stable when dry yet can be reformed by the same process that created them, lending credence to the idea of reformable nanotubes. From the article: 'The Cambridge team are also investigating whether their nano-fusilli is one of a kind, or if larger related building blocks might open up a whole series of helical structures.'

Submission + - Deadman's switch in Windows Vista

knorthern knight writes: "Some people fear a remotely invoked "kill switch" in Microsoft products. In the past you could play safe by not connecting to the internet, and MS wouldn't be able to shut you down. What if Vista had to occasionally connect to the mothership, and request permission to continue functioning? And if it couldn't connect, it would cease functioning. If you don't believe me, check out Microsoft's EULAs
Product Name: Windows Vista
Version: Home Basic
Language: English
Page 2 of that pdf, paragraph 4 talks about mandatory activation. If it was a one-shot deal, I wouldn't have a problem. **BUT*** paragraph 5 says...
a. The software will from time to time validate the software, update or require download of the validation feature of the software.

and if it isn't allowed to connect to the mothership...

c. If, after a validation check, the software is found not to be properly licensed, the functionality of the software may be affected. For example, you may
* need to reactivate the software, or
* receive reminders to obtain a properly licensed copy of the software, or you may not be able to use or continue to use some of the features of the software

OK, so you're the Chairman in China, or the President of France. From a national security POV, do you *REALLY* want a situation where the vast majority of PCs in your country have to call home to the USA, and beg for permission to continue operating? Not to mention that there are probably some PCs with sensitive information that should never connect to the net in the first place."

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