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Space

Submission + - Saturn's Rings Formed from Large Moon Destruction (spacefellowship.com)

Matt_dk writes: The formation of Saturn's rings has been one of the classical if not eternal questions in astronomy. But one researcher has provided a provocative new theory to answer that question. Robin Canup from the Southwest Research Institute has uncovered evidence that the rings came from a large, Titan-sized moon that was destroyed as it spiraled into a young Saturn.
Microsoft

Submission + - Ubuntu: we won't moan to EU about Microsoft (pcpro.co.uk)

Barence writes: The company behind the Ubuntu Linux distro says it has no plans to follow Opera's lead and file a complaint against Microsoft to the EU. Ubuntu 10.10 is the most "consumer-friendly" version of the Linux distro to date, but it faces an uphill battle against Microsoft's marketing machine. Even high-profile supporter Dell has dropped Ubuntu machines from its website in recent months, while continuing to remind visitors that "Dell recommends Windows 7" at the top of every PC page. However, Canonical won't take inspiration from Opera and complain about anti-competitive behaviour to the EU — a move which saw Microsoft forced to offer rival browsers to Windows users across Europe. "I don't think we've ever considered it," said Steve George, vice president of business development at Canonical. "The improvements we're making to Ubunutu... are a better route for us to reach out to users and get a bigger user base."
Books

Submission + - Book Review: OpenGL SuperBible (Fifth Edition)

asgard4 writes: Statistics
Title: OpenGL SuperBible (Fifth Edition)
Author: Richard S. Wright, Jr., Nicholas Haemel, Graham Sellers, Benjamin Lipchak
Pages: 969
Rating: 9/10
Publisher: Addison-Wesley Publishing http://www.awl.com/
ISBN-10: 0-32-171261-7
ISBN-13: 978-0-32-171261-5
Price: $59.99 US
Book Website: http://www.opengl.org/superbible, www.informit.com/title/9780321712615
Summary: Quite possibly the best introduction to OpenGL 3.3 programming that focuses exclusively on graphics programming using shaders.

The OpenGL SuperBible (www.informit.com/title/9780321712615) in its fifth edition is almost a complete rewrite. The authors threw out the discussion of old-style, fixed-function programming and replaced it with an introduction to OpenGL that is exclusively focused on using shaders from the very beginning. All the things that got deprecated with the advent of OpenGL 3 got removed, making it a more relevant and up-to-date book than the previous editions. The OpenGL SuperBible still strives to be the "world's best introduction to OpenGL" according to the authors. Let's see if it can keep that promise.

With the removal of the fixed-function pipeline, the OpenGL SuperBible is no longer quite the heavy-weight it used to be. It shrunk from more than 1200 to about 970 pages, which is not necessarily a bad thing. The book starts out with a basic introduction to 3D graphics, coordinate systems, and some basic math concepts, followed by short rundown of the history of OpenGL and a first little example program that renders a triangle. The authors even provide instructions on how to setup the C/C++ projects to build the example on Windows and MacOS. The writing is to the point but still verbose enough to easily follow the text. The authors analyze the example program in detail making it easy for a beginner to follow and understand the code. Overall, I really like the writing style and the flow of the book.

The next few chapters gradually introduce more and more OpenGL API functionality intermixed with new 3D graphics concepts, such as rendering points, lines, and polygons in various ways, alpha blending, how to use geometric transformations and projections, and how to move objects and the camera. Eventually, basic texture mapping is introduced with most of the basic things you need to know about the topic. In particular, specifying textures coordinates, sampling textures in the fragment shader, the various filtering modes (even anisotropic filtering), and texture compression are discussed. In a later chapter the authors do another deep dive into the topic of textures, in particular rectangle textures, cube maps, multitexturing, point sprites, and using texture arrays

Until this point the authors used haven't really talked much about shader programming yet. Most of the examples use simple pre-made shaders that don't really do much. This changes with chapter six titled "Nonstock Shaders" where we get a first glimpse of how to write our own shaders in GLSL, the OpenGL Shading Language. In particular, a fragment shader that uses a simple lighting model to light objects is developed.

After these introductory chapters presenting the basics of OpenGL programming, the next part of the book focuses on more advanced topics, beginning with buffer objects and how to use them to make your OpenGL programs run much more efficiently on modern hardware. Some of the examples presented in this part of the book include using render-to-texture to do reflections, tone mapping, and bloom. This part of the book closes with two fairly long chapters on advanced usage of the shader pipeline, in particular the transform feedback and the geometry shader stages. There is also some discussion on more advanced effects achievable with fragment shaders, in particular applying filters to images, such as a Gaussian blur or a Sobel filter. Finally, rendering geometry efficiently with vertex buffer objects and rendering many objects via geometry instancing is presented.

The final part of the book consists of 4 chapters explaining how to integrate OpenGL with the underlying operating system, in particular with Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux plus various other Unix flavors. The last chapter of this part of the book is about OpenGL ES, which is a version of OpenGL designed to be used especially on embedded system devices, in particular mobile phones and PDAs, to render real-time, interactive 3D graphics.

The book has a lot of images and diagrams throughout, though unfortunately not all of them are in color. There are however 24 color plates of the most interesting images in the middle of the book. The complete source code of the book, and even precompiled binaries for Windows and Mac OS X, can be downloaded from the book’s webpage http://www.opengl.org/superbible.

If you are new to both 3D graphics programming and OpenGL with a bit of C/C++ programming experience and you are eager to learn how to develop interactive programs with OpenGL, then this book is exactly right for you. The book is written in an easy to understand style without skimming the details (or even more advanced topics). It is the most comprehensive introduction to OpenGL that doesn’t require a lot of previous knowledge I have seen to date. The decision to completely drop any discussion of the fixed-function pipeline turned out to be an excellent choice. Finally there is a book that no longer wastes the reader's time with the parts of OpenGL that nobody who does serious graphics development uses and instead presents up-to-date information on how to do 3D graphics on modern graphics hardware.

All in all, the OpenGL SuperBible in its fifth edition succeeds very well in keeping its promise to be the best introduction to OpenGL and 3D graphics programming. Even after you’re done working your way through the main parts of the book you will always come back to the handy OpenGL API reference in the appendix of the book.

About the review author:
The author has been involved in real-time graphics programming for more than 10 years and works as a professional game developer for High Moon Studios http://www.highmoonstudios.com/ in sunny California.

Submission + - A Look at Facebook's New "Social CAPTCHA" Auth (zeltser.com)

An anonymous reader writes: Facebook is using an innovative technique to authenticate users when the login from unusual sources. The mechanism relies on the user's ability to name his friends when presented with their photos. It's not as easy as it sounds, as this article shows with screen shots.
Government

Submission + - How Do Your Candidates Stand on Issues For Nerds?

Trevin writes: With the general elections coming up in the U.S., I want to know what each of the candidates' positions are regarding the issues that matter to me. But the mainstream media seems concerned only with such matters as the economy, health care, environment, and national defense. No mention is made of things like copyright and patent reform, privacy, cyber security, and scientific research. So I've written a letter to the candidates for U.S. Senator in my state (California) asking what they support.

Since the election is less than a month away I didn't have time to look up all of the issues I wanted to ask about, but following I present the letter I sent. I tried to be neutral in wording the questions in order to avoid biasing the candidate's response. I would encourage others to send similar letters of inquiry, adding or modifying questions that interest you, to encourage our candidates to investigate these topics and take informed opinions to the legislature.
---

Dear U.S. Senatorial candidates,

I'm doing my research for the upcoming 2010 general elections, and for the office of United States Senator for California there are questions I have regarding the candidates' support for issues which are not covered by the mainstream media. As a computer software developer, I am mostly concerned with government policies regarding the electronic frontier. Would you please let me know where you stand on the following matters. Your feedback will help me determine how I will vote in the next few weeks.

Do you believe that the term of copyrighted works before entering the public domain at 120 years is fair, that it should be reduced, or that it should be extended? By what amount should it be changed?

Do you believe that the Digital Millennium Copyright Act of 1998 is effective and sufficient for protecting copyrighted works, that it should contain more restrictions, or that it should contain fewer restrictions?

Do you support or oppose the proposed Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA) in its current form?

Do you support or oppose the proposed Combating Online Infringements and Counterfeits Act (COICA)?

Do you believe Internet service providers (ISP's) should be liable for computer user's activity passing through their network which is illegal? What about for activity which is allegedly illegal? Should ISP's be required to monitor their networks for illegal activity?

Do you believe that the Transportation Security Administration should be allowed or prohibited from searching the contents of travelers' electronic devices (laptops, portable music players, personal digital assistants), with or without cause?

Do you believe that police officers and other enforcement agents should be allowed to search the contents of suspects' computers without a warrant, incident to an arrest?

Do you believe that the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 has been effective in reducing the amount of fraudulent and malicious email on the Internet? Has it been effective in reducing the amount of unwanted but otherwise legitimate unsolicited email? Has it been effective in prosecuting willful spammers?

Do you believe that peer-to-peer (P2P) computer file sharing has a legitimate purpose for the efficient mass distribution of large files over the Internet, or do you believe that P2P serves illegal purposes and should be banned?

Do you believe that computer software algorithms should be patentable either as a whole application or as individual components? Should the term for software patents be the same as for other inventions (14-20 years) or different?

What is your opinion of patent holders who do not manufacture or market any product using the patented invention, but actively prevent other companies from producing potentially infringing products?

Do you support or oppose legislation mandating the use of specific technologies on electronic equipment sold in the United States, such as the inclusion of "trusted computing" devices in computers or video equipment that checks the "broadcast flag"?

Do you believe that consumers who have purchased electronic devices (including computers, video game equipment, home entertainment components, etc.) should be allowed to use such equipment however they wish and make modifications to those devices for their own personal use, or that the manufacturer of such equipment should have control over how those devices are used and whether any modifications are allowed?

Do you support the use of industry standard formats for the electronic publication of government documents and media (such as plain text, Vorbis, and Theora) or the use of commonly used proprietary formats (such as Microsoft Word, MPEG, and AVI)?

Do you believe that hardware and software companies should be required or encouraged to use and comply with published industry standards (ISO, IEEE, ANSI, RFC, etc.) for interoperability with other vendor's products whether competing or cooperative, or that they should be allowed to use proprietary interfaces and protocols which restrict compatibility to the company's own products? Or is this a matter which the government should not legislate and let the market work out?

Do you believe that the National Security Agency has the right and duty to monitor domestic phone calls, text messaging, email, web browsing, and other electronic communication? For what purposes and under what conditions should it be allowed?

Do you support electronic voting, and if so do you believe electronic voting machines should be developed as closed-source systems (only the manufacturer knows how they work) or as open-source systems (the design and code is available for public scrutiny)?

Thank you for your time.

Submission + - Spanish Copyright Society Under DDoS Attack (securityweek.com)

wiredmikey writes: Today around 2:30PM EDT, an anonymous group calling for free file-sharing across P2P networks launched a distributed denial of service attack (DDoS) against the Spanish copyright protection society (SGAE). PandaLabs says it has witnessed more than 20 service interruptions to SGAE's site, as well as four interruptions to a second Spanish site, mcu.es.

In a public statement today to the media, the group said:

"The SGAE has as slogan 'Believe in culture', while they restrict new creativity by preventing that creativity is shared. They lobbied this Canon Law, which states that suspected piracy websites can be taken down without a court order. This is a danger to freedom of speech, since any site can just be taken down with the excuse that intellectual property is hosted. The 'Ministerio of Cultura' should get a message that their current course will only lead to more controversy and protest."

Security

Submission + - Gaping holes remain in US cybersecurity plan (networkworld.com)

coondoggie writes: It's a huge undertaking but the overarching strategy to protect US assets from cyber attack remains pretty much just a paper plan. Of the 24 recommendations for online infrastructure protection in President Obama's 2009 cyber policy review, only two have been fully implemented, 22 are partially implemented, according to a report today from the watchdogs at the Government Accountability Office.

Comment It's "live", people (Score 1) 602

I believe the key element to the argument here is "shown on live television." If broadcasters are showing images in real-time, there may well be events in front of the camera that are beyond the broadcasters' control. Is it fair to hold them responsible for someone else's actions who just happens to be passing by?

On they other hand they do have a measure of control at least over where they point their cameras, so they can take reasonable measures to avoid broadcasting scenes where they might expect objectionable material.

If TV broadcasts were pre-recorded, then there would be no excuse for violating FCC guidelines. But those aren't the broadcasts under discussion.

Comment Sure, if you can ... (Score 1) 989

Find one example of a natural process or phenomenon that creationism successfully predicts, just as countless archaeological digs have found in favor of evolution, AND if it can explain all of the geological and archaeological data that has already been found, then you can teach your theory of creationism.

That is, until some new evidence comes along which creationism can't explain. (Good luck with that.)

Comment What's left of the public domain? (Score 1) 321

I wonder how much of the "infringing" material would have been classified as non-infringing if copyright terms had remained at 14 years instead of "indefinitely." They said that most of the material was music, movies, and TV shows; and very few of those works have entered the public domain since the 1920's.

Comment Yellow pages are becoming less useful (Score 1) 206

Last week I got another edition of the yellow pages. Before tossing it out, I decided to look up a type of business I had been meaning to look up for a while. I found a single ad-style listing with no address. I tossed the book right out.

This morning I tried looking up the same type of business on Google Maps. It found 344 results and pointed out a few of them on the map, one of which happens to be just a mile and a half from home.

Looking things up on the Internet is not only more convenient, it's also more informative and apparently more comprehensive.

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