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The Internet

Submission + - Top Australian ISP removes OpenOffice.org 2

An anonymous reader writes: Australia's biggest ISP Bigpond, part of the largest telco Telstra, has removed all OpenOffice.org downloads from their free downloads mirror Bigpond Files Library. The Library main page indicates that the reason for this was to promote their new Java-based hosted office suite Bigpond Office, adding that "BigPond has launched a number of new applications that provide similar functionality to some existing application files in the file library and therefore those files have been removed". With the OO.o files no longer available as free downloads, Bigpond OO.o users will be forced to download from other locations and have those downloads count against their quota. Bigpond's quotas are among the most severe in the world according to a recent OECD report (30 KB XLS) , and with typical OO.o downloads amounting to over half the quota of Bigpond's least expensive (and most popular) plan, download costs of about AUS$15 for OO.O are possible.
Privacy

Submission + - UK to imprison for inability to decrypt data

mrbluze writes: Ars technica has an article describing new laws which come into effect on 1st November in the UK. Up to 2 and 5 years imprisonment can be inflicted on any person who refuses or cannot provide keys or decrypt data as requested by police or military for criminal or anti-terror purposes, respectively. From the article:

The Home Office has steadfastly proclaimed that the law is aimed at catching terrorists, pedophiles, and hardened criminals — all parties which the UK government contends are rather adept at using encryption to cover up their activities.
It refers to a potential problem faced by international bankers who would be wary to bring their encryption keys into the UK. Some how I doubt that is the real problem with the law.
The Courts

Submission + - Ohio University finds key to getting RIAA to stop 7

NewYorkCountryLawyer writes: "Ohio University, in Athens, Ohio, has found the key to getting the RIAA to stop inundating it and its students with "settlement" letters. According to the university's student online publication, the university paid $60,000, plus $16,000 per year "maintenance", to Audible Magic, the business partner of the RIAA's all-purpose expert witness Dr. Doug Jacobson, for its "CopySense" filtering software. Once it made the payments, the letters stopped. This of course raises a lot of questions as to the 'disinterestedness' of Dr. Jacobson, whose deposition in the UMG v. Lindor case was the subject of interesting Slashdot commentary."
Programming

Submission + - Java Developers Jumping the Apple Ship? 1

dringess writes: There is an Apple hatefest going on in the Java developer community about Leopard not shipping with Java 6. As a MacBook Pro owner and a Java developer, I know I am definitely disenchanted.
Space

Submission + - 50th anniversary of Sputnik I is today

gevmage writes: "Fifty years ago today, the Soviet Union launched the world's first artificial satellite, Sputnik I, into orbit. This action heightened the tensions of the Cold War and launched the technological space race betweeen the two countries. The United States won the first incarnation of that race by putting six two-man crews on the surface of the moon and returning them to the earth. Since then, the Soviets (now Russians) have had many more successes with orbital space stations than the US. However, the societal implications of the space race (including the creation of NASA) cannot be overestimated. Time has a "Top 50 highs and lows" in the space race, which provides an interesting overview of space travel events.

A recent interview with Boris Chertok, aide to the father of Soviet space flight Sergei Korolov, brings up some interesting points, including the claim that the whole exercise was put together at the last minute. He also points out that the "object" that people on the ground could see wasn't Sputnik I at all, but its upper booster stage, which was in roughly the same orbit.

The Houston Chronicle has an interesting article about the buildup to the space race. It points out that the US under President Eisenhower had been sending bombers into Soviet air space for years, and the Soviet ICBM buildup that led to the Sputnik launch was started to counter that threat."
Communications

Submission + - 9th Circuit Very Skeptical of NSA Surveillance (mercurynews.com)

iluvcapra writes: Yesterday before a three-judge panel of the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals, the US government argued that two class action lawsuits against the government and AT&T should be dismissed, because to litigate them in open court would cause the revelation of state secrets. The lawsuits allege that the government has installed a vast system of electronic surveillance gear at internet gateways along the US west coast to monitor all internet traffic, and that this information is monitored without a warrant, even when both endpoints are domestic. The panel was extremely skeptical of the governments argument:

"Is it the government's position that when the country is engaged in a war, that the power of the executive when it comes to wiretapping is unchecked?" asked 83-year-old Judge Harry Pregerson, one of the court's staunchest liberals, of a Bush administration lawyer. "The king can do no wrong, is that what it comes down to?"


The government was unwilling to even provide a sworn affadavit that the eavesdropping was only of foreign correspondence. If the 9th Circuit allows the lawsuits to proceed, the government will appeal to the US Supreme Court.

Handhelds

Submission + - Vermonters Risk it all for iPhone (burlingtonfreepress.com)

bkinney writes: "Historically, Vermonters are known for their independence and tendency to be downright ornery. Presently, Vermonters are pretty much the same, but wield flashy gadgets instead of farm tools. It seems that a brave bunch of Apple lovers are risking the wrath of AT&T by purchasing and then (gasp!) activating their iPhones in the Green Mountain State. The problem? AT&T doesn't provide service in Vermont and is threatening termination and possible legal action against this pack of tech rebels. Check it — http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/a rticle?AID=/20070816/NEWS01/708160314/1009."
Education

Submission + - Chaos Theory Proposed to Explain Global Warming (dailytech.com) 1

An anonymous reader writes: One of the finer mysteries of Global Warming is that current theories, including the "hockey stick" CO2 theory, cannot explain for warm periods in current history: 1913, 1942 and 1978. A new theory, based on synchronized chaos theory may explain these abnormalities; and the key is El Nino. From the article: "A team of mathematicians have come forth with a startling new theory that solves both these problems. Led by Dr. Anastasios Tsonis, their model says the known cycles of the Earth's oceans — the Pacific Decadal Oscillation, the North Atlantic Oscillation, El Nino (Southern Oscillation) and the North Pacific Oscillation — all tend to try to synchronize with each other."
Software

Submission + - Review: Parallels Desktop vs. VMWare Fusion (kfu.com)

nsayer writes: A very, very long time ago, I used VMWare (before it was named VMWare Desktop) under the Linuxulator on FreeBSD to run Windows 2000 for the occasional windows-only application. But when MacOS X came out, I rather quickly bought a mac and have become an almost exclusive Mac user. But, as before, there would be an occasional need to run something that was Windows only, so I suffered with Virtual PC. When I upgraded to my first Intel mac, I switched over to Parallels Desktop, and, as before, have been using it to run the occasional Windows app under Windows XP. When I tried the first VMware Fusion public beta, all it did reliably was crash my machine, so I didn't really pay attention to VMWare after that. But suffice to say that I have used virtualization and/or emulation technology almost continuously since its inception.

Skip forward to a couple weeks ago and I heard about VMWare's pre-release special pricing offer for a copy of Fusion. This is the first point to bring up — the price of virtualization software has come way down. I believe that's in part to the competition that now exists in the space between Parallels and VMWare. And that's a very good thing. I don't remember what I paid originally for that first copy of VMWare so long ago, but I believe it was north of $150. I bought my copy of Fusion for $39. Vive le competition.

Both offerings have very similar feature sets. Both install special 'helper' software within your Windows guest operating system to facilitate things like video resizing (if you drag the Windows window larger or switch to full screen mode, both will resize the video area accordingly), mouse pointer sharing, drag and drop file copying, clock synchronization, etc. Both support some type of "undo" functionality that allows you to take a snapshot of the guest as it is now and at some future point revert back to the snapshot if something goes wrong. Both have a mechanism for running Windows programs in their own windows along side your mac apps (hiding the Windows desktop). Fusion calls this Unity, Parallels calls it Coherence. In those areas, it's pretty much a tie.

Both offer software that you can install on Windows either on a physical computer or on some other virtualized environment that will copy out the Windows installation and make a new virtual machine out of it. Here, I give Parallels a slight edge because the VMWare solution is actually hidden on their website and is actually designed for their enterprise products (but happens to work for Fusion). Also, since VMWare guests use ACPI and Parallels guests don't, you wind up with some virtual hardware quirks that require reinstalling Windows to completely clear up (Windows XP doesn't support switching from a standard PC to an ACPI PC without reinstalling. But you don't have to wipe the disk, you can just reinstall Windows itself, painful though that is). Since Windows tends to accumulate a lot of cruft in the registry anyway, a clean reinstall isn't a bad idea in any event. But if you have a lot of software that you don't want to have to put back on, you don't have to.

VMWare guests can run with both cores of your multi-core CPU (if applicable), Parallels guests are uniprocessor only. Unless the Windows software you use is heavily threaded, I'm not sure you'll notice too much difference there. Both systems seem to me to be responsive when dealing with typical interactive software.

Both systems support acceleration of 3D API calls, however my mac of choice is the Intel mac mini. VMWare doesn't support acceleration on the integrated Intel 950 chipset. I don't typically play 3D games, but I did try BZFlag under parallels when the 3D support was announced. I was able to get more or less the same frame rate as when I ran the native OS X BZFlag client. I haven't repeated this test with VMWare, however. If 3D games are your reason for booting Windows, then perhaps Parallels might be a better choice right now.

Both systems allow you to suspend the guest and resume it. In both cases, the normal Windows APM/ACPI suspend/hibernate functionality is avoided. Instead, the guest is simply halted in its tracks and upon resumption, the virtualization tools fix the clock and other sorts of things. VMWare's guest tools allow you to set up scripts that will run at suspend and resume time. But the big difference I've noticed is that when I resume a Parallels guest, the entire machine (both guest and host) seem to be mired in a tar pit for about a minute. From what I can tell, it's probably paging the guest in from a memory mapped file. But there is no indication of what it's doing or how long it will take. By contrast, when suspending or resuming a VMWare guest, there is a progress bar to let you know how much time is left, and when the resume process is done, the machine responds instantly at full speed. VMWare wins this one hands down.

One application I use under Windows is the Netflix WatchNow client. When you watch video in it under Parallels, you can often see tearing effects. Presumably these are caused by a lack of synchronization between the refresh rate of the host's monitor and the guest's virtual frame buffer. Whatever the cause, it can be quite annoying. But VMWare doesn't have that problem. Score another victory for them.

Another differentiation in behavior is when playing You Don't Know Jack: The Ride. Under parallels, this game has choppy, stuttery audio and often pauses for seemingly no reason. Under VMWare, it works perfectly. It's only an anecdote, and it's not a show-stopper for me, but it's nudge in VMWare's direction.

So in the end, I have to give the victory to Fusion. For a 1.0 product, it's more than just a strong contender, it's the clear victor. Can Parallels catch up? Sure, but given how long they've had a mac product, it's surprising that they need to.

Google

Submission + - Google Filters Torrents From Search Results (torrentfreak.com) 1

HiddenL writes: According to TorrentFreak.com:

Google has been filtering its search results for years. That's proven very useful for the Chinese government, and of course content owner representatives like the MPAA and RIAA. According to Google, the filtering of torrents from the search results is a response to the DMCA complaints they receive. The owner of SumoTorrent told TorrentFreak that he discovered that A search on Google for sumotorrent now triggers the following message at the bottom of the results page:

In response to a complaint we received under the US Digital Millennium Copyright Act, we have removed 1 result(s) from this page. If you wish, you may read the DMCA complaint that caused the removal(s) at ChillingEffects.org.
A search for other BitTorrent sites like Torrentspy and Torrentreactor comes up with the same message (note. the sites are still indexed but some results are removed).
Apparently "Do No Evil" includes mass filtering of legitimate content.

Programming

Submission + - Beautiful Code interview (safaribooksonline.com)

An anonymous reader writes: Safari Books Online has just posted an interview with Andy Oram and Greg Wilson, the two editors who put together the recent O'Reilly book, Beautiful Code. "Beautiful Code" features 33 different case studies about challenging coding scenarios from some of today's most high-profile developers and OS project leaders. There's also a new Beautiful Code web site based on the book where many of the authors are blogging about their work and coding practices.
The Internet

Submission + - The 8 Most Misused Tools on the Web (askreamaor.com)

Rea Maor writes: "Gimp for printing and photo work. It's great that we have the free alternative of Gimp for those of us who just want to draw up some quick graphics without forking $800 over to Adobe. But even the Gimp development team makes it very clear that Gimp is not intended to be a Photoshop replacement. They say nothing in the "What Gimp Is:" section about print and photo work. People should stop expecting this of it.



PDF for web content. Why in heaven's name can I still click a link on a web page and get a PDF document in 2007??? PDF can not be displayed in a web browser. It needs an exterior program just to read it. Having two programs open just to read text that should have been in HTML is an annoying hassle. Stop it!



MS Word for eBooks and email. MS Word is your best friend if you are composing office documents in an office, whose only audience will be other office workers in the same company, so you will know that everybody has the same copy of MS Word installed. But MS Word isn't a publishing medium — not everybody uses it, the platforms that can access it at all have buggy and ineffective support, it isn't consistent from one version to another even on its native platform — and, like PDF, it needs a special program just to read it. Hint!



Flash for your whole site. Eleven years after Vincent Flanders showed the world what is wrong with this, and you still have Flash-only sites that make you sit through their dumb 20-minute intro when all you wanted to do was come there and find out some quick information or, God forbid, order something. It's a computer, not an opera theater. Drop the singing and dancing crap, and you just might have to stand on your merits as a web business. gasp!



Firefox extensions for marketing. Lately it seems you can't go looking for Firefox add-ons without running into a hundred ways to install ad-ware on your browser. These pieces of obnoxious ad-ware are called "toolbars", but we aren't fooled for a minute. The difference between Internet Explorer and Firefox is that you have to specifically install your ad-ware in Firefox. Aw, bummer!



Photoshop for web layout. Photoshop is great for graphics work; designing the web page graphical elements in Photoshop is fine. But Photoshop is not a WYSIWYG HTML editor. Too many sites out there think that all you have to do is draw a web page in Photoshop, chop it up into block, and display the blocks on the web page with absolute positioning tags. This invariably leads to a broken web layout with the blocks being bigger, smaller, out of alignment, or overlapping in just about everybody's web browser but the designers. It ends up looking like a Tetris game that somebody lost.



Tables for web layout, as opposed to CSS. Last I checked, it's 2007. We have this new invention as of 1997 called CSS — perhaps we've all heard of it? Tables are fine for drawing a chart, which presents tabled data. Web pages are not charts. Using tables for the whole web page layout looks like you built it out of Legos and you only had one size of brick to work with.



Web-safe colors for color scheme. It's dead -let it die. The last time a computer was made that could only show 216 colors was the mid-1990s. The web-safe color table makes a great palette for a bowl of Froot Loops, an opened can of radioactive fruit cocktail, or a science-fiction comic book about day-glo aliens. It's lousy for everything else."

Software

Submission + - BitTorrent Closes Source Code (slyck.com)

An anonymous reader writes: "There are two issues people need to come to grips with," BitTorrent CEO Ashwin Narvin told Slyck.com. "Developers who produce open source products will often have their product repackaged and redistributed by businesses with malicious intent. They repackage the software with spyware or charge for the product. We often receive phone calls from people who complain they have paid for the BitTorrent client." As for the protocol itself, that too is closed, but is available by obtaining an SDK license.
Math

Submission + - An Optical Solution For an NP-Complete problem? (opticsexpress.org)

6 writes: Tobias Haist and Wolfgang Osten have proposed a novel idea for solving the traveling salesman problem...

We introduce an optical method based on white light interferometry in order to solve the well-known NP-complete traveling salesman problem. To our knowledge it is the first time that a method for the reduction of non-polynomial time to quadratic time has been proposed. We will show that this achievement is limited by the number of available photons for solving the problem. It will turn out that this number of photons is proportional to NN for a traveling salesman problem with N cities and that for large numbers of cities the method in practice therefore is limited by the signal-to-noise ratio. The proposed method is meant purely as a gedankenexperiment.

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