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Submission + - "My Internet Is Broken".

mccalli writes: "Great site here describing all the "My Internet is broken"-type question you get from time to time. Pretty funny, and I defy you to tell me you've not heard at least one of 'em.

Cheers,
Ian"
Microsoft

Submission + - The best way to use the online MSDN documentation

satov writes: "Any developer who tried to use the online MSDN library knows that's not exactly a pleasurable experience.Google can help a lot though :D. "Two thoughts. One: Google is doing a favor to everybody, including his competitors, by providing search and retrieval for all the information available online (this doesn't mean it's against it's own interest) and Two: how pathetic is Microsoft if it can't provide a decent access speed to everybody ? (no, I don't hate Microsoft, this one comes out of sheer frustration)". PS: please take my word on the slowness. I might need to use it these days and some /. hammering could prove fatal :P."
Windows

Submission + - Microsoft limiting Vista Technology Guarantee

MSRedfox writes: I'm a 32 year old gamer and beta tester of Microsoft Vista. When Microsoft offered the Technology Guarantee to upgrade new systems to Vista on its release, I went ahead and built a new computer with the understanding that I would be able to upgrade to the 64-bit Vista. I picked up a copy of Windows MCE 2005 for my new system. I entered the required data on https://upgradeweb.moduslink.com/Vista to setup my update. But for MCE 2005 they didn't offer a 64-bit upgrade, only 32-bit. Both Windows XP Home and Pro have 32-Bit and 64-Bit upgrade options on the website. When I email the support and asked about the 64-Bit upgrade for MCE 2005 to Vista Home Premium I was sent this response: "Dear Customer, Thank you for your interest in the Upgrade Redemption Program. The upgrade you qualify for on this offer, is directly related to the version of WinXP that is installed on the qualifying computer. For example, if you have a 32 bit version of XP, you will get Vista 32, not Vista 64. If you want further upgrades, you will need to purchase an upgrade when Vista becomes available retail. Regards, Upgrade Redemption Center" They have successfully turned this MS Fanboy angry. So what I'd like to ask the Slashdot community, is if anyone has any advice on who to contact at Microsoft to try to get them to fix this blatant mistake. They've already taken $120 for my OEM of copy of MCE 2005, please help me from giving them more cash. Thanks.
Portables

Submission + - Thinkpad X60- The Tablet Goes Ultraportable

Rovi writes: Lenovo had a gift for Thinkpad fans this season- they finally released the successor to the X41 Tablet. The Thinkpad X60 Tablet weighs in at about three and a half pounds and has great tablet functionality. The updates from the older model include a 2.5" hard drive (the X41 used a 1.8"), automatic screen orientation, and an Intel Core Duo processor. For performance seekers some serious upgrades are available, such as a 120GB 5400RPM hard drive, 100GB 7200RPM drive, SXGA+ monitor, or up to 4GB of RAM.
Music

Submission + - Alabama Man Beats RIAA Motion Without Lawyer

Announcements

Submission + - Apple Veteran John Couch to Keynote TechEd 2007

newsblaze writes: "Couch is a blast from the past, starting out with HP, then moving to Apple for very early development of the Lisa, as Apple's first Software VP. As TechEd 2007 Keynote, Couch brings his focus on education to this educational conference. He was involved in Lisa — the Mac predecessor, the mouse and GUI interface most of us use — and take for granted."
Christmas Cheer

Submission + - Santa Claus: the Tech behind Christmas

shking writes: "In a recent interview on CBC radio (choose mp3 or ogg), Dr. Larry Silverberg, an engineering professor at North Carolina State University, explains how Santa Claus delivers presents to millions of children in just one night. According to Dr. Silverberg, Santa invokes Einstein's theory of relativity to bend space and time and uses nanotechnology to build the presents right under each home's tree. There's also an alternative theory"
Microsoft

Microsoft Applies to Patent RSS in Vista 119

Cyvros wrote in with a link to Wired's Monkey Bites blog, which is featuring a post on Microsoft applying for a patent on RSS. As the article points out, this isn't as crazy as it seems at first blush. From the wording of the application, post author Scott Gilbertson interprets their move as a patent on RSS only within Vista and IE7. From the article: "The big mystery is what Microsoft is planning to do with the patents if they are awarded them. The sad state of patent affairs in the United States has led to several cases of Microsoft being sued for technologies they did arguably invent simply because some else owned a generic patent on them. Of course we have no way of knowing how Microsoft intends to use these patents if they are awarded them. They could represent a defensive move, but they could be offensive as well -- [self-described RSS inventor Dave] Winer may end up being correct. It would be nice to see Microsoft release some information on what they plan to do with these patents, but for now we'll just have to wait and see whether the US Patent and Trademark Office grants them."
Networking

Submission + - "Killer" Network Card Reduces Latency

fatduck writes: "HardOCP has published a review of the KillerNIC network card from Bigfoot Networks. The review examines benchmarks of the product in online gaming and a number of user experiences. The product features a "Network Processing Unit" or NPU, among other acronyms, which promise to drastically reduce latency in online games. Too good to be true? The card also sports a hefty price tag of $250."
Robotics

Submission + - Robotic frogs made with condoms

Roland Piquepaille writes: "In 'The frog robot condom,' The Scientist invites us to follow Peter Narins, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA). He has already been on 42 field expeditions, tracking the vocal behavior of animals in their natural habitats. But his most interesting research work has been done with frogs. Since 2001, in places such as China, French Guiana or Puerto Rico, he has been using robotic frogs housing a speaker and an air pump. But the air pump, used to call or to ask other frogs to leave, inflates and deflates the robotic frog's throat sac, made from a condom. Next year, Narins will go to Brunei to study another kind of frog. But he will use enhanced versions of his robots which will be equipped with several motors. But read more about Narins various experiments with robotic frogs."
Displays

Submission + - High Definition LED Front Projector

stepinside writes: "Prism, Inc. is planning on unveiling a secret research and development project at CES 2007. A source inside the company says the project is a high definition (1080p) front projector that uses light emitting diodes (LEDs). In contrast to the LED pocket projectors currently on the market (example), this device will produce hundreds of lumens at cinema quality resolution and contrast. The best part, however, is the use of LEDs as the lamp because the lifetime of the projector is years of continuous use, it produces brilliant and lifelike colors, and it's whisper quiet. Check out Prism's projector if you're a hardcore gamer, a movie buff, or someone who wants the biggest screen on the block."
Books

Submission + - Make Projects: Small Form Factor PCs

Joshua Benuck writes: "Here's my phone number: 801-722-5744 (I didn't see a field for it and the book review guidelines say that you need it). [EDITORS, PLEASE NOTE — Please do not include my email address or phone number!] 'Make Projects: Small Form Factor PCs' provides detailed step-by-step instructions on building a variety of small form factor systems, starting from the larger ones (about the size of a shoe box) and working its way down to the smallest (which is about the size of a pack of gum). It includes instructions on creating a digital audio jukebox, digital video recorder, wireless network range extender, home network gateway, network monitor, portable firewall, cheap Wi-Fi SSH client, and a Bluetooth LED sign.

First off, this is a PDF that, as far as I can tell, is only available from oreilly's website. Most of the projects in the book will require at least $300 dollars to complete.

If you don't know why you would want to use a small form factor PC there is a good discussion of why you might want to consider using one in the introduction along with a list of some of the currently available small form factor PCs. You'll need to keep in mind that some of the systems mentioned would be more commonly referred to as embedded systems so the authors have expanded the definition of what 'small form factor PC' means. Not all of the systems mentioned are used in one of the projects in the book so if you get bored or are looking for another small system to play with, this may be a good resource.

The remaining chapters deal with projects that each use one of the systems mentioned in the introduction. The chapter headings show a picture of the finished product, a list of needed components, a bar showing the time it will take, and a rating of difficulty from 'easy' to 'difficult'. The bars and pictures provide a quick indication of what you are getting yourself into with one glaring exception; they do not tell you how much money you'll need to sink into the project. In order to find this information you'll need to go back to the introduction and read through the paragraph that tells you about the system used in the chapter.

This is followed by an overview of what is going to be built and which system was chosen for the implementation along with a description of its unique characteristics that made it a good fit for the project. A lot of emphasis is put on the power consumption of the various components. They even measure it at startup, shutdown, and during normal operations. This is used to make a couple of power and cooling design decisions.

If you're like me, you don't like when your systems makes a lot of noise (Especially ones that aren't supposed to look like they have a computer in them). This book gives a good overview on what to look for when building a system that you want to be as quiet as possible. They mention whether the system can get away with passive cooling (e.g. no fans) and they show some very non-conventional ways to reduce the noise production of a system (such as hanging a hard drive from wires within an enclosure).

The step-by-step instructions on assembling the hardware components of the systems include plenty of good quality pictures that should make it easy to follow along with the various projects. The pictures are about a third the width of the page which I feel is a good size. They are crisp, clear, and add to the discussion of the topic at hand.

If you are an experienced Linux or BSD user you'll probably be able to skim most of the step-by-step operating system installation instructions. If you are new to Linux and BSD the steps should help you find your way to project completion. Just don't expect the book to have all of the answers all of the time. I feel it is impossible for one book to contain the answers to all the questions that someone new to this area may have. That said, I think this book does an admirable job at giving you what you need to succeed.

Littered throughout the text are various warnings, other options, and lessons learned which I found to be valuable. Some of these include mistakes the authors made (such as using a WinTV-Go card instead of a higher model with a built-in MPEG decoder), using a CF Card Reader if you are unable to use NFS to transfer files to a system that uses a Compact Flash card, and numerous other practical tidbits that should serve to save you some frustration when trying to do the projects on your own.

You don't have to use the hardware platforms or components recommended in this book to gain benefit from its contents. I've used the instructions on setting up the Linux Infrared Remote Control (lirc) project to help with an Iguanaworks USB Infrared Transceiver (a device that sends and receives infrared signals) while the authors used an Irman receiver. The MythTV box I've setup uses Ubuntu Linux instead of Gentoo Linux and uses a spare system instead of the Shuttle XPC used in the book. I found the instructions in the book to be indispensable as I worked through this.

I've never done a case mod before, but I like the idea of being able to hide away a computer in something that looks like a decoration. There is a detailed explanation of how the authors used an old antique radio as a cover for their digital jukebox. I enjoyed the discussion of the various places they could put the power supply, infrared receiver, and other design considerations. It really gave me a feel for what types of questions I'll need to answer as I do a case mod myself.

That leads me to what I think is the biggest strength of this book. It is the very conversational way in which the authors tell you what they did, why they did it, and what they could have done. Along the way they provide links for further information, and search terms that can help you learn more about the topic at hand. The book is packed with information that is up-to-date, accurate, valuable, and easy-to-read.

That said, some of the information will lose value over time. For example, the specific gumstix computer that was used does not appear to be available anymore. This is probably a good thing since the authors had to make some adjustments to get the 200 Mhz Bluetooth enabled version to work. I mention it only to point out that the information on the specific systems and the other instructions will lose value over time. It is impossible to future proof a work likes this.

The projects in this book opened my mind to a whole new world of what is possible with small systems. I haven't had a chance to purchase of the specific systems mentioned, but the information on setting up the various software and hardware components has already proven the book's worth. I look forward to one day getting my hands on the systems mentioned so I can gain the full advantage that small form factors provide. So if you don't mind spending $300+ to play with some a small form factor PC or you love to tinker with networking, or multimedia applications then you might want to give this book a try. I certainly don't regret it."
Businesses

Understanding Burnout 289

Cognitive Dissident writes "New York Magazine has posted a feature story about the growing phenomenon of 'burnout' and the growing interest of both healthcare professionals and even corporate management in this problem. Probably the most surprising thing learned from reading this article is that work load is not the best predictor of burnout. Instead it has more to do with perceived 'return on investment' of effort. So work places are having to learn to adjust the work environment to reduce or prevent burnout. From the article: '"It's kind of like ergonomics," [Christina Maslach] finally says. "It used to be, 'You sit for work? Here's a chair.' But now we design furniture to fit and support the body. And we're doing the same here. The environments themselves have to say, 'We want people to thrive and grow.' There was a shift, finally, in how people understood the question."' NPR's Talk of the Nation also had a recent feature story based on this article."
Space

Submission + - Water on Mars?

Thalin writes: NASA has announced today that data from the Mars Global Surveyor indicates photographic evidence for the existence of liquid, flowing water on Mars.
NASA photographs have revealed bright new deposits seen in two gullies on Mars that suggest water carried sediment through them sometime during the past seven years. "These observations give the strongest evidence to date that water still flows occasionally on the surface of Mars," said Michael Meyer, lead scientist for NASA's Mars Exploration Program, Washington.

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