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Satellite-Based Laser Hunts Woodpeckers From Space 53

University of Idaho scientists have figured out a more effective way to track woodpecker populations than following the incessant laughter. They're using a laser onboard NASA's Icesat spacecraft to determine where the birds might be living. From the article: "NASA's Icesat satellite was initially intended for measuring glacial surfaces at the Earth's poles but has proven to be quite effective in measuring vegetation also. The satellite's laser bounces off of forest canopies, tree trunks and the ground making important characteristics about the forest easily measurable. For example, forest density is determined by the relative amount of light returned versus that which is returned from the ground. Once ideal woodpecker locations are identified 'we actually conduct ground-based woodpecker surveys in these locations as well to verify it,' says team-member Patrick Adam."
The Courts

Judge Berates Prosecutors In Xbox Modding Trial 285

mrbongo writes with this excerpt from Wired: "Opening statements in the first-of-its-kind Xbox 360 criminal hacking trial were delayed here Wednesday after a federal judge unleashed a 30-minute tirade at prosecutors in open court, saying he had 'serious concerns about the government's case.' ... Gutierrez slammed the prosecution over everything from alleged unlawful behavior by government witnesses, to proposed jury instructions harmful to the defense. When the verbal assault finally subsided, federal prosecutors asked for a recess to determine whether they would offer the defendant a deal, dismiss or move forward with the case that was slated to become the first jury trial of its type. A jury was seated Tuesday."

Comment Yes, Android will win eventually (Score 1, Interesting) 410

Apple - being Apple - will continue to concentrate on the overall user experience of their mobile devices. They will retain their reputation as the maker of mercedes-benz smartphones and other consumer goods, but the sheer volume of Android-based competition will eventually swamp them out of the lower-end of the market. Apple could probably care less - Steve and co. are all about the total experience and crafting the perfect device, and that's fine - they can lead the market in innovation and be the brand that everyone aspires to become. But the droid wave must eventually wash over them and absolutely eat their low-end lunch, and since most of the world ain't rich, that mean most of the world is going to be droid-powered, unless Apple can undercut droid prices, and that just isn't how they roll.

Comment Reality meets fiction - sci-fi refs (Score 2, Interesting) 272

OK, everyone got the Skynet reference which is probably the most well-known and recent and involves computers attempting to destroy humanity (bad computers!).

But how many of you have ever heard of "The Adolescence of P-1" by Thomas J. Ryan. School hacker codes up a cracker tool, gets expelled, improves it, and lets it loose where it gets out of hand. Humans then attempt to destroy now-intelligent and self-protective software program. (bad software! - nice read)

Or even earlier, "Shockwave Rider" by John Brunner. Epic hackers creating worms (bad society! - good, but overreaction to the Nixon years)

Or how about when humans actually *want* to turn over the world to a computer, as in "Two Faces of Tomorrow" by James P. Hogan. They test the concept by installing it in a space station and then attacking it just to be sure they can turn it off if they really want to (bad idea! - but good book and Hogan at his best)

Those last three were all written in the 70's. Others can likely lengthen this list considerably.

Comment Ah yes - the annual homemade spacecraft story! (Score 1) 243

I know for a fact that I've read two previous stories about exactly the same type of thing on slashdot - some bozos tie a camera and a data logger to a helium balloon and launch it 20 miles up, then proceed to chase it around the countryside in hopes of finding it again. I suppose some newbie posted this because of the iPhone angle, but geez, people have been launching these types of near-space balloon-sats for 10-20 years or more. Nuts and Volts magazine regularly has projects for people that do this. While this type of stuff can be technically interesting, reporting a launch is really reaching on a slow news day :-)

Comment Fart App = RIMM Job (Score 1) 244

This story has negative informational content. RIMM doesn't want a bunch of crappy apps on their platform? Really? Wow. Who would have thought that? Would almost be nice if someone were to inspect the apps before they got posted, huh? Oh wait...

Comment Do the innovation - get the attention. (Score 2, Insightful) 356

Since the return of Jobs to Apple, they have defined the mass-market consumer computing industry. The iMac redefined how computers can look, introducing the concept of high-design into a buyers decision. The iPod and iTunes defined an easy, safe, legal means for carrying your music around and purchasing it online. The iPod Touch pushed into territory previously occupied by PDAs and showed how applications and music players could co-exist in the same device. The iPhone took the Touch a step further and integrated your cell phone. Finally, the iPad leveraged the phenomenal user interface that Apple engineered for its new portable consumer devices and made the screen large enough to be attractive to use in an armchair at home. And during all this, their computers have made major switches to Intel CPUs and OS X.

Everyone else has been just trying to keep up. It has actually been an incredible accomplishment by Jobs. Say what you will about the man or his methods, but he has completely and authoritatively defined the interaction of humans and their computing devices during his lifetime. Apple deserves the attention.

Comment Yet another vaporware tablet.... (Score 1) 184

They're like assholes - everyone claims to have one. The problem is that unless the tablet can read your mind and pinch-hit for your bed-partner, they have to survive in a market that Apple has already defined and captured a substantial lead. Just having a few superior specs ain't gonna be enough - it's going to take really deep marketing pockets in order to overcome the iPad mindshare. Also, half of the tablet announcements we've seen here are pure trial balloons, seeing how the general public might react if they actual built what they say they will build. Until you can buy one, they are all vaporware.

Comment This happened to us years ago.... (Score 1) 401

We do scanning and imaging work and called an early product "Pixel Perfect". Oops, wrong name - Word Perfect (bigger at the time than they are now) came down on us like a ton of bricks. To be fair, they weren't total dicks about it, they simply strongly suggested that we find a name that didn't lead people to think this was a product that *they* had put out. We carefully evaluated the likely size of their bank account against the known size of our testicles, and this comparison somehow seemed to open the doors to wisdom and we were able to quickly come up with what we felt was a much better product name :-)

If you got the money and you got the lawyers, you can get what you want. Scrotal size just doesn't enter into the equation much. ...and truth be told, the only reason we picked Pixel Perfect to begin with was the prior existence of a popular software product that used the word Perfect in its title. Lesson learned. Do your research a pick your product names carefully.

Comment This country has absolutely no balls anymore (Score 1) 478

I am absolutely sick of new laws and regulations that do nothing but attempt to protect us from the stupid crap we to which we want to subject ourselves. Endless traffic regulations. Anti-smoking laws. Laws about exactly what we can and cannot snort, drink, smoke, or otherwise consume. Laws about whether the things we wear are flammable. Laws about how many rat turds and insect parts can be in our canned veggies. Laws that try and protect kids from seeing naked people or understanding what any farm kid knows about procreation. Laws about how fast we can go on the road. Laws about how *slow* we can go on the road. Laws about which direction and in what kind of vehicles we can go on the road. Laws about how old and experienced you must be to even think about using the roads. Laws that attempt to control what a woman can and cannot do with her raped and violated body after an attacker has fertilized her. Laws that attempt to prevent our children from learning actual facts about history and evolution and instead want them to learn religious fantasies. Laws that regulate how much crap our industry can pump into the air while our competition manufactures us into oblivion. Laws making it incredibly easy for a single asshole senator to hold up passing laws that might actually be useful, simply because they don't like the color or political party of our elected president. Laws that allow any special interest to pump money into lobbying to buy whatever stupid laws they want.

We have emasculated ourselves. We are dying a slow death of our own making while China eats our lunch and laughs. You look at pictures of happy people working and smiling in factories in this country around 1899 and you think, why in the hell did we do this to ourselves?

Comment Commenting benefits everyone else (Score 1) 590

I am not inclined to waste much time agonizing over things that will help my replacement do his job better than I did mine. I assumed that the purpose for the "tips" was to help *me* be a better programmer and avoid the mistakes of others. To that end, here's my suggestions, derived from 35 years of experience in the real world:

1. Programmers always bitch about deadlines because they insist on coding to some puritanical design guidelines and attempt to use all the latest features of an OS. I never, ever worried about deadlines and always met them because I trained myself to size my coding efforts to the time available.

2. In the end, when the clock runs out, the *only* thing that counts is whether you have something that works that you can show the client. Excuses will not keep you employed.

3. As you learn new coding techniques in the course of a project, resist the temptation to revisit your earlier code to "clean it up" - at least until you have archived a complete working version of the application. Only then - and only if you have time - should you revisit and improve your code.

4. Never, ever get defensive about your code. There is always someone that can code more stylishly than you or can comment better or knows the API by heart. Instead, accept suggestions with grace, be a good team player when you are part of a team, and concentrate on never missing a deadline. Better to have working ugly code, that be pretty and and a day too late.

5. Always jump at the opportunity to be a part of something new, because you will expand your knowledge, your resume, and (usually) your wallet.

6. If you are a team leader, be generous with your time and knowledge, work one-on-one, and avoid organizing meetings that have no concrete agenda and time limit.

7. Have a life and a hobby that does not involve computers. It is important to be able to decompress.

Comment IMSAI 8080 and the Kill The Lights game (Score 1) 426

Took about 40 bytes of RAM, and 2-3 minutes to input via the front panel switches, and was a blast to play. Cycled lights through the 8-bits of output on the IMSAI front panel. Your job? Flicking an input switch ON just as a lit light passed above, the object being to turn it off. Miss and it turns a light ON again. Kill all the lights and you win. My 4-year old daughter has had access to everything including the latest console games on our big screen TV and she still begged me to fire up that game. Still have the IMSAI, still boots to CP/M 2.2 via 8, 5.25, or 3.5 inch floppy, and can still run that 40 byte game.

Dang whippersnappers are spoiled today, I tell ya....

(sigh) ... back to programming my 4 core Mac with 6 Gigs of RAM and a terabyte disk.

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