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Comment Rsync; better yet: datamover (Score 3, Informative) 239

I think rsync pretty much provides all you need in one tiny command-line to get data from A to B.

But if you want to increase your resilience against failing network connectivity, and make sure you don't delete anything that hasn't been properly copied to your server, I suggest you take a look at datamover:

Essentially, it's a daemon written in Java that monitors an outgoing directory. Everythings that is written in there gets safely copied over to a central storage drive. Behind the scenes, they use rsync to do the copying, but it's wrapped in tons of features that improve the reliability of the moving process, like a quiet period before a file gets moved (good for applications that write their output incrementally and sporadically into files), multiple retries on network time-outs, high-water marks, data transformation (e.g. compression) during the move process, etc. It also is very anal about sending you emails for anything that could possibly be a data integrity problem.

We rely on it to store the raw data from scientific experiments. With the proper configuration, your holiday pictures should be just fine.

Open Source

Open Source Developer Knighted 101

unixfan writes "Georg Greve, developer of Open Document Format and active FOSS developer, has received a knighthood in Germany for his work. From the article: 'Some weeks ago I received news that the embassy in Berne had unsuccessfully been trying to contact me under FSFE's old office address in Zurich. This was a bit odd and unexpected. So you can probably understand my surprise to be told by the embassy upon contacting them that on 18 December 2009 I had been awarded the Cross of Merit on ribbon (Verdienstkreuz am Bande) by the Federal Republic of Germany. As you might expect, my first reaction was one of disbelief. I was, in fact, rather shaken. You could also say shocked. Quick Wikipedia research revealed this to be part of the orders of knighthood, making this a Knight's Cross.'"

IBM Releases Open Source Machine Learning Compiler 146

sheepweevil writes "IBM just released Milepost GCC, 'the world's first open source machine learning compiler.' The compiler analyses the software and determines which code optimizations will be most effective during compilation using machine learning techniques. Experiments carried out with the compiler achieved an average 18% performance improvement. The compiler is expected to significantly reduce time-to-market of new software, because lengthy manual optimization can now be carried out by the compiler. A new code tuning website has been launched to coincide with the compiler release. The website features collaborative performance tuning and sharing of interesting optimization cases."

HTML Tags For Academic Printing? 338

meketrefi writes "It's been quite a while since I got interested in the idea of using html (instead of .doc. or .odf) as a standard for saving documents — including the more official ones like academic papers. The problem is using HTML to create pages with a stable size that would deal with bibliographical references, page breaks, different printers, etc. Does anyone think it is possible to develop a decent tag like 'div,' but called 'page,' specially for this? Something that would make no use of CSS? Maybe something with attributes as follows: {page size="A4" borders="2.5cm,2.5cm,2cm,2cm" page_numbering="bottomleft,startfrom0"} — You get the idea... { /page} I guess you would not be able to tell when the page would be full, so the browser would have to be in charge of breaking the content into multiple pages when needed. Bibliographical references would probably need a special tag as well, positioned inside the tag ..." Is this such a crazy idea? What would you advise?

Lego Loses Its Unique Right To Make Lego Blocks 576

tsa writes "The European Department of Justice has decided that the Danish company Lego does not have exclusive rights to the lego building block anymore (sorry, it's in Dutch). Lego went to court after a Canadian firm had made blocks that were so like lego blocks that they even fit the real blocks made by Lego. The European judge decided that the design of the lego blocks is not protected by European trademarks and so anyone can make the blocks." If true, hopefully this will open doors for people interested in inexpensive bulk purchase of bricks of specific sizes and colors. Perhaps at long last I can build a life-sized Hemos statue for my office.

Comment Some hints for your situation (Score 5, Insightful) 308

I'm in a quite similar situtation, and perhaps I can provide a few hints from what we're currently doing.

I'm working for a relatively well-known institute in academia (biotech field), with a group that among other research projects, also provides web-based services to the research community. Funding is partially tied to the operation of the services, so there is actually enough pressure to make sure that they work and work correctly at all times.

Still, until about a year ago, development was very ad-hoc, in a mix of languages, and with many "islands of knowledge", where some parts of the system were only known to one post-doc, and other parts could only be fixed by the group head (who, as they are, was usually busy with many other things...). After some hard times and near-misses, we started looking around for ways to improve our development.

I was quite attracted by the ideas of Agile, and I believe that they're a good fit to the kind of processes you find in science, as well as in software engineering. We initially had a professional Scrum coach come in and talk with us about software development practices, and then decided to apply Scrum to our processes.

It's now a bit more than 1 year since then, we're still using Scrum with a few adaptations to fit the academic environment (we're also using Scrum for projects that are really science and research, not software development). In a recent secret poll among the team, Scrum got high marks for making the team more productive, and for creating an environment where code and knowledge is shared. People are happy with the structure that Scrum provides, and we always know where the project stands. Incidentally, we also write better software faster.

But we're still improving the way we work. The transition is slow and painful, and we're only slowly adopting things such as test-driven development, automated builds and pair programming. In my experience, there's a lot of resistance against these "newfangled" methods in the academic culture, especially that of people who weren't trained as software engineers, but rather as physicists, chemists, biologists, but now find themselves producing software.

Some hints on what I've found useful in re-shaping our work environment:

- You can't change the whole structure in one day. Get permission to run a small, isolated project in "the new way", and use this to demonstrate the advantages. Remember, there are many metrics for success: Code quality, timely delivery, not having single points (persons) of failure, as well as team velocity and personal satisfaction. Try to make a case from this small project (and gain experience while doing so), and then grow it out slowly.

- I would not advise to do some clever "breaking the build, and thus showing everybody how fragile the system is" exercise. This may not be seen as constructive.

- Instead, provide convincing evidence by example that your way is more productive and more certain. Bugs that are fixed stay fixed, and don't creep in later again. Timelines are better kept. That sort of thing...

- If you can get someone in to talk about the current best thinking in software development, do so (someone else mentioned this already). It's good to hear an outside opinion, and to understand that these practices are not theoretical but used by large companies world-wide.

- I found Joel Spolsky's 12-point assessment very useful to find out where your organization stands: ... These are also good points to whisper into management's ears.


Submission + - Do companies benefit from social networking?

Roland Piquepaille writes: "According to two U.S. researchers, fewer degrees of separation make companies more innovative. They've studied the innovative performance of about a thousand companies in various industries over a six-year period. And they've concluded that "companies that network and form strategic alliances are more creative and develop more patented inventions than those that don't." Even if the conclusion sounds right, basing it on patent numbers might be questionable. Read more for additional references and an illustration describing the evolution of computer companies' social networks and tell me what you think."

Submission + - Poll: What would your billionaire hobby be? 4

MontyApollo writes: Poll: What would your billionaire hobby be?

Space Company
Sports Team Owner
Venture Capitalist
Political Foundation
Social/Charitable Foundation
Science/Tech Foundation
Just Party/Travel/Personal Hobbies and nothing else
Cloning Research Company for spare parts
Cloning an army of CowboyNeals to rule the world
Input Devices

Submission + - Yamaha Tenori-On: Toy or Tool? (

stretta writes: "The Tenori-On by Yamaha is a fascinating musical device brought forth by a company not known for taking chances. Matthew Davidson deconstructs the hype and expectations surrounding the product and offers a sincere plea for Yamaha to support the OpenSound Control standard."

Submission + - IBM Ships Lotus Notes & Domino 8 1

An anonymous reader writes: It seems to divide opinions more than any other piece of software — either you love it or you hate it — but 125 million+ users have to live with it. IBM would like to think that they've listened to their users biggest gripes and produced an all singing, all dancing new version of Lotus Notes. This release features a new client that is based on the Eclipse framework and very nice it is too!

Submission + - Help building computer for visually-impaired kid?

a_red_man writes: My nephew is three years old, and was born with visual-impairments. He has already had several eye surgeries since he was born. Recently his parents learned that there is a possibility that his condition may be degenerative over time, which is a scary thing to hear. I'm hoping and praying that he does not lose all of his sight, and that this is NOT degenerative.

Cognitive testing places him mentally well above his age. I think he's aware that he doesn't see the world exactly the same as everyone else does, but he can see enough of it to know what's happening around him. He's always seen the world that way — so it's all he knows. He's smart, funny, inquisitive about the world, and a joy to be around!

Like many things in life, I have remained blissfully uninformed about dealing with visual impairment in children until it touched my own family. And, like many readers of Slashdot, I believe that technology can be a significant enabler.

I'm seeking advice on putting a computer together for him for educational purposes (reading/math/etc) and I don't know where to start. I'm working off of the assumption that his vision will not worsen, so I'm assuming he'll be able to see but at a level that counts as legally-blind. He can read letters and words in children's books, but has trouble reading words on a computer monitor unless they're very large. I know there are features and programs out there for people with visual-impairment, but I'm curious to see if anyone out there has had personal experience and can point me in the right direction (operating system, programs, existing vendors, etc?).

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