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The Internet

Submission + - Swarm: A true distributed programming language (locut.us)

Sanity writes: "Ian Clarke, creator of Freenet, has proposed a new programming language called Swarm, the purpose of which is to be truly and transparently distributed. The idea is that you write your code as normal, but when it runs it can jump between multiple computers in a cluster — effectively distributing both the data and computation in a scalable manner. The same code can run on a single computer, or run in a distributed way across hundreds of computers in a cluster. The Swarm prototype is open source, and implemented in Scala."

Submission + - Data Retention Activists Harassed by Authorities

AllYourDataAreBelongToUs writes: Activists who took part in a protest against EU data retention laws on October 11th were harassed by the Dutch authorities, allegedly due to ties with a pro-pedophile political party known as PNVD. According to the article, "the four members of the PNVD agreed to leave without causing a disturbance, however the police followed them to the station until the activists stepped onto the train". Is this the thin end of a wedge to silence concerns over data retention policies in the European Union?

Submission + - Academic applications of OCR 4

kg1794 writes: "In my recent PhD research, I've been looking at a 1,200 page typed but unpublished manuscript from a (unfortunately now deceased) political science professor. The end goal is to eventually bring this work to publication, but I don't have the original file he created this manuscript with (it was completed back in 1979). The document needs a degree of editing and re-arranging, but what's the best way of getting these pages into digital form that doesn't involve typing the whole lot out? How and who can do such a large scale OCR task for a nominal (read: university humanities research grant) fee? How feasible is a home-brew system with some kind of auto-document feeder? Any academics or researchers who have digitized source collections in the past would be very welcome to assist. I'm in the UK, but understand solutions for this may be more efficient from across the pond. Thanks."
The Internet

Thieves Hacking Security Cameras? 181

The FBI is investigating fifteen store robberies in eleven states, committed via phone and internet. The perpetrators hack the store's security system so they can observe their victims. They then make customers take their clothes off and get the store to wire money. From the article, "A telephone caller making a bomb threat to a Hutchinson, Kan., grocery store kept more than 100 people hostage, demanding they disrobe and that the store wire money to his bank account. ... officials were investigating whether the caller was out of state and may have hacked into the store's security system. "If they can access the Internet, they can get to anything," Hutchinson Police Chief Dick Heitschmidt said. "Anyone in the whole world could have access, if that's what really happened.""

Submission + - GPL Violations On Windows Go Unnoticed?

Scott_F writes: I recently reviewed several commercial, closed-source slideshow authoring packages for Windows and came across an alarming trend. Several of the packages I installed included GPL and LGPL software without any mention of the GPL, much less source code. For example, DVD Photo Slideshow (www.dvd-photo-slideshow.com) included mkisofs, cdrdao, dvdauthor, spumux, id3lib, lame, mpeg2enc and mplex (all of which are GPL or LGPL). What's worse is that the company tried to hide this by wrapping them all in DLL's! There are other violations in other packages as well. It seems that use of GPL software in commercial Windows applications is on the rise based on my testing of other software. My question is how much are GPL violations in the Windows world being pursued? Does the FSF or EFF follow-up on these if the platform is not GPL? How aware is the community of this trend?
The Internet

Submission + - Internet study: content up, communications down (webcopyplus.com)

rps11 writes: "Internet users are consuming more web content but communicating less, reveals a four-year study by the Online Publishers Association (OPA). The report, released Aug. 13, states Internet users are spending 47 per cent of their time online reading and watching content, compared with 34 per cent in 2003, representing a 37 per cent increase over four years. The increase in the time spent on content has been steady; growing 10 per cent from 2003 to 2004, remaining even between 2004 and 2005, growing 13 per cent from 2005 to 2006, and growing 13 per cent from 2006 to 2007. The organization also found Internet users are spending 33 per cent of their time online communicating, compared with 46 per cent in 2003, marking a 28 per cent decline over four years. On the e-commerce side, Web users on average spend 16 per cent of their time shopping online versus 15 per cent in 2003. Meanwhile, the total time being spent on search remains relatively low, accounting for just five per cent, compared to three per cent in 2003. The OPA attributes the major shift from communications to content as a result of several factors: The online transition of traditionally offline activities, such as getting news, finding entertainment information or checking the weather. The popularity of online communities. A faster and more accessible Internet. The popularity of online videos. The improvements in search tools, which are helping online users find relevant content more easily. The significant increase of content available on the Web. The rise of instant messaging, which is more efficient than e-mail and has subsequently led to a reduction in time spent communicating. Whether you agree with or dispute the notion "content is king," the results from this study fortify the importance of content on the Web. It also serves as a reminder that web types can collectively advance the state of the Web and by creating and fostering quality content."

Submission + - Scientists Join Futurists: Seeking Life Definition

tetrahedrassface writes: According to Chron.com recent advances in the scientific world have pushed researchers to join philosphers and futurists in searching for what defines life. Some thinkers like futurist Ray Kurzweil believe that anything with feelings is alive while most scientists belieive that the answers will never be easily found. As technology marches forward and the rise of self replicating machines and artificial intelligence are further developed the questions may become even more complicated. Religious beliefs may become strained and the oft quoted "playing god" may become a reality. As genetic material and indeed completely novel fabricated life forms become the patented assets of corporations, machines gain the ability to replicate and computers evolve to think and possibly feel, the question may become even more important. From the article: '"We are doing things which were thought to be the province, in some quarters, of God _ like making new forms of life,". "Life is very powerful, and if we can get it to do what we want ... there are all kinds of good things that can be done. "Playing God is a good thing to do as long as you're doing it responsibly.

Submission + - Outsourcing Software Quality

devonbowen writes: I'm doing the IT specifications for a project that's being outsourced. The goal is to completely rewrite some software that already exists in-house so that it follows some common standards (modern programming language, framework, browser support, etc). These things are pretty easy to define and it's also reasonably easy to test that the resulting product complies. But how can I specify software quality?

My concern is with maintainability. Is there anything we can write into the specs that will nudge them toward writing code that we'll consider readable and maintainable? Most "coding standards" documents tell you where to put curly braces but leave the bigger issues to be worked out within your corporate culture. And, of course, when outsourcing you are working across two different corporate cultures. One idea that has come up is to have code reviews early to help create some common understanding of code quality between us. Defining the frameworks and libraries should also help to some degree. But I was hoping for something more concrete.

Yes, I know that this problem could be avoided by simply not outsourcing the project. But that simply isn't an option here for political reasons. So given that it's necessary, how would you encourage quality in an outsourcing spec?
United States

Submission + - Homeland Security Commissions LED-based Puke-Saber (foxnews.com)

E++99 writes: "Homeland Security has contracted with Intelligent Optical Systems, Inc. to develop an "LED Incapacitator," a nonlethal weapon consisting of a large flashlight with a cluster of LEDs capable of emitting "super-bright pulses of light at rapidly changing wavelengths." Sounds innocuous enough... until they they shine "the evil color" at you and you start puking! A working prototype has been completed, and they will soon be putting it through its paces. Homeland Security hopes to give it to Border Patrol agents and National Guardsmen by 2010."

Submission + - NASA to build largest Supercomputer ever (linuxworld.com.au) 1

Onlyodin writes: The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has given the green light to a project that will build the largest ever supercomputer based on Silicon Graphics' (SGI) 512-processor Altix computers.

Called Project Columbia and costing around $160-million, the 10,240-processor system will be used by researchers at the Advanced Supercomputing Facility at NASA's Ames Research Center in Moffett Field, California.

What makes Project Columbia unique is the size of the multiprocessor Linux systems, or nodes, that it clusters together. It is common for supercomputers to be built of thousands of two-processor nodes, but the Ames system uses SGI's NUMAlink switching technology and ProPack Linux operating system enhancements to connect 512-processor nodes, each of which will have more than 1,000G bytes of memory.

Full Story at Linuxworld

Feed Techdirt: UK Teachers Union Demands YouTube And RateMyTeacher Be Shut Down (techdirt.com)

Back in May, we wrote about teachers in the UK demanding that "something must be done" about cyberbullying of teachers. It appears that teachers have had enough of the various online pranks and tricks that kids pull on teachers. However, as we pointed out at the time, the "something must be done" cry seems pretty pointless. Kids are always going to find ways to bully each other and teachers, and there's no magic bullet solution. Apparently, the teachers missed that lesson, because they're back with actual suggestions on what can be done. Dave writes in to let us know that a teacher's union in the UK (apparently one of many) has adopted a resolution asking for a ban on sites used for cyberbullying. Reading the details of the resolution shows the only two sites they name are YouTube and RateMyTeacher.com -- both of which have many perfectly legitimate uses and where cyberbullying takes up a tiny fraction of their usage. More importantly, however, shutting down these sites will have absolutely no impact on bullying -- except perhaps encouraging the kids to turn it up a notch, knowing that their tactics have had the desired impact. There are nearly infinite outlets for the cyberbullying to take place, and shutting down one will simply encourage kids to use a different method of cyberbullying. It seems highly unlikely that the teachers will get their way, but it's nice (ok, more like troublesome) to know that a bunch of teachers seem to think that the best way to deal with problems between people is censorship and blaming the tool involved.

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