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Submission + - Oregon switching from own failing healthcare exchange solution to Healthcare.gov (theverge.com)

aojensen writes: A while ago we brought a story (http://m.slashdot.org/story/200897) about how Oregon is having trouble getting it's troubled online healthcare exchange ready for prime time — the reasons beating difficulties managing the expensive vendors and consultants delivering the solution. Now it seems, according to The Verge (http://feedly.com/k/1rvB8Np), they have ditched their own solution for Healthcare.gov, the US federal government solution, which became famous because of its own odd technology platform and notable performance issues ( http://m.slashdot.org/story/19...): "Oregon is giving up on its state-run online health exchange and switching over to the federal website, making it the first state to make the jump, according to the Associated Press. Oregon's health exchange, known as Cover Oregon, has reportedly been plagued with issues and hasn't even been able to fully process new applications online â" those enrolling have apparently still had to fill out paper forms as well. Fixing Cover Oregon reportedly would have cost a staggering $78 million, while transitioning over to Healthcare.gov will only cost between $4 million and $6 million." In exchange for the adopting the federal solution, however, Oregon will have to give up some control of its own policies.

Submission + - Video of Britain's Taranis supersonic drone (abc.net.au)

chrism238 writes: ABC News (Australia) is presenting vision of the of a state-of-the-art drone touted as the future of British warfare, showing it soaring over what is thought to be Woomera in remote South Australia — "'Australia's Area 51". The Taranis drone is a joint project between UK defence and BAE Systems. The test drone cost 185 million pounds ($AUD336.5 million). It is designed to carry a payload of guided bombs and missiles, travel at supersonic speeds, and fly undetected by radar. The UK military says the Taranis will be operable via satellite from anywhere in the world.

The first test flight is being hailed as a "major landmark for UK aviation". The vision shows the sleek Taranis, named after the Celtic god of thunder, making a seamless take-off and conducting a number of manoeuvres over red desert during its first test flight. The British Military of Defence (MoD) will not confirm where the footage was shot, but in a submission last year to a UK parliamentary hearing, revealed that the Taranis Unmanned Combat Air Vehicle (UCAV) demonstrator had indeed conducted initial test flights at the Woomera test range.

Submission + - ReactOS 0.3.16 has been released (reactos.org) 1

jeditobe writes: The ReactOS Project is pleased to announce the release of version 0.3.16. A little under a year has passed since the previous release and a significant amount of progress has been made. Some of the most significant include completion of the CSRSS rewrite and the first stages of a shell32 rewrite. 0.3.16 is in many ways a prelude to several new features that will provide a noticeable enhancement to user visible functionality. A preview can be seen in the form of theme support, which while disabled by default can be turned on to demonstrate the Lautus theme developed by community member Maciej Janiszewki. Another user visible change is a new network card driver for the RTL8139, allowing ReactOS to support newer versions of QEMU out of the box. Release images can be found in the usual spot here.

And for those of you that have not heard of it yet, the project is running a Kickstarter campaign in the form of the Thorium Cloud Desktop. If you want to help the project raise the funds to hire multiple full time developers and bring ReactOS to a state where it can be used for day to day activities, then please spread the word and put up a few bucks to back us.

Submission + - Sol: the $300 solar-powered laptop 1

nk497 writes: A $300 laptop that charges in two hours in the sun has been created by a Canadian company, to give African businesses and students a computer that will keep working through blackouts. The Sol laptop runs Ubuntu on an Atom CPU, and features four fold-out solar panels. In direct sun, the panels charge the laptop in about two hours, offering up to ten hours of battery life — handy for parts of the world with unstable electricity.

Submission + - How to make a $125 iPhone (infoworld.com)

GMGruman writes: There's been a lot of talk about a forthcoming cheap "iPhone 5C" with a plastic case. But a plastic case couldn't possibly save Apple enough money to make the price that low. So, I did the number-crunching to figure out how Apple could make an iPhone that cheap that would still be usable. Surprise: It's possible.

Submission + - Jolla to Build 200 Million Mobile Alliance in Hong Kong (talouselama.fi)

An anonymous reader writes: "Jolla is currently building up a new 200 million euro mobile alliance based in Hong Kong, China. In the core of the alliance is the MeeGo based mobile operating system which Jolla calls "Sailfish"." — Mirva Heiskanen, www.talouselama.fi
Facebook

Submission + - Can Justin Timberlake Bring MySpace Back? 1

theodp writes: Bringing sexy back is one thing. Bringing Myspace back is another. GeekWire's Taylor Soper asks UW students if they think Justin Timberlake and his investor group can resurrect Myspace. Surprisingly, the students are pretty receptive to the slick new This is Myspace promo, but in the end it may not matter. 'All of my friends are on Facebook,' explains a UW grad student, 'and unless there is a huge revolution where everyone switches back to Myspace, I’m probably just going to stick with it.' Still, Myspace has managed to hang on to 28MM unique monthly visitors, so perhaps the $35MM Timberlake & Co. shelled out to Murdoch's News Corp. last summer for Myspace will prove to be a bargain (News Corp. paid $580MM for the company in 2005). BTW, not everyone at Myspace has gotten their makeover yet, so take a gander if you're feeling nostalgic (standard eclipse-viewing safety rules apply!).
IT

Submission + - Dysfunctional IT Relationships (infoworld.com) 1

snydeq writes: "In large technology departments, dysfunctional relationships breed like mushrooms in a dank basement. 'Your dev and ops teams are no longer on speaking terms, while your junior and senior developers can't seem to agree on anything. IT and legal are constantly at each other's throats. Storage wonks are ready to declare war on the database admins, while sys admins seem to be on everyone's bad side.' InfoWorld's Dan Tynan takes a look at how to rectify tensions that often arise when conflicting demands are placed on the same IT systems. How does your IT department handle friction?"
Displays

Submission + - Living Biopixel Display Created From E. Coli (ucsd.edu)

An anonymous reader writes: Researchers at the University of California San Diego have developed an innovative living biopixel display made from E. Coli bacteria. The pulsating fluorescent pixels are made from genetically modified E. Coli bacteria that have been coupled with a fluorescent protein that tunes a whole batch of bacteria to the same bio-cycle. In addition to glowing in unison, the bacteria’s pulsing patterns change with the introduction of certain toxins, like arsenic.
Data Storage

Submission + - Seagate's new streaming portable HDD (gizmag.com)

cylonlover writes: With a lack of USB ports or SD card reader there's no easy way to expand the storage capacity of an iPad, iPhone or iPod touch. With the iPad and iPod touch topping out at 64GB and many opting for the cheaper, lower capacity models, users are either faced with the task of picking and choosing and switching and swapping the media files and documents they think they'll be wanting to enjoy, or looking for an app to stream media over the Internet to their device. With this latter option leaving users at the mercy of increasingly congested Wi-Fi hotspots or chewing through data over 3G or 4G networks, Seagate has just announced another solution in the form of the GoFlex Satellite – it combines a 500GB portable HDD with a built in wireless streamer to let users take their entire media library with them.
Facebook

Submission + - Testing Facebook's first data centre (computerworld.com.au)

angry tapir writes: "When Facebook built its first company-owned data center in Prineville, Oregon, designing and managing the facility was only part of the challenge. The company stress-test its entire software infrastructure by commandeering a giant cluster of production servers on the other side of the country. The Oregon data center marked a change of tack for Facebook, which had relied exclusively on two leased facilities in Northern California and Virginia. The Prineville data center was the first to be designed and built from scratch especially for Facebook."
Book Reviews

Submission + - Professional Mobile Web Development with WordPress

coder4hire writes: "Years ago, technologists and consumers alike could only dream of surfing the Web using the (increasingly ubiquitous) mobile devices available, such as smartphones. But that is now commonplace, resulting from a convergence of several trends: the standardization of wireless access protocols, greater carrier coverage and bandwidth, the popularity of mobile apps, and more powerful mobile products — featuring embedded keyboards and pointing devices, greater memory, hardware miniaturization, and larger screens with better resolution. For the typical website nowadays, the primary impediment to the site working well on leading mobile devices is that the site was never intended for them in the first place. Web developers and other site builders using content management systems, can now learn how to build for mobile accessibility, with help from resources such as Professional Mobile Web Development with WordPress, Joomla! and Drupal — authored by James Pearce, who is quite active in the mobile development space.

This book was published by Wrox, on 12 April 2011, under the ISBN 978-0470889510. It is a substantial volume, at 552 pages, which are organized into five parts. The bulk of the information is presented in the second and third parts. The former covers mobile development considerations independent of any particular content management system (CMS). It is in the third part that the author shows how to apply these techniques to websites and web apps created using the three leading CMSs — WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla. Most of the example code shown in the book, from a dozen chapters, can be downloaded from the book's web page. Unfortunately, the Zip file contains even more Zip files, which is rather annoying. The book's web page offers the table of contents (both the high-level and detailed ones), a brief author bio, the book's index, and a sample chapter (the first one). The book's introduction states that the web page has a link to errata, but there does not appear to be any such link. (Even if there are no errata reported, the link should have still been added, or at least an explanation as to its absence.)

The first part of this book, "The World of the Mobile Web," begins with an introduction to the mobile Web (which originated just a couple years after the birth of the Web itself), and discusses at a high level the similarities and differences between website development for the desktop versus mobile devices. The author then provides an overview of mobile technologies and networks, their technical limitations, recent developments therein, online information resources, and mobile browsers. Chapter 5, "The Mobile Toolbox," will probably be of more interest to web developers than the earlier chapters, because it surveys the mobile development techniques, server-side technologies, and development tools that are most often used for creating mobile-ready websites. For nondevelopers, the section that describes the key components of a CMS, can be valuable as an introduction to CMSs.

In the second part, "General Mobile Techniques," the author briefly discusses some of the critical options which a web developer must decide upon to structure a website so that it will be suitable for mobile viewers. These include navigation menu depth, breadth, grouping, and placement; typography, pagination, multimedia, and forms; and CSS and JavaScript. He also addresses a decision that likely will have even greater consequences for the long term maintenance costs of a new website, namely, the entry point(s) and structure(s) of the mobile and desktop versions of the site relative to one another. Chapter 7, which explores browser detection and methods of allowing the user to switch between mobile and desktop versions of a website, marks a shift in the book, where the reader is first exposed to any significant amount of code. Most of it is straightforward, but would be better without the use of the clunky heredoc method for outputting HTML from within a PHP script. Earlier, the author makes clear that device detection techniques (specifically, for screen dimensions) are not foolproof. Thus it is perplexing why his CSS code specifies pixel-based widths for images with a class "full" — presumably to fill the entire width of the mobile device's screen — because any pixel-based fixed width could turn out to be improper for the device upon which it is rendered. Wouldn't something like "100%" be a much safer choice?

In Chapters 8 through 10, the author presents user interface patterns seen in the major content management systems — forms, content lists, image galleries, and comments — and discusses how they can be applied to websites intended to support mobile devices. The only information that seems to be missing is the reason, if any, the author recommends using divs for grouping input fields, and not (more semantically correct) fieldsets. He also discusses some key design considerations, as they relate to mobile websites (including CSS media queries), and some HTML/CSS templates and libraries that can be used as starting points (especially valuable if you want to roll your own solution, and not use any CMS plug-in).

The third part of the book, "Major CMS Platforms," demonstrates how to develop mobile websites using the three most commonly-used CMSs — WordPress, Drupal, and Joomla — and how to add more capabilities beyond what is provided by the chosen plug-ins. For WordPress, the solutions examined are dotMobi WordPress Mobile Pack (for which the author appears to be the lead developer), WPtouch, Mobile Edition, MobilePress, and Automattic WordPress. For Drupal, the main weakness in the material is that the author posits the Mobile Plugin module as a solution for Drupal 6 and 7 (even discussing Drupal 7 permissions), but there is no version of it for Drupal 7 — not even an alpha release, and there is no indication there ever will be one. Also, in Chapter 14, the API calls do not work for Drupal 7. Yet the coverage of the topics is generally clear and engaging.

In light of the growing popularity and capabilities of JavaScript frameworks, it is no surprise that in the fourth part of the book, "Enhancing and Launching Your Site," the author explores alternatives to the methods he presented in earlier chapters, by using two such frameworks for mobilizing websites: jQuery Mobile and Sencha Touch. The example code is based upon a WordPress website, and leverages a switcher plug-in and other code discussed earlier in the book. The penultimate chapter covers various techniques for testing and debugging mobile websites: browser plugins, mobile emulators, and online testing services. The last chapter discusses issues with (the network carriers') transcoders, traffic analysis, and mobile search and monetization. The fifth and final part of the book, "References," contains a handy glossary, as well as two appendices that provide recommendations for further reading and developer resources specific to the three CMSs utilized in the book, and various mobile Web organizations and industry players.

Overall, the writing quality is a bit better than average for computer books, with detailed and helpful explanations. However, in several cases, the author uses words he doesn't seem to understand: "RIM's legacy browser remains very populous" (page 68; should read "popular"); "inadmissible flaw" (page 185; one can only guess at the intended use of this judicial word); the delightfully redundant "pre-prepared" (page 208); and "rallied against" (page 209; should read "railed against"). There are numerous simpler errata: "as [a] whole" (page xxvi), "appraised" (page xxvii; should read "apprised"), "been build" (page 3), "switchboard[s]" (4), "connected [to] the Internet" (11), "marking" (11; should read "marketing"), "it's [a] phone" (14), "these are dealt with these" (19), "phone's" (40; should read "phones'"), "try and catch" (45; should read "try to catch"); ". at" (46), "is [a] good start" (75), "most CMS[s]" (116), "some CMS[s]" (125), "a[n] XML" (140), "an pertinent" (166), "you are introduced you" (182), "to [an] extreme" (185), "on [a] par" (187), "part [of] the" (188), "wheedle out" (199; should read "weed out"), "scaling is down" (200; should read "it"), "comprised of" (220), "there comments" (227), "go [to] the" (230), "allow you [to] tweak" (247), "Index.php" (262), "in [a] box" (269), "[non]greedy" (280), "http:// yoursite" (305), "suit[e]s" (340), and at this point I stopped recording errata.

There seems to be no consistency in the formatting of URLs: the inclusion or exclusion of "http://" and root directory slashes was seemingly decided upon randomly (e.g., page 53). One may find the occasional comma where a period was called for (same page, third paragraph). Also, there is an excessive use of exclamation marks, particularly in the earlier chapters. Lastly, the author has an odd habit of phrasing statements of what material will be covered next, in a commanding form, e.g., "you turn your attention to examining" (page 97) instead of, say, "we turn our attention to examining." It's not important, but it's unsettling, and in a couple cases, rather baffling, e.g., "You should briefly discuss how to access HTTP headers in your code" (page 133). With whom should the reader discuss it? Yet the book's style is, for the most part, conversational and easy to digest.

Readers will find plenty of illustrative figures. Although all of them are black and white only, they are without exception top quality and quite attractive, including the many screenshots and product images. The only place a figure is sorely needed, is on page 261, to clarify the discussion about em-based padding. The chapters end with brief summaries, which are of no value and simply make the book a bit longer than it needs to be. Also adding unnecessarily to its heft is the repeated reminder that the example code can be downloaded from the Wrox website.

Aside from the aforementioned blemishes, this book does a fine job of introducing the reader to all aspects of developing CMS-based websites suitable for mobile devices.

Michael J. Ross is a freelance website developer and writer."

Submission + - NSA CS man: My algorithm was 'twisted' by Bush (newyorker.com)

decora writes: "Crypto-mathematician Bill Binney worked in the Signals Intelligence Automation Research Center at the NSA. There, he worked on NSA's ThinThread program; a way to monitor the flood of internet data from outside the US while protecting the privacy of US citizens. In a new interview with Jane Mayer, he says his program "Got twisted. . . I should apologize to the American people. It's violated everyone's rights. It can be used to eavesdrop on the whole world. . . . my people were brought in, and they told me, 'Can you believe they're doing this? They're getting billing records on U.S. citizens! They're putting pen registers on everyone in the country!'""
Programming

Submission + - ask slashdot, procedural programming to oop

An anonymous reader writes: I have a question that I figured would be best to post to the slashdot community: where can i fnd a tutorial/book that breaks down the concepts behind object oriented programming for someone like me who already has a fair grasp on procedural programming? I don't write code for a living, but with the current state of the job market I wouldn't mind learning more about it in my spare time.

here's what happens: I decide I want to write a simple windows/android application and so I follow a tutorial to get the appropriate development environment up and running, then I follow a tutorial or two and they all seem to just say "then we use this code... to..." without actually saying why im creating a new object, which classes are inheriting others, how to effectively use the gui in the development environment and what code clicking on certain things creates and why.

it just seems like procedural programming is very straightforward and while I realize there are many more aspects to oop, no tutorial manages to explain the concepts in a re-usable manner. I follow a tutorial and either get frustrated that im not really learning anything or I build the application and then realize I could build the same application again but I haven't learned how to look up new classes/objects I might need for a different type of application. the tutorials all get you from point a to b, but they don't really teach you anything. why does oop feel like such a hard area to get into?

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