Jim Hall writes: In a June 29, 1994 post in comp.os.msdos.apps on USENET, a physics student announced an effort to create a completely free version of DOS that everyone could use. That project turned into FreeDOS, 20 years ago! Originally intended as a free replacement for MS-DOS, FreeDOS has since advanced what DOS could do, adding new functionality and making DOS easier to use. And today in 2014, people continue to use FreeDOS to support embedded systems, to run business software, and to play classic DOS games!
Jim Hall writes: Security blogger Krebs reports that Target's data breach started with a stolen HVAC account. Last week, Target said the initial intrusion into its systems was traced back to network credentials that were stolen from a third party vendor. Sources now claim that the vendor in question was a refrigeration, heating and air conditioning subcontractor that has worked at a number of locations at Target and other top retailers. Attackers stole network credentials from Fazio Mechanical Services, then used that to gain access to Target's network. It’s not immediately clear why Target would have given an HVAC company external network access, or why that access would not be cordoned off from Target’s payment system network.
Jim Hall writes: "I'd like Slashdot's help in a study I'm working on, about software usability — specifically, the usability of open source software. My history in writing and contributing to Free and open source software goes back to 1993 (including FreeDOS, etc) so I know most open source developers put functionality and features first, and the user interface is "form follows function." That means a lot of open source programs can be difficult for "average" folks to use — and sometimes, even for other developers to use. My study will include a usability test, and the output will be an analysis of open source software, identifying features that make for successful usability so other open source programmers can use that for their own programs. You can find more information at my blog. My question for Slashdot is this: What open source programs have good usability? What open source programs would you recommend for this study?"
Jim Hall writes: "Many of us in IT recognize that software patents are a bad idea — you can patent just about anything if you put "on a computer" at the end of it. But now we can finally do something about it. Congress is considering the America Invents Act — your Representatives are very interested in hearing from you. Also, the USPTO is inviting public comments to change the system (you need to file by June 29, 2011.) I've written a blog post about software patents with more, starting with a primer of copyright and patents."
Jim Hall writes: Insomniac Games has long been an exclusive PlayStation developer: Disruptor on PS1, Spyro the Dragon on PS1, Ratchet & Clank on PS2 and PS3, Resistance on PS3. That's changed. This week, Ted Price announced a partnership with EA Partners to work on a new game together, supporting both the PlayStation 3 and XBox 360. No details yet on what the new game series is supposed to be.
Jim Hall writes: A freshly discovered asteroid, called 2010 GA6 and as long as a tennis court, will pass Earth at about the distance of the moon Thursday, according to NASA. GA6 was first observed Monday by the Catalina Sky Survey, a telescope project in Arizona that seeks out near-Earth asteroids and comets. It will make its closest approach to Earth, at a distance about 430,000 kilometers, at 10:06 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time.
Jim Hall writes: "A colony of Fairy Penguins (40cm tall, the world's smallest penguin species) near Sydney harbour has recently been attacked by an unknown predator. Professional snipers have been brought in with orders to "do what it takes" to guard the vulnerable colony. They join a legion of volunteers, who have also been guarding the birds during the hours of darkness when they are most at risk."
Jim Hall writes: "The FreeDOS Project turns 15 years old today! PD-DOS (later, "FreeDOS") was announced to the world on June 28 1994 as a free replacement for MS-DOS, which Microsoft had announced would go away the following year, with the next release of Windows. There's more history available at the FreeDOS "About" page and my blog. Today, FreeDOS is used by people all around the world. You can find FreeDOS in many different places: emulators, playing old DOS games, business,... even bundled with laptops and netbooks. FreeDOS is still under active development, and recently released a new version of its kernel. A "FreeDOS 1.1" distribution is planned."
Jim Hall writes: According to an article on the BBC, a US federal appeals court overturned a lower court decision involving free software, saying conditions of the Artistic Licence were enforceable under copyright law. This distinction is important since under federal copyright law a plaintiff can seek statutory damages and can be more easily granted an injunction. "Copyright holders who engage in open source licensing have the right to control the modification and distribution of copyrighted materials," Judge Jeffrey White wrote in his 15-page decision. Said Stanford Law Professor Larry Lessig,"This is a very important victory... In non-technical terms, the Court has held that free licences set conditions on the use of copyrighted work. When you violate the condition, the licence disappears, meaning you're simply a copyright infringer."
Jim Hall writes: According to the BBC, a group of Czech artists who inserted a nuclear explosion into a national weather broadcast have been told by a prosecutor they could get 3 years. They are accused of tampering with a live panoramic TV shot of mountains last June. The video is still available on YouTube and is very convincing. "The fake broadcast was really very inadvisable and could have provoked panic among a wide group of people," said Martin Krafl, spokesman for the TV channel.
Jim Hall writes: In the future, there will be robots! The US military is developing a robot with a teddy bear head to help carry injured soldiers out of combat. The "friendly appearance" of the robot is designed to put the wounded at ease. The 6ft tall Bear can cross bumpy ground without toppling thanks to a combination of gyroscopes and computer controlled motors to maintain balance. It is expected to be ready for testing within five years. Pretty cool.
Jim Hall writes: The BBC writes that hundreds of episodes of BBC programmes will be made available on a file-sharing network (Azureus) for the first time. The agreement means that users of Azureus' Zudeo software in the US can download titles such as Dr Who, and Red Dwarf. Until now, most BBC programmes found on peer-to-peer file-sharing networks have been illegal copies. Maybe I can finally now watch 'Torchwood' that I've been hearing so much about.
Jim Hall writes: According to an article in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Minnesota will switch to electronic voting for the '06 election. This fall, voters in 83 of Minnesota's 87 counties will use electronic machines made by Election Systems & Software of Omaha. Four counties — Ramsey, Anoka, Dakota and Washington — will use machines made by Ohio-based Diebold Inc. We used to use paper "bubble sheet"-style voting that had a nice paper trail. The new system may also provide a paper trail, requiring "safeguards that include the retention of original paper ballots and a mandatory hand recount in random precincts." But critics point out that election officials "don't really understand how the machines work and couldn't possibly catch a sophisticated attempt to hack the election results."