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Low-Level Format For a USB Flash Drive? 252

Luyseyal writes "I unwittingly bought one of these terrible flash cards at Fry's and have managed to nuke two of them, successively. I have a USB flash card reader that will read/write the current one at USB 1.0 speed, but it locks up every Ubuntu and XP machine I've come across in high-speed access mode. I have read that if I low-level format it that it could be fixed, though my current one doesn't support it. My Google-fu must be weak because I cannot seem to find a USB flash reader that specifies that it will do low-level formatting." Can anyone offer advice for resurrecting such drives?

Submission + - We're the governent, and we're here to secure you (

rickb928 writes: So the Pentagon, with their shiny new CyberCom commander and all that, are trying to convince corporate CEOs and "companies that operate critical infrastructures" to let them install monitoring systems on their networks or, quote, "stay in the wild wild west of the unprotected internet".

From the article:

"Defense Deputy Secretary William Lynn III, speaking at the Strategic Command Cyber Symposium in Nebraska, said we need to think imaginatively about how to use the National Security Agencyââs Einstein monitoring systems on critical private-sector networks ââ such as those in the financial, utility and communication industries ââ in order to protect us."

Sure sounds good to me. Let the Pentagon keep an eye on your critical network, and they will not only alert you to something going wrong, but they'll even respond to the threat. And if you operate 'critical infrastructure'. you owe it to our nation to opt-in, right? I mean. What could go wrong? It's the Pentagon, surely they know what they're doing, right?


PARC Builds iPod-Sized HIV Detector 93

MikeChino writes "Right now it's difficult, if not impossible, to quickly detect HIV in patients living in impoverished countries. That may all change soon, though — researchers at a California outfit called the Palo Alto Research Center have built an iPod-sized handheld device that can provide an immune check-up in under 10 minutes — all with a prick of the finger. With millions of people around the world without access to a full-size laboratory, PARC's device could revolutionize the detection and treatment of HIV."

Judge Invalidates Software Patent, Citing Bilski 252

bfwebster writes "US District Court Judge Andrew Gilford (Central District of California) granted a summary judgment motion in DealerTrack v. Huber et al., finding DealerTrack's patent (US 7,181,427) — for an automated credit application processing system — invalid due to the recent In re Bilski court decision that requires a patent to either involve 'transformation' or 'a specific machine.' According to Judge Gilford's ruling, DealerTrack 'appears to concede that the claims of the '427 Patent do not meet the "transformation" prong of the Bilski test.' He then applied the 'specific machine' test and noted that, post-Bilski the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences has ruled several times that 'claims reciting the use of general purpose processors or computers do not satisfy the [Bilski] test.' Judge Gilford analyzes the claims of the '427 patent, notes that they state that the 'machine' involved could be a 'dumb terminal' and a 'personal computer,' and then concludes: 'None of the claims of the '427 Patent require the use of a "particular machine," and the patent is thus invalid under Bilski.' DealerTrack apparently plans to appeal the ruling. Interesting times ahead."

Non-Profit Org Claims Rights In Library Catalog Data 152

lamona writes "The main source of the bibliographic records that are carried in library databases is a non-profit organization called OCLC. Over the weekend OCLC 'leaked' its new policy that claims contractual rights in the subsequent uses of the data, uses such as downloading book information into Zotero or other bibliographic software. The policy explicitly forbids any use that would compete with OCLC. This would essentially rule out the creation of free and open databases of library content, such as the Open Library and LibraryThing. The library blogosphere is up in arms . But can our right to say: "Twain, Mark. The adventures of Tom Sawyer" be saved?"

Submission + - Chinese Spacewalk Faked

dslbrian writes: The Chinese spacewalk previously posted looks like it might not have made it to space at all. In fact Inside China Today first noticed and subsequently Gearlog posted that by careful inspection of the uploaded video one can see several indicators that the whole thing was faked and shot in a pool. These include bubbles rising from the astronaut's helmet, and reflections of lighting arrays in the mirrored sections of their spacesuits.

Submission + - The Most Dark Matter-Dominated Galaxy (

thered2001 writes: A nearby galaxy has been found to be the darkest yet discovered. From the article:

"A team led by a Yale University astronomer has discovered the least luminous, most dark matter-filled galaxy known to exist.

The galaxy, called Segue 1, is one of about two dozen small satellite galaxies orbiting our own Milky Way galaxy. The ultra-faint galaxy is a billion times less bright than the Milky Way, according to the team's results, to be published in an upcoming issue of The Astrophysical Journal (ApJ). But despite its small number of visible stars, Segue 1 is nearly a thousand times more massive than it appears, meaning most of its mass must come from dark matter."

PC Games (Games)

Submission + - What modern games are DRM free?

IceDiver writes: I used to be an avid PC gamer. However, I have only bought 1 game in the last 18 months because I am sick and tired of the problems caused by the various intrusive, and sometimes damaging DRM schemes game publishers insist on forcing upon their customers. Once burned, twice shy!

The EA announcement that upcoming releases will include SecuRom, along with verification requirements and major restrictions on installations left me wondering:

What recently released or upcoming games (particularly major titles) are being released without DRM? Are there any?

How has DRM affected your game purchasing?

Will EA be negatively affected by their DRM decision?

Submission + - The death of the progress bar? (

Too-late-too-fight-boredom writes: As I sit watching a 3G iPhone absorb the latest 237.8MB upgrade (that's before unpacking, btw) I realise that here too is really no way of telling just how far it has progressed, and it struck me that I haven't seen a *real* progress bar for quite some time other than, ironically, on the iPhone itself.

Let me define "real": a progress bar that gives me an idea of how far a computer program has progressed during a time consuming (> 30 seconds) task. What I do NOT consider a progress bar:

- one that starts again after it has completed its journey from left to right (a "feature" of most newer installers, probably aimed at users busy)
- an animation that tells me nothing at all — demonstrated by what PC based iTunes shows when it pushes the aforementioned update up the iPhone's rear end.
- one that tells me it needs another 31456 hours and some minutes and then finishes 10 mins later (Vista).

Now, I understand that it's sometimes hard to predict just how long things are going to take, but then maybe an overview bar and one per task would be more informative. It's not like that is a new idea, if I recall correctly that was something used by the Norton Commander. If not, well, look at the Linux Midnight Commander — same idea. Useful.

I've seen enough "keep 'em busy" animation to last me a lifetime, starting with the animated Windows hourglass which mainly appears to suggest that the system you paid for is presently off doing something else like smoking a joint or copying some potentially confidential information, so I really don't need any more of that, thanks.

Just bring back the progress bar, please. I would consider that, umm, well, progress..


Ubuntu Satanic Edition Banned From Distrowatch Screenshot-sm 24

skeeto writes "The infamous Ubuntu Satanic Edition has been banned from Distrowatch by the site's maintainer, Ladislav Bodnar, who said, 'There is no way I am going to add this distro to DistroWatch. [...] I don't consider the name "Satanic edition" as an appropriate name for a Linux distribution.' But the main reason seems to be that 'Ubuntu is a registered trademark of Canonical. You need to show me an official permission from Canonical that grants you the use of the word Ubuntu in your product's name.' What about Muslim and Christian editions? It seems that worries about trademark infringement and offensive material does not stop Distrowatch from including those."

Submission + - How did you learn programming? 1

Xionn writes: There's been a lot of discussion lately on how programming should be taught. Most of it has centered around that many universities today teach introductory programming using Java and that Java is too much of an easy/safe/dumbed down language to serve this purpose well. Personally, I'm a member of the Java generation and my (academic) introduction to programming was a very Objects First approach, with encapsulation and patterns introduced early on. This is about 4 years ago and I recently picked up SICP on recommendation, it was a very enlightening read and a very different way of introducing programming than the "Java approach" i know. So the the question I would like to pose to slashdot is this: How did you get learn to program? And knowing what you know now, was it a good way?
The Internet

Submission + - GoDaddy takes over the World of Warcraft Armory (

AdamHolisky writes: "World of Warcraft's provides detailed character information for World of Warcraft characters. At least, it did until the domain expired today and was taken over by an unknown registrar. The domain now points to a parking page. From the article at WoW Insider:

Domains for expire today, and it appears as if a registrant has grabbed the domain name as soon as it expired.

DNS entries for and point to, while the DNS servers for are currently pointing to While some of you might be seeing work correctly, others are not. The ISPs of people who are seeing it work have not had their DNS records updated yet, however within the next 48 hours they will see go down as well; unless Blizzard fixes this before then (I am sure they are already aware, or becoming aware of it)."


Submission + - Book Review: The Ruby Programming Language (

bdelacey writes: "Book Review: The Ruby Programming Language

Title: The Ruby Programming Language

Authors: David Flanagan & Yukihiro Matsumoto with drawings by why the lucky stiff

Publisher: O'Reilly, First Edition, January 2008

Pages: 444

Book's Website: (Sample Ruby code is also at .)

Rating: 9/10

Reviewer: Brian DeLacey

ISBN 10: 0-596-51617-7

Summary: A classic and comprehensive guide to Ruby.

Book Review: The Ruby Programming Language

In January 2008, just in time for Ruby's 15th birthday, O'Reilly published The Ruby Programming Language. The co-authors make a strong writing team. Yukihiro (Matz) Matsumoto created Ruby. David Flanagan previously wrote Java In a Nutshell and JavaScript: The Definitive Guide — he has a CS degree from MIT with a concentration in writing. Drawings are the work of Rubyist-extraordinaire why the lucky stiff and technical reviewers include well known Rubyists David A. Black, Charles Oliver Nutter, and Shyouhei Urabe.

According to the Preface, Flanagan and Matz modeled this book after the K&R "white book" — The C Programming Language by Brian Kernighan and Dennis Ritchie. Like the "white book", The Ruby Programming Language has a simple structure and provides complete coverage. Just as K&R served as the de facto standard for "C", The Ruby Programming Language will likely be seen as the most authoritative language book for Ruby. Flanagan and Matz provide the following guidance for their readers:

"Because this book documents Ruby comprehensively, it is not a simple book (though we hope that you find it easy to read and understand). It is intended for experienced programmers who want to master Ruby and are willing to read carefully and thoughtfully to achieve that goal. ... [T]his book takes a bottom-up approach to Ruby: it starts with the simplest elements of Ruby's grammar and moves on to document successively higher-level syntactic structures from tokens to values to expressions and control structures to methods and classes. This is a classic approach to documenting programming languages." (p. 17)

You'll read all about boolean flip-flops, duck typing, lambdas, maps, metaprogramming, reflection and patterns of rhyming methods (collect, select, reject, and inject!). You'll also learn about new features in Ruby 1.9, like fundamental changes to text for Unicode support and the introduction of fibers fo coroutines. If it's in Ruby, it's almost certainly in this book. Chapters flow together nicely, although some could even stand on their own as educational materials for a computer science course (e.g. Chapter 7: Classes and Modules covers object-oriented programming and Chapter 8: Reflection and Metaprogramming elaborates on concepts like hooks, tracing, and thread safety).

In Ruby programming, difficult tasks are typically not only possible but often easy. It seems the authors take the same approach in their writing. For example, the complex topic of Domain Specific Languages (DSLs) sometimes creeps into deep discussions involving Ruby. Flanagan and Matz describe it simply and clearly: "A DSL is just an extension of Ruby's syntax (with methods that look like keywords) or API that allows you to solve a problem or represent data more naturally than you could otherwise." (p. 296)

During Ruby's first ten years, nearly two dozen books were in print in Japan but very few were available in English. That changed in 2004 when the introduction of Ruby on Rails created momentum for the language. A flood of new books followed, including Programming Ruby (2004, 2nd edition), The Ruby Way (2006, 2nd edition), Ruby for Rails (2006), and Learning Ruby (2007).

Programming Ruby, with lead author Dave Thomas, is self-described as a "tutorial and reference for the Ruby programming language." The Ruby Way, by Hal Fulton, was intended to complement Programming Ruby. Fulton noted: "There is relatively little in the way of introductory or tutorial information." Ruby for Rails, by David A. Black, has a clearly defined audience: "This book is an introduction to the Ruby programming language, purpose-written for people whose main reason for wanting to know Ruby is that they're working with, or are interested in working with, the Ruby on Rails framework." Learning Ruby, by Michael Fitzgerald, is a 238-page survey for "experienced programmers who want to learn Ruby, and new programmers who want to learn to program."

Programming Ruby and The Ruby Way each weigh in at over 800 pages. The binding on my copy of The Ruby Way came unglued and split in the middle after a year of use. The Ruby Programming Language is a slim, more manageable 444 pages and, in contrast, is the only one to cover Ruby version 1.9. In general, this is a great example of "less is more". Informative text boxes are sprinkled across the book with brief highlights on key technical thoughts. The first chapter's text box on "Other Ruby Implementations" (e.g. JRuby, IronRuby, Rubinius) could, however, be expanded into a several-page discussion of Ruby's various interesting architectures. Inclusion of IDEs and development tools (e.g. Eclipse, NetBeans, and TextMate) might also be helpful. These topics would nicely round out Chapter 10: The Ruby Environment.

The Ruby Programming Language has excellent cross-referencing. Section signs () feel like embedded HTML links that enable you to easily follow your coding curiosity around the book. Or you can just read it the old fashioned way, straight through. As an example, Chapter 3: Datatypes and Objects has subheadings (e.g. 3.1 Numbers) and well defined sections (e.g. 3.1.3 Arithmetic in Ruby.) The page-footers, table of contents and index also provide efficient navigational aids.

Artwork at the "edge of abstract expressionism" is something you might expect from The New Yorker magazine, but a computer book? The Ruby Programming Language introduces readers to "the edge of graphite expressionism". Original "smudgy residue" pencil drawings by why the lucky stiff creatively start each chapter.The Beatles' album cover for Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band sparked intrigue and investigations into coded messages with hidden meanings. The same could happen here.

In Words and Rules: The Ingredients of Language, author Steven Pinker asks a simple question: "How does language work?" When I think about a new programming language, I have the same type of question in mind: "How does this language work?" Flanagan and Matz provide the answers in outstanding fashion. The Ruby Programming Language should help seasoned programmers who want to master Ruby. In addition, there is enough structure and sample code for determined novices to begin their programming explorations. Better than any other, this book defines the language. It is a classic and comprehensive guide for Ruby and a great 15th birthday present.

One long-time Rails developer sent me an email with their first impressions of The Ruby Programming Language: "I have been finding the book very useful, and I'm glad I did get it sooner rather than later." Matz said "Ruby is designed to make programmers happy." It looks like similar design thinking went into this book.

Brian DeLacey volunteers for the Boston Ruby Group


Submission + - Filesharers petition Downing Street ( 1

duguk writes: "From the recent article, UK ISPs To Face Piracy Deadline

The Register has done a two-page commentry on the new law and the Petition on the UK PM site (which I am the author of). From the article:

A petition urging the Prime Minister not to introduce "three strikes" legislation against illegal filesharing has made its debut on the 10 Downing Street website.
In their campaign for digital freedoms, peer to peer users are demanding that the government doesn't force the issue. But ironically, they are inadvertently wishing themselves a world where their online activities are governed by an opaque industry settlement, negotiated in secret.

From the petition:

'The government will soon tell internet service providers they will be hit with legal sanctions from April next year unless they take concrete steps to curb illegal downloads of music and films. Britain would be one of the first countries in the world to impose such sanctions. Service providers say what the government wants them to do would be like asking the Royal Mail to monitor the contents of every envelope posted.'

Whether or not you believe the contravertial UK petition site is workable, please sign the petition and contact your MP using""

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