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Submission + - America's Bridges May Be Falling Down Soon

cartechboy writes: Oh dear. Turns out a recent analysis of data found in the National Bridge Inventory (yes, someone tracks bridge data) suggests we're in for a bit of trouble. The data: Of 607,380 bridges, 65,605 were classified as 'structurally deficient,' and 20,808 as 'fracture critical.' (If just one component on a fracture-critical bridge fails, it puts the bridge at risk of immediate collapse.) What's more, 7,795 bridges had both problems — a situation typically referred to as the 'double whammy.' Here is the translation of all the numbers: 13 percent of bridges in America are failing, and hundreds more will reach that state soon. How much will it take to address this? A mere $3.6 trillion, by the year 2020.

Submission + - Amazon Opens Up Storefront For Home Automation (

kkleiner writes: If you've spent years envying high-tech cribs where automated lighting, locks, and electronics are standard but you didn't know how to get started, Amazon's got your back. The company recently set up a designated storefront for all things related to home automation. While many of the products aren't necessarily new, providing a one-stop shopping spot and a handy "getting started" guide shows that Amazon continues to go after dollars from the niche DIY techy types, just as it did with a 3D printing storefront released a few months ago.

Submission + - Stream a YouTube video, go directly to jail (

fysdt writes: "Welcome to the United States of the RIAA: A new bill that just flew through a U.S. Senate committee could make embedding copyrighted videos a crime, punishable by five years in the pokey.

In effect, the bill is pretty simple. Senate Bill 978 takes existing copyright laws that make the reproduction and distribution of copyrighted works a felony and adds the pungent phrase "public performances by electronic means" (that is, video streaming) to the list of things that can land you in the slammer."


Submission + - Google to Make British Library Archive Available O ( 1

pbahra writes: "The British Library today announced its first partnership with Google, under which Google will digitize 250,000 items from the library’s vast collection of work produced between 1700-1870.
The Library, the only British institution that automatically receives a copy of every book and periodical to go on sale in the United Kingdom and Ireland, joins around 40 libraries worldwide in allowing Google to digitize part of its collection and make it freely available and searchable online, at and the British Library website, As well as published books, the 1700-1870 collection will also contain pamphlets and periodicals from across Europe. This was a period of political and technological turmoil, covering much of the Industrial Revolution, the French Revolution, the introduction of UK income tax and the invention of the telegraph and railway. All of these topics are covered, as are the quirkier matters of the day, such as the account, from 1775, of a stuffed hippopotamus owned by the Prince of Orange."

Submission + - Google Phone on Verizon Wireless Network 1

bowl_of_petunias writes: Google and Verizon had a joint press conference today.
From the CNN Money article: "The companies said they plan to develop "several" Android-based devices that will be pre-loaded with "innovative applications" designed by Google, Verizon and third parties." and "The companies said Verizon (VZ, Fortune 500) will introduce Android-based handsets within the next few weeks." Not a huge surprise after all of the rumors, but still nice to hear confirmation. Will this give ATT haters the phone of their dreams?

Comment A few here and there. (Score 1) 958

US of course, Greece, Germany, Jamaica, Canada, and Mexico.

In the US, I've been to every state on my motorcycle except Hawaii. I understand I can ship my bike to Hawaii but I'd rather just rent a bike like I did in Greece.

I've also ridden my bike to all the Canadian Provinces and Territories except Nunavut.

I want to get a smaller BMW and take a ride in South America but I want to learn some Spanish before making the attempt.


Comment Linus "does not believe in Freedom" (Score 2, Interesting) 747

From de Icaza's article: 'To him, ridiculous statements like Linus "does not believe in Freedom" are somewhat normal [1].'

Isn't that true, though? I always thought Linus came down heavily on the side of open source as an engineering philosophy and against the ideological side of software freedom? I'd have expected Linus to agree with the sentiment RMS is expressing, to be honest, as I believe it matches his real world stance.

RMS is obnoxious in the things he says or the way he says them sometimes. He also frequently comes across as patronizing in the way he states his beliefs as if they are Truth. But at least the guy is pretty consistent. I'm not sure having a hardliner such as him is as helpful now as it was was but you can at least rely on him to take a fairly consistent take and articulate his principles well, even if you don't believe in them. I respect him, even though he's maddening sometimes.

Comment Re:Wow , at 8 cents a page for a PACER document... (Score 1) 445

The point here is that the works were public domain; Walking in and reproducing them only incurs the cost (to the customer) of paying for the reproduction, i.e. toner, electricity, copier maintenance, paper. That's it.

What this script did was bypass the arbitrary $0.08 "reproduction fee" for accessing these public domain works, and make them available free of charge (as they are by signing up to the library service, as I understand it).

AFAIK, he used a script to automate the procedure of accessing each page, and uploaded it elsewhere. Doing it on a computer which wasn't his was dumb, but hardly a big issue in the context.

$1.5m "value" is just idiotic. On the internet, reproduction costs decrease to zero in an insignificant amount of time.

Comment Re:apple - the most anti-open company (Score 1) 600

Probably not. Like I said, Kodak doesn't seem to have suffered greatly from withdrawing themselves from the BBB, and that's an even more serious taint on their trustworthiness IMHO than not being USB-IF certified. Especially compared to also knowing why Palm is losing USB-IF certification: not because of defects or unreliability, but because of some silly rules which they broke in order to make their products work better. (Hypothetically assuming Palm loses their USB-IF certification over this, I mean.)

Comment Re:Looks like a nice device (Score 0) 175

And I'm suprised to say this but compared to Apple's tablet this will probably be more open (in the not-restricted-to-apples-store way) and have a Windows platform. I hope they reveal more details soon.

What an interesting conclusion especially since it is completely contrary to the current state. In the hand held computer market Apple encourages anyone and everyone to write applications for the iPod Touch and iPhone. Their only restrictions are related to digital signing (a reasonable restriction) and the use of the App store (a less reasonable restriction). By contrast Microsoft won't allow any 3rd party applications for their new Zune (their iPod Touch competitor) except from a few select partners.

In the personal computer market both Apple and Microsoft encourage any and all developers to write applications for their respective platforms. Apple's platform includes far more open source pieces than Microsoft's. For example, Mac OS X is built on BSD and Safari on Webkit and Apple makes considerable contributions to the open source community. Microsoft, not so much.

So what evidence led you to your conclusion?


Submission + - Ask Slashdot: Tablet PC for Classroom Instruction?

dostert writes: "With all of the recent hype of multitouch notebooks, the Apple Tablet, the Microsoft Courier, and the CrunchPad, I've been a bit curious about what happened to the good old pen and slate tablet PCs. I'm a mathematics professor at a small college and have been searching for a good cheap tablet (under $1000) which I can use to lecture, record the lecture notes along with my voice, and post up video lectures for the class. I have seen some suggestions, but many are large scale implementations at state universities, something my small private college clearly cannot afford. All I have been able to find is either tiny netbooks (like the new Asus T91), expensive full featured tablets (like the Dell XT), or multitouch tablets, that really wouldn't allow for the type of precision mathematics needs. I know a Sympodium device would work great, but we really can't afford to put one of those in each room, so something portable would be ideal. All I've been left with is considering an HP tx series. It seems nobody has created a new tablet like this in quite sometime, and HP, Fujitsu, and Dell are just doing incremental updates to their old designs. Does anyone have experience with this?"

Comment Re:Again with the #$##%# solar cells (Score 1) 150

It's all a matter of timing.

We know at some point petroleum will become impractical to support the energy needs of civilization as we know it. In 1979, people thought the end was nigh, when in fact it was just an oil cartel flexing its muscle. But the ability of the cartel to do this was a harbinger of peak oil. The US was no longer anywhere near energy self-sufficient. The same thing happened in 2008, suddenly the end was nigh. It wasn't.

Let me draw a closer analogy. During the Dot Com boom, lots of individuals made money, but very, very few web enterprises did. VCs were pouring money into startups with nothing more than a name and a PowerPoint presentation -- not a real business plan. There wasn't time. Money had to be spent. Why? Because everyone knew web commerce was coming. And they were right, web commerce was coming. Yet the vast majority of money invested in those days was wasted, at least from the perspective that investments should provide returns to the investors. In part it was classic bubble behavior, but even *solid* business plans had a huge element of uncertainty. If the business plan was timed *right*, it would be like buying Microsoft in 1986.

Some day, if the conditions are right, one of these photovoltaic "breakthroughs" may take the world by storm. The chance of any single "breakthrough" doing it is vanishingly small, but the chance of *some* "breakthrough" doing it is substantial. It has to be the right development at the right time.

There are basically three avenues I can imagine working:

(1) Really cheap cells. If it works and can be produced commercially, this is an almost certain winner, because there are many places we can use power and are throwing away photons. Probably won't change the world if it is really inefficient, because *other* costs around installation will limit success.

(2) Incrementally better cells. If it works with given production infrastructure and doesn't have any significant drawbacks, a nearly certain winner that will expand the utility of photovoltaics to applications that are currently marginal. Certainly not a big winner in the short term, but a step forward for the tortoise in the race.

(3) Radically more efficient cells. Least likely to succeed, IMHO. The best cells on the market are about 23% efficient; given thermodynamic limits there isn't a *great* deal of room for improvement. Super-efficient cells will probably have niche applications, but any "breakthrough" in this area needs to have the proviso "and costs about the same to produce as current photovoltaics" before it's worth sitting up and taking notice of.

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