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Submission + - Ready for your payroll software update? (

SEWilco writes: A federal payroll tax reduction for two months is being pushed by the President. Paying less money to the government seems good, but if the law is changed it will change the payroll taxes in January and February. Here in Slashdot many of us can well imagine what that will do to the many payroll systems which are already programmed with the 2012 tax rates.

Submission + - Punchcards to iPads: The history of input devices (

MrSeb writes: "As we glide our fingers over the screens of our smartphones and tablets, or chatter to our computer instead of typing at it, it is easy to forget how far input devices have evolved since the first automated computing devices were introduced just over a century ago. After all, from the invention of the printing press in 1440 until the innovation of the paperback, and more recently the e-book, reading changed very little. From punchcards to Palm Graffiti to iPads, and whole lot more in between, ExtremeTech has compiled a history of every significant computer input device that is sure to bring back memories."

Erasing Objects From Video In Real Time 175

Smoothly interpolating away objects in still pictures is impressive enough, but reader geoffbrecker writes with a stunning demonstration from Germany's Technical University of Ilmenau of on-the-fly erasure of selected objects in video. Quoting: "The effect is achieved by an image synthesizer that reduces the image quality, removes the object, and then increases the image quality back up. This all happens within 40 milliseconds, fast enough that the viewer doesn't notice any delay."
Classic Games (Games) Not Really Gone 276

gspr writes "On Sunday, Slashdot and many others reported that DRM-free games site was shutting down. Now the site is back, revealing that it was all a hoax. According to the site: 'Now it's time we put an end to all the speculations once and for all. It's true that we decided that we couldn't keep the way it was so we won't. As you probably know by now, is entering its new era with an end of the two-years beta stage and we're launching a brand new with new, huge releases.' So it was all an advertising stunt."

Wine 1.2 Released 427

David Gerard writes "Stuck with that one Windows app you can't get rid of? Rejoice — Wine 1.2 is officially released! Apart from running pretty much any Windows application on Unix better than 1.0 (from 2008), major new features include 64-bit support, bi-directional text, and translation into thirty languages. And, of course, DirectX 9 is well-supported and DirectX 10 is getting better. Packages should hit the distros over the weekend, or you can get the source now."

Familial DNA Testing Nabs Alleged Serial Killer 258

cremeglace writes "A quarter-century of conventional detective work failed to track down the killer responsible for the deaths of at least 10 young women in south Los Angeles dating back to the mid-1980s. But a discarded piece of pizza and a relatively new method of DNA testing has finally cracked the case, police announced last week. On July 7, L.A. police arrested Lonnie Franklin Jr., 57, a former garage attendant and sanitation worker they suspect is the serial killer nicknamed the 'Grim Sleeper.' The key evidence? A match between crime-scene DNA and the suspect's son, obtained by a search through the state's data bank of DNA collected from 1.3 million convicted felons."

The Problems With Video Game Voice Acting 251

The Guardian's Games blog explores the tendency of modern video games to suffer from poor voice acting, a flaw made all the more glaring by increasingly precise and impressive graphics. Quoting: "Due to the interactive nature of games, actors can't be given a standard film script from which they're able to gauge the throughline of their character and a feel for the dramatic development of the narrative. Instead, lines of dialogue need to be isolated into chunks so they can be accessed and triggered within the game in line with the actions of each individual player. Consequently, the performer will usually be presented with a spreadsheet jammed with hundreds of single lines of dialogue, with little sense of context or interaction. ... But according to David Sobolov, one of the most experienced videogame voice actors in the world (just check out his website), the significant time pressures mean that close, in-depth direction is not always possible. 'Often, there's a need to record a great number of lines, so to keep the session moving, once we've established the tone of the character we're performing, the director will silently direct us using the spreadsheet on the screen by simply moving the cursor down the page to indicate if he/she liked what we did. Or they'll make up a code, like typing an 'x' to ask us to give them another take.' It sounds, in effect, like a sort of acting battery farm, a grinding, dehumanizing production line of disembodied phrases, delivered for hours on end. Hardly conducive to Oscar-winning performances."

The Bloodhound Will Stay On the Ground At 1,000 mph 242

Hugh Pickens writes "BBC reports that engineers designing the world's fastest car, the Bloodhound SSC, built to smash the world land speed record of 763 mph set by the Thrust SuperSonic Car in 1997, believe they have a solution to keep the vehicle flat on the ground at 1,000 mph after initial iterations of the car's aerodynamic shape produced dangerous amounts of lift at the vehicle's rear. John Piper, Bloodhound's technical director, said: 'We've had lift as high as 12 tonnes, and when you consider the car is six-and-a-half tonnes at its heaviest — that amount of lift is enough to make the car fly.' The design effort has been aided by project sponsor Intel, who brought immense computing power to bear on the lift problem. Before Intel's intervention, the design team had worked through 11 different 'architectures' in 18 months. The latest modelling work run on Intel's network investigated 55 configurations in eight weeks. By playing with the position and shape of key elements of the car's rear end, the design team found the best way to manage the shockwave passing around and under the vehicle as it goes supersonic. 'At Mach 1.3, we've close to zero lift, which is where we wanted to be,' says Piper. In late 2011, the Bloodhound, powered by a rocket bolted to a Eurofighter-Typhoon jet engine, will mount an assault on the land speed record, driving across a dried up lakebed known as Hakskeen Pan, in the Northern Cape of South Africa."

NASA Attempts To Assuage 2012 Fears 881

eldavojohn writes "The apocalyptic film 2012 has dominated the box office, taking in $65 million on opening weekend. But with all those uninformed eyeballs watching the film, NASA has found itself answering so many common questions that their Ask an Astrobiologist blog offers calming, professional reassurance that there is no planet Nibiru, nor will it collide with Earth (although I do recall a massive solar storm forecast). NASA's main site even offers a FAQ answering similar questions. NPR has more on NASA scientist David Morrison and his efforts to calm the ensuing public hysteria, but survivalists are already planning for the big one. Pretty funny, right? Not according to Morrison: 'I've had three from young people saying they were contemplating committing suicide. I've had two from women contemplating killing their children and themselves. I had one last week from a person who said, "I'm so scared, my only friend is my little dog. When should I put it to sleep so it won't suffer?" And I don't know how to answer those questions.'"
Data Storage

Cooling Bags Could Cut Server Cooling Costs By 93% 135

judgecorp writes "UK company Iceotope has launched liquid-cooling technology which it says surpasses what can be done with water or air-cooling and can cut data centre cooling costs by up to 93 percent. Announced at Supercomputing 2009 in Portland, Oregon, the 'modular Liquid-Immersion Cooled Server' technology wraps each server in a cool-bag-like device, which cools components inside a server, rather than cooling the whole data centre, or even a traditional 'hot aisle.' Earlier this year, IBM predicted that in ten years all data centre servers might be water-cooled." Adds reader 1sockchuck, "The Hot Aisle has additional photos and diagrams of the new system."

"Three Strikes" To Go Ahead In Britain 294

David Gerard writes "Lord Peter Mandelson has carefully ignored the Gowers Report and the Carter Report, instead taking the advice of his good friend David Geffen and announcing that 'three strikes and you're out' will become law in Britain. The Open Rights Group has, of course, hit the roof. Oh, and never mind MI5 and the police pointing out that widespread encryption will become normal, hampering their efforts to keep up with little things like impending terrorist atrocities. Still, worth it to stop a few Lily Allen tracks being shared, right?"

Laptop Fires On Airplanes 560

The risk posed by lithium batteries on airplanes is not exactly new news to this community; but the issue is starting to get wider exposure. Reader Maximum Prophet points out that as usual xkcd gets it right, and sends in an NY Times article calling the batteries a fire risk that clears security. "More than half of the 22 battery fires in the cabin of passenger planes since 1999 have been in the last three years. One air safety expert suggested that these devices might be 'the last unrestricted fire hazard' people can bring on airplanes."

Time Warner Cable Modems Expose Users 185

eldavojohn writes "Wired is reporting on a simple hack putting some 65,000 customers at risk. The hack to gain administrative access to the cable modem/router combo is remarkably simple: '[David] Chen, founder of a software startup called, said he was trying to help a friend change the settings on his cable modem and discovered that Time Warner had hidden administrative functions from its customers with Javascript code. By simply disabling Javascript in his browser, he was able to see those functions, which included a tool to dump the router's configuration file. That file, it turned out, included the administrative login and password in cleartext. Chen investigated and found the same login and password could access the admin panels for every router in the SMC8014 series on Time Warner's network — a grave vulnerability, given that the routers also expose their web interfaces to the public-facing internet.' If you use Time Warner's SMC8014 series cable modem/Wi-Fi router combo, watch for firmware to be released soon that they are reportedly in the process of testing."

Google Partners With Twitter For Search 108

An anonymous reader writes "According to the Google blog, it has partnered up with Twitter to bring tweets into its search results in the next few months. While this is exciting news, how the feature is going to present itself is a huge question. Indiblogger presents a comprehensive list of how it should be. From the article, the points discussed are: relevance of tweets with the search term, twitter and Google advertising, even a Google-Twitter API."

Nationwide Shortage In Supply of Swine Flu Vaccine 579

Hugh Pickens writes "The NY Times reports that as the number of swine flu cases grows to levels unprecedented for this time of year, health officials predict a shortfall in the supply of swine flu vaccine. Forty-three children have died from swine flu since August 30 — about the same number that usually die in an entire flu season.' These are very sobering statistics,' says Dr. Anne Schuchat, the director of the National Center for Immunization and Respiratory Diseases, 'and unfortunately they are likely to increase.' Projections of the supply of swine flu vaccine have widely varied. During the summer, health officials said 120 million doses would be ready in October but later dropped the estimate to 40 million doses. Now officials expect only 28 million to 30 million doses, adding that the exact number is impossible to predict and could change daily as vaccine manufacturers report that production was behind schedule. 'Vaccine production for influenza is pretty complex,' says Schuchat explaining the delay, 'and the complex process this year is taking a bit longer than we had hoped.' Schuchat warned parents with sick children to be alert for signs that medical attention is required including not eating well, difficulties breathing, and turning blue or gray. A particularly important sign is when children start to get better, then have a relapse, usually a sign that pneumonia is developing, and immediate treatment should be sought."

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