Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive


Forgot your password?
DEAL: For $25 - Add A Second Phone Number To Your Smartphone for life! Use promo code SLASHDOT25. Also, Slashdot's Facebook page has a chat bot now. Message it for stories and more. Check out the new SourceForge HTML5 internet speed test! ×

Comment Re:I'm surprised that this technology is available (Score 1) 248

My first thought as well. I think it's laudable that people are working on the ability to locate and disarm relic mines. Unfortunately, that same technology could likely be used by those wanting access to areas defended by current minefields.

Of course, the solution could be as simple as spraying a field with a substance that is toxic to the bacteria in question. It wouldn't have any impact on manned fields, but would still allow the use in areas that have abandonned mines. Unfortunately, that strikes me as creating yet another problem in a hunk of land currently filled with burried explosives, but it might be the way of it.

Comment Re:More stuff that misses the point (Score 1) 236

The problem with using reckless driving types laws is that they are too late. Once you are exhibiting a behavior which is reckless (lane changes, etc) the only thing that separates that from a accident is that no-one else had the misfortune of being there at the time. The purpose of texting bans, etc is to stop a behavior which is likely to be a problem BEFORE it is actually a problem.

Broad laws are OK after the fact - you crashed, so it is reasonable to say you were reckless. Broad laws to prevent behavior are horrible, they put way to much discretion into the hands of the police. Some cops may think texting is reckless, some may think talking with a passenger is reckless, some may think driving with head-pounding music blasting is reckless, etc. That is why it is important the specific behaviors are specified.

Comment Re:Major pain (Score 1) 334

This is the same problem that teachers face every day. Teachers who give up and figure most teenagers "just don't care" aren't the ones kids thank later in life. Of course people are going to react negatively when you try and take away their YouTube. Let their manager deal with their lack of productivity in whatever ways managers do it best (or worst...).

The problem is that there's a fine line between "keeping twerps from using up all the company bandwidth" and "administering draconian policies to get everyone to work your way or else". The only difference between the two is the discretion of whoever's in charge, and leaving it up to that person often has disastrous results. The answer is definitely not to fight from both sides until someone gives up, that just makes enemies out of both sides, when it's in the interest of both parties to be on the same side.

For example: a common method to limit bandwidth is to block users from installing Flash and thus block websites which use Flash to stream content (YouTube, streaming radio stations, etc.) But then you run into having to allow access to people who want to use Flash for legitimate reasons. Or people who want to stream content in the background while working more productively (like listening to music at work)?

If you're in IT, it's your job to make sure the systems work so that people can do their jobs better, not to hinder the systems so that people do their jobs worse.

Comment Re:Translation (Score 1) 238

Microsoft Letting Patents Move To Linux Firms

move of some patents originally held by Microsoft to the Open Invention Network, where they will join a portfolio whose purpose is to inoculate open source companies against patent trolls.

Doesn't seem a lot like patent trolling from MS. They've pretty much always just cared about protecting their own ass from patent trolls - and now moving the patents to Open Invention Network, that does it for them and keep the technologies open to everyone else too.

Comment Re:There is no way an AI can build a cleverer AI. (Score 1) 482

You're taking it to the extreme ignoring all real world factors.

Yes, as a thought experiment, the human brain, because it is able to, although extremely inefficiently, perform basic arithmetic and logic operations, could emulate any infinitely complex hardware running any infinitely complex software if all information about the hardware was available and correct and humanly understandable and if the software was available in human readable form and if there was an unlimited means to manually store data and unlimited time to compute and perfect computation accuracy and unlimited ability to focus on said task.

But the converse is true as well I'm afraid. Not only can humans """THEORETICALLY""" emulate computers, but computers can right now in real life accurately emulate a portion of a mammal brain.

By the way, the idea you are describing is called the church-turing thesis. Sure any computational device can theoretically emulate any other, but it's theoretical for a reason. All external factors can not be reproduced. If a computer does calculations based on yesterday's weather, if I don't have yesterday's weather, then those computations can not be emulated.

From the Wikipedia article on Emulation: In a theoretical sense, the Church-Turing thesis implies that any operating environment can be emulated within any other. However, in practice, it can be quite difficult, particularly when the exact behavior of the system to be emulated is not documented and has to be deduced through reverse engineering. It also says nothing about timing constraints; if the emulator does not perform as quickly as the original hardware, the emulated software may run much more slowly than it would have on the original hardware, possibly triggering time interrupts to alter performance.

The Courts

Internet Astroturfer Fined $300,000 245

New York Attorney General Andrew Cuomo announced yesterday that Lifestyle Lift, a cosmetic surgery company who posted fake reviews of their services on various websites, will have to pay $300,000 to the state of New York. Cuomo's office says this is the first US case to specifically target astroturfing on the internet. "Internal emails discovered by Attorney General Cuomo's investigation show that Lifestyle Lift employees were given specific instructions to engage in this illegal activity. One e-mail to employees said: 'Friday is going to be a slow day — I need you to devote the day to doing more postings on the web as a satisfied client.' Another internal email directed a Lifestyle Lift employee to 'Put your wig and skirt on and tell them about the great experience you had.' In addition to posting on various Internet message board services, Lifestyle Lift also registered and created stand-alone Web sites, such as, designed to appear as if they were created by independent and satisfied customers of Lifestyle Lift. The sites offered positive narratives about the Lifestyle Lift experience. Some of these sites purported to offer forums for users to add their own comments about Lifestyle Lift. In reality, however, Lifestyle Lift either provided all the 'user comments' themselves, or closely monitored and edited third-party comments to skew the discussion in favor of Lifestyle Lift."
The Internet

New Service Converts Torrents Into PNG Images 297

jamie points out that a new web service,, will encode a torrent into a PNG image file, allowing it to be shared easily through forums or image hosting sites. Quoting TorrentFreak: "We have to admit that the usefulness of the service escaped us when we first discovered the project. So, we contacted Michael Nutt, one of the people running the project to find out what it's all about. 'It is an attempt to make torrents more resilient,' Michael told [us]. 'The difference is that you no longer need an indexing site to host your torrent file. Many forums will allow uploading images but not other types of files.' Hiding a torrent file inside an image is easy enough. Just select a torrent file stored on your local hard drive and will take care the rest. The only limit to the service is that the size of the torrent file cannot exceed 250KB. ... People on the receiving end can decode the images and get the original .torrent file through a Firefox extension or bookmarklet. The code is entirely open source and Michael Nutt told us that they are hoping for people to contribute to it by creating additional decoders supported by other browsers."

Australia Considering P2P 'Three Strikes' Law 101

caitsith01 writes "ITNews reports that Australia's ever-unpopular Minister for Communications, Senator Stephen Conroy, has foreshadowed new action by the Australian Government to crack down on illegal file sharing under the guise of promoting the digital economy. Options apparently being considered include the controversial and previously reported French three-strikes approach and an approach which sounds suspiciously like New Zealand's even more dubious guilty-upon-accusation approach to filesharing. Needless to say, although the Government is consulting with 'representatives of both copyright owners and the Internet industry in an effort to reach an industry-led consensus on an effective solution,' arguably the most significant group — ordinary Internet users — are not being consulted. Senator Conroy is the man behind the crusade to 'protect' Australians from the horrors of the Internet with a mandatory, government-run blacklist, an effort which recently earned him the title of Internet Villain of the Year for 2009."
The Courts

Judge May Take "Fair Use" Away From Jury 342

NewYorkCountryLawyer writes "In what I can only describe as a shocker, the Judge in SONY BMG Music Entertainment v. Tenenbaum has, on her own, issued an order questioning whether the jury will be allowed to decide the 'fair use' issue at all, or whether the Judge herself should decide it. Judge Nancy Gertner's decision (PDF) notes that the courts have traditionally submitted the fair use defense to the jury, but questions whether that was appropriate, since the courts have referred to it as an 'equitable' — as opposed to a 'legal' — defense. This decision came from out of the blue, as neither party had raised this issue. IMHO the Judge is barking up the wrong tree. For one, all across the legal spectrum in the US, 'equitable' defenses to 'legal' claims are triable to a jury. Secondly, as the Judge herself notes, the courts have traditionally submitted the issue to the jury. It also seems a bit unfair to bring up a totally new issue like that and give the parties only 6 days to do their research and writing on the subject, at a time when they are feverishly preparing for a July 27th trial."

Attacks Against Unpatched Microsoft Bug Multiply 122

CWmike writes "Attacks exploiting the latest Microsoft vulnerability are quickly ramping up in quantity and intensity, several security companies warned today as they rang alarms about the developing threat. Symantec, Sunbelt Software, and SANS' Internet Storm Center bumped up their warnings yesterday after Microsoft announced that attackers were exploiting a bug in an ActiveX control used by IE to display Excel spreadsheets. There is no patch for the vulnerability; Microsoft didn't release one in today's Patch Tuesday. A temporary fix that sets the 'kill bits' of the ActiveX control is available, but experts believe it's likely most users won't take advantage of the protection. Symantec raised its ThreatCon ranking to the second of four steps. "We're seeing it exploited, but currently on a limited scale," said Symantec's Ben Greenbaum. Sunbelt also bumped up its ranking, to high." Firefox users can't be too complacent; Secunia is warning of a 0-day in version 3.5.

German Health Insurance Card CA Loses Secret Key 174

Christiane writes "The SSL Root CA responsible for issuing the German digital health insurance card lost its secret private key during a test enrollment. After their Hardware Security Module (HSM) dutifully deleted its crypto keys during a power outage, it was all 'Oops, why is there no backup?' All issued cards must be replaced: 'Gematik spokesman Daniel Poeschkens poured scorn on the statement that Gematik had insisted on the service provider carrying out a test without backing up the root CA private keys. "We did not decide against a back-up service. The fact of the matter is that the service provider took over the running of the test system, so it also has to warrant its continuous operation. How it fulfills this obligation is its own responsibility."'"

New Map Hints At Venus' Wet, Volcanic Past 118

Matt_dk writes with this excerpt from Space Fellowship: "Venus Express has charted the first map of Venus' southern hemisphere at infrared wavelengths. The new map hints that our neighbouring world may once have been more Earth-like, with a plate tectonics system and an ocean of water. The map comprises over a thousand individual images, recorded between May 2006 and December 2007. Because Venus is covered in clouds, normal cameras cannot see the surface, but Venus Express used a particular infrared wavelength that can see through them."

New Zealand Introduces Internet Filtering 215

Thomas Beagle writes "The New Zealand government has been stealthily introducing a centralised internet child-pornography specific filtering system. Voluntary for ISPs but not for their users, ISPs representing over 94% of the market are already intending to join. Read the general FAQ and technical FAQ about the proposed Netclean Whitebox implementation."

Slashdot Top Deals

"I never let my schooling get in the way of my education." -- Mark Twain