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Comment So some researchers found a vulnerability... (Score 1) 98

That neeeeeever happens in today's world of OS security, now does it? And what happens when researchers find a vulnerability in a computer system? It usually gets patched pretty quickly.

This one will not take long to patch. In the "can you tell which is which?" pictures, I picked the synthetic iris with 100% accuracy, in less than 3 seconds of inspection. Yes, I work actively in the biometrics field...but guess what? So do the folks who build these systems. I will hazard a guess that Neurotech (and L-1, and IrsID, and Fujitsu, and...) has a patch out to defeat this is less than a month.

Then another group of researchers will discover another vulnerability, and the game will continue.

FWIW, liveness checks are part of lots of biometric systems, especially fingerprint systems. My prediction is that we will see liveness check technology appear in iris systems pretty quick now.

Comment Re:Fusion Ignition (Score 5, Informative) 252

Lasers are not normally used in Tokamak reactors. In those systems, the idea is to use magnetic fields to hold a plasma tight enough (and long enough) for fusion to initiate. The energy input (i.e. "heating") is done ohmically, that is, by radio waves that induce electric currents in the gas. The NIF pursues a different approach, called "inertial confinement fusion." The idea in these systems is to supply a whole load of energy in a very short time, so the hydrogen nuclei don't have time to move apart before the fusion reaction takes place. That is, their inertia is what confines them long enough for the reaction to go. In order to do this, you need a giant load of energy delivered into a very small volume in a very short time. That's why they quote the number as terawatts. The interesting part of this announcement is not just the TW energy rate, but the nanosecond-scale pulse width. This is actually pretty cool news...

Comment Re:Why are these things opposites? (Score 1) 286

I don't see that "religion" and "evolution" are incompatible, unless you are a literal word-of-god believer in the KJ bible. First, off, evolution is an undeniable fact. You can buy a tube of drosophila melanogaster fruit flies, set up an unusual condition in their habitat, and watch them evolve to adapt to it over the course of a few weeks. Now if you want to say that God directed/guided that evolution, "OK." I don't think science addresses that idea at all.

Where you get into trouble with evolution/natural selection is if you try to insist that the Earth is 5,000 years old, nothing has ever evolved since God created it, the fossil record is bogus, radiocarbon dating is a sham, the cosmic microwave background is unrelated to the Big Bang, etc. Then your only hope of keeping your kids from asking embarrassing questions that point out that you have no grip on basic science is to make sure they never get exposed to these "confusing" ideas (see the recent Lousiana science textbook flap) you try to prevent schools from teaching them at all.

It sounds like that may not actually be what's going on in this story, but it's certainly what's going on in Texas, Loisiana, Mississippi, etc.

Comment Re:Why are these things opposites? (Score 4, Insightful) 286

It's not about "creationism." it's about "young earth creationism," in which the proponents believe that every word of the bible is literally true, and every creature on earth was created in its present form directly by the hand of God less than 5000 years ago. If you allow for an evolutionary path that took (tens or hundreds of) millions of years to evolve a horse or a bird, your 5,000-year-old Earth theory has some major challenges ahead of it. In the end, this sort of effort is fundamentally about suppressing the challenge, not teaching science.

Submission + - What do you want to ask a US Govt Cyber executive?

drdread writes: I work for large IT services & consulting outfit in the USA. We have an opportunity to interview a high-level govt executive who has involvement in the cyber security landscape, and I have been asked to help develop the questions we will ask during the interview. I have a few ideas, but thought that polling /. might generate some new questions that I had not thought of.

So: what would *you* ask a person like this? Areas of interest include cloud services, securing the cloud, mobile devices, securing mobile devices, trends in capabilities, threats, opportunities, etc. for mobile devices, issues surrounding government acquisition and use of commercial smart phones, etc.

Some ground rules:

1. The questions need to be somewhat general and policy-oriented in nature. This person will not discuss specific threats, vulnerabilities, etc.

2. This is a "friendly" interview for the corporate journal — we are not doing investigative journalism here, but rather trying to gain insight into the Government's outlook on issues related to the IT field. As a result, we don't want to "go after" this person — we want to ask for opinions on current and future topics in the field.

3. This person is a senior executive. Highly technical questions about specific platforms, applications, devices, etc. are not in the right domain.

4. I will not discuss or comment on discussions of this person's identity.

So /., what would you ask?

Comment OP needs an 80% boost in comprehension efficiency (Score 1) 204

Please. Please. Please read the article and try to understand it before posting breathless announcements like this one. From the article, "With this approach at the laboratory scale, Xu and colleagues were able to obtain a light-to-power conversion efficiency of 3.2 percent compared to 1.8 percent efficiency of conventional planar structure of the same materials." This article announces a breakthrough in efficiency for this type of material. For reference, typical photovoltaic silicon cells run around 10-15% efficiency, and the world record is around 25% efficiency. Thus, the questions you should ask after reading this article are "so what," "why would I build a cell out of this material when conventional silicon beats the living crap out of it," "how do you plan to produce this on an industrial scale," "will this ever see the outside of your lab," and "you need some published articles in order to get promoted, don't you?"

Comment There are perfectly good reasons to standardize (Score 2, Insightful) 654

I run an engineering division within my company. I have ~40 developers and a total staff of around 110. This includes biz dev guys, testers, systems engineers, production engineers (builds, installers), etc. We do mostly contracting work, with a small amount of licensed product sales.

We have standardized on a single language (C#), and it has worked for us. We have a significant base of legacy code, including C++, Java, and Visual Basic. I can tell you from personal experience that 90% of the agony we endure is related to the legacy code, specifically maintenance of said code. Keeping enough people up-to-speed with skills to work in more than one or two languages is a tough challenge. Organizationally speaking, my life would be vastly easier if we could get down to 100% of our code in a single language.

Of course, that's never going to happen, so we do try to retain the people who have experience with our legacy code base. We also try to assign new people to work on the legacy code whenever it looks like we're getting short of experience in any one area.

I'm a coder by trade and experience -- this management stuff is definitely new to me. I have always personally enjoyed learning new languages/techs/whatever as a developer...but from an architectural and business standpoint, I can definitely point to reasons to standardize on a single language or development platform. We are transitioning to a product line architecture, where deliveries are based on off-the-shelf in-house components (new development as necessary, of course). Customers *hate* it when we tell them "after you install this, you'll have .Net 1.1, Java 1.5 and VisualBasic runtimes on your machine, along with all the support libraries, etc." They would much prefer a homogeneous environment with minimal footprint.

There are also issues within a product line with mixed-platform development. Unless you work *really* hard on decoupling components at exactly the right places, mixing platforms makes it difficult or even impossible to develop a solid product line. I'm starting to think that it's actually impossible without going to a full-out service based architecture.

So don't dismiss the idea of standardizing on a single language. Just because you're a developer and you want to play with the latest cool toys, that doesn't mean there is a defensible business reason to allow that.

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