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Google Caffeine Drops MapReduce, Adds "Colossus" 65

An anonymous reader writes "With its new Caffeine search indexing system, Google has moved away from its MapReduce distributed number crunching platform in favor of a setup that mirrors database programming. The index is stored in Google's BigTable distributed database, and Caffeine allows for incremental changes to the database itself. The system also uses an update to the Google File System codenamed 'Colossus.'"

Comment Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (Score 1) 630

For more fiction, how about The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon, which Publisher's Weekly summarized as "Christopher Boone, the autistic 15-year-old narrator of this revelatory novel, relaxes by groaning and doing math problems in his head, eats red-but not yellow or brown-foods and screams when he is touched." It has math problems scattered throughout.

Comment Do what I did: take a summer off (Score 1) 386

Do what I did and take a summer off.

Actually, I did a co-op (for which I received somewhat useless credit from my university) which sent me to Europe and Africa to do some computer work. They were specifically looking for a single person to do this, and it wasn't a common opportunity in my experience, but I jumped at the chance.

The following summer, I took part of the summer off from my required courses. For some courses, our short summer semester was divided in two, and in the first 6 weeks I took an outstanding gen-ed course, and in the second 6 weeks I went on a study abroad trip to Italy and studied Italian and Renaissance art, neither of which I had studied before or had a prior interest in. We studied at an Italian University from Monday to Friday (sometimes Thursday) and traveled around on the weekends, and then the last week was spent traveling full time.

That was one of the most fulfilling experiences of my life, and the irrelevant-to-my-degree but relevant-to-my-travels courses served as a nice break from my beloved 1's and 0's and greatly enriched the experience.

In short, I highly recommend finding a way to study abroad, even if it delays your graduation briefly.

Comment Signal-to-noise ratio (Score 1) 345

You will need to do some tuning with a tool like Gimpel's PC-Lint, so it's best to use it from the get-go rather than try to start linting part way through or at the end of your project. Then you do some initial setup and make minor tweaks as you go, so the tuning process is not at all painful. Many tools, like PC-Lint, also integrate into IDEs like Visual Studio, and some have free add-on programs like ALOA ( which analyzes the output of PC-Lint to generate some metrics for the quality of the code.

I have found such tools to be invaluable. I had code like this:
class Lock {/*...*/};
void Foo( Mutex& m )
// ...

This is valid syntax, but I intended to use that lock instance for the duration of the function, so the first line should have read "Lock lock(m);". Multithreading is tricky enough, and I looked at the real code for a long while, reading right over this bug. PC-Lint found it for me right away (thankfully, it was already tuned, and I should have been using it before running my code).

But even though PC-Lint is pretty good, it ain't perfect. I have found that it has some trouble with advanced C++ templates (e.g., policy-based design). I have submitted bug reports for many of these problems, and they do seem responsive in working them in to the patches.

Finally, here's an article from 2006 discussing the available static analysis available tools for C, C++, and Java and describing how and why to integrate it into your development process.


Submission + - Panasonic unveils thinnest Blu-ray Disc drive (

Lucas123 writes: "Panasonic plans to unveil the thinnest Blu-ray Disc drive at the upcoming CES show. The drive is 9.5mm high, which allows it to fit into standard laptop form factors instead of requiring manufacturers to redesign systems to fit high-def DVD players as they've been doing. "Panasonic has already begun offering samples of the drives to laptop makers with the hope that the companies will build it into new PCs.""

Submission + - Mathematicians solve the mystery of traffic jams (

mlimber writes: Do you ever find yourself in a traffic jam, thinking, "Man, there must be a bad accident up ahead," but as you plod along, you see no evidence of any crash? Some mathematicians have solved the mystery by developing a mathematical model that shows how one driver hitting the brakes a little too hard can cascade into a backup miles behind. The mathematicians' future research will investigate how automatic braking systems may alleviate the problem.

Submission + - Cosmic explosion detonates in empty space (

mlimber writes: According to an article in NewScientist, "Astronomers are puzzling over a powerful cosmic explosion that seems to have detonated in a region of empty space, far away from any nearby galaxy." The leading theory is that the explosion was a star exploding in the gas trail that is yanked out of a galaxy when it passes or begins merging with another. Said the lead author of the study, "Even if the galaxies have stopped forming stars, in the tidal tails you can trigger new episodes of star formation [not to mention detonation]," and indeed the authors have identified two candidate galaxies that give weight to their theory.

Submission + - Active glacier found on Mars?

Smivs writes: "A probable active glacier has been identified for the first time on Mars. The icy feature has been spotted in images from the European Space Agency's (Esa) Mars Express spacecraft.
The young glacier appears in the Deuteronilus Mensae region between Mars' rugged southern highlands and the flat northern lowlands. "If it was an image of Earth, I would say 'glacier' right away," Dr Gerhard Neukum, chief scientist on the spacecraft's High Resolution Stereo Camera (HRSC) was quoted as saying.
"We have not yet been able to see the spectral signature of water. But we will fly over it in the coming months and take measurements. On the glacial ridges we can see white tips, which can only be freshly exposed ice.
Dr Neukum said glacial features would be prime locations for robotic rovers to look for evidence of life on Mars."
Lord of the Rings

Submission + - PJs making The Hobbit (

An anonymous reader writes: Peter Jackson has announced that The Hobbit is being made. The story will be in 2 films, and shot simultaneously like Lord Of The Rings. Filming is set for 2009 with the first part expected for release in 2010. "A decision still has to be made on who will direct the films, who will be cast and where they will be filmed."

Submission + - Next for Apple: Lossless iTunes Store (

DrJenny writes: C|net has an interesting piece running at the moment about why Apple developed their own lossless codec, and more importantly that iTunes will become a download store for lossless audio, potentially from all the major labels. This would be a massively positive move for people who spend hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars on hi-fi gear, but refuse to give money to stores that only offer compressed music. It's a big FLAC, DRM, ALAC and GB discussion, but it's a very exciting perspective, and surely one that'll pan out meaning audiophiles will finally be able to take advantage of legal digital downloads.

Submission + - Laws of Nature, Source Unknown (

mlimber writes: In the New York Times science section, there is an interesting article discussing the nature of the scientific laws. It comes partly in reply to physicist Paul Davies, whose recent op-ed in same paper lit up the blogosphere and solicited flurry of reader responses to the editorial page. It asks, "Are [laws of nature] merely fancy bookkeeping, a way of organizing facts about the world? Do they govern nature or just describe it? And does it matter that we don't know and that most scientists don't seem to know or care where they come from?" And then it proceeds to survey different views on the matter.
The Military

Submission + - Downside of Dominance -- Lockheed and the F16 (

mlimber writes: The Washington Post reports that Lockheed Martin is building the F35, the Joint Strike Fighter, for all the branches of the military, but some are asking why it is needed. The F16, which is also manufactured by Lockheed, is significantly cheaper, has upgrades to modernize it from its origins in the 1970s, and has never lost an air-to-air battle (not to mention, "with 200,000 sorties flown, the plane has been shot down just six times"). In short, "Lockheed's most potent competitor in the fighter business is Lockheed."

Submission + - Judge:Man can't be forced to divulge passphrase ( 2

mytrip writes: "A federal judge in Vermont has ruled that prosecutors can't force a criminal defendant accused of having illegal images on his hard drive to divulge his PGP (Pretty Good Privacy) passphrase.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Jerome Niedermeier ruled that a man charged with transporting child pornography on his laptop across the Canadian border has a Fifth Amendment right not to turn over the passphrase to prosecutors. The Fifth Amendment protects the right to avoid self-incrimination.

Niedermeier tossed out a grand jury's subpoena that directed Sebastien Boucher to provide "any passwords" used with his Alienware laptop. "Compelling Boucher to enter the password forces him to produce evidence that could be used to incriminate him," the judge wrote in an order dated November 29 that went unnoticed until this week. "Producing the password, as if it were a key to a locked container, forces Boucher to produce the contents of his laptop."

Especially if this ruling is appealed, U.S. v. Boucher could become a landmark case. The question of whether a criminal defendant can be legally compelled to cough up his encryption passphrase remains an unsettled one, with law review articles for the last decade arguing the merits of either approach. (A U.S. Justice Department attorney wrote an article in 1996, for instance, titled "Compelled Production of Plaintext and Keys.")"


Submission + - Synthetic DNA on the Brink of Yielding New Life Fo ( 1

mlimber writes: The Washington Post has a story about the future of biotech: "The cobbling together of life from synthetic DNA, scientists and philosophers agree, will be a watershed event, blurring the line between biological and artificial — and forcing a rethinking of what it means for a thing to be alive.... Some experts are worried that a few maverick companies are already gaining monopoly control over the core 'operating system' for artificial life and are poised to become the Microsofts of synthetic biology. That could stifle competition, they say, and place enormous power in a few people's hands."

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