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


Forgot your password?

Submission Summary: 0 pending, 13 declined, 2 accepted (15 total, 13.33% accepted)

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! ×

Submission + - EasyChoice for Who? For Amazon?

mtrachtenberg writes: I just received an email from Amazon. It reads, "easyChoice: Amazon is taking the guesswork out of choosing the electronics to fit your needs." I clicked on their "learn more" button, expecting an explanation, but landed directly at "easyChoice." The UI walks you down a short tree — "laptop", "home", done! — at which you are shown what you should buy. Nowhere does Amazon indicate what criteria they use for discovering what appears at "done!" — for all I know it could be Amazon's best profit margin. For laptops -> home, I was taken directly to a single product, a sub $500 laptop built around an Intel i3. At that product, there is a "similar items" area after the first screen. For "laptops", "home", it compares a $500 i3 laptop with two laptops in the same price range, one builot around a Celeron and one an i5. It also shows a $750 i5 machine. I don't know if this "similar items" is an existing feature, or one added specifically for easyChoice. Given Amazon's power in the market, I find it remarkable that they appear to be moving in the direction of taking advantage of the "default effect," without indicating in any way the criteria they use for selecting their (your) default.

Submission + - Cart Leads Horse for Years, Says Slashdot Reader

mtrachtenberg writes: Seriously, folks. This competition to develop the tiniest compute thing that can be plugged into a power brick and an HDMI port is a little ridiculous.

Can we please have HDMI monitors that include power and HDMI connectors to an internal pocket for compute units that will go inside their shells. Fans, too, that can be set on or off to cool the pocket. The companies can get together with a standard form factor or, if a company was Apple, it could do up proprietary shapes so only their "compute units" will fit in their monitors, and let the best approach win (or lose, as the case may be).

But seriously, if you need a screen that is 12" to 96" diagonal, and you are paying thousands for it, why are you worried about shrinking the thing that costs hundreds and generates images for that screen.

There. I feel better now.

Submission + - Apple Leads the Way on Taxes (

mtrachtenberg writes: I've decided I'm only going to pay $5 in federal taxes this year, following Apple's "we'll pay what we want to pay" strategy. The strategy is outlined in this article from the always excellent Guardian newspaper.

Submission + - DOJ 411: UEFI DMCA Violators DOA. GPS. 10-4?

mtrachtenberg writes: M E M O R A N D U M
Sponsored by Office 365,
your newest Office aid
and best friend. Office!

United States Department of Justice

Division for Intellectual Property Rights
and Maintenance of the Faith

Office for the Preservation of Microsoft

As per prior memoranda from this office, all points are alerted that uncooperative elements are still attempting to authorize non-Microsoft software (Linux, BSD, Z80 assembler) to run on US and Microsoft approved computing equipment.

It has been clearly established that Microsoft's financial survival is of code mauve importance to the American economy, at an equal level to that of Goldman Sachs and Citicorp. Therefore, this office is implementing Code Swartz immediately.

Drones shall lock and load on the GPS coordinates of abusers, and shall fire at will. Open source computing is like fluoridation — an assault on American values and freedom.

(P.S.: Nothing in this memorandum is to be construed as authorizing any activity illegal under the Constitution as interpreted by the Roberts court. If uncertain, contact the authorities at Guantanamo Bay.)

Submission + - Lithium ion battery prices to drop? (

mtrachtenberg writes: "A California company working with Argonne National Labs is talking about a new anode for lithium ion batteries; it claims a 300%+ increase in energy density and is talking about volume manufacturing by 2014.

The company, California Lithium Battery, is talking about a potential 70% price drop in the cost of EV battery packs. If this happens, EVs suddenly begin to make sense."

The Internet

Submission + - DC Internet Voting attacked TWO ways

mtrachtenberg writes: University of Michigan Professor J Alex Halderman and his team actually had two completely separate successful attacks on Washington, DC's internet voting experiment. The second path in was revealed by Halderman during testimony before the District of Columbia's Board of Elections and Ethics on Friday.

Apparently, a router's master password had been left at the default setting, enabling Halderman to access the system by a completely different method than SQL injection. He presented photographs of a video stream from the voting offices.

In addition, he found a file that had apparently been left on the test system contained the PINs of the 900+ voters who would have used the system in November.

Others on the panel joined Halderman in pointing out that it was not just this specific implementation of internet voting that was insecure, but the entire concept of using today's internet for voting at all. When a DC official asked why internet voting could not be made secure when top government secrets were secure on the internet, Halderman responded that a big part of keeping government secrets secret was NOT allowing them to be stored on internet-connected computers.

When a DC official asked the panel whether public key infrastructure couldn't allow secure internet voting, a panel member pointed out that the inventor of public key cryptography, MIT professor Ronald Rivest, was a signatory to the letter that had been sent to DC, urging officials there not to proceed with internet voting.

Clips from the testimony are available on youtube at these links.

Submission + - Ask Slashdot: Cheapest usable masters degree?

mtrachtenberg writes: As times have changed, the personnel dorks who used to ignore anyone without a bachelors now ignore anyone without a masters.

So let's ask this hypothetical: let's say you already have all the knowledge that a master's degree would get you, thanks to years and years of, you know, doing stuff. Let's say you are already doing work that would get you a fine master's dissertation, but you don't feel like paying an expensive university for the privilege of doing your research under their prestigious name. What's the cheapest approach to getting a master's degree that will satisfy the checklist at a majority of personnel offices?

Submission + - Microsoft admits stealing code from startup (

mtrachtenberg writes: Microsoft has suspended a new internet messaging service in China, after it emerged that the site was partially based on code stolen from a rival startup.

The site, Juku, launched in November is similar in concept to other online messaging systems like Twitter. But earlier this week the team behind Plurk, a young internet company based in Canada and popular with users across Asia, accused Microsoft of directly copying as much as 80% of the code to run the program.


Submission + - "swarm of tremors" on san andreas fault (

mtrachtenberg writes: "SF Chronicle Science Editor David Perlman:

"Swarms of small tremors deep beneath the ground after two recent quakes in Monterey County may be adding stress to a seismically locked segment of the San Andreas fault and could presage a major earthquake, two Berkeley scientists suggest."

I've spent the last few evenings watching "When the Levees Failed," about the heckuvajobbrownie response to Katrina. So reading this story is more than a little frightening. Here's a case where scientists can say something's going on, but can hardly tell Central California to evacuate for a few months or years.

I suppose the bright side is that this story, having nothing to do with Michael Jackson or Sarah Palin, still managed to make it into the mainstream media. Thank you, Robert Nadeau and Aurélie Guilhem, for the warning; thank you, David Perlman, for telling those of us who don't have subscriptions to Science"


Submission + - fiber line cut knocks out land AND cell phones (

mtrachtenberg writes: "Phone service sabotaged for thousands
Henry K. Lee,Ryan Kim, Chronicle Staff Writers
Thursday, April 9, 2009

(04-09) 11:20 PDT SAN JOSE — Vandals cut four AT&T fiber-optic cables in San Jose early this morning, knocking out landline and cellular phone service and the Internet to thousands of residential customers and businesses in Santa Clara, Santa Cruz and San Benito counties, authorities said."


Submission + - Darwin wasn't a nerd ( 1

mtrachtenberg writes: "

Caroline Davies writes in The Guardian:
"Two hundred years after Charles Darwin's birth, historians have gained new insight into his days as a student at Cambridge after unearthing bills that record intimate details of how he spent his money.

"The revolutionary scientist was, it would appear, ahead of his time in his willingness to pay extra to supplement his daily intake of vegetables. And, as one would expect of a 19th-century gentleman, he was happy to pay others to carry out menial tasks for him, such as stoking his fire and polishing his shoes.

"But there is little to suggest that he bought many books, or that he did much else to further his studies. The evolutionist famously spent little of his time studying or in lectures, preferring to shoot, ride and collect beetles. ""

United States

Submission + - Diebold e-voting audit logs still defective (

mtrachtenberg writes: "At a public hearing conducted today by California's Secretary of State, a Diebold representative admitted that even current versions of their GEMS software don't record the deletion of decks of ballots in their audit logs. The Diebold elections subsidiary is now known as Premier Election Solutions, presumably because Diebold's name is so infamous in elections circles. Wired's Kim Zetter has a report.

Diebold/Premier's GEMS system came under scrutiny after the Humboldt County Election Transparency Project, using free Python-based ballot counting software named Ballot Browser , found that 197 ballots had disappeared between election night and the generation of results for certification.

Personally, I think the best moment of the hearing came when Humboldt County's registrar of voters, Carolyn Crnich, who has supported election transparency from the start, responded to Diebold's attempt to cast blame on her office. Crnich responded: "if you are saying that your system needs to be checked every damn time you turn it on, then I agree with you.""


Submission + - Diebold election audit logs defective (

mtrachtenberg writes: "Premier Election Solutions' (formerly Diebold) GEMS 1.18.19 election software audit logs don't record the deletion of ballots, don't always record correct dates, and can be deleted by the operator, either accidentally or intentionally. The California Secretary of State's office has just released a report about the situation in Humboldt County, California's November 2008 election, covered earlier in Slashdot.

Here's the conclusion of the thirteen page report:

GEMS version 1.18.19 contains a serious software error that caused the omission of 197 ballots from the official results (which was subsequently corrected) in the November 4, 2008, General Election in Humboldt County. The potential for this error to corrupt election results is confined to jurisdictions that tally ballots using the GEMS Central Count Server. Key audit trail logs in GEMS version 1.18.19 do not record important operator interventions such as deletion of decks of ballots, assign inaccurate date and time stamps to events that are recorded, and can be deleted by the operator. The number of votes erroneously deleted from the election results reported by GEMS in this case greatly exceeds the maximum allowable error rate established by HAVA. In addition, each of the foregoing defects appears to violate the 1990 Voting System Standards to an extent that would have warranted failure of the GEMS version 1.18.19 system had they been detected and reported by the Independent Testing Authority that tested the system.


Slashdot Top Deals

What is worth doing is worth the trouble of asking somebody to do.