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

 



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Security

Submission + - Italian Anonymous Hacker Cell Arrested (google.com)

jojo_it writes: Three hackers, part of Anonymous Hacker Group, have been identified and arrested after an Italian-Swiss investigation.
The cell performed several attacks against Italian gov. websites and 'relevant italian companies'.

Open Source

Submission + - Australian stats agency goes open source (computerworld.com.au)

jimboh2k writes: The Australian Bureau of Statistics will use the 2011 Census of Population and Housing as a dry run for XML-based open source standards DDI and SDMX in a bid to make for easier machine-to-machine data, allowing users to better search for and access census datasets. The census will become the first time the open standards are used by an Australian Federal Government agency.
The Military

Submission + - Navy tests Mach 8 Electromagnetic Railgun (wired.com)

hargrand writes: Wired magazine has a story and publicly released video of the Navy test firing of a 32 megajoule electromagnetic railgun.

Reporters were invited to watch the test at the Dalghren Naval Surface Warfare Center. A tangle of two-inch thick coaxial cables hooked up to stacks of refrigerator-sized capacitors took five minutes to power juice into a gun the size of a schoolbus built in a warehouse. With a 1.5-million-ampere spark of light and a boom audible in a room 50 feet away, the bullet left the gun at a speed of Mach 8.


Submission + - Supreme Court refuses P2P "innocent sharing" case (arstechnica.com)

yoyo81 writes: The supreme court has refused to hear an "innocent infringement case" in which Whitney Harper shared some music on the family computer when she was a teenager and was subsequently hit with a lawsuit from the RIAA. An appeals court overturned an earlier ruling from a federal court that reduced damages to $200 instead of the statutory $750 claiming "innocence" was no defense, especially since copyright notices appear on all phonorecords. She appealed to the Supreme Court, which refused to hear her case, but Justice Alito stated, "This provision was adopted in 1988, well before digital music files became available on the Internet" and further, "I would grant review in this case because not many cases presenting this issue are likely to reach the Courts of Appeals." For now, though, Harper's verdict remains in place: $750 for each of the 37 songs at issue, or $27,750.

Submission + - Customs and TSA Raid RapGodFathers Hosting Site (torrentfreak.com)

mbone writes: The Torrentfreak site is reporting that DHS and ICE (i.e., Customs) agents arrived at a Dallas datacenter Tuesday with orders to take down the 146,500 member RapGodFathers site (RGF). Equipment was seized, and they report that their domain name is being blocked and is likely to be taken as well. The RGF admins say that the site has no content itself, just links to other sites, and that they always respect DMCA takedown notices. RGF reports on their twitter account (@rapgodfather) that they are looking for "for more offshore hosting to support RapGodFathers."

If the facts are as reported, there are a number of troubling issues about this, not the least of which is why US Customs troubles itself with link-sharing sites in Dallas, far from any US borders.

The Almighty Buck

Submission + - Every Day's a Tax Holiday at Amazon

theodp writes: With Black Friday approaching, Slate's Farhad Manjoo reminds readers of how Amazon.com undersells Best Buy, the Apple store, and almost everybody else. Read his lips: no sales taxes. Unless you live in KS, KY, NY, ND, or WA, you'll pay no sales tax on many purchases from Amazon, giving Amazon a huge — and largely hidden — price advantage over most other national retailers. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos is certainly no fan of taxes — he explored founding Amazon on an Indian reservation, and recently ponied up $100,000 to defeat a proposed WA state income tax, a good investment for someone who's cashed in close to $800,000,000 in Amazon stock this year alone. So, is Amazon's tax-free status unfair? Of course it is, says Manjoo. Amazon has physical operations in 17 states in which the company and its employees enjoy the fruits of local taxes — police and fire protection, roads, hospitals, and other infrastructure that make its operations possible. Yet Amazon skirts tax collection in most of these places through clever legal tricks.
United Kingdom

Submission + - ACS Law keeps lion's share of copyright cash (thinq.co.uk)

Stoobalou writes: Controversial copyright-chasing law firm ACS Law keeps more of the cash it rakes in from speculative invoicing than it gives to the copyright holders it purports to protect.

According to research carried out by the Guardian, Andrew Crossley's one-man crusade against file-sharing — which sees many innocent broadband users accused of illegally downloading hard-core porn, applications and music, based on shaky 'evidence' provided through ISPs — nets more money for Crossley himself than for the owners of the files in question.

Submission + - Microsoft spreads FUD about Android (arstechnica.com)

Galestar writes: Google's open source Android operating system is not as free as it seems, Microsoft argues, because it infringes a number of patents. When asked whether open source models created problems for vendors with licensed software, the software giant went on the offensive. "It does infringe on a bunch of patents, and there's a cost associated with that," Tivanka Ellawala, Microsoft financial officer told MarketWatch. "So there's a... cost associated with Android that doesn't make it free."
Open Source

Submission + - Is Twitter screwing over open-source developers?

An anonymous reader writes: A developer of a small open-source Twitter client has posted a vicious critique of Twitter's new OAuth authentication scheme, alleging that they are making life difficult for small and open-source developers, while applying double standards to themselves and their large corporate partners. He even describes a back-door in Twitter's API that allows Twitter's own applications to bypass the requirements Twitter places on other developers. Have other open-source Twitter developers had similar problems, or is he just venting because he doesn't want to follow Twitter's rules?

Submission + - Escaping ions explain the mystery of Venus (cosmosmagazine.com)

An anonymous reader writes: The difference in the escape velocities of ions may help to explain why Venus isn’t more like Earth, scientists say, and it may come down to a planet’s core.
Education

Submission + - Second Bachelor's in Engineering? 1

CrunchyCookie writes: Dear /.,

Having spent a good 50 hours reading local discussion threads in the hopes of absorbing the immense wisdom of the Slashdot community, I know this might've been asked before, but... what do y'all think about the idea of going back to college at age 30 to pursue engineering? It's a question I've been struggling with since this recession began (yep, that long), but despite all the reading/research I do, I still don't feel like I know enough about your world to form an answer.

First, a little background about my predicament. I graduated 8 long years ago from UC Riverside with a BS in Business Administration, and basically didn't enjoy a minute of it. In addition to the low caliber student body and teaching quality, most material in the major struck me as boring and/or a load of crap (think marketing). After two years of post-grad temp-hopping, 2004 came around and I somehow sort of achieved my dream of becoming an automotive journalist (which combined my two passions, analytical essay writing and cars). But my experience with the few employers in the field left me less than satisfied (it's either no byline, lame salary, or no creative freedom). Coupled with the fact that auto writing is a niche-within-a-niche that will only shrink further as time marches on, my practical side tells me it would be dumb to rely on. Sadly, my degree hasn't worked out to be the safety net I'd hoped, judging by the 500+ resumes I've spammed the world with since 2008, almost ZERO of which led to interviews (writing jobs, tech writing jobs, financial/data analyst jobs, market research jobs... no bites all around). Even adjusting for recessionary times, that's pathetic, and a good indication that I'm in for a lifetime of being discriminated up the ass if I keep trying to fight it alone with such petty credentials.

Naturally, that points me towards more education. I've ruled out B-school and law school: MBA just doesn't appeal to me, and while law does (the logic, justice, and philosophy aspects are cool), I've read enough articles about the epidemic JD oversupply to know the market is saturated. Plus, on top of tuition that's on the far side of ridiculous, both paths seem to lead to spending 70-hour workweeks to make fat $$$$ at the expense of doing enjoyable work — not really in line with my values.

See, I'm just a guy who wants an average income ($60K's fine) to do something, well, INTERESTING, since meaningful work equals a meaningful life. There's only one [set of] field[s] I can think of that seems to potentially provide that: engineering. My attraction's based on a lot of things. First, math/science-based stuff seems to be the only way to make a living doing something a human being could potentially enjoy (unlike equally practical fields like, say, accounting). Other pros: surrounded by smart people, no need for social skills, comes closest to being a pure meritocracy, 40-hour weeks with no dress code, get to live in my native Bay Area (Palo Alto boy here), and usually doing work whose effect on the world is net positive (I'm no humanitarian, but still).

I'm also drawn to it because I fit the profile. While I'm not a classic nerd or some math superpimp, I'm a lot of things engineers supposedly are: logical, analytical, rational, introverted, perfectionistic, obsessive, always looking to optimize efficiency, pretty good at math, enjoyed physics back in K-12, Trekkie, Digger...

But are these are good enough reasons to go for it? I don't even know what I'd really want to engineer (Blu-Ray players? Stereos? Bridges? The next Digg?), so I don't have any inherent specific motivation at the moment. Heck, I don't even know enough to choose between EE or CS (haven't totally ruled out Mech or Civil either), and I've heard many Slashdotters say engineering is something you need to have known you were born to do since age 7 (taking apart toys, programming in your spare time, etc.)

Also, the word on the street about outsourcing and ageism make me hesitant. The outsourcing panic seems to have scared enough people out of the field (circa 2002) to the point where supply and demand are in line again (right?), but ageism seems like an ongoing concern. Articles thrown around here say careers in engineering (and especially CS) die as fast as they do in the NFL, and that most people get their asses booted out by age 40. Given that I'd be 34 when I finished, does that mean I'd only have six years in the field to look forward to?

But still, given that I fit the mold, I'm assuming that if I would find something to like if I did enough exploring, and would do well. Also, I get the feeling that getting the degree could be a wise long-term move even if I don't end up staying in the field for long, since people with tech degrees seem to be at the front of the line for all substantial jobs. Math seems to be the one academic skill rewarded by the real world.

I already talked to UC Davis, who said I'd probably get in if I applied, after spending two years at a CC. Given tuition/books ($2K + $2K + $13K + $13K), plus the opportunity costs of not temp-slaving ($30,000 x 4), I'm looking at a $150,000 journey... yikes. I'd totally go for it if I didn't already have a Bachelor's, but good god that's a steep bill to gain an incremental advantage, especially since I'm still unsure of what I want to do. Still, the increment could be huge.

Sorry this was so long, but I would much appreciate any suggestions on how to tweak, tinker, or engineer my life to improve functionality.
Games

Submission + - Game DLC pricing: Letting customers decide pricing (positech.co.uk)

An anonymous reader writes: How much should game developers be charging for DLC? It seems that one indie dev has decided to carry out a unique experiment. The latest expansion pack for Gratuitous Space Battles is priced at $5.99, or is it? It turns out there is both a standard ($.5.99) version and a discount version ($2.99). And the difference betwen them is.... nothing. The buyer has been left to make their own decision on whether or not they should pay full price, and send more money to the developer, or treat themselves to a deserved discount. The buy page even lists comparisons of national incomes, average salaries and even the price of sausages to help buyers make up their mind. Will this catch on? Will microsoft start asking us whether or not we should get a discount and trust us to answer honestly?
Businesses

Submission + - Zynga Draws Fire From Ex-Employees (industrygamers.com)

Sinner101GR writes: Zynga stands as the market leader of a new era of social gaming. With an estimate net worth of $4 billion, the company’s games, including the smash hits Farmville, Zynga Poker, and Frontierville all boast active monthly users in the multi-millions. Unfortunately, Zynga’s meteoric rise has not been without controversy. The company is involved in a class action lawsuit over offer-based ads. Trip Hawkins’ Digital Chocolate is suing Zynga over the use of the Mafia Wars trademark. Hi5 President and CTO, Alex St. John has gone so far as to call the company ‘parasitic’.

Submission + - Blogger sued over blog comments (onemansblog.com)

An anonymous reader writes: Adaptive Affinity is sending out threats to bloggers who've said negative things about VistaPrint and Lastminute.com's reward schemes. See http://onemansblog.com/2010/09/04/vistaprint-com-is-threatening-to-sue-me-over-a-blog-comment-really/ for a US example and http://www.consumerdeals.co.uk/news/2010/09/adaptive-affinity-requests-deletion-of-over-190-consumer-comments.html for a UK example

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