Lasrick writes "The Bulletin has an interesting article about the likelihood of terrorists obtaining nuclear material. 'Since 1993, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has logged roughly 2,000 cases of illicit or unauthorized trafficking of nuclear and radioactive material. Thirty illicit radioactive trafficking incidents were reported in the former Soviet region alone from 2009 to 2011. As Obama said in December, "Make no mistake, if [terrorists] get [nuclear material], they will use it."'"
Hugh Pickens writes "The NY Times reports that while online college classes are already common, on the whole, the record is not encouraging because there are two big problems with online teaching. First, student attrition rates — around 90 percent for some huge online courses — appear to be a problem even in small-scale online courses when compared with traditional face-to-face classes. Second, courses delivered solely online may be fine for highly skilled, highly motivated people, but they are inappropriate for struggling students who make up a significant portion of college enrollment and who need close contact with instructors to succeed. Research has shown that community college students who enroll in online courses are significantly more likely to fail or withdraw than those in traditional classes, which means that they spend hard-earned tuition dollars and get nothing in return. Worse still, low-performing students who may be just barely hanging on in traditional classes tend to fall even further behind in online courses. 'Colleges need to improve online courses before they deploy them widely,' says the Times. 'Moreover, schools with high numbers of students needing remedial education should consider requiring at least some students to demonstrate success in traditional classes before allowing them to take online courses.' Interestingly, research found that students in hybrid classes — those that blended online instruction with a face-to-face component — performed as well academically as those in traditional classes. But hybrid courses are rare, and teaching professors how to manage them is costly and time-consuming. 'The online revolution offers intriguing opportunities for broadening access to education. But, so far, the evidence shows that poorly designed courses can seriously shortchange the most vulnerable students.'"
KermMartian writes "The TI-84 Plus C Silver Edition isn't the first color-screen graphing calculator, or even TI's first color calculator, but it's a refresh of a 17-year-old line that many have mocked as antiquated and overpriced. From an advanced review model, the math features look familiar, solid, and augmented with some new goodies, while programming looks about on par with its siblings. The requisite teardown uncovers the new battery, Flash, ASIC/CPU, and LCD used in the device. Although there are some qualms about its speed and very gentle hardware upgrades beyond the screen, it looks to be an indication that TI will continue this inveterate line for years to come." Lots of screenshots and pictures of the innards too.
Bennett Haselton writes "Evgeny Morozov's forthcoming book To Save Everything, Click Here describes how an overly helpful 'kitchen of the future' might stifle the learning process and threaten culinary innovation. True, but we could certainly do better than the current state of how-to directions (in cooking and most other subjects) that you can find today on Google. I suggest that the answer lies not in intelligent kitchen technology, but in designing an algorithm that would produce the best possible how-to directions -- where the 'best' directions are judged according to the results that are achieved by genuine beginners who attempt to follow the directions without help." Read below for the rest of Bennett's review.
Editor's Note: This article was not intended as a full review, but rather a commentary on one point in the book. The author's actual review of the book will appear in March.
Editor's Note: This article was not intended as a full review, but rather a commentary on one point in the book. The author's actual review of the book will appear in March.
Two years ago Guile Scheme, the official extension language of the GNU project, released version 2.0, a major upgrade to the implementation. As part of the two year anniversary, the maintainers organized a challenge to hack a small project using Guile in 30 days as part of a birthday software potluck. The two coolest dishes appear to be OpenGL support using the FFI, and XCB bindings built using the XML specification for XCB: "guile-xcb is a language implemented in the Guile VM that parses the XML files used by the xcb project to specify the X protocol and compiles them into Guile modules containing all the methods and data needed to send requests to the X server and receive replies/events back. If new X extensions are added to the xcb library, guile-xcb can compile and add them with no additional work. " See the release announcement for details on the other dishes.
Following up on yesterday's news that Ubuntu for Tablets has been announced, Mark Shuttleworth answered questions about the purpose of the new version of Canonical's OS and what its intended strengths will be. He made special note of how Canonical wants the transition between desktop-Ubuntu and mobile-Ubuntu to be smooth. "When you transition from the tablet to the desktop, things don't move around. Your indicators, things like network status and time, they don't jump around on screen, they stay in the same place. That's what's really different certainly between our approach to convergence and for example Windows 8, where when you're in the desktop mode, which looks like Windows 7, and suddenly you get the new tile-based interface, it's a stark transition that can be jarring for users. In our case, you can almost think of those as gentle phase changes. When you go from phone to tablet you're stretching the device in very obvious ways. People who've used iOS on both phones and tablets would expect that. What's nice about Ubuntu is the phase change to the PC experience up from the tablet really just introduces window management, and it also introduces things like menus and dialog boxes. You aren't moving things around in dramatic ways." He added that they expect the user experiences to converge in Ubuntu 14.04. Shuttleworth also addressed the fragmentation problem faced by Android. He says manufacturers and carriers don't want to fall into that trap again, and that they've been receptive to the idea of leaving the core of Ubuntu alone while tweaking their individual services instead.
pigrabbitbear writes "It's the most modern lament in retail: Brick-and-mortar shopping has gone the way of the dodo as everyone buys their junk online. But for the once-booming online gambling market, salvation may require a reversal of that trend. For one online gaming giant, buying a casino in Atlantic City is the first step to bring Internet poker back to the U.S. In 2006, playing online poker for real cash was deemed illegal. While that didn't stop more serious players from playing, especially once the big hosts started funneling cash offshore, the FBI and DoJ's crackdown on April 15, 2011 did. The big trio of online poker – PokerStars, Full Tilt, and Absolute Poker – were all shut down, domains seized, and executives arrested on charges related to fraud, money laundering, and illegal gambling. While PokerStars and others continued operations in foreign, legal markets, the U.S. poker craze pretty much collapsed. That doesn't mean the lucrative market has gone away. Now, the Rational Group, which owns both PokerStars and Full Tilt, may be hinting at a workaround: the company is looking to buy a struggling casino in Atlantic City. Rational faces a rather large mess of regulatory hurdles, but if it does end up acquiring the Atlantic Club Casino Hotel, it would have a huge foothold in New Jersey's young market for internet gambling."
WebMink writes "Is it possible that the CEO of the company that's trying to file a trademark on 'Python' was unaware of Python's importance as a programming technology? That's what he claims — despite running a hosting company that's trying to break into cloud computing, where Python is used extensively. Still, he also regards the Python Software Foundation as a hostile American company and thinks that getting attention from half the world's geeks is a DDoS. From the article: '[The CEO, Tim Poultney,] confirmed that he'd not involved any technical staff in the decisions he'd made about the Python product brand, and told me he regretted that as it would probably have helped him understand the likely reaction to his trademark challenge. ... He said he now understood how offended the global developer community are and told me there was obviously only one outcome that was now possible.'"
FreeMichael61 writes "In the latest episode of Spy vs. Spy, China rejects accusations it's hacking U.S. companies to steal IP or bring down the grid. But there's no doubt the grid can be hacked, CIO Journal's Steve Rosenbush and Rachael King report. Industrial control networks are supposed to be protected from the Internet by an air gap that, it turns out, is largely theoretical. Internal security is often lax, laptops and other devices are frequently moved between corporate networks and control networks, and some SCADA systems are still directly connected to the internet. What security standards actually exist are out of date and don't cover enough, and corporations often use questionable supply chains because they are cheaper."
jrepin writes "The Tizen 2.0 source code and SDK are now available. 'This release includes an enhanced Web framework that provides state-of-the-art HTML5/W3C API support, a Web UI framework (including full-screen and multi-window support), additional Tizen device APIs, such as Bluetooth and NFC support, and access to the device's calendar, call history, and messaging subsystems are now available. Other highlights: The Web Runtime framework supports new configuration elements for specifying the required features and privileges, and provides the basic runtime environment for NPRuntime plugins; the Native framework supports full-featured application development and provides a variety of features such as background applications, IP Push, and TTS (Text-To-Speech)."
An anonymous reader writes "Mozilla on Tuesday officially launched Firefox 19 for Windows, Mac, Linux, and Android. The improvements include a built-in PDF viewer on the desktop and theme support as well as lower CPU requirements on Google's mobile platform. You can see the official changelogs here: desktop and Android."
hypnosec writes "Keeping its promise from yesterday Ubuntu has announced an operating system for tablets dubbed 'Ubuntu for Tablets' that it says will work on tablets of any size. Advertised to work on both entry level tablets as well as high-end tablets with enterprise specifications, the operating system offers multitasking, safer sharing, instant launch of applications through the menu bar on the left, effortless switching between applications among other features." The tablet version of the OS will also be presented at Mobile World Congress later this month. Also featured at SlashCloud.
nk497 writes "The vast majority of PCs sold by British PC makers are running Windows 7 — not Windows 8. PC Pro spoke to several PC builders, with some reporting as many as 93% of recently sold machines were on the older OS. One company initially sold its PCs with Windows 8, but feedback from users soon changed that. Customers quickly began to specify systems with Windows 7, those with Windows 8 'took delivery and wanted to change back to Windows 7' – a process the firm described as a 'nightmare.' Another firm found success by installing a 'start menu' tool on Windows 8 machines, and others said the switch would have gone smoother if Microsoft has offered a Windows 8 tutorial or better explained the new OS."
An anonymous reader writes "Hollywood crime dramas are infamous for the scene when an accused is taken to a local police station and permitted a single phone call to contact a relative or lawyer. While the storyline is myth — there is no limit on the number of phone calls available to an accused or detainee — Michael Geist reports on a recent Canadian case establishing a new, real requirement for law enforcement. After a 19-year old struggled to find a lawyer using the telephone, the court ruled that police must provide an accused with Internet access in order to exercise their right to counsel."
After a laborious judging process, the Liberated Pixel Cup has finally announced the winners of the code contest. Out of the 48 entries, Lurking Patrol Comrades (now Source of Tales), a "MMORPG with a vast world, plenty of characters to speak to, both a melee and a magic based battle system, and a polished user interface," won the grand prize. The best HTML5 game was Big Island, written in Dart and playable directly from Github. The art prizes were given last August in case you missed it. Congratulations to everyone who participated!
An anonymous reader writes "From the article: 'Bombardier's electric transit technology will be tested next winter on buses in Montreal, followed in early 2014 on a route in the German city of Mannheim. The transportation giant's Primove technology is designed to allow buses to be charged by underground induction stations when they stop to let passengers hop on and off.' This technology while impressive may not make it to the U.S. even if proven successful due to the lack of popularity of public transportation. If they could only get my phone to charge wirelessly." The article says that the induction charging stuff could also be used to charge trains.
With the Linux 3.8 merge over, the Intel Linux graphics developers are looking toward 3.9. From a weblog entry by one of them: "Let's first look at bit at the drm core changes: The headline item this time around is the reworked kernel modeset locking. Finally the kernel doesn't stall for a few frames while probing outputs in the background! ... For general robustness of our GEM implementation we've clarified the various gpu reset state transitions. This should prevent applications from crashing while a gpu reset is going on due to the kernel leaking that transitory state to userspace. Ville Syrjälä also started to fix up our handling of pageflips across gpu hangs so that compositors no longer get stuck after a reset. Unfortunately not all of his patches made it into 3.9. Somewhat related is Mika Kuoppala's work to fix bugs across the seqnqo wrap-around. And to make sure that those bugs won't pop up again he also added some testing infrastructure. " The thing I am most looking forward to is the gen4 relocation regression finally being fixed. No more GPU hangs when under heavy I/O load (the bane of my existence for a while now). The bug report is a good read if you think hunting for a tricky bug is fun.
hypnosec writes "Canonical has a countdown on its site that indicates a possible tablet announcement tomorrow. With the Ubuntu Touch developer preview launching this week, the announcement about a tablet or at least an operating system for a tablet from Canonical has, it seems, taken a backseat. From the countdown that reads "Tick, tock, tablet time!" it is evident that Canonical is going to make some announcement about tablets tomorrow."
sfcrazy writes "Mark Shuttleworth has for the first time talked about the privacy issues in Ubuntu Dash after being criticized by EFF and FSF. He mentioned some changes in the way use can 'disable' the search results. However the company has showed that under no circumstances they will disable the online search by default as demanded by EFF and FSF. Shuttleworth was simply spinning the wheel moving things around to give an impression that something has been done where as the core problem remains — Dash sends keystrokes by default and legally every user agrees to send such keystrokes to PRODUCT.canonical.com server to be shared with partners like Facebook."
dsjodin writes "Last year, LotrProject brought us extraordinary statistics on the population of Middle-Earth. Now, they have released an interactive tool for analysis of the Silmarillion, the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings. With keyword frequency search, character mentions, sentiment analysis and network diagrams of character interactions it is a beautiful set of data visualizations and fascinating for fans and non-fans alike. The site can for example be used to find out that bacon is mentioned seven times in the Hobbit while only two times throughout the entire the Lord of the Rings."
halls-of-valhalla writes "Using advances in 3D laser mapping technology, Oxford University has developed a car that is able to drive itself along familiar routes. This new self-driving automobile uses lasers and small cameras to memorize everyday trips such as the morning commute. This car is not dependant on GPS because this car is able to tell where it is by recognizing its surroundings. The intent is for this car to be capable of taking over the drive when on routes that it has traveled before. While being driven, the car is capable of developing a 3D model of its environment and learning routes. When driving a particular journey a second time, an iPad on the dashboard informs the driver that it is capable of taking over and finishing the drive. The driver can then touch the screen and the car shifts to 'auto drive' mode. The driver can reclaim control of the car at any time by simply tapping the brakes."
First time accepted submitter d33tah writes "In the summer term of my final year of IT's bachelor's course in my university, every student is obliged to develop his own project; the only requirement is that the application would use any kind of a database. While others are thinking of another useless system for an imaginary company that nobody would actually use, I'd rather hack up something the FL/OSS community actually needs. The problem is — how to figure out what it could be?"
A laser tool funded by the European Space Agency to measure carbon on Mars is now being used to help detect fake honey. By burning a few milligrams of honey the laser isotope ratio-meter can help determine its composition and origin. From the article: "According to a Food Safety News investigation, more than a third of honey consumed in the U.S. has been smuggled from China and may be tainted with illegal antibiotics and heavy metals. To make matters worse, some honey brokers create counterfeit honey using a small amount of real honey, bulked up with sugar, malt sweeteners, corn or rice syrup, jaggery (a type of unrefined sugar) and other additives—known as honey laundering. This honey is often mislabeled and sold on as legitimate, unadulterated honey in places such as Europe and the U.S."
An anonymous reader writes "After a huge meteor recently exploded over Chelyabinsk (population 1,130,132), Russia, NASA has approved $5 million for funding for ATLAS project (Asteroid Terrestrial-impact Last Alert System). From the article: '"There are excellent ongoing surveys for asteroids that are capable of seeing such a rock with one to two days' warning, but they do not cover the whole sky each night, so there's a good chance that any given rock can slip by them for days to weeks. This one obviously did," astronomer John Tonry of the Institute for Astronomy at the University of Hawaii told NBC News Friday.'"
Four years after the last release, version 5.0 of Texinfo, the GNU documentation language, has been released. The primary highlight is a new implementation of makeinfo info in Perl rather than C. Although slower, the new version offers several advantages: cleaner code using a structured representation of the input document, Unicode support, and saner support for multiple output backends. There are over a dozen other improvements including better formatting of URLs, improved cross-manual references, and a program to convert Perl POD documentation to Texinfo.
McGruber writes "The Chronicle of Higher Education has the news that Herbert Richardson, founder of Edwin Mellen Press is suing McMaster University and University Librarian Dale Askey for $3 Million over Mr. Askey's posts on a personal blog. In 2010 Mr. Askey wrote a blog post about Edwin Mellen Press on his personal Web site, Bibliobrary. Mr. Askey referred to the publisher as 'dubious' and said its books were often works of 'second-class scholarship.' For a few months afterward, several people chimed in in the blog's comments section, some agreeing with Mr. Askey, others arguing in support of the publisher. In a February 11 statement, the McMaster University Faculty Association (MUFA) stated that The Canadian Association of University Teachers (CAUT) 'and the MUFA Executive agree that this case represents a serious threat to the freedom of academic librarians (pdf) to voice their professional judgement and to academic freedom more generally.'"
sfcrazy writes "KDE's Plasma Active team leader Aaron Seigo has raised some concerns around Ubuntu Phone. He says 'We can start with the obvious clue: Unity currently does not use QML at all; Ubuntu Phone is pure QML. So, no, it is not the same code, it is not the sort of seamless cross-device technology bridge that they are purporting.' He then concludes, 'If you're a Free software developer, user and/or supporter and buying into these claims, I don't know how else to put it other than this: you're being duped. Consider what supporting those who employ such tactics means for Free software.'"
ptorrone writes "In a welcome turn of events, President Barack Obama spoke directly to the patent troll problem and the need for more comprehensive patent reform yesterday in a 'Fireside Hangout' — a live question and answer session (video) hosted in a Google+ hangout. The President was responding to a question by the prominent electrical engineer and entrepreneur Limor 'Ladyada' Fried of Adafruit Industries, who in 2009 won an EFF Pioneer Award for her work with free software and open-source hardware."
First time accepted submitter Daniel_Stuckey writes "Bam! For anyone that's paid a speck of attention to the tedium of political redistricting, which happens while a state grows unevenly, (and must dynamically respond to density, electorate disparity, natural resources and ridgelines, etc.), this is straight out of some psychedelic dream. For Democrats, it could be straight out of a nightmare. That's because Freeman's map necessitates 50 equally populous United States. His methods for creating the map are explained thusly: 'The algorithm was seeded with the fifty largest cities. After that, manual changes took into account compact shapes, equal populations, metro areas divided by state lines, and drainage basins. In certain areas, divisions are based on census tract lines... The suggested names of the new states are taken mainly from geographical features.'"
Hugh Pickens writes writes "Suzanne Goldenberg reports that conservative billionaires used a secretive funding route to channel nearly $120 million to more than 100 groups casting doubt about the science behind climate change, helping build a vast network of think tanks and activist groups working to redefine climate change from neutral scientific fact to a highly polarizing 'wedge issue' for hardcore conservatives. 'We exist to help donors promote liberty which we understand to be limited government, personal responsibility, and free enterprise,' says Whitney Ball, chief executive of the Donors Trust. Ball's organization assured wealthy donors that their funds would never by diverted to liberal causes with a guarantee of complete anonymity for donors who wished to remain hidden. The money flowed to Washington think tanks embedded in Republican party politics, obscure policy forums in Alaska and Tennessee, contrarian scientists at Harvard and lesser institutions, even to buy up DVDs of a film attacking Al Gore. 'The funding of the denial machine is becoming increasingly invisible to public scrutiny. It's also growing. Budgets for all these different groups are growing,' says Kert Davies, research director of Greenpeace, which compiled the data on funding of the anti-climate groups using tax records. 'These groups are increasingly getting money from sources that are anonymous or untraceable.'"
imac.usr writes "The Huffington Post is reporting that The Washington Post has gone through yet another round of layoffs, but this time instead of cutting editorial positions, they're apparently cutting IT positions, specifically in the mobile applications department. According to Washington, DC media blog FishbowlDC, 54 people, including the General Manager of Mobile and Director of Mobile Products, were given the axe on Valentine's Day. A particularly damning quote from the FishbowlDC article: '"[CIO and VP Shaliesh] Prakash thinks these are 'inefficiencies' – that is the exact word he uses for human beings who are not useful according to him," said a source who spoke only on condition of anonymity. "Get rid of experienced people to save money, under the garb of streamlining is the new trend inside the Post."' Given that mobile products seem somewhat more likely to succeed than printed newspapers, this seems a strange decision at best."
Frosty Piss writes "Despite earning more than $1 billion in profits last year, social media juggernaut Facebook paid zilch when it came to federal and state taxes in 2012. In fact, the website will actually be getting a refund totaling $429 million thanks to a tax reduction for executive stock options. In the coming years, Facebook will continue to get monster tax breaks, totaling about $3 billion. 'The employees cash in stock options, and at that point there is tax deduction for the company,' Robert McIntyre, of watchdog group Citizens for Tax Justice, said. 'Because even though it doesn't cost Facebook a nickel, the government treats it as wages and they get a deduction for it.'" (That's not to say that Facebook employees' salaries didn't get taxed.)
An anonymous reader writes "Kim Dotcom knows how to stir up a storm on Twitter. On Saturday, he announced Bitcoin support for his cloud storage service and also sent out a slew of tweets suggesting Mega is going to become much more than just the successor to Megaupload."
An anonymous reader writes "Netcraft confirms a recent increase in the number of malicious proxy auto-config (PAC) scripts being used to sneakily route webmail and online banking traffic through rogue proxy servers. The scripts are designed to only proxy traffic destined for certain websites, while all other traffic is allowed to go direct. If the proxy can force the user to keep using HTTP instead of HTTPS, the fraudsters running these attacks can steal usernames, passwords, session cookies and other sensitive information from online banking sessions."
An anonymous reader writes "NetBSD 7.0 will support the Lua scripting language within its kernel for developing drivers and new sub-systems. A Lua scripting interpreter is being added to the NetBSD kernel along with a kernel API so developers can use this scripting language rather than C for developing new BSD kernel components. Expressed reasons for supporting a scripting language in a kernel were rapid application development, better configuration, and "modifying software written in C is hard for users." In a presentation it was said that Lua in the kernel will let users explore their system in an easy way."
tlhIngan writes "The Apple Shop, in Norfolk, UK is a little corner store that sells apple products. Not Apple products, but apple products, in this case, cider. However, it's been forced to change its name to the Norfolk Cider Shop. However, the name change did not come from any lawsuit from Apple (the Cupertino one, that is), nor has there been any evidence that Apple (Cupertino) knew about them. Instead, they're changing their name because their phones have been ringing constantly from people seeking help with their Apple (Cupertino) products. Apple (Cupertino) opened an Apple store in 2009 in the nearby (larger) town of Norwich."
Dangerous_Minds writes "The International Intellectual Property Alliance (IIPA) is demanding a number of countries be placed back on the special 301 piracy watchlist. One country being recommended for inclusion is Canada (PDF). Apparently, even though Canada passed copyright reform laws, any compromise to protect consumers is reason for inclusion. Michael Geist offers some analysis on this move. Meanwhile, the IIPA is also recommending that Spain be included in the watchlist. In a separate filing, the IIPA makes a host of reasons why Spain should also be included. One of the main reasons seems to be that even though Spain passed the Sinde Law in spite of protests, the courts aren't simply rubberstamping any takedown requests and that cases that were dismissed due to lack of evidence is cause for concern. Freezenet offers some in-depth analysis on this development while noting towards the end that the Special 301 report suffers from credibility problems."
The Chabot Space and Science Center has received numerous reports of a bright object flying through the sky in over northern California Friday night, as noted by The Washington Post, NBC, and others. According to NBC's version of the story "Chabot astronomers in Oakland said the meteor was not related to the asteroid passing near Earth. Gerald McKeegan, an astronomer at Chabot Space and Science Center in Oakland, said he did not see it, but based on accounts he thinks it was a 'sporadic meteor.' Sporadic meteors bring as much as 15,000 tons of space debris to Earth each year, according to McKeegan. He said it was likely smaller than another meteor that landed in the Bay Area in October, which caused a loud sonic boom as it fell." The eyewitness accounts make it sound pretty spectacular, though; too bad we don't have quite as many dashcams going as there are in Russia.
MojoKid writes "If you've paid any attention to the PC industry in the past few years, you're aware that things aren't as rosy as they used to be. After decades of annual growth, major manufacturers like HP and Dell have both either floated the idea of exiting the consumer space (HP) or gone private (Dell). Contrast that with steady growth at companies like Asus and Lenovo, and some analysts think the entire PC industry could move to Asia in the next few years. The ironic part of the observation is that in many ways, this has already happened. Asia-Pacific manufacturers are more focused on the consumer electronics market and better able to cope with low margins thanks to rapid adoption and huge potential customer bases. Apple has proven that high margin hardware can be extremely profitable, but none of the PC OEMs have been willing to risk the R&D costs or carry new products for a significant period of time while they adapt designs and improve market share."
An anonymous reader writes "Yesterday's twin events with invading rocks from outer space — the close encounter with asteroid 2012 DA14, and the killer meteorite over Russia that was more than close — have brought the topic of defending mankind against killer asteroids back into the news. The Economist summarizes some of the ideas that have been bandied about, in a story that suggests Paul Simon's seventies hit "Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover": Just push it aside, Clyde. Show it the nuke, Luke. Gravity tug, Doug. The new proposal is an earth orbiting, solar-powered array of laser guns called DE-STAR (Directed Energy Solar Targeting of AsteRoids) from two California-based professors, physicist Philip Lubin (UCSB) and industrial statistician Gary Hughes (Cal Polytechnic State). Lubin and Hughes say their system could be developed and deployed in a range of sizes depending on the size of the target: DE-STAR 2, about the size of the International Space Station (100 meters) could nudge comets and asteroids from their orbits, while DE-STAR 4 (100 times larger than ISS) could evaporate an asteroid 500 meters in diameter (10 times larger than 2012 DA14) in a year. Of course, this assumes that the critters could be spotted early enough for the lasers to do their work."
New submitter karijes writes "Evil is a new Emacs major mode intended to implement full Vim emulation for Emacs editor, and it's reached its first stable release. Evil implements many Vim features and has support for plugins, so there is port for rails.vim, NERDCommenter and mapleader among others. You can find details about this release on the mailing list."
gbrumfiel writes "A meteor that exploded over Russia's Chelyabinsk region this morning was the largest recorded object to strike the earth in more than a century, Nature reports. Infrasound data collected by a network designed to watch for nuclear weapons testing suggests that today's blast released hundreds of kilotons of energy. That would make it far more powerful than the nuclear weapon tested by North Korea just days ago, and the largest rock to strike the earth since a meteor broke up over Siberia's Tunguska river in 1908. Despite its incredible power, the rock evaded detection by astronomers. Estimates show it was likely only 15 meters across — too small to be seen by networks searching for near earth asteroids." Today's meteor event came a day after California scientists proposed a system to vaporize asteroids that threaten Earth. Of course, the process needs to be started when the asteroid is still tens of millions of kilometers away; there's no chance to shoot down something that's already arrived.
New submitter dmfinn writes "While his union address covered a wide range of topics, President Obama made sure not to skip over the U.S.'s space program. The talking point was nearly identical to the one he gave in 2009, in which he called for space R&D spending to be increased past the levels seen during the the original cold war space race. Now, 4 years after that speech, it appears things have gone the opposite way. Since 2009 NASA has seen some serious cuts. Not only has the space-shuttle program been deactivated, but the agency was forced to endure harsh funding cuts during the presidents latter term. Despite an ominous history, it now seems that Obama is back on the space objective, pushing congress to increase non-defensive R&D spending to 3% of the U.S. GDP. It's important to keep in mind that not all of this money goes directly to space related programs, though under the proposed budget the National Science Foundation, Department of Energy Office of Science, and the National Institute of Standards and Technology Laboratories will have their budgets doubled. There will also be an increase in tax credits towards companies and organizations working on these R&D projects. Should the U.S. go back to its 'Let's put a man on the moon' ideology, or is the federal government fighting an uphill battle against newly emerging private space expeditions? Either way, the question remains whether or not Obama will act on any of the propositions."
nk497 writes "Canonical has revealed that a developer preview of Ubuntu for phones will arrive next week, on the 21st of February. The touch preview will initially only be available for the Galaxy Nexus and Nexus 4 smartphones, but Canonical plans to support more devices. The release is designed to let developers create apps — and to give 'enthusiasts' a sneak peek — ahead of the smartphone side of Ubuntu arriving in version 13.10 in October. Canonical suggested that the OS will initially only support low-end smartphones, but the group plans to also support higher-end models, too, and the OS will work across mobile devices, PCs and TVs."
An anonymous reader writes "I am in my late 20s, live in the U.S., work in the IT industry, and am going to school to upgrade from an associate's degree to a bachelor's degree. One of my classes is a web-based course that requires students to write blogs. I am not attending one of those questionable for-profit schools. This is a large, state-funded, public university. In this course I have noticed poor writing skills are the norm rather than the exception. It is a 3rd year course, so students should have successfully completed some sort of writing course prior to this one. Blog posts, which students are graded on, tend to be very poorly written. They are not organized into paragraphs, have multiple run-on sentences, and sometimes don't make sense. I do not know what grades they are receiving for these posts. Slashdot, is what I am seeing the exception, or the norm? Is the bar being lowered for university students, or am I just expecting too much?"
head_dunce writes "A bill introduced Thursday by a bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers seeks to make it easier for states to collect sales taxes stemming from online purchases. Amazon is among the e-retailers supporting the proposal, while a lobbying group representing eBay and Overstock.com stands opposed. From the article: '"Small businesses and states alike are suffering from the inability to collect due -- not new -- taxes from purchases made online," said Rep. Steve Womack, R-Ark., adding the legislation is a "bipartisan, bicameral, common-sense solution that promotes states' rights and levels the playing field for our Main Street businesses."'"
New submitter dovf writes "The Bad Astronomer analyzes incoming reports about the apparent meteoric fireball over Russia: 'Apparently, at about 09:30 local time, a very big meteor burned up over Chelyabinsk, a city in Russia just east of the Ural mountains, and about 1500 kilometers east of Moscow. The fireball was incredibly bright, rivaling the Sun! There was a pretty big sonic boom from the fireball, which set off car alarms and shattered windows. I'm seeing some reports of many people injured (by shattered glass blown out by the shock wave). I'm also seeing reports that some pieces have fallen to the ground, but again as I write this those are unconfirmed." This is the best summary I've found so far, and links to lots of videos and images. He also clarifies something I've been wondering about: 'This is almost certainly unrelated to the asteroid 2012 DA14 that will pass on Friday.'"
First time accepted submitter jscheib writes "According to Will Oremus in Slate, a report released today finds that 'New York City could slash its emissions by a whopping 90 percent by 2050 without any radical new technologies, without cutting back on creature comforts, and maybe even without breaking its budget.' The key elements are insulating buildings to cut energy needs, converting to (mostly) electric equipment, and then using carbon-free electricity to supply the small amount of energy still needed. Oremus notes that including energy savings would reduce the net price tag to something more like $20 billion."