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The Almighty Buck

The Magic of Pallets 17

Posted by samzenpus
from the none-better dept.
HughPickens.com writes Jacob Hodes writes in Cabinet Magazine that there are approximately two billion wooden shipping pallets in the holds of tractor-trailers in the United States transporting Honey Nut Cheerios and oysters and penicillin and just about any other product you can think of. According to Hodes the magic of pallets is the magic of abstraction. "Take any object you like, pile it onto a pallet, and it becomes, simply, a "unit load"—standardized, cubical, and ideally suited to being scooped up by the tines of a forklift. This allows your Cheerios and your oysters to be whisked through the supply chain with great efficiency; the gains are so impressive, in fact, that many experts consider the pallet to be the most important materials-handling innovation of the twentieth century." Although the technology was in place by the mid-1920s, pallets didn't see widespread adoption until World War II, when the challenge of keeping eight million G.I.s supplied—"the most enormous single task of distribution ever accomplished anywhere," according to one historian—gave new urgency to the science of materials handling. "The pallet really made it possible for us to fight a war on two fronts the way that we did." It would have been impossible to supply military forces in both the European and Pacific theaters if logistics operations had been limited to manual labor and hand-loading cargo.

To get a sense of the productivity gains that were achieved, consider the time it took to unload a boxcar before the advent of pallets. "According to an article in a 1931 railway trade magazine, three days were required to unload a boxcar containing 13,000 cases of unpalletized canned goods. When the same amount of goods was loaded into the boxcar on pallets or skids, the identical task took only four hours." Pallets, of course, are merely one cog in the global machine for moving things and while shipping containers have had their due, the humble pallet is arguably "the single most important object in the global economy."
Transportation

Finland Announces an Anti-Laser Campaign For Air Traffic 54

Posted by samzenpus
from the stop-pointing dept.
jones_supa writes Trafi, the Finnish Pilots' Association and STUK, the Finnish Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority have launched a joint campaign against air traffic interference with the title "Lasers Are Not Toys". Ilkka Kaakinen from Trafi says that laser pointers interfering with air traffic is a real problem in Finland. "We receive reports of several cases of laser interference every month and every one of them is potentially dangerous", Kaakinen says. Last year, 60 cases of laser pointer interference were reported in Finland, and the figure for this year was at 58 in November. Despite the continuing interference, only one person has been caught misusing a laser pointer in this way in Finland. That single person was not convicted of a crime, as the court was not able to establish intent. Kaakinen says that other countries hand down severe punishments for interfering with air traffic, even years-long stretches in prison. He also reminds that it is important for users of laser pointers to understand that the devices are not toys, and that children should be warned of the potential danger in using them irresponsibly – or ideally, not given one at all.
China

US Seeks China's Help Against North Korean Cyberattacks 100

Posted by samzenpus
from the thanks-but-no-thanks dept.
An anonymous reader writes The United States has declined an offer by North Korea for a joint investigation into the hacking of Sony Pictures and asked China to help block cyber attacks. "We have discussed this issue with the Chinese to share information, express our concerns about this attack, and to ask for their cooperation," a senior administration official said. "In our cybersecurity discussions, both China and the United States have expressed the view that conducting destructive attacks in cyberspace is outside the norms of appropriate cyber behavior." China has so far seemed less than sympathetic: "Any civilized world will oppose hacker attacks or terror threats. But a movie like The Interview, which makes fun of the leader of an enemy of the U.S., is nothing to be proud of for Hollywood and U.S. society," said an editorial in The Global Times, a tabloid sister paper to China's official The People's Daily. "No matter how the U.S. society looks at North Korea and Kim Jong Un, Kim is still the leader of the country. The vicious mocking of Kim is only a result of senseless cultural arrogance."
Television

Dish Pulls Fox News, Fox Business Network As Talks Break Down 174

Posted by samzenpus
from the no-fox-for-you dept.
An anonymous reader writes Fox News and Fox Business were pulled by Dish Network over the weekend, as both continue to argue over a fee agreement. From the article: "Dish said in a statement early Sunday morning that 21st Century Fox had blocked access to the two networks after Dish balked when rates for other networks owned by the media conglomerate were made a part of the negotiations. Tim Carry, executive vice president of distribution at Fox News Channel, countered in a statement that "Dish prematurely ceased distribution of Fox News in an attempt to intimidate and sway our negotiations. It is unfortunate that the millions of Fox News viewers on Dish were used as pawns by their provider. Hopefully they will vote with their hard earned money and seek another one of our other valued distributors immediately."
Google

Google+ Will Make Your Videos Look Better 34

Posted by Soulskill
from the won't-fix-your-awkward-breathing-into-the-microphone dept.
ErnieKey writes: A new Google+ feature for uploaded videos has been released that automatically enhances lighting, color, and stability. Soon, it'll also enhance speech in videos. "As more and more people now also take videos with their smartphones, it makes sense for Google to bring some of the technologies it has developed for photos (and YouTube) to these private videos, as well. Google has long offered a similar feature for YouTube users, so there is likely some overlap between the two systems here. While YouTube offers the option to 'auto-fix' videos, though, it doesn't automatically prompt its users to do this for them. YouTube also offers a number of manual tools for changing contrast, saturation and color temperature that Google+ doesn’t currently offer."
Media

Seattle Police Held Hackathon To Redact Footage From Body Cameras 81

Posted by Soulskill
from the privacy-policey dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Hackathons are common these days, but you don't often hear about events hosted by law enforcement. That's what the Seattle Police Department did on Friday, with the solitary goal of finding a good way to redact the video streams taken by police body cameras and dash cameras. Seven different teams demonstrated solutions, but in the end, none thought automation could realistically handle the task in the near future. "The Washington State public records act requires that almost all video filmed by any government agency – including police – be disclosed upon request. The only real exception is for video which is part of an open case currently under investigation. However, various parts of the state code include other restrictions – the identity of minors cannot be disclosed. Requests from victims or witnesses who may be at risk if their identities are disclosed also must be honored. However in all such cases the video still must be released – it is just the faces or other potential identifying characteristics, which might include gender or even a person's gait – which need to be blurred and redacted." The city just started a pilot program for body-worn police cameras.
Microsoft

Ask Slashdot: Is an Open Source .NET Up To the Job? 327

Posted by Soulskill
from the good-steps-or-irrelevant-steps dept.
Rob Y. writes: The discussion on Slashdot about Microsoft's move to open source .NET core has centered on:

1. whether this means Microsoft is no longer the enemy of the open source movement
2. if not, then does it mean Microsoft has so lost in the web server arena that it's resorting to desperate moves.
3. or nah — it's standard Microsoft operating procedure. Embrace, extend, extinguish.

What I'd like to ask is whether anybody that's not currently a .NET fan actually wants to use it? Open source or not. What is the competition? Java? PHP? Ruby? Node.js? All of the above? Anything but Microsoft? Because as an OSS advocate, I see only one serious reason to even consider using it — standardization. Any of those competing platforms could be as good or better, but the problem is: how to get a job in this industry when there are so many massively complex platforms out there. I'm still coding in C, and at 62, will probably live out my working days doing that. But I can still remember when learning a new programming language was no big deal. Even C required learning a fairly large library to make it useful, but it's nothing compared to what's out there today. And worse, jobs (and technologies) don't last like they used to. Odds are, in a few years, you'll be starting over in yet another job where they use something else.

Employers love standardization. Choosing a standard means you can't be blamed for your choice. Choosing a standard means you can recruit young, cheap developers and actually get some output from them before they move on. Or you can outsource with some hope of success (because that's what outsourcing firms do — recruit young, cheap devs and rotate them around). To me, those are red flags — not pluses at all. But they're undeniable pluses to greedy employers. Of course, there's much more to being an effective developer than knowing the platform so you can be easily slotted in to a project. But try telling that to the private equity guys running too much of the show these days.

So, assuming Microsoft is sincere about this open source move,
1. Is .NET up to the job?
2. Is there an open source choice today that's popular enough to be considered the standard that employers would like?
3. If the answer to 1 is yes and 2 is no, make the argument for avoiding .NET.
Media

Behind the Scenes With the Star Trek Fan Reboot 99

Posted by Soulskill
from the excellent-work dept.
SternisheFan writes: The original Starship Enterprise was on a 5-year mission, but the original series was canceled after the third year. A continuation of Star Trek:TOS is being created by a dedicated cast and crew intent on keeping true to the spirit of Gene Roddenberry's television show. From recreating the original sets with incredible accuracy and attention to details, staying faithful to original storylines has been a true labor of love for all involved. Here are a series of videos showing the progress being made on recreating the iconic series. (And if you missed it last time, here's the first episode they produced.)
Earth

Massive Volcanic Eruptions Accompanied Dinosaur Extinction 60

Posted by Soulskill
from the some-say-dinosaurs-can't-swim-in-magma dept.
schwit1 writes: A careful updating of the geological timeline has shown that massive volcanic eruptions aligned with the extinction event that wiped out the non-avian dinosaurs 66 million years ago (abstract). "A primeval volcanic range in western India known as the Deccan Traps, which were once three times larger than France, began its main phase of eruptions roughly 250,000 years before the Cretaceous-Paleogene, or K-Pg, extinction event, the researchers report in the journal Science. For the next 750,000 years, the volcanoes unleashed more than 1.1 million cubic kilometers (264,000 cubic miles) of lava. The main phase of eruptions comprised about 80-90 percent of the total volume of the Deccan Traps' lava flow and followed a substantially weaker first phase that began about 1 million years earlier.

The results support the idea that the Deccan Traps played a role in the K-Pg extinction, and challenge the dominant theory that a meteorite impact near present-day Chicxulub, Mexico, was the sole cause of the extinction. The researchers suggest that the Deccan Traps eruptions and the Chicxulub impact need to be considered together when studying and modeling the K-Pg extinction event."
Cellphones

T-Mobile To Pay $90M For Unauthorized Charges On Customers' Bills 51

Posted by timothy
from the oh-you-wanted-honesty dept.
itwbennett writes T-Mobile US will pay at least $90 million to settle a Federal Communications Commission (FCC) suit that alleged it looked the other way while third parties charged T-Mobile subscribers for services they didn't want. The settlement is the second largest ever for so-called 'cramming,' following one that the FCC reached with AT&T in October. It came just two days after the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau sued Sprint for the same practice.
Education

Ask Slashdot: Resources For Kids Who Want To Make Games? 118

Posted by Soulskill
from the building-blocks-of-fun dept.
Mr. Jones writes: My 11-year-old son is fascinated by games — game mechanics in particular. He has been playing everything from Magic to WarFrame since he was 5 years old. He seems mostly interested in creating the lore and associated mechanics of the games (i.e. how a game works). If it was only programming I could help him, but I am lost when it comes to helping him learn more formal ways of developing and defining gameplay. I really see a talent for this in him and I want to support it any way I can. Can you suggest any conferences, programs, books, websites, etc. that would help him learn?
Earth

Geoengineered Climate Cooling With Microbubbles 111

Posted by Soulskill
from the or-we-could-make-an-ocean-sized-mirror dept.
Rambo Tribble writes: Scientists from the University of Leeds have proposed that brighter ships' wakes, created by reducing their component bubbles' sizes, could moderately increase the reflectivity of our oceans, which would have a cooling effect on the climate. The technology is touted as being available and simple, but there could be side effects, like wetter conditions in some regions. Still, compared to many speculative geoengineering projects, "The one advantage about this technology — of trying to generate these tiny 'micro-bubbles' — is that the technology does already exist," according to Leeds' Prof Piers Forster.
Piracy

Anyone Can Now Launch Their Own Version of the Pirate Bay 79

Posted by Soulskill
from the we're-all-spartacus dept.
An anonymous reader writes: Not satisfied with merely launching The Old Pirate Bay, torrent site isoHunt today debuted The Open Bay, which lets anyone deploy their own version of The Pirate Bay online. This is achieved via a new six-step wizard, which the group says requires you to be somewhat tech-savvy and have "minimal knowledge of how the Internet and websites work." The Pirate Bay, the most popular file sharing website on the planet, went down last week following police raids on its data center in Sweden. As we've noted before, The Old Pirate Bay appears to be the best alternative at the moment, but since The Pirate Bay team doesn't know if it's coming back yet, there is still a huge hole left to be filled.

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