derekmead writes "It only took 40 years. And yes, Washington still disputes Hanoi's claim that up to 4 million Vietnamese suffered contact with the defoliant, which was dumped en masse in a U.S. air campaign to scorch away the dense jungle cover under which guerilla fighters hid. But the AP reports that the U.S. is finally set to start cleaning up the mess. The numbers are staggering: Between 1962 and 1971, the U.S. military sprayed some 20 million gallons of Agent Orange and a galaxy of other herbicides on nearly a quarter of former South Vietnam. The defoliant ate through about 5 millions acres – a tract comparable in size to Massachusetts – of forest. An additional half-million acres of crops were decimated."
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mvdwege writes "In the thread on the most depressing sci-fi, there were hundreds of posts but merely four mentions of John Brunner, dystopian writer par excellence. Now, given the normally U.S. libertarian bent of the Slashdot audience, it is understandable that an outright British Socialist writer like Brunner would get short shrift, but it got me thinking: what Sci-fi writers do you know that are, in your opinion, vastly underappreciated?"
An anonymous reader writes "A U.S. government report released on Tuesday says the Federal Communications Commission needs to update its guidelines for limiting cell phone radio-frequency exposure. The limit was set in 1996 to an exposure rate of 1.6 watts per kilogram, and has not been updated since. The report does not advocate in favor of any particular research, and actually points out that the limit could possibly be raised, but says the FCC's rules have not kept pace with recent studies on the subject one way or the other. An executive for The Wireless Association said, 'The FCC has been vigilant in its oversight in this area and has set safety standards to make sure that radio frequency fields from wireless phones remain at what it has determined are safe levels. The FCC's safety standards include a 50-fold safety factor and, as the FCC has noted, are the most conservative in the world.'"
gollum123 sends this excerpt from CNN: "The July heat wave that wilted crops, shriveled rivers and fueled wildfires officially went into the books Wednesday as the hottest single month on record for the continental United States. The average temperature across the Lower 48 was 77.6 degrees Fahrenheit, 3.3 degrees above the 20th-century average, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration reported. That edged out the previous high mark, set in 1936, by two-tenths of a degree, NOAA said. In addition, the seven months of 2012 to date are the warmest of any year on record and were drier than average as well, NOAA said. U.S. forecasters started keeping records in 1895. And the past 12 months have been the warmest of any such period on record, topping a mark set between July 2011 and this past June. Every U.S. state except Washington experienced warmer-than-average temperatures, NOAA reported."
theodp writes "Back in the day, getting traction for a new programming language was next to impossible. First, one needed a textbook publishing deal. Then, one needed a critical mass of CS profs across the country to convince their departments that your language was worth teaching at the university level. And after that, one still needed a critical mass of students to agree it was worth spending their time and tuition to learn your language. Which probably meant that one needed a critical mass of corporations to agree they wanted their employees to use your language. It was a tall order that took years if one was lucky, and only some languages — FORTRAN, PL/I, C, Java, and Python come to mind — managed to succeed on all of these fronts. But that was then, this is now. Whip up some online materials, and you can kiss your textbook publishing worries goodbye. Manage to convince just one of the new Super Profs at Udacity or Coursera to teach your programming language, and they can reach 160,000 students with just one free, not-for-credit course. And even if the elite Profs turn up their nose at your creation, upstarts like Khan Academy or Code Academy can also deliver staggering numbers of students in a short time. In theory, widespread adoption of a new programming language could be achieved in weeks instead of years or decades, piquing employers' interest. So, could we be on the verge of a programming language renaissance? Or will the status quo somehow manage to triumph?"
wiredmikey writes "Despite its significant user base within enterprises, BlackBerry devices have managed to stay off the radar for malware writers. That may be ending, as four new Zeus-in-the-mobile (Zitmo) samples targeting BlackBerry users in Germany, Spain, and Italy have been found. Zitmo, which hit Android devices back in July 2011, refers to a version of the Zeus malware that specifically targets mobile devices. Denis Maslennikov, a security researcher at Kaspersky Lab, also identified a new Zitmo variant for Android using the same command and control (C&C) numbers as the BlackBerry versions. While previous Android variants have been primitive, the latest .apk dropper, which shows up as an app 'Zertifikat,' looks 'more similar to "classic" Zitmo,' he said. When executed, it displays a message in German that the installation was successful, along with an activation code. The Android sample also included a self-issued certificate that indicates it was developed less than a month ago."
TheNextCorner writes "With more data moving into the cloud, there is an increasing danger of data loss when one of these cloud computing data centers fails. Hurricanes pose a real threat to infrastructure located in Virginia and North Carolina, where Google, Apple & Facebook have opened large data centers. 'Where would the most damaging hit be? It's debatable, but the most detrimental hit may be in Virginia. Amazon Web Services (AWS) has one of their major centers in Northern Virginia. ... In a study involving millions of people, a third of those surveyed reported visiting a website every day that used Amazon's infrastructure. In 2011, Amazon's S3 cloud stored 762 billion objects. It's possible that Amazon's cloud alone holds an entire 1% of the Internet.' Could a category 5 Hurricane become a problem for these cloud data centers and take down parts the Internet?"
Slashdot's Glorious 15th Anniversary (link to bad fireworks video) is coming up in October, so Jeff 'Soulskill' Boehm and Rob 'samzenpus' Rozeboom decided to have a chat with Rob Malda. Back in 1997 Rob founded a website named Chips & Dips that later morphed into something called Slashdot, which has been (as the saying goes) "often imitated but never duplicated." Since leaving Slashdot, Rob has been doing this, that, and the other, but we'll let him tell you what he's doing in his own words. Note: This is an audio interview with some semi-interesting photos laid over it as a slide show, so you might want to listen to it rather than watch it. Parts Two and Three of the interview will be along in the next few days.
Hugh Pickens writes writes "In 2008, as The Washington Post wrote at the time, 'just hours before [Sen. John] McCain declared his veep choice of Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, her Wiki page saw a flurry of activity, with editors adding details about Palin's approval rating and husband's employment. ... Palin's entry was updated at least 68 times, with at least an additional 54 changes made to her entry over the preceding five days.' The obvious — in hindsight — implications of the Wiki activity: Aides were going into the entries to tune them up and clean out any material that was either embarrassing or erroneous. Now Mark Memmott writes on NPR that today's Wikipedia activity may lend a clue to Mitt Romney's vice presidential pick, expected to be announced within a few days. So what's going on now with some of those said to be among the leading possibilities to be joining Mitt Romney on the Republican ticket? On August 7, Rob Portman's Wikipedia page was revised 100 times, the Wikipedia page for Marco Rubio was revised 22 times, and the page for Tim Pawlenty was revised only 5 times. Of course, Memmott adds, somebody who knows about the 2008 Wiki tea leaves may just be messing with our minds."
New submitter JG0LD writes "The team behind open-source media platform XBMC announced yesterday that it would be working with the developers of Ouya to make sure that XBMC works on the still-developing but widely hyped Android gaming console." From XBMC: "Regardless, we are delighted to announce that XBMC will be working with Ouya to ensure that XBMC works well on the Ouya platform. Ouya's Android underpinnings and XBMC's work on Android (soon to be merged into master, pending final sign-offs!) will dramatically speed up that effort, as will early XBMC dev access to Ouya prototypes."
theodp writes "It's not that Chunka Mui isn't impressed by the smarts of Instagram CEO and Forbes cover boy Kevin Systrom. Still, Mui can't help but ask, 'How Long Before Facebook Writes Off Its $1B Purchase of Instagram?' While pundits and analysts have almost universally praised Facebook's acquisition of Instagram, Mui is less-than-impressed by Instagram's 80 million unmonetized mobile users. 'My prediction,' writes Mui, 'is that we'll look back on the acquisition as a bust — much in the same way we now view News Corp.'s purchase of Myspace, AOL's purchase of Bebo, and Excite@Home's purchase of Blue Mountain Arts.' Ouch. Mui notes that according to a recent SEC filing, Facebook could ditch the deal by paying a $200 million fee if regulators block the merger or if Facebook terminates the agreement after Dec. 10, 2012."
Square, the start-up mobile payment service that aims to bring credit card transactions to anyone with a smartphone, has formed a partnership with Starbucks, a move that vastly increases Square's reach and visibility. According to the NY Times, "This fall, Square will begin processing all credit and debit card transactions at Starbucks stores in the United States and eventually customers will be able to order a grande vanilla latte and charge it to their credit cards simply by saying their names. Though smartphone payments have a long way to go before they replace wallets altogether, Starbucks’s adoption of Square will catapult the start-up’s technology onto street corners nationwide, and is the clearest sign yet that mobile payments could become mainstream. ... At first, Starbucks customers will need to show the merchant a bar code on their phones. But when Starbucks uses Square’s full GPS technology, the customer’s phone will automatically notify the store that the customer has entered, and the customer’s name and photo will pop up on the cashier’s screen. The customer will give the merchant his or her name, Starbucks will match the photo and the payment will be complete."
An anonymous reader writes with news that The Internet Archive has started seeding about 1,400,000 torrents. In addition to over a million books, the Archive is seeding thousands and thousands of films, music tracks, and live concerts. John Gilmore of the EFF said, "The Archive is helping people to understand that BitTorrent isn't just for ephemeral or dodgy items that disappear from view in a short time. BitTorrent is a great way to get and share large files that are permanently available from libraries like the Internet Archive." Brewster Kahle, founder of the Archive, told TorrentFreak, "I hope this is greeted by the BitTorrent community, as we are loving what they have built and are very glad we can populate the BitTorrent universe with library and archive materials. There is a great opportunity for symbiosis between the Libraries and Archives world and the BitTorrent communities."
50000BTU_barbecue writes "Usually sci-fi provides adventure with happy endings for everyone. But what story have you read that resonates years later because of some insight about human nature or society that's basically cynical or pessimistic? For me it's Fred Pohl's Jem, with its sharply divided resource-constrained future world driven by politics, and its conclusion that humans are just too destructive to handle contacting alien life, especially if humans have the technological upper hand. I'm wondering what other stories have stuck in people's minds. It can be a short story, a novel or an entire series of books."