Richard Stallman (RMS) founded the GNU Project in 1984, the Free Software Foundation in 1985, and remains one of the most important and outspoken advocates for software freedom. RMS now spends much of his time fighting excessive extension of copyright laws, digital rights management, and software patents. He's agreed to answer your questions about GNU/Linux, free software, and anything else you like, but please limit yourself to one question per post.
Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive
An anonymous reader writes "Over the past couple of days, there have been reports about the return of file sharing lawsuits to Canada, with fears that thousands of Canadians could be targeted. While it is possible that many will receive demand letters, Michael Geist has posted a detailed primer on liability in Canada that notes that recent changes to Canadian copyright law limit liability in non-commercial cases to a maximum of $5,000 for all infringement claims. In fact, it is likely that a court would award far less — perhaps as little as $100 — if the case went to court as even the government's FAQ on the recent copyright reform bill provided assurances that Canadians 'will not face disproportionate penalties for minor infringements of copyright by distinguishing between commercial and non-commercial infringement.'"
another random user writes with news that the founder of TVShack probably won't be thrown into a U.S. prison for life. From the article: "Richard O'Dwyer, from Sheffield, is accused of breaking copyright laws. The US authorities claimed the 24-year-old's TVShack website hosted links to pirated films and TV programs. The High Court was told Mr O'Dwyer had signed a 'deferred prosecution' agreement which would require him paying a small sum of compensation. Mr O'Dwyer will travel to the US voluntarily in the next few weeks for the deal to be formally ratified, it is understood." Looks like Jimbo going to bat for him generated a bit of bad press. As usual, the MPAA is not enthused. Different articles are reporting that his mother is the one traveling to the U.S. to finalize the deal.
SchrodingerZ writes "Representative Darrell Issa, a Republican congressman from California, has drafted a bill for the internet. The bill, aptly named the Internet American Moratorium Act (IAMA), is, 'a two-year moratorium on any new laws, rules or regulations governing the Internet.' In short it hopes to deny any new government bills related to lawmaking on the internet for the next two years. The bill was first made public on the website Reddit, and is currently on the front page of Keepthewebopen.com, a website advocating internet rights. 'Together we can make Washington take a break from messing w/ the Internet,' Issa writes on his Reddit post. The initial response to the bill has been mixed. Users of Reddit are skeptical of the paper's motives and credibility. As of now, the bill is just a discussion draft, whether it will gain footing in the future is up in the air."
New submitter zenyu writes "IPCC's 2mm per year estimate for sea level rise at current CO2 levels has proven too optimistic. Sea levels have been rising 3.2mm per year in the last two decades. The IPCC's 50 cm — 100 cm projection for the next century may prove equally optimistic."
theodp writes "President Obama and his daughters headed to an indie bookstore last Saturday to promote shopping local. The White House did not disclose which books were bought, but author Lauren Oliver tweeted her delight after a White House photo showed her books Delirium and Pandemonium were among the 15 children's books purchased by the Obama family for Christmas gift-giving. While it made for a nice Small Business Saturday photo op, do you suppose the President paid much more for the books at the small indie bookshop than he might have at an online retailer like Amazon, where the hardcopy edition of Pandemonium is $10.15 (44% off the $17.99 list price) and the hardcopy edition of Delirium can be had for $10.47 (42% off the $17.99 list price)? Kindle Editions of the books are also available for $7.99. And with both titles eligible for free Amazon Prime shipping, the President could've saved on gasoline and Secret Service costs, too! So, will you be following the President's lead and shop local this holiday season, or is the siren song of online shopping convenience and savings too hard to resist?"
judgecorp writes "Amazon and Google both applied for a role in the U.K. government's 'G-Cloud' for public services, but were rejected, a FOI request has revealed. It is most likely this was because of concerns about where data was hosted and backed up. Amazon Web Services has a dedicated cloud service for the government in the U.S., but has not been able to duplicate that in Britain."
An anonymous reader writes "The first large scientific study of how people respond to poor video quality on the Internet paints a picture of ever rising user expectations and the willingness to abandon ship if those expectations are not met (PDF). Some nuggets: 1) Some users are willing to wait for no more than 2 seconds for a video to start playing, with each additional second adding 6% to the abandonment rate. 2) Users with good broadband connectivity expect faster video load times and are even more impatient than ones on mobile devices. 3) Users who experience video freezing watch fewer minutes of the video than someone who does not experience freezing. If a video freezes for 1% of its total play time, 5% less of its total play time is watched, on average. 4) Users who experience failures when they try to play videos are less likely to return to the same website in the future. Big data was analyzed (260+ million minutes of video) and some cool new data analysis techniques used."
New submitter dreamstateseven tips this Postmedia News report: "A forensic software company has collected files on a million Canadians who it says have downloaded pirated content. The company, which works for the motion picture and recording industries, says a recent court decision forcing Internet providers to release subscriber names and details is only the first step in a bid to crack down on illegal downloads. 'The door is closing. People should think twice about downloading content they know isn't proper,' said Barry Logan, managing director of Canipre, the Montreal-based forensic software company."
SchrodingerZ writes "Captain Scott Kelly, brother of former commander Mark Kelly, will embark on the United States' longest manned space mission, set for 2015. Kelly and Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Kornienko will spend an entire year on the orbiting International Space Station. The mission will be a first for NASA's space program, but it is far from the world record. The longest recorded time in space was the 438-day mission of Russia's Valery Polyakov, working on the Mir Space Station, 1994-1995. Kelly, a decorated Navy captain, received degrees from State University of New York Maritime College and the University of Tennessee, and was the flight engineer for space station expedition 25, and commander of expedition 26 in 2010. 'Kornienko hails from Russia's Syzran, Kuibyshev, region and has worked in the space industry since 1986.' The yearlong study on humans working in space will launch from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan, spring 2015."
MyFirstNameIsPaul writes "In an announcement dated Monday, Nov 26, 2012, Dublin-based InTrade stated 'that due to legal and regulatory pressures, InTrade can no longer allow U.S. residents to participate in our real-money prediction markets.' The Washington Post reports that the Commodity Futures Trading Commission filed a complaint in federal court against InTrade for 'illegally facilitating bets on future economic data, the price of gold and even acts of war,' demonstrating just how far the long arm of U.S. law can reach."
Nerval's Lobster writes "Netflix has released Hystrix, a library designed for managing interactions between distributed systems, complete with 'fallback' options for when those systems inevitably fail. The code for Hystrix—which Netflix tested on its own systems—can be downloaded at Github, with documentation available here, in addition to a getting-started guide and operations examples, among others. Hystrix evolved out of Netflix's need to manage an increasing rate of calls to its APIs, and resulted in (according to the company) a 'dramatic improvement in uptime and resilience has been achieved through its use.' The Netflix API receives more than 1 billion incoming calls per day, which translates into several billion outgoing calls (averaging a ratio of 1:6) to dozens of underlying systems, with peaks of over 100,000 dependency requests per second. That's according to Netflix engineer Ben Christensen, who described the incredible loads on the company's infrastructure in a February blog posting. The vast majority of those calls serve the discovery user interfaces (UIs) of the more than 800 different devices supported by Netflix."
An anonymous reader writes "Yesterday there was a rumor doing the rounds that Nintendo was set to release a brand new version of the Wii console called the Wii Mini. The new machine would be significantly smaller than the current Wii, is expected to ship with a Wii Remote Plus, Nunchuk, and Sensor Bar, and hopefully carries a much lower (sub-$100) price. Well, it looks as though this wasn't just a rumor. Best Buy Canada has it listed with an image on its front page and a December 7 release date." Also at PC Mag.
New submitter alexanderb writes "While DOOM 3 BFG Edition might not have blown most gamers' minds, it sure blew some hackers' minds by supporting the Oculus Rift head-mounted display. Now, id Software have put up the source code of the BFG Edition under the GPL in good time for the tentative Oculus Rift release date, 12/12/12."
ananyo writes "It is permanently covered by a massive cap of ice up to 27 metres thick, is six times saltier than normal sea water, and at 13 C is one of the coldest aquatic environments on Earth — yet Lake Vida in Antarctica teems with life. Scientists drilling into the lake have found abundant and diverse bacteria, including at least one new phylum (full paper (PDF)). The find increases the chances that life may exist (or have once existed) on planets such as Mars and moons such as Jupiter's Europa."