dryriver writes with a report from CNN that the asteroid known as 2011 AG5 will not hit Earth in 2040 as early calculations had led some to fear when it was first spotted last year. "To narrow down the asteroid's future course, NASA put out a call for more observation. Astronomers from the University of Hawaii at Manoa took up the task and managed to observe the asteroid over several days in October. 'An analysis of the new data conducted by NASA's Near-Earth Object Program Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, shows that the risk of collision in 2040 has been eliminated,' NASA declared Friday."
Slashdot stories can be listened to in audio form via an RSS feed, as read by our own robotic overlord.
beefsack writes "An engineer by the name of Andrej Skraba has combined an Arduino board and an MK802 mini PC running Ubuntu to create a robot which is controllable via its own node.js server and a mobile phone. Seen by some as products competing in a similar space, Andrej shows how the two devices can make the most of their unique features to complement each other, working together."
An anonymous reader writes "Last month, Mozilla Engineering Manager Benjamin Smedberg quietly announced that the 64-bit version of Firefox for Windows would never see the light of day. After what he referred to as 'significant negative feedback,' Smedberg has announced he has reviewed that feedback, consulted with his release engineering team, and has decided on a modification to the original plan: Firefox 64-bit for Windows may still never be released, but nightly builds will live another day."
Hugh Pickens writes "Michael Wilson writes in the NY Times that top intelligence officials in the New York Police Department are looking for ways to target 'apolitical or deranged killers before they become active shooters' using techniques similar to those being used to spot terrorists' chatter online. The techniques would include 'cyber-searches of language that mass-casualty shooters have used in e-mails and Internet postings,' says Police Commissioner Raymond W. Kelly. 'The goal would be to identify the shooter in cyberspace, engage him there and intervene, possibly using an undercover to get close, and take him into custody or otherwise disrupt his plans.' There are also plans to send officers to Newtown and to scenes of other mass shootings to collect information says the department's chief spokesman Paul. J. Browne adding that potential tactics include creating an algorithm that would search online 'for terms used by active shooters in the past that may be an indicator of future intentions.' The NYPD's counter-terrorism division released a report last year, 'Active Shooter (PDF),' after studying 202 mass shooting incidents. 'So, we think this is another logical step,' says Kelly."
First time accepted submitter gannebraemorr writes with this news, snipped from a CBS News report out of New Jersey:"'The Superintendent of the Greater Egg Harbor Regional High School District said around 2 pm Tuesday, a 16 year old student demonstrated behavior that caused concern. A teacher noticed drawings of what appeared to be weapons in his notebook. School officials made the decision to contact authorities. Police removed the 16-year-old boy from Cedar Creek High School in Galloway Township Tuesday afternoon after school officials became concerned about his behavior. The student was taken to the Galloway Township Police Department. Police then searched the boy's home on the 300 block of East Spencer Lane and found several electronic parts and several types of chemicals that when mixed together, could cause an explosion, police say. The unidentified teen was charged with possession of a weapon an [sic] explosive device and the juvenile was placed in Harbor Fields.' If 'chemicals that when mixed together, could cause an explosion' is a crime, I'm pretty sure everyone's cleaning cabinets are evidence just waiting to be found. Bottle of Coke and Mentos... BRB, someone knocking at the door."
mikejuk writes "Microsoft has announced that the Expression suite of design tools is no more. It has been removed from sale immediately and it has been placed on a maintenance only status until it reaches its end of life. Expression was Microsoft's offering for designers and competed directly with Adobe products. You can now download the components of Expression — Design 4, Web 4 and Encoder 4 — for free but you can't buy them. Of course, knowing that you are using 'doomed' products, even for free, takes some of the icing off the cake. The central component of the suite the UI designer Blend is to be integrated with Visual Studio 2012 probably along with Update 2. It looks as if Microsoft is giving up on trying to get designers to use its tools."
The Enlightenment front page bears this small announcement: "E17 release HAS HAPPENED!" The release announcement is remarkably spartan — it's mostly a tribute to the dozens of contributors who have worked on the software itself and on translating it into many languages besides system-default English. On the other hand, if you've been waiting since December 2000 for E17 (also known as Enlightenment 0.17), you probably have some idea that Enlightenment is a window manager (or possibly a desktop environment: the developers try to defuse any dispute on that front, but suffice it to say that you can think of it either way), and that the coders are more interested in putting out the software that they consider sufficiently done than in incrementing release numbers. That means they've made some side trips along the way, Knuth-like, to do things like create an entire set of underlying portable libraries. The release candidate changelog of a few days ago gives an idea of the very latest changes, but this overview shows and tells what to expect in E17. If you're among those disappointed in the way some desktop environments have tended toward simplicity at the expense of flexibility, you can be sure that Enlightenment runs the other way: "We don't go quietly into the night and remove options when no one is looking. None of those new big version releases with fanfare and "Hey look! Now with half the options you used to have!". We sneak in when you least expect it and plant a whole forest of new option seeds, watching them spring to life. We nail new options to walls on a regular basis. We bake options-cakes and hand them out at parties. Options are good. Options are awesome. We have lots of them. Spend some quality time getting to know your new garden of options in E17. It may just finally give you the control you have been pining for."
mbstone writes "The Air Force has a problem: Its drones generate thousands of hours of video (I almost said 'footage.') And most of it is miles of endless desert. USAF needs to distill the highlights, if you will, and nobody does it better than ESPN, the TV sports network. Air Force officials have asked ESPN for help in analyzing the 327,384 hours collected just this year. What we really need in times like these is sportscaster Warner Wolf. 'Let's go to the videotape, pick it up right here, Taliban in the home black.'"
alexanderb writes "Remember GNU's Windows 8 launch trick or treat in October, where Free Software Foundation activists handed out gratis copies of the free (as in freedom) system Trisquel GNU/Linux? Well, GNU returned for a Microsoft store's 'Tech for Tots' session on December 20th in Boston, MA. Like in October, the activists (accompanied by a gnu) handed out gratis copies of Trisquel GNU/Linux — a free alternative to Microsoft's new operating system, Windows 8."
An anonymous reader tips an article at El Reg about the disparity between the code you learn at school and the code you see at work. Quoting: "There is a kind of cognitive dissonance in most people who've moved from the academic study of computer science to a job as a real-world software developer. The conflict lies in the fact that, whereas nearly every sample program in every textbook is a perfect and well-thought-out specimen, virtually no software out in the wild is, and this is rarely acknowledged. To be precise: a tremendous amount of source code written for real applications is not merely less perfect than the simple examples seen in school — it's outright terrible by any number of measures."
Lasrick writes "For the first time since 1946, Congress is seriously debating whether the U.S. nuclear weapons complex should be under civilian or military control. That the article is in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists is significant, as it was many of the scientists who founded BAS who argued for civilian control in the wake of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. They believed that atomic energy was too destructive, and the military too secretive, which would possibly thwart scientific discovery and erect a major obstacle to international control and cooperation. The article talks about how management has changed over the decades and explains the discussion that needs to happen before Congress acts."
Layzej writes "The Associated Press reports: 'In 2012 many of the warnings scientists have made about global warming went from dry studies in scientific journals to real-life video played before our eyes. As 2012 began, winter in the U.S. went AWOL. Spring and summer arrived early with wildfires, blistering heat and drought. And fall hit the eastern third of the country with the ferocity of Superstorm Sandy. Globally, five countries this year set heat records, but none set cold records. 2012 is on track to be the warmest year on record in the United States. Worldwide, the average through November suggests it will be the eighth warmest since global record-keeping began in 1880 and will likely beat 2011 as the hottest La Nina year on record. America's heartland lurched from one extreme to the other without stopping at "normal." Historic flooding in 2011 gave way to devastating drought in 2012. But the most troubling climate development this year was the melting at the top of the world. Summer sea ice in the Arctic shrank to 18 percent below the previous record low. These are "clearly not freak events," but "systemic changes," said climate scientist Stefan Rahmstorf of the Potsdam Institute in Germany. "With all the extremes that, really, every year in the last 10 years have struck different parts of the globe, more and more people absolutely realize that climate change is here and already hitting us."'"
Spy Handler writes "According to PC Mag, 'Facebook is testing a feature that will let select users pay $1 to send messages to people with whom they have no connection on the social network. The $1 fee will open a thread with a non-Facebook friend. If that person replies to your note, you won't have to pay again to respond to them.' Facebook explained the test thus: 'Several commentators and researchers have noted that imposing a financial cost on the sender may be the most effective way to discourage unwanted messages and facilitate delivery of messages that are relevant and useful. This test is designed to address situations where neither social nor algorithmic signals are sufficient. For example, if you want to send a message to someone you heard speak at an event but are not friends with, or if you want to message someone about a job opportunity, you can use this feature to reach their Inbox. For the receiver, this test allows them to hear from people who have an important message to send them.'"
crimperman writes "The U.K. government is planning to change their copyright laws to give 'greater freedom' on usage. The Dept. for Business Innovation and Skills say the new measures 'include provisions to allow copying of works for personal use parody and for the purposes of quotation.' (There is currently no 'fair use' law in the U.K.) They also say the provisions 'allow people to use copyright works for a variety of ... purposes without permission from the copyright owners,' and 'bring up to date the provisions for education use.' A sensible copyright law from the U.K.? What are the chances of this getting through?"
An anonymous reader writes "Here is a free interactive beta of Learn Linux The Hard Way; a web-based virtual Linux environment which introduces the command line and other essential Linux concepts in 30 exercises. It's written in the style of Zed A. Shaw's Learn Code the Hard Way lessons. The authors says, 'You will encounter many detailed tables containing lists of many fields. You may think you do not need most of this information, but what I am trying to do here is to teach you the right way to approach all this scary data. And this right way is to interpret this data as mathematical formulas, where every single symbol has its meaning.' Of course, my first entry was rm -rf /* which only produced a stream of errors. I wish I had discovered something like a long time ago."