Nerval's Lobster writes "Software developer Jeff Cogswell writes: 'About a year ago, I decided to migrate my documents to Google Docs and start using it for all my professional writing. I quickly hit some problems; frankly, Google Docs wasn't as good an option as I'd initially hoped. Now I use LibreOffice on my desktop, and it works well, but I had to go through long odysseys with Google Docs and Zoho Docs to reach this point. Is Microsoft Word actually better than Google Docs and Zoho Docs? For my work, the answer is "yes," but this doesn't make me particularly happy. In the following essay, I present my problems with Google Docs and Zoho Docs (as well as some possible solutions) from my perspective as both a professional writer and a software developer.'"
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In an effort to step up its fight against astroturfers, Amazon has barred authors from reviewing books. It's not simply that authors can't review their own books — they can't review any book in a similar genre to something they've published. "This means that thriller writers are prevented from commenting on works by other authors who write similar books. Critics suggest this system is flawed because many authors are impartial and are experts on novels." British author Joanne Harris had a simpler solution in mind: "To be honest I would just rather Amazon delete all their reviews as it... has caused so much trouble. It is a pity. Originally it was a good idea but it is has become such an issue now. The star rating has become how people view if a book is a success and it has become inherently corrupt." How would you improve the online review system?
Tests on milk from several different farms across the U.K. have turned up evidence for a new strain of MRSA — bacteria which have evolved resistance to common antibiotics. As long as the milk is properly pasteurized, it poses no threat to consumers, but anyone working directly with the animals bears a small risk of infection. According to The Independent, "The disclosure comes amid growing concern over the use of modern antibiotics on British farms, driven by price pressure imposed by the big supermarket chains. Intensive farming with thousands of animals raised in cramped conditions means infections spread faster and the need for antibiotics is consequently greater. Three classes of antibiotics rated as 'critically important to human medicine' by the World Health Organization – cephalosporins, fluoroquinolones and macrolides – have increased in use in the animal population by eightfold in the last decade."
As part of their 2012 in review series, the EFF takes a look at how blasphemy laws have chilled online speech this year. A "dishonorable mention" goes to YouTube this year: "A dishonorable mention goes to YouTube, which blocked access to the controversial 'Innocence of Muslims' video in Egypt and Libya without government prompting. The Arabic Network for Human Rights Information, a group based in Egypt, condemned YouTube's decision."
sfcrazy writes "Mark Shuttleworth, the founder of Ubuntu, has shared his plans for 2013. It was clear from the Nexus 7 initiative that Ubuntu is eventually looking into the mobile space more seriously. Google created the cheap device Ubuntu was looking for wider testing and development. The initial builds of Ubuntu for Nexus 7 also showed that, despite popular perception, Unity is far from ready for the mobile devices. In fact quite a lot of 'controversial' technologies introduced in Unity don't fit on a mobile devices such as Global Menus or HUD. So there are many challenges for Mark — redesign Unity for mobile, which may upset users again, get Ubuntu app developers to redesign apps for Ubuntu mobile, get top developers to write apps for Ubuntu... Is it all feasible when companies like RIM or Microsoft are struggling or is Ubuntu becoming a 'me too' company which is not brining anything new to the table and is simply trying to claim a pie?" Shuttleworth also wants to do something or other with the cloud: "It’s also why we’ll push deeper into the cloud, making it even easier, faster and cost effective to scale out modern infrastructure on the cloud of your choice, or create clouds for your own consumption and commerce."
wiredmikey writes "Iranian officials on Tuesday said a 'Stuxnet-like' cyberattack hit some industrial units in a southern province. 'A virus had penetrated some manufacturing industries in Hormuzgan province, but its progress was halted,' Ali Akbar Akhavan said, quoted by the ISNA news agency. Akhavan said the malware was 'Stuxnet-like' but did not elaborate, and that the attack had occurred over the 'past few months.' One of the targets of the latest attack was the Bandar Abbas Tavanir Co, which oversees electricity production and distribution in Hormuzgan and adjacent provinces. He also accused 'enemies' of constantly seeking to disrupt operations at Iran's industrial units through cyberattacks, without specifying how much damage had been caused. Iran has blamed the U.S. and Israel for cyberattacks in the past. In April, it said a voracious malware attack had hit computers running key parts of its oil sector and succeeded in wiping data off official servers."
An article at The H makes the case that many open source foundations have successfully proven their worth and withstood the test of time as legitimate entities. This leads to the question: where do they go from here? The author suggests an umbrella foundation to provide consistent direction across many projects. Quoting; "As you might expect, the main aim of most foundations is to promote their own particular project and its associated programs. For the putative [Open Source Foundation Foundation], that would generalise into promoting open source foundations as a way of supporting open source activity. In practical terms, that might translate into establishing best practice, codifying what needs to be done in order to create an open source foundation in different jurisdictions with their differing legal requirements. That would make it far easier for smaller projects – such as Krita – to draw on that body of knowledge once they have decided to take this route. It might also encourage yet more projects to do the same, encouraged by the existence of support mechanisms that will help them to navigate safely the legal requirements, and to minimise costs by drawing on the experience of others. After all, this is precisely the way open source works, and what makes it so efficient: it tries to avoid re-inventing the wheel by sharing pre-existing solutions to problems or sub-problems."
A recent paper in Science (abstract) examines the insurance industry's reaction to climate change. The industry rakes in trillions of dollars in revenues every year, and a shifting climate would have the potential to drastically cut into the profits left over after settlements have been paid. Hurricane Sandy alone did about $80 billion worth of damage to New York and New Jersey. With incredible amounts of money at stake, the industry is taking climate projections quite seriously. From the article: "Many insurers are using climate science to better quantify and diversify their exposure, more accurately price and communicate risk, and target adaptation and loss-prevention efforts. They also analyze their extensive databases of historical weather- and climate-related losses, for both large- and small-scale events. But insurance modeling is a distinct discipline. Unlike climate models, insurers’ models extrapolate historical data rather than simulate the climate system, and they require outputs at finer scales and shorter time frames than climate models."
New submitter Isaac-1 writes "First it was the sex offenders being mapped using public records, now it seems to be gun owners — I wonder who will be next? It seems a newspaper in New York has published an interactive map with the names and addresses of people with [handguns]." It's happened before: In 2007, Virginia's Roanoke Times raised the ire of many gun owners by publishing a database of Virginia's gun permit holders that it assembled based on public records inquiries. (The paper later withdrew that database.) Similarly, WRAL-TV in North Carolina published a database earlier this year with searchable map of (partially redacted) information about permit holders in that state, and Philadelphia made the news for a similar disclosure — complete with interactive map and addresses — of hundreds of gun permit applicants and holders.
Dupple writes with news of another tech patent thrown out for obviousness. From the article: "On Friday, the High Court of London issued a ruling that said that one of Motorola's patents covering technology to synchronize messages across several devices should be invalidated. Originally, the patent covered the synching of messages across multiple pagers, but recently Motorola has used the patent in lawsuits against Apple and Microsoft for using similar message-syncing services in iCloud and on the Xbox, respectively. The presiding Judge Richard Arnold declared Motorola's patent invalid and said it should be revoked because the patent (which has a priority date from 1995, but was issued in 2002) contained technology that 'was obvious to experts in the field at the time.'"
theodp writes "With all of the content that can be delivered electronically — e-books, music, apps, movies, e-gift cards, tickets — the percentage of Christmas gift giving that's digital is growing each year. However, the e-gift unwrapping user experience on Christmas morning leaves much to be desired. In addition to providing old-school mail delivery of gift cards, Amazon offers a variety of other options, including e-mailing a gift card on a specific day with or without a suggested gift, posting it on someone's Facebook Wall, or allowing you to print one for personal delivery. Another suggestion — using USB drives — harkens back to the days of burning CDs with custom playlists for last-minute gifts, but you'll be thwarted by DRM issues for lots of content. So, until Facebook introduces The Tree to save our e-gifts under until they're 'unwrapped' on Christmas morning with the other physical gifts, how do you plan on handling e-gift giving and getting?"
dcblogs writes "China is on track to overtake the U.S. in spending on research and development in about 10 years, as federal R&D spending either declines or remains flat. The U.S. today maintains a large lead in spending over China, with federal and private sector investment expected to reach $424 billion next year, a 1.2% increase. By contrast, China's overall R&D spending is $220 billion next year, an increase of 11.6% over 2012, a rate similar to previous years. This finding is shared by the President's Council of Advisors on Science and Technology. 'China's investment as a percentage of its GDP shows continuing, deliberate growth that, if it continues, should surpass the roughly flat United States investment within a decade,' it said in a report last month."
benrothke writes "When the IBM PC first came out 31 years ago, it supported a maximum of 256KB RAM. You can buy an equivalent computer today with substantially more CPU power at a fraction of the price. But in those 31 years, the information security functionality in which the PC operates has not progressed accordingly. In Burdens of Proof: Cryptographic Culture and Evidence Law in the Age of Electronic Documents, author Jean-François Blanchette observes that the move to a paperless society means that paper-based evidence needs to be recreated in the digital world. It also requires an underlying security functionality to flow seamlessly across organizations, government agencies and the like. While the computing power is there, the ability to create a seamless cryptographic culture is much slower in coming." Keep reading for the rest of Ben's review.
New submitter wilbrod writes "A Quebec special effects artist charged with corrupting morals has been found not guilty in a case that tested the boundaries of creative expression and Canadian obscenity laws. He was charged with three counts of corrupting morals by distributing, possessing and producing obscene material. During the trial, Couture argued his gory works, roughly a thousand images and two short videos that appeared on Couture's website, Inner Depravity, should be considered art. The material in question depicts gruesome murders, torture, sexual abuse, assaults and necrophilia — all with young female victims."
The Internet Archive curates an astounding collection (actually, a collection of collections) of online resources, from historically significant to modern but obscure. Storing, serving and organizing more than 10 petabytes isn't cheap, despite their ongoing efforts to innovate on that front. An anonymous reader writes "An anonymous donor is matching $3 for every $1 given (up to $450,000) until December 31. One petabyte has been paid for so far and the archive is looking at getting three more. 'These massive servers are the backbone of the Archive, and critical to our continued growth. To all of you who've contributed to our fundraising drive, thanks from all of us here at the Internet Archive. '"