itwbennett writes "As previously reported on Slashdot, in November of last year, the city of Munich reported savings of over €10 million from its switch to Linux. Microsoft subsequently commissioned a study (conducted by HP) that found that, in fact, 'Munich would have saved €43.7 million if it had stuck with Microsoft.' Now, Microsoft has said it won't release the study, saying that '[it] was commissioned by Microsoft to HP Consulting for internal purposes only.'"
Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive
Nerval's Lobster writes "For quite some time Mozilla has been working on Firefox OS, a lightweight mobile OS built in HTML5. Now it's whipped the curtain back from the first developer preview phones. The developer preview phones are unlocked, requiring the user insert their own SIM card. If those specs seem a little underpowered compared to other smartphones on the market, it's because Firefox OS is intended for lower-end smartphones; target markets include developing countries such as Brazil and China. (The first developer preview phones will be available in February.) The Firefox OS (once known as 'Boot to Gecko') is based on a handful of open APIs. The actual interface is highly reminiscent of Google Android and Apple iOS, with grids of icons linked to applications." The specs really aren't that bad; reader sfcrazy points out that they include the usual features baked into medium- and high-end phones these days: Wifi N, light and proximity sensors, and an accelerometer (though no mention of NFC).
Bennett Haselton writes "Here are three hacks that I adopted in the last few weeks, each of which solved a minor problem that I had lived with for so long that I no longer thought of it as a problem — until a solution came along, which was like a small weight off my shoulders. None of these hacks will help impress anyone with your technical prowess; I'm just putting them here because they made my life easier." Read on for the rest of Bennett's thoughts.
An anonymous reader writes "Red Hat developers are planning to replace MySQL with MariaDB in Fedora 19. For the next Fedora update, the MariaDB fork would replace MySQL and the official MySQL package would be discontinued after some time. The reasoning for this move is the uncertainty about Oracle's support of MySQL as an open-source project and moves to make the database more closed." Update: 01/22 13:47 GMT by T : Note: "Nixing" may be a bit strong; this move has been proposed, but is not yet officially decided.
theodp writes "The NY Times takes a look at how MIT ensnared Aaron Swartz, but doesn't shed much light on how the incident became a Federal case with Secret Service involvement. Still, the article is interesting with its report that 'E-mails among M.I.T. officials that Tuesday in January 2011 highlight the pressures university officials felt' from JSTOR, which is generally viewed as a good guy in the incident. From the story: 'Ann J. Wolpert, the director of libraries, wrote to Ellen Finnie Duranceau, the official who was receiving JSTOR's complaints: "Has there ever been a situation similar to this when we brought in campus police? The magnitude, systematic and careful nature of the abuses could be construed as approaching criminal action. Certainly, that's how JSTOR views it."' Less than a week later, a Google search reveals, Duranceau notified the MIT community that immediate changes to JSTOR access had to be made lest the University be subjected to a JSTOR 'death sentence.' 'Because JSTOR has recently reported excessive, systematic downloading of articles at MIT,' the post warned, 'we need to add a new layer of access control. This is the only way to prevent recurrence of the abuse and therefore the only way to ensure ongoing access to this valuable resource for the MIT Community.' The post concludes, 'The incidents that prompted this change involved the use of a robot, which is prohibited by JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use. ...Continued access to JSTOR and other resources is dependent on the MIT Community complying with these policies.' Hope you enjoyed that freewheeling culture while it lasted, kids — now Everything is a Crime."
judgecorp writes "The European Commission has proposals for data privacy (including the 'right to be forgotten') and the U.S. government is opposing them. Now U.S. activists have arrived in Brussels to lobby against their government's opposition to the European measures. The move comes following reports of 'extreme' lobbying by U.S. authorities against the European proposals." Although the "right to be forgotten" raises some free speech issues, it doesn't seem like a bad idea in principle.
First time accepted submitter skywire writes "After years of forcing innocent customers to navigate a Kafkaesque process to unfreeze their funds, PayPal has announced that they are preparing major changes to alleviate the pain. From the article: 'The company routinely freezes funds for 21 days if it thinks there's a fraud risk, and its terms give it the right to extend the freeze for up to 180 days. To get access to their money, users are often asked to provide the kind of documentation that a product seller would have, like several months' worth of sales records. But if you're running a fundraiser or selling tickets to an upcoming conference, you don't have that paperwork. Even for those with extensive paper trails, the appeals process can take months to resolve. The Web is filled with enraged blog posts, websites like paypalsucks.com, and a Tumblr called "Conferences Burned by PayPal."'"
The Bad Astronomer writes "Studies of carbon-14 in Japanese trees and beryllium-10 in Antarctic ice indicate the Earth was hit by a big radiation blast in 775 AD. Although very rare, occurring only once every million years or so, the most likely culprit is a gamma-ray burst, a cosmic explosion accompanying the birth of a black hole. While a big solar flare is still in the running, a GRB from merging neutron stars produces the ratio of carbon and beryllium observed, and also can explain why no bright explosion was seen at the time, and no supernova remnant is seen now."
benrothke writes "In the 4th edition of A Gift of Fire: Social, Legal, and Ethical Issues for Computing Technology, author Sara Baase takes a broad look at the social, legal and ethical issues around technology and their implications. Baase notes that her primary goal in writing the book is for computer professionals to understand the implications of what they create and how it fits into society. The book is an interesting analysis of a broad set of topics. Combined with Baase's superb writing skills, the book is both an excellent reference and a fascinating read." Read below for the rest of Ben's review.
jones_supa writes "The classic hacker book publisher O'Reilly is releasing their book Open Government for free as a tribute for Aaron Swartz. The book asks the question, in a world where web services can make real-time data accessible to anyone, how can the government leverage this openness to improve its operations and increase citizen participation and awareness? Through a collection of essays and case studies, leading visionaries and practitioners both inside and outside of government share their ideas on how to achieve and direct this emerging world of online collaboration, transparency, and participation. The files are posted on the O'Reilly Media GitHub account as PDF, Mobi, and EPUB files."
judgecorp writes "A UK government contract has confirmed earlier reports that British citizens will have the option to use PayPal to accredit themselves for public services such as the new Universal Credit benefit system. Using PayPal might be a public relations goof, as PayPal's parent eBay is notoriously clever at avoiding UK taxes, recently paying only £1.2 million on profit of £789 million (around 0.15 percent)."
First time accepted submitter halls-of-valhalla writes "Atari was one of the very first video game companies, starting way back in 1972. However, this long-running name that brought us titles like Pong and Asteroids is having major financial issues. Atari's United States branches have filed for bankruptcy on Sunday. This bankruptcy is an attempt to separate themselves from their French parent which has quite a bit of debt. The plan is to split from the French parent and find a buyer to form a private company."
innocent_white_lamb writes "In what appears to be a more-and-more common occurrence, Ahmed Al-Khabez has been expelled from Dawson College in Montreal after he discovered a flaw in the software that the college (and apparently all other colleges across Quebec) uses to track student information. His original intention was to write a mobile app to allow students to access their college account more easily, but during the development of his app he discovered 'sloppy coding' that would allow anyone to access all of the information that the system contains about any student. He was initially ordered to sign a non-disclosure agreement stating that he would never talk about the flaw that he discovered, and he was expelled from the college shortly afterward."
riverat1 writes "The Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature studies latest release finds that land surface temperature changes since 1750 are nearly completely explained by increases in greenhouse gases and large volcanic eruptions. They also said that including solar forcing did not significantly improve the fit. Unlike the other major temperature records BEST used nearly all available temperature records instead of just a representative sample. Yet to come is an analysis that includes ocean temperatures."