Aciel writes "Ruby has long been popular in the web/business community, while Python dominates the scientific community. One new project seeks to bring balance to the force: SciRuby. We've already introduced a linear algebra library called NMatrix (currently alpha status). There's at least one fellowship available for students interested in working on the project this summer."
Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive
The Bad Astronomer writes "For the first time, astronomers have detected the light from a 'super-Earth' exoplanet. The planet 55 Cancri e (with twice the radius and 8 times the mass of Earth) circles its host star every 18 hours, and is so hot it glows in the infrared. By observing in that wavelength, the astronomers measured the dip in light as the planet's glow was blocked by the star itself. This is the reverse of the usual method of detecting a planet as it blocks the light of its host star."
snydeq writes "Since so many recent exploits have used Java as their attack vector, you might conclude Java should be shown the exit, but the reality is that Java is not the problem, writes Security Advisor's Roger Grimes. 'Sure, I could opt not to use those Java-enabled services or install Java and uninstall when I'm finished. But the core problem isn't necessarily Java's exploitability; nearly all software is exploitable. It's unpatched Java. Few successful Java-related attacks are related to zero-day exploits. Almost all are related to Java security bugs that have been patched for months (or longer),' Grimes writes. 'The bottom line is that we aren't addressing the real problems. It isn't a security bug here and there in a particular piece of software; that's a problem we'll never get rid of. Instead, we allow almost all cyber criminals to get away with their Internet crime without any penalty. They almost never get caught and punished. Until we solve the problem of accountability, we will never get rid of the underlying problem.'"
Sparrowvsrevolution writes "In defense of user privacy, Twitter filed a motion (PDF) yesterday in a New York state court asking a judge to block a subpoena that would force the company to turn over the data of one of its users, Malcolm Harris. Harris was arrested in an Occupy Wall Street protest on the Brooklyn Bridge in October for 'disorderly conduct.' The company's lawyers claim that the subpoena violates the fourth amendment and Twitter's terms of service, which says that users' tweets belong to them and thus can't be handed over to law enforcement without their consent."
MrSeb writes "This story began as an investigation into why Cyberlink's Media Espresso software produced video files of wildly varying quality and size depending on which GPU was used for the task. It then expanded into a comparison of several alternate solutions. Our goal was to find a program that would encode at a reasonably high quality level (~1GB per hour was the target) and require a minimal level of expertise from the user. The conclusion, after weeks of work and going blind staring at enlarged images, is that the state of 'consumer' GPU transcoding is still a long, long way from prime time use. In short, it's simply not worth using the GPU to accelerate your video transcodes; it's much better to simply use Handbrake, which uses your CPU."
colinneagle sends this quote from an article about the ever-growing patent racket in the tech industry: "The lawsuits are raging all across the tech world. Oracle sues Google, Yahoo sues Facebook, they counter-sue. Others threaten, others buy more patents and the circle goes round and round. Don't be fooled by the lawsuits between these tech titans though. The real cost that the patent mafia extracts from the tech world is on the smaller companies who can't afford to battle the Apples and Microsofts of the world. Their choices are far simpler. They can abandon their innovations or they can choose to pay and allow the Mafiosos to wet their beaks. Also, don't be fooled about who the real losers are here. The the real losers are you and me. ... So what do do? Here is my opinion. I would make it just as expensive for the offensive patent prosecutors. Just as the government put in the RICO act to combat organized crime, I would put a similar law in place on patents. RICO calls for treble damages. I would have treble awards of costs and legal fees. If a patent holder sues another entity for patent violation and that suit fails, the plaintiff who brought the suit should pay treble damages to the defendant. Three times what the defendant paid to defend."
Qedward writes "Chief operating officer Kevin Turner says Microsoft will be 'carbon neutral across all our direct operations including data centers, software development labs, air travel, and office buildings' from July 1, the start of the 2012 fiscal year. Turner added: 'We are hopeful that our decision will encourage other companies, large and small, to look at what they can do to address this important issue."
An anonymous reader sends word that Apache OpenOffice 3.4 has been released (download). This is the first release since OpenOffice became a project at the Apache Software Foundation. The release notes list all of the improvements, the highlights of which The H has summarized: "According to its developers, Apache OpenOffice (AOO) 3.4.0, the first update since OpenOffice.org 3.3.0 from January 2011, now starts up faster than its predecessor and introduces a number of new features such as support for documents secured using AES256 encryption. The Linear Programming solver in the Calc spreadsheet program has been replaced with the CoinMP C-API library from the Computational Infrastructure for Operations Research (COIN-OR) project. As in LibreOffice 3.4.0, the DataPilot functionality has been renamed to Pivot Table, and now supports an unlimited number of fields. A new 'Quote all text cells' CSV (Comma Separated Values) export option has been also added to Calc. Other changes include improved ODF 1.2 encryption and Unix Printing support and various enhancements to the Impress presentation and Draw sketching programs."
Fluffeh writes "Around nine months ago, BART Police asked to have wireless communications disabled (PDF) between Trans Bay Tube Portal and the Balboa Park Station. That was because they knew a public protest was to take place there — and the service to the underground communication system was disabled. This affected not only cellphone signals, but also the radio systems of Police, Fire and Ambulance crews (PDF) within the underground. This led to an even larger protest at a BART station and many folks filed complaints along with the American Civil Liberties Union and Electronic Frontier Foundation. The FCC responded by launching a probe into the incident. The results were a mixed bag of 'To protect citizens!' and 'Only in extreme cases,' not to mention the classic 'Terrorists use wireless communications!' But even if the probe doesn't lead to a full proceeding and formal order, the findings may well be used as a guide for many years to come."
OverTheGeicoE writes "Savannah Barry, a Colorado teenager, was returning home from a conference in Salt Lake City. She is a diabetic and wears an insulin pump to control her insulin levels 24/7. She carries documentation of her condition to assist screeners, who usually give her a pat-down search. This time the screeners listened to her story, read her doctor's letter, and forced her to go through a millimeter-wave body scanner anyway. The insulin pump stopped working correctly, and of course, she was subjected to an invasive manual search. 'My life is pretty much in their hands when I go through a body scan with my insulin pump on,' she says. She wants TSA screeners to have more training. Was this a predictable outcome, considering that no one outside TSA has access to millimeter-wave scanners for testing? Would oversight from the FDA or FCC prevent similar incidents from happening in the future?"
scibri writes "An overlooked factor could shrink the habitable zone for planets around M-class dwarf stars by as much as 50%. For these smaller, cooler stars, the habitable zone was thought to extend to relatively close orbits. But as you get closer to a star, the tidal force it exerts on a planet increases. Since planets do not have perfectly circular orbits, tidal forces cause the planet to flex and unflex each time it moves closer to or further from its star; kneading its interior to produce massive quantities of frictional heat — enough to scour the planet of any liquid water. Because M-class dwarf stars are the most numerous in the galaxy, and close-in planets are easier to spot than more distant ones, such stars have been a major target for planet hunters seeking Earth-like worlds. But now it seems we may have been looking in the wrong place for Earth's twin."
TheGift73 sends this excerpt from TorrentFreak: "Despite the widespread availability of pirated releases, The Avengers just scored a record-breaking $200 million opening weekend at the box office. While some are baffled to see that piracy failed to crush the movie's profits, it's really not that surprising. Claiming a camcorded copy of a movie seriously impacts box office attendance is the same as arguing that concert bootlegs stop people from seeing artists on stage. ... Of all the people who downloaded a pirate copy of the film about 20% came from the U.S. This means that roughly 100,000 Americans have downloaded a copy online through BitTorrent. Now, IF all these people bought a movie ticket instead then box office revenue would be just 0.5% higher. Not much of an impact, and even less when you consider that these 'pirates' do not all count as a lost sale."
rrossman2 writes "With the birth of our son (who is now just over two), we have snapped and accumulated a ton of pictures — on Panoramio, Picasa, Facebook, etc. What is the best option for bulk printing the photos to a physical format? We all know how fast technology advances, as well as how fast sites come and go; I want a way to have these pictures for my son when he is older... just like my grandfather has photos of himself from World War II, my parents have photos of me when I was little, etc. Are there any affordable services that you can upload the photos to that print and deliver long-lasting pictures? How well do today's photo ink jets last, and what's the best type of paper? I do have a cheaper Samsung color laser printer, but color lasers don't make the most color-rich prints, and using normal photo paper you can find in big box stores doesn't work out too well, as the laser toner seems to peel off on the rollers and gum things up. (Is there a good long lasting paper that seems to work well with laser printers?) I can see what's going to happen in the future: all of the digital photos people take now are going to either end up on a website that won't be around in 20+ years, or get stuck on disks or flash memory that won't last, or for which interfacing with the media will become difficult or impossible."
Hugh Pickens writes "The Washington Times reports that the Food and Drug Administration may soon permit Americans to obtain some drugs used to treat conditions such as high blood pressure and diabetes without obtaining a prescription. They may allow patients to diagnose their ailments by answering questions online or at a pharmacy kiosk in order to buy current prescription-only drugs for conditions such as high cholesterol, certain infections, migraine headaches, asthma or allergies. Some pharmacists embrace the notion that they should be able to dole out medication for patients' chronic conditions without making them go through a doctor. 'This could eliminate the need for a physician visit for certain meds that may have been prescription prior to this change,' said Ronna Hauser, vice president of policy and regulatory affairs for the National Community Pharmacists Association. 'However, there may be circumstances when a patient might need a physician visit and diagnosis and original prescription to start therapy but could continue on that therapy with pharmacist refill authorization capabilities.'" (Read more, below.)
angry tapir writes "Micron has said that DDR4 memory — the successor to DDR3 DRAM — will reach computers next year, and that the company has started shipping samples of the upcoming DDR memory type. DDR4 is more power-efficient and faster than DDR3. New forms of DDR memory first make it into servers and desktops, and then into laptops. Micron said it hopes that DDR4 memory will also reach portable devices like tablets, which currently use forms of low-power DDR3 and DDR2 memory."