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Posts from September, 2009

Old Operating Systems Never Die

Sep 18

Harry writes “Haiku, an open-source re-creation of legendary 1990s operating system BeOS, was released in alpha form this week. The news made me happy and led me to check in on the status of other once-prominent OSes — CP/M, OS/2, AmigaOS, and more. Remarkably, none of them are truly defunct: In one form or another, they or their descendants are still available, being used by real people to accomplish useful tasks. Has there ever been a major OS that simply went away, period?”

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Student Designs Cardboard Computer Case

Sep 18

SpaceGhost writes “The Houston Chronicle has a story on a Grad student at the University of Houston who has designed a cardboard case for a computer. This is not a new concept, but this one is meant to be used in manufacture. The idea is that it will be faster and easier to produce (no fasteners for example) and dramatically easier to recycle.”

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Gravitational Currents Could Slash Fuel Needed For Space Flight

Sep 18

Hugh Pickens writes “BBC reports that scientists are mapping the gravitational corridors created from the complex interplay of attractive forces between planets and moons that can be used to cut the cost of journeys in space. ‘Basically the idea is there are low energy pathways winding between planets and moons that would slash the amount of fuel needed to explore the solar system,’ says Professor Shane Ross from Virginia Tech. ‘These are free-fall pathways in space around and between gravitational bodies. Instead of falling down, like you do on Earth, you fall along these tubes.’ The pathways connect Lagrange points where gravitational forces balance out. Depicted by computer graphics, the pathways look like strands of spaghetti that wrap around planetary bodies and snake between them. ‘If you’re in a parking orbit round the Earth, and one of them intersects your trajectory, you just need enough fuel to change your velocity and now you’re on a new trajectory that is free,’ says Ross. ‘You could travel between the moons of Jupiter essentially for free. All you need is a little bit of fuel to do course corrections.’ The Genesis spacecraft used gravitational pathways that allowed the amount of fuel carried by the probe to be cut 10-fold, but the trade off is time. While it would take a few months to get around the Jovian moon system using gravitational currents (PDF), attempting to get a free ride from Earth to Mars on the currents might take thousands of years.”

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Garlic Farmer Wards Off High-Speed Internet

Sep 18

DocVM writes “A Nova Scotia farmer is opposing the construction of a microwave tower for fear it will eventually mutate his organic garlic crop. Lenny Levine, who has been planting and harvesting garlic by hand on his Annapolis Valley land since the 1970s, is afraid his organic crop could be irradiated if EastLink builds a microwave tower for wireless high-speed internet access a few hundred meters from his farm.”

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Lawyer Demands Jury Stops Googling

Sep 18

coomaria noted an unsurprising story about how courts are having problems with jurors Googling during cases. As anyone who has ever been called for jury duty knows, you aren’t allowed to get outside information about the case you are hearing, but apparently the iPhone makes it far too easy to ignore this advice. A lawyer is trying to get jurors to sign a form explicitly stating they won’t “use ‘personal electronic and media devices’ to research or communicate about the case.” Of course, I’m not exactly sure why a juror should need to sign something for your iPhone but not a newspaper.

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How GNOME and KDE Spend Their Money

Sep 18

bluescarni writes ‘A side-by-side analysis of GNOME’s and KDE’s quarterly reports sheds some light (and dispels some myths) on the nature and the quantity of the funds of the two projects.’

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Google Buys reCAPTCHA For Better Book Scanning

Sep 18

TimmyC writes “This story may interest the Slashdot folk, many of whom use the reCAPTCHA anti-spam service. Well, reCAPTCHA is now owned by Google. Apparently, what attracted Google to ReCAPTCHA is that the company has linked its core authentication service with efforts to digitize print books and periodicals. The search giant has a massive (and controversial) effort underway in that area for its Google Books and Google News Archive services. Every time people solve a CAPTCHA from the company, they are also, as a byproduct, helping to turn scanned words into plain text that can be indexed and made searchable by search engines. Interesting times indeed.”

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DHS To Review Report On US Power Grid Vulnerability

Sep 16

CWmike writes “The US Department of Homeland Security is looking at a report by a research scientist in China that shows how a well-placed attack against a small power subnetwork could trigger a cascading failure of the entire West Coast power grid. Jian-Wei Wang, a network analyst at China’s Dalian University of Technology, used publicly available information to model how the West Coast grid and its component subnetworks are connected. Wang and another colleague then investigated how a major outage in one subnetwork would affect adjacent subnetworks. New Scientist magazine reported on this a week or so ago, and the paper has been available since the spring.”

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No App Store For Microsoft’s Zune HD

Sep 16

Xerfas writes ‘Microsoft’s Zune HD, set to go on sale Tuesday, will not feature an open application store like its competitor the iPod Touch. It will come with some unique features, though, like an HD radio tuner, and with software that has been well-received by users. Those capabilities will determine whether the ZuneHD sells well — and whether Microsoft decides to keep selling its own music player, said Matt Rosoff, an analyst at Directions on Microsoft.’ The Zune marketing manager was quoted in the Seattle Times on whether the Zune would open up for 3rd-party apps, and he gave a response of such mind-numbing PR-speak that John Gruber of Daring Fireball was moved to provide this English translation: “No, because our mobile strategy is a convoluted mess.”

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SANS Report Says Organizations Focusing On the Wrong Security Threats

Sep 16

yahoi writes “Companies around the world are leaving themselves wide open to Web- and client-side attacks, according to a new report released today by the SANS Institute that includes real attack data gathered from multiple sources. SANS found that most organizations are focusing their patching efforts and vulnerability scanning on the operating system, but they’re missing the boat: 60 percent of the total number of attacks occur on Web applications, and many attacks are aimed at third-party applications such as Microsoft Office, and Adobe Flash and other tools. Exacerbating the problem, they’re taking twice as long to patch Microsoft Office and other applications than to patch their operating systems.”

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