Harperdog writes "Noah Schactman has a great piece on the Airborne Laser, the ray gun-equipped 747 that became a symbol of wasteful Pentagon weaponeering. Despite sixteen years and billions of dollars in development, the jet could never reliably blast a missile in trials. Now the House Armed Services Committee's Strategic Forces wants the Airborne Laser to be used to defend us against the threat of North Korea's failed missiles."
Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive
bonch writes "According to the FCC report, Google's collection of Street View data was not the unauthorized act of a rogue engineer, as Google had portrayed it, but an authorized program known to supervisors and at least seven other engineers. The original proposal contradicts Google's claim that there was no intent to gather payload data: 'We are logging user traffic along with sufficient data to precisely triangulate their position at a given time, along with information about what they were doing.'"
An anonymous reader writes "More bad news comes from Apple's iDevice manufacturing partner Foxconn that is sure to ruffle the feathers of Apple fans. From the story: 'Factory workers at a Foxconn plant in Jundiaí, Brazil are complaining of overcrowded buses, poor food and a lack of water and have threatened to strike unless the issues are resolved by May 3. According to a report by Brazil's Tech Guru (Google Translation), over 2,500 Foxconn employees have complained about conditions at the factory. Workers reportedly met last Monday to raise the concerns and have given the company 10 days to address them.'"
suraj.sun writes "According to The Hill, 'The Social Networking Online Protection Act, introduced by Democratic Reps. Eliot Engel (N.Y.) and Jan Schakowsky (Ill.), would prohibit current or potential employers from demanding a username or password to a social networking account. "We must draw the line somewhere and define what is private," Engel said in a statement. "No one would feel comfortable going to a public place and giving out their username and passwords to total strangers. They should not be required to do so at work, at school, or while trying to obtain work or an education. This is a matter of personal privacy and makes sense in our digital world."' Ars adds, 'The bill would apply the same prohibitions to colleges, universities, and K-12 schools. ... Facebook has already threatened legal action against organizations who require employees to reveal their Facebook passwords as policy.'" Maryland beat them to the punch, and other states are working on similar laws too. We'll have to hope the U.S. House doesn't kill this one like they did the last attempt. The difference this time is that the concept has its own bill, while its previous incarnation was an amendment to an existing bill about reforming FCC procedures.
An anonymous reader writes "An article at the NY Times explains the how the most profitable tech company in the world becomes even more profitable by finding ways to avoid or minimize taxes. Quoting: 'Apple's headquarters are in Cupertino, Calif. By putting an office in Reno, just 200 miles away, to collect and invest the company's profits, Apple sidesteps state income taxes on some of those gains. California's corporate tax rate is 8.84 percent. Nevada's? Zero. ... As it has in Nevada, Apple has created subsidiaries in low-tax places like Ireland, the Netherlands, Luxembourg and the British Virgin Islands — some little more than a letterbox or an anonymous office — that help cut the taxes it pays around the world. ... Without such tactics, Apple's federal tax bill in the United States most likely would have been $2.4 billion higher last year, according to a recent study (PDF) by a former Treasury Department economist, Martin A. Sullivan. As it stands, the company paid cash taxes of $3.3 billion around the world on its reported profits of $34.2 billion last year, a tax rate of 9.8 percent."
An anonymous reader writes "In what may win awards for the silliest-sounding lawsuit of the year, a case about whether Facebook 'likes' qualify for free speech protection under the First Amendment has ended in a decisive 'no.' In the run-up to an election for Sheriff, some of the incumbent's employees made their support for the challenger known by 'liking' his page on Facebook. After the incumbent won re-election, the employees were terminated, supposedly because of budget concerns. The employees had taken a few other actions as well — bumper stickers and cookouts — but they couldn't prove the Sheriff was aware of them. The judge thus ruled that 'merely "liking" a Facebook page is insufficient speech to merit constitutional protection. In cases where courts have found that constitutional speech protections extended to Facebook posts, actual statements existed within the record.'"
techfun89 writes "There is a BOLD new plan for detecting signs of microbial life on Mars. The nickname is BOLD, which stands for Biological Oxidant and Life Detection Initiative, would be a follow-up to the 1976 Mars Viking life-detection experiments. 'We have much better technology that we could use,' says BOLD lead scientist Dirk Schulze-Makuch, with Washington State University. He elaborates, 'Our idea is to make a relatively cheap mission and go more directly to characterize and solve the big question about the soil properties on Mars and life detection.' To help figure out the life-detection mystery, Schulze-Makuch and his colleagues would fly a set of six pyramid-shaped probes that would crash land, pointy end down, so they embed themselves four to eight inches into the soil. One of the instruments includes a sensor that can detect a single molecule of DNA or other nucleotide."
First time accepted submitter cos(0) writes "Between O'Reilly, Wrox, Addison-Wesley, The Pragmatic Bookshelf, and many others, software developers have a wide variety of literature about languages, patterns, practices, and tools. Many publishers even offer subscriptions to online reading of the whole collection, exposing you to things you didn't even know you don't know — and many of us learn more from these publishers than from a Comp Sci curriculum. But what about publishers and books specializing in tech underneath software — like VHDL, Verilog, design tools, and wire protocols? In particular, best practices, modeling techniques, and other skills that separate a novice from an expert?"
nicholast writes "The New Yorker has a story by Ken Auletta about the connections between Stanford and Silicon Valley. The piece explains how important the university is to tech companies and venture capital firms, but it also questions whether Stanford has become too focused on wealth. 'It's an atmosphere that can be toxic to the mission of the university as a place of refuge, contemplation, and investigation for its own sake,' says one professor. The piece also explains Stanford's conflicted thoughts about distance education, which could transform the university or prove to be a threat to it."
Matching widespread predictions, The Bad Astronomer writes with word that "The private company Planetary Resources has announced that it plans to mine asteroids for water, air, and even precious metals in the next few years. Your initial reaction may be to snicker a bit, but it's headed by Peter Diamandis — who established the X Prize — has several ex-NASA personnel running the engineering, and also has the backing of a half-dozen or so billionaires. So this is no joke — their plan looks solid, and may very well be the first step in establishing a permanent human presence in space."
An anonymous reader sends this quote from an opinion piece at Bloomberg: "Many programmers find that their employability starts to decline at about age 35. Employers dismiss them as either lacking in up-to-date technical skills — such as the latest programming-language fad — or 'not suitable for entry level.' In other words, either underqualified or overqualified. That doesn’t leave much, does it? Statistics show that most software developers are out of the field by age 40. Employers have admitted this in unguarded moments. Craig Barrett, a former chief executive officer of Intel Corp., famously remarked that 'the half-life of an engineer, software or hardware, is only a few years,' while Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook has blurted out that young programmers are superior."
eldavojohn writes "Not two weeks after Microsoft purchased 925 patents and patent applications plus licenses to AOL's portfolio for $1 billion, Facebook has now acquired 650 of said patents and patent applications for $550 million to which Microsoft retains a license. So, was Microsoft's $450 million worth it? According to their press release: 'Upon closing of this transaction with Facebook, Microsoft will retain ownership of approximately 275 AOL patents and applications; a license to the approximately 650 AOL patents and applications that will now be owned by Facebook; and a license to approximately 300 patents that AOL did not sell in its auction.' Will the patent-go-round continue, or has Facebook loaded up for a good old-fashion Mexican standoff?"
vivIsel writes "This morning, President Obama is set to unveil a new executive order that will allow the U.S. to specifically target sanctions against individuals, companies or countries who use technology to enable human rights abuse. Especially as repressive regimes more effectively monitor their dissidents online (rather than simply blocking access), the sanctions focus on companies that help them do that."
DustyShadow writes "The University of Florida announced this past week that it was dropping its computer science department, which will allow it to save about $1.7 million. The school is eliminating all funding for teaching assistants in computer science, cutting the graduate and research programs entirely, and moving the tattered remnants into other departments. Students at UF have already organized protests, and have created a website dedicated to saving the CS department. Several distinguished computer scientists have written to the president of UF to express their concerns, in very blunt terms. Prof. Zvi Galil, Dean of Computing at Georgia Tech, is 'amazed, shocked, and angered.' Prof. S.N. Maheshwari, former Dean of Engineering at IIT Delhi, calls this move 'outrageously wrong.' Computer scientist Carl de Boor, a member of the National Academy of Sciences and winner of the 2003 National Medal of Science, asked the UF president 'What were you thinking?'"