Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive
westlake writes "From Peoria, the WSJ a look at the giant trucks manufactured by Komatsu and Caterpillar. 'In certain areas — notably aircraft, industrial engines, excavators and railway and mining equipment — the U.S. exports far more than it imports. These industries produce relatively small numbers of very expensive goods, requiring specialized technology and labor. Their competitive advantage rests partly on expertise built by U.S. companies in making durable, high-tech weaponry and other equipment for the military — frequently applicable to other products.' It may surprise you to learn that Komatsu doesn't employee a single industrial robot. The quality of workmanship simply isn't there where it is needed."
lkcl writes about his effort to go further than others have, and actually have a processor designed for Free Software manufactured: "A new processor is being put together — one that is FSF Endorseable, contains no proprietary hardware engines, yet an 800MHz 8-core version would, at 38 GFLOPS, be powerful enough on raw GFLOPS performance figures to take on the 3ghz AMD Phenom II x4 940, the 3GHz Intel i7 920 and other respectable mid-range 100 Watt CPUs. The difference is: power consumption in 40nm for an 8-core version would be under 3 watts. The core design has been proven in 65nm, and is based on a hybrid approach, with its general-purpose instruction set being designed from the ground up to help accelerate 3D Graphics and Video Encode and Decode, an 8-core 800mhz version would be capable of 1080p30 H.264 decode, and have peak 3D rates of 320 million triangles/sec and a peak fill rate of 1600 million pixels/sec. The unusual step in the processor world is being taken to solicit input from the Free Software Community at large before going ahead with putting the chip together. So have at it: if given carte blanche, what interfaces and what features would you like an FSF-Endorseable mass-volume processor to have? (Please don't say 'DRM' or 'built-in spyware')." There's some discussion on arm-netbook. This is the guy behind the first EOMA-68 card (currently nearing production). As a heads ups, we'll be interviewing him in a live style similarly to Woz (although intentionally this time) next Tuesday.
GabriellaKat writes "Via El Reg: 'Apple is trying to patent wireless charging, claiming its magnetic resonance tech is new and that it can do it better than anyone else. This would be cool if its assertions were true. Apple's application, numbered 20120303980, makes much of its ability to charge a device over the air at a distance of up to a meter, rather than requiring close proximity. The Alliance For Wireless Power, which also touts long-range juicing, will no doubt be comparing Apple's designs to its own blueprints.'"
Slashdot regular contributor Bennett Haselton writes "My last article on prediction markets contained an erroneous assumption, one whose implications are far-reaching enough that they deserve their own article. (And if you read to the end, I'm offering $100 to be split between the readers who submit the best alternative solution or the best counter-argument to the points made here.)" Read below for the rest of Bennett's thoughts.
Eugene Kaspersky probably hates malware just as much as you do on his own machines, but as the head of Kaspersky Labs, the world's largest privately held security software company, he might have a different perspective — the existence of malware and other forms of online malice drives the need for security software of all kinds, and not just on personal desktops or typical internet servers. The SCADA software vulnerabilities of the last few years have led him to announce work on an operating system for industrial control systems of the kind affected by Flame and Stuxnet. But Kaspersky is not just toiling away in the computer equivalent of the CDC: He's been outspoken in his opinions — some of which have drawn ire on Slashdot, like calling for mandatory "Internet ID" and an "Internet Interpol". He's also come out in favor of Internet voting, and against SOPA, even pulling his company out of the BSA over it. More recently, he's been criticized for ties to the current Russian government. (With regard to that Wired article, though, read Kaspersky's detailed response to its claims.) Now, he's agreed to answer Slashdot readers' questions. As usual, you're encouraged to ask all the question you'd like, but please confine your questions to one per post. We'll pass on the best of these for Kaspersky's answers. Update: 12/04 14:20 GMT by T : For more on Kaspersky's thoughts on the importance of online IDs, see this detailed blog posting.
Hugh Pickens writes writes "BBC reports that scientists have developed a technique that can make bread stay mold-free for 60 days that could also be used with a wide range of foods including fresh turkey and many fruits and vegetables. At its laboratory on the campus of Texas Tech University in Lubbock, Don Stull of Microzap showed off the long, metallic microwave device that resembles an industrial production line. Originally designed to kill bacteria such as MRSA and salmonella, the researchers discovered it could kill the mold spores in bread in around 10 seconds. 'We treated a slice of bread in the device, we then checked the mold that was in that bread over time against a control,' says Stull. 'And at 60 days it had the same mold content as it had when it came out of the oven.' Food waste is a massive problem in most developed countries. In the US, figures released this year suggest that the average American family throws away 40% of the food they purchase — which adds up to $165 Billion annually. There is some concern that consumers might not take to bread that lasts for so long and Stull acknowledges it might be difficult to convince some people of the benefits. 'We'll have to get some consumer acceptance of that. Most people do it by feel and if you still have that quality feel they probably will accept it.'"
Nate the greatest writes "One of the stranger ereader/smartphone hybrid devices ever to grace the pages of a tech blog is now officially never dead. Polymer Vision, creator of the Readius ereader, has been shut down by its parent company. This company launched in 2004 with the goal of bring an ereader with a foldable 5" E-ink screen to market. They shipped an initial production run of about 100 thousand units before going bankrupt in 2009. Wistron bought the company out of receivership and has been paying to develop the screen tech. PV has made a number of prototypes over the past few years, but they never made it out of the lab. The closest we came to ever seeing one was a render of a smartphone design which could expand to the size of a tablet."
Rick Zeman writes "They've had the best of times, and now they're living through the worst of times. The Washington Post talks about the dissolution of both Kodak's and Polaroid's business models, what Kodak can learn from Polaroid's earlier mistakes, and the resurrection of some classic Polaroid tech by private entrepreneurs."
theodp writes "Don't believe everything Steve Jobs and Tim Cook tell you, advises The Verge's Sean Hollister. Gunshy of touchscreen laptops after hearing the two Apple CEOs dismiss the technology (Jobs: 'Touch surfaces don't want to be vertical.' Cook: 'You can converge a toaster and a refrigerator, but those things are probably not gonna be pleasing to the user.'), Hollister was surprised to discover that Windows 8 touchscreen laptops actually don't suck and that the dreaded 'Gorilla Arm Syndrome' did not materialize. 'The more I've used Windows 8, despite its faults, the more I've become convinced that touchscreens are the future — even vertical ones,' writes Hollister. 'We've been looking at this all wrong. A touchscreen isn't a replacement for a keyboard or mouse, it's a complement.' Echoing a prediction from Coding Horror's Jeff Atwood that 'it is only a matter of time before all laptops must be touch laptops,' Hollister wouldn't be surprised at all if Apple eventually embraces-and-extends the tech: 'Microsoft might have validated the idea, but now Apple has another chance to swoop in, perfecting and popularizing the very interface that it strategically ridiculed just two years ago. It wouldn't be the first time. After all, how many iPad minis come with sandpaper for filing fingers down?'"
bellwould writes "In teaching information tech to a 13-year-old with autism spectrum disorder (ASD), I've found she's wildly interested in the details of data transmission but not programming. We've had limited success with command-line tools like traceroute and tcpdump, but now I'm seeking tips/advice on software that may help her explore and visualize things like transmission protocols." What would you recommend?
An anonymous reader writes "Ars is running an article about a paper written just over a decade ago by four engineers at Microsoft. In it, they talk about the darknet, and how it applies to distributing content online. They correctly predicted the uselessness of DRM: 'In the presence of an infinitely efficient darknet — which allows instantaneous transmission of objects to all interested users — even sophisticated DRM systems are inherently ineffective.' The paper's lead author, Peter Biddle, said he almost got fired over the paper at the time. 'Biddle tried to get buy-in from senior Microsoft executives prior to releasing the paper. But he says they didn't really understand the paper's implications — and particularly how it could strain relationships with content companies — until after it was released. Once the paper was released, Microsoft's got stuck in bureaucratic paralysis. Redmond neither repudiated Biddle's paper nor allowed him to publicly defend it.' The paper itself is available in .DOC format."
Nerval's Lobster writes "A massive outage knocked Syria's Internet offline Nov. 29 — with the exception of five servers implicated in serving malware earlier this year. But the next day, those five servers went dark as well. Internet analytics firm Renesys suggested late Nov. 29 that those five servers were likely offshore. 'Now, there are a few Syrian networks that are still connected to the Internet, still reachable by traceroutes, and indeed still hosting Syrian content,' the company wrote in a blog post. 'These are five networks that use Syrian-registered IP space, but the originator of the routes is actually Tata Communications. These are potentially offshore, rather than domestic, and perhaps not subject to whatever killswitch was thrown today within Syria.' By the morning of Nov. 30, those five servers went offline. 'The last 5 networks belonging to Syria, a set of smaller netblocks previously advertised by Tata Communications, have been torn down and are no longer routed,' Renesys wrote." CloudFlare has a blog post confirming that the Syrian government was responsible for flipping the switch, contrary to their claims. Meanwhile, Anonymous has started targeting the Syrian government's remaining websites and helping to get communications channels flowing out of Syria. Google is reminding people of its Speak2Tweet service, which lets people post to Twitter through voicemail over still-functioning phone lines.
An anonymous reader writes "A Tor Exit node owner is being prosecuted in Austria. As part of the prosecution, all of his electronics have been held by the authorities, including over 20 computers, his cell phone and hard disks. 'During interview with police later on Wednesday, Weber said there was a "more friendly environment" once investigators understood the Polish server that transmitted the illegal images was used by Tor participants rather than by Weber himself. But he said he still faces the possibility of serious criminal penalties and the possibility of a precedent that Tor operators can be held liable if he's convicted.' This brings up the question: What backup plan, if any, should the average nerd have for something like this?"
KermMartian writes "In what seems to be an accelerating arms race for graphing calculator supremacy between Texas Instruments and Casio, the underdog Casio has fired a return salvo to the recently-announced TI-84 Plus C Silver Edition. The new ClassPad fx-CP400 has a massive color touchscreen and a Matlab-esque CAS. Though not accepted on the SAT/ACT, will such a powerful device gain a strong following among engineers and professionals?"
MightyMait writes "With my 40th birthday coming up, seeing this article makes me happy I have a good job (and a little wary of having to find another). From the article: '[T]he start-up ethos extols fresh ideas and young programmers willing to toil through the night. Chief executives in their 20s, led by Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, are lionized, in part because of their youth. Many investors state bluntly that they prefer to see people under 40 in charge. Yet the youth worship undercuts another of Silicon Valley's cherished ideals: that anyone smart and driven can get ahead in what the industry likes to think of as an egalitarian culture. To many, it looks like simple age discrimination - and it's affecting people who wouldn't fit any normal definition of old. "I don't think in the outside world, outside tech, anyone in their 40s would think age discrimination was happening to them," says Cliff Palefsky, a San Francisco employment attorney who has fielded age-discrimination inquiries from people in their early 40s. But they feel it in the Bay Area, he said, and it's "100 percent due to the new, young, tech startup mindset."'"