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Updated: 41 min 27 sec ago

Ask Slashdot: What Makes Some Code Particularly Good?

Fri, 03/27/2015 - 13:16
itwbennett writes: When developers talk about what makes some source code particularly 'good,' a handful of qualities tend to get mentioned frequently (functional, readable, testable). What would you add to this list?

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Rebuilding the PDP-8 With a Raspberry Pi

Fri, 03/27/2015 - 12:35
braindrainbahrain writes: Hacker Oscarv wanted a PDP-8 mini computer. But buying a real PDP-8 was horribly expensive and out of the question. So Oscarv did the next best thing: he used a Raspberry Pi as the computing engine and interfaced it to a replica PDP-8 front panel, complete with boatloads of fully functional switches and LEDs.

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Modern Cockpits: Harder To Invade But Easier To Lock Up

Fri, 03/27/2015 - 11:53
HughPickens.com writes: Jad Mouawad And Christopher Drew write in the NY Times that although airplane cockpits are supposed to be the last line of defense from outside aggressors, airlines have fewer options if the threat comes from within. One of the major safety protocols that actually made planes safer in the past 15 years was that the cockpits were turned into fortresses. Unfortunately, that exact advantage was exploited by the co-pilot of the Germanwings plane on Tuesday to crash it intentionally. "It is shocking to me that there was not a second person present in the cockpit," says Mark Rosenker, a former chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board. Access to the cockpit is strictly regulated in the United States. Passengers are not allowed to congregate near the cockpit door, and whenever the door is open, no one is allowed in the forward bathroom and flight attendants usually block aisle access, sometimes using a food cart. The Federal Aviation Administration mandates that a flight attendant must sit in the cockpit when either pilot steps into the passenger area; European regulations do not have a similar two-person rule, but they're now talking about creating one. The Germanwings accident also points to potential shortcomings in how pilots are screened for mental problems, a recurring concern for an industry that demands focus and discipline in an increasingly technical job, often in stressful situations. In 2012, a well-regarded pilot with JetBlue, one of the airline's earliest employees, was physically restrained by passengers on a flight from New York to Las Vegas after displaying erratic behavior. In that case, the co-pilot locked the pilot out of the cabin and made an emergency landing in Amarillo, Tex. "Aircraft-assisted pilot suicides," as the Federal Aviation Administration calls them, are rare. They include the November 2013 crash of a Mozambique Airlines plane bound for Luanda, Angola, which bears an eerie resemblance to the Germanwings plane's demise. When the flight's co-pilot left to use the lavatory, the captain locked him out of the cockpit and manually steered the aircraft earthward. The crash of Egypt Airlines Flight 990 off Nantucket, Mass., in 1999, which killed all 217 people on board, was also caused by deliberate action, a National Transportation Safety Board investigation concluded. Experts on suicide say that the psychology of those who combine suicide with mass murder may differ in significant ways from those who limit themselves to taking their own lives.

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US Air Force Overstepped In SpaceX Certification

Fri, 03/27/2015 - 11:11
Rambo Tribble writes: An internal review commissioned by Air Force Secretary Deborah James has concluded that Air Force personnel tasked with evaluating SpaceX's certification treated it as a design review, going so far as to dictate organizational changes in the company. This was judged contrary to the intention of promoting a competitive environment. The report, prepared by former Air Force Chief of Staff General Larry Welch, concluded, "The result to date has been ... the worst of all worlds, pressing the Falcon 9 commercially oriented approach into a comfortable government mold that eliminates or significantly reduces the expected benefits to the government of the commercial approach. Both teams need to adjust."

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Github Under JS-Based "Greatfire" DDoS Attack, Allegedly From Chinese Government

Fri, 03/27/2015 - 10:29
An anonymous reader writes: During the past two days, popular code hosting site GitHub has been under a DDoS attack, which has led to intermittent service interruptions. As blogger Anthr@X reports from traceroute lists, the attack originated from MITM-modified JavaScript files for the Chinese company Baidu's user tracking code, changing the unencrypted content as it passed through the great firewall of China to request the URLs github.com/greatfire/ and github.com/cn-nytimes/. The Chinese government's dislike of widespread VPN usage may have caused it to arrange the attack, where only people accessing Baidu's services from outside the firewall would contribute to the DDoS. This wouldn't have been the first time China arranged this kind of "protest."

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Quebec Plans To Require Website Blocking, Studies New Internet Access Tax

Fri, 03/27/2015 - 09:47
An anonymous reader writes: Michael Geist reports that the Government of Quebec released its budget (PDF) yesterday featuring two Internet-related measures that are sure to attract attention and possible litigation. First, it is moving forward with plans to study a new tax on residential Internet services in order to provide support for the cultural sector. Second, the government says it will be introducing a new law requiring ISPs to block access to online gambling sites. The list of blocked sites will be developed by Loto-Quebec, a government agency. The government views this as a revenue enhancing measure because it wants to channel gamblers to its own Espacejeux, the government's own online gaming site.

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How Professional Russian Trolls Operate

Fri, 03/27/2015 - 09:06
New submitter SecState writes: Hundreds of full-time, well-paid trolls operate thousands of fake accounts to fill social media sites and comments threads with pro-Kremlin propaganda. A St. Petersburg blogger spent two months working 12-hour shifts in a "troll factory," targeting forums of Russian municipal websites. In an interview, he describes how he worked in teams with two other trolls to create false "debates" about Russian and international politics, with pro-Putin views always scoring the winning point. Of course, with the U.S. government invoking "state secrets" to dismiss a defamation case against the supposedly independent advocacy group United Against a Nuclear Iran, Americans also need to be asking how far is too far when it comes to masked government propaganda.

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Facebook Successfully Tests Laser Internet Drones

Fri, 03/27/2015 - 08:22
rtoz writes: At its F8 conference in San Francisco, Facebook announced the first hardware it plans to use to beam the Internet down to billions of people around the world. Codenamed "Aquila," the solar-powered drone has a wingspan comparable to a Boeing 737, but weighs less than a small car. It will be powered by solar panels on its wings, and it will be able to stay at altitudes of more than 60,000 feet for months at a time. Facebook says it'll begin test flights this summer, with a broader rollout over the next several years. The drones were tested over the UK recently, and everything worked as expected.

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Facebook Successfully Tests Laser Internet Drones

Fri, 03/27/2015 - 08:22
rtoz writes: At its F8 conference in San Francisco, Facebook announced the first hardware it plans to use to beam the Internet down to billions of people around the world. Codenamed "Aquila," the solar-powered drone has a wingspan comparable to a Boeing 737, but weighs less than a small car. It will be powered by solar panels on its wings, and it will be able to stay at altitudes of more than 60,000 feet for months at a time. Facebook says it'll begin test flights this summer, with a broader rollout over the next several years. The drones were tested over the UK recently, and everything worked as expected.

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Broadband ISP Betrayal Forces Homeowner To Sell New House

Fri, 03/27/2015 - 07:40
New submitter knightsirius writes: A Washington homeowner is having to sell his new house after being refused internet service from Comcast and CenturyLink despite receiving confirmation from both that the location was able to receive broadband service. The whole process took months and involved false assurances and bureaucratic convolutions. The national broadband map database frequently cited by Comcast as proof of sufficient competition lists 10 options at his location, including a gigabit municipal fiber network, but he cannot subscribe to it due to Washington state direct sale restrictions.

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Big Vulnerability In Hotel Wi-Fi Router Puts Guests At Risk

Fri, 03/27/2015 - 07:07
An anonymous reader writes Guests at hundreds of hotels around the world are susceptible to serious hacks because of routers that many hotel chains depend on for their Wi-Fi networks. Researchers have discovered a vulnerability in the systems, which would allow an attacker to distribute malware to guests, monitor and record data sent over the network, and even possibly gain access to the hotel's reservation and keycard systems. The vulnerability, which was discovered by Justin W. Clarke of the security firm Cylance, gives attackers read-write access to the root file system of the ANTlabs devices. The discovery of the vulnerable systems was particularly interesting to them in light of an active hotel hacking campaign uncovered last year by researchers at Kaspersky Lab. In that campaign, which Kaspersky dubbed DarkHotel.

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Amazon Announces Unlimited Cloud Storage Plans

Fri, 03/27/2015 - 04:29
An anonymous reader sends word that Amazon is now offering unlimited cloud storage plans to compete with Google Drive, and Microsoft OneDrive. "Last year, Amazon gave a boost to its Prime members when it launched a free, unlimited photo storage for them on Cloud Drive. Today, the company is expanding that service as a paid offering to cover other kinds of content, and to users outside of its loyalty program. Unlimited Cloud Storage will let users get either unlimited photo storage or "unlimited everything" — covering all kinds of media from videos and music through to PDF documents — respectively for $11.99 or $59.99 per year."

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Ordnance Survey Releases Mapping Tools

Fri, 03/27/2015 - 02:02
rHBa writes The BBC reports that the UK mapping organization Ordnance Survey has added 4 new products to its open data portfolio: OS Local, Names, Rivers and Roads. Perhaps the most interesting of the free data sets is OS Local which provides a base map to identify "hotspots" such as property pricing, insurance risk, and crime. The OS are not creating a new Google Maps-style service of their own but rather are providing their data for use by other third-party apps and online tools. They expect developers and designers to use the data to enhance their own products and improve the information people can access via the web.

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Robobug: Scientists Clad Bacterium With Graphene To Make a Working Cytobot

Thu, 03/26/2015 - 23:23
Zothecula writes By cladding a living cell with graphene quantum dots, researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) claim to have created a nanoscale biomicrorobot (or cytobot) that responds electrically to changes in its environment. This work promises to lay the foundations for future generations of bio-derived nanobots, biomicrorobotic-mechanisms, and micromechanical actuation for a wide range of applications. "UIC researchers created an electromechanical device — a humidity sensor — on a bacterial spore. They call it NERD, for Nano-Electro-Robotic Device. The report is online at Scientific Reports, a Nature open access journal."

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Millennial Tech Workers Losing Ground In US

Thu, 03/26/2015 - 21:06
Nerval's Lobster writes Millennial tech workers are entering the U.S. workforce at a comparable disadvantage to other tech workers throughout the industrialized world, according to study earlier this year from Educational Testing Services (PDF). How do U.S. millennials compare to their international peers, at least according to ETS? Those in the 90th percentile (i.e., the top-scoring) actually scored lower than top-scoring millennials in 15 of the 22 studied countries; low-scoring U.S. millennials ranked last (along with Italy and England/Northern Ireland). While some experts have blamed the nation's education system for the ultimate lack of STEM jobs, other studies have suggested that the problem isn't in the classroom; a 2014 report from the U.S. Census Bureau suggested that many of the people who earned STEM degrees didn't actually go into careers requiring them. In any case, the U.S. is clearly wrestling with an issue; how can it introduce more (qualified) STEM people into the market?

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Win Or Lose, Discrimination Suit Is Having an Effect On Silicon Valley

Thu, 03/26/2015 - 19:25
SpzToid sends word that the Ellen Pao vs. Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers discrimination case wrapped up yesterday. No matter what the outcome turns out to be, it has already affected how business is being done in Silicon Valley. "'Even before there's a verdict in this case, and regardless of what the verdict is, people in Silicon Valley are now talking,' said Kelly Dermody, managing partner at Lieff Cabraser Heimann & Bernstein, who chairs the San Francisco law firm's employment practice group. 'People are second-guessing and questioning whether there are exclusionary practices [and] everyday subtle acts of exclusion that collectively limit women's ability to succeed or even to compete for the best opportunities. And that's an incredibly positive impact.' Women in tech have long complained about an uneven playing field — lower pay for equal work, being passed over for promotions and a hostile 'brogrammer' culture — and have waited for a catalyst to finally overhaul the status quo. This trial — pitting a disgruntled, multimillionaire former junior partner against a powerful Menlo Park, Calif., venture capital firm — was far from the open-and-shut case that many women had hoped for. More gender discrimination suits against big tech firms are expected to follow; some already have, including lawsuits against Facebook Inc. and Twitter Inc."

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GAO Denied Access To Webb Telescope Workers By Northrop Grumman

Thu, 03/26/2015 - 18:44
schwit1 writes In a report as well as at House hearings today the GAO reported that Northrop Grumman has denied them one-on-one access to workers building the James Webb Space Telescope. "The interviews, part of a running series of GAO audits of the NASA flagship observatory, which is billions of dollars overbudget and years behind schedule, were intended to identify potential future trouble spots, according to a GAO official. But Northrop Grumman Aerospace, which along with NASA says the $9 billion project is back on track, cited concerns that the employees, 30 in all, would be intimidated by the process." To give Northrop Grumman the benefit of the doubt, these interviews were a somewhat unusual request. Then again, if all was well why would they resist? Note too that the quote above says the cost of the telescope project is now $9 billion. If the project was "back on track" as the agency and Northrop Grumman claim, then why has the budget suddenly increased by another billion?

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PayPal To Pay $7.7 Million For Sanctions Violations

Thu, 03/26/2015 - 18:03
jfruh writes PayPal may not be a bank, but it's still legally required to follow regulations on transferring money — but the company has admitted to a number of violations, including allowing transfers to an individual specifically sanctioned by the U.S. State Department for helping proliferate nuclear weapons. From Ars: "On Wednesday afternoon, PayPal reached a settlement with the US Treasury Department, agreeing that it would pay $7.7 million for allegedly processing payments to people in countries under sanction as well as to a man the US has listed as involved in the nuclear weapons black market. The company neither confirmed nor denied the allegations, but it voluntarily handed over its transaction data to the US Department of Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC)."

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Australia Passes Mandatory Data Retention Law

Thu, 03/26/2015 - 17:20
Bismillah writes Opposition from the Green Party and independent members of parliament wasn't enough to stop the ruling conservative Liberal-National coalition from passing Australia's new law that will force telcos and ISPs to store customer metadata for at least two years. Journalists' metadata is not exempted from the retention law, but requires a warrant to access. The metadata of everyone else can be accessed by unspecified government agencies without a warrant however.

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Micron and Intel Announce 3D NAND Flash Co-Development To Push SSDs Past 10TB

Thu, 03/26/2015 - 16:38
MojoKid writes Both Micron and Intel noted in a release today that traditional planar NAND flash memory is reaching a dead-end, and as such, have been working together on 3D memory technology that could open the floodgates for high densities and faster speeds. Not all 3D memory is alike, however. This joint development effort resulted in a "floating gate cell" being used, something not uncommon for standard flash, but a first for 3D. Ultimately, this 3D NAND is composed of flash cells stacked 32 high, resulting in 256Gb MLC and 384Gb TLC die that fit inside of a standard package. That gives us 48GB per die, and up to 750GB in a single package. Other benefits include faster performance, reduced cost, and technologies that help extend the life of the memory.

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