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Books

Book Review: Effective Python: 59 Specific Ways To Write Better Python 71

MassDosage writes: If you are familiar with the "Effective" style of books then you probably already know how this book is structured. If not here's a quick primer: the book consists of a number of small sections each of which focus on a specific problem, issue or idea and these are discussed in a "here's the best way to do X" manner. These sections are grouped into related chapters but can be read in pretty much any order and generally don't depend on each other (and when they do this will be called out in the text). The idea is that you can read the book from cover to cover if you want but you can also just dip in and out and read only the sections that are of interest to you. This also means that you can use the book as a reference in future when you inevitably forget the details or want to double check something. Read below for the rest of Mass Dosage's review.
Movies

Brain Cancer Claims Horror Maestro Wes Craven At 76 35

New submitter JamesA writes: Wes Craven, the famed writer-director of horror films known for the Nightmare on Elm Street and Scream movies, died Sunday after a battle with brain cancer. He was 76. Though he's far less known as a novelist than for his various horror film jobs (writer, director, producer, actor ...), Craven also wrote a few books; I can't vouch for "Coming of Rage," but "Fountain Society" is pretty solid speculative fiction. Wikipedia notes that Craven also "designed the Halloween 2008 logo for Google, and was the second celebrity personality to take over the YouTube homepage on Halloween."
Books

Neurologist and Author Oliver Sacks Dead at 82 31

Physician, writer and humanist Oliver Sacks has died of cancer at age 82. Sacks was famous for "The Man Who Mistook His Wife For a Hat" and other books, including his account in "Awakenings" (later made into a well-recieved film) of administering treatment which resulted in several patients emerging from their comas. The Guardian reports: When he revealed that he had terminal cancer, Sacks quoted one of his favourite philosophers, David Hume. On discovering that he was mortally ill at 65, Hume wrote: “I now reckon upon a speedy dissolution. I have suffered very little pain from my disorder; and what is more strange, have, notwithstanding the great decline of my person, never suffered a moment’s abatement of my spirits. I possess the same ardour as ever in study, and the same gaiety in company. “I am ... a man of mild dispositions, of command of temper, of an open, social, and cheerful humour, capable of attachment, but little susceptible of enmity, and of great moderation in all my passions.”
Sci-Fi

FBI Informant: Ray Bradbury's Sci-fi Written To Induce Communistic Mass Hysteria 282

v3rgEz writes: The FBI followed Ray Bradbury's career very closely, in part because an informant warned them that his writing was not enjoyable fantasy, but rather tantamount to psychological warfare. "The general aim of these science fiction writers is to frighten the people into a state of paralysis or psychological incompetence bordering on hysteria," the informant warned. "Which would make it very possible to conduct a Third World War in which the American people would believe could not be won since their morale had seriously been destroyed."
Sci-Fi

Hugos Refuse To Award Anyone Rather Than Submit To Fans' Votes 1043

An anonymous reader writes: You may remember way back in April there was a bit of a kerfuffle over the nominees for the Hugo Awards being "too conservative" based on a voting campaign organized by a group of science fiction fans who wanted to promote hard science fiction over more recent nominees. This was spun as conservatives "ruining" a "progressive" award. The question was left: would the final voters of the Hugo awards accept these nominees, or just take their ball home and refuse to give out anyway awards at all? The votes are in and we know the answer now: they'd rather just not give out any awards. (Wired has a slightly different slant on the process as well as the outcome of this year's awards.)
Android

Google Relaxes Handset Makers' Requirements for "Must-Include" Android Apps 80

According to The Verge, anyone who buys a new Android phone may benefit from an interesting change in their phone's default apps: namely, fewer pieces of included bloatware. However, the affected apps might not be the ones that a user concerned with bloatware might care most about (like carrier-specific apps), but are rather some of the standard Google-provided ones (Google+, Google Play Games, Google Play Books and Google Newsstand). These apps will still be available at the Google Play Store, just not required for a handset maker to get Google's blessing. (Also at ZDNet.)
Software

Ask Slashdot: Maintaining Continuity In Your Creative Works? 95

imac.usr writes: I recently rewatched the Stonecutters episode of The Simpsons and laughed as always at the scene where Homer pulls into his parking space — right next to his house. It's such a great little comic moment. This time, though, it occurred to me that someone probably wrote in to complain that the power plant was normally in a completely different part of town, no doubt adding "I really hope somebody got fired for that blunder." And that got me to wondering: how do creators of serial media — books, web comics, TV shows, even movie serials — record their various continuities? Is there a story bible with the information, or a database of people/places/things, or even something scribbled on a 3x5 card. I know Slashdot is full of artists who must deal with this issue on a regular basis, so I'd be interested in hearing any perspectives on how (or even if) you manage it.
Input Devices

Ask Slashdot: Do You Press "6" Key With Right Or Left Hand? 240

New submitter ne0phyte73 writes: In some countries and in some touch typing books key "6" is pressed with right hand and in some others with left. It's not a big issue until you have a split keyboard. Guys at UHK are putting it on the left side. Do you agree? What hand do you use to press "6"? Left hand here, but it's not a strong preference; I'll take a keyboard that omits Caps Lock wherever they put the 6.
Mars

The Real NASA Technologies In 'The Martian' 60

An anonymous reader writes: On October 2, movie audiences will get to see Ridley Scott's adaptation of Andy Weir's brilliant sci-fi novel The Martian, about a near-future astronaut who gets left for dead on the planet Mars. (Official trailer.) Both book and film are rooted in actual science, and NASA has now posted a list of technologies featured in the movie that either already exist, or are in development. For example, the Mars rover: "On Earth today, NASA is working to prepare for every encounter with the Multi-Mission Space Exploration Vehicle (MMSEV). The MMSEV has been used in NASA's analog mission projects to help solve problems that the agency is aware of and to reveal some that may be hidden. The technologies are developed to be versatile enough to support missions to an asteroid, Mars, its moons and other missions in the future." They also show off their efforts to develop water reclamation, gardens in space, and oxygen recovery.
Books

Jason Scott of Textfiles.com Is Trying To Save a Huge Storage Room of Manuals 48

martiniturbide writes: Remember Jason Scott of Textfiles.com, who wanted your AOL & Shovelware CDs earlier this year? Right now -- at this moment! -- he trying to save the manuals in a huge storage room that was going to be dumped. It is a big storage room and some of these manuals date back to the thirties. On Monday a team of volunteers helped him to pack some manuals to save them. Today he needs more volunteers at "2002 Bethel Road, Finksburg, MD, USA" to try to save them all. He is also accepting Paypal donations for the package material, transportation and storage room payment. You can also check his progress on his twitter account.
Security

How an Obscure Acronym Helped Link AT&T To NSA Spying 54

netbuzz writes: Slashdot on Saturday highlighted a story by Pro Publica and the New York Times that used Snowden documents to reveal previously unknown details of the "highly collaborative" relationship between AT&T and the NSA that enabled the latter's controversial Internet surveillance program. An aspect of the story that received only passing mention was how the reporters connected an acronym for an obscure proprietary network configuration – SNRC — to AT&T and the NSA in part through a 1996 story in the now-defunct print version of Network World. In essence, that acronym proved to be a fingerprint confirming the connection — and its match was found thanks to Google Books.
United States

Georgia Aquarium Battles Federal Government Over Belugas 90

An anonymous reader writes: The Georgia Aquarium has argued in court that the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration's denial of its permit to import beluga whales from Russia was arbitrary and capricious. The National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration's National Marine Fisheries Service says the aquarium failed to meet the requirements of a law meant to protect marine mammals. Both sides accuse the other of twisting the facts, a NOAA lawyer accuses the aquarium trying "to confuse the court," and a lawyer for the aquarium says the government had "cooked the books" on whale population numbers.
Books

XKCD Author's New Unpublished Book Becomes Scientific Best-Seller 90

An anonymous reader writes: XKCD cartoonist Randall Munroe will be publishing a new book in November, but it's already become Amazon's #1 best-seller in two "Science & Math" subcategories, for mechanics and scientific instruments. Inspired by a cartoon describing NASA's Saturn V rocket as "the up-goer V", Randall's created a large-format collection of blueprints describing datacenters, tectonic plates, and even the controls in an airplane cockpit — using only the thousand most common English words. "Since this book explains things, I've called it Thing Explainer," Randall writes on the XKCD blog, trying to mimic the humorously simple style of his book. Randall's previous book of scientific hypotheticals — published one year ago — is still Amazon's #1 best-selling book in their "Physics" category, ranking higher than Stephen Hawking's "A Brief History of Time."
Books

Physical Books Successfully Coexisting With Ebooks 134

An anonymous reader writes: When ebooks experienced their meteoric rise a few years ago, many were predicting the death of physical books. Early sales figures seemed to bear that out — ebooks kept getting more popular, and physical books were on the decline. But over the past couple of years, sales for both types leveled off. Rather than simple additive or deleterious effects, we're now seeing how technology has altered the literary landscape in more complex ways. Serials are returning, authors are able to more directly keep in contact with readers, and networks are developing to keep independent bookstores afloat. Libraries are being supplemented by companies who offer free access to ebooks at certain Wi-Fi hotspots. So, given that the changes so far have been less dramatic and more interesting than predicted, where do you think the ebook/physical-book situation will be in another 10 years?
Classic Games (Games)

Interviews: Game Designer Steve Jackson Answers Your Questions 38

A while ago you had the chance to ask Steve Jackson, founder and editor-in-chief of Steve Jackson Games, about the numerous games he's created, his efforts to digitize those games, and what to do when the Secret Service shows up at your office. Below you will find his answers to your questions.
China

What Federal Employees Really Need To Worry About After the Chinese Hack 123

HughPickens.com writes: Lisa Rein writes in the Washington Post that a new government review of what the Chinese hack of sensitive security clearance files of 21 million people means for national security is in — and some of the implications are quite grave. According to the Congressional Research Service, covert intelligence officers and their operations could be exposed and high-resolution fingerprints could be copied by criminals. Some suspect that the Chinese government may build a database of U.S. government employees that could help identify U.S. officials and their roles or that could help target individuals to gain access to additional systems or information. National security concerns include whether hackers could have obtained information that could help them identify clandestine and covert officers and operations (PDF).

CRS says that if the fingerprints in the background investigation files are of high enough quality, "depending on whose hands the fingerprints come into, they could be used for criminal or counterintelligence purposes." Fingerprints also could be trafficked on the black market for profit — or used to blow the covers of spies and other covert and clandestine officers, the research service found. And if they're compromised, fingerprints can't be reissued like a new credit card, the report says, making "recovery from the breach more challenging for some."
vivaoporto Also points out that these same hackers are believed to be responsible for hacking United Airlines.
Mars

Interviews: Shaun Moss Answers Your Questions About Mars and Space Exploration 48

Recently the founder of the Mars Settlement Research Organization and author of The International Mars Research Station Shaun Moss agreed to sit down and answer any questions you had about space exploration and colonizing Mars. Below you will find his answers to your questions.
Education

Interviews: Ask Dr. Temple Grandin About Animals and Autism 131

Being listed in the "Time 100" of the most influential people in the world in the "Heroes" category, is just one of the many awards received by Temple Grandin. Diagnosed with autism at the age of two, Temple overcame many obstacles and earned a doctoral degree in animal science from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and is a professor at Colorado State University. Dr, Grandin is recognized as an expert in animal behavior and one of the leading advocates for the rights of autistic persons. She lectures, and has written numerous books on animals and autism, and was the subject of the award-winning, biographical film, Temple Grandin . Dr. Grandin has agreed to take some time out of her schedule to answer any questions you may have. As usual, ask as many as you'd like, but please, one per post.
Power

Transparent Paper Produces Power With Just a Touch 38

ckwu writes: A new transparent-paper device can generate electrical power from a user's touch. The paper energy-harvester could be used to make disposable, self-powered touch screens that fold; interactive light-up books; touch-sensitive skin for prosthetics; and security systems for art and documents, according to the researchers. The device is made out of nanopaper, a tangled mat made of nanometers-wide cellulose fibers that is transparent and smooth like plastic. The researchers deposit carbon nanotubes on the nanopaper to make a pair of electrodes, and then sandwich a polyethylene film in between. The generator works via electrostatic induction. Pressing one side of the device causes a change in the charge balance between the nanotube electrodes, resulting in a flow of current through the device. Releasing the pressure causes electrons to flow back, so repeated pressing and releasing creates continuous current. The researchers demonstrated that the generator could produce enough power when pressed to light up a small liquid-crystal display.