From an article at the Houston Chronicle (not The Onion) comes a report of concern to anyone in a warm climate with, well, electronics. From the article: "According to researchers at The University of Texas at Austin, invasive 'crazy ants' are slowly displacing fire ants in the southeastern United States. These 'Tawny Crazy Ants' have a peculiar predilection toward electronics as well. 'They nest in electronics and create short circuits, as they create a contact bridge between two points when they get electrocuted they release an alarm pheromone,' says UT research assistant Edward LeBrun. 'The other ants are attracted to the chemicals that other ants give off,' he adds. At this point, more ants arrive and create a larger nest." The L.A. Times also has a report, which says "Thus far, the crazy ants are not falling for the traditional poisons used to eliminate fire ant mounds. And when local mounds are destroyed manually, they are quickly regenerated. 'They don't sting like fire ants do, but aside from that they are much bigger pests,' LeBrun said. 'There are videos on YouTube of people sweeping out dustpans full of these ants from their bathroom. You have to call pest control operators every three or four months just to keep the infestation under control. It's very expensive.'"
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New submitter Anand Radhakrishnan writes "The release candidate for the much-anticipated Linux Mint 15 'Olivia' is available for user testing. Its many new features include Cinnamon Control center, an improved login manager with HTML 5 support, a driver manager, and a lot of under-the-hood improvements. 'A new tool called MintSources, aka "Software Sources," was developed from scratch with derivative distributions in mind (primarily Linux Mint, but also LMDE, Netrunner and Snow Linux). It replaces software-properties-gtk and is perfectly adapted to managing software sources in Linux Mint. From the main screen you can easily enable or disable optional components and gain access to backports, unstable packages and source code.' This release with Cinnamon looks really tempting."
An anonymous reader writes "A meta-study published yesterday looked at over 12,000 peer-reviewed papers on climate science that appeared in journals between 1991 and 2011. The papers were evaluated and categorized by how they implicitly or explicitly endorsed humans as a contributing cause of global warming. The meta-study found that an overwhelming 97.1% of the papers that took a stance endorsed human-cause global warming. They also asked the 1,200 of the scientists involved in the research to self-evaluate their own studies, with nearly identical results. In the interest of transparency, the meta-study results were published in an open access journal, and the researchers set up a website so that anybody can check their results. From the article: '... a memo from communications strategist Frank Luntz leaked in 2002 advised Republicans, "Should the public come to believe that the scientific issues are settled, their views about global warming will change accordingly. Therefore, you need to continue to make the lack of scientific certainty a primary issue in the debate." This campaign has been successful. A 2012 poll from U.S. Pew Research Center found less than half of Americans thought scientists agreed humans were causing global warming. The media has assisted in this public misconception, with most climate stories "balanced" with a "skeptic" perspective. However, this results in making the 2–3% seem like 50%. In trying to achieve "balance," the media has actually created a very unbalanced perception of reality. As a result, people believe scientists are still split about what's causing global warming, and therefore there is not nearly enough public support or motivation to solve the problem.'"
astroengine writes "After nine years of hard Mars roving, Mars Exploration Rover (MER) Opportunity has broken a 40-year-old extraterrestrial distance record. On Thursday, the tenacious six-wheeled robot drove 80 meters (263 feet), nudging the total distance traveled since landing on the red planet in 2004 to 35.760 kilometers (22.220 miles). NASA's previous distance record was held by Apollo 17 astronauts Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt when, in December 1972, they drove their Lunar Roving Vehicle 35.744 kilometers (22.210 miles) over the lunar surface. Although it's broken the NASA distance record, it hasn't surpassed the international record, yet. The Soviet Lunokhod 2 remote-controlled moon rover roved 37 kilometers (23 miles) across the lunar surface and, so far, remains the undisputed champion of distance driving on an extraterrestrial surface."
Via Phoronix comes news that Ubuntu is revisiting replacing Firefox with Chromium as the default browser. Reasons include that Chromium is the basis of Ubuntu Touch and their new web apps platform, and using a single browser for all versions of Ubuntu would simplify maintenance. From the article: "Expressed shortcomings of switching to Google's Chromium open-source web-browser is that data migration from Firefox isn't too obvious, extensions don't migrate between browsers, Chromium isn't supported on all architectures (e.g. PowerPC), the browser doesn't work with the Orca screen reader and doesn't integrate well for accessibility reasons, there is no native PDF plug-in, and Chromium is said to have worse performance under memory pressure. There were also some concerns expressed about differences with WebApps in Chromium. ... It looks like the switch to Chromium will happen in the name of a better user experience for the desktop with Chrome/Chromium now arguably surpassing Firefox in its features and performance while pushing Chromium as the default leads to a more consistent experience across Ubuntu form factors from phones/tablets to the desktop." The Ubuntu community will have their input solicited as the next step. The Ubuntu Developer Summit session has notes and a full video of today's discussion.
Founded just to cover the SCO/Caldera UNIX lawsuits back in 2003, Groklaw has proven itself a great place to read and discuss many of the major tech trials since. And today, it turns ten: "We made it. A decade of Groklaw as of today. Who'd a thunk it? Not I. When I started, I thought I'd do a little fiddling around for a couple of months to learn how to blog. But then all you guys showed up and taught me some important things that I didn't know, and vice versa I hope, and here we are, on our 10th anniversary, still going strong, together on a very different path than I originally imagined. The important moment for me was when I realized the potential we had as a group and decided to try to surf this incredible wave all of you created by contributing your skills and time. I saw we could work as a group, explain technology to the legal world so lawyers and judges could make better decisions, and explain the legal process to techies, so they could avoid troubles and also could be enabled to work effectively to defend Free and Open Source Software from cynical 'Intellectual Property' attacks from the proprietary world." This despite a smear campaign by SCO and nearly shutting down in 2009. And it's archived in the Library of Congress.
New submitter Wisdom writes "1bir (1 Block Interactive Raycaster) is a simple ray casting engine implemented only in 254 bytes to run on a stock, unexpanded Commodore 64. The name comes from the fact that on a C64 floppy disk, 1 block is equivalent to 254 bytes stored on a disk sector. In 254 bytes, 1bir sets up the screen for drawing, creates sine and cosine tables for 256 brads based on a simple approximation, casts rays into a 2D map that lives inside the C64 KERNAL ROM, renders the screen in coordination with KERNAL, evaluates 8-way joystick input and detects collision against walls. The ray casting core employs a brute force algorithm to determine visible walls, while the mapping portion supports both open-ended (infinitely looped) and traditional, closed maps. The source code in 6502 assembly is available, with extensive comments. A YouTube video showcases 1bir in a detailed manner with both kind of maps and more information, while a Vimeo video presents a shorter demonstration."
One thing about a Maker Faire is that it brings a delightful number of non-mainstream projects to light that your neighbors have been working on. Scroll down the linked page above to see some samples of what came out of the woodwork at the latest Austin version. A Jedi Starfighter under construction.... a very strange little boat... and down at the bottom of the page we see The Type 40 Mark III Console, an "interactive sound sculpture" that redefines the term "bells and whistles" in a whole new way that pleases children and adults alike as they twist knobs and punch buttons, and things happen (or don't happen). It really does look just like a Tardis control console. Even project co-creator and spokesbeing Steve Noreyko says so, and he's the one who got in front of Timothy Lord's camcorder in an unfortunately noisy room. But there he was, with das blinkenlights behind him delighting and amazing a happily bemused crowd, just as Steve and his crew have amazed crowds at Art Outside, Burning Flipside, and other local festivals.
This may be a coincidence, but according to MapLight, Senators who voted last week for the bill allowing states to directly collect taxes on sales via the Internet, AKA The Marketplace Fairness Act of 2013, received 40 times as much campaign donation money (yes, that's four-oh, not just four) from businesses in favor of the bill as those who voted against it received from businesses that were against Internet sales taxes. Was this bribery? Of course not! We're not some piddly fifth-world country. But it's a prime example of how money influences politics here in the good old USA, and it's far from the only one we've seen lately. In this video, MapLight Program Director Jay Costa shares a bunch more with us, along with tips on how to spot this sort of thing and some steps we voters can take to fight against both direct and indirect influence-buying. Note that all this is totally non-partisan; the politicians with the most influence -- whether local, state or federal -- get most of the available special interest money no matter what other agenda(s) they may have. And for those who want to learn more about who is spending their dollars to influence your representatives, Jay also suggests a look at these two money-in-politics resources: FollowTheMoney.org and OpenSecrets.org.
ais523 writes "The Federal Circuit has divided CLS Bank vs. Alice Corp., a case about various sorts of patents, including software patents. Although the judges disagreed, to a lesser or greater extent, on the individual parts of the ruling, more than half decided that the patents in question — algorithms for hedging risk — were ineligible patent matter, and that merely adding an 'on a computer'-like clause to an abstract algorithm does not make it patentable. Further coverage is available at Groklaw, or you can read the opinion itself (PDF)."
theodp writes "Big Bloomberg is watching you. CNN reports that was the unsettling realization Goldman Sachs execs came to a few weeks ago when a Bloomberg reporter inadvertently revealed that reporters from the news and financial data provider had surveillance capabilities over users of Bloomberg terminals. 'Limited customer relationship data has long been available to our journalists,' acknowledged a Bloomberg spokesman. 'In light of [Goldman's] concern as well as a general heightened sensitivity to data access, we decided to disable journalist access to this customer relationship information for all clients.' Business Insider is now reporting on allegations that Bloomberg reporters used terminals to spy on JPMorgan during the 'London Whale' disaster; Bloomberg bragged about its leadership on this story."
itwbennett writes "Researchers from the University of Edinburgh set out to test the long-held assumption that kids who performed well in school at a young age carried that early success through to adulthood. And prove it they did! Specifically, 'Math and reading ability at age 7 may be linked with socioeconomic status several decades later.' Early success even correlates 'over and above associations with intelligence, education, and socioeconomic status in childhood.'"
New submitter tomservo84 writes "It seems some people in the House of Reps have their heads screwed on straight. A bill would 'make it permanently legal for consumers to unlock their mobile devices, and consumers would not be required to obtain permission from their carrier before switching to a new carrier.' 'This bill reflects the way we use this technology in our everyday lives,' Rep. Lofgren said. 'Americans should not be subject to fines and criminal liability for merely unlocking devices and media they legally purchased. If consumers are not violating copyright or some other law, there's little reason to hold back the benefits of unlocking so people can continue using their devices.' Now, what chance does this have of actually passing?"
"CrunchBang Linux is a Debian based distro with the Openbox window manager on top of it. So it is Debian under the hood with Openbox on the surface," says distro supporter Larry Cafiero. A glance through the #! (CrunchBang) forums showed an exceptionally fast response rate to problems posted there, so even if you haven't heard of #! (it's not in the DistroWatch Top 10), it has a strong and dedicated user community -- which is one of the major keys to success for any open source project. In order to learn more about #! Linux (and to share what he learned), Timothy Lord pointed his camcorder at Larry during LinuxFest Northwest and made this video record of their conversation.
New submitter Mathieu Stephan writes "Hello everyone! Some people told me that my latest project might interest you. I'm not sure you publish this kind of projects, but here it goes. Basically, it is a small platform that recognizes whistles in order to switch on/off appliances. It will be obviously more useful for lighting applications: just walk in a room, whistle, and everything comes on. The project is open hardware, and all the details are published on my website." The linked video is worth watching for the hidden-camera footage alone: it would be hard to not keep playing with this sensor.
An anonymous reader writes "Last week's revelation of the existence of Linux/Cdorked.A, a highly advanced and stealthy Apache backdoor used to drive traffic from legitimate compromised sites to malicious websites carrying Blackhole exploit packs, was only the beginning — ESET's continuing investigation has now revealed that the backdoor also infects sites running the nginx and Lighttpd webservers. Researchers have, so far, detected more than 400 webservers infected with the backdoor, and 50 of them are among the world's most popular and visited websites." Here's the researchers' original report.
An anonymous reader writes "While complementing Debian APT/DPKG, Canonical is now developing their own package format. The new package format has promised highlights of having no dependencies between applications, each package would install to its own directory, root support wouldn't always be required, and overall a more self-contained and easier approach for developers than it stands now for Debian/Ubuntu packages. The primary users of the new packaging system would be those distributing applications built on the Ubuntu Touch/Phone SDK. The initial proof-of-concept package management system is written in Python and uses JSON representation." This quote from the post by Canonical's Colin Watson bears repeating: "We'll continue to use dpkg and apt for building the Ubuntu operating system, syncing with Debian, and so on."
An anonymous reader writes "A new report details the analysis of more than 450 million lines of software through the Coverity Scan service, which began as the largest public-private sector research project focused on open source software integrity, and was initiated between Coverity and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in 2006. Code quality for open source software continues to mirror that of proprietary software — and both continue to surpass the industry standard for software quality. Defect density (defects per 1,000 lines of software code) is a commonly used measurement for software quality. The analysis found an average defect density of .69 for open source software projects, and an average defect density of .68 for proprietary code."
An anonymous reader writes "Electronic Arts announced today it has landed an exclusive multi-year agreement to develop and publish games based on Lucasfilms' Star Wars universe. EA said the it will create and publish Star Wars games for a 'core gaming audience' across 'all popular platforms' and genres. The EA studios creating those 'core' Star Wars games are Battlefield developer DICE, Dead Space developer Visceral Games and Mass Effect house BioWare."