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Happy New Year! It's that time (as of now!) for the UK, and since the Slashdot backend operates in Greenwich Mean Time, that seems as good a reason as any to welcome 2012 now instead of local midnight for any of the various U.S. time zones. Everyone has a different take on how to rank the events of the last year; read on below for a few notes on some of the goings on of the past 31,536,000 seconds (give or take). The list is pretty arbitrary, drawn from the thousand-ish stories that hit the Slashdot page in that time; please say in the comments what news hit you the hardest this year.
New submitter futuristic writes with a link to Thomas Edison's great-grandson's take on Thomas Edison and the alleged demise of the incandescent light bulb. From the article: "My great grandfather's 100-watt incandescent will be replaced with new energy-efficient versions, including CFLs, LEDs, and — yes — new and improved incandescent bulbs. ... And my great-grandfather wouldn't have it any other way."
PolygamousRanchKid writes "Ford says its new Fusion, which will debut at the North American International Auto Show in a couple weeks, will be the first mainstream midsize sedan in North America to offer a lane departure system. Lane departure systems are aimed at warning drivers, especially drowsy ones, if their vehicles wander out of their lane. A digital camera mounted on the windshield ahead of the rear-view mirror keeps a watch. The system not only causes the steering wheel to vibrate if it senses an unintentional lane departure, it will also steer the car back into the right lane. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that 100,000 police-reported crashes occur every year as a result of drowsy drivers, leading to 1,500 deaths, 71,000 injuries and $12.5 billion in monetary losses." I'd just like to know how hard the AI will fight if it misinterprets a driver's intentional lane change.
An anonymous reader writes "I'm trying to help a school put their classes online in the way most minimally invasive to the teachers. A few environmental considerations: They don't always have live internet in the classroom, or I'd just run to Skype. I'm hoping to make it as much one-touch start/stop as possible to start recording, stop recording, and upload to a server. I'd like to believe others here have already done something similar, so if a package or process worked for you, that would be great to hear. Not sure what if it's all PowerPoint lectures, or if they actually use a whiteboard, and if so what the best camera would be to use (on a school budget!)."
smitty777 writes "Forbes is running an intriguing story on a new 'Superphone' under development by the folks at Microsoft. According to this leaked MS roadmap document, the plan is to build the Apollo-based phone in the 4th quarter of 2012. FTA: 'In the end, however, none of this matters. Microsoft's "peek into the future" is barely a glimpse into what the company may or may not have planned for 2012. While the "superphone" bullet is worth noting, it is not the confirmation of a revolutionary new product. At best, it indicates that Microsoft wishes to compete with Apple by offering a product that is, well, super.' It's also interesting that Sony and AT&T also appear to be working on superphones of their own."
jones_supa writes "Ville 'viznut' Heikkilä presents us with an interesting project. 'As demonstrated by the video, IBNIZ (Ideally Bare Numeric Impression giZmo) is a virtual machine and a programming language that generates video and audio from very short strings of code. Technically, it is a two-stack machine somewhat similar to Forth, but with the major exception that the stack is cyclical and also used at an output buffer.' The main goal of IBNIZ is to provide a new platform for the demoscene. Something that would have the potential to displace MS-DOS as the primary platform for sub-256-byte productions."
NewYorkCountryLawyer writes "In Real View v 20-20 Technologies, it was held that the actual copyright infringement damages for a single unauthorized download of a computer program was the lost license fee that would have been charged. The judge, in the District Court of Massachusetts, granted remittitur, reducing the jury's verdict from $1,370,590.00 to $4200 unless the plaintiff seeks a new trial. Something tells me the plaintiff will seek a new trial."
Kevin Fishburne writes "After years of work, creator Benoît Minisini and friends are just in time for New Year's celebrations with the first stable release of GAMBAS 3. Per their web site, 'Gambas is a free development environment based on a Basic interpreter with object extensions, a bit like Visual Basic (but it is NOT a clone !).' GAMBAS is component-based, so check out the list for an idea of what you can do with it."
New submitter brunozamborlin writes "I just published a short video that shows how a very cheap contact microphone can be used to recognize different types of fingers touch and transform any surface into an interactive board. In the video we put the microphone over different surfaces such as kitchen tables and balloons and through realtime gesture recognition we show how we can play different virtual music instruments using a technique called physical modeling . A mobile version would be definitely possible." The project's Web page shows several more examples. Update: 12/31 15:17 GMT by T : Bruno Zamborlin points out that the surfaces don't need to be flat; instead, they simply need to be rigid.
Hugh Pickens writes "The high stakes standoff between Iran and the U.S. over the Strait of Hormuz, the passageway for one-fifth of the world's oil, escalated this week as Iran's navy claimed to have recorded video of a U.S. aircraft carrier entering the Port of Oman and the deputy chief of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Hossein Salami rejected U.S. claims that it could prevent Iran from closing the strait. To drive the point home, Iran has started a 10-day naval exercise in the Persian Gulf to show off how it could use small speedboats and a barrage of missiles to combat America's naval armada while in a report for the Naval War College, U.S. Navy Commander Daniel Dolan wrote that Iran has acquired 'thousands of sea mines, wake homing torpedoes, hundreds of advanced cruise missiles (PDF) and possibly more than one thousand small Fast Attack Craft and Fast Inshore Attack Craft.'" (Read more, below.)
mariocki writes "Steve Jobs' go-to design man Jonathan Ive, the creator of modern computer design classics such as the iMac, MacBook Pro and iPod/iPhone/iPad, has been awarded a knighthood in the New Year's Honours list, taking him from plain old 'Mr' straight to 'Sir' in one fell swoop. This now puts him in the same league as Paul McCartney, Michael Caine, Bob Geldof and Bill Gates. Ive said 'I discovered at an early age that all I've ever wanted to do is design' and even for Apple haters his designs have done more for personal computer design than the mainstream PC manufacturers could imagine, taking the PC from the geek den into the living room of even the most painfully trendy fashionista."
First time accepted submitter ZoCool writes "No doubt to the deep relief of the Russian and Arianespace engineers, and the investors buying their services, Anatoly Zac's RussianSpaceWeb reports that on Wednesday, Dec. 28, 2011, at 21:09 Moscow Time (17:09 GMT) a Soyuz-2-1a launch vehicle carrying the third tranche of the 2nd Generation Globalstar network, in the form of 6 satellites, was delivered successfully to orbit. This launch from Baikonur's Site 31, pad 6, has broken the recent unusual string of malfunctions that has bugged this usually rock solid workhorse. I imagine that the troops in the space station might be breathing a little more easily too, as the Soyuz is the backbone of the world's space missions these days, when it comes to medium lift."
Several readers pointed out the story of the Apple phone that never was, from 1983. Pictures of the concept phone are impressive, as you'd expect from Hartmut Esslinger, later founder of Frog Design. Even more interesting is that this phone is part of a much larger collection of Apple artifacts curated by Stanford.