Geek Stuff

Rumor: Lenovo In Talks To Buy BlackBerry

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BarbaraHudson writes: The CBC, the Financial Post, and The Toronto Sun are all reporting a possible sale of BlackBerry to Lenovo. From the Sun: "BlackBerry shares rose more than 3% on Monday after a news website said Chinese computer maker Lenovo Group might offer to buy the Canadian technology company. Rumors of a Lenovo bid for BlackBerry have swirled many times over the last two years. Senior Lenovo executives at different times have indicated an interest in BlackBerry as a means to strengthen their own handset business. The speculation reached a crescendo in the fall of 2013, when BlackBerry was exploring strategic alternatives. Sources familiar with the situation however, told Reuters last year that the Canadian government had strongly hinted to BlackBerry that any sale to Lenovo would not win the necessary regulatory approvals due to security concerns. Analysts also have said any sale to Lenovo would face regulatory obstacles, but they have suggested that a sale of just BlackBerry's handset business and not its core network infrastructure might just pass muster with regulators."

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The Troubling Arguments from the Government in Smith v. Obama

EFF's Deeplinks -

We’ve filed our reply brief in the appeal of Smith v. Obama, our case challenging the NSA’s mass telephone records collection on behalf of Idaho nurse Anna Smith.  The case will be argued before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeal on December 8, 2014 in Seattle, and the public is welcome to attend.

Another case challenging the telephone records program, Klayman v. Obama, will be argued on November 4 in Washington DC before the DC Circuit and EFF will be participating as an amicus.

The Smith v. Obama case records are all here: but we thought we’d highlight three of the more outrageous arguments the government made, and our responses debunking them.

The Cases

Mrs. Smith doesn’t think her phone records are any of the government’s business. That’s why, only a few days after the Guardian published a secret order from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court revealing the government's bulk collection of the telephone records of millions of innocent Americans, she sued. Smith v. Obama challenges the government’s collection of call detail records under Section 215 of the PATRIOT Act. Mrs. Smith is represented by her husband, attorney Peter Smith, along with the ACLU, EFF, and Idaho State Rep. Luke Malek.

The district court said it felt bound to dismiss her claims because of a 1979 Supreme Court case, Smith v. Maryland. That case involved the collection of the phone numbers dialed by a criminal suspect over the course of three days. It’s one of the cornerstones of the so-called “third party doctrine,” the idea that people have no expectation of privacy in information they entrust to others—and it’s outdated to say the least.

The centerpiece of Mrs. Smith’s case is the issue of whether the government’s collection of our telephone records in bulk, and retention of those records for five years, triggers the Fourth Amendment's warrant requirement. The warrant requirement applies if there is a legitimate and reasonable expectation of privacy in those records. And if the warrant requirement applies, the collection is unconstitutional, since there is no warrant (everyone agrees that the secret FISA Court rulings allowing the bulk collection under Section 215 of the Patriot Act are NOT warrants).

We argue that there is a legitimate and reasonable expectation of privacy violated by the bulk collection of telephone records, because unlike the narrow situation the Supreme Court considered in 1979, they can reveal an incredible amount of sensitive information. For example, in one short-term study of only a few months of telephony metadata from 546 people, researchers at Stanford were able to identify one plausible inference of a subject obtaining an abortion; one subject with a heart condition; one with multiple sclerosis; and the owner of a specific brand of firearm.The government wants the court to simply ignore these differences. Alternately, the government argues that even if there is an expectation of privacy, it is so small compared to the government’s interest that the warrant requirement can be ignored, under something called the “special needs” test (more on that below).

But, as we emphasize our reply brief, this is wrong, in part because we are living in what member of the President's Review Group Professor Peter Swire calls the “Golden Age of Surveillance.” As we argue: “technological advances have vastly augmented the government’s surveillance power and exposed much more personal information to government inspection and intrusive analysis. If courts ignored this reality, the essential privacy long preserved by the Fourth Amendment would be eliminated.”

The Government’s Arguments

So with that background, let’s look at three of the most troubling claims the government makes.

Call Detail Records Don’t Actually Identify People

The government still claims with a straight face that call detail records don't reveal private information, because they "do not include information about the identities of individuals," including “the name, address, [or] financial information” of any telephone subscribers.

That’s technically true, of course, but who cares? It’s not like this prevents the government from identifying you in less than a millisecond after it gets your telephone number. Last time we checked, the government did have access to, say, telephone books and the many public online services that can do reverse number lookup. That’s why we point out that: “phone numbers are every bit as identifying as names. Indeed, they are more so: while many people in the country may share the same name, no two phone subscribers share the same number.”

It’s pretty ridiculous for the government to continue to try to convince the court that the absence of the names in calling records represents any real privacy protection for the millions of Americans whose records are collected. It plainly does not.

We Have to Collect Everything for the Program to Work. But We’re Not Collecting Everything.

The government tries to challenge Mrs. Smith’s standing to sue by repeatedly alleging that the call detail records “program has never encompassed all, or even virtually all, call records and does not do so today.” It claims that the case should be dismissed because Mrs. Smith cannot immediately “prove” that her records were included. Of course, that’s not how litigation works. Mrs. Smith has good reason to believe that her records have been included—the government’s own public statements give her good reason. The district court properly rejected this argument, but the government continues to press it on appeal.

The government also seems to be talking out of both sides of its mouth here, since, as we note in our brief:“In explaining the program to Congress and the public…the government has emphasized not only that the program is comprehensive, but that this comprehensiveness is the key to its utility.”

In fact, Robert Litt, General Counsel of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence told Congress: “In order to find the needle that matched up against that number, we needed the haystack, right. That’s what the premise is in this case.” And NSA Deputy Director John Inglis defended the program by saying: “If you're looking for a needle in the haystack you need the haystack. So you wouldn't want to check a database that only has one third of the data, and say there’s a one third chance that I know about a terrorist plot, there’s a two thirds chance I missed it because I don’t have that data.”

So to get the case dismissed they want to convince the court that they aren't really collecting "virtually all" of the telephone records, but their public justifications rely on the fact that they are. So either they are collecting Mrs. Smith’s records, along with every other Verizon Wireless customer—Verizon is the second largest wireless service in the U.S. after all—or they are not very good at meeting their own stated goals. Which is it, government?

And that goes right to the heart of the government’s next argument:

Bulk Telephone Records Collection Isn’t Necessary to Protect Us—But Is Still Allowed Under the "Special-Needs Doctrine"

The government’s fallback argument is that even if the call detail records triggered the Fourth Amendment, a warrant is still not required under a narrow legal precedent called the “special-needs doctrine.” It allows warrantless searches of a few small categories of people who have a reduced privacy expectation, like students in schools or employees who handle dangerous equipment. It also only applies when compliance with probable-cause and warrant requirements would be “impracticable” and the government’s primary goals are not law enforcement.  

The first problem here is that the millions of ordinary Americans affected by the government's bulk collection do not have a reduced expectation of privacy in the records of their telephone calls. The privacy interests here are great, since with a trail of telephone records, the government can learn extremely sensitive information.

The second problem is that no less than the White House itself has said that the government can accomplish its goals without bulk telephone records collection.  This has been confirmed by the President’s two hand-picked panels as well as several Congressmembers who have seen the intelligence information. As we point out in our reply brief, the best the government can say about the program is that it “enhances and expedites” certain techniques it uses in its investigations.  So getting a warrant isn’t impracticable, it’s just, at most, inconvenient. But as we point out: “If efficiency alone were determinative, the Fourth Amendment’s warrant requirement would have no force at all.”

The special-needs argument is especially concerning because if the courts were to accept it, the special-needs doctrine could become an exception that swallows the Fourth Amendment’s rule against general searches. It could, de facto, create a national security exception to the Constitutional rights enjoyed by ordinary, nonsuspect Americans, something the founders plainly did not do when they created this country in the midst of a national security crisis.

We expect an interesting argument on December 8.

Related Issues: NSA SpyingRelated Cases: Smith v. ObamaKlayman v. ObamaJewel v. NSAFirst Unitarian Church of Los Angeles v. NSA
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Which Android Devices Sacrifice Battery-Life For Performance?

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MojoKid writes: A couple of weeks ago, Futuremark began handing out copies of PCMark for Android to members of the press, in an effort to get its leaderboards filled while the finishing touches were being put on the app. That might give you pause in that the results, generated today, are not going to be entirely accurate when the final version comes out, but that's not the case. Futuremark has encouraged publication of results generated with the benchmark. What makes PCMark for Android useful benchmark is that it not only tests for performance, but also for battery-life and performance combined. As such, you can easily figure out which devices sacrifice battery-life for performance and which ones have a good blend of both. The HTC One M8 really stands out, thanks to its nearly balanced performance/battery-life ratio. A result like that might make you think that neither value could be that great, but that's not the case at all. In fact, the battery-life rating on that phone places far beyond some of the other models, only falling short to the OnePlus One. And speaking of that phone, it becomes obvious with PCMark why it's so hyped-up of late; it not only delivers solid performance, it boasts great battery-life as well.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








China Staging a Nationwide Attack On iCloud and Microsoft Accounts

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New submitter DemonOnIce writes: According to The Verge and an original report from the site that monitor's China's Great Firewall activity, China is conducting a large-scale attack on iCloud and Microsoft accounts using its government firewall software. Chinese users may be facing an unpleasant surprise as they are directed to a dummy site designed to look like an Apple login page (or a Microsoft one, as appropriate).

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GNU Emacs 24.4 Released Today

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New submitter Shade writes Well over one and a half years in the works, the latest and greatest release of GNU Emacs was made officially available today. Highlights of this release include a built-in web browser, improved multi-monitor and fullscreen support, "electric" indentation enabled by default, support for saving and restoring the state of frames and windows, pixel-based resizing for frames and windows, support for digitally signed ELisp packages, support for menus in text terminals, and much more. Read the official announcement and the full list of changes for more information.

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More Eye Candy Coming To Windows 10

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jones_supa writes Microsoft is expected to release a new build of the Windows 10 Technical Preview in the very near future, according to their own words. The only build so far to be released to the public is 9841 but the next iteration will likely be in the 9860 class of releases. With this new build, Microsoft has polished up the animations that give the OS a more comprehensive feel. When you open a new window, it flies out on to the screen from the icon and when you minimize it, it collapses back in to the icon on the taskbar. It is a slick animation and if you have used OS X, it is similar to the one used to collapse windows back in to the dock. Bah.

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E Fun introduces a $179, 10 inch Windows 2-in-1 tablet

Liliputing -

Budget Android tablet maker E Fun is branching out into Windows tablets. The E Fun Nextbook 10.1 Windows tablet features an Intel Atom Bay Trail processor, a 1280 x 800 pixel IPS display and a detachable keyboard that lets you use the system like a notebook. It’ll sell for $179 when it hits Walmart in mid-November. […]

E Fun introduces a $179, 10 inch Windows 2-in-1 tablet is a post from: Liliputing

Help ESR Stamp Out CVS and SVN In Our Lifetime

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mtaht writes ESR is collecting specifications and donations towards getting a new high end machine to be used for massive CVS and SVN repository conversions, after encountering problems with converting the whole of netbsd over to git. What he's doing now sort of reminds me of holding a bake sale to build a bomber, but he's well on his way towards Xeon class or higher for the work. What else can be done to speed up adoption of git and preserve all the computer history kept in source code repositories? ESR says he'll match funds toward the purchase of the needed hardware, so if you want to help drive him into bankruptcy, now's your chance.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








NASA's HI-SEAS Project Results Suggests a Women-Only Mars Crew

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globaljustin writes "Alan Drysdale, a systems analyst in advanced life support and a contractor with NASA concluded, "Small women haven't been demonstrated to be appreciably dumber than big women or big men, so there's no reason to choose larger people for a flight crew when it's brain power you want," says Drysdale. "The logical thing to do is to fly small women." Kate Greene, who wrote the linked article, took part in the first HI-SEAS experiment in Martian-style living, and has some compelling reasons for an all-women crew, energy efficiency chief among them: Week in and week out, the three female crew members expended less than half the calories of the three male crew members. Less than half! We were all exercising roughly the same amount—at least 45 minutes a day for five consecutive days a week—but our metabolic furnaces were calibrated in radically different ways. During one week, the most metabolically active male burned an average of 3,450 calories per day, while the least metabolically active female expended 1,475 calories per day. It was rare for a woman on crew to burn 2,000 calories in a day and common for male crew members to exceed 3,000. ... The calorie requirements of an astronaut matter significantly when planning a mission. The more food a person needs to maintain her weight on a long space journey, the more food should launch with her. The more food launched, the heavier the payload. The heavier the payload, the more fuel required to blast it into orbit and beyond. The more fuel required, the heavier the rocket becomes, which it in turn requires more fuel to launch.

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Debian's Systemd Adoption Inspires Threat of Fork

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New submitter Tsolias writes It appears that systemd is still a hot topic in the Debian community. As seen earlier today, there is a new movement shaping up against the adoption of systemd for the upcoming stable release [of Debian], Jessie. They claim that "systemd betrays the UNIX philosophy"; it makes things more complex, thus breaking the "do one thing and do it well" principle. Note that the linked Debian Fork page specificaly says that the anonymous developers behind it support a proposal to preserve options in init systems, rather than demanding the removal of systemd, and are not opposed to change per se. They just don't want other parts of the system to be wholly dependent on systemd. "We contemplate adopting more recent alternatives to sysvinit, but not those undermining the basic design principles of "do one thing and do it well" with a complex collection of dozens of tightly coupled binaries and opaque logs."

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BIOSTAR introduces iDEQ-T1 line of mini computers

Liliputing -

Computer motherboard maker BIOSTAR is launching a new line of small form-factor desktop computers. The BIOSTAR iDEQ-T1 series mini PC systems measure about 8.3″ x 7.3″ x 1.6″ and weigh about 1.8 pounds. The computers are powered by Intel Celeron Bay Trail processors, support screen resolutions up to 2560 x 1440 pixels, and support Windows 7 or later. […]

BIOSTAR introduces iDEQ-T1 line of mini computers is a post from: Liliputing

EFF Launches Updated Know Your Rights Guide

EFF's Deeplinks -

If the police come knocking at your door, the constitution offers you some protection. But the constitution is just a piece of paper—if you don’t know how to assert your rights. And even if you do assert your rights…what happens next? That answer may seem complicated, but protecting yourself is simple if you know your rights.

That’s why EFF has launched an updated Know Your Rights Guide that explains your legal rights when law enforcement try to search the data stored on your computer, cell phone or other electronic device.

The guide clarifies when the police can search devices, describes what to do if police do (or don’t) have a warrant, and explains what happens if the police can’t get into a device because of encryption or other security measures. 

Our guide is up to date as of October 2014, and will always indicate when it was last updated. While the Constitution stays the same, there are constantly new court opinions interpreting the law in light of new technologies. Since we first published a Know Your Rights whitepaper in 2011, state and federal courts, including the US Supreme Court, have issued key opinions that affect rights around search and seizure. In an important 2012 decision in United States v. Jones, the US Supreme Court ruled police could not install a GPS device onto a car without a search warrant. And in the seminal 2014 case Riley v. California, the same court ruled an arrest isn’t sufficient reason to search a cell phone without a warrant. We expect there to be many new cases interpreting Jones and Riley to other forms of technologies, and will keep our Guide updated with those new developments.

Remember, when it comes to your legal rights, what you don’t know can hurt you. Read our guide, share it with your friends and family, and be prepared!


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Manga Images Depicting Children Lead to Conviction in UK

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An anonymous reader writes with this news from the UK, as reported by Ars Technica: A 39-year-old UK man has been convicted of possessing illegal cartoon drawings of young girls exposing themselves in school uniforms and engaging in sex acts. The case is believed to be the UK's first prosecution of illegal manga and anime images. Local media said that Robul Hoque was sentenced last week to nine months' imprisonment, though the sentence is suspended so long as the defendant does not break the law again. Police seized Hoque's computer in 2012 and said they found nearly 400 such images on it, none of which depicted real people but were illegal nonetheless because of their similarity to child pornography. Hoque was initially charged with 20 counts of illegal possession but eventually pled guilty to just 10 counts.

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'Endrun' Networks: Help In Danger Zones

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kierny writes Drawing on networking protocols designed to support NASA's interplanetary missions, two information security researchers have created a networking system that's designed to transmit information securely and reliably in even the worst conditions. Dubbed Endrun, and debuted at Black Hat Europe, its creators hope the delay-tolerant and disruption-tolerant system — which runs on Raspberry Pi — could be deployed everywhere from Ebola hot zones in Liberia, to war zones in Syria, to demonstrations in Ferguson.

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Free as in Open Access and Wikipedia

EFF's Deeplinks -

Between October 20 and 26, EFF is celebrating Open Access Week alongside dozens of organizations from around the world. This is a week to acknowledge the wide-ranging benefits of enabling open access to information and research—as well as exploring the dangerous costs of keeping knowledge locked behind publisher paywalls. We'll be posting on our blog every day about various aspects of the open access movement. Go here to find out how you can take part.

This is a guest post by Yana Welinder, Legal Counsel at the Wikimedia Foundation and Non-Residential Fellow at Stanford CIS. If you have comments on this post, you can contact her on Twitter or her Wikimedia talk page.

Wikipedia and the other Wikimedia sites are closely connected to open access goals of making scholarship freely available and reusable. Consistent with these goals, the Wikimedia sites make information available to Internet users around the world free of charge in hundreds of languages. Wikimedia content can also be reused under its free licenses. The content is complemented by citations to open access scholarship, and the Wikimedia sites play a unique role in making academic learning easily available to the world. As the next generation of scholars embraces open access principles to become a Generation Open, we will move closer to "a world in which every single human being can freely share in the sum of all knowledge."

To write and edit Wikipedia, contributors need to access high quality independent sources. Unfortunately, paywalls and copyright restrictions often prevent the use of academic journals to write Wikipedia articles and enrich them with citations. Citations are particularly important to allow readers to verify Wikipedia articles and learn more about the topic from the underlying sources. Given the importance of open access to Wikipedia, Wikipedia contributors have set up a WikiProject Open Access to increase the use of open-access materials on the Wikimedia sites, improve open access-related articles on Wikipedia, and signal to readers whether sources in Wikipedia articles are open access.

Privacy info. This embed will serve content from wikimedia.org

Link to video on Wikimedia Commons // CC BY-SA 3.0: Reusing Open Access materials on Wikimedia projects, Jesse Clark, Max Klein, Matt Senate, Daniel Mietchen.

Great potential lies in the reciprocal relationship between the open access scholarship that enriches Wikipedia and Wikipedia’s promotion of primary sources. As a secondary source, Wikipedia does not publish ideas or facts that are not supported by reliable and published sources. Wikipedia has tremendous power as a platform for relaying the outcomes of academic study by leading over 400 million monthly visitors to underlying scholarship cited in articles. Just as a traditional encyclopedia would, Wikipedia can make the underlying research easier to find. But unlike a traditional encyclopedia, it also provides free access and reuse to all. In that sense, Wikipedia is an ideal secondary source for open access research.

In light of this, we are thrilled to see Generation Open grow. The Digital Commons Network now boasts 1,109,355 works from 358 institutions. The Directory of Open Access Journals further has over 10,000 journals from 135 countries. Esteemed law journals such as the Harvard Journal of Law and Technology, Berkeley Technology Law Journal, and Michigan Law Review subscribe to the Open Access Law Program, which encourages them to archive their articles under open access principles. But while all these initiatives enable free access to academic scholarship, some of them still provide limited ability to reuse that work falling short of the definition of open access:

[F]ree availability on the public internet, permitting any users to read, download, copy, distribute, print, search, or link to the full texts of these articles, crawl them for indexing, pass them as data to software, or use them for any other lawful purpose, without financial, legal, or technical barriers other than those inseparable from gaining access to the internet itself. The only constraint on reproduction and distribution, and the only role for copyright in this domain, should be to give authors control over the integrity of their work and the right to be properly acknowledged and cited.

Wikipedians are also contributing to the body of published open access scholarship. Earlier this month, four Wikipedians published an article on Dengue fever in Open Medicine (an open access and peer-reviewed journal) based on a Wikipedia article that was collaboratively edited by over 1,300 volunteers and bots. In addition to providing an open access scholarly article on this important topic, this publication validated that Wikipedia's editorial process can produce high quality content outside traditional academia. Many Wikipedia articles incorporate text from openly licensed scholarship and some scholars write and publish openly licensed scholarship specifically to have it reused in Wikipedia articles.

Placing scholarship behind paywalls and copyright restrictions has the effect of relegating new advances in human knowledge to small academic communities. We have previously joined many open access groups to demand that scholarship be not only freely accessible, but also freely reuseable. As more academics allow their work to be shared and used freely, online secondary sources like Wikipedia will play a large role in disseminating the knowledge to more people in new regions and on different devices.

~

Many thanks to Hilary Richardson and Camille Desai for their help in preparing this post. I would also like to thank Stephen LaPorte, Manprit Brar, Daniel Mietchen, and other members of WikiProject Open Access for their helpful feedback.

var mytubes = new Array(1); mytubes[1] = '%3Ciframe src=%22//commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Reusing_Open_Access_materials_on_Wikimedia_projects.ogv?embedplayer=yes%22 webkitallowfullscreen=%22%22 mozallowfullscreen=%22%22 allowfullscreen=%22%22 frameborder=%220%22 height=%22338%22 width=%22600%22%3E%3C/iframe%3E'; Related Issues: Fair Use and Intellectual Property: Defending the BalanceOpen Access
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OnePlus One smartphone pre-orders open (and close) October 27th

Liliputing -

Disappointed that an unlocked Google Nexus 6 smartphone sells for $649, or about twice as much as a Nexus 5? Google may not be selling a new phone with top-tier specs at a mid-range price this year, but Chinese startup OnePlus is. The company’s OnePlus One phone has been well reviewed (in spite of some awful […]

OnePlus One smartphone pre-orders open (and close) October 27th is a post from: Liliputing

Barometers In iPhones Mean More Crowdsourcing In Weather Forecasts

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cryptoz (878581) writes Apple is now adding barometers to its mobile devices: both new iPhones have valuable atmospheric pressure sensors being used for HealthKit (step counting). Since many Android devices have been carrying barometers for years, scientists like Cliff Mass have been using the sensor data to improve weather forecasts. Open source data collection projects like PressureNet on Android automatically collect and send the atmospheric sensor data to researchers.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








Deals of the Day (10-20-2014)

Liliputing -

Amazon’s new Kindle Voyage eReader is now shipping. Priced at $199, it’s one of the most expensive mainstream eReaders on the market… although early reviews suggest it’s also one of the best, thanks to a high-resolution display, pressure-sensitive page-turn buttons, and a front-lit display that sits flush with the bezel, among other things. But if […]

Deals of the Day (10-20-2014) is a post from: Liliputing

An Algorithm to End the Lines for Ice at Burning Man

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Any gathering of 65,000 people in the dessert is going to require some major infrastructure to maintain health and sanity. At Burning Man, some of that infrastructure is devoted to a supply chain for ice. Writes Bennett Haselton, The lines for ice bags at Burning Man could be cut from an hour long at peak times, to about five minutes, by making one small... Well, read the description below of how they do things now, and see if the same suggested change occurs to you. I'm curious whether it's the kind of idea that is more obvious to students of computer science who think algorithmically, or if it's something that could occur to anyone. Read on for the rest; Bennett's idea for better triage may bring to mind a lot of other queuing situations and ways that time spent waiting in line could be more efficiently employed.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








Developers, IT Still Racking Up (Mostly) High Salaries

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Nerval's Lobster (2598977) writes Software development and IT remain common jobs among those in the higher brackets, although not the topmost one, according to a new study (with graph) commissioned by NPR. Among those earning between $58,000 and $72,000, IT was the sixth-most-popular job, while software developers came in tenth place. In the next bracket up (earning between $72,000 and $103,000), IT rose to third, with software development just behind in fourth place. As incomes increased another level ($103,000 to $207,000), software developers did even better, coming in second behind managers, although IT dropped off the list entirely. In the top percentile ($207,000 and above), neither software developers nor IT staff managed to place; this is a segment chiefly occupied by physicians (in first place), managers, chief executives, lawyers, and salespeople who are really good at their jobs. In other words, it seems like a good time to be in IT, provided you have a particular skillset. If those high salaries are in Silicon Valley or New York, though, they might not seem as high as half the same rate would in Omaha, or Houston, or Raleigh.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.








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