Reader intellitech points to an article at National Geographic, from which he excerpts: "If astronomers' early predictions hold true, the holidays next year may hold a glowing gift for stargazers—a superbright comet, just discovered streaking near Saturn. Even with powerful telescopes, comet 2012 S1 (ISON) is now just a faint glow in the constellation Cancer. But the ball of ice and rocks might become visible to the naked eye for a few months in late 2013 and early 2014—perhaps outshining the moon, astronomers say. The comet is already remarkably bright, given how far it is from the sun, astronomer Raminder Singh Samra said. What's more, 2012 S1 seems to be following the path of the Great Comet of 1680, considered one of the most spectacular ever seen from Earth."
Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive
An anonymous reader writes "A new paper from Professor Jason Mazzone at the University of Illinois calls for federal laws to regulate what happens to digital accounts after the account holder's death. Mazzone argues that Facebook and other online services have policies for deceased users' accounts that do not adequately protect the individual property and privacy interests at stake. The full text of the paper (called "Facebook's Afterlife") is also available: "
First time accepted submitter SgtKeeling writes "After 5 release candidates, a new version of Slackware has been released. From the website: 'Yes, it is that time again! After well over a year of planning, development, and testing, the Slackware Linux Project is proud to announce the latest stable release of the longest running distribution of the Linux operating system, Slackware version 14.0! We are sure you'll enjoy the many improvements. We've done our best to bring the latest technology to Slackware while still maintaining the stability and security that you have come to expect. Slackware is well known for its simplicity and the fact that we try to bring software to you in the condition that the authors intended. We will be setting up BitTorrent downloads for the official ISO images. Stay tuned to http://slackware.com/ for the latest updates.'"
An anonymous reader writes "Scientists at the Tokyo University of Science have developed a way to create sugar batteries that store 20% more energy than lithium-ion cells. Before it can be used as the anode in a sodium-ion battery, sucrose powder is turned into hard carbon powder by heating it to up to 1,500 degrees celsius in an oxygen-free oven." Except that swapping batteries might be a bit tricky, I can think of a perfect application for these.
An article at Nintendo Gamer highlights how Electronic Arts put almost no work into the latest Wii release of their FIFA soccer game franchise, but didn't hesitate to push it out the door anyway. Side-by-side screenshots show the Wii version of FIFA 12 got some minor graphical tweaks — a different splash screen, slightly modified logos, different colored socks on the players — before being re-released as FIFA 13. From the article: "This is something that needs to be highlighted, because while it would be easy to pass it off and say 'meh, it’s just the Wii version,' the fact remains that this game does still sell relatively well. This isn’t guesswork – as journalists we receive confidential sales figures and though we’re legally bound not to reveal those figures, we can at least say with confidence that FIFA 12 did pretty well for a Wii game this close to the console’s death. The Wii U version of FIFA 13 will no doubt be a fantastic game, since it’ll share a lot (if not all) of the Xbox 360 and PS3 versions’ features. The 3DS version is a solid improvement over last year’s effort, and worth a look if you’re into some handheld football action. This, however – a £30 roster update – is unacceptable."
bcrowell writes "California Governor Jerry Brown has signed SB 1052 and 1053, authored by state senator Darrell Steinberg, to create free textbooks for 50 core lower-division college courses. SB 1052 creates a California Open Education Resources Council, made up of faculty from the UC, Cal State, and community college systems. The council is supposed to pick 50 core courses. They are then to establish a 'competitive request-for-proposal process in which faculty members, publishers, and other interested parties would apply for funds to produce, in 2013, 50 high-quality, affordable, digital open source textbooks and related materials, meeting specified requirements.' The bill doesn't become operative unless the legislature funds it — a questionable process in California's current political situation. The books could be either newly produced (which seems unlikely, given the 1-year time frame stated) or existing ones that the state would buy or have free access to. Unlike former Gov. Schwarzenegger's failed K-12 free textbook program, this one specifically defines what it means by 'open source,' rather than using the term as a feel-good phrase; books have to be under a CC-BY (or CC-BY-SA?) license, in XML format. They're supposed to be modularized and conform to state and W3C accessibility guidelines. Faculty would not be required to use the free books."
An anonymous reader points out the recent trouble of author Cody Jackson, who wrote a book called Learning to Program with Python. He offers the book for sale, but also gives it away for free, and he used the CC-BY license. In order to distribute the book, he posted links to his torrent of it. Unfortunately, this cause Google to suspect his AdSense account for his website. Even after removing the links, he was unable to get in contact with Google's AdSense team to get his accounts restored. After his story was picked up yesterday by Techdirt, somebody at Google "re-reviewed" his case and finally reinstated his account. Jackson had this to say: "One good thing about this is that it has helped raise awareness of the problems with corporate copyright policies and copyright regulation as a whole. When a person is unable to post his/her own products on the 'net because someone fears copyright infringement has occurred, there is a definite problem." This follows a few high-profile situations in which copyright enforcement bots have knocked down perfectly legitimate content.
As you may have heard, Slashdot will be celebrating its 15th anniversary in October. As part of that celebration, we've set up a page to organize meetups for Slashdot users to hang out and shoot the breeze in meatspace for a change. We're going to be sending out bunches of free T-shirts to many of these gatherings, and we'll be printing them and sending them out pretty soon. So if you're planning on attending and haven't signed up yet, make sure you do so by the end of the day, so that we can be sure to have enough T-shirts on hand for you. (You can still sign up later, of course, but you may miss your chance at a free shirt.) Slashdot staff will be hosting parties in Ann Arbor, San Francisco, New York, and Raleigh [Edit: And Austin! :) ] (sign up for any of these, or others, on the anniversary party page by filtering for your preferred location). We hope to see you there, or hear about your own meetups!
An anonymous reader sends this quote from JournalStar.com: "The Lancaster County Sheriff’s Office has seen an increase in scammers using unsecured Wi-Fi connections to steal identities and mask their crimes during the past six months, Sheriff Terry Wagner said. ... So deputies spent the past few weeks finding unsecure connections and sending 40 to 50 letters to let people know about the potential dangers of strangers accessing their network connections. 'You're just opening yourself up for a series of potential pitfalls,' Chief Deputy Jeff Bliemeister said. ... Bliemeister said only businesses like coffee shops that offer Internet connections to customers need unsecured Internet connections.
darthcamaro writes "Agencies of the U.S. Federal Government are racing to comply with a September 30th deadline to offer web, email and DNS for all public facing websites over IPv6. While not all government websites will hit the deadline, according to Akamai at least 2,000 of them will. According to at least one expert, the IPv6 mandate is proof that top-down cheerleading for tech innovation works. 'The 2012 IPv6 mandate is not the first (or the last) IPv6 transition mandate from the U.S. government. Four years ago, in 2008, the U.S. government also had an IPv6 mandate in place. That particular mandate, required U.S. Government agencies to have IPv6-ready equipment enabled in their infrastructure.'"
Nerval's Lobster writes "The Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC) and the Center for Digital Democracy (CDD) want the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to examine the new alliance between Facebook and Datalogix. According to the Financial Times, Facebook and Datalogix have teamed up to measure the effects of some 45 marketing campaigns so far, with the two companies matching consumer information from loyalty-card programs to the identifiers (such as email addresses) used to set up Facebook accounts. Combining those datasets could offer insight into whether consumers are actually heading out and buying certain products or services advertised on Facebook. While the two companies apparently strip personal information from the datasets, EPIC and CDD nonetheless have significant concerns over how that data is handled, and by whom. 'Facebook is matching the personal information of users with personal information held by Datalogix,' EPIC wrote in a Sept. 27 posting on its website, hinting that such a deal could violate the social network's previous agreement with the FTC prohibiting it 'from changing privacy settings without the affirmative consent of users or misrepresenting the privacy or security of users' personal information.'"
McGruber writes "The Associated Press is reporting that years before F-22 stealth fighter pilots began getting dizzy in the cockpit, before one struggled to breathe as he tried to pull out of a fatal crash, before two more went on the '60 Minutes' television program to say the plane was so unsafe they refused to fly it, a small working group of U.S. Air Force experts knew something was wrong with the prized stealth fighter jet. This working group, called RAW-G, was created in 2002 at the suggestion of Daniel Wyman, then a flight surgeon at Florida's Tyndall Air Force Base, where the first F-22 squadron was being deployed. Wyman is now a brigadier general and the Air Combat Command surgeon general. RAW-G proposed a range of solutions by 2005, including adjustments to the flow of oxygen into pilot's masks. But that key recommendation was rejected by military officials reluctant to add costs to a program that was already well over budget. Kevin Divers, a former Air Force physiologist who led RAW-G until he left the service in 2007, believes the cost of adjusting the oxygen flow would have added about $100,000 to the cost of each $190 million aircraft."
An anonymous reader writes with news of a recent paper about the bias among science faculty against female students. The study, recently published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, asked professors to evaluate applications for a lab manager position. The faculty were given information about fictional applicants with randomly-assigned genders. They tended to rate male applicants as more hire-able than female applicants, and male names also generated higher starting salary and more mentoring offers. This bias was found in both male and female faculty. "The average salary suggested by male scientists for the male student was $30,520; for the female student, it was $27,111. Female scientists recommended, on average, a salary of $29,333 for the male student and $25,000 for the female student."
An anonymous reader writes "The free software FFmpeg multi-media library that's used by VLC, MPlayer, Chrome, and many other software projects has reached version 1.0 after being in development since 2000. The 1.0 release incorporates new filters/decoders and other A/V enhancements. The code is available from FFmpeg.org."
sycodon writes "Nakoula Basseley Nakoula, the man behind the film Innocence of Muslims, has been arrested and jailed in Los Angeles for probation violations. The situation is a win-win for the Obama administration, who can now appear to be punishing the man whose film sparked protests and riots around the world, but at the same time simply enforcing the law, as all evidence indeed suggests Nakoula violated the terms of his probation."