sciencehabit writes "Astronomers have discovered what may be five planets orbiting Tau Ceti, the closest single star beyond our solar system whose temperature and luminosity nearly match the sun's. If the planets are there, one of them is about the right distance from the star to sport mild temperatures, oceans of liquid water, and even life (paper)."
Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive
An anonymous reader writes "Patrick Wyatt, one of the developers behind the original Warcraft and StarCraft games, as well as Diablo and Guild Wars, has a post about some of the bug hunting he's done throughout his career. He covers familiar topics — crunch time leading to stupid mistakes and finding bugs in compilers rather than game code — and shares a story about finding a way to diagnose hardware failure for players of Guild Wars. Quoting: '[Mike O'Brien] wrote a module ("OsStress") which would allocate a block of memory, perform calculations in that memory block, and then compare the results of the calculation to a table of known answers. He encoded this stress-test into the main game loop so that the computer would perform this verification step about 30-50 times per second. On a properly functioning computer this stress test should never fail, but surprisingly we discovered that on about 1% of the computers being used to play Guild Wars it did fail! One percent might not sound like a big deal, but when one million gamers play the game on any given day that means 10,000 would have at least one crash bug. Our programming team could spend weeks researching the bugs for just one day at that rate!'"
judgecorp writes "ICANN has held a raffle to determine in what order it will examine new domain name applications. This doesn't guarantee applicants will win the generic top-level domain (gTLD) they have set their hearts on, as the applications still have to be considered. There may be competition, or objections such as the South American governments' objection to Amazon's .amazon bid. None of the first batch is an English language domain, and the first one likely to make it through all the hurdles is an application by the Vatican, for a domain spelling 'catholic' in Chinese."
skade88 writes "Google has been working to bring many old manuscripts to the internet at high resolution for all to see. From their announcement: 'A little over a year ago, we helped put online five manuscripts of the Dead Sea Scrolls—ancient documents that include the oldest known biblical manuscripts in existence. Written more than 2,000 years ago on pieces of parchment and papyrus, they were preserved by the hot, dry desert climate and the darkness of the caves in which they were hidden. The Scrolls are possibly the most important archaeological discovery of the 20th century. Today, we're helping put more of these ancient treasures online. The Israel Antiquities Authority is launching the Leon Levy Dead Sea Scrolls Digital Library, an online collection of some 5,000 images of scroll fragments, at a quality never seen before.'"
An anonymous reader writes with this IDG News report: "Samsung dropped all claims pending in European courts in which it asserted patents that are essential for mobile communication devices to prevent the sales of Apple products in Europe. The injunction requests against Apple, which aimed to get courts to impose sales bans on infringing products, were withdrawn in the U.K., France, the Netherlands, Germany and Italy. Samsung only withdrew the injunctions requests — other litigation against Apple in Europe continues, Anne ter Braak, a spokeswoman for Samsung in the Netherlands, said in an email on Tuesday. While Samsung said it withdrew its claims in the interest of protecting consumer choice, it could have to do with a European antitrust investigation."
L3sPau1 writes "Iran's computer emergency response team is reporting new malware targeting computers in the country that is wiping data from partitions D through I. It is set to launch on only particular dates. 'Clearly, the attacker was trying to think ahead. After trying to delete all the files on a particular partition the malware runs chkdsk on said partition. I assume the attacker is trying to make the loss of all files look like a software or hardware failure. Next to these BAT2EXE files there's also a 16-bit SLEEP file, which is not malicious. 16-bit files don't actually run on 64-bit versions of Windows. This immediately gives away the malware's presence on a x64 machine.' While there has been other data-wiping malware targeting Iran and other Middle East countries such as Wiper and Shamoon, researchers said there is no immediate connection."
CanadianSchism writes "I've been in the public sector for the past 6 years. I started off doing my work study in web design and a bit of support, eventually going through the interview process to fill in a data processing technician post, and getting the job. The first four years of my work life were spent in various schools, fixing computers, implementing new hardware, rolling out updates/ghosting labs, troubleshooting basic network and printer problems, etc. I was eventually asked to work on the administrative information systems with an analyst, which I've been doing for the past 2 years. That's consisted of program support, installing updates to the pay/financial/purchasing/tax/energy systems, taking backups on SQL servers, etc. I've never had the opportunity to take time for myself, and jump back into my first love: programming. I've picked up Powershell books (have two here at the office), but haven't gotten anything down yet, as there are always other projects that come up and whittle my attention to learning a language down to zilch. This new year will see a change in that, however. I'll be setting aside an hour every day to devote to learning a new language, in the eventual hope that I can leave this company (take a sabbatical) and hop into the private sector for a few years. My question to you all is, what language should I start with, to learn and get back into the principles of programming, that will help me build a personal portfolio, but will also lend to learning other languages? At this point, I'm not sure if I'd like to make/maintain custom applications, or if back-end web programming would be more interesting, or any of the other niches out there."
astroengine writes "As the Cassini mission continues to orbit the ringed gas giant Saturn, it's hard to imagine what magnificent view the NASA spacecraft will show us next. Today, however, is one for the history books. As a very special Christmas holiday treat, the Cassini Imaging Central Laboratory for Operations (CICLOPS) team have processed a magnificent view of Saturn that is rarely seen — a portrait from the dark side of the planet."
An anonymous reader writes "Ars summarizes a new report into the common practice of ISPs implementing data caps, ostensibly to keep their network traffic under control. The report found a much simpler reason: money. Quoting: 'The truly curious thing about the entire debate has been the way in which caps have mostly remained steady for years, even as the price of delivering data has plunged. For example, paying for transit capacity at a New York Internet exchange costs 50 percent less now than it did just one year ago, and many major ISPs aren't paying at all to exchange data thanks to peering. So why don't prices seem to fall? ... The authors of the new paper contend that all explanations are more or less hand-waving designed to disguise the fact that Internet providers are now raking in huge—in some cases, record—profit margins, without even the expense of building new networks. ...While Internet users have to endure a ceaseless litany of complaints about a "spectrum crunch" and an "exaflood" of data from which ISPs are suffering, most wireline ISPs are actually investing less money in their network as a percentage of revenue, and wireless operators like AT&T and Verizon are seeing huge growth in their average revenue per user numbers after phasing out unlimited data plans—which means money out of your pocket. In the view of the New America authors, this revenue growth is precisely the point of data caps.'"
Several readers sent word that the Perl programming language turned 25 today. In his commemorative post at the Perl Foundation's website, mdk wrote, "So what does the future hold for Perl? Well I don't have a crystal ball but I cannot see the language fading from usage in the next quarter century, the truth of the matter is that even though there are languages that can do some of the things that Perl does, some of them do some things better, others do things Perl wasn't designed for, there is no language that has been designed to do the things that Perl is very good at doing. No language in the current scripting languages seems to have the flexibility, maturity and extensibility of Perl. The main power of Perl has always been its ability to quickly adapt, and be adapted, to suit purposes. ... The greatest challenges we will face for Perl is a shifting end-user base that will become more reliant on devices that are feature focused but crippled in application choice, the rise in mobile devices will continue and Perl will need to evolve to work with that. A better challenge for us to face would be the integration with electronically aware, and connected devices and systems, the apocryphal internet of things, in this Perl could be a powerful tool. I also believe that the more we see a divergence of language uses in the other scripting languages the more they will face issues in their core designs, issues that Perl avoids due to its malleable nature, what some believe is the crippling factor for Perl is likely to be its saving grace as it has the power and flexibility to cope with the shifting goalposts of an increasingly technologically reliant world."
pigrabbitbear writes "Cars, once again, are killing us. They're killing us in crashes and accidents, yes, and they're encouraging us to grow obese and then killing us a little more slowly. But, more than ever before, they're killing us with their pollution. Particulate air pollution, along with obesity, is now the two fastest-growing causes of death in the world, according to a new study published in the Lancet. The study found that in 2010, 3.2 million people died prematurely from the air pollution – particularly the sooty kind that spews from the exhaust pipes of cars and trucks. And of those untimely deaths, 2.1 million were in Asia, where a boom in car use has choked the streets of India and China's fast-expanding cities with smog."
wiredmikey writes "A U.S. judge sentenced a computer hacker to 10 years in prison on Monday for breaking into the email accounts of celebrities and stealing private photos. The hacker accessed the personal email accounts and devices of stars including Scarlett Johansson, Christina Aguilera and Renee Olstead, among dozens of other people he hacked. The hackers arrest in October 2011 stemmed from an 11-month investigation into the hacking of over 50 entertainment industry names, many of them young female stars. Hacked pictures of Johansson showed her in a state of undress in a domestic setting. Aguilera's computer was hacked in December 2010, when racy photos of her also hit the Internet. Mila Kunis' cell phone was hacked in September that year with photos of her, including one in a bathtub, spread online. According to the FBI, the hacker used open-source, public information to try to guess a celebrity's email password, and then would breach the account."
In this video (with transcript), we review Planetside 2, a new MMOFPS game from Sony Online Entertainment. The game is a true first-person shooter, using its MMO nature to bring a persistent world into play, with battles sometimes involving hundreds of players, and it does so without trying to shoe-horn in ill-fitting MMORPG tropes like questing, story development, or insurmountable gear disparities. The combat favors relative realism (you won't be rocket jumping around, and nobody gets to be Rambo), but it's mixed with vehicle combat in a way that manages to be entertaining without being unfair. Planetside 2 is free to play, using microtransactions to support itself. It wisely avoids selling gear you can't acquire in-game (aside from cosmetic stuff), and doesn't require purchases to be competitive. Hit the link below to see/read our review.
Nerval's Lobster writes "Jeff Cogswell, the developer who recently offered a 'gentle' rant about the current state of software development and installers, returns with a comparison of two players in the open-source BI space, Pentaho and Jaspersoft. 'If you believe the hype, the business-intelligence tools offered by some of the world's largest software companies also pack a substantial punch,' he writes. 'But these systems are often difficult to install and maintain, not to mention downright expensive. Small and medium-sized businesses typically can't afford software platforms that cost upwards of several hundred thousand dollars, but that doesn't mean they're cut off from BI tools in general. In fact, there are some decent open-source options.'"