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Switching From Sitting To Standing At Your Desk

Slashdot - Thu, 17/04/2014 - 13:07
Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "Chris Bowlby reports at BBC that medical research has been building up for a while now, suggesting constant sitting is harming our health — potentially causing cardiovascular problems or vulnerability to diabetes. Advocates of sit-stand desks say more standing would benefit not only health, but also workers' energy and creativity. Some big organizations and companies are beginning to look seriously at reducing 'prolonged sitting' among office workers. 'It's becoming more well known that long periods of sedentary behavior has an adverse effect on health,' says GE engineer Jonathan McGregor, 'so we're looking at bringing in standing desks.' The whole concept of sitting as the norm in workplaces is a recent innovation, points out Jeremy Myerson, professor of design at the Royal College of Art. 'If you look at the late 19th Century,' he says, Victorian clerks could stand at their desks and 'moved around a lot more'. 'It's possible to look back at the industrial office of the past 100 years or so as some kind of weird aberration in a 1,000-year continuum of work where we've always moved around.' What changed things in the 20th Century was 'Taylorism' — time and motion studies applied to office work. 'It's much easier to supervise and control people when they're sitting down,' says Myerson. What might finally change things is if the evidence becomes overwhelming, the health costs rise, and stopping employees from sitting too much becomes part of an employer's legal duty of care. 'If what we are creating are environments where people are not going to be terribly healthy and are suffering from diseases like cardiovascular disease and diabetes,' says Prof Alexi Marmot, a specialist on workplace design, 'it's highly unlikely the organization benefits in any way.'"

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Ask Slashdot: System Administrator Vs Change Advisory Board

Slashdot - Thu, 17/04/2014 - 10:27
thundergeek (808819) writes "I am the sole sysadmin for nearly 50 servers (win/linux) across several contracts. Now a Change Advisory Board (CAB) is wanting to manage every patch that will be installed on the OS and approve/disapprove for testing on the development network. Once tested and verified, all changes will then need to be approved for production. Windows servers aren't always the best for informing admin exactly what is being 'patched' on the OS, and the frequency of updates will make my efficiency take a nose dive. Now I'll have to track each KB, RHSA, directives and any other 3rd party updates, submit a lengthy report outlining each patch being applied, and then sit back and wait for approval. What should I use/do to track what I will be installing? Is there already a product out there that will make my life a little less stressful on the admin side? Does anyone else have to go toe-to-toe with a CAB? How do you handle your patch approval process?"

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The Squishy Future of Robotics

Slashdot - Thu, 17/04/2014 - 08:09
An anonymous reader writes "The field of soft robotics is fast growing and may be the key to allowing robots and humans to work side-by-side. 'Roboticists are prejudiced toward rigid structures, for which algorithms can be inherited from the well-established factory robot industry. Soft robots solve two huge problems with current robots, however. They don't have to calculate their movements as precisely as hard robots, which rely on springs and joints, making them better for navigating uncontrolled environments like a house, disaster area, or hospital room. They're naturally "cage free," meaning they can work shoulder-to-shoulder with humans. If a soft robot tips over or malfunctions, the danger is on par with being attacked by a pillow. The robot is also less prone to hurt itself.'"

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Industry-Wide Smartphone "Kill Switch" Closer To Reality

Slashdot - Thu, 17/04/2014 - 00:02
mpicpp (3454017) writes "The 'kill switch,' a system for remotely disabling smartphones and wiping their data, will become standard in 2015, according to a pledge backed by most of the mobile world's major players. Apple, Google, Samsung and Microsoft, along with the five biggest cellular carriers in the United States, are among those that have signed on to a voluntary program announced Tuesday by the industry's largest trade group. All smartphones manufactured for sale in the United States after July 2015 must have the technology, according to the program from CTIA. Advocates say the feature would deter thieves from taking mobile devices by rendering phones useless while allowing people to protect personal information if their phone is lost or stolen. Its proponents include law enforcement officials concerned about the rising problem of smartphone theft."

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Code Quality: Open Source vs. Proprietary

Slashdot - Wed, 16/04/2014 - 23:17
just_another_sean sends this followup to yesterday's discussion about the quality of open source code compared to proprietary code. Every year, Coverity scans large quantities of code and evaluates it for defects. They've just released their latest report, and the findings were good news for open source. From the article: "The report details the analysis of 750 million lines of open source software code through the Coverity Scan service and commercial usage of the Coverity Development Testing Platform, the largest sample size that the report has studied to date. A few key points: Open source code quality surpasses proprietary code quality in C/C++ projects. Linux continues to be a benchmark for open source quality. C/C++ developers fixed more high-impact defects. Analysis found that developers contributing to open source Java projects are not fixing as many high-impact defects as developers contributing to open source C/C++ projects."

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Retired SCOTUS Justice Wants To 'Fix' the Second Amendment

Slashdot - Wed, 16/04/2014 - 15:55
CanHasDIY (1672858) writes "In his yet-to-be-released book, Six Amendments: How and Why We Should Change the Constitution, John Paul Stevens, who served as an associate justice of the Supreme Court for 35 years, believes he has the key to stopping the seeming recent spate of mass killings — amend the Constitution to exclude private citizens from armament ownership. Specifically, he recommends adding 5 words to the 2nd Amendment, so that it would read as follows: 'A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms when serving in the Militia shall not be infringed.' What I find interesting is how Stevens maintains that the Amendment only protects armament ownership for those actively serving in a state or federal military unit, in spite of the fact that the Amendment specifically names 'the People' as a benefactor (just like the First, Fourth, Ninth, and Tenth) and of course, ignoring the traditional definition of the term militia. I'm personally curious about his other 5 suggested changes, but I guess we'll have to wait until the end of April to find out."

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All Packages Needed For FreedomBox Now In Debian

Slashdot - Wed, 16/04/2014 - 15:28
Eben Moglen's FreedomBox concept (personal servers for everyone to enable private communication) is getting closer to being an easy-to-install reality: all packages needed for FreedomBox are now in Debian's unstable branch, and should be migrating to testing in a week or two. Quoting Petter Reinholdtsen: "Today, the last of the packages currently used by the project to created the system images were accepted into Debian Unstable. It was the freedombox-setup package, which is used to configure the images during build and on the first boot. Now all one need to get going is the build code from the freedom-maker git repository and packages from Debian. And once the freedombox-setup package enter testing, we can build everything directly from Debian. :) Some key packages used by Freedombox are freedombox-setup, plinth, pagekite, tor, privoxy, owncloud, and dnsmasq. There are plans to integrate more packages into the setup. User documentation is maintained on the Debian wiki." You can create your own image with only three commands, at least if you have a DreamPlug or Raspberry Pi (you could also help port it to other platforms).

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Study Finds US Is an Oligarchy, Not a Democracy

Slashdot - Wed, 16/04/2014 - 07:08
An anonymous reader writes "Researchers from Princeton University and Northwestern University have concluded, after extensive analysis of 1,779 policy issues, that the U.S. is in fact an oligarchy and not a democracy. What this means is that, although 'Americans do enjoy many features central to democratic governance,' 'majorities of the American public actually have little influence over the policies our government adopts.' Their study (PDF), to be published in Perspectives on Politics, found that 'When the preferences of economic elites and the stands of organized interest groups are controlled for, the preferences of the average American appear to have only a minuscule, near-zero, statistically non-significant impact upon public policy.'"

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Your StarCraft II</em> Potential Peaked At Age 24

Slashdot - Wed, 16/04/2014 - 05:10
An anonymous reader writes "StarCraft II is popular among competitive gamers for having the depth necessary to reward differences in skill. A new study has found that your ability keep up with the game's frantic pace starts to decline at age 24. This is relevant to more than just StarCraft II players: 'While many high-performance athletes start to show age-related declines at a young age, those are often attributed to physical as opposed to brain aging. ... While previous lab tests have shown faster reaction times for simple individual tasks, it was never clear how much relevance those had to complex, real-world tasks such as driving. Thompson noted that Starcraft is complex and quite similar to real-life tasks such as managing 911 calls at an emergency dispatch centre, so the findings may be directly relevant. However, game performance was much easier to analyze than many real-life situations because the game generates detailed logs of every move. In a way, Thompson said, the study is a good demonstration of what kinds of insights can be gleaned from the "cool data sets" generated by our digital lives.'"

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How 'DevOps' Is Killing the Developer

Slashdot - Wed, 16/04/2014 - 03:05
An anonymous reader writes "Python guru Jeff Knupp writes about his frustration with the so-called 'DevOps' movement, an effort to blend development jobs with operations positions. It's an artifact of startup culture, and while it might make sense when you only have a few employees and a focus on simply getting it running rather than getting it running right, Knupp feels it has no place in bigger, more established companies. He says, 'Somewhere along the way, however, we tricked ourselves into thinking that because, at any one time, a start-up developer had to take on different roles he or she should actually be all those things at once. If such people even existed, "full-stack" developers still wouldn't be used as they should. Rather than temporarily taking on a single role for a short period of time, then transitioning into the next role, they are meant to be performing all the roles, all the time. And here's what really sucks: most good developers can almost pull this off.' Knupp adds, 'The effect of all of this is to destroy the role of "developer" and replace it with a sort of "technology utility-player". Every developer I know got into programming because they actually enjoyed doing it (at one point). You do a disservice to everyone involved when you force your brightest people to take on additional roles.'"

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Ubisoft Hands Out Nexus 7 Tablets At a Game's Press Event

Slashdot - Tue, 15/04/2014 - 22:58
An anonymous reader writes "With Watch Dogs launching next month, Ubisoft is ramping up the promotion. That includes holding press events to show off the game to journalists, many of whom will end up reviewing Watch Dogs. One such event was held last week in Paris, and it has been revealed by attendees that Ubisoft decided to give everyone who turned up a Nexus 7 tablet. Why? That hasn't been explained yet, but in a statement on Twitter, Ubisoft said such gifts were 'not in line with their PR policies.' You can see how it would be viewed with skepticism; after all, these are the individuals who will give Watch Dogs a review score, which many gamers rely on to help them make a purchasing decision."

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How Does Heartbleed Alter the 'Open Source Is Safer' Discussion?

Slashdot - Tue, 15/04/2014 - 22:16
jammag writes: "Heartbleed has dealt a blow to the image of free and open source software. In the self-mythology of FOSS, bugs like Heartbleed aren't supposed to happen when the source code is freely available and being worked with daily. As Eric Raymond famously said, 'given enough eyeballs, all bugs are shallow.' Many users of proprietary software, tired of FOSS's continual claims of superior security, welcome the idea that Heartbleed has punctured FOSS's pretensions. But is that what has happened?"

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Lack of US Cybersecurity Across the Electric Grid

Slashdot - Tue, 15/04/2014 - 21:35
Lasrick writes: "Meghan McGuinness of the Bipartisan Policy Center writes about the Electric Grid Cybersecurity Initiative, a collaborative effort between the center's Energy and Homeland Security Projects. She points out that over half the attacks on U.S. critical infrastructure sectors last year were on the energy sector. Cyber attacks could come from a variety of sources, and 'a large-scale cyber attack or combined cyber and physical attack could lead to enormous costs, potentially triggering sustained power outages over large portions of the electric grid and prolonged disruptions in communications, food and water supplies, and health care delivery.' ECGI is recommending the creation of a new, industry-supported model that would create incentives for the continual improvement and adaptation needed to respond effectively to rapidly evolving cyber threats. The vulnerability of the grid has been much discussed this last week; McGuinness's recommendations are a good place to start."

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Snowden Used the Linux Distro Designed For Internet Anonymity

Slashdot - Tue, 15/04/2014 - 20:42
Hugh Pickens DOT Com writes: "When Edward Snowden first emailed Glenn Greenwald, he insisted on using email encryption software called PGP for all communications. Now Klint Finley reports that Snowden also used The Amnesic Incognito Live System (Tails) to keep his communications out of the NSA's prying eyes. Tails is a kind of computer-in-a-box using a version of the Linux operating system optimized for anonymity that you install on a DVD or USB drive, boot your computer from and you're pretty close to anonymous on the internet. 'Snowden, Greenwald and their collaborator, documentary film maker Laura Poitras, used it because, by design, Tails doesn't store any data locally,' writes Finley. 'This makes it virtually immune to malicious software, and prevents someone from performing effective forensics on the computer after the fact. That protects both the journalists, and often more importantly, their sources.' The developers of Tails are, appropriately, anonymous. They're protecting their identities, in part, to help protect the code from government interference. 'The NSA has been pressuring free software projects and developers in various ways,' the group says. But since we don't know who wrote Tails, how do we know it isn't some government plot designed to snare activists or criminals? A couple of ways, actually. One of the Snowden leaks show the NSA complaining about Tails in a Power Point Slide; if it's bad for the NSA, it's safe to say it's good for privacy. And all of the Tails code is open source, so it can be inspected by anyone worried about foul play. 'With Tails,' say the distro developers, 'we provide a tongue and a pen protected by state-of-the-art cryptography to guarantee basic human rights and allow journalists worldwide to work and communicate freely and without fear of reprisal.'"

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Humans Are Taking Jobs From Robots In Japan

Slashdot - Tue, 15/04/2014 - 13:51
Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "Bloomberg reports that humans are taking the place of machines in plants across Japan so workers can develop new skills and figure out ways to improve production lines and the car-building process. "We need to become more solid and get back to basics, to sharpen our manual skills and further develop them," says Mitsuru Kawai, a half century-long company veteran tapped by President Akio Toyoda to promote craftsmanship at Toyota's plants. "When I was a novice, experienced masters used to be called gods (Kami-sama in Japanese), and they could make anything." According to Kawai, learning how to make car parts from scratch gives younger workers insights they otherwise wouldn't get from picking parts from bins and conveyor belts, or pressing buttons on machines. At about 100 manual-intensive workspaces introduced over the last three years across Toyota's factories in Japan, these lessons can then be applied to reprogram machines to cut down on waste and improve processes. In an area Kawai directly supervises at the forging division of Toyota's Honsha plant, workers twist, turn and hammer metal into crankshafts instead of using the typically automated process. Experiences there have led to innovations in reducing levels of scrap and shortening the production line and Kawai also credits manual labor for helping workers improve production of axle beams and cut the costs of making chassis parts. "We cannot simply depend on the machines that only repeat the same task over and over again," says Kawai. "To be the master of the machine, you have to have the knowledge and the skills to teach the machine.""

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Guardian</em> and WaPo</em> Receive Pulitzers For Snowden Coverage

Slashdot - Tue, 15/04/2014 - 13:05
Late Yesterday, the Pulitzer Prize board announced (PDF) the 2014 Pulitzer Prize winners. The public service prize was awarded to the Guardian and the Washington Post. The Washington Post was given the award for its role in revealing widespread surveillance by the NSA, "...marked by authoritative and insightful reports that helped the public understand how the disclosures fit into the larger framework of national security," and the Guardian for sparking "...a debate about the relationship between the government and the public over issues of security and privacy." Snowden released a statement praising the Pulitzer board: "Today's decision is a vindication for everyone who believes that the public has a role in government. We owe it to the efforts of the brave reporters and their colleagues who kept working in the face of extraordinary intimidation, including the forced destruction of journalistic materials, the inappropriate use of terrorism laws, and so many other means of pressure to get them to stop what the world now recognizes was work of vital public importance. This decision reminds us that what no individual conscience can change, a free press can. "

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Microsoft Confirms It Is Dropping Windows 8.1 Support

Slashdot - Tue, 15/04/2014 - 05:04
snydeq (1272828) writes "Microsoft TechNet blog makes clear that Windows 8.1 will not be patched, and that users must get Windows 8.1 Update if they want security patches, InfoWorld's Woody Leonhard reports. 'In what is surely the most customer-antagonistic move of the new Windows regime, Steve Thomas at Microsoft posted a TechNet article on Saturday stating categorically that Microsoft will no longer issue security patches for Windows 8.1, starting in May,' Leonhard writes. 'Never mind that Windows 8.1 customers are still having multiple problems with errors when trying to install the Update. At this point, there are 300 posts on the Microsoft Answers forum thread 'Windows 8.1 Update 1 Failing to Install with errors 0x80070020, 80073712 and 800F081F.' The Answers forum is peppered with similar complaints and a wide range of errors, from 800F0092 to 80070003, for which there are no solutions from Microsoft. Never mind that Microsoft itself yanked Windows 8.1 Update from the corporate WSUS update server chute almost a week ago and still hasn't offered a replacement.'"

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IRS Can Now Seize Your Tax Refund To Pay a Relative's Debt

Slashdot - Tue, 15/04/2014 - 02:59
Hugh Pickens DOT Com (2995471) writes "Just in time for the April 15 IRS filing deadline comes news from the Washington Post that hundreds of thousands of taxpayers expecting refunds are instead getting letters informing them of tax debts they never knew about: often a debt incurred by their parents. The government is confiscating their checks, sometimes over debts 20—30 years old. For example, when Mary Grice was 4 (in 1960), her father died ... 'Until the kids turned 18, her mother received survivor benefits from Social Security ... Now, Social Security claims it overpaid someone in the Grice family in 1977. ... Four years after Sadie Grice died, the government is coming after her daughter. ... "It was a shock," says Grice, 58. "What incenses me is the way they went about this. They gave me no notice, they can't prove that I received any overpayment, and they use intimidation tactics, threatening to report this to the credit bureaus."' The Treasury Department has intercepted ... $75 million from debts delinquent for more than 10 years according to the department's debt management service. 'The aggressive effort to collect old debts started three years ago — the result of a single sentence tucked into the farm bill lifting the 10-year statute of limitations on old debts to Uncle Sam.'"

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Saturn May Have Given Birth To a Baby Moon

Slashdot - Tue, 15/04/2014 - 01:05
astroengine (1577233) writes "NASA's Saturn-orbiting Cassini spacecraft has imaged something peculiar on the outermost edge of the gas giant's A-ring. A bright knot, or arc, has been spotted 20 percent brighter than the surrounding ring material and astronomers are interpreting it as a gravitational disturbance caused by a tiny moon. "We have not seen anything like this before," said Carl Murray of Queen Mary University of London. 'We may be looking at the act of birth, where this object is just leaving the rings and heading off to be a moon in its own right.'"

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Mozilla Appoints Former Marketing Head Interim CEO

Slashdot - Tue, 15/04/2014 - 00:29
itwbennett (1594911) writes "Following the contentious and ultimately failed appointment of Brendan Eich as CEO last month, the Mozilla Corporation has appointed Chris Beard to the board of directors and made him interim CEO. Beard starting working as chief marketing officer for Mozilla in 2004, and oversaw the launch of its current browser, Firefox, in 2005. Beard also managed the launches of Firefox on Android and the Firefox OS for mobile phones." See the official announcement. Quoting: "We began exploring the idea of Chris joining the Board of Directors some months ago. Chris has been a Mozillian longer than most. He’s been actively involved with Mozilla since before we shipped Firefox 1.0, he’s guided and directed many of our innovative projects, and his vision and sense of Mozilla is equal to anyone’s. I have relied on his judgement and advice for nearly a decade. This is an excellent time for Chris to bring his understanding of Mozilla to the Board."

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