Catch up on stories from the past week (and beyond) at the Slashdot story archive
jawtheshark writes "I'm building a house, and obviously I want a modest network built-in. Nothing fancy, two RJ-45 per room, four in the living room, and that's basically it. I already got myself a rack mountable Cisco Small Business switch and I have a self-built 4U server (low-power, won't make much heat) which can be rack mounted (505mm deep). Now, the construction company suggests a wall mounted rack (6U: 340mm x 600mm x 480mm — 6U definitely won't be enough, but a 12U model exists). It's not expensive, but I have never worked on a rack where the backside is unreachable. (For work, I get to work in a data center with huge racks that are accessible from both sides). Now obviously, I don't need a data center-grade rack, but these wall-mounted racks scream 'switch-only' racks to me. What are your experiences? Is it possible to put servers in racks like these, or should I find a 'both-side-accessible' rack instead?"
gbrumfiel writes "The battle over whether to publish research into mutant bird flu got editors over at Nature News thinking about other potentially dangerous lines of scientific inquiry. They came up with a non-definitive list of four technologies with the potential to do great good or great harm: Laser isotope enrichment: great for making medical isotopes or nuclear weapons. Brain scanning: can help locked-in patients to communicate or a police state to read minds. Geoengineering: could lessen the effects of climate change or undermine the political will to fight it. Genetic screening of embryos: could spot genetic disorders in the womb or lead to a brave new world of baby selection. What would Slashdotters add to the list?"
First time accepted submitter cos(0) writes "Between O'Reilly, Wrox, Addison-Wesley, The Pragmatic Bookshelf, and many others, software developers have a wide variety of literature about languages, patterns, practices, and tools. Many publishers even offer subscriptions to online reading of the whole collection, exposing you to things you didn't even know you don't know — and many of us learn more from these publishers than from a Comp Sci curriculum. But what about publishers and books specializing in tech underneath software — like VHDL, Verilog, design tools, and wire protocols? In particular, best practices, modeling techniques, and other skills that separate a novice from an expert?"
wytcld writes "Sending an individually-written e-mail to my state senator resulted in an automated response saying that since she receives hundreds of e-mails a day, there might be no personal response, but please don't take that to mean she hasn't read my e-mail. So I contacted her again suggesting that was a pretty poor answer. Most of the e-mails she receives are mass mailings coordinated by various interest group websites. Why doesn't she put those to the side, I asked, and prioritize response to individual e-mails from constituents who've taken the time to actually write? Her response? She often can't tell the difference at first, so spends time drafting responses to the first instances of group e-mail spam, and gets diverted from responding to those who really write her. Are there tools out there which a politician can use to identify the incoming group-think blasts and put them to to side? It's easy enough to imagine sorting by repeated content or headers, if I ran the mail server, but I'm looking for packages already out there that a state-level representative, with no staff to speak of, might use to cut through the mess and prioritize communication with constituents who care enough about an issue to draft their own thoughts."
New submitter grzzld writes "I am a systems analyst for a County in New York. Last year I made a SharePoint site that manages grants and it was well received. So much so that it won a NACo award. Since then, there have been several requests from other municipalities from around the country who would like to get this SharePoint site. The county is trying to figure out how to protect ourselves from people making money from it and having people hold us liable if it they use it and something goes awry. I am afraid that ultimately nothing will be done and the site will not be shared since at the end of the day it is much easier to not do anything and just say no. I proposed that we license it under an Open Source agreement but I am not versed enough in the differences between all of them. It is also unclear to me if I could do this since the nature of the 'program' is a SharePoint site. It seemed like CodePlex would be a good place to put this since it is Microsoft centric and it an open source initiative. I just want to contribute my work to others who may find it useful. The county just wants to make sure they can't be held liable and have somebody turn my work around and make a buck. How can I release this to the world and make sure the county's concerns are addressed?"
raolin writes "I have been running without television service for the last few years, relying instead on Netflix Streaming, Hulu Plus, Amazon, and my personal video library. I have the latter indexed and easily searchable, but I have not managed to find a good aggregator for the streaming services that I use, so when I have friends over and the question 'Can we see X?' is asked, I have to search three streaming sources, which is kind of a drag. I know Netflix has a search API that I could work with, and it seems at least possible that Hulu and Amazon do as well, but before I try to build something myself I thought I'd ask the community. Any thoughts?"
New submitter waferthinmint asks "What is the best book for my son to use to teach himself to program? He wants to study on his own but everything seems to assume an instructor or a working theoretical knowledge. He's a bright kid but the right guide can make all the difference. Also, what language should he start with? When I was in HS, it was Basic or Pascal. Now, I guess, C? He has access to an Ubuntu box and an older MacBook Pro. Help me Slashdot; you're our only hope."
snydeq writes "J. Peter Bruzzese questions whether Microsoft receives unfair criticism in the media, while Apple, Facebook, and Google seem to get away from missteps unscathed. 'I've noticed an unfair, ongoing trend: If Microsoft does something a little off, it gets bashed into the ground for it. But if Google, Facebook, or Apple (all three of which can be categorized, like Microsoft, as The Man in their own rights) missteps, it generally gets mild reprimands and even support from the media and those drinking the Kool-Aid.' Do you feel any inherent media bias in its coverage of the tech industry?"
skywiseguy writes "I have only used Kickstarter to back a single project so far, but one of the backers of that project pointed us to a project promising video capable glasses which was once one of the top 10 highest funded projects in Kickstarter history. After reading through the comments, it is obvious that the project has not met its expected deadline of 'Winter 2011,' but the project team rarely gives any updates with concrete information. All emails sent to them by backers get a form letter in reply, they routinely delete negative comments from their Facebook page, and apparently very soon after the project was funded, they posted pictures of themselves on a tropical beach with the tagline, 'We are not on a beach in Thailand.' Their early promotions were featured on Engadget and other tech sites but since the project was funded they've rarely, if ever, communicated in more than a form letter. So at what point can a project like this be considered to have failed? And if you had backed a project with this kind of lack of communication from the project team, what would you consider to be the best course of action? Disclaimer: I have not backed this project, but I am very interested in funding Kickstarter projects and I do not want to get caught sending money to a less than reputable project. According to the above project's backers, Kickstarter claims to have no mechanism for refunding money to backers of failed projects and no way to hold the project team accountable to their backers. This does not seem like a healthy environment for someone who is averse to giving their money to scam artists."
An anonymous reader writes "'The Harrier' (or 'Eastern star,' as it is also called), is very well known, and is considered to be one of the best paper airplane designs. After much searching and trying, I have not found a better plane. So, I am asking Slashdot: is there anything that beats 'The Harrier' in a competition (indoors or outdoors)? This would be a really nice geek skill!"
An anonymous reader writes "I finally started looking at my taxes and instead of handing over my personal information and money to TurboTax I was wondering if there were any recommendations for freely available/open source tax software? Ideally, the data would be stored in a portable, open format. I wouldn't really need a GUI, but something that filled out PDF forms would be nice." It's a question that just won't go away. Open source solution or not, if you're a U.S. taxpayer, the deadline for filing is nearly to hand.
New submitter Cheeze ball writes "I've recently moved to Europe and I'd like to setup a VPN so I can get Hulu, Netflix, and a few other services. I've found plenty of sites offering cheap VPN services, but they all seem just a tad too shady. Searching for any reviews on them only brings up pages of positive reviews on sites whose only content is said review. Does anyone have any suggestions on reliable reasonably safe VPN?"
New submitter caboosesw writes "A customer of mine recently was hit by a quick and massive DDoS attack. As we were in the middle of things, we learned that there are proxy services of varying maturity to deal with these kinds of outbreaks from the small and mysterious (DOSArrest, ServerOrigin, BlackLotus, DDOSProtection, CloudFlare, etc.) to the large and mature (Prolexic, Verisign, etc.) Have you guys used any of these services? Especially on the lower price point that a small e-commerce (not pr0n or gambling) company could afford? Is a DDoS service really mandatory as Gartner now puts this type of service in the same tier as SEIM, firewalls, IPS, etc?"
New submitter rchoetzlein writes "I am a software developer working independently for five years on various projects, and preparing to go public with my first product. Everyone is telling me I should make it open source. I would love to, but I just don't see how an early startup can afford to become profitable on service alone. My projects are no longer small-scale hobbies, they are large frameworks, and I need to make a living. Any ideas on business models that would allow me to open source while guaranteeing I can feed myself?"
An anonymous reader writes "I was looking at multimedia players from brands such as SumVision, Noontec and Western Digital. They all seem to be some device which accepts a USB hard-drive and commands from an IR remote control, and throws the result over HDMI. I have my own idea of what a hardware multimedia player should do (e.g. a personalized library screen for episodes, movies and documentaries; resume play; loudness control; etc.). I also think it will a good programming adventure because I will have to make the player compatible with more than a few popular codecs. Is this an FPGA arena? Or a mini-linux tv-box? Any advice, books or starting point to suggest?" There certainly have been a lot of products and projects in this domain over the years, but what's the best place to start in the year 2012?